The day had finally come. Big Macintosh hadn't expected Applejack to stay around all of the time; she'd been talking incessantly about her cutie mark, and how she'd come to acquire it. However, he still felt as though she should stay. The stubborn filly wouldn't listen to reason as usual, mind you and his sandy-hued hooves shuffled at the deep brown earth as he stood beside Granny Smith. Earth beneath his hoof shifted as he scraped at the ground with the rim, thinking about how he could attempt to convince Applejack to stay. Granny Smith was so frail now; she could hardly get around. In fact, he could see traces of pain in her red eyes when she walked. The muscles beneath her lime green fur were growing weaker, and it was clear that she was getting older with her moon white mane and tail. Though she was too stubborn to admit it, he knew that she was in pain from her hip.
'Oh Applejack,' he admitted to her that finding his own Cutie Mark had been a major frustration when he was younger. In fact, he had got his even younger than his sister had, and it had come as a shock to them all. He'd ever only noticed it after he was out bucking the trees for the harvest one apple-bucking season. The memory of it all was still fresh on his mind... It had been an unusual tree, where it seemed to favour growing green apples to red. In fact, though the tree was now grown up, that day he had found that no red apples had grown on it. The colours seemed to have merged slightly green splotches and streaks along its skin. It was a vivid display of colours, and the kind of apples that he favoured himself. After kicking down half of the apples, he'd found some of the stems were too fixed to the branches, and it had taken him a good five minutes to finally get the entire bunch down.
One of the apples had almost fallen on his head, and when he backed up, the McIntosh Red apple had smashed against a rock, split right down the middle. Juice had sprayed all over his crimson body, and he was sure that some unearthly force was messing with him on purpose taunting him. It had come as a shock to him at first, but Granny when her hip wasn't as damaged had approached. She'd seemed so proud of him, and then when he turned to brush his flank along hers in gratitude for her teaching, he'd noticed the mark on his body. An apple, split in half, just like the one that had fallen and which he had eaten, half of it given to his Granny. As a kid, he wasn't as calm as he was now, so he'd been so excited that he'd almost tackled the elder when he jumped about the place. Ever since, he'd found that he had an unusual amount of strength both physical and mental. Even then, he was still as rash as his sister was now, but he'd matured. Perhaps a little too early, but he'd matured.
He couldn't tell if Applejack was mature or not. In a way, he could sense that she was determined to find that one thing that separated her from the other ponies in Ponyville. But the other side of him told him that she wasn't, and that he felt she would get into trouble. With a final glance back at her family, Applejack stood on the path to the city, and Big Macintosh stepped forward in last minute desperation. Even though he'd planned out what to say, and try to get her to reconsider not just for her sake, but for his as well the words failed to leave his maw. He stood there, his mouth agape, and suddenly looked downcast. His ears drooped and he lowered his head. There was no way he would be able to recover. A pony of so few words... Sometimes it seemed like a curse.
Tears swelled in his eyes and he looked over towards Granny Smith. Tears dripped from her closed eyes, her shrivelled face filled with pain. If there was one thing that she looked now than ever, it was frail. Not just emotionally, but physically as well. How would she cope? She had a newborn Apple Bloom - to take care of, ever since her mother had fled in shame of her pregnancy. She had to help her Grandson to harvest the apples to sell, and again, while she knew it, she was much too stubborn to admit it. Apple Jack was heading down the path now, focused on her new heading, and she didn't look back again as she held the picture of her parents in her bag. He was so confused, frightened, scared. What if his younger sibling didn't even reach their relatives' house? Big Macintosh had always been there for his younger sister. He'd only been six weeks old when he'd had to start helping out Granny Smith with things. Barely able to walk and not even tall enough to reach the table tops, it had been a hard and early start to working life on the farm.
He'd never wanted Applejack to experience the same thing. In fact, for many months he'd protected her, doing as much work as he could so that she was only asked to 'pick up the mail from the doormat' or 'help stack the plates for washing'. The odd few hours a week that he did manage to get a break from his work, he'd spend as much time as he could playing with Applejack and making sure that Granny Smith could get around. It had been hard enough making sure that Applejack and Granny Smith were fed before Apple Bloom was thrown, abandoned, onto their doorstep. She was out of sight by the time he snapped out of his thoughts, and he nuzzled his head against Granny Smith's in comfort as the elderly pony sobbed. Distressed, she pressed against him, and he knew she was wondering if it was her fault that his sister had left. She'd thought of herself as a burden for a while now. Through the vibrations in her legs, Big Macintosh knew that she was growing weaker in the legs, and she should use her walking frame to get back in the house. With an encouraging smile at the old mare, he galloped off to fetch it, hoping that one day just one day that she'd return safely...
One day had passed. Every time he had even thought of sleeping, he'd seen Applejack's face. He had been unable to even doze through his worry, so when he got up at the crack of dawn the next morning, he was exhausted. Muttering incomprehensibly, he walked with his head low, peering at himself in the mirror. His mane was messy and looked as though he had been dragged through a bush backwards and on his back. Unlike Unicorns, who used magic to neaten her hair, it was hard for an Earth Pony to do the same. Rather than using magic, he did it the way that all Earth Ponies probably did. Picking up a large, bristled brush from the table, he put it on a holder by the side of the mirror and tied it there with some string. Because he found it almost impossible to move his arm in that angle, he had found it the only other alternative.
With the brush tightly secured, Big Macintosh rubbed himself against the bristles, grooming his fur back to its neater state. It took a few minutes before he was finished, and then he carefully moved over to where his hoof pick was. Taking a quick look through the mirror he used there, he decided that he didn't need to use it and instead moved back over to his bed, where the harness was. Sliding it onto his neck, he shuffled it by shifting on his hooves and rearing back his head to rest it over his shoulders, and then trotted out into the hallway. Granny Smith would be awake by now, and just getting out of bed. Politely knocking on her door, he waited for a response and then nudged the door open with his snout. Standing feebly beside her bed was Granny Smith; her limbs shaking like an earthquake had struck and she was reaching out for her walking frame.
If she was reaching for it, it meant that she wasn't feeling too strong that morning, so he had a lot of work to do today. With an inward, silent sigh, he crossed the room and swallowed the saliva in his hungry mouth, and then took the cold metal in between his teeth with a click. It didn't seem as though Granny Smith may have got much sleep either, because she yawned as Big Macintosh crossed the room to place the frame by her feet.
"Are y'all-right, Granny?" Big Macintosh asked, his voice cracking slightly. He wasn't about to let Granny know about his exhaustion though; he needed to get to work.
"Huh? What? Oh, fine, fine! Ye better go get the food ready. I'll be out in a minute, don' you worry, dear." Confident that Granny Smith would make it alright to the table, Big Macintosh backed up and turned to go to the kitchen. It was spacious, and as he entered, he expected to see Applejack race through in her way to get some apple juice from the fridge. However, his heart sank, and his emerald green eyes flicked from one side of the room to the other and he opened the fridge to pull out some pie.
It was a family policy that nothing should go to waste. If there was a piece of paper left on the living room floor with enough space to write on, it'd be reused. Sunlight filtered through the clouds in the sky, which meant that the early weather team must have been out to clear up the remnants of last night's forecast. Just by looking outside, he could see that it was to be a warm day to start out with but if that would change then he would have to wait for an announcement. It was still way too early for any pony to be up in the town, which at least gave him some time for peace before the orders started rolling in. Shaking his head, he put three plates down on the table and then put some pie on each of them. Before Granny Smith could come in, he shifted his own small piece onto her plate and then put it in the sink. Wanting to get a head start on things, he decided that he would eat later, and use up some energy from the previous day before giving himself more. Of course, Granny Smith didn't approve on working on an empty stomach, so he wasn't about to tell her.
Instead, he busied himself by preparing his Granny's breakfast. She entered quicker than usual, which he wasn't sure if it was a good or a bad sign. She'd seemed weak earlier, so he wasn't about to let her move too much.
"Oh! I'm having pie for breakfast?" Granny Smith smiled. "Why, I made some pie for Applejack a few days ago, don'cha know." He knew. He'd helped to make it. But he'd hid the pie at the very back just in case his sibling did return; just so he could keep it safe. If she did ever come back, he would either give it to her or throw it at her whichever came first.
"Ah know," Big Macintosh responded with a weak smile and turned to leave through the kitchen door. "Ah'll be goin' out now t' get the apples ready fer harvestin'. Those apples ain't gonna fetch themselves, eh?" He said, his voice thick with his own accent. The soft 'patter' of tiny hooves told him that Apple Bloom was waking up, and she'd be joining the old mare in breakfast once she found her bearings. She was only a week and a half old, and while she could walk, she was still a bit dozy on her feet. He'd left her breakfast on the table, so he didn't need to worry about that. With a swish of his tail, the draft horse headed out to the fields to check on the apples. Memories of the previous day haunted him like a wraith. As early as it was, he hadn't heard from Applejack, or their relatives in Manehattan.
He arrived earlier than he'd thought to the field, and glanced over a few of the trees that were easily ready to be harvested. Making sure he had a safe distance between himself and the tree, Big Macintosh turned and prepared to kick back against the tree. It was usually at this time that Applejack would burst after him and ask to help. She loved the farm and though he would refuse to let her go apple-bucking until she was older, she showed a lot of interest in the activity. He wasn't sure if maybe he was the reason for her interest. Clearly she wasn't interested enough if she had just packed up her saddlebags and left. Did she really care about him, or had she become bored with the constant 'no, AJ, don't do that' and 'let Big Mac' finish off his work in peace'? A snort erupted from his chest and he growled to himself.
"Yeah, right, if she really cared then she wouldn't have left Sweet Apple Acres!" Anger rose in him, and he bucked against the tree so hard that he swore his bones would split if he did that again, as well as the tree in target. Apples thundered down around him, but he kept on kicking, beating the tree with every ounce of strength that he could muster. He only stopped when he lost his footing, and his kicking loosened the earth beneath him just enough to trip himself up. With a thud, he landed on his stomach, burying his face in his feet and choking on his breath. Dirt clotted in his hooves and he quietly cried to himself. He was hurt, confused and angry, but he wasn't upset at Applejack. He was angry at himself. How could he think such things about his younger sister? She'd done her best to keep out of the way, and he'd done his best to share his free time with her when he could. Perhaps he could have tried a little harder in his efforts, but they cared for each other. Granny Smith wasn't getting any younger, and the fact that she'd walked off on him and left him to take care of Granny Smith and Apple Bloom on his own was just...
He felt angry. He felt frightened. He felt betrayed.
"Come on, Big Macintosh," he muttered to himself, willing neither his remaining sibling nor his Granny to come out and see him so weak. He was the one keeping the family together, and the townsfolk all fed. "Get it together and keep workin'!" Shoving himself up roughly, the stallion got back to work getting the apples and taking them back to the storage. It took a few hours, and by the time he was finished harvesting the mature apples, he was starving. Landing back on his rump with a thud, he brushed a hoof against his empty stomach and wondered if he should go inside and eat. How exactly he had been able to eat apples for all of his life and not get sick of them was beyond him. When he looked up towards the house, he noticed a pale figure darting out towards him, and saw the figure of Apple Bloom cantering across the fields.
It wasn't far, but Big Macintosh was still amazed at how quickly Apple Bloom had found her feet. Sometimes the foals weren't running around for another few days, which showed how powerful his family had grown over the years. When she skidded to a halt, Big Macintosh's eyebrow lifted in interest and he looked down at the pale filly, curious as to why she was coming over to greet him. Was something wrong with Smith?
"Granny Smith say... Inside, get food. She's... ready is dinner...?" At that, Big Macintosh glanced down at his hooves and nodded, and prepared to go back over to the house. His ear twitched and he heard soft panting, and glanced back down at his youngest sister with a soft smile on his face. While she was clearly tired, she looked as though she was filled with energy. It reminded him of Applejack... And while he felt sad, he knew that she was stubborn, and she wouldn't give up that easily.
"All right, y'all better come back inside with me, li'l sis. How 'bout ah give ya a lift?" He didn't need to hear Apple Bloom's reaction to know that she was in favour of the idea. The earth pony bent his forelegs and let himself lower to the ground, where the filly hopped up onto his back and folded her legs around his harness for support. Rising back up to his full height, the crimson stallion began to trot over towards the house. While he was young and still growing, it was thought that he would grow up to be about twice the size of almost all of the ponies in Ponyville. He was only still a kit, but at the same time he met the height of Smithy as he nicknamed her or at least a mite smaller. "So what hav' ya been doin' this mornin', Apple Bloom? Makin' Granny Smith chase ya 'round the house, ah reckon?" Asked the stallion, his voice evidence enough that he was exhausted he'd been working all morning, so he had right to be. Apple Bloom giggled and batted at his ear with a small hoof in mock annoyance, but had a huge smile plastered over her face. Not very convincing, if you ask me.
"Granny Smith... Not let help," Apple Bloom responded. She was still young, so she had trouble talking and making sense of sentences, but she'd learn. "Uh..."
"Havin' trouble with yer words, sis?"
"Yeah..." Apple Bloom looked a bit downcast, and her ears fell slightly.
"Well, let's see if ah can't help ya out while eatin', hm?" He would be out working all day, so this would be the only time that he would be able to spend time with his sister, Apple Bloom. Paced steadily, he entered the dining room where Granny Smith was having trouble carrying a plate over to the table. Letting Apple Bloom onto the ground, he quickly crossed the room and took it from her, and placed it on the earth-brown table. There were four wooden chairs in all which rested at the circular table at all times. Apple Bloom guided the old mare back towards the table while Big Macintosh fetched the drinks from the worktop.
"So, what's me Grandson been up te' this mornin', hm?" Granny Smith asked as she took a small bite of her food. Probably apple tart from the way it looked. Either that or it was a slice of something else made to look like tart. She had a soft, motherly tone as she spoke, and it was one that he found reassuring.
"Oh, ah was jus' buckin' and puttin' apples into the barn, 'n' fixin' up the hay stacks." His voice was tired, and it must have portrayed to the other two because he swore he heard a short sigh from his Granny. Looking over to Granny Smith, Big Macintosh's ears perked curiously, but he decided not to pursue it. "An' you? Not tired are ya?"
"I'm not that old," Granny Smith snorted. In her youth, she had been such an outgoing pony, and should she be any younger, he'd be ducking out of the way of a flying cake at this time. She wasn't violent, but she liked to play around, and nothing could stop her mischievousness before...