Caramel looked up at the dark sky above him. The weather Pegasi had planned a storm to start at dusk, leaving the day free for the citizens of Ponyville to continue their daily routines. It seemed to Caramel that the clouds were mimicking his current feelings rather well. Storm clouds normally floated along the skies alone, uncared for and unloved until somepony needed them. Caramel sighed heavily. It was just a bad day; surely everypony had them now and then. He remembered Big Mac after Applejack said she wasn't going to return and how he spent the rest of the day trying to cheer up his old friend by telling him that AJ was fine and she was just upset about something silly.
“You okay, sugarcube? Y'know there's a storm comin', right?” Caramel launched himself into the air from where he was sat, earning a giggle from the amused mare. “Did I scare ya Caramel?” Applejack often scared him, it was just the way he saw her, and after that time Big Mac walked into the barn when they'd been drinking... “So whatcha doin' out here anyway?” It's awful late to be sat around.” Caramel sighed yet again, the day had been a rough one and he wasn't quite up for discussing it whilst he was still completely sober and standing in the middle of Ponyville.
“How's about, I get to walk you back to Sweet Apple Acres, and you invite me in when we get there for a drink?” Suddenly realizing what words had just left his mouth Caramel panicked. “Just as friends! Of course, I... heh...” His face began to burn up. He couldn't have imagined it to be much more awkward unless...
“Hmm, Didn't Big Macintosh walk in the last time we both began drinkin'?” … she mentioned that. His cheeks burning in a shade of red he didn't even know was possible to reach he let out a small groan. That was a long and awkward night.
The Apple family had held a celebration with the extra cider after seeing off the Flim Flam brothers and everypony was drinking. Later in the evening the Apples had invited him to stay the night in the spare room of their house. Unfortunately, he and AJ ended up falling behind the others and decided to head to the barn for some... privacy. Both clearly drunk, Applejack approached him slowly and hugged him tightly, rambling on about how hard it was apple bucking, and how lonely the work was. Caramel had attempted to comfort her and whilst doing so she interrupted him with a long kiss. Unsure what to do, he returned the affection. Unbeknownst to the two of them, Big Mac opened the barn door, looking for the lost pair. Upon seeing Caramel kissing his sister he began to shout.
Caramel shuddered at that last part of his memory. Big Mac never raised his voice, but when he did, Caramel knew nothing but fear.
“What in Celestia's name do ya think yer doin' with MA sister Caramel?” The pair froze. Caramel swung his head around to see Big Mac stood in the door of the barn, blocking his escape route. “When I get my hooves on ya, oh I'm gonna make ya feel it!” Big Mac ran towards Caramel. Applejack jumped to the side and hid in the corner of the barn next to a few bales of hay and drunkenly watched the scene unfold. Caramel tried to dodge to the left, but instead took a drunken step and tripped over his own hoof, hitting the floor with a thump. Big Mac seized the opportunity to get closer. As Caramel managed to get back to onto his hooves he looked up to see Big Mac standing there. 'CRACK!' Caramel hit the floor out cold. He didn't really have any memory past that, until he woke up with a hangover and Big Mac to explain himself to with the previous night's events.
“I s'pose we could, as long as you can keep yourself off me this time.” She finished up with a mischievous smile that Caramel mirrored in response,
“I guess I could try.”
The pair started making their way to Sweet Apple Acres for the night, sharing a few jokes and stories from the past to keep the atmosphere light hearted and happy. They passed Sugarcube corner, home to the famous Pinkie Pie, the best party thrower in all Equestria. Applejack couldn't resist making a few comments on how Pinkie never made any sense in how she worked, able to pop up anywhere at any time with boundless amounts of energy.
“Y'know that pony scares me sometimes. How can anypony possibly do all that bouncin' in a single day an' not be tired!” Both of them considered several possible ways, deciding that the best way to deal with it was just accept that Pinkie just doesn't make sense to anypony in Equestria.
The rain began to fall, but only lightly as the pair found themselves at the entrance to the farm. Caramel had been here many times before, as a guest of Big Mac's and as a farmhand after an incident involving Applejack's stubborn personality. He never did ask Big Mac what happened that summer, probably just good old AJ over working herself again.
As they trotted up the path a large red barn with wooden beams painted white came into view on their left. All barns looked the same to Caramel; large buildings of painted wood, always red and white. As they began to pass the barn, Applejack turned to Caramel.
“Annnnd if ya take a peek to yer left, ya can see the barn where Big Macintosh clobbered ya!” Applejack grinned at Caramel. Not one to be outdone by Applejack's comment, he found himself responding in kind.
“If I remember rightly AJ, there were two of us in that barn who got caught. I may have taken a hit to my head, but I believe Big Mac took a real swing at your pride now didn't he?”
The quick response caught AJ off guard, stuttering as she tried to find a clever comeback for the light brown stallion, but she finally gave in, defeated, as they reached the porch.
“Alrigh' wise guy, ya got me. Thank you for making sure I had arrived safely.” She added the second part in a posh accent, probably from when she was in Manehatten with the Oranges. Either way, Caramel found himself laughing loud enough to wake anything within half a mile of the farm. Applejack joined in the laughter, making Caramel happier than he had been all day.
“Isn't this the part where you invite me in? Remember?” Caramel looked towards the door, hinting at his earlier proposal. Applejack stared at him for a few seconds, before breaking off when Caramel made eye contact. Confused by what was going on, Caramel decided to ask what was wrong. “You ok AJ?” Applejack just looked around nervously, “Y'know, I was getting tired anyway... I'll just go ba...”
“NO! I mean, uhh, why don'tcha come on in for a while, I'm sure Big Mac would love ta see ya!” The loud response stunned Caramel. Was she covering up for something? Unsure how to progress with the current situation, Caramel smiled warmly and gratefully accepted the invitation.
“Can I get ya a cider?”
“Sure thing! I normally miss out on cider season. Pinkie always takes way too many for any single pony to safely drink.” “I'll bring it through when I'm ready. Big Macintosh should be in there anyway.”
Caramel entered the living room, and he spotted Big Mac seated in an aged armchair in the corner of the room reading the days copy of The Ponyville Times. There was an article on the front about some new celebration the mayor had announced, something about finally removing hair dye. It didn't make any sense to Caramel how she ever managed to get a position such as mayor, but he didn't question it any further.
“Evenin' Caramel. AJ invite you in?” Caramel tried to remain calm, but ever since Big Mac hit him AJ had become an awkward topic no matter who he talked to. News traveled fast in a town like Ponyville. And that cursed Pinkie Pie didn't help either... “Yeah, she did. So how are ya, Mac? I see you can still unwind with all that reading you keep telling everyone to do. You even sound like that Twile... Twilo..."
“Twilight? The librarian?” Big Mac interrupted him.
“Yeah, that one!”
“I'd thought you would’ve known the name of a close friend to AJ. Especially one who helped save Ponyville, and Equestria, countless times. And did many, many, other things. But I s'pose it wouldn't be like Caramel to remember much, would it?”
“Maybe I'm still sufferin' from a concussion!” Caramel raised a hoof to his head for effect. “It's not every day the biggest stallion in town hits me.”
“Well next time you should watch your drinkin'. Apple family cider ain't for lightweights.” Both stallions stared at each other for a while before Big Mac cracked a smile. “Sit down ya fool! I can't say ma head was clear either! An' speakin' o' AJ, where is she?”
“I'm here. You want a cider Big Mac?” Applejack stood in the doorway, her eyes bloodshot. Caramel and Big Mac stared at her for a moment, before Caramel raised his voice.
“Have you been...”
“NO! It's... I'm fine. I'll go grab the cider.” Turning quickly, she left the room.
“You going to cut me off now?” Caramel asked sarcastically turning to Big Mac.
“Somethin's up Caramel, she say anything to you on the way?” Not returning the smile or the sarcasm Caramel had.
“Not much other than jus' friendly conversation, about old times. Good and bad.” Upon hearing this, Big Mac seemed to settle slightly, or Caramel was getting used to the atmosphere in the house.
“She actin' funny?”
“Yeah, actually, at the door comin' in. It seemed awful tense an' when I was about to set off home she shouted, wait... Didn't you hear that from here?” Caramel realised how close Big Mac was to the door and probably could overhear any conversions held there.
“Yeah I did, jus' didn't know what went on before all that happened.” Big Mac began to stare at Caramel, causing him to shift awkwardly under his firm gaze. Caramel wasn't the smartest of Stallions, which Big Mac often reminded him. But he had a feeling he knew where this conversation was headed. “Hmm, I'll keep a close eye on her. Don't want her gettin' too upset, I'll probably talk to her tomorrow.”
Caramel was feeling rather awkward. He'd had a rather strange day to begin with, but with Applejack seemingly rather emotional for reasons he didn't know placing itself as the cherry on top of the cake. Rather than continuing the conversation about AJ, he made an attempt at changing the topic.
“So, you done anything other than buck trees recently?”
“Well there was this time I caught some farmhand with my sister.” A grin found its way onto Big Mac's face.
“Sounds rive... rivite… interesting, do tell me!” Caramel made sure the sarcasm could be heard in the words, other than the one that he struggled to pronounce. It worked, Big Mac started to laugh heavily with Caramel joining in.
“Sorry I took so long, fellas. Here's ya cider.” Applejack entered the room, heading to a small sofa near Big Mac. She placed a normal mug next to Caramel, who took no time in taking a swig of the froth covered goodness, and handed a special large mug to Big Mac.
“Is the mug that big a reason?” Caramel queried jokingly, eliciting a groan from his company. He knew that the mug was the only one in Ponyville big enough for Big Mac to hold, but it was habit for him to question Big Mac about it.
“So what were ya doin' down in Ponyville before I found ya Caramel,” Applejack asked. Caramel was taken by surprise at the question, grabbing the attention of Big Mac, who's mood suddenly reverted to a more serious one, making Caramel extremely nervous.
“Well, I... Erm...” A tear began to form in his eye as he turned his head away. “It's... just been a bad day, that's all.” He hoped that his feeble answer would stop the questions, but he knew that wasn't going to happen.
“Whatcha mean, 'a bad day'?” Big Mac looked concerned. Most ponies only saw Big Mac as a quiet worker who was good with numbers. But Caramel knew him better than that. There had been many a night where Caramel couldn't get a word into the conversation, leaving Big Mac to ramble on about this or that, or that time they went to Pinkie's party...
“Well, y'know how I spent Hearts & Hooves day with Wind Whistler?” The others sat quietly and nodded in response. “Well, shortly after that, we moved in together, things were great!” Caramel slumped. Tears began to flow freely from his eyes as he sobbed quietly. Unsure on what to do, Applejack stared at Big Mac, hoping for a helpful suggestion. He returned the stare with a hopeless look. “We had a future, but... I...” Caramel began to cry, giving up any chance of coming out with his pride intact. With Applejack stunned the recent revelations, Big Mac decided to try and console his friend.
“It's okay, Caramel.” Big Mac went over and sat himself next to Caramel. Playfully punching Caramel, he continued trying to reassure him. “I'm sure it happened for a reason. I know you ain't all that clever, but you’ve gotta good heart to make up for it.” Big Mac realised that his approach may have failed when Caramel began to cry even more.
“Then why?” Tears began to hit the floor. “Then... why? I tried! I always tried! I know I'm not perfect, but...” Caramel looked up, his eyes filled with tears. Big Mac placed a hoof on his shoulder.
“Caramel. It's okay. Sometimes, life just works like that. And it ain't fair. Hay it ain't. But you gotta stay strong.”
Applejack had stayed quiet, listening to Big Mac talk to Caramel. Observing Caramel, she noticed the tears had left a visible trail down his face, like two rivers of misery flowing from the red pits on his face. His mane was slightly rugged at the front where his hoofs had tried to cover up the tears from his eyes. As Applejack was taking note of Caramel's appearance and how best to approach the situation, she noticed that he was looking up, directly at her. Feeling slightly uneasy about the gaze, she returned a sheepish smile, lifting Caramel's spirits enough for him to regain composure as Big Mac sighed gently
“Now I know you ain't feelin' great sugarcube, but ya need ta let this out. Lettin' it build up ain't gonna do any of us good.”
Caramel's tears weren't flowing nearly as much as they were before, and with a small yet reluctant groan, he began.
“She kicked me out.” His face turned to one of sorrow. “Somethin 'bout not really carin' 'bout me. I...” Caramel tried to stop the tears flowing once more, but had no success in doing so. Big Mac shook his head slightly, the others unsure as to what he was disappointed at.
A flash of pain spread across his face as he spoke again. “I waited weeks for Hearts & Hooves day. Weeks of waiting, planning...” Big Mac had been with him the day before Hearts & Hooves day. They had spent the day going from shop to shop with Caramel to collect his purchases.
They entered Sugarcube corner looking for a special package, baked by the famous Pinkie Pie. Caramel had said that there were some items he had to pick up from town. Seeing as it was Big Mac's day off, he decided he could spend the day with Caramel going between shops to collect whatever these items were, after all he spent most of his free time helping around Ponyville. At least this way he was helping a friend, even if there was very little help involved.
“Ahh Pinkie! I trust you have my order?” Caramel managed to add a little mischievous smile.
“Of course I do silly! That'll be thirty bits for you!” Pinkie beamed at Caramel. As he placed his thirty bits on the counter, Pinkie vanished. Just as fast as she had disappeared, she had returned with Caramel's order, a box just large enough to hold a small cake.
“Like I ordered?” Caramel quizzed lightly whilst Pinkie feigned insult at the words. The pair laughed at each other before Caramel made his way to the door where Big Mac stood waiting. With a smile upon his face, Caramel pointed out their next destination, a jewelry store.
It took Caramel half an hour to pick out the pieces he wanted, and set him back another fifty bits, which wasn't too bad considering the quality of the blue sapphire, even if it was a lighter hue than most others.
“This sure must be some special pony Caramel. All this for one mare?”
“Oh she's special all right! I saw her during winter wrap up, after losing those grass seeds.”
Big Mac started to grin and Caramel knew what was coming.
“After losing those grass seeds, eh? I take it you saw her an awful lot then?” Caramel groaned. He'd only lost the grass seeds twice, but Big Mac liked to joke about it anyway.
“Anyway! I approached her a couple of days later, when she was in the market. Introduced myself like any gentlecolt would.” Big Mac suppressed his laughter. “Her name's Wind Whistler.”
Big Mac nodded. He had seen the Pegasus around town before but she had never been of any interest to the farmer.
“You need ta go anywhere else?” Big Mac asked, not wanting to waste his day idly walking around.
Caramel spent the better part of an hour seated on the floor. Big Mac was beside him, and Applejack was on the couch. Feebly, he attempted to stand on all fours, falling on his first go. When he managed to make it onto his hooves, he began stumbling to the door.
“And where d'ya think yer gonna go? Sleep on the streets?” Caramel froze. He didn't know what to do. He found himself homeless, alone, and afraid to talk to those who he should have trusted the most. The Apples were the most dependable and caring family in Ponyville, helping anypony that needed help. But Caramel was more than just 'anypony'. He was a close friend to the family. One of their most dependable farmhands and was always there to lend a hoof for whatever they needed.
“Y'know if you'd coulda come to us earlier. We always got that spare room upstairs.” Applejack said softly, Caramel felt the guilt hit.
“And there ain't a chance I'm lettin' my best friend spend a night on the streets.” Caramel looked down at the ground. He felt like he had betrayed those closest to him, the ones who he depended on. Every time a problem had occurred in the past, either Big Mac's or his own, the pair always stayed strong, lifting each other through the worst times of their life, and the most embarrassing.
“I...” Lost for words, Caramel stared at his life long friend, and Applejack, the mare who stumbled across him in his darkest hour.
“You ain't in any situation to be arguin' 'bout this! I'll fetch ya another cider. You sure look like ya could use it.” With that, Applejack left the room.
“Did ya finish that last one she gave ya?” Looking around as he spoke, Big Mac spotted Caramel's mug of cider, half empty. Caramel forced a smile and quickly finished the cider before Applejack got back.
The rest of the night passed quickly, with the three ponies drinking into the early hours of the morning. Many stories were shared amongst the group, mainly Big Mac reminiscing about how it used to be when he and Caramel were just colts. Although Caramel managed to slip in his story about a Hearth's Warming Eve long past, when Big Mac ended up spending the night at Fluttershy's cottage. Big Mac blushed slightly at the story, even if it had been told time and time again, insisting that nothing happened that night. The night had been a long one, and Caramel couldn't remember much past his forth mug of cider.
The first rays of Celestia's sun began to shine through the window, covering parts of the room in a glorious array of light. Somewhere outside birds could be heard chirping as Equestria came to life for another day. Unfortunately for Caramel, the sunlight, accompanied by the sounds of nature, had disturbed his drunken rest. He opened his eyes slowly, but was unable to focus on anything other than his headache. As he tried to remember how much he had drunk, loud thumps could be heard approaching. They stopped outside and the door swung open, revealing a massive red blur.
“Mornin' Caramel! How's that hangover treatin' ya?” Caramel winced at the voice, each word felt like a blow to his head. “Too much cider last night?” The voice chuckled at Caramel's pain, only adding to how much it actually hurt. “Come on, I'll fix ya some breakfast if ya get up.” Caramel slammed his head into the pillow and returned to a soothing darkness.
Caramel tried opening his eyes a second time, but upon only seeing darkness he closed them again. Once again, outside the room he was in, he could hear light thumping approaching down the hallway. The door opened for a second time.
“Caramel! Wake up!” Caramel winced again at the new voice, his head still pounding from last nights drink. “Come on now Caramel. Nice an' easy.” The voice became quieter, reducing the damage it was doing to Caramel's headache. He lifted his head out of the pillow and looked at the wall in front of him. This wasn't the guest room. In panic, he quickly scanned the room, his eyes falling upon Applejack stood near the open door. “It's about time ya were gettin' up, didn' quite make it to the spare room last night.” Caramel began to panic. Surely he hadn't... “It's ok! You stumbled in here drunk an' passed out on tha floor!” She began to laugh. “Big Mac came in an' putcha on the bed!” Caramel groaned. He wasn't sure which was going to be worse; the alcohol affecting his stomach, as well as his head, or Big Mac having to put him to bed.
“Whatcha sorry for?”
“Mainly the drink.” Caramel sighed slowly, “And everything else.”
“Don't you go worryin' about anythin'! 'Cept Big Mac, 'cus he's gonna need yer help if yer stayin'.” Caramel placed his head into his hooves. “Come on, I'll get ya some breakfast for that hangover.”
“I'm not sure that’s a good idea, I think I hear your toilet calling my name...”
Author's notes Spoke to some people and I have decided to try and carry this on, Maybe I can go somewhere good with this!
When he had come downstairs, Applejack had made pancakes on the old stove for him, and she served them with a side of spiced apples. He couldn't remember the last time someone had made him breakfast. Normally he would be the first up, making either an omelet or scrambled eggs for Wind Whistler. His mood dropped when he though of her again. He would work the daybreak to sunset to bring in money for her. He'd saved up a small fortune in the bank. A holiday to the glorious coasts of Equestria. And if he had enough spare, a weekend in the breath taking capital, Canterlot. He had it all planned. Every little detail of his future, all ready worked out and ready to happen. But of course life wasn't going to be that easy. He now found himself alone, relying on his closest friends for shelter and food. But he still had money in the bank. All he needed to do was find himself a place to live and start over again.
“Sugarcube? You don't look too good.” Caramel quickly zoned back to reality.
“I'm okay. Not great. But what can you expect?”
“I expect you to be smilin'! I don't make pancakes for just any ol' pony!” She was smiling, but he could see the worry in her eyes.
“I know you're worried AJ, but I'll be fine.” She looked at him, her smile fading. “I promise.”
A few minutes passed in silence.
“You should head on out. Big Mac'll have somethin' for you to do.”
In silence, Caramel picked himself up and headed outside to meet Big Mac and start another days work.
“So yer finally awake! How's that hangover treatin' ya?”
“I've been better. That's safe to say.” Big Mac laughed and shook his head.
“Yer a lightweight.”
“Sat next to you half the damn nation is lightweight.” Big Mac chuckled again.
“You gotta point.” He stood up slowly, stretching his neck as he did. “We're buckin' in the southern fields today. But as ya got up late we ain't gonna finish it all.”
“True. But you've got an extra set of hooves for a while.”
“Ya think yer strong enough to work here full time?” Caramel looked up to him and grinned.
“You think you can find better?” Big Mac smiled back at him.
“Ya got the spirit. Let's see how long that lasts.”
The evening came quickly, but not quickly enough for the hungover Caramel. He had propped himself up against one of the trees in the southern field, watching the sunset over Ponyville. The sunset was a beautiful thing. It revealed more shades of orange and yellow than Caramel had ever seen before. It's warmth and beauty swept over the land, warming him to the core. Tired from his work, he began to fall asleep. As he fell, he felt something leaning against him.
Yeah, it's really short. But I'm super tired and didn't want to risk ruining the next part with my sleepiness. I have it planned and shall writer before the month is up this time...