For the second time in as many days, Big Mac woke up with no clue where he was. Cracking an eye open, all he saw was a big blurry nothing, a void of white that filled his entire vision.
With a huff, Big Mac idly noted that he was warm, though the occasional shiver passed over his body. He could feel soft sheets under him, a warm blanket laid over him and tucked in comfortably. The leg he had broken felt slightly scratchy and immobile, and it was suspended in the air above him. The occasional soft beep alerted him to the fact that he really wasn't out in the forest anymore.
He tried his best to remember how it was that he had come to be here (wherever here was), but his memories betrayed him. He remembered thanking Trixie for her gift, then continuing on towards home but nothing after that. They just faded away, snowy hold giving Way to him waking up in some hospital bed from what his senses were telling him.
He opened an eye, trying again. He gave a sigh of relief as this time he could actually make out vague shapes of the room around him. The room was a generally green blur, with the occasional smaller blur that he assumed was either artwork or a window to break up a patients monotonous stay. He saw the red blur of his body disappearing into the yellow blur of what must have been the blanket. On one side of the bed was an off white blur with a large black blur in its center that he could only assume was some sort of medical device.
Turning his head, Big Mac smiled as he laid eyes on the blurry form of Trixie's hat, purple and proud within ever so slight wilt at the top.
Big Mac blinked his eyes, trying to get his eyes to focus. It didn't really work but it made him feel better to be actively doing something to help his situation, whatever that might be.
The sound of the door opening made him pause in his efforts, and he quickly found the source of the noise. There was a brighter blur of green in what used to be a solid expanse (a door obviously, he thought to himself), and a pony shaped blur standing there. An orange pony shaped blur.
Big Mac smiled at the sound of Applejack's voice. She might have sounded unsure and scared, but the fact that she was nearby put most of his fears to rest. Applejack was there, which meant he was with family.
"Applejack." He hoped she could hear how thankful he was to hear her. He had the feeling that she did.
"Ah, Big Mac." Applejack's voice lost its nervousness, a hint of warmth filling her happy tones. "You were being stubborn again, weren't ya?"
"Tried to get home against the warnings of everypony you met?"
"Ya got lost and broke your leg?"
"Through your pain and anguish you managed to make a wheel-sling and get home on your own?"
That drew Big Mac up for a pause. Normally when he and Applejack had a conversation they were both on the same wavelength, able to fairly accurately guess what the other was going through. This was a first, at least in his memory, that Applejack missed something so vital to his life.
"Nope." Big Mac shook his head.
"Say what?" The confusion that Applejack had to be feeling was certainly audible in her voice. "What happened then?"
"I fell, and I would have died if weren't for Trixie." Big Mac blinked again, thankful that his vision was finally clearing up. He could make out Applejack's worry written on her face as clearly as could be. He looked around, seeing that he was the only patient in the room before turning his attention back to his younger sister. "Where is Trixie?"
The expression on Applejack's face was certainly telling. It was a familiar look that she would always give him when she had no idea what he was talking about. He didn't see it often, but it was instantly recognizable. It was in the way that she cocked her head to the side, dropped one of her ears and raised the opposite eyebrow.
"What?" Applejack shook her head, trying to follow that shift of thinking. "Trixie? The magician? Trixie as in [i]The Great and Powerful[/i]?"
"Eyup." Big Mac gave a firm nod. "Trixie. Where is she?"
Silence fell over the room for a moment, broken only by the occasional beep from what turned out to be heart monitor.
"What... Why are ya talking about Trixie, Mac?" Applejack trotted forward to stand next to his bedside. She placed a hoof on the covers, looking at him in concern. "What does she have to do with any of this?"
"I found her hat." Big Mac gestured at the aforementioned object on the bedside table. "Then I fell. I broke my leg. Passed out."
Big Mac paused as a fit of coughs came over him. Applejack waited patiently for him to stop, getting a glass of water which he gratefully took and downed.
"I woke up with my leg bandaged, next to a fire." Big Mac continued after taking a few deep breaths. "Trixie had found me. I would have died without her. Frozen to death in the middle of the night. The next morning, she made the wheel-sling and we both made our way back to Ponyville."
Big Mac caught Applejack's gaze. "Now, Applejack. Where is Trixie?"
Applejack was silent for a long moment, looking at Big Mac like he was speaking a completely different language. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again, unsure.
"Ah don't know what to say, Big Mac." Applejack tried again. "Lyra and Bon Bon found you stumbling into town. They never said anything about Trixie being with you. You were all alone."
Big Mac glanced over at Trixie's hat before turning back to Applejack, confusion roiling within him.
"I was alone?"
"Yup." Applejack gave a firm nod.
"Delirious and out of my mind?"
"Yup." Another nod.
Big Mac settled back against his pillow, unsure of himself and his own memories. A small part of him couldn't help but wonder whether or not he had hallucinated the entire thing. He had only seen the mare once after all, when he was watching over the Apple Stand in the market that day. Everything that he had known about her had come from the stories that his sister and her friends had related back to him after chasing the showmare out of town. He had honestly never expected to see her again.
Being saved by the Great and Powerful Trixie in the woods was not something that ever would have occurred to him. He wasn't a creative stallion, never had been and never would be. He was a farmer through and through. It simply wasn't like him to come up with such a strange hallucination.
If he had been completely out of his mind and seeing things in the wild to keep himself alive, Big Mac was sure that he would have dreamed up someone he knew far better. Somepony like Applejack, or Twilight Sparkle, or even Rainbow Dash. If he had truly been hallucinating, he knew that they would have been far more useful than a boastful magician with very little actual magical talent to speak of.
"It was not a dream." Big Mac spoke firmly, having made up his mind on the matter. "Trixie saved my life."
"Alright." Applejack held up a hoof in surrender. She wouldn't argue with him on the point. She was far too happy that he was alive to want to fight with him over such a small matter. "Trixie saved ya out in the forest."
She smiled, pushing herself up to give him a happy nuzzle. "I'm just happy you're okay. Ah don't know what ah would've done if you... if you never came home."
"AJ." Big Mac placed his larger hoof over hers, smiling at his sister. "There's no reason to think about that. I am safe."
He glanced down at his leg with a frown.
Applejack had always been good at telling Big mac's mood and that hadn't changed with his brush with death. She could see that he was rapidly retreating into himself, pulling away. She would have to do something about that.
"The doctor says you'll only need to be here for a week." Maybe she could get him to take his mind off of his hallucination. She had never seen him so affected by a mare before. "He says that you should be able to come home, though ya won't be able to do much more than stay in bed."
Big Mac simply nodded. He didn't have anything more to say.
Applejack was right about his hospital stay. The week passed slowly, but Big Mac suffered patiently through it without complaint. He wondered silently to himself where Trixie had disappeared to.
A few times in the darkest hours of the night, he would wonder about whether he had dreamed the entire encounter, but as soon as the day would break he would find himself reassured. It hadn't been a dream. Trixie's hat became a touchstone for him, something physical that he could touch.
He mulled over the conversation that they had had together, and as he thought on her more the stirring in his heart grew. As the days passed, he realized that it had grown into a small flame. The unicorn mare had captured his heart, and he knew that he would find her again, even if he had to search the entirety of Equestria itself to find her.
At the end of the week, Applejack brought Twilight Sparkle by. Together, the two of them managed to transport him to Sweet Apple Acres. Midway through the rather short journey the Cutie Mark Crusaders had joined them, loud and boisterous. It hd certainly been good for Big Mac to see his youngest sister again, happy with her friends surrounding her.
A room had been prepared for him on the first floor, and he found a much nicer wheel- sling waiting for him at the door. There wasn't a lot that he could do and he quickly found that he felt rather useless sitting around with nothing to do. By the end of his first week back at the farm, he had taken to helping Granny cook the meals. He relished the opportunity to be useful again.
Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. Big Mac focussed on resting and healing his leg as best he could. There was no sign of Trixie, but he held out hope. She was a traveller after all, and she very well might have chosen to continue on instead of taking him up on his offer.
It was at the end of the sixth month that the doctor was happy with the healing process and removed the cast.
Having spent so long practically immobile, Big Macs powerful hind legs weren't anywhere near as strong as he used to be. Muscles that used to have to be restrained to keep from shattering trees now struggled to carry him up a simple flight stairs. His bone might have been healed, but he wasn't done and out of the woods yet.
Big Mac worked hard every day, exercising the atrophied muscles, pushing himself to his limit, then pushing just a little bit more. He was an Apple after all, and he didn't do anything by half measure.
Little by little, day by day, Big Mac could feel his strength returning to him. Soon enough he could make the short journey from the farm to Ponyville and he eagerly took over the shopping at the markets from Granny.
It was during one of those trips that Big Mac had a run in with Twilight Sparkle. As he had gone about purchasing the non-Apple related foods (a necessary evil in his eyes), she had come bounding up to him with a look of infinite curiosity.
"Big Macintosh!" She shouted from across the marketplace. Before he had a chance to respond, she had already teleported to his use. "I've been meaning to talk to you! I've been so busy though... But now you're here, and I'm here and that's good!"
Big Mac didn't say anything, waiting for the energetic mare to explain. The residents of Ponyville were well versed with his quiet nature, and thus she wasn't offended by his silence.
"Applejack told me all about your journey." Teilight continued, falling in step with the larger stallion as he continued his shopping. "She said you said Trixie saved you?"
"Eyup." Big Mac's response was simple, but apparently it was enough for Twilight.
"Lyra said that you had Trixie's hat." Twilight waited patiently for him to purchase several tomatoes before continuing with their conversation. "I saw you had it at the hospital."
"Eyup." Big Mac gave a single nod as he placed his purchases in his saddle-bags. "She gave it to me."
"She did?" Twilight's eyebrows rose, impressed. "She must have really liked you. That hat means everything to her!"
Twilight frowned, her muzzle scrunching up in concentration before she continued.
"Big Macintosh," Twilight said, her voice quiet, as if she was unsure of herself. "How did Trixie look?"
Raising an eyebrow of his own, Big Mac stared at the librarian. Casting his mind back to that time, Big Mac tried to recall the answer to Twilight's question. "She looked fine."
"Good." Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. "I know that she was boastful and lied about a lot of her actual skills, but I never wished her harm. I had heard that she was having a hard time finding work a year or so ago. It's good to hear that's she alright."
She smiled up at Big Mac and he couldn't help but return it, the mare's face bright and exuberant.
"I hope that when I see her again, we'll be able to be friends." Twilight gave Big Mac one final smile before trotting away, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
That night after dinner Big Mac sat on his porch, staring up at the stars twinkling so high above. He couldn't help but wonder if Princess Luna was happy about something, because the night sky looked like an artist has outdone themselves in their exuberance.
"You're thinking of her, aren't ya?"
Big Mac didn't have to look to see that Applejack had sat down next to him. He didn't reply. She already knew the answer.
"I thought so." Applejack sighed. She knew her brother well. "If she did actually save you, and I'm not saying she did mind you, Trixie was definitely no help getting you back to Ponyville. You stumbled back like you were dream walking!"
Big Mac didn't have an answer for that. He didn't know what happened after they had left the forest together. He simply couldn't remember, no matter how hard he tried.
They sat together in their silence for a few minutes, simply enjoying the others presence and the great arms of the stars above. It was a magical sight.
"You're goin' to try and find her." It wasn't a question. They both knew it, it was just the first time that either had spoken it aloud.
"How?" Applejack didn't argue, though he could hear in her voice how much she wanted to. "She could be anywhere."
"Hoofington." Big Mac had a gut feeling that he would find all of his answers there. If not there, than in the path between Ponyville and Hoofington.
"I can't talk us out of this."
"When do you think you're going to leave?" Applejack put a hoof against his barrel, desiring some form of physical contact with her older brother.
"Tomorrow." It was best Big Mac had decided, to leave as soon as possible.
"Tomorrow?!" The hoof fell away from his side as Applejack jumped up on all four of her hooves, surprised and worried. "You're still not back to one hundred percent! You should wait at least another month."
"Nope." Big Mac gave a firm shake of his head. "I need to do t
Applejack growl through gritted teeth, though she didn't say anything else in protest. It was useless to argue with an Apple after their mind was made up.