A/N: Flying blind has its merits.
Chapter 5: The Spark of War and Coffee
Life had a funny way of pushing itself in your way, even if you weren't paying attention or you were and just decided to ignore it. Life always found a way to spice things up for better or for worse. And at the moment, I was having a hard time differentiating between the two. No more than a week ago I had been just a regular human, nothing special about me whatsoever, other than my ability to take pain. Why? Well, in order to tell you that story, I've got to start at the beginning.
The beginning of our Sum-
Zack shot up in his bed as though struck by lightning, chest heaving, eyes surging everywhere in their sockets. The clock on the nightstand next to his bed blinked the numbers 7:45 and a little early morning sunlight trickled in through the blinds of his bay window. Putting a hand over his throbbing heart, it took a second for Zack to calm himself, gulping down mouthfuls of fresh air and wondering just what in the hell coaxed him to have such a bizarre dream…?
He had been a pony...being trained by Applejack-or rather getting the shit beat out of him by Applejack...and then he ate some apple tarts and woke up….
What…is my mind doing?
Deciding it didn't matter, just a stream of uselessness, Zack exhaled and glanced over, his eyes spotting the figure of a woman wrapped snuggly in his covers, a woman with golden blonde hair and the most cutest case of freckles he had ever seen. Where the dream gave him cause for alarm, seeing this didn't so much as cause him to double-take. Merely admire. She was breathing evenly, her lips slightly parted, probably having an apple related dream.
He smirked at that, using a hand to gently brush a few strands of her silken hair from her face. At his touch, she let loose a soft sigh, nuzzling herself further into his pillow, totally oblivious to both the world and how her cute display caused Zack's heart to expand to twice its size. As beams of warm sunlight washed over the two of them, he took note of her skin: it was nowhere near as orange as when she first stepped into his life, settling into a more tanned persuasion akin to someone who spent their days out in the fields. Which fit, he realized, smiling. Her orange skin had been a side-effect of the temporal jump Princess Celestia and Twilight had put them through.
And concerning that, it had been three days since Applejack's declaration of 'war' and during those three days Zack had met up with the other five supposedly 'chosen', people who...oddly enough...resided within the same city as him. Apparently, according to Twilight, that was the reason why things were flowing so quickly now, because all the pieces had finally been gathered.
Six humans...the chosen bearers...were preordained to converge from around the world at the same time that Discord and his 'six' were to meet up as well, thereby turning Zack's home city into a verifiable warzone….
We're going to have to fight, he thought with a bracing sigh.
According to Twilight, who took to explaining every detail in an almost unnerving methodical manner, the Princess of Equestria had tried reasoning with Discord, multiple times even, sending envoys with peaceful tidings in an attempt at settling things in a practical manner.
The skinned heads of her messengers, their eyes torn from their skulls and replaced by an arrangement of crimson roses. Zack could still remember the nausea that came with such morbid news… He hadn't expected such an atrocity capable of being attached to the villain of a 'kids' show….
After that, talk of peaceful agreements ceased.
Discord had played his hand.
And now Princess Celestia, in her own words, "would sure as hell play hers."
Without warning, he whispered, "You…Jackie, I'll keep you safe," as he continued to admire her sleeping figure, and he couldn't help his eyes when they began to wonder down her exposed neck, resting just on her collarbone, a view given to him by the fact that she was wearing one of his oversized shirts. On his honor as a man, he refused to look down further and instead slid out of bed as quietly as he could, wincing when the mattress creaked.
She remained silent, one of her arms subconsciously roaming the spot he'd just occupied, no doubt searching for him. Fastening the belt around his pants, Zack felt another tug at his heartstrings as he watched her search aimlessly. Was she dreaming of him…?
Course not. Just wishful thinking….
Smirking, he left the room and proceeded down the hallway, half-scratching at a spot just below his rear and half wondering just what in the hell he had done to deserve such a glorious blessing? Of course, nothing had happened between the two of them last night…or the night before…or the night before that, and looking back on it, Zack couldn't help but think he should have tried something. Anything. He regretted nothing of the subject as his mind had been plenty full of details ranging from meeting the other chosen and dealing with details of Discord's ascension. So much information, so much dreadful news….
It's a dream. All of this is a dream, and you know it.
He couldn't help but chuckle at his mind's random outburst. He found it funny that even after all the proof presented to him (meeting Applejack, discovering the other chosen five, and then sleeping soundly with the aforementioned mare-turned-woman) his mind still sometimes tried to inject logic into the situation, like a way of diffusing things and bringing it down to a level of rational comprehension.
There is nothing rational about this, he told himself firmly, stumbling into the fairly lit kitchen with a yawn. In less than four minutes, he was stirring creamer into a cup of Hazelnut coffee, his eyes blank as they stared out the window above the sink. It was bright out today, a good day for running…or a picnic…
Or just some quality time with Jackie, he figured happily.
Quality time with something that doesn't exist, his mind shot back.
For something that doesn't exist, she felt mighty warm under the covers.
This is a dream. You need to wake up.
So… if I technically just woke up from a dream, and now I have to wake up from this dream… A dream within a dre—wait, what do you think this is, Inception?
Shut the fuck up, mind.
And just like that, he felt his mentality quell itself, all trace of doubt banished. This… all of this happening right now was real. Skepticism might have been warranted in the beginning but now it seemed downright childish to still think this was all a dream, or some byproduct of his strained mind.
He'd just brought the cup to his lips when his ears caught the heavy pair of footsteps thudding from behind. It only took a minute to figure out who it was and Zack turned, nodding his head in a greeting fashion. Standing in-between the salon-style doors was a man with an almost Herculean physique, dirty blonde hair a few shades darker than Applejack's, and an identical case of freckles adorning his rugged face. Sticking from his lips was a hay stalk, one he idly chewed on as he returned the friendly nod.
Allowing the warmth of his steaming drink to perforate every inch of his being, it took Zack a moment to answer but when he did, "Well met, Big Mac, couldn't ask for a better day."
The rather large man smirked, lumbering forward with footfalls that Zack felt resonate beneath his bare feet. Drinking as nonchalantly as possible, Zack couldn't help it when his eyes rolled over Big Mac's human figure: the guy was built like a tank for God's sake; big, powerful, nothing but muscles…just like his original stallion form. And he was handsome, very model-esque, reminiscent of one of those guys you'd see nibbling on some woman's neck during a photo shoot.
He grabbed the coffee pot, a spare cup from the rack above the sink, and in seconds busied himself with simply drinking as Zack did, a comforting silence filling the space between the two men. Moments like this eased Zack's mind, allowed him to think everything was fine, even though 'fine' no longer existed.
"How's AJ doin'?" Big Mac suddenly asked, his eyes closed, and it was somewhat comical to see such a vast man holding such a small cup in both hands but Zack withheld his laughter and only grinned.
"Doing good, I'd say."
"Hmm." He nodded, then, "Seems she's taken a likin' to ya'll, Summers."
"I...don't know about that."
"Well, Ah do," he reassured, his voice low with an almost alluring rumble. "Ain't never seen mah little sis' hang 'round somepony like she is with ya'll."
That's reaching like I don't know what, Zack thought, and after a rather lengthy sip responded with, "But she's just doing that to help me. Ya know…to help me save my world from being decimated."
"Ah reckon she could help ya and not feel the need to stay at yer quarters, partner. Ah may be slow to talk, but if'n Ah can say, Ah'm darn quick in the mind." He allowed a little smile to grace his lips as he peacefully inhaled the aroma of his Hazelnut flavored coffee. "An' mah sis' don't favor the dim so ya'll must be smart enough to see what Ah see."
Choosing to focus on his drink instead of Big Mac and his teasing insinuations about a budding relationship that wasn't, Zack began to let his mind wonder. He'd spent the better half of two days thus far in Big Mac's admittedly reassuring presence, shocked to find that Applejack and the other mane five weren't the only ponies who had been...well...humanized and sent down to earth to lend a helping hand.
As far as Big Mac knew the list included himself, Derpy, Lyra and Bonbon, Octavia and Vinyl, and Dr. Whooves. All of them were supposedly recruited as scouts of sorts, extra precautions where Zack was concerned. He had yet to see any of them but drew strength just knowing that they were around and ready to help.
In this almost unnecessarily wide expanse of a home, there was only Applejack, Big Mac, and himself. His Aunt and Uncle were fortunately away—far away based on the postcard he received in the mail just yesterday. He remembered Applejack, bless her soul, throwing a little hissy fit about that, upset that his only remaining family would treat him in such a way and that family should stick together to coexist as one functioning unit.
Zack could only laugh at her naivety—no doubt born of Ponyville's nirvana-esque atmosphere—yet reassured her that it was fine, that he wouldn't have it any other way.
"What's so funny, Summers?"
Big Mac's question caught Zack off guard, so much so that he nearly dropped his mug. He'd been grinning to himself without realizing it.
And now Big Mac was grinning, a glint to his emerald pupils. "We weren't daydreamin' 'bout mah sister. Were we, Summers?"
Son of a gun. Zack cleared his throat. "You're funny, Big Mac." His voice came out more even than he could have hoped for. "I was thinking about how cute Applejack was when she got annoyed at my aunt and unc—my...m-my...what did I just say…?"
And now Big Mac was chuckling, the sound nothing short of a rumble, as Zack felt his cheeks flare up. He was beyond confused. He hadn't meant to say that, to say the truth, but it just...it just came out!
"The bearer of the Element of Honesty…'s gonna make lyin' difficult, Ah reckon," supplied Big Mac wisely.
Before Zack could respond, there came a rather small yawn and both heads turned to see Applejack leaning against the kitchen doorway, one hand to her mouth, the other scratching her hip. "Who...hoo-who's cute again?" she wondered, grinning through her yawn.
Unable to form even the simplest of words, Zack took to sipping his coffee while Big Mac bade his sister good morning. "Welp, Ah reckon Ah'll get back to trainin'. It's been awhile since Ah've been able to cut loose. Be a darn shame to miss it," he said patting Zack over the shoulder.
Applejack snorted. "If Ah didn't know ya any better, Big Mac, Ah'd swear ya'll were lookin' forward to this here war."
"Ah'm lookin' forward to settlin' an old score with Discord, sis'."
Zack forgot his embarrassment in the blink of an eye and set his mug down. "An 'old score'…? What're you talking about, Big Mac?"
The stallion-turned-human only tipped his head, offered an all too mysterious grin, then strolled out the kitchen through a side entrance that led to the garage, Big Mac's own little training area-slash-resting quarters.
"Him and his secrets," Applejack uttered after another petite yawn. "He won't tell me, either, the big lug…."
It crossed Zack's mind to give chase after the massive man but before he could put any action to it, Applejack was before him, throwing her arms his neck and pressing her lips to his for the briefest, sweetest contact he had ever the pleasure to feel.
"But enough about him. How's my fav'rite sugar doin' this fine morning?"
Almost without any thought, Zack wrapped his arms around the apple-scented woman and brought her in closer, eliminating the space between them. "I'd be better if you weren't here, Jackie," he answered honestly.
Far from being offended that he would say such a thing, Zack could tell after one sweeping glance of her beatific face that she understood what he meant, that he wished she wouldn't be here for this upcoming war.
Her eyes dropped into a seductive, half-lidded stare that caused his heart to throb. "Well, ain't ya'll just so carin'," she whispered, "almost makes me feel bad…."
"Hm? Feel bad about what?"
He felt something sturdy and thick fly up the space between his legs and snapped his knees together at the last second, eyes widening when he realized he almost lost his ability to produce children.
Applejack was grinning, the lust in her gaze all but snuffed out and replaced by a wild desire for blood.
Coming from her, though, there wasn't much difference in the looks as he'd found out in the days prior. This mare—woman...she really, really adored a good fight.
"Good catch, Summers!" she congratulated genially.
And even before she leapt up with other knee, driving it deep into his stomach, all Zack could feel past the blooming pain was annoyance that he wouldn't get a chance to finish his cup of coffee.
Best cup of hazelnut I've ever made, he thought ruefully, sporting a smirk to match Applejack's as he parried her right hook, throwing out his elbow. He aimed for a clear face shot but she dropped to the ground, paused for only a moment, then rocketed it up for an uppercut that he sidestepped, laughing.
"Can't I finish my coffee at least?" he got out, dodging left and right, inching back a foot for each one she advanced.
"Yer coffee? Well, shucks, Summers, why didn't ya say so?" and inbetween elbowing Zack in the crux of his chest, she struck back at the counter with a leg, hooking her foot around his mug. "Here ya go!"
Time seemed to slow to a crawl when she whipped it at him, exerting a grace and precision that both stunned and excited him. He almost forgot to duck his head and heard the deafening 'crash' as it shattered against the wall. A flicker of anger managed to wind its way onto his face as speckles of wasted java splashed against the back of his neck.
"I wanted to drink that," he clarified, grabbing her by the wrist and using his weight to spin her around. He slammed her none-too-roughly into the wall next to the kitchen door, taking a certain pleasure in her shocked gasp of pain. "Apologize."
"Oh n-no, see...Ah likes it rough," she grunted, and Zack wasn't sure whether it was her sudden grin or the Southern twang of her words but he felt his face flare up again. "Ya'll want an apology? Yer gonna hafta earn it, Summers. No freebies 'round here!"
So lost in the throes of combat, neither Zack nor Applejack noticed when Big Mac reentered the kitchen, pausing when his eyes caught sight of the two of them flying back and forth, trading blows, guarding and countering, slowly but assuredly heading out the main entrance.
He smirked, pointing to the only remaining coffee cup on the counter. "Eheh, fuhgot mah drink." He knew full well he wasn't heard over their yelling and instead reclaimed his mug, bowed his head, and left once more. "Talk about 'love taps'...heh."
A/N: Essentially, the first chapter was nothing but a dream, in case that wasn't obvious to some at this point. On the off-chance this gets dropped, might as well say there is no travel to Equestria throughout the entire story so take from that what you will, good or bad.