It was the orange light of Celestia's setting sun reflected across her pale yellow body hair that caught his attention on the onset. Big Macintosh had been toiling in the apple orchards all day, his body sore and every muscle in his equine body strained. He never had much to be happy about and there was always too much work to do to survive. And that's when he saw her atop the hill.
Unhitching himself from the wagon, the work pony slowly trotted up the hill. He'd noticed the pegasus pony Fluttershy before, but he had never truely NOTICED her before this moment. His sister's other friends were always so brash or loud, so he never got the chance to ever meet just her. And, seeing her on this hilltop alone, for the first time in his life he did not think about apples.
Fluttershy had had a long day tending the animals of the forest. The shrews had suffered a nasty cold, so she had to quarantine them from the other animals. She hated keeping them in the hutch outside her house, but she didn't want the rest of the animals to get sick. And then there was the problem with Angel... Angel was getting older, and wanting to start his own family. And Fluttershy didn't know if she could stand losing the bunny she'd raised from a child.
Looking out over the valley as Celestia's sun set, she let out a heavy sigh. "Oh, Fluttershy..." she said to herself. "What ever will you do?"
"Need an ear?" The male voice came from behind her, and she gasped in fear. She whipped around, ready to leap into the air to run... And then saw that it was Bic Mac. "I'm sorry..." he said in his usual slow, quiet voice. "I saw you up here, and you seemed sad. Need somepony ta' talk to?"
'Horse Apples,' Big Mac thought to himself as he saw Fluttershy whip about in fear. He'd not meant to Scare her, just say hello. But the loneliness of her words just made him want to reach out to her. Show her that he could be a friend if she wanted it.
Fluttershy relaxed, and Mac let out his breath in one gust. He hadn't even realized he'd been holding it in anticipation of what might happen.
Fluttershy nodded softly. "I'm sorry too, Big Macintosh... I know this is your farm and all, but the view from here is ever so beautiful as the sun sets..."
Big Mac nodded gently. "Didn't hurt anything. You're welcome here anytime. But it sounds like you need a friend ta' talk ta'."
Fluttershy shook her head and stepped back. "Oh, no no no... I simply couldn't impose upon you, and tell you about that. You're far too busy to want to know about the worries of a simple pegasus like myself."
Big Mac shook his head, then looked right at Fluttershy with gentle, caring eyes. "My work is done for the day, and I want to know. Please, tell me."
Fluttershy looked away shyly, then looked back. The red stallion was being serious, and she could feel that from him. But it was those green eyes offset by the three freckles. Those gentle eyes full of truth that calmed her finally.
"O-o-okay, Big Macintish..." she stuttered out, the yellow pony hiding her face partly behind her pink mane. And, opening her muzzle, she began to explain the problems of her day...
Big Mac listened as Fluttershy talked, the larger earth pony nodding and A'yup-ing as needed. As he listened, he was growing more and more impressed with the pegasus pony. Most of his elder sister's friends had never made much of an impression on him. The unicorns never seemed to want to work, and the pegasus with the rainbow mane was a bit too friendly with other mares for his liking. He had no issue with fillyfoolers or Coltcuddlers, but he didn't want to see either of his sisters going there, if it could be helped.
And that Pink earth pony... She was so hyper and fast he could never follow what she said.
But as he listened to all the intricate details of caring for and healing the animals of the forest, Ponyville, and even his farm, Mac was quite taken back that this little pegasus was doing almost, if not as much, work as he did every day! He tilted his head to the side as he looked at her in a new light. "And y'all do this every day?"
Fluttershy shook her head rapidly. "Oh, no no no! Usually I have a lot more work to do! But not all the birds have returned from migrating, and most the animals are still a bit groggy from their winter hibernation! And for once, Pinkie Pie didn't need my help with one of her parties, so I was able to finish with enough time to come to the hilltop and watch the sunset." she looked back over her shoulder at the sun was nearly behind the mountains of Canterlot - The sky painted with a myriad of colors that faded into a blue-black above the equine pair as Luna's moon began to arise and awaken the stars one by one.
Fluttershy looked back over her shoulder at the setting sun, the normally reserved pegasus realizing she had said more to Mac in these few minutes than she'd ever said to any other stallion before. As the sky put on a fading show of colors for her, she felt the warmth of the Stallion as he stepped to her side. He didn't say anything, and he didn't have to. She knew. And, in her heart, she began to feel something other than fear stir awake. Leaning against Big Mac's side as the final rays of light faded away, Fluttershy swallowed hard. "Big Macintosh...? Can we, I mean, if it's okay with you, maybe... Can we meet here tomorrow evening?"
Big Mac turned his head, those gentle green eyes peering down at her as he gave a simple nod. "A'yup."
Every evening of that year they met. Sometimes Fluttershy would talk about her day, and sometimes Big Mac would talk about his. And sometimes, they'd just sit together quietly, leaning against each other and not saying anything at all. Sometimes, when the days were the hardest, that was all that was needed for both of them.
Big Mac realized he didn't mind work as much as he used to on the farm. He'd never complained before, but it was hard thankless work. They always worried about money, and it seemed like his whole life was consumed by apples. But, for the first time since he was a young colt, Big Mac found he was really smiling. Not the fake smile he put on so often for Applejack & Apple Bloom so they wouldn't worry as much about things. No, this was a real smile as he felt for the first time like a new pony.
He knew what he had to do, but he was going to have to start saving now so it would be just right... And, he was going to have to talk to Applejack.
"P-p-pinkie?" The meek pegasus poked her head into Sugar Cube Corner searching for her friend.
"Heya, Fluttershy!" The pink earth pony's head poked up from behind the counter as she grinned. "I was just packing up the deliveries for the day! What can I help you with!"
Fluttershy swallowed hard. She knew it was a risk to talk to Pinkie Pie about such things, but PInkie Pie was the only one who might understand.
"Um, Pinkie? How do you know when you've met... Um, you know, the one?"
Pinkie Pie froze, a muffin for Bright Eyes dropping from her hoof into the basket as her whole body twitched. She turns, her eyes shooting wide as she starts to bounce for joy. "Oh, Fluttershy! It'ssowonderfulthatyoufinallyfoundaponytospendoyourlifewith!" The hyper pony reached forward and rested her forehooves on Fluttershy's shoulders. "Who is he? Or she? It's fine if you're a fillyfooler! I won't judge you! Oooh, then you could come to the parade with Rainbow Dash and I! Oh, you would have so much FUN!"
Fluttershy backed up nervously, shaking her head as she did so. "N-n-no, Pinkie! It's a stallion!"
Pinkie let out a giggle as she started to bounce again. "Oh, that's okay, too! So, who is he? Huh? Huh? Huh? Dish!" Futtershy let out a squeak and hid her face behind her mane completely. From behind her mane came a mumbled sound. Pinkie Pie leaned in closer and poked the mane. "What was that?"
Again she heard the same mumbled word. Pulling the mane aside, Pinkie looked into the embarrassed Fluttershy's face fully. "Now, now! No hiding! Now tell me, who is it?"
Fluttershy took a huge breath... Then quietly said, "Big Mac."
Pinkie Pie blinked, then fell back onto her rump. "You... And Big Mac?"
Fluttershy nodded softly as she leaned forward, her feelings giving her courage. "Oh, yes. You see, it all started when we met on his farm. We sat and talked and watched the sun set. And every night since the day after Winter Wrap Up we've been sitting since."
Pinkie Pie blinked. "You and Big Mac... You talk!?"
Fluttershy nods gently. "Oh yes, or sometimes we just sit there just being close. When summer ended, we finally started to hold hooves as we sat on the hill. And last night..." The shy yellow pony look away embarrassed. "Last night he kissed me good bye..."
Pinkie let out a gasp as her hooves covered her mouth. "Oh, my! Ooooh, Fluttershy! You're so lucky! I had to trick my first kiss out of Dash... How was he?"
Fluttershy blushed further as she looked away. "He was... I mean, it was nice. It felt right... No, that's not right..." She shook her head gently as she searched for the right words. "It was like... Magic. Like I was flying and running at the same time, and yet for once I wasn't afraid. I felt like, at that moment, I could face a hundred dragons and climb any mountian."
Pinkie Pie squealed and bounced up onto her hooves. "Oooh, Fluttershy! You did it! You found that one pony for you!"
Fluttershy swallowed hard. "But... But what about Applejack?"
Pinkie Pie smiled brightly. "Fluttershy, AJ loves you both! I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't support it 100%!"
That winter was a cold one in Ponyville, but Big Mac worked extra hard none the less. He had polled the old plow out of the barn, and every day he'd push it into town to clear all the snow off the streets for the city. It was tough work, but the city's bits made it all worthwhile. When Applejack had grilled him about it, he'd just said he needed the extra bits for Winter Solstice gifts for those he loved. He didn't lie, really, but he still felt bad he didn't tell the whole truth to her. He loved his sister, but he just wasn't ready to face her yet about... Fluttershy.
Just the thought of the yellow pony with pink mane filled his body with warmth in the brisk winter air. Gritting his teeth, he began to push his plow a bit quicker, eager to talk to Ponyville's metalsmith before he closed for the day.
Winter Solstice, like Summer Solstice, was a festival day for the ponies of Ponyville. Most ponies spent it inside with their family and friends in small parties around town, then gathered in the town square on this, the shortest day, to watch Luna raise the moon. It was a new addition to the old holiday, only a few years old since the return of Princess Luna, but the ponies enjoyed it none the less. Many felt the change a fitting one so as to thank the Princess for the Moon as they also thanked her sister for the Sun.
Big Mac smiled as they trotted into town, Apple Bloom running ahead to meet up with her two friends Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle. The three started giggling and talking about all the gifts they'd gotten this year. While they'd finally managed to get their cutie marks, they were still the best of friends. Big Mac smiled softly, nodding at the three as they chatted amongst themselves.
He turned to his sister and cleared his throat. "Ah, AJ... I forgot somethin' back at the farm. Kin' you watch Apple Bloom until I get back?"
Applejack turned to her brother with a sly smile on her face. "Oh, take all the time ya' need, brother. In fact, Apple Bloom an' I were gonna go stay the night at Rarity's with Sootaloo an' Sweetie Belle. So the farm's al yours ta'night."
Big Mac paused, worried for a moment as he looked closely at his sister. "What do you mean?"
Applejack just smiled and tipped her hat to her brother. "Mac, you are dense. You got one more gift to give tonight, don'cha?" As Big Mac's jaw nearly hit the floor, she reached out and patted his shoulder. "Don't be so shocked. I saw you every evening, an' I could put two an' two together. I love ya', big brother, an' I ain't mad. Ever notice hw ya' never got bothered up there?"
Big Mac shook his head. "Y'all did that?" His eyes began to water at hearing this news.
Applejack leaned close, giving her brother a big hug before whispering in his ear. "You're my brother! I want ya' ta' be happy, so go'wanna git' her, bro. I'd love to have Fluttershy as my sister." Big Mac hugged his sister back, then turned and ran back towards the farm as fast as his powerful legs could carry him.
Fluttershy sat on the hill as she always did, the pegasus watching the sun as it began to set once again. She smiled to herself, the shy pony holding a basket covered in a warm blanket and tied with a ribbon. She didn't normally give gifts for Winter Solstice, but she felt this gift would be appreciated.
She heard the sound of snow being galloped through and turned, her face brightening into a smile as she turns to see Big Mac reaching the top of the hill. He stands there for a moment, the snow melting off his warm body from the run as his chest heaves & falls to catch his breath. Fluttershy looked away, a blush rising to her cheeks as she catches herself to be staring a bit longer than she should at the stallion, then sneaking a peek once more to see his finally looking at her with those gentle eyes.
"Sorry I'm late, Fluttershy..." As usual, while he may seem tired out or out of breath, he never let it show in that casual draw of his voice. "Ah' had'ta take AJ an' Apple Bloom ta' town for the celebration..."
Fluttershy gasped, her right hoof raising to her muzzle tip. "Oh, my... Were they sad that you had to leave? Oh, you should go back and join them! I'm not important enough to be away from your family this holiday..."
She tried to turn away, but Mac's right foreleg reached out and touched her shoulder. "Fluttershy..." Her heart leapt as it always did when he told her name in that soft yet masculine voice. "I'm with the most important pony in my life right now, and that's all that matters..."
Tears of joy began to brim in Fluttershy's eyes as she looked down at the basket. Picking it up by the handle with her teeth, she set it before Big Mac. "I... I didn't know if you wanted a Winter Solstice gift or not, but I got you this..."
The blanket began to move, and a collie snout pokes out of the basket. Soon, a small puppy's head peers up at Big Mac, then ducks back under the blanket where its warm as he chuckles. "Well, don't that just beat all? Where on earth did you find..."
Fluttershy just smiled up at Big Mac. "Well, one of the ponies in town's dog was having puppies, and I asked if I could have one. I thought Winona could use a friend, and you could use a dog to help you in the orchard every day..."
Big Mac leaned forward, his strong forelegs suddenly cutting off Fluttershy's words as he just hugged her tight. Feeling like she was about to melt, Fluttershy leaned into that strong chest and closed her eyes. If nothing else, this was worth missing the celebrations. The world could end right this moment, but being hugged by the stallion she loved would make her death a happy one.
She then felt Big Mac nuzzle her cheek with his head before saying, "Thank you, Fluttershy. I only wish my gift is just as thoughtful..."
She pushed him back slightly and stuttered. "B-b-but Mac, you didn't have to get me anything! Really, I'm fine not getting anything..."
Big Mac held out a hoof to hold off the protests before reaching into his saddle back. "Naw, Fluttershy... I've been meanin' to give this to you for a while, an' you DO deserve it." She grew quiet as he pulled out a red box and set it atop the snow gently. As he lifted the top, she let out a squeal that was a mix of fear, joy, and every other emotion a pegasus could feel.
Inside the box was a simple gold band that was large enough to fit around a foreleg. But at the center of the ring was a butterfly just like her cutie mark made of jewels... Every filly and mare in Ponyville... No, in all of Equestria knew what that ring meant, and secretly dreamed of this day.
Her hooves rose to her muzzle, the pegasus's eyes brimming with tears of joy as Big Mac swallowed hard. "Ah really care for ya' an' all, so, um... Ya' wanna git hitched? Ah' kin' give the farm over to AppleJack an' move in with you. I mean, I can't grow apples, but I can grow anything anywhere..."
Fluttershy leapt forward this time, her wings flapping to give her speed as she hugged the big red stallion about his neck. Her lips met his as she kissed him hard, her eyes closing as she gave herself over to the joy in her heart. She could feel Mac kissing her back and she hugged tighter. She didn't need to answer with words, and she knew her stallion knew that. Sometimes, they communicated better with no words at all...
As Celestia readied herself to set the sun, two elderly equines sat in rocking chairs on a hilltop holding hooves while a group of young ponies in white lab coats sat in a semi-circle listening with rapt attention. The old yellow pegasus reached up to her muzzle, pushing back her almost white mane as she nodded gently to the ponies taking notes. "Yes, that's right Kyno Adamas..." The aged mare replied as she then pointed a hoof towards a black male unicorn with the cutie mark of a dog on his flank. "When I started this branch of medicine, we didn't even have a name for it."
A pink earth pony raised her right hoof, waiting until the elderly pony gave her a gentle nod before speaking. "Ah, Doctor Fluttershy. How did you come up with the name of this branch of medicine you founded?"
The elderly pegasus's eyes alit wit joy as she remembered. "Ah, that was shortly after my marriage to my dear Macintosh..." She patted elderly red earth pony's hoof, and he nodded back in a loving way. "He told me how he always felt sorry for the 'working animals' on farms. So, I asked Princess Twilight Sparkle... Well, she was still just Twilight Sparkle then, but that's another story... Anyhow, I asked her if she knew of a word in her books for working animals, and she came up with the term 'veterinae'. I thought that was just a little fancy, so we modified it to just veterinary medicine."
The pink earth pony nodded, jotting down notes with a pencil in her muzzle, then dropped the pencil to quietly ask, "But, don't we take care of all non-ponies now, not just those on farms?"
The elderly pegasus chuckled softly. "Oh yes, that is true. When you take the Oath after graduation, you'll be sworn to aid any non-pony in need of medical assistance. But it was started, originally, for the working animals as they were in the most need." Then the older pegasus looked to the sky before letting out a low sigh. "But, that is another discussion for another day. Class is dismissed for this week. But remember, your homework for next week is to feed and care for at least three families of animals, and to find an animal with a broken bone, set it, and bring the animal with you next week so we can grade how your bindings on broken limbs are coming along!"
The ponies all began to stomp and clop their hooves in thanks for another lecture before starting to file away down the hill. The old red pony, his mane and tail silver, reaches over with his head to nuzzle the old pegasus lovingly. "A'yup..." he begins in a slow tone. "That class'll be just fine, I reckon..."
The pegasus turned to her husband of almost sixty-five years now and sighed. "Do you think they'll be all right? I mean, they all have so many questions still, and they just started!"
The male earth pony nodded sagely. "Now, our son Crispin has been runnin' that there school for nearly twenty years now. I think we done earned our retirement..."
The pegasus sighed, leaning back in her rocking chair as her grip on the earth pony's hoof tightened. "I just worry... I'm not scared. I've helped many animals over this hurdle. I know what to expect. And... I have you with me."
The earth pony turned his gaze towards the pegasus as he returned the hoof squeeze. "An' ah' will stay with ya' no matter what, Fluttershy... No matter what happens next, ah' promise ah'll stay with ya'..."
The pegasus turned her head to look back into those green eyes that had wooed her so long ago. "And I promise I'll stay with you, Macintosh. But we met with a sunset... So this feels the most fitting..."
They didn't need to say anything else. They knew what was coming, and had already accepted it long ago. Knowing in each other's heart what the other felt at that moment, they turned to watch the sun slowly set as the moon began to rise. Though neither one said it, as their eyes closed, they both felt it was the most beautiful sunset they had ever seen in their lives...
On the outskirts of the Everfree Forest near Ponyville sat the first ever school of veterinary medicine in Equestria. Founded by two ponies in love, the school tried to teach its students to show that same love to the animals they would be treating after graduation. In front of the main building sat a golden stature of a pegasus pony wrapping the arm of a bunny as an earth pony stood next to her holding a bag in his mouth. Under the statue was set a thick plaque upon which was inscribed: IN MEMORIAM OF DOCTOR FLUTTERSHY AND NURSE MACINTOSH - MAY THEIR GIFT OF LOVE GUIDE OUR HOOVES
Behind the school, at the back of the grounds, rises up a hill that overlooks the school, Ponyville's valley, and even gives a view of Canterlot's mountains. On top of this hill is a single grave marker for two ponies who, even in death, refused to leave each other's side. On this marker there were inscribed two words and two words alone: TOGETHER ALWAYS