She followed their gaze, saw Zecora, and nervously stepped towards her, "Um...hello, Zecora. What brings you here today? If you...if you don't mind saying. You don't have to..."She stopped, blushed and looked down at her forehoof, which had retreated behind the other and was scratching the ground self-consciously.
Zecora tossed her head back, making the hood of her cloak fall away. Fluttershy jumped away and stifled a soft squeak of fear. Zecora smiled slightly.
"Do not be afraid, my friend Fluttershy,
I shall tell you my reason; all my friends will know why."
Fluttershy blushed harder and looked up at the zebra, who laughed lightly.
Emerging from her library, Twilight saw the ponies and Zecora. She approached her and smiled, "Hello, Zecora, this is quite a surprise. Not that we mind your visiting, but you don't usually leave your hut and come here except to buy herbs for your potions. Is something wrong? Can we help?"
"Ah, Twilight Sparkle. No help is required.
Of the forest I am bored; of my hut I grow tired.
I wish to travel about, to see what is there;
to leave Evertree Forest, to 'get some fresh air'.
I came to tell you of my wish to roam;
for if you come visit, I will not be home."
Twilight looked surprised, but pleased. "Good for you, Zecora. It'll be nice for you to get out."
"I'll say! All you ever do is hang out in your hut day in and day out makin' potions and stuff! Booor-ing!" said Rainbow Dash, peering down at the group from the overhead cloud she had been snoozing on and shaking her rainbow-maned head.
Twilight looked up at her. "Come on, Dash, you should be happy for her. She's not 'hanging out in her hut making potions' now, is she?"
"Aw, Twilight; all I meant was..."
Twilight turned back to the zebra. "Sorry about Dash,Zecora. Sometimes she has a tendency to speak her mind before she uses it." Dash blew a raspberry from her cloud and flew off. "I hope you have fun on your trip. It's a big wide world and your forest is just the tiniest part of it. Enjoy yourself."
"And when you get back, we can have a great big party for you and you can tell us whatcha saw!" shouted Pinkie Pie, who had run down the street from Sugarcube Corner when she'd learned of Zecora's visit. She was practically vibrating with excitement.Zecora said nothing about Pinkie's suggestion as she headed back to the entrance to Ponyville and the path beyond. She turned to look at the group.
"Kwa heri, Twilight Sparkle, all of my friends.
Here my journey begins; when I return, here it ends."
She then turned back and left.
Zecora walked down the trail from Ponyville. Everything was new and fascinating to her: the white fences bordering the track she was on, the bright green grass, the sound of birds not found in her forest. Many of the fenced areas were farmland of one sort or another which were being tended by earth ponies, who were either tilling the fields, planting seeds or harvesting their crops, and almost all of them had a greeting for her, which she returned.
She heard roosters crowing in the distance. Some of the fields were being grazed by cattle. The few that bothered to pay any attention to her appearance seemed to simply accept her after a moment and go back to grazing. Evey bit of land here seemed to serve a purpose; practically none of it was wasted.
There were fields of wild flowers, in colors she'd never seen in her life or even had words to describe. Insects that resembled some of the moths found in the forest, but with much larger and brightly-colored wings flitted past. One landed on her muzzle, seemed to regard her for a second while gently flapping its wings and then flew off again. She heard a buzzing sound and a small bird, it's wings almost invisible from the speed they were moving zipped past her and headed for a flower.
The sun was bright and warm, very much different than the cool gloom of her forest. The sky, almost unseen in Everfree because of the trees, was cloudless and the brightest blue she'd ever seen. The sunlight seemed to make everything glow; the grass looked greener, even her fur seemed brighter. She was glad she had decided to leave her forest if this was an example of the outside world.
Eventually the sweet smell of apples caught her attention above all else. Finding herself more than a bit hungry by the smell, she followed her nose. She passed a billboard proclaiming 'Welcome to Sweet Apple Acres' and stopped, spellbound by the huge fields filled with hundreds of apple trees.
Each tree branch held so many apples that from a distance the treetops were practically red. An orange-furred filly wearing a brown stetson hat on her blonde-maned head looked over past the fence and saw Zecora approaching.
"Oh mah stars," she whispered to herself. "Hey, Zecora! Zecora!", she shouted as she ran over to the fence."Goodness, girl, I ain't never seen you outside yer forest unless yer vistin' Ponyville! Where y'all off to?"
Zecora bowed her head in greeting.
"Greetings, Applejack, I see you are well.
I decided to leave and travel 'just a spell.'
My destination unknown, I don't really care,
I have left Evertree forest to see what's out there."
"Hey! Did someone say Zecora?!" A yellow and red blur shot towards the two. "Hey Zecora! You 'member me? It's Apple Bloom! I metcha that time when my big sis became my little sis, 'member that?" she laughed.
"Of course I remember; you're the first friend I had.
You didn't fear me like others, and for that I was glad."
As the conversation between the three friends continued, a huge, red-furred stallion with green eyes and a permanently bored expression on his face turned towards the fence. He was curious as to who his sisters were talking to. The red stallion's eyes locked on the zebra and they shot open. The sprig of wheat he was chewing fell from his mouth.
Zecora looked back at him and raised an eyebrow slightly. Zecora said her farewell to the two fillies and Apple Bloom streaked off back to the house.
Applejack turned and headed back towards the orchard. She noticed Macintosh staring at the zebra as Zecora continued onwards. His eyes were still wide open. Applejack shook her head. "Macintosh, are you thinkin' what I think yer thinkin''?"
Macintosh gave his sister a slightly embarrassed look, scooped up the sprig of wheat and went back to his bored expression. "Nope."
Applejack looked up at his big brother and narrowed her eyes "Macintosh... You may be able to fool me some'a the time, but not all'a the time. I may not have experience in this sorta thing myself, but our family's big enough that I've seen that look plenty of times and I know exactly what's runnin' though yer head."
Macintosh sighed. "That zebra filly, she shore is purty..."
Applejack laughed and Macintosh blushed. "Zecora? Well, I dunno 'bout yer chances if'n you decide to talk to her; this's the first time I ever seen her outside the Everfree forest, and she ain't much of the talkin' sort. Still, you wanna give it a shot, then by all means."
"Mm. Might jus' do that", he replied. "Zecora, you say her name is? Purty name, too." Macintosh though for a minute. "S'pose we better get back to work; this farm ain't gonna run itself..."
"Eeeyup," said Applejack and Macintosh smiled.
Zecora continued onward. After several hours of walking, the path became a flagstone street.She tapped the flagstones with a hoof in curiosity and continued on, her hooves clicking on the stones. The scenery changed as well, farmhouses and fields giving way to fancy houses and equally fancy metal fences.
This area didn't seem as wild as the other; the flowers seemed to have been planted in pattens instead of just growing free, and there were many of them were in clay pots by the houses. Even the bushes were different; many of them cut into particular shapes.There weren't any fields like the ones before the flagstone street; all the fields here appeared to be for show instead of to grow things in. She could hear the sound of running water but couldn't locate the source.
Hoof traffic increased; most ponies she came across were dressed in some form of fancy clothing. Many of them stared at her strange appearance. A few seemed somehow offended by her, sniffing in distaste. Some grouped together and began to mumble amongst themselves, clearly talking about the new visitor. Zecora was becoming uncomfortable. Some of the looks almost seemed to be hostile. Deciding not to push her luck any further, she turned and began her walk back to Sweet Apple Acres.
Seeing that the zebra was returning from where she came, the groups dispersed, no longer interested in her. The ponies that traveled past her seemed to take pains to ignore her.
By twilight, she had arrived back at the farm. Applejack was still working, along with her brother and she welcomed Zecora back.
"Had enough travellin' already, Zecora?" she asked. "Didja enjoy yerself?"
"At first I enjoyed it, I have to admit,
But I soon reached a point where I said 'That is it'.
At a point up the path, the ground turns to stone;
And the place became crowded, I was no longer alone.
They were rude and uncivil. Unfriendly as well;
They wanted nothing to do with me, it was easy to tell.
I became nervous of them, and decided to quit,
And return to your farm, that's the whole truth of it."
Applejack sighed sadly, "Sounds like you reached the outskirts of Manehattan. Yeah, I've been there before. Rudest buncha so-and-so's I've ever met: if they don't know you, they don't wanna know you. I'm sorry, Zecora; I should have warned you but I plumb forgot to. I done ruined your trip."
"Don't worry, my friend, I'd have returned anyway;
My plan was never to gone for more than a day.
The evening comes soon and furthermore,
I have to admit that my hooves are quite sore.
So I return to my forest, and my hut deep inside,
But I travelled beyond it, and I can say this with pride!"
"Well, I'm glad you got out for a bit; never hurts to see the world beyond your home", replied Applejack. "You say yer feeling a mite sore from yer travels? Well, shoot; why don'tcha jus' stay the night? We got plenty of room fer a visitor since most of the family's not here, an' Apple Bloom'd be happier than a clam to see ya! Dinner's 'bout ready to start anyway an' I bet yer hungry."
Zecora agreed to stay the night; her legs were getting sore from her travels, she hadn't really eaten today and it would be rude to turn down an invitation. She also felt a strange interest in Macintosh ever since they'd first seen each other; an odd sensation, almost like a cool breeze ran through her, and she wanted to explore this further.
Macintosh's ears shot straight up when he heard Zecora accept Applejack's invitation. He turned towards his sister and gave her a look as the zebra headed to the house. Applejack winked."Hey, I had ta give you an' opening, big brother; don't say I ain't lookin' out fer ya..." Macintosh sighed, smiled slightly and followed their guest to dinner.
Zecora had never eaten so much in her life; the Apple family didn't believe in small portions. When you were fed, you were fed. She didn't think it was possible to make so many things out of or that included apples. As expected, Apple Bloom was beside herself with joy upon learning Zecora was staying the night.
After the Apple family gave their evening thanks and commenced eating, Zecora noticed Macintosh was giving her furtive glances and when she looked back he blushed and tried to look innocent. Zecora smiled to herself. Suddenly, she felt another pair of eyes on her.
The oldest pony she had ever seen, with green fur and a bone-white mane tied up in a bun was giving her a steady and remarkably sharp-eyed look. She mumbled something and Apple Bloom piped up: "Granny Smith says she's glad you visited, and that yer a sweet young filly."
Zecora was slightly embarrassed by the compliment.
"Tell Granny Smith that I think she's sweet, too.
That was a nice thing to say and a nice thing to do."
"Oh, she can understand you fine," said Apple Bloom as Granny Smith beamed at Zecora, "She just tends to be a bit incuh...incohai...hard to understand to others outside the family." Zecora nodded in understanding: her own language was incomprehensible to others.
Eventually, she simply had no room left in her stomach and excused herself. Zecora stepped away from the table and went to the front door of the house to stand on the porch and enjoy the night air. Inside at the dinner table, Applejack nudged Macintosh. "Well? Go out there and introduce yerself. If you wanna get to know her, you gotta get to know her."
Macintosh excused himself as well and slowly and self-consciously headed to the front door. As he was trying to decide whether to join her or not, Zecora spoke, her eyes watching the sky steadily.
"The stars are beautiful, for me a rarely seen sight,
The trees in my forest block the view of the night."
Macintosh stepped onto the porch and stood beside Zecora; he looked up at the sky as well. After a minute or two of thought, he spoke. "Never get tired of watchin' 'em, myself; they always seem a bit different every night. Gotta say, though, they seem brighter an' prettier than usual this time. Maybe it's 'cause of who I'm watchin' 'em with."
Zecora turned her head to look at Macintosh, who was still intently stargazing. At his compliment, she felt the strange cool sensation ran through her body again, stronger than before. She was now certain that he was the cause of the sensation and that she liked this new feeling a great deal.
Macintosh was feeling something himself. He found that just standing beside Zecora seemed to make him feel content and warm inside. Despite this warmth, his skin tingled slightly. Macintosh lowered his head and looked at Zecora in turn and their eyes met.
They gazed at one another, the sky momentarily forgotten.
"Then let us watch the stars together, Macintosh," replied Zecora as she moved to stand closer beside him. Macintosh could feel his side grow warm from Zecora's body heat and their fur brushed against one another. They turned their eyes skyward again and watched in silence, their bodies lightly touching.
The next day, Zecora continued her journey back to her hut in Everfree forest. Her feelings from the last night were still confusing to her; when she and Macintosh had stood together on that porch and then looked into each other's eyes, it had been as though the stars simply hadn't mattered anymore. All that mattered was them.
Granny Smith mumbled something that Apple Bloom translated as "Y'all come back now, ya hear?" Apple Bloom herself was a bit sad, but knew she could always visit Zecora whenever she travelled to Ponyville to buy herbs.
Zecora thanked Applejack for inviting her to stay the night. She had been more tired than she'd thought and during the stay had learned some things as well. She smiled at Macintosh who smiled back and then looked down as though he was embarrassed. With a polite nod of her head, she exited Sweet Apple Acres and went down the path leading to Ponyville and her forest. Applejack turned to her big brother. "So?"
"You know exactly 'so what', Macintosh. Did you tell Zecora what you thought 'bout her?"
"Nope. Spent a good amount of time watching the stars together last night and nothing else," he said as Applejack began to snicker. "To be honest, I was so happy to be with her I flat out forgot to. I figure I gotta take matters into my own hooves."
"So whatcha got in mind, big brother?"
"I'm gonna travel to her hut in the forest an' bring her a bag of our best apples. She sees I'm willing to go through the trouble of travelling there just to see her, she'd know I was serious an' I could tell her how I felt."
"You...you sure you wanna do that, Macintosh?" asked Applejack with concern. "Everfree ain't the most friendly of places. Zecora's the only one I know who can live there safely. Might be dangerous. Probably be dangerous, an' you don't even know where her hut is."
"Eeeyup," replied Macintosh, "That's the idea, sis."
"Don't suppose I can talk you out of it?" asked Applejack hopefully.
"That's what I was afraid of."
The next morning, Macintosh loaded up a saddlebag with apples and some apple blooms on top.He brought them partly because they were pretty and partly in honor of his youngest sister, who was Zecora's first friend. Granny Smith and Apple Bloom wished him well, unaware of exactly where he was going. Applejack whispered "Be careful" under her breath.
Macintosh had told Granny Smith and Apple Bloom that he had his eye set on a filly and wanted to make her acquaintance, but neglected to mention that it was Zecora. He felt a bit of shame at this. He didn't like lying, especially to family, but knew they'd worry if they had known he was going to the Everfree forest. With a stretch of his legs, he said goodbye to the three of them and headed out.
After about a solid hour of walking, Macintosh reached the point where the path split and led to Ponyville and the Everfree Forest. He turned towards Everfree and continued onwards. Fifteen minutes later, he reached the outskirts of the forest.
The scenery became noticeably darker and more dreary; the shadows seemed to suck the color out of everything. Macintosh had to admit the place was intimidating, but he sure wasn't about to quit now. Steeling himself, he entered Everfree forest.
The brightness immediately dimmed by almost half and the air became humid and cooler. Macintosh heard the sounds of strange birds and forest creatures as he looked around to get his bearings. Even the trees were gloomy. Most of them were tall and skeletal-looking, with black glistening bark. Many of them were covered in moss and some almost appeared to have faces.
Vines hung from many of them and small creatures could sometimes be seen leaping from branch to branch between trees. The forest floor was covered in wet leaves and there was a slight smell of rotting vegetation. Large bushes shook when there was a breeze, making an ominous creaking sound.
He saw what appeared to be a path through the forest and followed it. Eventually, it passed through a small outcropping of bright blue-leafed plants. He walked through the plants and continued further into the forest. His legs tingled strangely for a moment, but he paid it no mind.
A short time later, it felt as though his saddlebags and harness collar were becoming heavier. He put this down to all the walking he had done and the atmosphere of the forest; even he could eventually tire out, but the weight of his his harness seemed to grow and grow.
Half an hour later, his harness felt like it weighed a ton and he could barely move. Macintosh closed his eyes and lowered his head to catch his breath. His harness slowly slid from his neck and hit the ground with a thud.
Macintosh's eyes shot open. He looked down at the harness and noticed his foreleg was almost stick thin. The other was the same. His eyes widened with shock. He stumbled through the forest until he found a pool of water and looked into it. Now he was afraid.
He was a colt again.
Macintosh felt himself go cold. As he walked to the pool to look at himself, the saddlebags, now much looser on his body due to his being smaller and thinner, slipped off as well. Now I gotta find Zecora, he thought. I dunno what's happened, but it was when I came into the forest. She probably knows what's goin' on and hopefully how to change me back. If I ever want to be myself again, I gotta find her no matter what!
Then he heard the growl.
Macintosh rolled his eyes. Of course. It never rains but it pours. He ran as fast as his unsteady legs would carry him and hid behind a bush. He wasn't used to hiding from trouble, but he also wasn't used to being half his age; whatever that growl had come from would probably make short work of him, especially in the state he was in.
While he hid, he heard a tearing sound and wet chewing. Well, there go the apples, he thought sadly. There was a thudding sound as whatever it was loped away. After a minute, Macintosh emerged. Just as he'd feared, the saddlebag had been torn apart and all of the apples were gone. All that remained were some of the apple blossoms.
Macintosh considered collecting them, but he had nowhere to put them. Besides, right now he needed to see Zecora for something a bit more important first.That sort of thing could wait until after. As he went deeper into the forest, a pair of eyes shone from a bush and vanished.
Macintosh kept as close to the trees as possible; whatever it was that ate his saddlebag sounded big and mean, and he wanted to stay as hidden as possible. Fortunately, his legs seemed to be getting stronger; it wasn't so hard to move around any more. At least now he'd be able to go through the forest on legs he didn't have to worry would collapse beneath him. Though while his legs had strengthened, he felt that the rest of him seemed to grow a bit heavier in response.
As Macintosh carefully moved his way though the forest, it seemed to him that every plant in this forest had sharp thorns and all the insects were biters or blood-drinkers. He began to itch badly, and all over. As he rubbed against a tree, he yawned.
The eyes in the bush followed his progress; there was a light growl and the sound of smacking lips.
Macintosh blinked his eyes a few times and stretched. His breathing became slightly heavier and he began to sweat a bit. He gave his head a shake and that seemed to clear thing up for him, though he still sweated. It was a cold sweat and made the forest air feel cooler than it already was..
He kept going forward. Was the smell of smoke getting stronger? He decided to be optimistic under the circumstances, he figured the smell was stronger. The cacophony of bird cries and insects buzzes continued and then there was a rustling sound and the sounds suddenly cut off like a candle had been blown out.
Oh horse-apples... he thought, looking behind him.
It was a wolf.
It looked hungry.
It looked hungry for him.
Macintosh bolted away and the wolf followed with a howl. As he ran, he careened off of a tree.
The impact loosened a large branch from high up which fell on the wolf with an impressive thud. The wolf, frightened and injured by the impact, yelped as it broke of its chase and retreated into the bush. Macintosh kept running until he realized the wolf was no longer chasing him. He stopped to catch his breath, which took longer than he expected. He was starting to really hate this forest.
Macintosh was becoming steadily more tired after his escape from the wolf, but at this point he refused to give up. Applejack wasn't the only one with a streak of stubbornness. He'd already gone this far and he'd get to Zecora's hut if it killed him. He refused to dwell on the possibility that it just might.
Unknown to him, the wolf had regained its courage and had returned. It picked up Macintosh's scent and began to track him again.
The smell of smoke had become a lot stronger than before the wolf had come across him, thought Macintosh. Zecora's hut had to be around here somewhere.
The wolf skulked through the bushes. It had been scared off once by that branch the strange red creature caused to almost fall on it when the it had struck the tree. This time, though, the creature was out in the open; there were no trees around. The wolf crept closer; it hoped the strange thing tasted good.
More time passed and Macintosh's exhaustion grew and grew as he searched for the source of the smoke. Finally, when he felt as though he couldn't stay conscious much longer, he saw a dome-like structure in the distance. He stumbled towards it and shouted Zecora's name almost incoherently. After hearing her name shouted several times, she emerged, looking annoyed at the intrusion. Her eyes widened.
"Macintosh? Is that you? Oh my poor friend.
What has happened to you? My help I will lend."
The wolf moved towards the tall bush.
Macintosh smiled. It had taken all day, but he'd finally found her. He tottered towards Zecora on legs that hardly worked any more. Her eyes widened further and she stepped back. Macintosh heard the sounds of branches breaking behind him and a growl working its way up to a roar. He slumped his shoulders and sighed.
Something snapped inside Macintosh's head and he found himself filling with rage.
The wolf advanced slowly and carefully. Macintosh didn't move.
He spoke quietly: "Y'know, I have had a really bad day. While I've been here, somethin' made me into a colt again. Somethin' - an' I'm bettin' it was you - ate the gift I was bringin' to Zecora. And then you show up an' try to kill me. Twice. I've 'bout reached my limit."
Macintosh took a deep breath, "So if that's the way you want it, then COME GET SOME, YOU HAIRY-ASSED SUM'BITCH!!"
The wolf howled and charged. Macintosh, using the last of his strength, bucked it full in the face. There was a wet crunch, the wolf's teeth went flying and Macintosh's legs went numb from the impact. The wolf howled again - this time in pain - and ran for the bush. With a faint laugh, Macintosh muttered "An' don't come back..." His legs then gave out and he collapsed in a heap.
Macintosh awoke. His body felt like one huge bruise. He turned his head painfully and looked at Zecora, who smiled when she saw he was awake. He tried to get up, but he was too sore.
"Good evening, Macintosh, I don't know why you came here
But you're cured of your curse, you've no more to fear.
Poison Joak was the culprit, your age and strength it regressed,
And yet you still made your way here; I'm very impressed.
I'm glad that you reached me, your chances were poor,
Soon you'd have worn out completely; you'd have been at death's door.
You were completely exhausted, slept a day, almost two,
I used that time to mix up an antidote for you.
You'll be sore for a while, in my hut you should stay,
The pain should be gone in less than a day."
"Ze...Zecora, I..." mumbled Macintosh and yawned hugely.
"No need to speak, Macintosh, I can see you still need some rest,
Just lie here a bit more, I think that's for the best."
"But what about my family, Zecora? They gotta be worried stiff about me!"
"It's true they were worried, but I told Applejack,
You were at my hut resting and that you'd soon be back.
I had to leave you alone and go to your farm,
But you were never in danger and could come to no harm.
Magic surrounds my hut and cause creatures here fear,
So it was quite safe to leave you resting here.
I told Applejack quickly, and my leave I did take,
Then I rushed back to my hut but you still weren't awake."
"That's good. As long as they know..." and he was asleep again.
An hour or two later, the smell of cooking vegetables woke him. Zecora was spooning some stew into a wooden bowl. She brought it over to him and helped him to eat it. When Macintosh had finished eating, he felt much better and asked Zecora to help him up. Macintosh rolled over and, with some assistance from her, unsteadily got onto his hooves.
His legs were still quite stiff, but he was able to stretch them. There was barely any pain at all. He was definitely back to normal at least physically; his legs were as thick and solid again, instead of thin and gangly as they were just a short time ago. He felt the strength returning to his muscles. He was about to speak up, when Zecora shook her head.
"First let us exit the forest, I'm sure you'd like out;
Then you can tell me what this journey was about."
Macintosh agreed without a moment's hesitation; he'd been here far more than long enough. Zecora led him down a path hidden behind deep bushes and they were shortly out of Everfree forest. He snorted; she made getting out look so easy, but then again she lived there.
"I am never going into that forest again", proclaimed Macintosh. "No offense, Zecora ma'am."
"None taken, my friend. Everfree forest is full of danger,
Especially to someone to whom it's a stranger."
He looked embarrassed. "Yeah, sorry 'bout that; seemed a good idea at the time." Zecora looked at him with a question in her eyes.
"Um...well ma'am...When we were watchin' the stars that night an' we stood together, I found myself quite taken with you, 'specially after that look we shared. Didn't say anything at the time, though, since just being with you seemed enough."
Macintosh went on, "Next day I figured that I should show ya how I felt. I was gonna come by yer hut with a gift an' confess my love t'you. But then I got shrunk an' that wolf showed up... I'm sorry for the trouble I've caused. I'll head on back home." Macintosh started back to his farm.
"Wait, Macintosh, please, I have to confess,
The blame is half mine in this whole sorry mess.
I wish I'd said then but I have something to tell,
On that night, while we star-gazed, I felt it as well.
An attraction to you, while we both watched the sky,
And this feeling, it deepened; I didn't know why.
I stood close to you then, that somehow felt right
As we two looked up and watched the sky on that night.
This feeling was new, I could give it no name
But it is clear to me now that you felt the same.
I felt it strongly as we stood 'neath the stars up above
I know now the name of this feeling; and this name is love."
Macintosh was dumbstruck."You mean we both felt the same way then?"
"And neither of us thought to make the first move?"
Zecora shook her head.
Macintosh laughed. "Don't that beat all! If either one of us had just spoken up..." He broke off and resumed laughing as Zecora moved close to him and gently nuzzled his neck. "Well, I'm jus' happy things finally worked out. Even considering how bad it was, it was worth it. Though if we're gonna to keep seeing each other..."
"...we should meet outside Everfree," finished Zecora.
They smiled at each other and Macintosh returned Zecora's nuzzle. "I gotta get back to th' farm. I'm in enough trouble as it is already, what with my lyin' an' all. Come on by tomorrow. Providin' Granny ain't gonna make me dig holes with my nose for the next month, we can decide on what to do next. An' of course the family'll be happy to see you. "
As they shared a final farewell nuzzle, Macintosh continued back to Sweet Apple Acres, humming to himself and practically cantering with pleasure. Zecora smiled at the retreating stallion and melted back into her forest which, even within its murkiest corner, now seemed full of sunshine.