As the sun rose, warming the chill autumn air, Big Macintosh tried to work his way through a few stiff muscles that seized up during the night. The Apple family was ready for their second harvest of the season, and the large pony needed to be in top form. He and Applejack were the only two who were really able to harvest, and the orchard had grown in the years past. Between the two of them, it was still going to be tough to finish collecting from the remaining half of the trees. His breath still hanging in the air, the red pony turned back towards the large house that the Apple family shared together. He snuck through the silent home, hoping that Applejack would still be asleep. She did go to one of Pinky Pie's parties last night, he thought to himself as he worked his way up the stairs, the first blush of morning light filling the rooms below him. That should buy me a little extra time.
Opening the thin door that separated his room from the rest of the house, Mac breathed a sigh of relief and smiled at the small colt tangled up in the sheets of his bed. Caramel snuffled, still deep in slumber, his dark brown mane rumpled and his forelock covering his eyes. Mac closed the door, then walked over and nudged the smaller pony, whispering softly, "Come on sleepy-head, its time to get up." Caramel yawned and slowly opened his eyes.
"Good morning," he said with a drowsy smile, his voice still heavy with sleep. He worked his way out of the bed, hooves touching gently onto the floor. Shivering in the cool morning air, he nuzzled against Mac, partly for warmth, but also to be as close to his partner as he could. Time was short for the two to be together, and the little brown pony wanted to make every minute count. Mac pressed into the smaller pony for as long as could, but sighed and pulled away. Caramel stepped back. "Its time for me to go, isn't it?" he asked sadly.
Big Mac looked down, and hesitated, but finally let out a whispered "Yes". He hated himself for doing this to Caramel, but he knew that Applejack wouldn't approve of the smaller pony, much less the relationship between the two. They had kept the secret well enough over the past few months, nopony outside the pair knew, but they couldn't afford to let anything slip. As far as the town knew, they were just an odd pair of friends.
Caramel saw the sadness in his partner's eyes, even felt it in the small distance between them. He looked down, and put on a brave face before he looked back at the other pony. "I understand," Caramel said, with a smile that was only slightly forced. "I wouldn't want anything to happen to you because of me." He brushed against Mac's flank as he headed towards the door. "I guess I'll see you later then," he said, cautiously opening the door. Mac nodded silently as he watched Caramel leave the room quietly, sneaking through the house, reversing the path they had taken what seemed such a short time ago.
Drawn to the smaller pony, Mac silently followed Caramel outside. "Caramel, wait!" He said quietly, getting the other pony's attention. Getting closer, Mac kissed his beau, his heart pounding. Caramel swooned, his cheeks flushed red, and he let himself get lost in the moment for as long as he dared. He broke the kiss and tried to continue down the path, but was stopped by Mac. The red pony leaned close to Caramel an whispered softly, "I never want you to have to change for me."
"And I'm glad for that." Caramel said, his cheeks still flushed. "But we both know we need to stay a secret Mac." Mac looked down, ashamed. "Come on," Caramel began. "Sure its difficult, but I'm just happy to be with you." The small pony nuzzled against his partner then said, "I'll see you later." and trotted down the path into town. Mac watched him go, every ounce of him wanting to chase after Caramel, to take him back to his room, and to let the world pass by the two. But he shook these thoughts from his head as best he could. Despite whatever he was feeling, he still had a job to do.
Caramel let his smile drop and stopped walking as soon as he was sure a certain pair of bright green eyes were no longer watching him. Looking back he saw Mac walking back to the barn, the early morning light reflecting off his crimson coat, his face set stoically, focusing on the task ahead. The brown pony let out a small sigh of relief at seeing Mac going back to work for the day. There was so much riding on the red pony. The apple harvest, sales of his product, dealing with his younger siblings, all combined with the fact that soon he may have to inherent the farm itself from old Granny Smith.
No, Caramel thought to himself as he started walking again. The last thing he needs right now is a scandal about his love life. Even though it hurt him, Caramel knew that it would be best if the two stayed quiet for a little longer. Ponyville, while still striving for progress, generally fell on the more traditional side of things. This was true especially in the farming communities surrounding the city. If word got out that Big Mac had a lover, let alone one who is a colt, things might not go so well for Sweet Apple Acres.
Caramel shook these thoughts from his mind as he made his way back to his small home that doubled as his workshop. The morning birds were just starting to stir as Caramel walked through the center of town. He yawned loudly, and silently cursed the fact that his house was almost at the opposite end of town as the apple farm, when suddenly he found himself in large pile on the ground.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Are you alright?" A sweet voice asked from above the pile of pony. Caramel groaned as he pulled himself up and nodded to the pink-maned pegasus pony who was looking worried as usual. "Yeah I'm fine," Caramel said, trying not to sound as if he had just woken up. "No harm done Fluttershy." He smiled and started to walk again when Fluttershy asked,
"I'm sorry though," She began apologetically. "I'm just not used to other ponies being out this early."
"I understand," Caramel said, starting to edge towards his house. "Now if you'll excuse me I need to get back home, lots of work to do."
"Oh of course," Fluttershy said with a smile. "Have a good day Caramel!" Caramel smiled back as the pegasus pony fluttered away to wake the rest of the birds. Not meeting any further obstacles, pony or otherwise, on his way back home, Caramel shut his blue door behind him and yawned loudly. Barely registering the piles of work cluttering the shop that took up the lower half of his house, the tired pony climbed the stairs to his lonely room. He sighed as he nudged the curtain back and crawled into his bed, which felt almost violently empty without his partner. Yawning once more, Caramel drifted off into a light slumber, the last few hours before his alarm rang filled with dreams of bright green eyes and an orange mane.