Dull colours swirled mirthlessly in the skies as the sun began to rise. Each pony in town was inside, gazing up as the blazing golden orb ascended into the heavens. Wind rattled the branches of the apple trees, and tore the leaves and whipped them up into the air. In the distance, ashen clouds, which could only be identified as the coming of the storm, lazily dragged themselves in disgust at the sun. A soft rain drizzled down onto the farm despite the rising of the sun, practically ruining any chance of ploughing the fields. Lying with Apple Bloom sleeping by his side, Big Macintosh woke, lifting his broad head up to look outside. It wasn't going to be pretty. Even now, an agitated rumble of thunder echoed. It wouldn't be too long before the full force of the storm settled in.
At the second distant rumble, something pressed against his side, and Big Macintosh instantly felt Apple Bloom tremble against his side. Raising his head, the stallion reached over with his muzzle and nosed the filly gently to reassure her. She'd always been uneasy about storms – they were much too loud for her liking.
"Ain't nothin' ta be worryin' about," he said warmly, smiling down at the nervous orange-eyed pony. "Just a little thunder, Apple Bloom, and it ain't gonna hurt ya. Let's go into the main room and check on Smith, eh?" Carefully he rose, and then nudged her to her feet. She was a little unsteady at first, and stumbled a little bit, a bit wobbly on her feet. Big Macintosh watched her as she collected her strength, and then trotted towards the door, having finally collected her bearings. Softly, a smile appeared on his face, and he pulled the open door behind him to lock it. It was then that he noticed what seemed like a figure, standing in the distance – or rather, crouching. Suddenly the sun vanished, plunging the land in a thick veil of shadows and misery.
"Ah don't see who would be out at this time," he murmured to himself, and blinked once as he tried to focus on the being. Of course, in the distant, it looked small – about the size of a filly. It was sheltering under a tree, just as the thunder was coming down overhead. 'Either that there is some-pony scared or an intruder. Ah'd better get out there 'n' see what needs doin'. Thought Big Macintosh calmly, pulling back the door so he could squeeze through it. Apple Bloom was in the main room, so he didn't think he needed to be concerned about her. Just as he prepared to run, a squeal split the skies just as a flash of lightning came down, striking the earth in a viperous, destructive, seething rage. It was drowned out by the following rumble of thunder which trailed the blast of electricity loyally. Steeling his nerve, he galloped out into the darkness, forcing back his growing fear. Shadows nipped at his heels as he ran and blood rushed in his ears, forcing him to run faster. It was amazing how quickly he'd crossed the distance, and his sap-green eyes latched onto the pony he'd seen a moment ago.
It was a young, pale cyan filly with wide, scared eyes that reminded him strongly of roses. She had no Cutie Mark, and her wings were plastered against her sides. What caught his eye was the beautiful array of colours that adorned her; her mane and tail were wild and colourful, reminding him. In a sense, he hoped that her vocabulary wasn't as colourful as her hair was. He didn't want a bad influence on Apple Bloom.
"Hey!" The Earth Pony called. If a Pegasus pony was grounded, it probably meant that they hadn't managed to get home before the storm. Why this one was lost in his farm wasn't much to be concerned with at the moment. "Come with me!" The Pegasus filly looked up, her eyes wide with fear. Her ears were flattened back against her head in fear, and she shrunk back upon seeing this seemingly huge crimson male loom over her.
Unfortunately, she was frozen to the spot. Her knees were locked, and she hesitated on following the Earth Pony. Instead, she shrunk back, lowering her head as if she were submitting to some feral beast from the Everfree Forest. Flattening his ears for a moment, his mane whipped at his eyes, and he circled the filly to nudge her forward.
"Ah know yer scared, but-"
"Scared!?" The Rainbow-mane pony scoffed; her voice but a shrill squeak. Immediately, she straightened out, flexing her small wings and lifting her hoof in disbelief. "I ain't scared of nothing!" She protested. Contradictory, a small growl of thunder sent her straight back to submission, and she lowered her head and looked up at the dark sky. Big Macintosh couldn't help but smile to himself. This filly was as stubborn as Applejack!
"Then prove it, filly!" He taunted. Maybe it wasn't the best thing to do, but at least she'd take it as a challenge – if he thought right. Indignantly, the filly's face contorted in an disapproving way, and she snorted, accepting it as he'd expected. "Ah reckon y'all can run, so we'd best head back to the house. Race ya!" Before he could finish, the filly charged out over the grass and dashed as fast as she could towards the warmth and safety of the Apple Family's home. Big Macintosh trailed behind her, not really interested in the 'race', making sure that she didn't trip or step on a jutting twig. She reached the house, soaked to the bone and shivering, but with a blaze of pride in her deep eyes.
"I win!" She chanted, swishing her tail back and forth contently. Big Macintosh rolled his eyes and shut the door, picking up the filly gently by the withers and carrying her into the main room. Apple Bloom was lying with her legs folded under her, her eyes fixed on the blue Pegasus pony that her older brother had brought into the house.
"Now ah don't want y'all to be mean t' our guest, Apple Bloom. Would ya get a towel from the bathroom?" With a nod, the yellow filly rushed off to get the item. "What's yer name?"
"Rainbow Dash! And I'm going to be the best flier in all of Equestria!" Oh dear, a bit of a bragging pony. Big Macintosh noticed how big the filly was. She was thin, with obvious long limbs to compliment her flight heritage, and with small wings that were obviously still developing. Unsure of how true her claim was, he simply pressed the small Pegasus down onto the soft rug and took the towel from his younger sister. Granny Smith was still asleep, unaware of their guest, and he didn't want to disturb her. Usually it was the flash of sunlight that woke her as it hit her closed eyelids. He'd have to wake her up later.
"Ah'm Big Macintosh," he responded in his usual demeanour. "An' this here is mah sister, Apple Bloom." The Pegasus opened her mouth to speak, but before she could talk to the smaller female, he dumped the brown towel on her with a satisfied smile. Muffled squeaks of protest echoed throughout the room as he rubbed Rainbow Dash's fur the wrong way to warm her up. The soft, thin-boned wing on her right side peeked out from beneath the fabric and slapped feebly at his haunch, dragging down slightly before hitting the floor and whipping back up to repeat the movement. Pressing down with his hoof to keep her down, he took the middle of the towel in his teeth and kept up with the movement. Completely covered in the fabric, Rainbow Dash wriggled, trying to free herself from the irritating rubbing on her body, but was unable to push herself up under Big Macintosh's hoof.
"Might be easier if ya stay still," Big Macintosh mumbled through the towel. Rainbow Dash snorted from beneath him and propped her head up on her foreleg. As much as she didn't want the attention, she had to admit that it was warm... It was much better than being out in the rain anyway, as far as she was concerned.
"Mfhmm! Hmmpfh hmphumph!" Rainbow Dash suddenly snorted and managed to poke her head out of the fabric. Her snout wrinkled and she looked up at the crimson earth pony that was drying her fur from the rain. Beside him, Apple Bloom sat, her head tilted slightly as she gazed at the newcomer. She was a little confused as to where this filly had come from, and was equally as surprised at seeing a strange limb sticking out from under the towel. Blinking curiously, she reached forward hesitantly and poked the wing, making it retract back against Rainbow Dash's body sharply. The movement made Apple Bloom jump, and she stared wide-eyed at the Pegasus as she sat up, rocking back and forth on her haunches. Rainbow Dash stared at the smaller pony as if to challenge her, but Big Macintosh quickly blocked their line of vision as he moved the towel away.
"What?" Rainbow Dash stood up, towering over Apple Bloom, puffing her chest out and drawing her stomach in.
"I've never seen a pony with six legs," Apple Bloom blinked and glanced up at Big Macintosh. The filly noticed that the cyan pony had no Cutie Mark, and glanced at her own bare flank, trying to figure out why this newcomer was so... Well, different was somewhat appropriate. Shuffling up on the floor, she lay on the soft cream rug beside the filly and smiled in a friendly way, hoping to make a new friend in Rainbow Dash.
"These aren't legs, stupid!" Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes and turned her head back to look at her wings. One extended, the feathers spreading out beautifully before her eyes. Despite their length, they were crooked, angled spontaneously in various directions as a result of Big Macintosh. "They're wings!" Shifting slightly away from Apple Bloom, she sat down and held her wing forward, starting to nose the feathers into their natural position. Carefully, her tongue rasped along the underside, and she spat out a few pieces of down before pressing them further back where they belonged.
"Eeyup," Big Macintosh smiled and rose up off of the ground. Granny Smith muttered something incomprehensible behind the two smaller fillies and returned to snoring. "Nah don't mess up her feathers or she won't be able t' fly. Ah'll be right back. Y'all stay in here, ya hear?" The Earth Pony trotted into the kitchen, leaving the two youngsters alone. He was sure to close the door behind him, and after a moment he simply slumped onto the floor with his head down, tears streaming from his eyes. Rainbow Dash was stubborn, but that wasn't the problem. What was the problem was that she reminded him so strongly of Applejack. While she was in there with Apple Bloom, teasing her in the way that Applejack used to, they seemed so familiar. Applejack would brag about how she'd one day surpass Big Macintosh and become the best apple-bucker in the whole Apple Family.
Ah thought ah'd be over this already! How can ah work when ah can't even think straight? Ah have a family to take care of! How can I be so weak!? Despite his own mental berating, he couldn't stop crying. Each morning it felt like Applejack was even farther away; he had Apple Bloom and Granny Smith to take care of, but he missed Applejack's constant interruptions. He missed the way that she would come outside to watch him work, tell him that she'd one day be the best ever, and encourage him – should it be classed as encouragement – while he pulled the old, rusty plough over the fields. Sometimes he would wake up and believe it all to be a dream; that she'd be there, sitting at the table, waiting for him to get up. Sometimes she'd be unable to sleep, and he'd have to get up to give her something to nibble or to drink. Of course, he didn't mind, because Applejack was always polite and grateful for his help...
Stars dappled the night skies in a light sugary coat of silver. Blessed were the lands that were veiled under the moonlight by Princess Celestia. In the distance, the trees sung in his ears and howled ominously as the wind pranced about like a playful filly. Rolling over in his nest, Big Macintosh sighed, trying his best to get comfortable. However, he couldn't shake the feeling that some pony was watching him. Tilting his body slightly so that his head was upright on the pillow, he flicked open one of his eyes to catch Applejack nervously perched by his bedside. Of course, it was Applejack! The filly swallowed nervously, shuffling her feet and flattening her ears, as if she wasn't sure what she was really meant to say. But Big Macintosh knew. She was restless. She always was.
"Ya wantin' sum juice, ah reckon." Applejack nodded, her eyes reflecting her nervous disposition. "Ain't nothin' doin', little sis'." With that, the crimson Earth Pony heaved his heavy body out of bed and hopped down onto the floor. Even now he was about four times bigger than she was, and about twice her height. Applejack moved over to give him some space, knowing that he got a bit clumsy when it came to being around other ponies, and followed him out into the hallway. While his head was low, rooted on top of a thick neck, and swinging lazily, he was all but sleepy. He was probably as restless as she was right then and there, albeit a bit more.
"Sorry ah woke ya," Applejack offered, trotting into the kitchen and standing to the side.
"Ah can't see why ya need t' apologise fer anythin'. Ah wasn't asleep anyhow." The elder pony responded, lifting his head up to open the fridge. "Ya hungry as well?" Applejack froze, hesitating before she nodded. "Go sit on the table. Ah can fix ya up sumthin' fer snackin' on, no problem." With a giggle, Applejack did exactly as he'd told her to – climbing up onto a chair, she jumped up onto the table and waited until he'd pulled his head out of the fridge. Suddenly, the little filly launched an apple at the pony's head, but it didn't get far. Big Macintosh was used to her games, so when the apple hurtled towards him, he turned around and lifted up a foot, kicking it straight back at her. It didn't hurt, but the filly fell back and onto her side, pieces of apple littering the table.
"Ah'll get y'all next time!" She promised in a fit of laughter. Big Macintosh snorted and rolled his eyes, unable to keep the smile from his mouth, and poked a straw through a carton of freshly made apple juice. He put it down on the table, reaching forward with his hoof to ruffle Applejack's mane. He knew she didn't like it much, which is probably why he did it. Applejack squeaked in protest and snorted, batting away his leg and snatching up the drink with a wrinkle of her nose. "Thanks, Big Macintosh!"
"Ain't a problem, sis!" He responded, pulling out some soft food from the cupboard. It took only a minute to fix up something for her to eat, and when he was done, he placed it down on the table. "Now don't ya be drinkin' that so fast! Stop 'n take a bite outta this."
Applejack planted the carton on the table silently and stared at Big Macintosh as he grabbed a glass of water for himself. For a male pony at the time, he sure was small. Even for a pony of his age, he should be as big as the other female ponies, but he wasn't. She'd always been curious as to why.
"Can ah ask you something?"
"Hmm...?" Big Macintosh's ears perked and he returned to the table, turning carefully.
"Why are ya so small for ah male pony?"
"Well, ah figure ah should tell ya." Big Macintosh took a careful sip of his water and lifted his head, angling his ears around. "When ah was a little fella, even younger than y'all, ah had a problem. Ya know how ya drink milk as a young 'un to grow up?"
"Well, ah can't drink milk. Makes me sick, which is why it's takin' me a bit longer to grow. Medically it's called Lactose Intolerance. Don't y'all worry, ah'm not gonna let you outgrow me, little sister..."
"Oh! I see!" Applejack blinked. Then, she paused. "No chance! I'm gonna be the biggest here pony y'all have ever seen!" Big Macintosh chuckled in amusement.
"Whatever you say, AJ."