• Published 29th Dec 2015
  • 4,531 Views, 215 Comments

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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Present Tense

The sun was going down by the time Rainbow and Applejack picked up Sky and headed back to Sweet Apple Acres. Applejack had been relieved to find that Mac was up at the farmhouse, giving the other kids dinner and entertaining them until she got home. Rainbow wasn’t sure why they couldn’t eat fritters for dinner just this once, but Applejack and Cheerilee had frowned when she suggested it.

Other than that stop, the walk had been quiet. Rainbow had been a little distracted trying to figure out who she was.

She knew who she was, of course. She was the best flyer in the world, a hero of Equestria, a future Wonderbolt, a loyal friend, and an all-around awesome pony. That was Rainbow Dash. But… was she also the pony who got married to AJ, and left the Wonderbolts, and had three kids who called her Mom? Rainbow Dash wasn’t a mom. Moms were old and uncool and worried about what their kids ate for dinner. Rainbow wasn’t that.

But Rainbow was a pony who didn’t let ponies down. If she promised to love AJ, if she decided she would raise some foals, she had to do that, right? She didn’t remember why those things seemed like a good idea, but that didn’t matter. She promised. Unless it was some future version of herself who had promised… did that even count?

But this was for the rest of her life. Which wasn’t even as long as it should be already, because she was fifteen years older than she thought. Sure, she wanted to sleep with AJ, that part would be cool. But only ever sleeping with AJ? Besides the fact that being married probably involved more than that. She wasn’t even sure what it did involve, so clearly she was unqualified. And that wasn’t even getting into the whole mom thing….

“We’re gonna have to tell the kids somethin’,” Applejack whispered, breaking the silence and Rainbow’s train of thought. They were in the orchard now, and the lights from the farmhouse were just visible in the fresh darkness, on the top of the next hill.

“Okay…” Rainbow agreed, because she assumed that AJ knew these things. “What?”

Applejack frowned. “I dunno… I don’t wanna tell them you don’t remember ’em, I don’t want them thinkin’ for a second you might not love ’em.”

Rainbow shook her head. “AJ… I don’t even know them.”

“Hold up a sec.” Applejack stopped, holding a hoof out to stop Rainbow. She glanced back at Sky, who was fast asleep in his carrier, before going on in a firm whisper, “Rainbow Dash, you weren’t a foal fifteen years ago. You’re a grown-up pony, and these are little kids we’re talkin’ about. Your foals, who love you with all their hearts, and who need to know you love ’em even more. Whether you remember ’em or not, and however you might feel, you gotta make them believe that, ’cause it would be just plain wrong to take that away from them. Understand?”

Rainbow’s stomach tied in a knot, and the weight of AJ’s words felt like it was crushing her. She could see the pressure in Applejack’s eyes, and there was no way out. She might not have wanted foals, but she didn’t hate kids or anything, and AJ was totally right… She couldn’t just tell them their mom didn’t love them anymore, especially if she was their mom.

“Yeah,” Rainbow whispered. “Just… tell them whatever you think is right. I’ll go with it.”

Applejack sighed. “Okay. I’ll think of somethin’.”

They walked the rest of the way to the house in silence. To Rainbow, the homey house with the warm glow in the windows seemed more like a court, and she was about to go on trial. Except that she wasn’t the one who would be punished if she was found guilty, and that wasn’t fair. None of this was.

As soon as they stepped inside, hoofsteps rushed into the living room from the kitchen, and the two foals hurried across the room.

“Ma! Mom!” Leaf shouted, running over to them and throwing his forelegs around Rainbow in a tight hug. “Are you alright, Mom?”

“She’s gonna be fine,” Applejack said, patting him on the shoulder.

“Uncle Mac has been playing cards with us!” Cider chirped, nodding to the doorway to the kitchen which was filled by Mac’s huge frame.

“Has he now?” Applejack rustled her mane, then smiled at her brother. “Mac… thanks for sittin’ with ’em. I didn’t think it’d take that long.”

“Everythin’ okay?” he said, walking cautiously toward the family gathered by the door.

Applejack bit her lip. “We’ll talk later. The kids had dinner?”

He raised an eyebrow, but just answered, “Eyup.”

Applejack nodded, leading Cider over to the couch and motioning for Leaf to join them. Leaf reluctantly loosed his grip on Rainbow, and Rainbow followed him to the sitting area.

“Thanks for that, too,” Applejack said. “I reckon you oughta get home to Cheerilee and the foals. Tell Cheerilee I said thanks again.”

“Will do,” Mac said, heading out the door with a glance over his shoulder at Rainbow. “Take care.”

As the door closed, Applejack swallowed and looked at the foals. “Now, Leaf, Cider, we gotta talk to you.”

Leaf’s face fell. “Something’s wrong.”

“Somethin’s sorta wrong.” Applejack nodded. “The doctors all said your mom is fine, but… she’s havin’ a hard time rememberin’ some things from before she crashed. So y’all need to be good for her, and help her if there’s stuff she don’t remember. Can y’all do that for her?”

“Sure!” Cider grinned and flew over to Rainbow. “Mommy, my favorite ice cream is strawberry. And I’m going to flight camp in two weeks!”

Rainbow hesitated, but she had to smile despite her nerves. “Uh… thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Do you wanna see my new goggles?” the filly asked, flying to the hook by the door.

“Yeah, let’s see ’em.” Rainbow nodded as the kid came flying back with the new eyewear in her hoof. She could handle checking out flight goggles. Maybe this wouldn’t be too hard after all.

What she was presented with weren’t like any flight goggles she’d ever seen. They were foal’s flight goggles all right, but they were too light, and the material of the casing was molded in some smooth, swoopy way.

“Those look real nice,” Applejack said with a smile, but it didn’t take being married to her to know she had no idea what she was talking about.

“What they hay are those made out of?” Rainbow asked, examining them carefully.

“They’re just the flex-plastic,” Leaf said from the couch with a shrug. “I didn’t think she needed the lightweight alloy, she’s not doing sonic rainbooms or anything.”

“They look weird.” Rainbow frowned at them, then raised an eyebrow at the colt. “These are good?”

“You endorsed them when they first came out, Mom.” He eyed her suspiciously. “How much don’t you remember?”

Rainbow glanced at Applejack, then at Leaf as she stammered, “I… um…”

Leaf nodded. “Okay, dumb question. It’s not like you can remember all the stuff you forgot.” He considered, and for a moment Rainbow thought maybe she was off the hook. Then he went on. “Do you remember the last routine I thought up?”

Rainbow thought about bluffing, but she was looking him in the eye. There was something about his expression that he obviously got from AJ; he could see right through her. Finally she shook her head. “No.”

He looked really serious now, almost angry, but his ears started to droop. “What about the Blazing Feather Control Fall?”

Rainbow swallowed and looked down. “Sorry.”

When she glanced up, she saw the quiver in his stiff lip and his ears fully at rest. The poor kid, right then she would have loved to remember the whatever-it-was feather fall. She looked away, angry at herself.

Applejack piped in, “Kids, Mom still had a rough day. How about we let her go up to bed early tonight, and I’ll play ya one more round of cards before bedtime?”

“Okay!” Cider agreed.

Leaf took a breath, his face returning to his serious expression. “Sounds cool. But Mom’ll be around tomorrow, right?”

“She sure will.” Applejack nodded. Then she looked at Rainbow and the smile fell away. She hesitated, then added, “I—I’m gonna need her to keep an eye on y’all while I finish settin’ up for the zap apples.”

“It’ll be fine, AJ.” Rainbow tried to offer her a confident smile. “I can handle it.”

“I’ll help her out,” Leaf added quickly.

Applejack still looked concerned, but she nodded. “Okay. Dash, go on up, I’ll be there in a few.”

Rainbow started up the stairs, and was surprised to find Applejack following her. She glanced over her shoulder with a quizzical expression.

Applejack nodded to her side. “Gotta put Sky in his crib first.”

“Oh,” Rainbow said. She sometimes forgot the baby was there. That probably wasn’t a good thing, she figured as she made her way to the bedroom she knew belonged to her and AJ. Especially since that one had come out of her own body at some point. But there were three of them, that was way too many foals to keep track of! Youngest foals were probably used to that.

Inside the room, Rainbow leaned against the door and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. This whole thing was crazy. She’d never done anything in her life to deserve something like this.

…Well, okay, she had kind of screwed up the zap apples because she wanted to get laid. But there was no way that was worth making her… whatever it made her do. Still, she definitely needed to tell Twilight about that, right after she’d sworn her to secrecy so Applejack would never find out.

Rainbow looked around the room. She didn’t want to rest, and AJ probably didn’t expect her to rest. They just needed to get her away from the foals before she freaked them out. She remembered the look on that kid’s face—on Leaf’s face, and she cringed.

Then Rainbow’s face brightened. Maybe Applejack would let her become a Wonderbolt again so they could afford the therapy bills…

That reminded her. She scanned the room again, this time with a purpose.

There was a white chest of drawers in one corner, and she flew over to it and opened the top drawer. Rope and some black boots and some kind of folding chair… not what she was looking for, but it did make her wonder if she and AJ had some really interesting hobbies when the foals went to bed. The next drawer down was winter saddles, which was both not what she was looking for and boring.

She found what she was looking for in the bottom drawer, under a thick layer of drawings and letters and newspaper clippings. There, folded and pressed, was a Wonderbolts flight suit. Her Wonderbolts flight suit, the one she’d dreamed about since she was a foal. The one she’d worked for her entire life to wear. She ran a hoof over the yellow and blue fabric, picturing herself in it.

She had worn it. She must have, Applejack said so, and this was proof. She strained to remember anything about it, how it felt, how she felt when she put it on… nothing. Just what she could imagine. And what she could imagine seemed hollow when she was holding the real thing in her hooves.

She sighed. Her ears drooped, and she laid the flight suit back in the drawer to rub her face with her hooves. Then she glanced at the other things in the drawer.

There were a bunch of bad crayon drawings. Those must have been the kids’; they looked like every other drawing a foal had ever done: ponies with sticks for legs and big red smiles, sometimes with a red barn and a big yellow sun behind them. Some of the drawings had been folded into cards, with “Hapy Berthday” or “For thE bEst MoM” written on them. Most of the letters in the drawer were from Applejack, dated before the kids would have been born, but Rainbow got bored reading the first one she opened. It was about how Applejack had done in some rodeo she probably couldn’t even remember now. She tossed it back in the drawer.

She picked up a newspaper clipping. There she was, in black and white, in that uniform that she couldn’t remember. She stared at it for a long time before she even looked at the headline. “Wonderbolt Rainbow Dash’s Daring Rescue.”

Rainbow grinned. Of course she had made a daring rescue! This must have just been one of them, she probably daringly rescued ponies all the time when she was a Wonderbolt. She started reading the article about how she had broken form at a Wonderbolts show to catch a foal who fell off the stands, then made it back to her spot, picking up the routine like nothing had happened. That was exactly the sort of thing she would do, when she was a Wonderbolt.

Or, when she had been a Wonderbolt. She rummaged through the drawer for more clippings. Some were about stuff she’d done with her friends, or stuff her friends had done, but there were more about “Wonderbolt Rainbow Dash” too. She devoured those, reading one after the other.

It felt like no time at all when she heard the door open behind her, and glanced over to see Applejack come in.

“Sorry, ended up playin’ two rounds, then I had to read Cider a story.”

Rainbow looked down at the clippings again, then hesitantly put them back in the drawer, along with the other stuff. “It’s okay.”

“Here, I thought we could look at this.” Applejack had an album balanced on her back, which she bumped onto the bed. “If you’re gonna spend the day with the kids tomorrow, you’re gonna need a crash course.”

Rainbow rolled her eyes. “You know how I am at studying.”

“Anything’s better than nothin’ at this point, Dash.” Applejack sighed and shook her head. Then she opened the album as Rainbow walked over to take a look. She pointed to a page full of pictures. “Here, these are from right after Leaf was born. I never seen you be so careful with somethin’ as you were with him.”

Rainbow saw herself over and over in the pictures, holding a tiny green foal, feeding him, carrying him on her back. She looked awesome, because she was Rainbow Dash. But she had to admit she looked really happy, too. She turned the page to see more of the same kinds of pictures, with the same kind of Rainbow Dash, or occasionally with AJ or both of them.

“There are a lot of pictures of me and Leaf,” Rainbow said. There were more than there were of Leaf and Applejack.

“You thought he was the coolest thing you ever saw. Every time he so much as sneezed you wanted somepony to take a picture. It’s no wonder that boy worships you, you always have been each other’s number one fans.” Applejack smiled and shook her head. “Course, that ain’t all good. To be honest, he could come out from under your wing a bit more. But don’t worry about that none. It’ll work itself out.”

Rainbow looked down at the album as Applejack skipped ahead by a chunk of pages. The images now were her or Applejack with baby Cider, though Leaf was still in most of the pictures with Rainbow and his baby sister.

“These are from after Cider was born. She was the happiest baby ya ever did see, and into every darn thing on this farm.” Applejack pointed to one of Cider asleep on what looked like a nest. “That’s where she went missin’ one afternoon and you found her sleepin’ in the chicken coop. After that you taught her how to nap in apple trees, so she could stick close to me. Still scares me half to death, but she loves it. I reckon she’d be sleepin’ in one now if I’d let her.”

Applejack smiled down at the album and turned the pages slowly. Rainbow watched as the kids in the pictures got older, and the family’s moments played out before her: Hearth’s Warming mornings with presents under the flagpole, Summer Sun Celebrations with the kids half-asleep on their parents’ backs, cider seasons and zap apple harvests, Leaf with a Wonderbolts saddlebag on what must have been his first day of school, then Cider at the same age with a yellow apple on her bag.

Applejack stopped at a picture of Rainbow. At least it looked like her at first, the same color and mane, but her face was round and her whole body seemed swollen, and she glared at the camera with a flat expression that Rainbow understood to mean that the immortalization of that moment was not appreciated.

“This one here is where you were pregnant with Sky. I never knew a pony could be grumpy for that long. You swore up and down you were never goin’ through that again. But here’s right after he was—”

“Wait, is that a new Daring Do book?” Rainbow cut in, noticing a book in the pony’s lap with an unfamiliar cover featuring the adventurer.

“I guess so…” Applejack said, looking more closely at the picture.

Rainbow’s eyes lit up “There are probably a ton of new Daring Do books! And I haven’t read them yet! Or, at least, I don’t remember reading them!”

The revelation was met with silence for a long moment, then a glare from Applejack. “I’m tryin’ to tell you about your foals, and Darin’ Do is what ya care about? Really?”

“Yeah, because I know Daring Do… Everything else about this makes no sense!” Rainbow said, gesturing at the album.

“I’m tryin’ to explain it to you, if you’d listen!’ Applejack snapped, shoving the album toward Rainbow. “This is your darn life here, Dash! Your wife, your kids, everythin’ you care about… I’d think you’d at least try to seem interested in it.”

“But I don’t care about it!” Rainbow shoved the book back toward Applejack. “I mean, you’re awesome and everything, but I don’t love you. I just asked you out the other day because I thought it would be fun to mess around after we go running. And I never wanted kids, I want to be a Wonderbolt.”

Applejack looked like she’d been slapped. No, she looked like she’d been slapped by one of her best friends; the mix of shock and hurt on her face made Rainbow’s eyes grow wide. She searched for a way to make Applejack’s expression go away.

“AJ… I didn’t mean it like that…”

Applejack took a deep breath and let it out, her face falling to a flat, unreadable expression. “No. I get it.”

“I care about you a whole bunch, you’re one of my best friends,” Rainbow went on. She searched AJ’s face for some hint of forgiveness. “I just… I’m not ready for this. It’s like I missed all the good stuff, and all the important stuff, and now everything is different and… I’m really trying. I mean, I have to try.”

They stared at each other for a moment, and Applejack’s expression softened. She looked down and shook her head.

“Wait here,” Applejack said as she walked out of the room.

Rainbow waited, hoping that Applejack was okay. She looked like she understood. Rainbow knew that what she had said was probably stupid, but she wasn’t sure what Applejack expected. This was like looking at somepony else’s boring family pictures, but even worse because they made her feel like a jerk for not caring. At least Daring Do was something good about all of this, something she could remember and feel something about.

It wasn’t long before the door opened again, and she heard Applejack’s voice.

“Dash, I got someone I think you wanna see.”

Rainbow looked up. Cradled in Applejack’s foreleg was a dark green tortoise shell with a propeller attached to the top by a leather strap.

“He was hidin’ behind the couch,” she said with a sad smile as Tank’s head cautiously emerged from his shell. “Sky likes to try to chew on his propeller if he can get to it.”

Feelings were not something Rainbow Dash was good at. That’s why she tried to only have one at a time, usually whichever one could be most easily interpreted as cool. But after the day she had had, seeing Tank attacked her with at least a million feelings, and she wasn’t sure she could fight them all off.

She grinned as she snatched him from Applejack and cuddled him close, but she felt her eyes getting watery at the same time and quickly buried her face on Tank’s shell. “Hey there, buddy! Boy am I glad to see you. You haven’t changed, have you?”

Tank answered with a nuzzle, and Rainbow just held him tighter.

After a few moments, Applejack sighed. Rainbow wiped her eyes as best she could on the hard, wet tortoise and glanced over at her.

Applejack was looking down and biting her lip. Then she shook her head. “Aw, hay. Dash, I’m… I’m sorry. I got fifteen years under my saddle that you’re missin’ right now. Twilight was right, I oughta be takin’ care of you as best I can, and all I been doin’ is layin’ into you harder.”

Rainbow sniffed before she could stop herself, then she set Tank on the bed. She stroked his back and sighed. “It’s—it’s okay, you’re thinking of the kids. Somepony has to. I can handle this.” She smiled at Applejack. “If anypony can catch up when they’re fifteen years behind, you know it’s me.”

“I know it. You never let me down yet.” Applejack smiled back. “How about if we get some sleep? Maybe everythin’ will seem better tomorrow.”

“That’s not a bad idea. I’ve had a really busy day.” Rainbow scooped up Tank and walked over to tug back the covers on the bed.

Applejack blinked at her, then she sighed. “Dash… that’s my side.”

Rainbow blinked at the bed, then at Applejack. Her eyes went wide as it began to dawn on her that this was their bed. They were married.

But.. were they married? The kids were one thing, Applejack had been right; however Rainbow felt, it wasn’t right to take their mom away. But married ponies who had a bed they slept in together, and cuddled in, and had a lot of sex in were supposed to love each other.

Rainbow didn’t love Applejack, not like that. Was she supposed to try to, like she was with the kids? Could a pony even try to be in love with another pony like they were married, did that even work?

Applejack cleared her throat, and Rainbow realized she had been staring for too long. But Applejack went on. “If ya want me to sleep on the couch, I’ll tell the kids we wanted to make sure you rested up. At least, until we decide what we’ll do…”

It made Rainbow feel a little better to know that Applejack didn’t know what they were going to do either. Holding Tank, she flew to her side and smiled at AJ. “We’ve shared a bed before. I mean, before we dated, at slumber parties and stuff.”

“If that’s what you want, sugarcube,” Applejack said, cautiously approaching her own side of the bed.

Rainbow nodded as they climbed in bed, each huddled on their own side. “Yeah. It’ll be okay. And maybe things will be back to normal tomorrow.”

Applejack turned out the lights and whispered, “Sweet Celestia, I sure hope so.”