• Published 29th Jan 2017
  • 1,991 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 Five: Run Away

Caramel’s pillow was wet. An hour ago, he thought there was no possible way he could have cried more than he already had. He had started to feel numb to whatever anxieties were floating around in his chest, but Mac’s visit had done nothing but bring a whole new batch of it all. He bit his lip as his shoulders gently shook.




This chant repeated over and over in his head. Each time a tear fell from his eye and soaked into the already damp pillow sheet he felt his body tighten and scream the word at him again. He was stupid for crying, stupid for going right back into bed and burying himself under the blankets, and stupid for yelling at Big Macintosh like he had. At least that’s what he told himself. Any time a sob escaped his throat it was instantly muffled by his teeth sinking into his lip. He didn’t want to make noise. He wanted to be quiet and cry alone where nopony would bother him. He didn’t want to draw attention to himself. He curled up tighter, his legs pulling up against his belly, and wished he could grow smaller.

Caramel heard a sound. His ear flicked, and he recognized it as the main door to the house opening. He didn’t know what time it was because he had lost complete track of it. He had probably been crying for about thirty minutes, only now his deepest sobs starting to sink back into him and turn into the occasional gentle whimper. He rolled onto his side and faced the wall away from his doorway.

Caramel heard hoofsteps against the tile of the kitchen floor. When they drew closer to his own room he wanted to whisper ‘pass me’ again and again. He knew it was Sage, and wanted more than anything to be left alone. The hoofsteps stopped, and then his door creaked. His wish would not be granted today.

“Cara?” His brother’s voice came. Caramel did not roll over. He didn’t want his brother to see him. He didn’t want anybody to see him, really.

“What?” Caramel asked.

It sounded as bitter as it tasted coming out of his mouth. He didn’t mean for it to sound so rough he just didn’t want it to sound so obvious that he had been crying. Somehow, he knew that only he had been crying today and Sage had held it together. That’s the difference between them, and what other foals in school used to tease them about. Caramel was a crybaby while Sage got mad. He recalled the night before and sometime late at night where the two pretended to retreat into their rooms to sleep he heard a crash. He imagined his brother punching the wall or worse throwing something at it, but hadn’t gone to check. He didn’t seem angry now, at least not as ferociously so.

“I just wanted to check up on you,” Sage said when he approached. It was a stern voice. The kind of voice he used when talking to Caramel as a doctor, not a brother. He approached, and Caramel could tell because the shadow on the wall was beginning to move. He still didn’t turn over even when he felt weight fall onto the bed beside him and a hoof touch the foreleg that Caramel hadn’t buried under the covers.

Caramel wanted to say ‘go away’ but didn’t. He couldn’t trust his voice to stay steady and not tremble.

“You okay?”

That was a stupid question, Caramel thought. How could he be okay? How could you be okay is what Caramel wanted to ask. He held his tongue still.

“C’mon, Cara,” Sage said. Now he was putting on his brother voice. “Talk to me.”

“I…” Caramel opened his mouth and closed it when his lower jaw began to tremble. He felt weak and pathetic suddenly and his eyes stung again. He turned his face into the pillow so his words muffled. “I did something stupid, Sage.”

Sage’s hoof rubbed Caramel’s shoulder tenderly. This was familiar in the most awful of ways. It was something Caramel wanted to forget and thought he had forgotten until the night before when that letter barely more than a paragraph long forced so many memories back into him. Nights where he would talk to Sage about what their mother had done or said when he was home sick from school and alone with her. Awful things he had heard her say about and to him that he believed to be true that Sage denied again and again. He felt sick now.

“I heard what happened,” Sage said. “I ran into Mac.”

Caramel’s blood ran cold. His eyes widened and instinctively he sat up. He forgot about his wet cheeks and how obvious it was that he was crying. He felt petrified.

“What?” Caramel asked. It was a dumb response but it was all Caramel could think to give.

Sage glanced away, seemingly guilty. His ears flattened slightly as he removed his glasses to slowly clean then with his white coat. Suddenly Caramel heard something that startled him, making him jump. It sounded like a click, and then a rush of water in a stream coming from down the hall.

“What was that?” Caramel asked. He already knew the answer, because it was the only one that made sense.

“Big Mac’s here,” Sage said. “I told him what happened and he wants to…”

“No!” Caramel said. He wanted to sound angry so why did it come out so scared? He put both hooves over either side of his head and shook his head. “N-No, he can’t be back, I… I just…”

“Cara,” Sage raised his hooves and tugged at Caramel’s own. He put up a fight, but eventually gave in to Sage pulling at him. He still sat there trembling and stared at the empty bundle of blankets lodged between them. If he listened in the silence he could hear Mac moving around in the other room. He couldn’t let Mac see him again, not like this. “Listen to me. Mac knows and he wants to help. I think you should listen to him.”

“Why did you drag him back here?” Caramel asked, his voice hushed in a whisper as he snatched Sage’s hoof and squeezed at it. “I just… He doesn’t want to see me he…”

Caramel was talking fast and a bit hysterically now. His chest was heaving fast and it was only the sound of big, heavy hoofsteps approaching that made him even think it was time to slow down. He hunched over and gripped a hoof over his chest when he saw his half-closed doorway begin to crack open once more.

“Shower’s all set,” Big Macintosh said. “Sugar?”

Why was Big Mac calling him that? Why did he sound normal and not angry? Why was all of this happening so soon after their fight. Caramel couldn’t force himself to look up and see the stallion he knew was there. He felt Sage’s hoof touch his own.

“Can you just get cleaned up?” Sage asked. “Then we’ll talk.”

Caramel listened. He didn’t know why he listened but he did. Maybe it was just an excuse to get away from Mac and into another room where so many eyes wouldn’t be on him, but he let Sage pull him out of bed. When he passed Mac by the frame of his bedroom he didn’t look up, but caught sight of his red legs. He struggled to think right now when he approached the steamy shower and closed the door behind him. He pressed his ear to the door and heard mumbling, but nothing he could make out.

It was a long time before Caramel went into the shower. When he did go in, it was a long time before he could convince himself to come out. He stood there for a while, then eventually sat. He didn’t grab for soap or anything, just let the steaming water hit the back of his neck and pour down his spine. His head felt thick as though just thinking was like treading through molasses. He hadn’t been hungover more than a few times in his life, but he would have to say this right now was his worst. He threw up once today, after Sage had left, but right now knowing Mac was in his home still after their fight made a similar sensation rise in his belly.

Caramel didn’t get out until he heard a knock on the door.

“You okay, Sugar?”

Mac’s voice. Suddenly Caramel was reminded of a time that felt ancient right now. A little over two years ago Mac stood right outside the same door knocking while Caramel showered. It had been right after their first time together. Caramel had been giddy, scared, curious what it meant for the two of them. He remembered hurting, but also being happy. He remembered Mac asking if he was okay because he had been in there a long time. Caramel really had just been working up the courage to see the pony he knew he loved even back then again after something so major. Back then Mac’s voice had been reassuring and warm. Now it filled him with dread.

“Fine,” Caramel responded.

He shut off the shower and stood there until his mane stopped dripping. He hadn’t used soap, but the general grime of laying around all day had washed off him. He hated to admit it but he felt a little better.

Caramel grabbed his towel and exited the room with it hanging over his head. He kept his head down when he walked down the hall into the living room and stood at the edge between the two. He glanced up, seeing Mac’s eye for the first time since he had left. He didn’t look angry… Caramel didn’t know why but he felt like he deserved angry.

“Cara,” Sage was the first to speak. He rose from his seat beside Mac on the couch. He was holding something in his hooves that he set down at the coffee table, and Caramel realized from the smell in the air he had made tea. It seemed so normal, which is what made it feel so off. “Hey, you okay?”

There was no right way to answer that question right now.

“Mmm,” Caramel responded. Sage frowned. “Did you bring Mac here just so we could make up?”

Big Macintosh’s ears flattened and Caramel winced. He didn’t want it to sound like that or come out so annoyed. He screwed up again.

“No, just… come sit down, Cara,” Sage said with a forced smile.

Caramel was led to the couch where he sat on the opposite side from Mac. It felt so unusual to sit so far away from his boyfriend, but he didn’t feel right snuggling like nothing had happened. He looked to Mac once, who was trying to smile.

“Sugar,” Mac was the first to talk just when Sage was settling down at a chair to the side close to Caramel. “Sage told me ‘bout everything. The letter, how you’ve been, all of it. I ain’t mad.”

Caramel’s body tightened. He didn’t know how to respond to that.

“Oh,” Was all he said. It felt… dumb. He lowered his own ears. Why was this so hard? He loved Big Macintosh. He shared everything with Big Macintosh. Yet right now he felt clamped shut like talking was near impossible.

“We talked,” Sage reaffirmed. “And… You’ve been handling this poorly.”

“I’m fine,” Caramel said. He knew he was lying, and he had a good idea that both Sage and Big Macintosh knew as well.

“It’s okay to be scared of her,” Sage continued.

“What the heck?” Caramel snapped. “I-I’m not scared of Mom!”

Caramel knew his voice shook. It wasn’t the most helpful proof to his claim as he stared at Sage, who looked away and bit on the inside of his cheek.

“Still,” Sage continued. By the tone of his voice he wasn’t convinced by Caramel’s statement. “You remember how she gets when she wants to see us? She comes over with barely any warning and gets all mad, then it blows over and she goes away for a while. I think that maybe… Maybe it’d be best if you just went away for a bit.”

“Huh?” Caramel asked.

“Sugar,” Big Mac’s voice came. Caramel turned to him. “Earlier today I… I was gonna ask if you wanted to come to Appleloosa with me in a few weeks. For the reunion and all. I figured we could go early. Stay with my cousin.”

Big Macintosh looked sheepish. Caramel realized fast and with a painful strike of guilt that this wasn’t how this was supposed to come out. It may have supposed to have been romantic or important, not something casually said.

“I wanted you there,” Big Macintosh added, smiling as though it might help.

“Wait,” Caramel said. He stood up from the couch and Sage followed as though he were on edge. It made Caramel want to glare at him but he resisted, staring at the floor and shaking his head. “You just want me to run away from all of this until it blows over? Are you coming?”

“I can’t,” Sage said with a shake of his head. “Caramel I have the hospital, okay? She was always harder on you. I can handle her and you…”

“I can’t?” Caramel snapped angrily as he took a step forward. His hoof echoed on the floor. “You’re saying I can’t handle it like you can?”

“You don’t need to deal with it!” Sage snapped back.

It was the first time Sage had shown any strong emotion since he got home. It took Caramel aback a bit.

“This isn’t grit and bare it until the annoying parents stop visiting, Cara,” Sage said with a shake of his head. “I don’t want her here period. We both know how bad she is! Whenever she used to come around you were a mess for days and I was too pissed at her to help you at all, okay? I don’t want that again!”

Sage sounded closer to hysteria now. He turned his head away and shut his eyes.

“I have the hospital,” Sage repeated. “The only thing that might keep you here is Mac, and he’s the one going with you. If I can’t come I trust him more than anypony to be there with you.”

Big Macintosh made a sort of noise. Nopony had to acknowledge that it might have been the most touching thing Sage had ever said about Big Macintosh. Never mean, but always neutral Sage looked to Mac and silently nodded his head.

“I…” Caramel trailed off, trying to find some argument in his head. His thoughts were quickly deteriorating and turning into mush. “I can’t just… run away from this because it’s scary.”

“Sugar,” Mac’s voice came. Not only that, but a body came close to him and embraced him. Caramel felt his eyes sting. “You ain’t running from nopony that’s worth your time?”

Caramel realized right then how badly he didn’t want to be alone right now. He realized how much he wanted Mac to hold him like this right now. His eyes stung so badly he couldn’t see out of them and he was forced to keep them shut. Mac squeezed.

“Cara,” Sage said. “Please, just… think rationally. You are not abandoning me you’re just taking a breather.”

“Will you come with me?” Big Macintosh asked. “Please, Sugar.”

Caramel bit the inside of his cheek. He knew he was going to start crying again soon, and he wasn’t sure if he could stop it.

“Okay,” He mumbled.

Caramel nibbled pitifully at his wrap. It was food bought at a train station, so it wasn’t exactly amazing. He had tried to tell Big Macintosh he wasn’t hungry, but the workhorse seemed to have a nose for telling just exactly when Caramel was lying or not. He hadn’t eaten since last night, but even so the simple task of eating felt like something that had to be forced out of him.

It was evening now. The sky wasn’t exactly dark yet, but well on its way with an amber shade hitting just where the treetops met the clouds. The waiting area of the station was outside, so a gentle breeze blew at Caramel’s mane. Not many ponies were headed anywhere this time of night, so the station was empty aside from those few waiting for transfers or waiting to greet friends and family. Caramel glanced down at his small bag of luggage sitting next to Mac’s even smaller one.

Caramel glanced to his side to see Big Mac at the ticket counter talking and exchanging bits.

Not once in their relationship did Caramel think the two of them would ever be the couple to do something like this. Going somewhere on a whim seemed almost too childish for Mac’s style. He tried to think if the two had ever even taken a trip somewhere together but couldn’t recall anything major. Mac had said he had stopped off at home before coming back to Caramel’s to grab his things and to tell his family goodbye. He said he told them he just wanted to go help with reunion preparations and thought it might be a good excuse to take Caramel along. It was easy, believable, and pretty much the truth.

Big Macintosh was walking back now. He went up to the bench with Caramel and held a reassuring smile when he handed Caramel a small ticket on golden paper with ‘One Adult to Appleloosa 2 Bed Cart’ in big black writing.

“Two beds?” Caramel asked with a raise of his brow.

“I,” Mac trailed off. Caramel looked up at his face and he seemed sheepish suddenly. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted to sleep in the same bed as me after… I snapped earlier. It’s overnight and all. Kind of a long trip.”

Caramel’s belly twisted up like a bunch of knots. He set down the bit of wrap he was eating in the plastic container it had come in and squeezed at it until it began to crinkle at his touch.

“It don’t taste good?” Mac asked.

“I don’t… I’m not…”

Caramel’s eyes were stinging. He hated how over emotional he was today. He raised a hoof to wipe at his eyes though no tears had fallen yet. Mac touched his hoof and squeezed it gently. Caramel didn’t have to look at his boyfriend to know exactly what sort of worried look he was giving. It was the kind where Mac worried he had done something wrong.


“I’m just an idiot,” Caramel mumbled.

“No you ain’t!” Mac said. It was sudden and loud. Given the reaction time on him saying it Caramel was half tempted to chuckle.

“Yes I am,” Caramel shook his head slowly. “I yelled at you like an idiot and told you to leave like an idiot and…”

“Stop saying that,” Big Macintosh said. His tone was stern. He pulled down Caramel’s hoof and touched at his chin. Without warning he kissed Caramel. Not once, but twice. The first was quick, just testing waters, and the second was slower and allowed Caramel time to calm his breathing. When they parted, Mac smiled. “Nopony’s blaming you. You ain’t stupid.”

“I thought you wouldn’t get it,” Caramel said when he shook his head. “I just thought… If I talked to you about it you’d…”

“I’d what?” Mac asked.

“You lost your parents,” Caramel said. He squeezed the wrap container tighter. “I can’t imagine what that’s like. I ran away from mine.”

Big Macintosh’s hoof touched the top of Caramel’s hairline and brushed it aside. It was silent, but enough of a touch to comfort Caramel.

“I thought maybe you’d start asking things I didn’t want to hear,” Caramel said. “Like why I’m taking even having a mom for granted. Or why am I avoiding her when I should just be happy she’s around not like… Sorry, I shouldn’t.”

“Sugar,” Mac said. His tone was stern suddenly, and made Caramel look up. His face was near impossible to read from how stone-like it looked. “My Ma and Pa loved me. I ain’t got nothin’ but a bunch of good memories regarding them. Can you think of one happy one with your Mom?”

“I… I don’t know,” Caramel said. He felt ashamed, like he was being a disappointment in trying to think of the tiniest thing he liked about his childhood. Everything happy was with Sage, not his mother.

“Some ponies ain’t worth it,” Big Macintosh said. He took Caramel’s hoof and put it to his chest, squeezing it tightly.

The Apples were so much about family. They cared deeply about each other no matter what in a way Caramel couldn’t even understand to be possible. None of it made sense to him when he first met them, and it was still a struggle to wrap his mind around. Not once had Big Macintosh ever spoken poorly of any of his family with anything serious.

“I wanted to bring you to this reunion,” Big Macintosh said. “I wanted to show you off cause I love you, Caramel. You’re important to me, got it?”

Caramel bit his cheek.

“I ain’t scared to make cuts, either,” Big Macintosh said. “Ponies don’t like me dating you and can’t get over it, I’ll cut them out. Sometimes that’s all you can do, Sugarcube.”

Caramel looked down and squeezed his hooves.

“Is that right to do?” Caramel asked. “Just cut them out for no reason. I wonder that sometimes, y’know? If I could have done it better, I mean."

“Eeyup,” Big Macintosh said. “She lost her chance a long time ago, Sugar. I love you, and so does Sage, and I know my family will too.”

Caramel was silent a long time. He leaned over and into Big Macintosh, burying his muzzle into his chest. His eyes continued to sting, but he didn’t feel as bad. He didn’t talk, didn’t need to really. Mac said all that needed to be said. He just wanted to sit there with the pony he loved and forget any confusing questions about what he was doing and stop asking himself if it was right or wrong to pick up and leave. He wanted to believe this was right, and more importantly that it was okay.

“I don’t want to sleep in different beds,” Caramel mumbled.

Caramel heard Big Macintosh chuckle, and it made him smile.

“You got it, Sugarcube.”