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Rocks Ain't Known For Conversation

by QueenMoriarty

Chapter 1: 1 - Flag-Finding

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Big MacIntosh and Marble Pie walked down one of the rock farm's many little hoofpaths, carefully avoiding each other's gaze. To an outsider, they might have seemed perfectly at ease. But on the inside, the two of them were very nearly exploding.

Big Mac didn't have one sweet clue what he was looking for. Pinkie hadn't bothered to explain what the purpose of this activity was, and all he knew was that it had something to do with the flag-raising. Maybe they were looking for the flag? But the ground around them was so flat, and all those shiny crystals couldn't possibly hide something that big and colorful. Maybe a rock of some sort? But it would have to be a rock that stood out, wouldn't it? "Eeyup."

Marble did her best to hide behind her bangs without blinding herself. Her eyes were already scanning the crystals around them for the telltale scrap of paper, the 'obsidian' that would determine who got to raise the flag. She knew they weren't looking for a real rock; an obsidian was far too rare a crop on the Pie farm to risk losing it, even for the celebration of Hearth's Warming. She wondered if she should tell Big Mac what they were looking for, but when she turned to ask, he was combing the stones with his eyes. There was a fierce, passionate intelligence in those eyes, one that brought a little warmth to her cheeks. Somepony that intelligent would probably be able to find an obsidian in a biotite crop. She would be better off not distracting him. "Mhm."

Marble took a few steps away from Big Mac, and he couldn't help but smile. If she was striking out like that, she had probably already spotted whatever they were looking for. Made sense, after all, she had the home advantage. That, and she was the youngest. According to Apple family tradition, the flag-raising was hers by rights. In fact, if Big Mac by some miracle did find the thing they were looking for, he had half a mind to let her take it instead. "Eeyup."

So far, Marble wasn't having any luck. But then, she had picked a very easy starting ground. All of the near-transparent crystals would make the obsidian stand out like a sore stalagmite, and she could already tell from where she was standing that Limestone had been far more clever than that. She couldn't remember a time it had ever been in the crystals, but she always liked to start off easy. The little mare turned to say something to Big Mac, but she found herself distracted yet again.

There was something about his build, the way his muscles were shaped. Blocky, but not sharp. He reminded her of a large boulder, the sort that would take hundreds of years to erode under anything but the mightiest of raging oceans. She half-expected the ground to shake every time his hooves met the earth, but instead it seemed to shiver beneath him and try to move closer. Marble's inquisitive eyes settled on his flank, and the bright green half-apple standing out amidst his brilliant red form. Of course he would be a farmer; she knew this earth, and it wouldn't react like this for any old earth pony. The soil was crying out for trees, and it could sense a treeminder almost as well as a tree would. At least, so she imagined. Marble's eyes began to roam over the stallion's mighty form, but she wrenched her head away before her gaze had a chance to linger too long. Such a thing would be terribly improper. Still, she couldn't help but let out an appreciative "mhm" at what she had allowed herself to see.

Big Mac rubbed his hooves against the rough earth, getting a feel for the terrain. It was a far cry from the soft, fertile farmland he was used to. His earth pony magic couldn't sense so much as a shoot of green for miles around or beneath him, only rocks. Stretching it to its limits, Mac was a little surprised to find that the rocks weren't random. There was a pattern to them, a delicate and beautiful tracery of hundreds of different kinds of stones stretching down into the earth farther than he could sense. It was like a crop, except the rotations had been set out years in advance. Even an out-of-his-depth apple farmer like Big Mac could see that the system was almost self-sufficient, requiring only the slightest of delicate touches to marshal it in the right direction, and of course a harvest to make sure the crop didn't become too congested.

The thought of a delicate touch on the rocks made Big Mac glance over his shoulder at Marble Pie. At a glance, it would seem there was nopony more suited to the word 'delicate' than the youngest Pie sister. But if there's one thing a farmer knows, it's that you don't get anywhere sticking to the surface of things. There were subtle signs that betrayed the mare's true nature to Big Mac's analytical gaze. Her deceptive fragility was an affectation, a thin veneer beneath which a strong and willful mare rested. The one eye that he could see seemed almost magnetized to the ground, lingering on the rocks but darting about like a nervous pigeon when forced to look anywhere else. There were hints of a highly specialized confidence, such a profound comfort in one field that it might cause one to withdraw from all others. It was a feeling that Big Mac echoed, though he suspected he might hide it better than she did.

Finally, he examined her flank, and the curious cutie mark she bore there. Three orbs, most likely the marbles for which she was named. Then again, she didn't seem like the sort to play games, more the kind of pony who absorbed herself in her work whenever she could. Big Mac couldn't think of any perfectly spherical stones, though, and they certainly didn't look like bowling balls. Perhaps, he thought, they might be planets. Planets were technically just really big rocks, right? The image of a planet-wide rock farm sprang into his mind, and Big Mac smiled at the thought. Marble would probably like something like that. He thought of how much he would like a planet-wide apple farm, and let out a long and very pleased-sounding "eeeeeeeeyup".

Marble fought down the urge to sigh in frustration. They were only a few hooves away from each other, after all, and he would probably hear it. Right that moment, she was trying to think of the best way to strike up a conversation. It would be pointless to talk about the obsidian; they both clearly understood what they were meant to be doing, and such talk would almost definitely devolve into the one-word exchanges they were already embroiled in. She stole another glance at Big Mac, quickly averting her gaze as she met his eyes for a brief moment. She thought of his cutie mark. She knew how passionate ponies could get about their special talents. If she could find some common ground for them to leap off from, it would be easy to get him talking.

Big Mac was having much the same dilemma. He could tell from the way Marble was methodically picking her way through the crystals that she knew exactly what she was doing, and the last thing he wanted was to look like an idiot, so asking questions about this flag-finding business was right out. He had played marbles a little as a colt, everypony did, but he was hardly enough of an expert to ask an interesting question about them. And that was the best-case scenario; he knew absolutely nothing about other planets, other than the basic idea that they were out there.

Marble was racking her brain for something, anything that she knew about apples. She could vaguely remember about a year ago, during one of Pinkie's regular visits back home, that her twin sister had brought some apples with her. She had also brought sparkly dresses and books and weathered blue ribbons, but Marble couldn't care one iota about them right now. She focused on the memory of the apples.

To a mare who had been eating a steady diet of rocks for most of her life, the apples had been like nothing. They had seemed to fold and melt in her mouth, like a particularly soft sandstone. Not to say they hadn't tasted good; on the contrary, what they lacked in toughness they more than made up for in flavor. And the juice, oh, her kingdom for the juice! She remembered it as though it were yesterday, how she had reveled in every bite for the juice that would dribble down her throat. It had been like ambrosia, or better yet, one of those fancy imported gemstones they sometimes got.

She was just about to talk to Big Mac about how good those apples had been, when she remembered one potentially very crucial detail. Those apples had been red. The apple on his flank was green. For all she knew, he might hate red apples. Or even worse, he might want to know what sort of apples they had been! If apples were even the slightest bit like rocks, then there were probably a million different types of apple for every color, and she knew there was nothing worse than hearing the uneducated prattle on as though they knew more than two bits' worth of information about something. She had better just stay silent. "Mhm."

Big Mac wasn't faring much better. In fact, all things considered, he was doing worse. Before today, he hadn't given so much as a bushel about rocks. They made planting new trees a chore and a half, could seriously stunt the growth of any tree younger than him, and at their very best looked very nice while strangled in the roots of the mightiest trees in the orchard. Before today, he wouldn't have been able to say a good thing about rocks if he tried. Now, he was racking his brain to think of something, anything, that might start a conversation.

He started to get distracted, wondering what her voice would sound like if she wasn't just giving vague mumbles. He would bet the farm that it sounded lovely, like the summer breeze wafting its way through the west orchard, if smells were sounds. Maybe she sang, like Fluttershy. No, probably even better than Fluttershy. He seemed to remember reading something about vibrations in the earth, so it made sense that a rock farmer would have an excellent talent for singing. Not a special talent, of course, but probably better than most.

Marble had a little more to work with, imagining what Big Mac would sound like. The few teasing notes of that strong baritone in his "eeyup" were like blocks of granite to her ears, and the thought of that voice crooning some heartfelt ballad about the passage of time and the erosion of stone was enough to send shivers down Marble's spine. Maybe if she started humming a tune, she could coax him into letting loose...

Maybe if he started on one of his Ponytones numbers, she might take him up on the challenge...

But then, she didn't know that many songs that weren't Maud's, and she had no idea if she knew any tunes he would recognize right off the cuff...

Then again, he had been told he was one of the best acoustic performers west of Canterlot. His skill might be too intimidating for her...

And what if her humming proved too captivating? He might not join in at all, and then the whole thing...

His entire elaborate gesture would be...

Ruined.

The two of them arrived at the same depressing conclusion almost simultaneously, though of course neither of them knew it. They did their very best to hide it, too, though an astute observer might have noticed they met each other's gaze less and less as the flag-finding mission wore on.

Next Chapter: 2 - Rock-Rolling Estimated time remaining: 34 Minutes
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