"Can Ah interest ya ladies in some apples? Ain't nothin' fresher in town." Big Macintosh smiled and held his head high. He carted in a stall and a haul of recent apples that morning. He figured better to look like a pony with something to do rather than shuffling his hooves around the town.
One of the mares giggled. She was a cute little pink thing with a yellow mane. She answered for the set of three. "Certainly, Big Macintosh. Haven't had lunch yet, have we girls?"
"Nope," answered one.
"How much Big Macintosh?"
The red stallion winked and said, "Ah reckon for some pretty mares like ya'll Ah can cut ya a deal. How's 'bout two apple a bit?"
The pink mare's blush elated Big Macintosh. He tried with every customer, but never did he get this response. She said, "Just a minute. I don't have anything, how about you Carrot Top?"
Big Macintosh said, "Well, Ah won't charge ya a thing for ya company."
Carrot Top leaned over and whispered in the pink's ear. She leaned back and said, "We've got somewhere to go. See you later Constelle."
Constelle. Big Macintosh reckoned that a pretty name. Things were going great, he smiled at her and nudged one of the small crates filled with apples. He said, "Take your pick, miss Constelle."
She scanned the selection. Big Macintosh figured he surely had something worthwhile. Constelle frowned and said, "Do you have any pink ladies? I was hoping for something sweet, most of these are sour."
Big Macintosh avoided those apples for a reason. The mention of the apple reminded him of the tree he ruined, of the fruit he crushed. He couldn't speak for a moment, he cleared his throat and said, "Ah'm sorry, but these red delicious are swell and aren't sour. Ah swear by'em."
Constelle hesitated, but took the apple. She slipped it into the satchel slung over her side and said, "I'll save it for later. So what brings you out here, Big Macintosh?"
Big Macintosh tried to smile again, but it came across too strained. "Mah sis and Ah switched places. Figures we was both gettin' bored with the usual routine."
"Oh, well, that's good I suppose."
"Eeyup." Constelle smiled and Big Macintosh cleared his throat. He opened his mouth expecting something to be said, but nothing came out.
Constelle glanced down the road. Big Macintosh shuffled his hooves and thought to mention how nice the weather was, but it seemed such a silly thing to say when everyone knew it. Maybe if he said it was as pretty as her
"I guess I'll see you around Big Macintosh. And here," Constelle fetched the apple from her satchel, "I'm not much a fan of these either, and I don't think I've paid for it." She set the apple back in the stall. She turned to leave.
Big Macintosh's tongue betrayed him again. "Ah reckon Ah'll see ya around, miss?"
"Hmm?" she said over her shoulder. "Oh sure, um
Big Macintosh watched her leave, for a moment he forced himself to admire her flank while she trotted away, but all he did was try to make out her cutie mark.
"Hey Big Mac, surprised to see you here."
Big Macintosh's head darted round to the pony standing to the right of his stall. "Oh, high ya Coconut."
Coconut was a brown stallion with a mane a shade darker than the inside of a coconut, he had a palm tree and desert island for a cutie mark. He was smaller than Big Macintosh, but built well enough. Coconut helped with all the plowing during Winter Wrap Ups.
"Down cause you couldn't get Constelle? Yeah, she's a nice looking mare. I had a fling with her. Talk about high maintenance."
Big Macintosh said, "Suppose Ah'm lucky she walked away then."
"Don't look so glum big guy. Hey since you're in town, me and some of the guys later are gonna be playing soccer. Bet you'd make a heck of a kicker, you ever thought of playing? Be good to get your mind off of things."
Big Macintosh was inclined to say yes. He liked the idea already, doing something other than standing around. It'd be fun, he hadn't gotten the chance to play any kind of game with some other ponies in a long time.
Coconut said, "Hey, how about it?"
Big Macintosh nodded. "Ah'd certainly like ta. But Ah'd need ta take care of this here stall first on account that Ah'm the only Apple in town right now."
"The field's closer than your farm. If you meet us there with your cart we can have something to eat. Hey, I'll even help you take it back to the farm if you want. I know I won't have anything else to do."
Big Macintosh scraped the ground with his front hoof. He didn't mean to. The idea of walking back to the farm with Coconut made him nervous, he didn't know if he could keep up a whole conversation and he didn't want his
well his simpleness scare Coconut off. But he wanted the other pony to tag along, he'd like to talk to somepony for once and forget about all this pressure with mares.
"Ah reckon Ah'd appreciate that mightily, Coconut. When's ya'll's game?"
"An hour from now. In the south field, right off from Rarity's boutique," Coconut said. He leaned over the stall and brought his head close, making Big Macintosh almost step back. Coconut whispered, "Don't tell anypony this, but some of the guys are wanting to show off." He backed away and said, "See ya in an hour, Big Mac."
He trotted away and Big Macintosh smiled. He'd like the chance to stop with all this flirting and just get his hooves dirty and have fun. He watched Coconut leave, and pretty soon he watched him leave the same way he watched Constelle leave. Big Macintosh nickered and spun around. He flared his nostrils and stamped his hooves. Delph's words stung him again and made him want to kick over his stall.
He sighed and took a deep breath. He exhaled through his nostrils and when he looked up he noticed Applejack's friend, Twilight Sparkle, returning to her library. Big Macintosh knew her fairly well, she stopped by the farm plenty of times and near as he could tell they got along plenty. Big Macintosh decided there that he'd go and court miss Twilight Sparkle.
Well, it wasn't as bad as Princess Celestia letter made her believe. Of course, when the Princess took time out of her busy schedule to let Twilight know her mother was sick it was enough to put her pupil into a panic. Her mind ran wild with all sorts of horrendous diseases she read about.
It was nothing of the sort. A fever, a cold, at least she got to see her parents again.
She left Fluttershy at the entrance to Ponyville and when she returned to her library she found it prim and proper. Spike rarely disappointed. Twilight shrugged off her saddlebags and hung them on a rack beside the door. She sighed and thought how nice it would be to soak her hooves. She could get Spike to heat the water. She was too tired to try a spell.
She called, "Spike. Spike!"
No response. Twilight frowned and searched the library. She found Spike curled up in her bed, napping. Twilight saw the bed held appeal. She may just scoot Spike over and take a nap herself.
Downstairs she heard a knock on the door. Twilight mumbled, "Can't get a moment to myself."
Twilight trotted downstairs and answered the door. Big Macintosh stood on the other side, his bulky, red build covered the doorway. Twilight's mouth hung open for a moment. She shook herself and said, "Why Big Macintosh, I didn't expect you to come here."
"Well Miss Twilight Sparkle, Ah was hopin' ta pay a visit and maybe enjoy your company. If'n ya don't mind."
Twilight stepped out of the doorway and said, "Uh
yeah, sure I guess. I just got back and I'm a little tired, but any relative of Applejack's is always welcomed."
Big Macintosh bowed his head. "Thank ya kindly, ma'am." He ducked under the door and shut it.
Twilight said, "Did you need something. A book or scroll perhaps? I suppose Applejack sent you down here to fetch something."
"No ma'am, not Applejack. Ah came of mah own accord so Ah might, uh
peruse ya library for a book over farmin' techniques."
Twilight frowned. Big Macintosh wouldn't look at her, his eyes scanned over the surrounding bookshelves and refused to come back down. Twilight said, "Well, I know the section on agriculture starts there, by that window. Just let me know if you need any help."
Twilight thought about what kind of book she could read while she waited on Big Macintosh. Nothing better to do, once he left she'd put a "close" sign or something on the door.
Big Macintosh said, "Ah'd 'preciate it if ya could."
"Huh? Oh, help, right. Okay." Both of them approached the agriculture section. Twilight shouldn't use the word section, though, the library had a very exquisite history section, her books on agriculture consisted of two shelves with books shoved together so tight the pages couldn't breathe.
No pony ever took them down.
Big Macintosh cocked his head and annunciated the titles under his breath. He was a slow reader, but Twilight didn't hold it against him. Other ponies could read for him, he was just a simple work pony.
Twilight didn't like the waiting, though. "Hey, Big Macintosh?"
"Well, first, you can just call me Twilight, okay? And can you tell me what book you're looking for so I can help you find it?"
"Ah guess somethin' on more recent farmin' styles."
"Um, okay. How about this one? Crop Rotations and the Field? Sounds reasonable to start there."
"Okay, Ah suppose that's a fine choice. You bein' the librarian and all, figure ya might know what's best." He reached to grab it, but Twilight intervened.
"It's okay, Big Mac, I got it." She levitated the book out of the shelf and heard the pages gasp. She set it down on a table in the middle of the room and asked, "Is that going to be all?"
"Well, Ah was hopin' maybe we could talk. Heard ya went ta Canterlot for your ma. She okay?"
"That's swell ta hear. Ya gotta keep your family close Twilight, even if ya live far away."
"Yeah, I'm sure that's an Apple family motto, huh?"
Big Macintosh said, "A beautiful one. Was tellin' Applejack the other day, ya know. 'That keepin' family close is important, Ah like that your friend Twilight does that. Always knew she was a good filly.'"
Twilight chuckled and it sounded as strained as her agriculture books were before. "Thanks," she said. She wanted to walk away or shoo him out the door now. She knew what the visit was, and well, bless Big Macintosh's heart, but Twilight wasn't interested in a pony who took so long to read.
Big Macintosh swept his head low beside her and said, "Between me and you, she's mighty pretty too."
Twilight coughed and looked away. Oh why couldn't Spike be awake? Twilight said, "Why are you doing this?"
Big Macintosh took a step back. "Beg your pardon mean, miss Twilight?"
Twilight motioned across the library. "All of this. Now I know you didn't come here for a book. And if you wanted to, well flirt or whatever it is your think you're doing, you could just ask me for lunch sometime. And another thing, why are you lying when you call me pretty? You say it but you haven't once more than glanced at me since you got in here."
Big Macintosh backed away. He shook his head, "But Ah do find ya pretty miss Twilight."
Twilight shook her head. "No, you don't. Maybe you find me pretty in the same way I might say, 'Oh, look at that, Rarity's mane looks pretty today.'"
Big Macintosh's shoulders slumped. He pursed his lips and Twilight saw the corners twitch.
"Oh no, I'm sorry Big Mac. I don't mean to turn you down, butlook I just got home and I'm tired, okay? That's it, I'm just tired and tomorrow we can try again"
"Nah, nah," Big Macintosh said, "It's true miss Twilight, AhAh don't think your pretty at'all."
Twilight became taken aback. "Well, I suppose that's fair."
Big Macintosh said, "Nah, Ah didn't mean you're not a nice lookin' filly Twilight, but Ah don't find ya pretty."
"What's wrong with that? So you don't like unicorns, that's okay"
Big Macintosh actually sobbed, which alarmed Twilight to the degree of his distress. He mumbled something.
Twilight frowned and went to his side. She raised a hoof, hesitated, and slowly put it on his shoulder. Lightly, hardly touching. She whispered, "Umm
is there anything I can do? Is something wrong at home?"
Big Macintosh's back legs wobbled and he fell onto his haunches. Twilight gasped and darted a step back. The big red stallion hung his head low, tussles of his orange mane hid his eyes from Twilight, but she saw the hint of a tear there. Big Macintosh began sobbing.
The door upstairs opened. Twilight started when she heard, "Hey, someone here?"
"Spike!" Twilight hissed and slammed the door in his face. She used magic to lock it and dull sound when he banged on the door. She turned back on Big Macintosh and saw he stopped with his fit. He sat there in the middle of the floor, blank as a piece of furniture. The only décor in the library that Twilight couldn't read.
Twilight sighed and tried again. "Big Mac? You okay? Talk to me, I'm not sure anypony's seen you like this before, have they?"
Big Macintosh shook his head. He looked at Twilight and asked, "Can ya keep a secret, miss Twilight. Even if it's not right and bad and awful, can ya keep a secret?"
Twilight didn't want to keep a secret from anypony after that awful debacle with Fluttershy, Rarity, and Photo Finish, especially one she may have to hide from Applejack.
Twilight said, "Yes. For you, of course Big Macintosh. We're friends, aren't we?"
"Ah hope so, miss Twilight. Ah hope ya can say that, 'cause ya see, there ain't somethin' right with me. At first Ah thought it was just 'cause Ah worked so hard, Ah didn't have time for fillies or mares or nothin' like that. But, Ah don't think it's that at all."
Twilight cringed. A sliver of dread slithered into her stomach and stayed there spinning like a slow rotisserie apple.
"The other day, when we was sayin' goodbye ta all the hands we hired on account ya'll all was out of town, one of them told me some things. At first Ah got mad, 'cause he was sayin' Ah was like him when Ah knew Ah wasn't and well now Ah don't know no more
Big Macintosh stared at Twilight's hooves. He muttered, "But Ah suppose he was right and Ah
Ah guess Ah fancy other stallions and not mares." His shoulders tightened and he finally looked at Twilight. "But Ah don't want ta. Ah've been tryin' somethin' fierce ta meet a mare today. And Ah don't know. Ah screwed up every time and then Ah saw you and Ah thought maybe with somepony Ah know, because Ah don't know very many mares, Ah might have a chance. So Ah came right over, but
He lost his drive and fell into his little hunch again. He said, "Ya saw right through me, worse than anypony before."
Why did it seem a pegasus full of problems always crashed through her door? Twilight couldn't think. All she wanted to do was go to sleep and maybe tomorrow deal with this. Maybe. It should be Applejack's problem, they were siblings, she'd have to understand because of that, right?
Twilight said, "I'm not sure what to think of this, Big Mac. It's a lot for me to take in. Now, please don't start crying again, here. I'll go and talk to someponies who can keep a secret and try to figure out something for you to do. Here, you can stay down here until you're ready to leave, okay?"
Twilight just wanted to get away. She needed time to think and rest and sleep and then maybe she'd do something. For now, she trotted upstairs and left Big Macintosh down below. She forgot that a grumpy Spike waited on the other side of the door.
"I don't see what the big deal is. Now if it was a dragon, then I think it'd be a big deal," Spike said. He paused and blew a green flame across the coals in the basement. Above them he heated a pail of water. Twilight sat in a tub, waiting for the remainder of it to be filled. The basement below had a tap to an aquifer well, having her bath in here made it easier on both Spike and Twilight. And it was well lit by half a dozen lanterns, so neither fretted over the possibility of darkness.
Spike turned over some of the coals and then said, "I mean, how many dragons do ya see? Not many at all, we're a dwindling race and that means it means a lot more to us."
Twilight sighed. "I know."
Spike dipped a finger into the pail and said, "Water feels ready."
Twilight levitated the pail over to her tub and gently poured the water. She winced and righted the pail. "Ouch, this is a little hot, don't you think Spike?"
Spike shrugged. "Sorry, you know it can be hard for me to tell."
"It's okay I suppose. But what should I do with this mess? I mean, he should be talking to Applejack about it, right?"
"Maybe that's the problem. Sheesh, how do you think you would feel if you had a sister or brother like that?"
"Well I think I'd still love them."
Spike sat down on the coals and stretched his tail over them. He said, "Okay, then how about if you were raised like Applejack and the rest of that family."
Twilight frowned. "I guess I wouldn't approve much at all. They probably don't think it's natural, and worst of all Big Mac is set to inherit the farm when Granny Smith passes isn't he?"
Spike shrugged. "Beats me. I don't know how they do that stuff."
"I think so. Gosh that could create all sorts of problems if he didn't have any colts or fillies of his own. I can see why Applejack wouldn't like it and why he's so scared to talk about it." Twilight groaned. "It's still all so bizarre to me, though."
Spike said, "Does the library have anything on this kind of junk? You could consult a book or two."
"I'm not sure. But when I met Lyra and Bon-Bon I thought they were a sweet couple. So I suppose there isn't anything wrong with it. It's just there's so much at stake."
"Meh, you ponies and your drama sometimes"
"Okay, sorry. Look, I know you're not going to listen to me anyway, but my advice is to go tell Applejack. She deserves to know."
Twilight frowned. "But Big Macintosh wouldn't like that at all
"That's the point. Make both of them confront it now, the longer that secret's kept the worse it'll be."
"I'll think about it," Twilight said. She poured the remaining water in the pail and sank her neck into the water.
"Thank's for doing this on short notice Rarity," Twilight said as she stepped into Rarity's boutique.
Rarity smiled. "Why of course darling, no time is too late to see a friend. Isn't that right Fluttershy?"
Fluttershy nodded. "Oh yes, we don't mind at all."
The boutique was crowded with mannequins, most with some piece of clothing draped over them. They were organized in neat little lines with gaps large enough for a single pony to go about them, they dominated half the room. All of the dresses would be part of the winter line Hoity-Toity showed later this year.
Rarity disliked the clutter, especially in front of guest. She tried to cover that section of her boutique with a curtain, but she didn't have one big enough and she simply refused to hang a gaudy hodgepodge of fabric to hide a minor eyesore in her store.
Twilight looked well, if a little rushed. Rarity saw her mane just recently dried, and it had a bit of a fluff to it. When she caught sight of a loose hair she had to peel her eyes away before she stopped the purple unicorn and attacked her mane.
Rarity focused on her eyes and said, "So what is this about, dear?"
Twilight leaned forward. "You two promise you can keep a secret? Like Pinkie Pie swear?"
Fluttershy nodded and Rarity said, "Of course." She could see the anxiety bunched between Twilight's shoulders and knew this wasn't a juicy piece of bridle gossip.
"Well, Big Macintosh came by the library yesterday, and he, well he sort of broke down in the middle of the floor."
"That doesn't seem reasonable at all, whatever for, Twilight?" Rarity asked.
"He tried flirting with me. And I was tired and caught off guard and I
sort of freaked out on him. But that's not what made him cry. He said he was just trying to find a mare to flirt with and he thought he knew me pretty well, so he tried with me. But the reason he was trying so hard was because even though he doesn't want to he thinks he likes stallions."
Rarity's mouth hung open. Big Macintosh? Great big quiet, simple, Big Macintosh was Ponyville's own stud chaser? Rarity never knew one in person but oh she heard stories of it.
Fluttershy said, "Um
I don't think that's"
"Oh Twilight you must bring him here!" Rarity said. "I've been looking for a pony to critique all of these dresses and I could never find someone but if what you say is true then Big Macintosh is the perfect choice. Oh I should've seen it so long ago. He does take much better care of his mane than Applejack does, bet he bathes more too"
Rarity, I don't think that's the best idea."
"But you must!" Rarity said, "I'm sorry to say this Twilight, but I think in this category I'm more knowledgeable than you are when it comes to stud chasers."
Twilight frowned. "Promise you'll just try to talk to him?"
"Of course. There are a dozen things I must talk to him about." And talk they would, and maybe he could help her with makeovers and pedicures. Of course, with his upbringing he would be woefully insufficient at first, but Rarity knew stud chasers to be quick learners with things only a lady could appreciate.
He would be her best friend ever. Maybe he could even become one the girls!
Twilight asked, "What do you think, Fluttershy?"
"Hmm, oh, well, I guess it's okay. I mean, it's not my place to tell him what's right or wrong."
"Of course, it's none of are places. Just send him over to me, Twilight darling and I will straighten this whole mess out before he ever gets the chance to leave."
Fluttershy left Rarity's boutique with Twilight. She wished Twilight good night, as the sun was going down, and began her return trip to her cottage.
Oh she was so flustered with this. She didn't want to say anything in front of Twilight or Rarity because, well, they seemed not to mind at all, but Fluttershy didn't approve. Of course, she didn't want to be mean or judgmental, but she didn't like it.
A part of the problem was she had sort of a crush on Big Macintosh. Well, maybe not a crush, but she really liked the idea of being with him, if she ever worked up the courage to ask. He was strong, gentle, and nice and Fluttershy thought she could enjoy farm life and all the cute little animals there. She wouldn't mind it at all really, in fact it seemed they were meant for each other.
Fluttershy's head hung low. She didn't like this one bit. It was a pony's choice, and Big Macintosh was probably just confused about everything. She bet if she talked to him about it she could sort things out, she'd like to do that, but she couldn't. She just, she'd get too nervous. What if Big Macintosh asked her what she felt about him afterwards? Oh she would just be so embarrassed!
Still, she was very flustered.
Fluttershy squeaked and almost fell on her face. Pinkie Pie bounced beside her and smiled.
"Oh, good evening Pinkie Pie."
"It sure is. Hey didja know how good the evening's been for me? So good. I sold so many cupcakes today. I'm glad I talked with Rainbow Dash about making that rainbow flavor. It's so yummy. You want to try it some time? You should, it's delicious."
"Oh, no thank you, Pinkie Pie. I'm in no mood for sweets, if that's okay with you."
"Okie dokie loki, Fluttershy. Hey have you noticed you look down? Why is that? Is it something bad, if it is we could throw a party to make things better."
"I don't think a party would help," Fluttershy shook her head. "I'm just not feeling too good, is all."
Pinkie Pie bounced around her friend. Fluttershy tried to ignore her but couldn't. Pinkie Pie said, "That's no good, you should try something sweet then. That makes me feel better when I'm not feeling good."
"Thank you, but I just don't have an appetite. Twilight told me something that just makes me feel awful."
Pinkie Pie gasped and froze in front of Fluttershy. She spun around and said, "What? Is it a secret? Can you tell me?"
yes. I think. You're really good at keeping secrets, so I suppose it's okay to tell you. If you just keep it between the girls."
Pinkie Pie nodded furiously. "Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye."
Fluttershy scanned the road for anyponies. Then she leaned in and whispered while glancing behind her, "I'm just so flustered with this, because I'm not sure what to do, but Twilight told me that Big Macintosh told her that he liked boy ponies. And I know it's not any of my business, but I'm not sure I agree with it"
"But that's so weird! How can he like other stallions?" Pinkie Pie exclaimed. She slapped a hoof over her mouth, knelt down to Fluttershy's level and whispered, "Sorry. I don't think anyone heard. But how can he be like that? It's so weird, I mean, I've never heard of a pony being like that, least not a boy pony. What should we do?"
Fluttershy shrugged her wings.
I'm not sure how he feels about it
but how about a party? I mean it's so weird and new that it should be celebrated shouldn't it? I could ask Applejack tomorrow when the Cakes get home. Oh maybe we could hold a parade instead, haven't done one of those in a long time. I'll need to get my accordion, though
Fluttershy said, "Well, if you want you can, but I don't think he'd like it."
"But everypony likes a good party."
"I guess they do, but maybe
"That's that then. Tomorrow I'll talk to Applejack and that night the barn will be party central."
Fluttershy frowned but said as Pinkie Pie bounced back to Sugar Cube Corner. "Goodnight, Pinkie."
"Oh, goodnight Fluttershy. Hope the parasprites don't bite!"
Fluttershy hoped there weren't any parasprites! Oh, now she would check every nook and cranny for one of the adorable creatures when she got home. But it wasn't those things that scared her, she couldn't remember if Twilight said if Applejack knew or not. But if she didn't and Fluttershy told her, oh she would be so mad.
But they were brother and sister, so she had to know. Yes, Fluttershy was sure they wouldn't hide anything like that.
Big Macintosh hesitated on Rarity's doorstep. Twilight dropped by earlier that morning and told him Rarity would be able to help him. She said Rarity knew a lot more about his problem than he did, said she could help out a whole lot if he stopped by her boutique. Big Macintosh sighed and knocked the door with his hoof.
The top half swung open and on the other side the marshmallow, purple maned pony squealed. She opened the bottom half of the door and said, "Oh it's so good to see you Big Macintosh. I've been waiting all day darling, please come in side."
Big Macintosh strode through the doorway and said, "Morning miss Rarity. Ah came by on account"
"Oh I know why you're here darling, but I simply can't believe you came here like this. I'll just have to throw everything aside this afternoon, both of us could use a good day at the spa."
beggin' your pardon miss Rarity?"
"Oh don't worry about it now. Come in." Her horn glowed, and across the room several mannequins floated to the pair. She said, "I've been busy you know, I'm sure. All week working on a line of new dresses and I was wondering if you might want to look at them?"
Big Macintosh asked. "Are ya sure this is why Ah'm here?"
"Of course, now tell me what you think of this one, hmm?" She levitated one of the mannequins closer and said, "I'm a little worried that this violet might be a shade too dark for the hem and"
"They all seem a bit fru-fru ta me," Big Macintosh said, "Beggin' your pardon if'n that's not whatcha wanted ta hear miss Rarity, but Ah reckon Ah'm not the sharpest when it comes ta judgin' this kinda stuff."
Rarity said, "Oh
"Ah think the colors on it look mighty fine, though," Big Macintosh added when he saw his host's distress.
"Thank you Big Macintosh. Perhaps we can just look at the colors then? I would so love for your thoughts, and later we can still go to the spa. I'd love to see what you'd like if they got you prim and proper, you'd have other stud chasers drooling over you."
Big Macintosh flinched at the thought. Rarity was already swapping out the mannequins. He nickered and said, "Ah think both of us got ta expectin' too much from the other."
"Whatever do you mean dear?" Rarity said when she set the mannequin down.
"Ah came here 'cause miss Twilight said ya could help me with mah problem."
"What problem? Oh you don't think" Rarity covered her mouth to hide her gasp. She went to Big Macintosh's side and said, "Why Macintosh, darling, whyever would you think you have a problem? You are a fine stallion and anypony who says otherwise is, well, they aren't pretty. And I know who's pretty and who's not, and you are prettyonce we get you cleaned up of course."
Big Macintosh sighed. "Thank ya kindly ma'am, s'pose Ah still have ta figure things out." He headed for the door.
"Just follow your sister's advice darling. Be who you are without any shame, it's beautiful you know. And when you're ready, let me know when you want to go to the spa. A pedicure would both do us some wonders."
Big Macintosh coughed. He quickened his pace and tried to ignore the oblivious pony's goodbyes. Big Macintosh didn't care if Celestia said it was the only natural thing he could do now that he knew what he was, he wouldn't be seen nowhere near no spa.
Thank goodness the Cakes came home early. Well, not thank goodness for them because they complained a lot and didn't even tell Pinkie what a good job she did with her rainbow cupcakes, all they could keep talking about were pumpkin recipes. Chitter-chatter nicker-nacker, pumpkin pies and cakes and all sorts of things. Sometimes she thought the couple talked too much.
But thank goodness. She wanted to throw Big Macintosh the biggest party ever tonight. She'd invite everypony she could, maybe even put a bulletin out in Equestria Daily so that every pony would be invited. She had the bits to, but maybe if she did she wouldn't be able to afford enough balloons or streamers or candy or punch or
She needed to see Applejack. That's why she bounced up the trail to Sweet Apple Acres farmhouse, because Applejack probably knew Big Macintosh better than anything, aside from maybe the apple trees, she was sure the apple trees knew a lot about Big Macintosh too.
Pinkie Pie found Applejack hauling apples out of her cellar. She bounced to the pony and said, "Applejack. Oh Applejack. I need to ask you questions, bunches of questions, bushels maybe."
Applejack noticed her. She flared her nostrils and set down the bucket she held in her mouth. She said, "Ah reckon Ah might have just a few minutes ta spare sugar cube. Watcha need? A pie or somethin'?"
Pinke Pie shook her head. "Oh no, no, no, no! Unless you're offering because I could have ten if you're offering."
"Sorry, it'd have ta cost ya. Even if we're friends."
"Well that's okay, I might buy some anyway. I want to throw Big Macintosh a party. Like a great big party with great big games and dances and sweets."
Applejack said, "Pinkie, Big Macintosh ain't a partyin' pony." Her brows furrowed. "And why would'ja wanna throw him a party now? Ain't nobody's want ta throw him a party before, exceptin' his kin."
"Well, because" Pinkie's tongue tripped all over itself. She didn't know what to say. So she bounced up and down and said, "You know, silly!"
"No, Ah don't."
Pinkie Pie stopped bouncing. She rubbed her chin for a minute, then said, "Oh, I see. It's a secret. But Fluttershy told me. And she said to keep it between us girls."
"And what in tarnation did Fluttershy tell ya?" Applejack demanded.
"Our secret silly. You know" Pinkie Pie snuck a few furtive glances around and leaned in close, she whispered, "That your brother likes colts."
Pinkie Pie stepped back and beamed.
"Pinkie Pie, darlin', who told Fluttershy somethin' awful like that?"
Pinkie Pie thought on it for a minute. "Well I suppose Twilight did, I think Big Macintosh told her he did or something. But isn't it neat? I want to hold a party because it's so new and bizarre and you gotta celebrate new things, right?"
Applejack knelt back down to grab her bucket and said, "Go home. We won't be throwin' no parties this time."
Pinkie Pie said, "No party? But you gotta throw a party"
Applejack shot up and pressed her face into the pink pony's. She kicked the bucket and it sailed through the air, over the cellar door and banging into the barn. "Ah said go home Pinkie Pie, or Ah'll string ya up and dump ya on Sugar Cube corner mahself."
Pinkie Pie shrunk away. "Oh, I'm sorry, Applejack. Maybe I can come by later, okay?"
"Ah'm not in the mood. When Ah'm ready ta see ya Ah will."
Pinkie Pie's bouncy mane popped like a balloon. "Oh
" the pink pony slinked away, her mane and tail drooping around her.
Big Macintosh barely caught the pink pony as she left. He stopped and as she passed asked, "Somethin' wrong, miss Pinkie Pie?"
Pinkie Pie shook her head and said, "No, I'm sorry to bug you."
Big Macintosh shook his head, "Nonsense." She didn't answer, Big Macintosh called out before she went out of earshot, "Ah hope ya have a nice day."
Big Macintosh frowned. He almost pursued her, but he supposed whatever problem plagued her was something he could do nothing about. He had things he needed to solve on his own. He tried while in Ponyville again, to admire mares and flirt, but every time he came up short. He figured he couldn't do nothing about his attraction, so he just needed to fool himself into thinking otherwise. Maybe get a mare who looked like a stallion, that could help. He'd try anything at this point.
Applejack paced in front of the barn. Enough thoughts ran wild in her head, but she couldn't wrangle in a single one. She wanted to march right over to Fluttershy's and follow this wicked grapevine right to the source. Her brother'd been so distant to her lately, and Applejack didn't think this was why. She didn't want to believe it, even if that big red goofball said it himself. He wouldn't be so selfish, Applejack knew him. He didn't have to like stallions anymore than a mare had to like a mare.
Big Macintosh saw her before Applejack saw him. Applejack had been looking at the ground and been in such a fierce concentration she didn't even hear her brother coming. He said, "Ah saw your friend leavin' the farm. She seemed mighty upset."
Applejack faced her brother and said, "She said somethin' Ah just couldn't believe. Ah need ta say Ah'm sorry laterbut, big brother, did ya know they're spreadin' rumors 'bout ya in Ponyville?"
Her brother's shoulders stiffened. His eyes went wide and he hid his apprehension about as well as rabbit caught in the act of stealing food. "AhAh can't believe anypony would do such a thing."
Applejack saw it there, and her stew of rage was diluted with something black that weighed her down between her stomach and ribs. She said, "Ah know. 'Specially Twilight, she was tellin' the girls ya told her ya fancied colts and stallions and whatnot."
Applejack saw the knot swell in Big Macintosh's throat. His tail whipped behind him, like it swiped at an annoying fly.
"But somethin' like that never'd be true. Would it, Big Mac?"
Applejack flared her nostrils.
Big Macintosh shook his head. "It's not true, sis. Ah swear Ah'd never do nothin' like that to ya'll. Ah'm not goin' ta put the farm or family at risk, Ah'd never"
"Ya might as well be tryin' ta lie ta the trees, 'cause there's not a soul who believes ya." Applejack took a few steps to Big Macintosh and demanded, "How could ya even think ta do that? It's not fair ta no pony."
"And ah told ya Ah'm not. Look, maybe Ah'm a bit inclined ta stallions, but Ah swear"
"You're either one way or you're not Big Mac, now which way are ya?"
"Ah want ta be with a mare, sis. A nice pretty one who can 'preciate rearin' colts and fillies and apples. Ah want ta. Ah want ta so bad and Ah've been tryin' mah hardest. Ah've never once wanted what you're suggestin' and we both know what they said ain't true. Maybe Ah can only like stallions, but Ah know Ah can still love a mare with mah children and Ah'm goin' ta try mah hardest."
Applejack felt a tug on her hooves to leave now. To end it there, leave barrel half-filled to make sure all those sweet apples didn't get covered with the sour ones. But it wasn't her, it wasn't her to close up her feelings like a keg of apple cider and pretend nothing ever happened.
Neither pony looked at each other when Applejack said, "Ah want ta believe that. Big Mac
gosh Ah want ta believe that more'n Ah believe in this farm, but you're not bein' honest with yourself. Your whole life's passed ya by and we all thought it was the workin' that kept ya from findin' someone or tryin' ta, but how in the hay are you goin' ta keep at it now? And forget about lyin' ta some mare, forget about lyin' ta your own little foals 'bout whatcha are. Can ya imagine it? Ah can't do it, Big Mac. Ah can't let ya do it. If'n ya can't like a mare, ya shouldn't try at all. Ya can't love what ya don't like, big brother."
"But Ah can, sis. Ah can. Ah just need ta find the right mare"
"But ya just said otherwise, didn't ya? It's gettin' to the point ya can't keep track of whatcha sayin' and Ah don't want ya lyin' head over hooves ta make me happy, Big Macintosh. Ah got a belly full of stones and a head full of moldy hay. Ah won'tjust please, leave me alone for a bit. Ah'm goin' ta head inta town and see if Ah can make up for the things Ah said ta Pinkie Pie. Poor girl didn't deserve the tongue lashin' Ah gave her."
Big Macintosh didn't mutter or mumble another word. Applejack glanced at him once when she passed him. She saw him choke back a sob, and then she was beyond him, walking to Ponyville at a nice slow stride. She wouldn't stop until she reached Pinkie's. She'd apologize deeply, then maybe go to Twilight's to talk about her brother. She reckoned she didn't want to go back to the farm 'til the sun came down.
Big Macintosh started moving his hooves again. For a second time he wanted to keep walking. He wanted to walk across the whole of Equestria and follow the sun and maybe when it got so hot it burnt him he might feel something again. He wished Applejack would've kicked him in the teeth or strung him up from the barn or something. Anything other than what she said.
She thought Big Macintosh decided this? Gosh. The big red stallion didn't decide nothing, he never once not thought about having a set of his own fillies and colts running around the farm. How could he decide to not want that when he wanted it since they started caring for little Applebloom? Big Macintosh also wanted a nice mare to share his long days with, watch the sun set from the rise Applejack and Big Macintosh always used to look over the farm. He wanted to go up there and talk about his future, their future. He wanted
He wanted so many things he no longer wanted anything but to punish himself. Applejack didn't deserve a brother so selfish, and what about poor little Applebloom? She could never know a thing. As far Big Macintosh was concerned there was nothing to know.
Big Macintosh reached the fence of their property and bounced back to the farm house. He expected he'd be walking for a while before he got tired. That was okay. Big Macintosh reckoned he had a lot to mull over.
He'd make it up to Applejack is what he would do. He'd try his hoof at every mare in Ponyville and then move on to other cities. Shucks, if he needed to he'd find a way into Cloudsdale and try every mare there. He wouldn't ever disappoint his sister like that again. He couldn't bear it, right now he wanted to run himself off a cliff and he was mighty sure if he ever saw Applejack like that again that he'd go and do it.
He heard a giggle and stopped. He almost passed through the pink ladies, and in front of him a few pony-lengths away was Applebloom and her two friends in a tangle. They were playing tag. Scootaloo was it. She chased the other two ponies to the other side of the orchard when Sweetie Belle tripped, but Scootaloo hopped right over her and with the help of her wings dove right on top of Applebloom. The girls became a rolling, squealing mass of joy and fun no pony but filly or colt could understand. Sweetie Bell joined them when she got up. Big Macintosh noticed she got her cutie mark too, sometime while Rarity had her at the shop, but the mark had nothing to do with dressmaking.
Applebloom's lone blank flank reminded Big Macintosh of the pony who put this storm cloud over his head.
Big Macintosh noticed the tree he kicked over. He nickered when he saw the rotted remains of the pink lady he smashed. Big Macintosh decided then and there what he'd do. He'd go to the pony that caused all his woes and make him settle things for him and once and for all everything would be right in Equestria again.
Big Macintosh left a note in his room. He didn't want Applejack to think he abandoned them. He only wanted to be gone a day, but he brought all the bits they planned to pay Delph with, so he managed. Fillydelphia made him plain uncomfortable. All the crowding and grey skies, it didn't seem like anypony would like to live there.
But he didn't need to endure it for more than two days before he found a lead on the blue stallion. Turned out the city's blank flank had a streak with the notorious.
Big Macintosh stood outside a fancy restaurant called The Haymaker's Paradise. Big Macintosh stepped inside and thanked the doorpony, who seemed to look at him funny for the thank you. At the door was a pedestal and spread out every which way were tables with fine looking red fabric spread over them. Candles on each table made the only light and got the whole room darker. At all the tables sat ponies chatting in low voices with their manes done nice and with formal wear Big Macintosh only ever saw the night of last year's Grand Galloping Galla.
The unicorn at the pedestal asked, "Your reservation, sir?"
Big Macintosh's blinked. He faced the pony and asked, "Beggin' your pardon, ma'am, but Ah don't believe Ah heard ya."
The mare told him, "You need a reservation for a table, sir."
Big Macintosh said, "Oh, Ah'm sorry ma'am. Ah just wanted ta see about talkin' ta one of your waiters. Ah heard he worked here. His name's Delph."
"The blank flank? He's on break in the back. Go get him if you want. Kitchen's that way." She pointed down an aisle of tables where a pair of black doors waited on the opposite wall.
"Uh, thank ya ma'am."
Big Macintosh set his eyes right on those doors and marched to them. He heard ponies go quiet while he passed by and he felt their stares on him. He knew he looked out of place, but he came all this way. Still, when he reached the door he hesitated.
He pushed his way inside and contrast struck him. The kitchen was brightly lit, and all sorts of metal shelves and pans and instruments gleamed. Ponies yelled at each other and pots and pans banged together and Big Macintosh felt like couldn't find anypony in this mess when he heard, "Big Macintosh?"
Big Macintosh turned from the sprawl of the kitchen and there on his right near a door with an exit sign underneath stood Delph. The stallion approached him and asked, "What in Celestia's sun are you doing here?"
"Ah came lookin' for ya. Can we talk somewhere, please? Ah don't like all this noise."
"Sure, let's go outside," Delph said. Big Macintosh followed him out the door to a filthy alley. There was a trashcan opposite the door leaning against a fence and it overflowed with all sorts of nasty things. Big Macintosh never seen so much food wasted.
Delph said, "This is the best I can do right now, so I apologize for it. But what happened to you? You wouldn't be here if it wasn't something bad."
Big Macintosh was so relieved to see a familiar face that he forgot to be angry for a moment. Instead he said, "Mah sister found out about me andno. She accused me of bein' like you and ever since ya said somethin' Ah thought the same but Ah know it ain't true"
"Whoa, stop right there. Who do you think you are blaming me for this? You know, I was kind've happy when I saw you. After it's not been that long at allshoot I guess for a wild second you convinced your sister to let me stay there."
"Ya thought wrong. Ah came for answers."
"Answers about what?" Delph demanded. "Am I the guru to stud chasers to you? Is that it?"
"Nah, but who else ya expectin' me ta come to for answers. There's not a pony in Ponyville who understands. They all thinkin' this is what Ah want and it's not"
"Have you even tried for a second to see if it was?"
Big Macintosh froze. He snorted and stamped a hoof. "Ah know what Ah want, and that's not it."
Delph stepped forward and his face came a hoof's span from Big Macintosh's nose. He said, "Why not? You afraid of not having a partner? That's stupid. You want a filly or something else stupid like that? Drop by the orphanage on your way back. I can say from experience that this city has a dozen of them."
"It's not natural, and an orphan ain't your kin. They didn't come from your tree so"
"But they'd try a whole heck a lot harder to be a part of your family than anyone else," Delph said. "Just admit you're afraid of being what you are. That's why you hesitate. But you're a catch, you're just the stupidest, sweetest pony I've ever met. I know you have a sour apple as your cutie mark, but you're a pink lady sure as can be. And you have no idea how much I envy that."
Big Macintosh felt bile rise in his throat and a flush of another emotion. He stepped back, turned away and tried hard to understand his own thoughts. He never felt so embarrassed in his life, he wanted to hide in the hay at the barn back home and just stay there until he forgot what Delph just said. But he didn't think he could, ain't no pony ever said something close to that to him before.
He felt Delph watching him. The pony said, "You can't just keep pretending that you aren't what you are. I've seen ponies do it, and it's something awful. Heck, I'm not proud of it, but I tried it once. And for a month I was almost normal, and then she found out and
well there's a reason I have reputation in this city."
"Ah never want any of this. Ah wish mah sister didn't let ya come ta the farm."
"At least you know now it's not that farm keeping you alone. It's yourself, Big Macintosh. I know it's hard to hear that, but you can move on. How about you go home, back to your family? With what you told me I can't imagine them not accepting you."
The red stallion shook his head. "Ah don't know if Ah can."
"You told me you couldn't imagine not having a family. Go home, and apologize for being stupid enough for coming here, but don't apologize for what you are."
Delph stepped beside him and nuzzled his cheek. "There's a gate on the fence. The alley beyond leads down to Pony Press Road, you can follow the signs back to the train station."
Big Macintosh felt he should say something. A weak, a very weak part of him wanted to step away and still tell Delph, "This was just a waste of mah time." But when he opened his mouth all that came out was, "Thank ya, kindly."
Big Macintosh refused to look at him. The smaller pony stood so close Big Macintosh could feel his shadow falling all over him. The blue pony told him, "If you find somepony don't wait on me. But maybe, someday, I may come back to Ponyville again."
Delph stepped away, and then walked back inside. Big Macintosh noticed something jump out on his blank blue hide. It was small, but it was there nonetheless, and reminded Big Macintosh of so many days ago.
Delph might be right about something Big Macintosh never thought about, that the orphan tried harder to be closer to the tree. And so, the pink lady cutie mark was the last thing he saw of Delph, before Big Macintosh turned and went home.