“But I see your true colors, shining through.
I see your true colors, and that’s why I love you.”
--Cyndi Lauper, “True Colors”
It was getting harder and harder not to speak.
When they sat together in Pinkie Pie’s alley, Pinkie would quietly eat her apple and Applejack would talk to her while she ate. Usually the orange farm pony would chat about harmless little topics, such as school or the apple orchards or the next big rodeo, but every so often, she’d touch a nerve. Always inadvertently, of course, but even so. Even so, it would hurt--but not as much as it hurt to stay silent.
“ … and I ain’t never heard a baby cry as much as Applebloom does! D’you reckon there’s somethin’ wrong with her? I asked Granny Smith, but Granny said she’s just teethin’, but I don’t know why that’d make her cry.” Applejack cocked her head a bit. “You ain’t got any sisters, do ya?”
And every day, it grew a bit harder to resist. To keep her mouth shut.
“ … always lots o’ hard work on a farm. But it sure beats the fancy city life. Didn’t enjoy a single minute of the time I stayed in Manehattan, I tell you what. Say, you ever been to a farm?”
It wasn’t that she distrusted Applejack. There probably wasn’t a pony she trusted more in her entire life. No, it was the entire rest of the world that she was unsure of.
“... gotta admit I feel lucky for havin’ met ya, Pinkie. To tell the truth, me and Big Mac were feelin’ awful sad that day ya stole the apple. ‘Cause that day, we’d just come to the market straight from … “ She hesitated. Awkwardly cleared her throat. “From the cemetery. Was a year ago to the day that our Ma and Pa passed away.”
It was getting harder and harder not to speak. Too hard.
“My parents died, too,” whispered Pinkie, her voice low and rough from disuse, the words like gravel in her mouth.
Applejack gave a jump, and her eyes went wide with surprise. “You! You can talk!”
“Of course I can talk, silly.” Pinkie smiled, a bit wanly. “Why wouldn’t I be able to talk?”
The other pony just stared, utterly speechless, utterly dumbfounded, with her jaw hanging wide open. Her round green eyes blinked owlishly, once, then twice.
Slowly Pinkie crept forward and wrapped her front legs around Applejack, a gentle but firm embrace. She buried her face in her friend’s coarse, straw-colored mane. “I’m really sorry about your parents, Applejack,” she murmured, as her eyes began stinging in an all too familiar way.
“Uh, thanks. I mean … Thanks, Pinkie.” One of Applejack’s hooves reached up to rest lightly on Pinkie’s back. “Yours, too, huh?”
Pinkie nodded. “Uh-huh. And my sisters. I had two sisters.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Applejack gave her a nuzzle. “I’m … I’m mighty sorry ‘bout yer family,” she muttered, her voice sounding muffled and far away.
“Does it … does the pain ever go away, Applejack?”
Pinkie knew that her friend wouldn’t lie to her, and Applejack didn’t. “No. No, it don’t. But it don’t always hurt so bad as it hurts at first.”
For several long minutes the two fillies just sat there, holding one another, together in a dark and dingy alley, and not a word passed between them. They didn’t speak, and they didn’t cry, and they didn’t yell or scream. They just held each other and listened to each other’s breaths. Just held each other and took comfort in the steady drumbeat of the other filly’s broken but still-beating heart.
“Hey, Pinks! You in?”
With a fierce grin, Scootaloo looked up from the table where she was seated doing homework. Immediately the table, where her school books laid spread out amidst piles of cupcakes and apples and multi-colored party hats, was completely forgotten.
Twinkling rose-colored eyes turned in her direction. “Oh! Heya, squirt!”
In a flash Scootaloo had pushed away from the table and tackled Rainbow Dash to the floor with a happy laugh, while Dash let out a grunt upon impact. They laid there for a split second, a tangle of limbs and wings, and Scootaloo had to resist the strong and sudden urge to bury her face in Dash’s mane. Instead, she just hugged the older pegasus as tight as she could. With a chuckle, Dash quickly wiggled herself free of the embrace and stood back up, shaking out her ruffled wings a bit as she did.
Scootaloo hopped back up, too. She couldn’t stop grinning.
“You have been spending way too much time with Pinkie Pie,” Dash complained, albeit good-naturedly, as she gave Scootaloo’s head an affectionate tussle.
“Too much time with Pinkie Pie? Never!” came a cheery voice from behind. The two pegasi turned around in time to see the mistress of the house come galloping up to them. “Hiya, Dashie!”
Rainbow gave the earth pony a casual nod in greeting. “We’re still on for pranks today, right? ‘Cause I so totally owe one to a certain uptight, stick-in-the-mud, fun-hating apple farmer.”
“Oh, absolutively posilutely! You know I look forward to prank day all week!” Then Pinkie frowned thoughtfully. She glanced towards Scootaloo, and Scootaloo tensed up. “Um, Dashie? I was wondering if, y’know, just for today, we could, uh … “
The adult pegasus’ wings drooped, just the tiniest bit. “Oh. Um. I mean … “ Dash suddenly put on a smile. “Aww, sure, why not? You wanna come play pranks with us, Scootaloo?”
Scootaloo held her breath. “You … you really want me to come with you guys?”
“Of course we do, silly filly!” exclaimed Pinkie, so enthusiastically and with a smile so bright that the orange pegasus almost believed her.
Then, when Rainbow Dash didn’t say anything for a moment, Pinkie gave her a hard nudge with her hip, and the pegasus snapped to sudden attention. “Yeah! Yeah, of course we do,” Rainbow agreed, nodding rapidly. “So go grab your scooter, and let’s get this show on the road!”
The prank, as it turned out, involved hiding the dozens of bushels of apples they’d found in the Apple family’s barn and replacing them with an equivalent number of carrots. Scootaloo didn’t even know where Pinkie had gotten all of those carrots, or how she’d transported them out to the farm before even knowing that’s where the prank would be, and against her better instincts, she’d been tempted to actually question the strange pink pony on the matter.
But then she caught sight of Rainbow Dash slowly shaking her head at her and mouthing the words “Don’t ask,” and she decided it was probably a good idea to listen to Dash. Dash had more experience in dealing with the mysteries of Pinkie Pie, after all.
Just seconds later, Applejack walked into the barn and froze at once upon entering. A series of very interesting expressions passed over Applejack’s face as the farmer stared at the mounds and mounds of carrots, and a series of very amusing sounds that were not quite words came pouring out of Applejack’s mouth.
Then, the farmer’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Pinkie and Rainbow,” she quietly muttered, in a tone filled with calm resignation.
Safely hidden behind a bale of hay, Scootaloo glanced over to Dash and Pinkie, who were grinning hugely and stifling giggles. She wondered if they would end up in trouble and chewed nervously on her lower lip. She hoped not. It might make it rather awkward to have Cutie Mark Crusaders meetings at the clubhouse if Applejack banned her from Sweet Apple Acres.
“Y’all might as well come on out and pay the piper,” the farm pony called out to the seemingly empty barn. “I know y’all are in here.”
Almost instantly Pinkie bounded out from behind the hay bales and launched herself at Applejack like a pink missile of sugar-fueled joy. The two earth ponies fell to the floor of the barn as Pinkie happily threw her forelegs around Applejack’s neck. With a sigh and a chuckle, Applejack put a foreleg around Pinkie’s shoulders and hugged her back.
“Hiya, AJ!” The pink mare giggled. “Didja like our prank? Didja, didja, didja?”
Applejack gently shoved Pinkie off top of her before standing back up. She readjusted her hat. “Howdy there, Pinkie Pie. Prank was just grand. Now, where’d you put all my apples?”
Rainbow Dash’s head popped up from behind the hay. “They’re up in the rafters,” she replied, pointing with a hoof. Then, with a wide grin,she grabbed Scootaloo from where she was crouching behind the hay, still hiding, and hauled the young pegasus to her feet. “It was Scoots’ idea, actually. To put all the apples up there.”
Flinching a bit, Scootaloo smiled weakly and gave Applejack a tepid wave.
“You too, huh?” With an amused snort, the farm pony added, “Good to see these pair o’ loons have been such a good influence on ya.”
“Hey, I’m a great influence!” Dash shot back, thumping her own chest with a forehoof. “If the kid sticks with me, she might just turn out to be half as awesome as I am. Someday. Maybe.”
But Applejack wasn’t listening any more. She was staring at Pinkie, eyes sharp and intent, and Pinkie was returning her stare with an unreadable expression on her face. Scootaloo felt all of the good feelings that had been building up inside her chest in response to Rainbow Dash’s praise suddenly drain away. Her stomach fluttered in a familiar, unpleasant way, and she silently braced herself for … for whatever was going to come next.
Pinkie broke her gaze with Applejack and looked over to Dash. In an overly bright voice, she said, “Hey, Dashie! Why don’t you take Loo-Loo out for a quick flight lesson?”
Scootaloo immediately frowned at the nickname. That was new. Pinkie had never called her that before, and she was pretty sure it was the worst nickname that the pony could have possibly invented for her.
But before she could begin to form a proper protest, Dash was already replying.
“Uh. Yeah, okay. Sure?” The older pegasus’ eyes moved back and forth between the two earth ponies, and she seemed almost nervous. “Actually, Pinks, that’s a great idea.” She clapped Scootaloo on the back. “You wanna go learn about hovering and take-offs, kiddo?”
“Would I?” The words were out of Scootaloo’s mouth in an instant, before she could think better of them--an uncontrollable and automatic response to an offer to spend time with her hero. “Would I ever, Rainbow Dash!”
And then, before she could change her mind, Dash was ushering her towards the door of the barn and practically shoving her outside. Scootaloo was able to sneak a glance over her shoulder right before she was dragged all the way out, and Pinkie gave her a reassuring smile and a wave. Applejack simply frowned.
But despite Pinkie’s smile, the bad feeling in Scootaloo’s stomach didn’t go away. Adults couldn’t be trusted, after all. Not really. Not completely.
So she walked slower than she usually would, as Rainbow Dash cantered ahead, babbling about flight techniques and air resistance and Sonic Rainbooms. They seemed to be heading for the farmyard. Scootaloo slowed down even more. Dash didn’t seem to notice as Scootaloo fell farther and farther behind and, once they were far enough separated, Scootaloo quietly turned around and skulked back up to the barn.
The barn door was open a crack, and she leaned as close to the door as she could without actually touching it. Straining to listen, she could just barely make out the voices of the two ponies who were still inside.
“She’s still way too dang thin.” That was Applejack. She sounded … angry? Sad, maybe?
“I know.” Pinkie’s voice. Definitely sad.
“Don’t get me wrong, now, she’s doin’ loads better than she was. But she still--”
Applejack sighed deeply. “It’s not that I ain’t sympathetic here, Pinkie. I just wonder if … I just don’t know if it’s enough, all we’re doin’. That’s all. I think we really oughta--”
“No, Applejack!” Scootaloo had never heard a tone like that from Pinkie before, and she could feel the fur on the back of her neck stand up. But that harsh note in Pinkie’s voice disappeared completely a second later, as the pink earth pony quickly added, “I’m super sorry, AJ--I didn’t mean to sound like such a meany pants. But she really, really needs her friends.”
“She needs somethin’ more permanent, is what she needs. She still ain’t comin’ to yer place but once or twice a week, and that just ain’t enough. She needs food.”
It was Pinkie’s turn to sigh. “You can starve for things other than food, you know. You can starve for friendship, or for laughter, or for love …”
There was a long silence. Finally, the farmer let out a soft whinny. “Well, shoot. If’n you weren’t standin’ right in front of me, pink as ever, I’d have sworn I just heard Twilight Sparkle talkin’ to me right then.”
“Yes, ma’am. Just now, you sounded ‘bout as wise as she does when she’s writin’ to the princess.” There was another silence, shorter this time. “Speakin’ of Twilight, though …”
“What about Twilight?” Pinkie’s question crackled with nervous energy.
“She’s gonna figure things out eventually. She’s got her blind spots, sure enough, but she ain’t stupid. And when she does figure it out? Well, you know she’s gonna want to write to Princess Celestia.”
“We’re just so close, AJ. We’re so close to finding her somewhere where she can--”
Scootaloo’s attention was distracted by a slight rustling noise from behind.
The voice was quiet, gentle, but very, very close. Disturbingly close. Almost involuntarily, Scootaloo gave a jump and whirled around. Her wings spread out in a reflexive, defensive display.
Rainbow Dash stood directly behind her, almost close enough to touch. Her eyes were sad, and Scootaloo felt suddenly sick and dizzy with confusion, because Rainbow Dash’s eyes weren’t supposed to ever look that sad.
“You probably shouldn’t spy on other ponies like that,” said the older mare, but there was no heat in her voice, no anger. Just the same sadness that pervaded her deep, pink eyes.
Scootaloo’s heart began thundering against her ribs, threatening to break through her chest, threatening to explode like a cannon. She tried to swallow the saliva in her mouth, but it choked her.
Slowly Scootaloo began backing away, and Dash took a step forward, looking concerned. “Whoa. You okay there, Scoots?”
They all know.
“Do ya trust me?”
Pinkie felt a thrill of fear as soon as she heard the words. But Applejack was staring at her with those wide, green eyes, her face a completely open book, and there was nothing but friendliness and affection in those eyes and in that face. Almost despite herself, Pinkie felt herself tentatively nod her head.
“Good. Glad to hear it, sugar.” Applejack grinned. “‘Cause there’s somepony I want ya to meet.”
She glanced towards the entrance of the alleyway, and Pinkie followed her friend’s gaze. Right there stood the apple farmer from the marketplace, Applejack’s grandmother.
Almost involuntarily, Pinkie began backing away. A wave of trembling ran up and down her body, and her stomach gave a sudden lurch. She forced herself to take a deep breath. Gotta stand up tall. Face your fears. She raised her head and looked Applejack’s grandmother in the eye.
“Yer a scrawny little thing, ain’t ya?” said the elderly mare, her voice blunt and her eyes unblinking. “You got yerself a name?”
Pinkie swallowed. She sneaked a glance over to Applejack, who simply smiled and gave her a reassuring nod. “P-Pinkie,” the little filly finally replied, in a voice that was hardly more than a whisper. “My name’s Pinkie Pie.”
Granny Smith took a few steps further into the alley. She cast a look around, taking in their surroundings, and frowned when she spotted all the trash bins and garbage. “And this where you been livin’?”
Unsure of what she should say, of what would be the right answer, Pinkie decided to simply go with the truth. “Yes, ma’am.”
Something dark and unreadable passed over the older mare’s face, and Pinkie quavered on all four hooves. But the fearsome expression was gone almost as quickly as it came, and Granny Smith lowered her head, so that she and Pinkie were now at the same eye level.
“Hey now, filly.” Granny Smith’s voice had gentled, just a touch, and Pinkie could hear in her tone some of the same rough tenderness with which Applejack always spoke. “I ain’t gonna hurt ya none.”
“I … I know. You’re Applejack’s grammy, and I know Applejack wouldn’t let anything bad happen.”
“But yer still scared, ain’t ye?”
Biting her lip, Pinkie slowly nodded.
“Well, lucky for you, I know just the trick for that.” Granny Smith gave her a smile and a wink. “A cupcake from Sugar Cube Corner oughta fix ya right up, I reckon. Whaddaya say, filly?”
There was only one possible answer to that, of course. All three of them knew it. And very slowly, very cautiously, Pinkie smiled back.
Author’s Notes: Pinkie Pie episode tomorrow! FINALLY! It has been a long cold winter for we Pinkie Pie fans, I tells ya. My heart goes out to the Fluttershy and Applejack fans—may y’all have your favorite pony centric episodes soon, my brothers and sisters.