Big Mac started his journey to Hoofington early the next morning, before Princess Celestia had even raised the sun. There was something about the early morning chill in the air that made the red stallion feel alive.
His whole family saw him off, and he was grateful. He had learned his lesson in the woods, and he would never take a goodbye so flippantly again. There was every bit the chance that he might never see them again. It was a dangerous thing, after all, stepping out the front door. If by chance his time was done, he didn't want his family wishing that they had parted on better terms.
He was just making his way trough Ponyville, passing by Golden Oaks Library when the sun began to peek over the horizon. It's Rays warmed his face as he passed the outskirts of the town, onto a path he had walked six months before, back to find the mare who had saved his life and whom his heart had grown to love.
Everything looked different from how he had first seen it, and that was thanks to the fact it was now summer. Where it had seemed that he had once been walking through an endless field of white, Big Mac could now appreciate the wild flowers and scrub that covered the gently rolling hills surrounding the path to Hoofington. He enjoyed the warmth, breathing in the fresh air.
It felt good to be away from the ever careful watch of his family. It felt good to be moving again, to have a purpose. He loved his family, but he would be the first to admit that there were times where they could beat called obstinate. Protecting a wounded member of the clan was certain to bring that side out of them. It had only been thanks to his own stubborn streak that Applejack hadn't put up more of a fight to his journey.
The trip to Hoofington took two days at a steady trot, and the first night he had made camp at the edge of the forest. It had only been mid-afternoon, the sun just beginning to descend through the sky, but Big Mac had no desire to sleep in the forest that had nearly been his death. It was bad enough that he would have to trek though it.
He knew that his fear was ridiculous. The woods were friendly and full of all manner of life. The trees were green and the path easy, but the memory of freezing, and the echoing throb in his leg was more than enough to make him pause and wait to continue until the next morning.
For dinner, he had a simple meal of apples and cool water from a nearby spring. As the sun disappeared behind the horizon and the moon began to climb into the sky, Big Mac sat with his back to his campfire, watching the forest with a careful eye.
When he finally managed to lay done to sleep, his dreams were cold and a deep sense of pervading loss filled his soul.
He made the trip through the forest the next morning at the quickest trot he could, almost a gallop. He made it to Hoofington just as the sun was reaching its peak, the path easy to follow now that it wasn't hidden under a blanket of snow.
Big Mac recognized a few ponies in town, nodding at their friendly waves. As a town, Hoofington was larger than Ponyville. As such, it had a larger population, large enough that you couldn't hope to know everypony, not like back home. Still, he had been to Hoofington enough times making deliveries that he had a small group of friends that he was always sure to spend time with in the town. It was those ponies that Big Mac sought out.
"Star Twinkle!" Big Mac called out to the blue coated mare as he caught sight of her leaving the local observatory. "Star!"
Star Twinkle paused when she heard her name, head swiveling as she tried to find the owner of the stallion's voice. The unicorn mare's face lit up in a smile when her eyes landed on the large red earth pony.
"Big Mac!" Star cantered over to him, giving him a quick nuzzle. "You're here early. I thought you didn't normally make deliveries until next month."
"I don't." Big Mac smiled at his friend, thankful that he had found her so quickly. "I'm trying to find somepony. I thought that you might have seen her."
Big Mac had met Star Twinkle when he had first started making delivieries for Sweet Apple Acres. He had been just barely out of colt good then, then she just growing out of fillyhood.
She had bought apples from him every day he was selling, and on the last day, had kissed his cheek before scurrying off as fast as she could, a massive blush on her face. He had to wait a few months until his next trip to Hoofington to figure out what she meant by that.
It had turned out that she liked him, and tentatively, he agrees to be her special somepony. It had proven to be difficult to hold down a long distance relationship, and the both of them had agreed that they would work better off as friends. He still wrote to her as often as he could, and she responded in kind.
"Well, I'll try and help you." She smiled suggestively at him, her voice taking a teasing note as she leaned forward on all four of her hooves. "Did you find someone you fancy? Is there love in Big Macintosh's eyes?"
Big Mac huffed and rolled his eyes but he didn't ask his friend to stop. She didn't mean anything by it, and he was glad that she didn't have any harsh thoughts at the idea of him dating again. Neither of them had had much luck in the romantic department, and if he could find Trixie, she would be the first pony he would ask out in over two years.
"Maybe," he admitted, a tinged embarrassed but not enough to try and hide how he felt. "I'm looking for a unicorn named Trixie, she's a ma-"
"A magician." Star Twinkle stole the word out of Big Mac's mouth. Her face turned annoyed at the name. "As in the Great and Powerful Trixie?"
"Eyup." Big Mac nodded, recognizing her look as the same one Applejack got whenever he spoke about Trixie.
"You're wasting your time, Mac." Star Twinkle spoke gently, but firm. She had evidently had a run in with the show are before. "She's a two bit hussy with no magical talent."
"She saved my life."
That took the look right off of Star's face. She looked at him with surprise and concern. "She what?"
"Trixie saved my life," Big Mac repeated. "Last winter, I was heading back to Ponyville. I got lost in the snow and broke my leg. I would have died if it weren't for her."
Star stared at him for a long time in amazement, as if she was seeing him for the first time.
"You almost died?" She asked in a hushed whisper. "You don't say anything about that in any of your letters."
"I didn't want to worry ha," Big Mac tried to reassure her. "There was nothing you could have done."
"I would have come to visit!" Star protested, stomping a hoof against the ground. "I'm your friend, mac. I would have come, and I would just like it if you told me these things."
Big Mac blushed in embarrassment and a little bit of shame. She was right. Just another instance of his stubbornness getting him in trouble. "You're right, Star. I should'a told you."
"Buckin' right you should have told me." She glared at him a moment longer before sighing and giving him a relieved nuzzle, lingering longer than she normally would have. Learning that somepony you knew had almost died was enough to make anypony thankful to see them again.
"Trixie came to town a year and half ago," Star said with a sigh. "The whole town drove her off after she burned the mayors office to the ground."
"She what?!" Big Mac felt a jolt in his chest to hear that. Maybe the mare he had been pining after wasn't the one for him after all...
"No." Star shook her head, looking a little grumpy as she stared just to the right of Bog Mac, into nothing. "I admit, we may have acted a bit rashly, and she might not have deserved all of it, but emotions were running hot."
"She burned down the mayor's office?" Big Mac asked carefully?
"It wasn't totally her fault." Star admitted that through clenched teeth and Big Mac figured she wasn't telling him everything. "She was making a fool of the entire town. She tried to save face with a fireworks show, but somepony threw a tomato at her. The fireworks hit her trailer, which caught on fire and rolled down the hill into the mayors office, where it exploded."
"Exploded?" Big Mac had to wonder what she had been keeping in her trailer to explode.
"Boom!" Star mimed an explosion with her hooves. "Took out the entire building. The whole town for so mad that they ran her out of town."
"Do you have any idea of where she was traveling next?" Big Mac knew it was a longshot, and he couldn't come up with a single idea on why she had been so close to the town that he run her off almost a year later, in the right place to save him.
"Nope." Star shrugged, an apologetic look on her face. "I'm sorry, Mac."
"It's alright, Star." Big Mac waved off her apology. "Do you remember which way you all ran her out?"
Star nodded at that, glad to have an answer to his question. She pointed with a fire hoof. "Yep! That way."
Big Mac followed the direction of her hoof, right back the way he had come. Back through the forest. It figured.
"Thanks, Star." He spoke softly, but his gratefulness was no less for it. "You should come to Ponyville sometime. You're always welcome at the farm."
"You know what," Star said, nodding her head. "I just might take you up in that offer, Mac."
With that final bit of conversation, the two ponies went their separate ways, Star Twinkle to go back to her apartment, and Big Mac to head back into the forest.
Maybe she had left some clue to where she had disappeared off to, all those months ago.
The forest was completely different. Green leaves, chirping birds, and a warm summer breeze filled the air. Big Mac could remember the chill, the panic that he pushed down as he stubbornly trudged onward towards what he hoped was home.
Now that he had already made his way through the first once on the return to Hoofington, the second time of heading back into it didn't loom so large in his mind. He still stepped lightly along the path, keeping a careful lookout for anything that looked out of place.
Big Mac had no idea on how he would recognize a sign, nor how he would even go about finding one. There wasn't anything that stood out to him and he idly wondered if that adventure mare his sister and some of her friends read about would be able to see things he was just plain missing. Daring Doo. If she was here, he was sure that she would have already found Trixie.
Sadly, he was not Daring Doo, nor did he know her (not that that was possible, she was fictional after all he reminded himself). He would just have to make do on his own.
With no idea of where to even start his search, Big Mac sat down on the ground. He closed his eyes, letting the relative peace of the forest wash over him, listening to the ever small voice inside his head.
He had been lost the last time he was here. He had been lost, and cold, and afraid.
Opening his eyes, Big Mac stood. He knew what he needed to do. He needed to find the ledge that had almost killed him. Maybe there would be clues to wherever Trixie had taken off to.
There had to be.
Big Mac wasn't sure what he would do if there was nothing to be found. He had no idea where to go from there.
Finding the ledge proved to be harder than he had first thought it would be. He had no reference points to where it might have been (he was lost the first time he had stumbled across it after all), and he was starting to think that the whole search of his was going to take much longer than he had expected.
He found the ledge just as the sun was beginning to disappear behind the horizon. Big Mac had long since lost all of his fears for the forest. It wasn't the forest that had almost killed him after all, it had been his own stubbornness that had brought him so close to the edge.
It looked completely different without its winters covering, just a simple thing of dirt and sparse grass, but Big Mac knew. This had almost been the death of him. The earth crumbled away at the edge as easily as rain fell from the sky, and he made sure to stay as far away from it as he possibly could. It was easy now that he was there to see that many before him had narrowly avoided the same mistake.
Standing where he was away from the edge, Big Mac could see why it was so dangerous. It created the illusion that it continued onwards, a hill covered in trees, a deadly fall hidden just over the rise.
Finding a way down to the clearing he knew lay beneath the ledge proved to be more difficult than he had imagined once he had found it. There wasn't an easy path down, and following the edge of the cliff in either direction didn't help. It was practically a sheer drop of forty or so feet, and he had no desire to have a second brush with death.
By the time he had found a way down, the sun had disappeared and Luna's moon was rising into the sky full and bright, giving just enough light for Big Mac to find his way. It was almost a mile away from the ledge he had taken a tumble over, and he had to follow the cliff face all the way back, taking it slow and steady. He didn't have the best vision in the night.
"It has been a long time since Trixie has seen another pony."
Big Mac startled, barely keeping himself from shouting in surprise. The voice had come from right behind him.
Spinning around, Big Mac found Trixie standing behind him. She looked at him with no sign of recognition, but the childlike smile on her face and the way her eyes lit up made him think she probably didn't see him as a threat.
"Trixie," he said, a pang of relief shooting through him at the sight of her. "What are you doing out here all on your own?"
She was all on her own. Trixie stood as naked as any other pony, without the garb that his sister and her friends had assured him she wore everywhere. Her light blue mane curled perfectly, and her coat gleamed in the moonlight, making it appear as if she almost glowed.
"Trixie is not alone!" She clapped her hooves together, edging closer to the stallion. An innocent look of relief on her face, she looked genuinely pleased to see him. "Trixie is with you!"
Big Mac's heart skipped a beat at that, and he couldn't help but return her smile with one of his own.
"What happened, Trixie?" Big Mac asked softly. He wanted to know, why had she not come with him the whole way to Ponyville? Why had she left him on his own, injured and half delirious, to make the rest of the journey on his own through the freezing cold. "Why didn't you come with me?"
"Trixie does not know what you are talking about," she said, flicking her mane as if to punctuate the point. "Trixie has never met you before in her entire life."
That stopped whatever Big Mac was going to say right in its tracks. How was he supposed to respond to a statement like that?
"You..." Big Mac looked into her eyes, trying to find any sign of deception. "You saved my life. Why are you saying that?"
"Trixie did no such thing!" She wasn't harsh about it. The way she spoke made Big Mac want to believe that no, she had never met him before and he had gotten himself back to Ponyville all on his own.
He didn't believe that, but as each moment passed he certainly believed that Trixie did.
Big Mac sat back on his haunches, watching the showmare carefully.
"What is your name, kind stallion?" She asked, eying him over carefully, not lustfully, but there was a hint of desperation to her voice. "Trixie wishes to know."
"Big Macintosh." He didn't know why he was humoring her, but he didn't have it in him to try and fight against whatever madness had fallen over Trixie. It was entirely possible that she would reveal what had befallen herself just through normal conversation. If he just knew what was wrong, he could go to his sister and she and the rest of the Elements of Harmony could magic it all better. It was what they did after all. "You can call me Big Mac."
"Big Macintosh." Trixie seemed to ponder over his name, as if she was rolling it about in her mouth like a fine wine. "Trixie likes it. It suits you. You are indeed big!"
Big Mac blushed, but he felt an anger filling up inside his chest. Whatever was going on, he had a feeling that it was not Trixie's fault. He couldn't help but think that she was the victim of whatever this was, and he wanted to do nothing more than help her.
She deserved it after all. She saved his life.
"Trixie," Big Mac had the feeling that if he could make her listen to what he had to say, everything would be alright. She would snap back to normal, and he could take her back to Ponyville to help her just like she had helped him. His heart went out to the confused mare, and he fell just a little bit more in love. "Trixie, please listen to me."
"Trixie shall listen to you, Big Macintosh." She focused her ears forward at him and watched him as if he might disappear if she didn't keep an eye on him.
"Last winter, you saved my life." He had absolutely no clue on how to go about getting her to believe him, but he had to start somewhere. "I fell from the ledge above us and broke my leg. If you hadn't been here, I would have died, be it from blood loss or freezing."
Trixie watched him and looked as he pointed a good at the ledge. She looked back down at him, scrunching her muzzle up in confusion.
"Trixie..." She gave a small frustrated huff. "Trixie must confess that she does not remember. Trixie has been having a hard time remembering much after..."
"After what?" Big Mac asked, trying to urge her to continue.
"Trixie does not remember, Big Macintosh." She gave him a small shrug. "Trixie has accepted this."
"You shouldn't have to." Big Mac shuffled forward, putting a gentle hoof on Trixie's shoulder.
Trixie leaned into his touch, a blush forming on her cheeks. "Trixie does not know what is wrong. Trixie simply cannot remember. Trixie forgets and forgets and forgets!"
She slammed a forehoof against the ground in anger, tears welling in her eyes.
"You told me that you wished that you'd done things differently. You said that you wished you had made more friends instead of trying to drive everyone away." Big Mac watched her carefully, hoping to see some form of recognition in her face. "I invited you to come stay at my farm."
Trixie stared at him for the longest time, as if there was something deep inside her that knew all of this was true, she just couldn't view outside of her subconscious.
"You..." She spoke slowly, her face scrunched together as she tried as hard as possible to remember. She believed him, but it just wasn't there."you invited Trixie to stay... At your farm?"
Big Mac nodded, giving her a small smile. "The offer still stands. You're welcome to come with me. You can get help for your memories. Twilight Sparkle will be able to help."
"Twilight..." Trixie almost seemed to recognize the name, but there was no recognize. She formed herself, shaking her head. "Nopony can help Trixie. Nopony can help me."
"Yes!" Big Mac stood, nodding to her. "Yes we can."
"No." Trixie gave him a sad smile, full of regret and things that could have been. "No you can't."
Dipping her head, Trixie sighed. "I remember. I am glad you are alright Big Mac, but you can't help me. Twilight Sparkle can't help. Princess Celestia herself wouldn't be able to help me."
"I think you're wrong, Trixie." He hated to see any mare in such a conflicted state of mind. Seeing one whom he could see himself loving was even worse. "Please, come with me back to Ponyville. We can help you."
"I can help you." Big Mac have her a reassuring smile, leaning forward to nuzzle against her cheek. She closed her eyes at his nuzzle, clenching them painfully as he pulled away.
"No, Big Mac." She took a step back from him, and he could see regret written across her face. "I remember. I don't need help."
"Yes you do!" Big Mac could see that he was losing her. "There is nothing to be ashamed of. Everypony needs help from time to time. You helped me, it's only fair that I do the same for you!"
She smiled, a sad look that filled her eyes. "I'm sorry that we couldn't have met sooner."
"Just..." Trixie let out a breath, hanging her head low. "Just take me somewhere nice."
Before Big Mac could even ask what she had meant by that, Trixie had turned around disappeared into the darkness of the forest around them.
"Trixie!" Big Mac called out to the mare, rushing after her. "Trixie, come back!"
He ran fast, but even though Trixie had been only moving at a slow walk, he could find no sign of her.
There was no sign of the magician, and Big Mac felt lost and confused. He just wanted to help.
He slowed, then came to a stop, his heart racing in his chest. "Trixie..."
Dropping back onto his haunches, Big Mac stared out into forest around, unable to see more than a few feet thanks to the meager light from the moon.
What was he supposed to do now? He had tried his best, but she didn't want to go with him. There was nothing he could do. He supposed that he needed to return to Hoofington to get a room for the night. He would try to find her one more time to convince her to come with him before returning to Ponyville. Trixie might need someone to help her, but his family needed him too.
The next morning did not bring any clarity to Big Mac. He was still as confused as he had been the night before and he wondered what had gone so wrong. What had made Trixie so afraid, so forgetful?
He had barely slept at all during the night, and he had tossed and turned in the bed until the sun rose. It wasn't the first time that he had gone several days without sleep, and he was sure it wouldn't be the last.
When he had returned from the forest, Big Mac had found that all of the hotels were full. Instead, he spent the night crashing on Star's couch. He had shared a quiet cup of coffee with her before she left for work and he headed back out into the forest.
Finding the ledge was much easier the second time. It only took him a little over half an hour, and another ten minutes or so to make it down into the clearing.
In the morning's light, Big Mac found no sign of Trixie. He only found his own hoofprints from the night before.
Sitting back on his haunches, Big Mac sat still, letting the world move on without him, even just for a little while. The birds flitted through the branches, the bugs buzzed through the underbrush, and the rabbits and mice hopped about. They paid him no mind, but they were careful to avoid entering the clearing themselves.
Raising an eyebrow, Big Mac felt curiosity rising in him, even through the sadness that filled him. What was special about this clearing? What made it so that no creature to even step inside?
Looking for what felt like the first time, Big Mac studied the clearing around him. A thin layer of undergrowth covered everything, centered around the old fire pit that Trixie had built six months ago. Small outcropping a of rocks dotted the edge at uneven intervals.
Big Mac paused, looking harder at a strange lump, partially covered by moss and dirt. It didn't fit with the rest of the clearing, out of place.
Standing, Big Mac stepped forward, wanting to get a closer look at whatever it was.
As a farm pony, Big Mac was no stranger to death. His parents had died shortly after Apple Bloom's birth, a freak accident with the Everfree forest. As the stallion of the farm, he had buried the families previous dog after it had died in its sleep. He had been the first to discover that Daisy the cow had perished in a Timberwolf attack, and he had to be strong for sisters.
Even having lived through all of that, Big Mac had never actually seen a dead pony.
A dead pony like the one that he now found before him.
The 'lump' that he had spotted, so incongruous to the clearing around it, was the skeletal remains of a pony. A unicorn by the look of the shattered horn remnant on its skull.
He wanted to run. He wanted to shout, he wanted to vomit. Big Mac instead did none of those thing s, staring down at the tattered remains of a violet cloak with yellow and blue stars wrapped around the skeleton's neck, clumped and stained bits of blue fur scattered around the body.
He didn't want it to be true, but he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the body before him had once been the pony named Trixie Lulamoon.
After he had found the skeleton, Big Mac did not think about what that had meant for his encounters with Trixie. He had instead mindlessly returned to Hoofington, where he rented a cart and bought fine silk sheets before searching out for Star Twinkle.
"Star!" Big Mac found her going over her work in the observatory.
"Big Mac?" She looked at him in confusion. "What are you doing here?"
He couldn't speak. I found the mare I might have loved, and she's dead. He didn't say that. He couldn't open his mouth. He couldn't say anything.
"Mac?" She noticed the stallion's expression for the first time. "Are you alright? Is something wrong?"
He nodded, hating how the ball of emotions that had appeared in his chest made him fell. "I... I need..."
"What, Mac?" Star asked softly, stepping forward to nuzzle her friend supportively. "What do you need?"
Big Mac nodded again. It pained him slightly that he couldn't take care of everything on his own, but he couldn't, and Star Twinkle was good folk. He could trust her with this.
"I..." He struggled against himself. "Please, just come with me."
Star studied him carefully for a moment. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she gave a short nod. "Alright."
Big Mac led Star Twinkle out the clearing. They walked in silence, him unable to speak, and her somehow sensing his mood. She reacted worse than him when he showed her Trixie's body, having to run out of the clearing to empty her stomach of the meager breakfast she had eaten. Big Mac had rubbed soothing circles on her back until she got all four of her hooves firmly back under her.
With Star Twinkle's help, Big Mac got all of Trixie's remains gently wrapped in the silk sheet that he had bought. They walked back to town together, where they went to the town's morgue. The rest of the day turned into a blur for Big Mac, with only the vague memory of filling out reams of paperwork and being interviewed by some pony or ponies.
The one thing that had stood out for him was the moment when they had wanted to bury Trixie in the community graveyard. That would simply not do. She had saved his life, even if she had somehow returned from the beyond to do so. He had brokered no argument from the stuffy mayor and morticians.
It took nearly a week, but in the end, they gave in to Big Mac. Why wouldn't they? Trixie Lulamoon had no living relatives, no will, and nothing to her name.
Big Mac buried her under the first tree he had planted at Sweet Apple Acres. There was no better place he could think of for the mare whose life had gone so wrong. It overlooked the east orchard, with the prettiest view of the farm. The sun rises cast beautiful colors across the sky.
Big Mac spent a lot of his days sitting next to Trixie's grave, thinking or reading. Sometimes out of the corner of his eyes, he could swear that he saw her sitting next to him, but whenever her turned to look there would be nothing there. He often wondered on what might have been.