“Do you have everything packed?”
“You remembered your toothbrush?”
“And Mr. Manny?”
“... Yes, Mama.”
“That’s good,” Cocoa said. She wrapped her daughter in a tight hug, a tricky job around her swollen stomach.
Tack’s shoe shone in the early light. She, Caramel, Cocoa, Jute and Powder all stood at the edge of the village. Jute walked foreword, and offered his hoof to Caramel, who shook it graciously.
“Take care of my daughter, alright boy?” He said sternly. Caramel smiled back at him.
“Don’t worry, Jute. I’ll make sure we make it back to Ponyville safely.”
“Alright. I’ll hold you to that,” the white stallion replied. He was trying hard not to show it, but he was clearly having a hard time.
“You know,” Caramel said, “Nopony is saying she has to leave right now. I can come back in a few years.”
“No, no,” Jute shook his head, “If she waits until she grows up, she’ll just have a harder time adjusting. It’s better you take her with you now, just... you know, come back and visit.”
“Every weekend,” Caramel promised, “Just like we said.” Jute nodded, and turned to his daughter to say his last goodbyes. Caramel stepped back, giving them their privacy, and joined Powder. The two watched silently, for a while.
“So... sure was something, huh.” Caramel said.
“Yeah,” Powder agreed, “Something.”
“Listen, Powder. I’m sorry about everything.”
“What are you talking about?” She asked him, “You did a good thing, Caramel. It’s good that you came here.”
“Yeah, but... It’s obvious that you don’t want to be here. I’m sorry that I had to come by and throw that in your face.” Powder looked at him, and sighed.
“It’s alright,” she said, “Yeah, I guess I’m still stuck here. But I helped somepony get out, right? It’s like patchwork.” Caramel blinked.
“What?” He asked.
“Life,” Powder told him, “It’s like patchwork. Tiny moments, barely connected. If we look at them on their own, they aren’t worth anything. Tiny, fleeting moments. We have to look at them together. Then, no matter how bad the individual pieces are, somehow... somehow, in the end, it’s alright.”
“... Wow,” Caramel said. A slow smile came across his face. So that was it. Those words, from so long ago. That was what they meant.
They were right, he thought. His entire life, moment to moment? That was garbage. One long string of screw-ups. But all those screw-ups lead him here. They made him grow, and they helped him do something amazing. Mistake by mistake, step by step, he had finally done something right. All because he had done something wrong. He felt a small, familiar tingle on his flank, and he looked down. What he saw there wasn’t his candied apples staring back at him, but three blue horseshoes.
“Wha...?” He asked, completely baffled.
“Adult ponies have been documented to change their cutie marks in rare circumstances,” Powder commented, smiling faintly “Always in the event of a traumatic experience... or a life-changing epiphany.” The two looked up, and watched the sunrise. It was magnificent.
“I’m gonna miss you, Caramel,” Powder said, “Just... come back and visit, every now and then, okay?” She said. Caramel grinned at her.
“Every weekend,” he said, “Just like I promised. Powder smiled back at him, and Tack bounded up to the pair.”
“Ready to go, Caramel?” She asked.
“You bet,” he said happily. Powder handed him a map.
“I found this,” she said, “It’s old, but so’s the road, so it should work. The cliff path comes down about a half-days walk from here, you can get back from there.”
“Thanks,” Caramel said, taking the map.
“Try not to fall off it this time,” she added, “I don’t want to have to fix you up twice. And take care of your shoulder, while you’re at it. The ribs are doing fine, but you tore it again with that stunt on the tree.”
“Got it,” Caramel grinned. Jute shook his hoof, and Cocoa embraced him fondly. It all felt surreal, in a way. It felt almost the same as when Caramel had first left Ponyville, but... different. It felt like a lifetime ago. In a way, it probably was. Caramel had fallen off that road, and a new pony got back up, with a new mark to prove it. A better pony. Caramel smiled. With Tack bounding along beside him, he left the little village of Brumby. Just another moment. Just another patch.