• Published 29th Jan 2017
  • 1,992 Views, 81 Comments

Roots - Storm butt

Caramel and Big Macintosh have been dating for a little over two years now, and with the Apple Family Reunion approaching Big Macintosh struggles to decide if he's ready to invite Caramel and take their relationship to the next level.

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Chapter Four: Unintentional Snapping

Big Macintosh wasn’t the kind of pony to feel nervous very often. If the problem was centered around himself, it was easy to keep his emotions under control and think rationally. However, he knew more than anypony that if anybody could make him feel like he was right now it would have to be Caramel.

Early on in their relationship Big Macintosh could tell Caramel was constantly nervous in areas Big Mac didn’t even think about. He used to constantly check his mane or tense up when Mac hugged him or worst of all panicked when Mac would ask what he would want to do on their dates. Mac had experience in ways that Caramel simply didn’t back then, but right now was unfamiliar territory for him. Somewhere in the back of his mind he had thought Caramel to be silly for being so worried, even if he had more than mellowed out as time went on. He had never mocked his boyfriend for these things, but the seed had always been there. Right about now Big Macintosh thought about a saying he once heard about how karma always catches up, and he thought the tightness in his chest at this moment might have something to do about it.

The life of Ponyville seemed to pass by in a blur from Big Macintosh’s location. He was in the middle of town, sure, but he almost felt removed from the ponies all seeming to scurry from one location to the next. He himself was sitting on a bench at the back of the square near the fountain shaped like Princess Celestia. He leaned his head back and sighed.

This wasn’t just any bench. Mac chose this bench specifically because asking a pony to come with him to a family reunion seemed like a big deal. At least, it was something he had never done with the other ponies he had dated in the past. He was never one for romance or big gestures, but something like this seemed fitting. It was the bench which he and Caramel had first kissed. He could still remember that night vividly if he closed his eyes. The air was chilled but Caramel’s face had looked so warm. His lips had been warm, too, albeit slightly chapped. It was clear at the time that Caramel had never kissed another pony in his life by the way he both pushed and pulled and tensed and loosened all in the span of a few moments. Mac didn’t mind then, in fact it was nice that Caramel had been so lively throughout it. It made the memory easier to conjure.

Some ponies asked, Applejack’s friends mostly, just when Mac knew that Caramel was right for him. They always seemed puzzled when he said it was right at that kiss, but it was true. Not once before that had it crossed Big Macintosh’s mind that he might think of Caramel in that way, but in the moment it had felt right. Later still, several months in fact, Caramel had admitted he had a crush on Big Mac from almost the moment they met. Even Rarity once said when visiting Applejack that from the way they acted they clearly were never going to be just friends. Mac didn’t know if that was true, but he trusted that unicorn of all of AJ’s friends to know about romance.

But that was then and this was now. Mac opened his eyes and the sun was clearly lowered past midday. Caramel was late.

Don’t panic, he wanted to tell himself. But of course, this thought never crossed his mind unless he was already past the point of worry. He had this entire day freed up and planned for this one talk. Asking Caramel to not just come with him but also be his date to the Apple Family Reunion was something that had been weighing on him since he had first thought of it. Not once did he doubt it was the right thing to do, but it had crossed his mind that Caramel might react poorly. Worse, Caramel might not think they were at the point of their relationship where Big Mac was almost positive they were. The two of them practically lived with each other part time this past year.

A minute past one was when Mac started to grow antsy. He knew it was exactly a minute past one because Golden Harvest, the local carrot seller, was starting to pack up her market stand for the day. Big Mac had every single pony’s schedule stored in his brain and he could spout it off without hesitation if asked. It wasn’t something he actively tried to learn, but spending your entire life doing the same work tended to make the little things stick.

Mac hunched forward and put his front hooves against his face. Mac was a worrier. It was practically in his job description as a big brother and caretaker of his family. Whenever something was off he had a horrible feeling in his gut that he couldn’t shake until proven wrong. Be it Apple Bloom coming home late from School or Applejack off doing her Element of Harmony work with her friends he always worried about his loved ones wellbeing. Caramel was no exception. He wondered if he had gotten sick or hurt or just forgot about their date. Now he was starting to let irrational thoughts come into his mind so he shook his head hard enough to make his bangs bat around.

Ponies were starting to look at him funny. He wondered if he must look strange sitting here for over an hour alone. Most locals knew he was with Caramel, and those who didn’t at least knew it was rare for him to go into town on personal matters alone. He wondered what they must be thinking.

Mac finally stood up, his hooves sinking into the wet ground. He didn’t know how much longer he could just sit here not moving without explanation. He thought about wandering around, biding time, but he knew that all of these would just be putting off the inevitable of walking over to Caramel’s himself. If he was sick or hurt he at least wanted to know, and if he had simply forgotten Mac might be annoyed but at least they could laugh about it. Still, this isn’t the way Mac wanted the day to go.

Big Macintosh wasn’t normally a fast walker, but right now he was practically jogging out of the center of town and back to the smaller, less busy streets where Caramel lived. His boyfriend was a fifteen-minute walk away, meaning that Mac had given him more than enough time to get there even if he was running late. Normally Mac liked to walk slow, and rarely was antsy to get places very fast. Today was an exception.

Mac swallowed a lump in his throat that he didn’t even know he had been holding when he saw Caramel’s house at the far end of a line of others. Being the middle of the day nobody was in the street. Caramel’s room had a window that faced out towards the right of the house, and Mac looked to see the curtains were shut. This made his belly twist. The curtains in front of the house were open, but when Mac trotted down the front and up to the door he saw no signs of life on the inside. All the lights inside were off, but the door to Caramel’s room which was right at the start of the hallway near in perfect alignment with the door was closed.

Big Macintosh knocked and then rang the doorbell. He waited ten seconds, then repeated. His heart was starting to beat as fast as the impatient swish of his short tail whipped back and forth. He wanted another thirty seconds this time, knocked again, and still no answer. He listened hard, stopped breathing entirely, for some voice saying to hold on a second. Nothing came.

Big Mac touched the doorknob and gently jiggled it. It was locked. He looked over, his eye catching the bright blue of a small bird statue sitting in a pile of rocks just beside the front entrance. A long time ago Caramel had shown him they kept a spare key underneath it, and that if they had plans to meet up but Caramel wasn’t home he could go ahead and let himself in. Mac wasn’t sure if right now was really the sort of time that called for that. He might be overstepping his bounds, or worse if Caramel was home and just didn’t want to see him…

Big Mac didn’t want to think about the latter. Thinking about it meant he also had to think about reasons why Caramel didn’t want to see him.

Big Macintosh hoped Caramel wouldn’t be mad. He made the choice to snatch the spare key from under the statue and jam it into the door which he opened slowly. It creaked and seemed to echo throughout the darkened house. Sunlight streamed into the home, but there were only two windows at the front whose light only went so far into the living room. Mac stepped inside.

“Sugarcube?” He called out.

Mac didn’t hear a reply. He went inside further and shut the door behind him. He had a sensation tingling on the back of his neck that reminded him when he did something very bad as a child and knew his parents were going to snap at him. This was a feeling he hadn’t had in a long time, and to feel it again here of all places made his chest feel icy.

Mac wandered into the familiar but barren home. Normally when he was here it seemed brighter. In the winter a fire was usually brewing just to his left and Caramel more often than not was drinking hot cocoa, his favorite drink during the cold season. Mac usually felt warm here when him and Caramel were alone together cozying up side by side on the couch and just enjoying the company and touch of each other. Right now it felt wrong just to be in here uninvited, but still he approached Caramel’s door.

“Caramel?” Mac asked, using Caramel’s real name instead of his nickname. He only did that when he was extra cautious about his words but also wanted Caramel to realize what he was saying was important. He touched the door, and to his surprise it pushed open. It hadn’t been clicked shut.

The room was dark, almost like night. The only signs of light before Mac cracked open the door were the slivers sneaking in from behind the drawn curtains. On the bed, Mac saw a lump piled under thick blankets slowly moving up and down. He pushed open the door more.


The lump under the blankets jerked and startled Mac, something not many ponies were able to do. It was then that Mac suddenly realized that Caramel had been sleeping, and he had just woken him up. Relief was so tempting to wash over his body. It would be easy to pass this off as a mistake and joke about it. Except for the fact that it was the afternoon and Caramel didn’t look like he had gotten out of bed at all.

“Ah!” Caramel made a startled noise when he shot up from the bed. The whole thing seemed to creak. He looked around, panicked and frantic at first before his eyes settled on the workhorse in the doorway to his room. “M-Mac! How’d you get in?”

“I got worried,” Big Macintosh said. He wanted to ask ‘are you okay’ but the whole thing was taking too long to process in his mind. He was confused, not sure if he should be upset at Caramel yet or not.

“We… you…” Caramel planted a hoof on his face and looked around.

Big Mac walked in uninvited and gave a sudden pull to the curtains. Caramel raised his hooves and opened his mouth, the word wait forming on his lips before those hooves turned into shields as Mac tugged and sunlight flooded the room. Caramel whined, and Mac realized he smelled something foul in the air. He didn’t recognize it at first, but when he got closer to Caramel he realized that his boyfriend had more than likely been drinking. He was hungover.

Big Macintosh caught a glimpse of his boyfriend in the light. He didn’t look… well. He had dark circles under his eyes, and they made Mac question just how long he had been asleep. His mane was ragged and greasy looking, signifying that he must not have showered since Mac saw him last. What worried Mac the most though were the fact that Caramel’s eyes were bloodshot in a regrettably familiar look. He had been crying.

“Date…” Caramel mumbled under his breath. Mac was just about to open his mouth and answer when Caramel’s eyes widened and he hit hooves to either side of his face. “O-Oh gosh we had a date!”

Caramel got out of bed frantically, nearly tripping because his hooves were so tangled in his bedsheets, and behind him left an impression in the mattress so deep that Mac had to wonder just how long he had been lying in bed.

“I-I forgot, I just overslept and I…” Caramel was rambling, and fast. Mac saw that his legs were shaking when he tried to walk and he ended up falling back onto his hind. Instantly a hoof shot to his forehead and he winced like a crippling headache suddenly had taken him over. “Ow…”

“Sugar!” Big Mac snapped. He crouched down and put a hoof on Caramel’s shoulders. He felt dirty and grimy, and smelled worse. Mac didn’t know if he had ever seen Caramel this bad other than when he was sick. “Calm down. What’s wrong?”

“N-Nothing!” Caramel stuttered like he had before and shook his head, but even that alone seemed to make him whine as he touched his other hoof to his forehead. “I’m fine, it’s okay, I’m just…”

“Sugar,” Mac repeated. He touched Caramel’s chin and tried to pull his head toward him. He moved in his lips to kiss his lover but Caramel turned away. Mac couldn’t remember a time where Caramel had ever turned away so coolly from a kiss. It hurt, but that feeling felt minor on top of everything else running through the workhorse’s mind.

“I’m fine,” Caramel repeated as he shook off Mac’s touch and stood up. He was still wobbly, but at least he was on his hooves. Mac was ready to catch him in case he lost balance again, but thankfully he simply went back to the bed and sat down at the edge of it. “I just couldn’t sleep. I must have slept in. I’m sorry.”

That was a lie. Well, maybe not. It certainly wasn’t the whole truth however. Caramel’s eyes had such dark rings under that he looked ten years older. He wouldn’t look Mac in the eye and wrapped his forelegs around himself in a hug.

“You’re drinking,” Big Macintosh said.

It wasn’t a question, but a fact. Mac hadn’t realized it until right this second what that foul smell had been, but hearing Caramel talk and smelling his breath he spoke out loud.

“Yeah,” Caramel mumbled. Mac’s belly sunk, not sure how to feel that he wasn’t even denying it. This wasn’t like Caramel at all.

“Sugar, what’s wrong?” Mac asked as he drew forward.

“Nothing’s wrong,” Caramel said. He sounded annoyed. “I just slept in is all. How did you even get in here? Sage locked up!”

“I…” Mac bit his lip. He felt guilty. “I remembered where you showed me the extra key was.”

How did this suddenly turn around to him being the one questioned? Caramel groaned and shook his head and Mac made a shameful step back. Caramel was now running hooves through his greasy mane and mumbling something under his breath about being tired. He made a noise, and if Mac trusted his ears enough it sounded like a sniffle.

“Sugar, what’s going on?” Big Macintosh insisted. “You don’t drink. Not like this, at least.”

“It wasn’t that much,” Caramel talked like he was being scolded by a parent. “I’m not underage or anything. We had some and I wanted it.”

This didn’t sound like his Caramel at all. Caramel was sweet and shy and giggly and nothing like the pony in front of him who in less than twenty four hours had made a complete one eighty in personality. He kept hugging himself.

“Are you hurt?” Mac asked when he stepped forward. “Nopony hurt you, did they?”

“No!” Caramel snapped when he shot his head up.

“I just…”

It had happened a few times before. Not everypony in Ponyville liked two stallions together. It had never turned physical, at least to Mac’s knowledge, but once or twice Caramel had told stories about how he had been bullied by some stallion twice his age for having a known boyfriend.

“Sugar, talk to me,” Mac said as he hunched down. “I ain’t mad, okay? I’m just worried. You look bad…”

Caramel was silent for a few moments. Mac realized very quickly he had said something bad when his face looked like it was scrunching up and ready to cry. He covered his eyes with one hoof and hunched slightly. Mac began to panic and went forward, putting both hooves on Caramel’s shoulders.

“W-Wait, Sugar, I didn’t mean it like that. You know I love you, I just… Did I screw up?”

“Shut up,” Caramel mumbled.

“Huh?” Mac asked. That was never something Caramel had said so seriously to him before.

“You wouldn’t get it,” Caramel shook his head and removed his hoof. His eyes looked wet, and it was obvious he was near crying again. “Just go away, I don’t want… I don’t want you to see me like this.”

Not once had Caramel ever told Big Mac to go away.

“Sugar, c’mon, let’s talk,” Mac said.

“I said you wouldn’t get it!” Caramel shouted when he hit Mac’s hooves away and pushed himself off the bed. He had one hoof glued to his forehead and pushing so hard Mac was scared he might be hurting himself. “I-I didn’t even say you could come in! Just please go away!”

Caramel was yelling now, but something in that please made Mac realize he was begging.

“I’m just tryin’ to help you!” Mac snapped back, louder than he realized. Now he was feeling that same energy too. Whatever Caramel was giving off seemed to soak into Mac and he could feel himself getting angry. Here he was worried sick about Caramel, about the pony he loved more than anything, and he was being yelled at and called nosy. “I waited an hour for you and you didn’t show up! You’re just here sleeping!”

“I said I was sorry!” Caramel shouted. He was on the verge of sobbing now.

The fire was extinguished fast in Mac’s chest. He didn’t mean what he said. Sure, he was annoyed about Caramel not showing up, but he knew that there was something here worse than Caramel being late. Still, he had been angry if even just for a second and said the wrong thing. Maybe they both felt the tension in the air snap the second Caramel’s voice began to choke and he showed a weakness he clearly didn’t want to be seen.

Caramel sunk back onto the bed and curled up. He wrapped his tail around himself and buried his face into his hooves.

“Go away,” Caramel was quiet now. He sounded like he was whimpering. Mac stood there dumbfounded for a second just looking at his lover’s shoulders tremble slightly. He opened his mouth to talk maybe three or four times in the next minute, but each time nothing came out but air.

When Big Macintosh turned to walk away his head was screaming at him. It was asking him what he was doing and why he wasn’t pushing more. It was asking him why he was giving up and walking away from the pony he loved. These voices didn’t quiet until he was outside and the door was shut behind him.

Mac stopped there, though. He sat down at the step in front of the door and mimicked what he had last seen Caramel doing. He buried his face into his hooves, except he didn’t cry. His eyes stung and his chest hurt but he didn’t cry. All he could hear over and over in his head was that he had made Caramel cry. They had never fought like that before, not where they had been reduced to yelling. Whenever they argued it was brief and lasted no more than a few minutes or days at the worst, but it never escalated past annoyance.

“Big Mac?”

Big Macintosh raised his head in a snap. For half a second he thought he saw Caramel, but then he saw the horn on top of the stallion’s head and realized it wasn’t the one he left inside.

Standing at the edge of the path leading up to the door Sage stood there. His own eyes were dark much like Caramel’s own, but he seemed much more put together. Still, just enough was off to make Big Macintosh question the situation all over again.

“Caramel is…” Mac said, trailing off because he had no idea how to put it. He had no idea how to explain the train wreck of events that had just happened. Sage had to know better than he did.

“What’s going on?” Big Mac questioned, pleading almost as he stood up.

“I…” Sage stopped, clearly thinking over what he was about to saw as he approached slowly. He looked down when he came forward.

“Can we talk?” Sage asked.

The place was pink. Sugar Cube Corner was always pink, of course, but right now it seemed obnoxiously pink and bright, and worst of all happy. When Sage asked to talk, Big Macintosh had pictured someplace private or alone. Not someplace where the smell in the air made his mouth water and the black coffee he had in front of him tasted like it was laced with sugar just by being here. It didn’t fit the mood, to be blunt. Mac was still struggling to put his mind at ease, and to explain to Sage what had happened.

“Caramel likes it here,” Sage said after Mac had finished. It was off topic and made Mac annoyed. He had been stirring his coffee for a good three minutes now. It was beyond long enough for the cream to mix properly and now each time the metal clanked against the mug Mac’s ear twitched. “He doesn’t come here often though since he’s worried about getting chubbier than he already is.”

Big Macintosh was indifferent to Caramel’s brother. The doctor was somepony who he didn’t hate, but he also couldn’t say he liked him. If it weren’t for Caramel in the picture, he doubted the two would even bother to say hello when they spotted each other in public. He may have had Caramel’s face, but the eyes didn’t fill Mac with that same sensation of warm he more often than not got from looking into Caramel’s own. Sage was colder and more calculating than Caramel, always thinking ahead of how best to talk instead of fumbling through situations that seemed awkward. Mac could recall only one time in the past where Sage had invited him out alone, and it was wasn’t the most pleasant of conversations. It was where Mac learned of Caramel’s past, and he supposed by extension Sage’s own. Caramel never knew about that, so he let his boyfriend spill the details of his mother as time went on so Mac could listen and comfort him as such. He never wanted Caramel to feel exposed or like he knew a secret he had been hiding.

“Sage,” Mac said.

“Sorry,” Sage muttered when shaking his head slowly. He seemed out of it just like Caramel had been, though instead of going through a tornado Sage looked more like he had been through an unpleasant rain.

Somewhere in the background Pinkie Pie was manning the counter and humming a tune to herself a she rung out guests and wished them a super dee duper special very happy day. When she had wished that to Mac earlier he couldn’t even bring himself to smile, however he did notice that she had given him a medium coffee mug instead of a small like he had asked for without charging more.

“Look just… Last night something happened,” Sage said. “Caramel didn’t want to blow you off. He seemed like he wanted to go. We both just kind of forgot about that… you weren’t supposed to show up.”

“What happened?” Mac pushed. “Nopony hurt him, right?”

Sage frowned. Mac’s belly twisted.

“Just… read this,” Sage grumbled. He reached into his lab coat and pulled out a paper. It was light pink, and Sage touched it like it was dirty and held it by the edges. It had a smell that overpowered the sugar in the building. Mac recognized it as perfume, and he only knew that because Applejack’s friend Rarity liked to hang around from time to time. Only this smelled more pungent and packed on, not delicate at all.

Big Macintosh read over the letter. It was short, brief, to the point and all around pleasant. It wasn’t until Mac read the last line that he realized why he was being shown this.

“His mom,” Mac mumbled out loud.

our Mom,” Sage said when he slapped his hoof on top of the letter hard enough to make Mac’s coffee tremble in the mug. “She wants money.”

Big Macintosh felt his belly twist uncomfortably at the way Sage talked about his mother. He had never heard anypony talk about it with such poisonous and vile hatred like they were saying a dirty word. His face scrunched and looked angry at even allowing the thought of the mare to cross his mind. Mac bit the inside of his cheek.

“How do you know?” Mac asked.

“Because she always wants money,” Sage said when he snapped back the letter and stuffed it back into his coat. “I just don’t know how the hell she found out where we lived. She hasn’t known our address in five years. We moved too much, we…”

Sage trailed off and buried both hooves into his face. It was now that Big Macintosh was starting to see the cracks in Sage’s persona. Whatever strong face he was putting on for the public, and more importantly Caramel, it wasn’t perfect. It took him a moment to compose himself before he lowered his hooves and let his nasty glare land on his cup of coffee.

“That’s not important,” Sage mumbled with a shake of his head.

Mac stared at the letter. There were times where Caramel was shy and apologized for little reason. There were times where in the middle of the night he would tense up if suddenly awoken by a large noise and wake Mac up by hugging him just to assure he was there beside him. Somewhere in the back of his mind all this time Mac had wondered if the reason for that was the past of his boyfriend in which he had been given in bits and pieces. He didn’t talk about his mother the same way Sage did. If Sage spoke about the mare like a nasty word, Caramel spoke about her like a nightmare.

“Was she bad enough to… to make him act like that,” Mac asked.

“Are you kidding?” Sage questioned. Mac flattened his ears and instantly realized from Sage’s expression that that might have been the worst question to ask. “She yelled all the time. She used to hit us when we annoyed her until we got stronger than her. Hell, Caramel never got stronger than her and she would still do it to him when I wasn’t around.”

Sage was speaking quietly but angrily. He kept looking around to assure that nopony was eavesdropping on their conversation. He tapped his hoof five times on the table, each hit harder than the last.

“Sorry,” Mac said quickly. “I didn’t mean to make you mad.”

“Do you know what it’s like?” Sage growled. “To have everybody who knows about this ask if it was really that bad? To have them act like you’re a bad son because you ‘exaggerate’ about how awful she was to you? Hell, when she found out Caramel liked stallions she…”

Sage was getting angry. He was almost trembling. Mac stared, wishing he could take back that stupid question he had asked.

Caramel had told it to him once. When he was younger he knew he only liked stallions. Big Macintosh liked both mares and stallions, but didn’t know the latter until meeting Caramel. Caramel however hid it from everypony for years, thinking it was something he could train himself to feel differently about. He said he heard his mother talk about stallions who loved each other like they were a disease more than once. When Sage found out it was because he was crying alone to himself in their room late at night, upset because after so long he couldn’t turn back the thoughts he knew he was having. Thinking about it now made Mac sick, and even more guilty for snapping earlier.

“I worked my ass off trying to get away from her,” Sage said when he hit the table. That caught the attention of other ponies, but only for a second because he loosened. “She used to mail us all the time begging for us to come back but somehow after all those moves to different cities we shook her. I thought that… I thought she was finally gone.”

“Caramel,” Mac said, swallowing hard. “He… He’s scared of her?”

Sage was quiet. For some reason the lack of an answer scared Big Macintosh more than anything.

“He just… freaked out last night,” Sage shook his head when he finally spoke. Mac was overly aware Sage was avoiding the question. “When he finally calmed down he just went straight for the wine I had in the cupboard and I didn’t even try to stop him. I thought he was just dealing better than I was… Hell I didn’t sleep at all last night.”

Mac stared into his coffee. His legs were tense. He kept thinking about Caramel and how awful he had looked. He wished he had pressed more, and wished he hadn’t walked away.

“Why didn’t he tell me?” Mac mumbled. He wasn’t sure if it was a question Sage could even answer, even more so if he had even intended it to be for Sage or if he was just thinking out loud.

“I don’t know,” Sage shook his head. “I don’t know if I’m surprised or not… he tells you everything, doesn’t he?”

Mac couldn’t deny that.

Sage rubbed at his temple and took in a deep sigh. Mac heard the slightest hint of a shake that the unicorn managed to mask with a grunt. Whatever he had in him that was breaking it was clear now that he was regaining composure.

“He’s just scared,” Sage said. Mac saw the way he gripped his coffee mug and realized that silently Sage was saying he was as well. “She said she wanted to come here. She used to come around uninvited whenever she knew where we lived. She always asked for money even if it took her days of lurking around.”

More bitterness in his tone.

“It’s always money,” Sage grumbled.

There was history there that Big Macintosh couldn’t even begin to understand. All he knew right now, or at least thought he knew, was that Caramel was probably still lying in bed possibly crying and terrified that the mare he thought of like the boogiepony might come around any day now. He held his breath for a moment, and with every ounce of energy he had he tried to think.

“We’ll go away,” Mac said suddenly.

“Huh?” Sage asked, looking up.

“I’ll take Caramel away,” Big Macintosh said when he looked up. “Just for a little while. Few weeks, maybe. Get him out of here just to clear his head.”

“Where in Equestria would you take him?” Sage asked. He didn’t seem against the idea yet, which made Mac feel a bit more confident.

“Appleloosa,” Big Macintosh said with a nod. “I have a family reunion coming up. I could get away for a bit and say I’m helping set all that up.”

Sage raised his brow. He looked almost amused.

“Appleloosa, huh?”