Standing alone upon the quiet porch of his farmhouse Macintosh watched as the sun rose over the horizon to bathe the land in its bright rays. The purple clouds decorating the mountain top giving birth to a new day. To the red farmer this was nothing new, he’d seen it a hundred times before, but that never made the sight any less beautiful. Once more he thought about how he needed to take a vacation to Canterlot one day and watch Princess Celestia raise the sun. But there was not time for a vacation now. Summer was fast approaching and that mean apple trees needed to be taken care of, and crops tended to.
Indeed, even today looked like it was going to be pretty strenuous after the long, relaxing winter break he had just taken. Based on the average number of pink blossoms that were sprouting on the tree branches already it seemed like the whole orchard was going to be flooded with apples. And more apples meant more work for the whole family. But it also meant more money was going to be made when they started selling their apples and apple pastries.
Today was the day that was assigned for him to go into the orchard and root up the trees that were healthy enough to go to Appleoosa with Applejack this year. He had a few more responsibilities for that day but this was his biggest concern. Walking out onto the vast landscape of towering trees he made a patrol for all of the trees that were marked with red chalk; making sure that each one that was supposed to be marked was marked. Normally he wouldn’t have to double check to make sure all of the trees were marked, he’d have already done it. But this year they had allowed Applebloom to do it, under Applejacks watch of course. She was getting older and it was time for her to start learning more about the full extent of the work that was done on the farm. In fact this year was when he and Applejack planned on having her begin bucking some of the smaller trees to start getting the feel for it. He had to double check again because as much as he loved his baby sister, and trusted Applejack to keep an eye on her, he knew her tendencies to wander away and get into mishaps.
It took him an hour to make the full circuit across the extensive farm, checking to make sure that each tree that had been selected was easily identifiable. They certainly were. Not only had Applebloom done a marvelous job of making sure that each of the correct trees had been marked, she had drawn all kinds of apple based designs on them. She drew apple trees on the apple trees, an almost ironic gesture that made Macintosh give a small chuckle. One day she would find out her talent, but apparently yesterday had not been that day.
After all three of the trees he would be pulling up had been accounted for Macintosh decided it was time to put the muzzle to the grindstone. The hardest part about uprooting a tree is clearing out the extensive root system surrounding the base so that the tree would actually move. Contrary to popular belief he was actually not strong enough to just force the tree out of the ground; it took hours of hard work for even one tree to be ready. So he took his time; carefully plowing and tilling the ground for a five foot radius surrounding the tree, removing every pebble he could find and pulling out roots he had cut free from the tree. Finally, after scrupulous inspection, he decided it was time for the tree to finally leave the ground. Tying a two-half hitch knot three feet from the ground around the trunk Macintosh finally attached the rope to his harness and began to pull.
The tree resisted with all of its strength against the mighty red stallion, using all of its thick roots to remain in place in the earth. This was the battle that was waged between Macintosh and nature. Every muscle in his body strained to pull the tree free. His face was contorted into a look of indefinite concentration. He knew this was a battle not easily won by a long shot. But he’d spent his whole life doing this work and he’d be damned if he was going to give less than his all.
The battle waged on for hours, the tree stubbornly holding its ground while Macintosh fought the pain that burned through his every muscle. Big Macintosh grit his teeth as he finally felt himself gain a little ground. The roots were loosening their grip and he felt the tree finally beginning to give way. He dug his hooves into the dirt and pulled harder. The tree groaned as it leaned towards the apple farmer, some of its back root beginning to emerge from the soil.
Macintosh was now actually walking the tree forward. Taking one strained step at a time as the tree leaned more and more. Finally, with a large creak it gave way and began to fall towards. Quick as a thought, Big Macintosh turned his head around and pulled the knot around his harness loose, detaching himself from the rope and allowing himself to run out of the path of the falling tree. The one time he hadn’t been so quick and the tree had fallen on his back leg, both breaking it in several places, and dislocating it, rendering him unable to work for a few months.
This time he managed to clear himself from the tree’s path before it hit the ground heavily, causing the earth to shake slightly. He walked over to the felled tree and pushed down on the trunk with all of his weight, making the tree lay flat and dislodging a few more roots from the ground. After pulling a few of the roots that were still loosely attached to the ground free Macintosh left to retrieve the sled that he would use to drag the tree back to the barn for safekeeping until Applejack left later that week.
Passing by the thick set of leaves that adorned the top of the tree Macintosh’s ears pricked up as a small sound from the boughs caught his attention. “What in tarnation?” He asked himself as he started to dig around through the leaves.
It only took him a minute to find the source of the small noise being made. Hidden, in the thickest branches of the tree that Macintosh had just pulled down, was a nest with three tiny bird hatchlings sitting in it, chirping and flapping their featherless wings. “Awww,” he said, leaning in and nudging one of them gently with his nose, “did Ah just take down yer home little ones? Ah’m sorry.” The little chicks only continued to cheep pitifuly in response. “Where’s yer mama, hm? She gone off ta fetch ya some lunch?”
Big Macintosh sat down and contemplated what his next course of action should be. He didn’t think it would be a good idea to just move the baby birds into a new tree; what if the chick’s mother couldn’t find them again? He didn’t know how to take care of a baby bird and he didn’t think Applejack knew either, and he certainly couldn’t just leave them in the tree. But he did know one pony that he could rely on to take care of the three little birdies and help find their mother.
Macintosh smiled and nuzzled the baby birds softly with his nose again. “Yall three just gave me the perfect excuse to make this day a little better. Come on.” Gently, the rugged stallion picked up the bundle of sticks carrying his new friends and placed it on his back, balancing it between his shoulder blades. “We’re gonna go see someone who can take care of ya proper.” With that he set off for Fluttershy’s cottage.
Fluttershy was sitting on her porch, enjoying the nice warm summer sun when she saw his familiar red for coming down her path. A radiant smile spread across her face as the butter yellow pegasus stood up and trotted to meet him.
She had spent a lot of time lately thinking over her feelings for her apple farmer. She knew she loved him, every time she saw him it made her stomach do flips and her heart would burn with passion for him, but every time she opened her mouth to voice the only three words that she could use to describe those feelings her voice would hitch in her throat. Sometimes, in the dark when he lay next to her, when she was certain he was asleep, she would whisper it to him; she would whisper it 100 times until she fell asleep with the words still moving on her lips.
Fluttershy didn’t know why, but she was afraid to tell him. Maybe one day, when the time was absolutely right, she would find the courage to say it. But right now she was focused on the large farm pony walking towards her.
“Hi, Sweetie.” Fluttershy said as she got nearer.
“Hey, Sugarcube.” Macintosh responded. He bent his neck down and wrapped it around Fluttershy’s affectionately. Fluttershy returned the affection with a slight nuzzle into his neck slightly inhaling the scent of dirt and sweat.
“I thought you said you had work today.” She said, detaching herself from him reluctantly to look into his sparkling emerald eyes.
“Ah did. But Ah found a reason to come and visit you.” He said with a sheepish smile. Kneeling down he lowered his shoulders down to Fluttershy’s eye level. Fluttershy peeked into the small nest resting on Macintosh’s back and raised an eyebrow.
“Umm, an empty birds nest?” She inquired.
“Empty?!” Macintosh said with a start. Looking onto his back he saw the nest that he had carried over. Inside were the remnants of eggs and some soft down, but no baby birds.
Macintosh started to panic then. “There were three little baby birdies in this here nest not too long ago!” He said quickly. He was carefully moving and searching beneath his hooves. Not finding any of the little chicks he set off at a quick trot back down the path he’d come up, his eyes scanning quickly for any trace of the babies. Fluttershy was right beside him helping look, just as worried for the little critters as he was.
“Where are ya little fellas!?” Macintosh called, hoping to hear their tell-tale peeping noises. Fluttershy was making various bird whistles to try and attract their attention. It wasn’t long before his ears picked up the familiar noises. They were nearby. Very nearby. Macintosh turned his head in the direction he heard the peeps. “Comeon out little ones.” He said, as twist his head around in search of the birds. Every time he moved his head though it seemed that the peeps would move with him. He was turning in circles looking. They weren’t on the ground, and they had already established they weren’t in the nest.
Fluttershy stopped Big Macintosh with a hoof to his chest. “Hold still for a second Mackie.” She said, grabbing his yoke and pulling his head down gently. Fluttershy rustled through his mane for a minute before she gave a cute giggle.
“Oh Mackie, you didn’t drop them anywhere,” she brushed the top of his head with a hoof “they just found a new nest.” She was right, the three little chicks had found themselves a new home nestled into the orange tangles of Big Mac’s mane. Big Macintosh gave a light chuckle, relived that his little responsibilities were alright. Fluttershy giggled and delicately picked one up and rubbed it affectionately with her cheek. “Awww, they are just the cutest little things.” Fluttershy said in her motherly tone.
Despite the gentle way that she was treating it the little bird it still squirmed and peeped angrily at her. “What’s the matter little birdy?” The butter pegasus asked the hatchling resting in her hooves. It struggled even more, budging itself towards its newfound nest. “Oh dear” Fluttershy placed it softly back down to its siblings in Macintosh’s mane; it gave one last angry peep at Fluttershy before it settled back in comfortably.
“What’s tha matter?” Macintosh asked when Fluttershy placed the baby back.
“I think…I think they’re imprinting on you, sweetie.” Fluttershy said, putting a hoof to her chin and giving him a thoughtful look.
Macintosh raised an eyebrow at her, “Imprintin’? What’s that?”
“Well, umm,” Fluttershy pawed the ground nervously with a sheepish smile, “imprinting is when a baby bird will take the first living thing it sees and…and…”
“Umm, they think you’re their mommy.”
Macintosh’s eyes widened. “They think I’m their…their ma?” Fluttershy only nodded, putting a hoof on her lips to stifle her laughs. Mac gave her an awkward smile, “Ta be honest Shy, Ah don’t think Ah’m quite suited to be no one’s mom.” He turned around and started to walk back towards the cottage he’d become so familiar with and Fluttershy followed suit. “Ah came here ta see if you could take care of these babies and maybe help find their real mother. Ah couldn’t take them in any kinda good conscious; even if they think that I am their mom. Is there maybe something you can do to help?”
Fluttershy nodded and gave Macintosh a wide smile. “They’ve only just started to imprint on you. It usually takes a few days for a baby animal to fully accept their mother, so if I can find their real mommy soon they should imprint on her normally.”
Macintosh wiped a hoof across his forehead and gave a small sigh of relief. “Thank goodness, cause Ah don’t know very much about taking care of a bird; an’ Ah don’t think Ah would’ve been ready ta chew up any worms ta feed ‘em.”
Fluttershy gave another cute giggle and took his hoof. “Well it’s a good thing you don’t have too. Now come on, I know just the tree I can keep them in until their mommy finds them.” She guided him around her cottage into the back yard and to the base of a small tree. Taking the nest off of Macintosh’s back and picking them gently out of his mane, she took it up into the leaves and placed it into a safe spot between two branches. She gave a few whistles and two birds fluttered over and alighted on a branch beside her. “Can you two please go and tell all of the other birds that I have three cute little hatchlings missing their mommy? They were brought here from Sweet Apple Acres after my friend accidentally knocked down their home. If you could find their mother that would be really sweet of you.” She gave each of them a small peck on the head before they flew off chirping.
She floated back down to Macintosh. “Those two are the most talkative birds that I’ve ever met. They should find their mom in no time.” She brought a hoof up to his harness and pulled down on it softly. Macintosh got the message and lowered his head so that it was at Fluttershy’s level. She gently planted her lips onto his and moaned into his mouth, grinding them slowly and sensually. After a minute they broke apart and Fluttershy looked deeply into his eyes. “For what it’s worth, I think you would’ve made a wonderful mommy bird.”
“Thanks, Sugarcube.” He gave her another loving peck. “Now that that’s all cleared up Ah need ta be heading back to tha farm.”
Fluttershy grabbed onto one of Macintosh’s thick forelegs and nuzzled into his broad chest. “Mmmmm, do you have too?” She glanced down between her hooves before looking back up at him with her best set of kitten eyes. “I was hoping, since you were already here, that maybe you could stay for a little while…”
The farm stallion’s heart melted like butter when she looked up at him. How could he say no to those deep, beautiful pools of cerulean? He leaned down and tickled the end of her nose with his. “Oh alright. Ah suppose it couldn’t hurt to stick around for a little while.”
“Yay.” Fluttershy gave a little giggle and a small excited bounce, grabbing Macintosh’s hoof and pulling him behind her happily. “A new family of ducks just flew in for the spring so maybe we can go and feed them.”
Macintosh followed along behind with a small smile stretched on his face. She had come out of her shell so much in the past few months. She didn’t hide or tremble anymore, and her beautiful smile was always on her face. He was happy that she was happy.
After quickly grabbing a fresh loaf of bread from her house Fluttershy took Big Macintosh into the Everfree forest. In only a few minutes the couple had arrived at a pond with a small family of duck floating peacefully on its surface, 5 little ducklings and momma all just paddling peacefully in circles. Fluttershy lay down at the edge of the water and pinched off a piece of bread, throwing it in casually.
Macintosh wrapped himself around the gentle pegasus and watched at the family bobbed their way towards the floating bread. Resting his chin on the soft pink cushion of her head, Macintosh took his own piece of bread and tossed it next to hers while Fluttershy nestled herself into the familiar shape of Macintosh’s stomach.
They remained in that spot for a long time; neither speaking a word to the other. The gentle warmth of the summer sun, and the light reflecting from the pond made the gentle red giant slowly drowsier and they had hardly made it through half of the loaf of bread before Macintosh was happily napping.
By the time he woke the sun was descending over the horizon. Startled, he jumped up quickly, scaring the pegasus still tucked beneath him awake too. Rubbing her eyes sleepily she looked up at him inquisitively as he stretched out his sore muscles. “Ah stayed here way longer than Ah was supposed to.” He explained.
Fluttershy sat up and blinked, then looked down at her crossed hooves, “Oh, I’m sorry. I kept you from your farm work today, didn’t I?”
“Nah, it ain’t your fault Sugarcube, Ah wanted ta stay, so Ah did. Any kinda heat I’m gonna get from Granny or AJ is gonna be my own fault.” He gave her a quick kiss on the top of the head before turning around, “It would probably be a good idea not ta be any later than Ah already am though, so it’d be best if I start on home.”
Fluttershy nodded. “Ok Sweetie. I think I’ll stay here for a little while longer and enjoy the sun set.” Macintosh gave her another smile before he started to gallop back home.
When Macintosh finally reached the farm yard he could sense the tension in the air. Bracing himself for what he knew what was coming he walked slowly into the house. “BIG MACINTOSH APPLE!!!” He flinched at the intensity of the shout even though he had been expecting it.
Applejack stormed up to her older brother with a scowl that would’ve made a manticore tuck tail and haul ass. “Exactly where were you all day?!”
Macintosh chewed on his lip for a moment, contemplating whether to lie to his sister or not. He decided against it, his sister was an expert at discerning whenever somepony was lying to her, and he wasn’t exactly the best poker player that Ponyville had to offer. So he mustered up some courage and told her the truth.
“Ah was with Fluttershy, but Ah…”
Applejack cut him off before he could finish. “Ah don’t wanna here none of yer excuses. You’ve been workin’ this farm long enough ta know there ain’t a single thing that should stop ya from doin’ your chores. An there ain’t a single thing you can say that would’ve made it right! You know how much work you skipped today!?”
“Ain’t notin’ Ah can’t make up fer tomorrow!” He retorted angrily.
“It ain’t about you missin’ work. It’s about you skippin’ it ta go be with yer marefriend. Ya spent all winter with her, and now that we’re comin’ near apple buckin’ season we can’t afford for ya ta be ignorin’ yer own family.” Applejack finished with a small huff, and her demeanor softened a little bit. ‘Do ya have anythin’ ta say fer yereself?”
Macintosh stood still, soaking in Applejacks words. When he didn’t respond Applejack gave a short sigh and pushed her hat back slightly on her head. “Ah just need ta know that yer still with us and that you ain’t gonna run off with Fluttershy at every chance you get.”
Macintosh gave a slow nod and Applejack gave another sigh. It wasn’t exactly the kind of reply that she had wanted but it was enough for the present. “Dinner’s in an hour, an’ you got a letter. It’s on tha mantle.”
“Thank ya.” Macintosh mumbled. Applejack went into the kitchen and Macintosh went to retrieve the letter that his sister had mentioned. Picking up the envelope he tore it open with his teeth and opened the contents. His eyes quickly skimmed over the letter before they widened in surprise. “Well Ah’ll be a son of a gun.” He chuckled and continued reading, ascending the stairs into his room.
On the opened envelope, written in large, clear, looping letters was written;
To: Big Macintosh Apple, Sweet Apple Acres, Ponyville
From: The Office of Dr.’s Rainy Morn’ and Heart Gold.
Dear Big Macintosh
We’ll be passing through Ponyville next week on our way to a therapist’s conference and we have an extra day that we decided to use to come and visit the farm for a day. Maybe visit some of the old places that we hung out at before we moved. We’re writing ahead so we know if we can stay at the farm when we visit or if we need to find somewhere else to stay. Please write back soon. Can’t wait to see you.
Heart “Gold” Morn’
Big Macintosh folded the letter and dropped it onto his desk. Pulling out the thick yellow stationary he usually used to take note of the family finances and a pen he started to write his own note. Next week Applejack was supposed to be taking the trees he was supposed to uproot to Appleoosa, so he now had something to look forward to in the next few days.
The train whistle blew loud and long, signaling any stragglers that they didn’t have long before the train was going to leave them behind. True to his word, Macintosh had spent the past six days catching up on his farm work and doing a little extra so that he wouldn’t fall behind while Rainy and Heart visited.
Pushing the final tree onto the loading cart Macintosh walked onto the passenger loading dock where a tired looking Applejack stood next to an excitedly bouncing Applebloom and a still sleeping Granny.
“Ya sure yer gonna be able ta take care of these two for a whole week by yerself?”
Applejack gave a large yawn and rubbed a hoof across her eyes “Yeah, Ah’m thinkin’ Braeburn will be able ta match Applebloom’s energy, and Granny’ll probably just sit on the saloon porch with the other old gals. Ah’m sure Ah’ll be fine.”
Applejack raised a tired eyebrow at Macintosh. “Are you sure you’ll be OK bein’ home alone for a whole week?”
Macintosh gave his sister a smirk, “You know that Ah’ll be perfectly fine takin’ care of tha house fer just a week. Besides, Rainy an’ Heart will be there too so if Ah need any help with somethin’ Ah’m sure they’d be willin’ at help.”
“Yeah, that’s somethin’ else Ah wanted to talk to ya about. Are you prepared fer anythin’ that may be different about yer friends. It’s been years since ya last spoke ta them, so Ah wouldn’t expect them ta be tha same way they were when ya last saw them.”
Before Macintosh could respond the train whistle gave its final boarding whistle. “Come on, Applejack! Yer gonna miss tha train!” Applebloom shouted as she leaned out of the window of their passenger cart.
Applejack turned to face her brother again. “All Ah’m sayin’ is that ya probably need ta be prepared. Who knows, maybe Ah’m wrong. Anyways, stay safe big brother. Ah know ya won’t do nothin’ you regret.” Applejack gave Big Macintosh a quick goodbye peck on the cheek before hopping up onto the train.
The train started to roll out of the station and Applejack leaned out the window to wave back. “Be good!” she shouted as the locomotive began to pick up speed “An’ tell Fluttershy Ah said ‘Hi’.” Applejack pulled her head back inside the window as the train sped off into the distance.
Macintosh watched as his sister disappeared from sight. Giving a short sigh he moved to one of the benches on the platform and lay down on it. “Is it safe to come out now?” Said a small voice from beneath the bench.
Macintosh rolled his eyes slightly, “Yeah Sugarcube, Applejack’s trains departed.”
Fluttershy came crawling out from beneath the bench, glancing left and right nervously. Ever since Macintosh had gotten chewed out by Applejack for not doing his chores Fluttershy had been very purposefully avoiding her friend. Of course Macintosh had told her multiple times that it wasn’t her fault at all, but Fluttershy still couldn’t help but feel a little guilty.
Climbing up onto the bench with Macintosh, Fluttershy lay her head against his barrel and wrapped her tail around herself. “How long will it be before Rainy and Heart arrive?”
Macintosh gave a long glance down the railroad track “Next train comes in ‘bout two hours. So we got a little while ta wait still.”
Fluttershy nestled herself against Macintosh’s stomach. “I’m OK with that.” Several long minutes passed them in silence. Fluttershy was used to the silence that existed between the two of them. But somehow this silence felt different from the others. More uncomfortable. Looking up at Macintosh she saw that he looked nervous. Biting on his lower lips and staring off into the distance that the next train was to arrive from. “Is something the matter?” she asked, giving him a light nuzzle beneath the chin.
Big Macintosh gave a gentle sigh and let his solemn expression loosen. “It’s nothin’, just somethin’ Applejack said before she left.” The wheat shaft in his mouth shifted thoughtfully, “What if they ain’t tha same ponies that left Ponyville? Ah mean, they’re mah friends but still, Ah can’t help but feel nervous about it.”
Fluttershy contemplated his words for a moment before responding. “You don’t have to worry, sweetie. I think that no matter how they’ve changed you’ll still accept and love them. Because you’re the sweetest stallion that I’ve ever known.”
The red stallion rubbed his nose against Fluttershy’s. “Thanks, Sugarcube. Ah needed ta hear that.” So the two fell into silence once again, a more comfortable one, interrupted rarely by occasion small talk about Fluttershy’s animals. The baby birds’ mother found her chicks the day after Macintosh brought them to Fluttershy and they were doing well.
The time passed by the couple slowly until finally a train whistle could be heard not far off in the distance coming towards them. Standing up and working the knots from their legs the two watched as the train came rushing down the tracks and come to a screeching halt in front of the station.
A crowd of ponies, loudly conversing and carrying bags or children, came filling off of the train and onto the platform, meeting their own friends and family or going into the office to check the town map. Macintosh’s eyes swept over the crowd, looking for the two ponies that he had been waiting for specifically.
“Hey, Macintosh!!” Big Macintosh looked towards where he heard his name. Standing there, enthusiastically waving with a huge grin on her face was a purple unicorn with gold streaks running through her hair, standing next to a light blue pegasus with a more reserved smile on his face.
Giving his own grin in return, Macintosh pushed through the throngs of ponies to reach the two.
“By Celestia’s mane, look at this. Our little Macintosh is all grown up now. It’s been too long.” Heart ran up to the farmer and did her best to pull him into a hug, only succeeding in throwing her forehooves halfway around his broad neck.
“Hey, Heart.” Macintosh said, wrapping one of his own hooves around her and giving a quick squeeze. “Hey, Rainy.”
“Hey, Mac. How’re things working out down here in Backwaters Equestria?” The black maned stallion said with a smirk, holding out a hoof which Macintosh accepted.
“Just about tha same as usual, Rainy. Few things’ve changed since ya left for the big city, but just about tha same. How’s tha kid doin’?”
Rainy opened his mouth to respond but Heart cut him off before he could speak. “Bright is doing just fine; isn’t he, sweetie?” She shot her husband a wide smile. Rainy gave an imperceptible flinch towards his wife.
“Y-yeah, he’s doing great. Tenth percentile of his class, he takes after his mothers smarts.” He rubbed a hoof along the back of his head and gave a nervous chuckle. “But he inherited his father’s personality, bit of a mouth on that kid.”
Macintosh gave a laugh, “If that’s true then he’s probably just like his pa. Well guys Ah’d like fer ya ta meet mah special somepony, Fluttershy.” He gestured towards the yellow pegasus, who stood next to him silently smiling as he reunited with his foalhood friends.
“Oh my goodness, our little Macintosh found himself a marefriend.” Heart walked up to Fluttershy and held out a hoof. “It’s so great to meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you too.” Fluttershy said, graciously accepting the hoof. Rainy walked up and offered his hoof as well.
“I have to say, ma’am, you’re way to pretty for our big red boy here. What kinda lie did he have to tell you to convince you to go out with him?”
“Rainy, don’t be rude to Miss. Fluttershy.” Heart said giving him a small scowl. Rainy flinched slightly and nervously avoided eye contact with his wife.
Fluttershy giggled and shook Rainy’s hoof. “His sister Applejack is one of my friends actually, so I know he’s a good, honest stallion.”
“It’s good to know that Macintosh hasn’t changed at all since we left, then.” Heart said, taking her gaze off of her husband and putting a smile back on.
Macintosh shifted his gaze between his two friends. Something felt off about the two of them. But he remembered what Fluttershy had told him, they were his friends and he could still accept any changes. So he gave them a smile and picked up one of their bags. “Well I’m eager ta hear about everythin’ that’s been goin’ on up in Fillydelphia but we can talk about it once ya get settled up on the farm.”
“Alright. It’ll be good to see good old Sweet Apple Acres again after all these years. Have you been taking good care of the farm since we left?” Rainy asked, picking up his own bag and following behind the large Clydesdale towards Sweet Apple Acres.
The four ponies sat around the dinner table laughing. They had spent the afternoon catching up with each other while Macintosh showed how much the farm had expanded since Heart and Rainy had left.
His friends business had started out slowly after they moved to Fillydelphia. What with Heart giving birth to Bright Morn’ they struggled through their first few months of living in a big city, mostly taking cheap jobs as marriage counselors and mental consultants. They weren’t living the high life now by any stretch of the imagination but the office was growing a little large and they were able to afford their own home by the end of their fourth year since moving.
Bright, as mentioned earlier, was doing well in school, he played in the school’s band but his special talent lay in the theatre. They had to attend at least two different plays a year to support their son and were now searching for an arts school for him to attend.
“Did Macintosh ever tell you that he used to do some acting back in middle school?” Rainy said, swallowing down a mouthful of mashed potatoes.
“Why no, he hasn’t.” Fluttershy responded, turning to look at her coltfriend with a devious smile which Macintosh returned with a nervous laugh. “But I would love to hear that story.”
“Well, it wasn’t like he was a bad actor. But he looked so dorky on that stage. You should’ve seen him all dressed up like Neighspeare.” He held up his fork dramatically, “To buck, or not to buck. Right, big guy.”
“I didn’t look that dorky on stage.” Macintosh mumbled into his food and the table burst out in laughter again.
“So Heart,” Fluttershy began, “I know it’s probably not my place to pry but have you considered having another foal?”
Suddenly Rainy and Heart stopped their laughing and a somber mood fell over the dining room. The silence ran for only a brief moment before Heart broke it. No, no we haven’t really considered having another foal. Keeping up with Bright is hard enough without having to worry about another kid running around the house.” She gave Fluttershy a smile while speaking.
“Yeah, let me tell you, Macintosh, having a kid can be a real pain in the flank, even on their best days. Let me tell you about what kinda mischief that kid was causing us when he was still learning how to fly.”
The rest of the evening lapsed back into comfortable conversation, catching up, reminiscing, and funny stories. After dinner Rain and Macintosh cleaned the dishes while Fluttershy and Heart sat in the living room chatting.
The night was growing old and the group was starting to yawn with greater frequency. It was nearing 11 o’clock when Macintosh decided to speak up about it. “Alright everypony, it’s gettin’ late and Ah reckon it’s about time fer us ta go ta bed if we’re gonna have the energy ta walk around Ponyville tommorow.” He stood up and stretched his legs. “Come on Fluttershy, Ah’ll walk ya home.” He turned to his two guests. “Ya’ll feel free ta make yourselves at home as well.”
Walking towards the door that Macintosh held open, Fluttershy turned around and waved, “Good night, it was very nice to meet you two. I hope I get to see you again tomorrow.”
Closing the door behind Fluttershy, the two began the long walk to Fluttershy’s cottage. “Alright, Ah’ll admit it, you were right Fluttershy. Ah shouldn’t have been worrying so much about them. They ain’t changed a bit since they left.”
“I’m happy for you, sweetie. But even if they had, I know you still would’ve done your best to accept them anyways.”
“So sweetie, how come you never told me that my big strong farmstallion was once a stage performer?” Fluttershy asked teasingly, bumping into him and giving a wicked grin.
Macintosh snorted a laugh. “It was just a phase Ah was goin’ through, I never was any good preformin’ in front of all them ponies, anyhow. It was just somethin’ that ah heard mares liked in a stallion.”
Fluttershy giggled, “Well I’d bet that you were the most handsome stallion to ever get on that stage. I certainly would’ve liked to have seen it.”
After giving Fluttershy a goodnight kiss and walking home Macintosh was certain that tomorrow was going to be a good day. Entering and locking the door to the house Macintosh saw that Rainy and Heart were no longer in the living room. Figuring that they must have gone to bed Macintosh put out the lamps and ascended the stairs to his own room.
Walking through the hallway toward his door Macintosh passed the door to the guestroom. Hearing noise coming from it he paused a moment to listen if maybe something was broken. The noise he was hearing wasn’t the sound of breaking furniture though, it was the sound of voices…angry voices.
Macintosh knew that anything that was being said between Rainy and Heart should remain their own business but his concern for his friends won out in the end.
Leaning in so that his ear was almost against the door, Macintosh listened for anything that may have been the cause of the shouting.
“I still don’t know what you’re so bucking upset about!!” shouted Rainy, “I didn’t do anything wrong!!”
“You were completely rude during dinner, that’s what’s wrong!!” Heart snapped back angrily, “And what the hay were you thinking asking if Macintosh lied to Fluttershy?! You didn’t know if she had trust issues!!”
“It was just playful banter, Heart! It’s nothing to get your dang tail in a knot for!!”
“I swear, you are the most inconsiderate, thoughtless stallion to have ever been born in Equestria!!”
“Then why don’t you just leave then?! I know you have the papers ready back home, so why don’t you get them finalized?!”
Macintosh reared his head back in surprise. Were his friends really considering an actual divorce? It couldn’t be, he remembered just how in love they seemed before they left. Something was wrong, he couldn’t let this happen. But right now it was too late at night for him to do anything about it. So he continued walking to his room, the angry voices of his foalhood friends following him there and into his bed, where he lay trying to think of any solution he could use to help is friends.
“And so Ah figured that you could go to tha spa with Fluttershy, an Rainy can come tour Ponyville with me.” Macintosh concluded. Macintosh had pitched the idea to them over breakfast earlier that morning after picking Fluttershy up and bringing her to the farm.
He had run the idea past his marefriend first, seeing if she could talk Rarity into letting her bring Heart to their weekly “girl time”. Rarity had seemed more or less hesitant about the idea but had agreed without any complaints. The only detail the red farmer had left out was why he wanted to take Rainy around Ponyville by himself.
“I guess it would be nice to get a little bit of relaxing done before going to the conference.” Heart said, not giving a single look to her husband. “I’m sure not too much has changed since we left, but Rainy does love a long trip with nostalgia. It sounds like a good idea to me.”
“Me too.” Rainy followed up, walking over to stand next to Macintosh.
“Alright then, it’s settled. Let’s meet up back here round, say, four?”
Everypony agreed on the time schedule and the two duos set off in their own directions. Fluttershy and Heart towards Ponyville’s one and only spa, and Macintosh and Rainy towards the school, their first stop on their tour of Ponyville.
“Man, this place hasn’t changed at all.” Rainy observed as he and Macintosh walked into the one classroom schoolhouse. It was a weekend so nopony was there and the pair were free to walk around the room as pleased. Rainy looked out the window that overlooked Ponyville. “Does Miss. Marigold still teach here, or did she retire?”
“No she ain’t teaching no more. Miss. Marigold passed away a couple years ago.”
“Oh.” Rainy looked down for a moment of reverence before turning back to his friend. “So who’s the new teacher? Anypony we knew from class?”
“Eeyup. Miss. Cheerilee’s tha new teacher here.” Macintosh said, gritting his teeth together slightly.
“You mean that pretty, purple mare who was always giving you the eyes? Honestly, I’m surprised that you didn’t at least date her for a little while, she seemed really nice.”
“You’d be surprised, actually.” Macintosh mumbled. “But look out here. Playground’s got some new equipment on it too.”
Rainy walked out of the backdoor into the fenced off area. “Yeah, I remember this. All we used to have was that slide, that merry go round, and the old tree over there.
“Eeyup, there’s some great memories round here. Wasn’t it round here that you and Heart first started dating?”
Rainy looked nervously away from his friend. His eyes fell upon the tree that was casting a short shadow over the playground and took on a glazed look. “Yeah…yeah I suppose it is.”
“Rainy…hey Rainy!!” Heart Gold called as she exited the schoolhouse.
“Over here, Heart!” The blue Pegasus called back, waving a hoof for Heart to come join him and Macintosh under the playground’s tree. The two waited patiently as Heart Gold trotted over to them. “Hey Heart, what’s up?”
“Well, you know how the class was assigned that project about the social history of Equestria? I figured that maybe you could help me out. Having a pegasus’ perspective on history would probably help a lot.”
“Yeah, sure thing, Heart. I probably wouldn’t even do the project if there wasn’t somepony riding me too. So what do ya say we meet up at the library after school?”
“Sounds great.” Heart ran off to go join a group of mares that were congregated at the other end of the playground. Rainy watched as she left then turned to his red friend.
“Macintosh, is it weird that I’m starting to think of Heart as a little more than a friend?”
Macintosh tilted his head and gave Rainy a curious look. “Really?”
“Yeah.” Rainy’s eyes were locked on the purple unicorn at the other end of the playground. “I don’t know what it is, man. She just so pretty and nice.”
“Ah think you should tell her what you think. Tha worst thing she could say to ya is only ‘no’.” Macintosh responded, giving his pegasus friend a playful punch on the shoulder.
“You’re right…I’ll tell her at the library.”
Rounding the corner in the ever bustling town of Ponyville Macintosh and Rainy continued their tour. They pointed out different stores and streets that they’d spent a lot of time at during their childhood. They now stopped in front of what was still one of Ponyville’s most popular hotspot, Sugarcube Corner.
“This place sure is getting a lot of business, isn’t it? How do the Cakes manage to keep this place so lively still, they’ve gotta be in their forties by now.” Rainy asked as he watched groups of ponies go in and out of the store.
“They actually got some new help.” Macintosh explained, “Mare by the name of Pinkie Pie. Ah tell ya, that mare has more energy than Ah would ever know what ta do with. There’s some sorta party goin’ on in this place just about every other day of the week. Sometimes Ah’ll bring Fluttershy down here and treat us both to a chocolate shake…”
But Rainy had stopped listening. He remembered bringing Heart down here for their first few dates. But there was one that stood out in his mind perfectly in this moment.
“I’m telling you, one of these days we’re going to have to find a pretty little mare for Macintosh and the four of us could come down here and have a double date.” Rainy insisted to Heart before taking another bite out of his piece of cake. The pair had been dating for over two years now and things were starting to get more serious between the two of them.
“Maybe one day Rainy, but for now leave him alone He’ll start dating when he’s ready to start dating. He just doesn’t have the same kind of confidence that you do.” Heart responded with a light smile.
“I think he just doesn’t have the same moves as me.” Rainy joked, slicking his black hair off of his forehead in an attempt to look suave.
“Oh really? And are these the same kind of moves that you used to get me?” Heart challenged with a sly expression.
Rainy laughed and leaned across the table to give his special somepony a light nuzzle, “No, with you I just got lucky. I don’t think for a second that my ‘moves’ would’ve worked on you.”
“Smart answer, sweetie.” Heart responded with her own nuzzle back. “You’re just lucky that I love you so much.”
Rainy gave a light chuckle, “You’re right, I am lucky.”
Rainy rubbed a hoof across his eyes to wipe away the tears that were beginning to well up in them. “Come on, let’s go see where else our tour takes us.” The blue pegasus insisted, keeping his eye averted from Macintosh as he hastily walked past the sweets shop.
Their next stop took them to almost the very outskirts of town. The old Ponyville gymnasium. Where every school dance, wedding reception, and party not hosted by the pink party pony herself was set.
“You remember senior prom in this place?” Rainy asked as he strolled around the polished wooden dance floor.
Macintosh rolled his eyes slightly. He remembered seniorprom alright. Rainy and Heart had forced him to come with them no matter how much he had protested. It had been loud, dark, and very cramped, not exactly the best time for him, but at least the food had been good.
Macintosh’s eyes were drawn to a specific door that stood on the other side of the stallion’s restroom. The custodial closet. He had a particularly not to fond memory with that door.
Macintosh sighed for the hundredth time that night. Why had Rainy and Heart forced him to come to this thing? They knew he wasn’t the type of pony to enjoy large parties but they had still insisted that he came. “Come on, Macintosh. It’s senior prom, you can’t miss that or you’ll regret it for the rest of the year.” He had heard that said enough until he was convinced to come.
He worked his way around the crowd of dancing ponies and worked his way towards the restroom. At least it was a little quieter there and it didn’t smell like a bunch of sweaty bodies.
Just as he was about to enter the restroom he heard the sound of the custodial closet creaking open behind him. Instinctively his head turned around to see who was behind him. What he saw caught him completely off guard.
Heart, with her always perfectly combed mane rustled and askew, quickly dashed out of the closet and back into the main dancing hall. She was soon followed by Rainy, who looked equally, if not more, disheveled than his marefriend.
The blue pegasus wiped some sweat off his forehead before turning his head to see a very surprised Macintosh staring right back at him. Macintosh saw him open his mouth and raised a hoof to stop him from speaking. “Ah don’t even wanna know. Ah’m just gonna pretend that I never saw that happen, alright.”
Rainy only gave a nod of his head before following Heart into the dance hall with an awkward smile plastered on his face. Macintosh only shook his head and did his best to not think about what his friends had been doing inside of that closet.
Macintosh and Rainy were walking back to Sweet Apple Acres. It was still about half an hour before Heart and Fluttershy were to show back up at the farm too. “Well today was a pretty good day for a trip down memory lane I’d say.” Rainy said as they ascended the stairs onto the porch.
“Eeyup”, Macintosh took a deep breath and steeled himself for what he was about to say next. Stopping on the porch as put a hoof on Rainy’s shoulder. “Rainy, you were one of my best friends back then, and Ah’d like ta think that you’re still one of my best friends now. That’s why Ah need ya to understand why Ah need ta talk to ya about this.” He took a steadying breath before continuing “Ah heard you and heart fightin’ last night. Ah know it ain’t my proper place ta pry, and it sure wasn’t right for me ta snoop, but Ah heard somethin’ about divorce papers and Ah want ya ta know that if there are any problems between tha two of you Ah wanna help fix them.”
Rainy looked up at his friend for a minute before a tear slid out of his right eye, swiftly followed by more. “Mac…I…I don’t know what to do.” He finally managed to stammer out. He sat down on the porch and let his tears splatter down onto the weathered wood.
Macintosh gave him a sympathetic look and sat down with him, placing a foreleg over his shoulders in an attempt to comfort him. “What don’t ya know, Rainy? If ya tell me Ah promise Ah’ll do everything that Ah can ta help.”
Rainy took a short breath and his shoulders continued to rock from small sobs. “About a year ago…we did try to have another foal.” he finally managed to say, “but…but there were complications.” The crying stallion placed his foreleg against his eyes to hide the tears, “She’d only been pregnant for a few months. We were so excited to have another foal, Heart especially, but something went wrong and…and there was a miscarriage. It tore her apart, Macintosh. It tore both of us apart.”
“Rainy, Ah’m so sorry…” Macintosh began, but he was cut off by his friend.
“That was only part of the problem. Mac….Mac, I cheated on her. I slept with another mare.” Rainy’s entire body was rocking now, and tears were falling in streams past his foreleg. “I don’t know what came over me. Just one night I had one to many at the bar and…and just did it. I can’t even blame it on the alcohol because I remember everything about it. I didn’t black out. I knew what I was doing and I did it anyways.” Rainy’s story was pouring from his mouth as if somepony had opened a floodgate. “It’s just that…it had been a year since the incident and she’s just been so angry and guarded and scared to try for another foal and I was OK with that. I felt like I was willing to wait until she was secure enough with herself. But Macintosh, a year without sex and a few shots of whiskey will make a stallion do anything. But it’s all my fault. She doesn’t know anything about it, and it’s killing me on the inside. I’m so scared that she’ll hate me, and I just keep trying to push her away before she pushes me away first.”
Rainy couldn’t keep talking as he broke down into a weeping mess. Everything was out now, and Macintosh was stunned. He couldn’t believe that Rainy would ever have an affair on Heart but he’d heard it from Rainy himself.
The workhorse heaved a long sigh and waited for his friend to calm down a little before speaking. “Rainy…Rainy Ah think the only thing that you can do in this situation is be honest with Heart. You said it yourself, keeping it a secret is killing ya and it’s tearing your marriage apart. Ah know Ah ain’t got any kind of experience with this stuff but Ah think that, if Ah know Heart, she’ll at least listen to ya. Ah don’t wanna see you two separated, Rainy and Ah gotta ask that you at least try to fix this for Bright if not for yourself.”
Rainy took a few shuddering breaths before standing up, his eyes still downcast. “I don’t know, Mac. I just don’t know if I have it in me.” Rainy walked inside the house, the screen door slamming on its own behind him.
Macintosh remained sitting on the front porch, confused that Rainy had these kinds of demons inside of him. But it was his choice whether or not to tell the truth to Heart and he wasn’t going to force his friend to do anything he wasn’t ready for.
“Hi, sweetie.” Chimed the familiar, sweet voice that he knew so well.
Macintosh smiled and looked up at Fluttershy and Heart as they approached him. They both looked relaxed and refreshed from their day at the spa, “Hey, Sugarcube. Did ya have a good time?”
Fluttershy nodded, “Rarity and Heart got along very well together and we had a great time.” Heart nodded and agreed with the daisy pegasus.
The door to the house opened and Rainy walked out, a look of grim determination set on his face. Walking up to his wife he offered a sheepish smile, “Hey honey, you look radiant.” He sucked in a sharp breath, “Heart…we need to talk.”
“Rainy, can’t it wait until later, I just had a glorious day at the spa and…”
“I’m sorry but this can’t wait, we need to talk now.” Rainy said, his look of determination returning. He gently took his wife’s hoof and led her away from the farm. Heart reluctantly followed her husband until they were out of hearing distance of their hosts.
Fluttershy gave Macintosh a curious look as the two walked away. “Mackie, what’s the matter? Did something happen while you two were out today?”
Macintosh shook his head, “No, sweetheart. Nothing happened.” He was cut off as a loud smack resounded to the house. Looking up, the pair saw Hearts hoof as it came out of a swing across Rainy’s cheek. The pegasus’ head was turned away from his wife and his hair covered his eyes. No words could be made out but they could clearly hear Heart yelling at the top of her lungs. Fluttershy looked startled and stood up to see if she could hep. Macintosh took her by the hoof and led her inside, “Come on Sugarcube. It ain’t none of our business.”
The train whistle gave its final cry for any and all passengers that weren’t on board already to get on board. Groups of ponies were gathering together for their final farewells to friends and relatives. Macintosh, Fluttershy, Rainy, and Heart all stood together giving farewell hugs and goodbyes.
“It was so great to see you again.” Heart said as she attempted to give the large stallion a hug that only reached halfway around his neck. “And it was great to meet you too, Fluttershy. Thank you so much for bringing me to the spa with you.” Heart said, turning towards Fluttershy and giving her a less awkward hug. “You got yourself a real catch here, Macintosh. Don’t you dare think of letting this one go.”
Fluttershy blushed and returned the unicorn’s hug. “It was no problem at all. And it was such a wonderful thing to meet the two of you as well. I hope you visit again sometime.”
“We plan on it.” Rainy said, stepping up next to his wife and giving a broad smile. Rainy shook Macintosh’s hoof and reached around to give him a pat on the back. “You be good now, Macintosh. I don’t want to have to come down here just to straighten you out.”
“Ah plan on it.” The large Clydesdale responded with his own light grin.
Rainy leaned in a little closer and whispered so that only Macintosh could hear him, “And thanks, buddy. I needed to hear that from somepony. I think now we can try and fix what we have left of our marriage now that everything’s in the open. She’s supset about it, but we’ll make it work.”
Picking up the last of their baggage, Heart and Rainy boarded the train, waving goodbye to their friends on the loading platform. The train gave a loud whistle and began to roll out of the station.
Macintosh and Fluttershy watched as the locomotive gained speed and quickly left their line of sight. Fluttershy leaned against her coltfriends massive foreleg and gave a sigh. “They were nice ponies. I’m glad that I finally got to meet them.”
Macintosh remained silent for a moment before grinning, “Ah’m glad they came ta visit too, Sugarcube. Say, let me tell about what happened during mah senior prom.”