Chapter 42: Family Matters
While all of Applejack’s guests began to sit down at the dinner table, Andromeda’s attention stayed with Tempest. Ever since Rainbow Dash had arrived, he had not focused on anything or anypony else but her. His jaw was clenched and his eyes seethed with hidden anger. He was not making any effort to hide these expressions. Seeing his emotional crisis, Andromeda took hold of his hoof. After a moment, Tempest’s gaze finally tore away from his mother and towards the warm grip that interrupted him.
“It’s alright, Tempest,” Andromeda said, almost in a whisper.
Tempest glanced back at Rainbow Dash and gave Andi’s hoof a light squeeze. He did not say anything, though words weren’t needed. Andromeda led him to the table and sat him down, taking the seat beside him.
“I get it,” she said. “I know how you feel and I’m with you. Okay?”
Tempest nodded. Andromeda could tell he didn’t want to keep quiet at all. After all, he was RD’s son. Hot-blooded temperament was practically bred in him, but something was holding him back.
“It’s great to see y’all again,” Applejack announced, acting as host to her friends and their future kids. “You know, it’s really nice that we can all be together.”
“The pleasure is ours, darling,” Rarity said, sitting down next to Radiance. “We’ve all been so scattered these past few days. We’ve hardly had any quality time at all and Pinkie and I were glad to come!”
“Umm,” Berry said, tapping on Applejack’s shoulder, “I think you need to know that, well, I don’t think Bismarck is going to be making it.”
“What? Why not?”
When she saw Berry smirk nervously, Applejack knew exactly why.
“Ah see,” she said, disappointed. “Well, maybe he’ll just be late. Ah hope that’s the case.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
“By the way,” Applejack said aloud to Rarity and Pinkie. “Is Twilight comin’ to dinner? Ah didn’t get a response from her and ah wasn’t sure if she’d even be able to make it because of the time travel spell and all.”
“Oh, that’s right! I almost forgot to tell you,” Pinkie said. “Twilight told me to tell you that she was working on something important, so she’s going to be a little late.”
Andromeda’s heart soared from the news.
“She’ll be here?” she exclaimed, sitting up straight.
Andromeda leaned back in her chair and let out a sigh of relief.
“You see? I told you she’d pull through,” Tempest said with monotonous inflection.
Andromeda frowned. Even though his words were congratulatory, his voice sounded more bitter than happy.
“Rainbow Dash loves you, Tempest. She probably just has a different way of showing it, that’s all.”
A light puff of air snorted from Tempest’s nostrils.
“Yeah,” was all he muttered.
“Dinner’s ready!” Applejack said while she, Big Macintosh, and Apple Bloom carried the food from the kitchen. “Everypony find a seat and we’ll get started.”
With the food set, fourteen ponies took their seats at the table: Berry, Cherry, Pinkie Pie, Radiance, Rarity, Sweetie Belle, Fluttershy, Andromeda, Tempest, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Apple Bloom, Granny Smith, and Big Macintosh. Once they had all found their seats, Applejack said grace and stood up to draw their attention.
“It feels like an eternity since the lot of us sat down together fer a meal. Ah know many of us have been busy or otherwise distracted, but seein’ y’all here makes me happier than a tornado in a trailer park!”
Everypony in the room grinned. It really was nice to sit down and not worry about things for once, and Applejack’s joyous personality certainly helped them enjoy the moment.
“Ah’d like to thank Fluttershy and Granny Smith fer this wonderful dinner. They really outdid themselves this time.”
Granny Smith jerked herself awake.
“No gravy fer me, thanks!” she announced to the laughter of everyone before falling back asleep.
“Poor granny,” Applejack chuckled. “It took a lot out of her makin’ food fer such a big crowd, but she insisted on doin’ it. Anyways, tonight we’re surrounded by family, both present and future, and even though time whatchamajig laws and formulas probably say that we shouldn’t be all sittin’ in one room together, ah’m glad that ah can look across the table and see what will be our future.”
As her emerald eyes fell towards her glass, her tone shifted.
“Ah know a lot of things haven’t gone as… expected,” she said, looking around the table. “We’ve had a lot of heartbreak here at the farm. As we all know by now, this time travel spell has become dangerous and has been… affectin’… these young stallions and mares from our future. My son, Bucky, is one of them.”
The guests began glancing at each other, wondering where AJ was going with this. The toast had started out so jovial, but now weighed heavy on their spirits. Applejack noticed their reactions.
“But this dinner ain’t about that,” she continued, internally forcing herself to not get emotional. “Big Macintosh, Granny Smith, Apple Bloom, and ah have brought these travelers into our homes, not just as our guests, but as our family.”
Applejack glanced at Radiance for a moment and gave her future daughter-in-law a smile.
“When ah see y’all, ah see smart, funny, and good-hearted young’uns who without a doubt… made yer mothers proud. Ah know that ah’m proud of you and ah know that, despite anythin’ that happens, y’all are gonna return home to a group of moms who love you so much.”
Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie nodded their heads in approval while Applejack raised her glass for the toast, trying not to notice Bismarck’s empty seat.
“A toast,” she exclaimed, “to wonderful family.”
“To family,” the group said together.
Food made its way around the table while the future and present ponies began to interact. Most of the ‘Mane Six’ had been away for some time and having an opportunity like this was just what they needed, and once conversations got going, the table was quickly filled with smiled and laughter. Naturally much of the conversations were between mothers and children first. Pinkie Pie wasted little time in getting to better know her children.
“So now that you guys are feeling better again, I can finally ask you about fun stuff! Like what’s your favorite desert? What’s your favorite color? What’s the future like? Is Gummy still around? Am I a cool mom? Which one of you is older? Do you have middle names? WHO’S YO DADDY?”
Berry and Cherry laughed.
“Our favorite desert is strawberry ice cream and our favorite color is blue,” Cherry answered. “Not pink like most ponies guess.”
“The future isn’t very different,” Berry continued, “especially in Ponyville, though Canterlot had a bit of a… ahem… change of scenery.”
“Gummy is still alive and he’s really really big now!” Cherry giggled. “You would think that his super powerful jaws would be too dangerous for ponies, but he still nibbles! It’s so cute! He turned 30 not too long ago and it was such a fun birthday party!”
“You’re the coolest mom ever. Cherry and I always wanted to be just like you growing up.”
“Berry’s older by ten minutes and I honestly don’t mind calling him big brother even though we’re identical in age.”
“We both have middle names,” Berry said. “Mine is Chimi and Cherry’s is Changa.”
“Berry and Cherry Chimichanga!” Pinkie Pie squealed. “That’s so perfect!!! So who let me name you that? Do I know him? Does he live in Ponyville? Details please!”
The twins glanced at each other and shook their heads. There was only so much they would be willing to tell her about.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
“You must tell me all about your modeling career, darling!” Rarity said “Do you spend any time with stars that I might know about.”
“Absolutely,” Radiance replied, dabbing her mouth politely. “You name him or her and I’ve probably rubbed elbows with them.”
“Get out!” Rarity exclaimed very loudly, almost interrupting everypony else’s conversations. “Photo Finish?”
“Practically my mentor,” Radiance smiled.
“Mentor! Oh, how exciting! What about Hoity Toity?”
“He’s a bit odd, but still a nice stallion. We’ll have lunch together in Canterlot every once in a while.
Rarity could feel herself about to burst.
“Oh, she’s the best! She is so sweet and a longtime friend of ours. She even used me as a model for one of her albums!”
“She has a selective crowd of friends, but yes, we’ve both spent some good time with her. She loves your designs!”
“Oh my!” Rarity repeated. “Oh my, oh my, oh my! I… I…”
And one last grin, she fainted, collapsed sideways, and landed on the floor. The others around her stood up to see if she was okay, but Radiance continued to eat her food.
“She does that,” she assured. “Don’t mind her, everypony. Go on with your dinner.”
Glancing across the table, she noticed that Applejack was picking at her food. Bucky was still unconscious and Bismarck had taken off without a word, leaving her without both of her own bots. Seeing her mother-in-law try so hard to look happy broke Radiance’s heart. She knew she had to say something.
“So Applejack… umm… Granny Smith did an amazing job with the food,” she said, hoping to grab Applejack’s attention.
The country mare’s eyes looked up from her plate.
“Old family recipes are often the best,” she smiled lightly, “and if there’s anythin’ Granny is good at, it’s cookin’ ol’ recipes.”
Suddenly, a memory sprung in Radiance’s head.
“You know,” she said, “you were the one who taught me to cook.”
“Ah taught you? What about Rarity? She can cook and she’s pretty good at that fancy gor-met kinda food.”
“I was little,” Radiance shrugged. “I used to watch mother, sure, but I never asked to learn for some reason. The first time I ever showed interest in food was at your house. Bismarck, the twins, and I were all playing outside when I smelled something I never ever saw my mom make; apple fritters! That wasn’t all you had made. You had all sorts of dishes that mother considered too low-brow to create herself.”
“Anyway, while my friends were playing hide-and-seek, I snuck in the kitchen and watched you work. When you spotted me, you asked if I’d like to help make the pies. Mom never asked for help. She was too much of a perfectionist to let a filly make the meals.”
“Sounds like Rarity,” Applejack chuckled.
“But that day you showed me how to cook and bake all sorts of things. I never forgot.”
Applejack’s complexion warmed at the sentiment. Perhaps the night wouldn’t be lonely after all.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
They all grew quiet as Flora gingerly made her way to the table, careful not to strain herself. A spot of purple bruising circled her right eye, which was still a bit puffy from the impact. She and the others knew she would heal soon, but the injury was symbolic more than anything. It was a visual reminder of the dark place they were all speeding towards. Seeing her this way reminded the others why Bismarck didn’t dare show his face at dinner. Berry stood up and pulled a seat for Flora.
“We saved you a spot.”
Flora looked at his battered face. She had very little recollection of what happened, other than what she did to Berry.
“Berry,” she squeaked, “I’m…”
“It’s not your fault,” Berry interrupted. “Come on. Your mom made us dinner.”
Flora nodded and took her seat next to Fluttershy. The yellow pegasus looked relieved to see her.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re okay!” she exclaimed louder than her usual whispering voice. “I was afraid you wouldn’t wake up, like your sister.”
“I’m fine,” Flora said, pushing her bangs to the side. “Really.”
“Does it hurt? Your eye, I mean.”
“It feels a bit numb. I’m trying not to mess with it.”
“Did you put ice on it? I could get you some ice.”
“I’m fine, mom,” Flora repeated with a sigh. “You don’t have to keep worrying about me.”
“I’m sorry,” Fluttershy replied. “I can’t help it. All I do is worry and now that you and Peach have both been…”
“She’s going to be alright and so am I. Okay?”
A short pause followed, but after a while, Fluttershy gave a weak nod.
“Okay,” she whispered while Flora began to put food on her own plate.
“Good. So I’ve been hearing the others talking. You’ve probably got a lot of questions too, huh?”
“Umm… not really.”
Flora tilted her head in surprise.
“Really? Aren’t you even a bit curious about me and the future?”
“Oh, no, no, no,” Fluttershy answered. “That’s not it at all. I’m very interested in you and Peach Cobbler! I just don’t have any questions to ask.”
Flora couldn’t understand it. If she had been in her mother’s place, she would have been asking as many questions as she could get away with, and she wasn’t the only one. Most of the other mothers seemed to be in an investigative mood, but not Fluttershy for some reason.
“Why not?” Flora asked, realizing that the way she said that sounded less demanding in her head.
“I just… I just want to keep things a surprise. I guess I don’t want to know too much.”
Flora motioned for her to look around the table at the others. They were all having conversations with each other. They were getting to know each other and spending time together instead of disusing that horrid time travel spell. Flora sighed.
“I don’t think it matters anymore,” she whispered so only Fluttershy could hear. “At this point, we don’t even know if we’ve messed time up beyond repair. Even if we didn’t, it wouldn’t matter."
She paused to look her mother in the eye.
“Look, I lied when I said I’d be alright. I don’t even know anymore. At this point, I almost don’t even care. We can be quiet and keep secrets all day long until the spell either takes us home or kills us, but if that happens…”
Flora was too tired to cry, but she could feel the emotion behind it.
“If that happens, I would like to know I got to… spend some time with you first.”
Fluttershy took her daughter’s hoof and held it, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“And you will.”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Big Macintosh got up to answer a knocking at the door. A moment later, returned, followed by a new guest.
“Twilight!” Applejack exclaimed, standing up to meet her friend. “You made it!”
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” the purple unicorn apologized. “There were some things that required my attention.”
“Don’t worry about it!” Pinkie Pie said gleefully. “Pull up a chair! Andromeda saved you one next to her!”
Twilight felt like she was caught off-guard.
“Oh. Thank you,” she said, sitting by her daughter.
While Applejack poured Twilight’s drink, Andromeda leaned towards her and whispered.
“I’m… glad you could make it.”
“Me too,” Twilight replied.
“About the card you gave me.”
“I’m sorry. I was in an emotional mood when I wrote that. I didn’t mean to be so dramatic.”
“No, no. It’s fine. It was… really sweet. Thanks, mom.”
Twilight’s eyes grew wide. Andromeda had just called her ‘mom!’ She couldn’t remember a moment in which her daughter had genuinely called her that since they arrived. A part of her wanted to say that it was about time.
“You’re welcome,” was what she came up with.
So was this Andromeda’s way of apologizing? Where they on good terms again? Twilight couldn’t tell if she didn’t want to talk about it or if she just didn’t want to at the dinner table with the others. Her gut chose the latter, but she wanted to be sure.
“I’d like to start over,” she said, “if that’s okay with you.”
“Yeah. I’d like that too.”
Twilight exhaled in relief. For the first time since she first saw the future kids, she felt a great pressure dissipate. Andromeda, on the other hoof, appeared to be just as distracted as before.
“Are you okay?” Twilight asked, concerned.
Andromeda glanced quickly at Tempest, who was eating and no longer staring at Rainbow Dash. Seeing that he was preoccupied, she leaned towards her mom.
“It’s Tempest,” she whispered. “He and Rainbow Dash aren’t speaking to each other. I don’t think they’ve even seen each other since she found out who he really was.”
“I have no idea. He seemed to be getting along so well with…”
“THAT’S IT!” Tempest shouted, slamming his hooves on the table.
The force shook all nearby plates and spilled his and Andromeda’s glasses, but nopony at the table seemed to focus on it, as every pair of eyes pointed directly at Tempest. The pegasus stallion pushed his chair back and stood up, leaning forward on the table. His magenta eyes burned bright red.
“WHAT DID I DO TO YOU?” he yelled, directing his rage at Rainbow Dash across from him. “What did I do to deserve this silent treatment?!? You didn’t seem to have much of a problem with me BEFORE you found out that I was your son! Ever since you went and blew our secret out of the water, you’ve avoided me like the plague!!!”
The others held their breath while he spoke. His friends all knew he could be scary when he was angry and Radiance secretly wished that Bismarck was around to step in if necessary. She certainly hoped Big Mac would be willing to.
“I searched…. ALL DAY for you!!!” Tempest continued. “I scoured Ponyville and Cloudsdale for you and everywhere I went, I always seemed to be one step behind you!”
Rainbow Dash fidgeted and he saw.
“That’s right,” he smiled menacingly. “I know you were running from me! I asked around and ponies kept telling me that you were taking off only moments before I arrived. What a coincidence!”
He began to chuckle.
“You know, you must be exhausted from constantly running away from me! Is that why you’re here? To get some free food to get your strength back for when you take off again?”
“Tempest!” Rarity exclaimed. “How could you say that about Rainbow Dash? You don’t know why she’s here.”
“Well, she’s definitely not here for me!” Tempest rebutted. “Have you even been paying attention to her? Has anypony here noticed that she hasn’t spoken a word to me since she got here?”
Nobody said a word. Not even Rainbow Dash, who continued to take what he was throwing her way. Tempest took his chair and shoved it back into the table. Dinner was over for him. Andromeda was becoming very worried. This wasn't him. He never acted this way, no matter how hot-headed he was. Something was very very wrong here.
“Even now you won’t talk to me,” Tempest said to RD, shaking his head in disgust. “Unbelievable. You know, if you want to pretend that I don’t exist, then fine! Be that way! It’s not like I might be dead tomorrow! I mean, all of your friends seem to be trying to take the time to be with their kids! Even Twilight has made a bigger effort than you! Wait, scratch that! You haven’t even TRIED to spend any time with me!!! So now I’m done! You hear me? I’M DONE!”
The room remained motionless and deathly quiet. He had made his point and it was time for him to go. Letting out a deep sigh, Tempest took one last hateful look at his mother.
“I’m done,” he muttered. “I’m done trying to convince myself that you even care.”