Mr.Cake sat on his red velvet easy chair, rocking steadily in the dimly lit room. His jutting lower jaw clenched in a grimace of disappointment. The beady eyes that were barely visible under his orange lochs of mane were squinting in an expression of pensive thought. He sniffed quietly, drumming his hoof on the armrest of his chair. The seconds seemed to become hours as he stared, reflectively, at the cyan mare in front of him. Her gaze, one transfixed by both fear and confusion. Why was she here? Why was Mr.Cake so angry-looking? What had she done?
The tall orange stallion sat up, letting out a long strained sigh of disappointment. He pressed his forhooves together in front of his bony face, adopting an even grimmer expression as he prepared himself to speak.
"Dash....." he began calmly. "We here at.....Sugarcube Corner....we try to foster a loving, family environment. The sort of environment you can take your foals to, knowing they'll be safe, going home with good memories."
He put his hooves back on the armrest and leaned forward.
"Tonight, that sanctity....that....pureness.....was ruined by YOU, Rainbow Dash!" He pointed his hoof warily at her, turning his head to stare with one bloodshot eye.
"Well!? WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY FOR YOURSELF!?" He failed his arms wildly around as he shouted. Were it not so frightening it most likely would have been comical.
"Oh for goodness sakes, Carrot, you're probably scaring the poor thing to death." came Mrs.Cake's voice from somewhere in the darkness. Carrot frowned slightly and flicked on the lights.
"Aw! C'mon! I think it was an elegant performance, don't you Dash?" Mr.Cake flashed a large smile, complete with massive underbite, at Dash who slowly grinned once she caught on.
"Oh wait, this was all a prank to scare me huh? That was pretty good, Mr.Cake. You could be an actor!"
"That's what I said! I think I have a real knack for it."
"Dash, what is it that you need, dear? It's so late." the disembodied voice of Mrs.Cake came once again out from somewhere on the other side of the wall.
"I actually wanted to talk to you.....both of you." Dash replied, glancing at Mr.Cake who bowed comically, his nightcap falling off his head to the floor, and pushed open the door to the bedroom with his hoof.
"But of course! Right this way, mademoiselle."
Dash smiled at his antics as she went around the easy chair. It was rather clear Pinkie learned to love pranking from this rather unassuming stallion. One of these days Dash would have to figure out which of the Cakes taught Pinkie how to come up with entire elaborate songs on the spot, complete with background music. Come to think of it, she'd never heard either of them sing. Must investigate later.
Her thoughts came to an abrupt end as she entered the bedroom. Much like the rest of the bakery, and the rooms connected to it, it had a very "confection" design to it. Beams in each corner that looked sort of like cinnamon sticks went up to the light mint green ceiling. The walls were a coral shade of orange with white designs of plates and forks going down to the fuzzy grey carpet, one of the few rooms in the house to even have carpet. A bureau, painted to have stripes like a candy cane, sat in a corner of the room, looking quite old-fashioned. The center of it all contained a circular green bed with stumpy legs.
Mrs.Cup Cake was lying on the cotton comforter covering the bed, her head propped up with an orange and white striped pillow. The twin infants, Pound and Pumpkin, were there as well. Each had their heads buried in the soft underbelly of Mrs.Cake, next to her haunches, suckling quietly. Dash's whole face went red at the realization that Cup was nursing, and immediately she backed out of the room, tripping over Mr.Cake's spindly leg.
"Aaa! Oh man, I'm sorry Mrs.Cake I didn't know...I...I...I just wanted to talk...oh gosh! I'll just go!"
Mrs.Cake cackled merrily at Dash's embarrassment.
"Oh Dash, dear it's nothing to worry about. Pinky has seen me do this a hundred times. It's just...you know...nature. Nothing to wind yourself into a tizzy for."
Dash cautiously re-entered the room, doing her best not to stare. Carrot sat down on the bed next to his wife and gave her a small kiss before turning to Dash.
"So, Rainbow. What'd you want to talk about? What is on your mind?"
"Must be pretty important, considering how it's nearly morning. You look like you haven't slept, sweetie." Mrs.Cake chimed in, giving Dash a pitiable look. The young cyan mare did indeed seem stressed out.
"This is about adopting Scootaloo isn't it, Rainbow?"
Dash grinned sheepishly. "I guess you guys heard about that."
"Well of course we did. Fluttershy explained the whole thing when Pinkie had her little breakdown earlier. Poor dear. I hope she's in better spirits for tomorrow. I'd hate for her Hearth's Warming to be ruined due to a bad mood." Mrs.Cake shook her head sadly at the thought.
"Does....Pinkie....like...has she had these before? I saw her have something similar once when she thought we didn't want to be her friends anymore. It kinda scared me. But after she saw the party we planned for her, she seemed ok. Until today." Dash frowned slightly, remembering the creepy conversations Pinky had with inanimate objects that day.
"Pinkie is really afraid of being alone, Dash. She's rather co-dependent. When she brought home that....crocodile or whatever Gummy is, we couldn't get her to give it away. We've been trying to sort of help her feel more confident when she does things on her own. That's why we let her run the shop by herself when its warmer. After tonight I'm wondering if its helped her condition at all." Mr.Cake shook his head, joining his wife.
"I actually kinda wanted to talk to you guys about her, about the day you first...uh...found her I guess." Dash gave a small grin to the couple on the bed, hoping to lighten the mood slightly. "Did you guys always want kids? Was Pinkie your first? What made you want to...you know.....keep her?"
Mrs.Cake sighed and laid her head against the pillow, her pink swirl of hair flopping across her blue-coated neck. "I still remember that day like it was yesterday, Rainbow. Carrot and I had just been married. Eloped, you know. Trying to make ends meet so we could get away from it all. I was still working as a saucier at Toola-Roola's bistro. Have you ever been there, Dash?"
"Um, honeybunches, that place has been closed down for well over a decade." Mr.Cake gave his wife another kiss. "Long before we ever saw Dash in town."
"Oh yes, sugarlumps, I forgot! It went down in that oven fire. It was making so little money at that point, nobody was really shocked when Toola-Roola said she wouldn't rebuild. She ended up opening an art gallery somewhere in Canterlot I believe. I should try to get in touch with her again. See how she's doing. Anyway, I'm getting off-subject! I remember the day we found Pinkie quite vividly. I was taking out the garbage into the little sidestreet all the bins used to sit on and I heard this sound. Like a sort of quiet sneezing noise. At first I didn't worry about it, until I noticed I seemed to be the only one in the alley. It was just me and some old boxes piled into a corner. So I tiptoed over to them and when I realized the sound was coming FROM them I got very worried. We didn't have any vagrants back in those days, you know."
Cup sighed wistfully and snuggled her head against her husband's side. His large yellow hoof, gently stroking the faded pink wisps of hair in her mane.
"She was so tiny. Would probably have fit in a peanut butter jar. I remember holding her in my arms and feeling how cold she was. Sunburned all over and freezing at the same time. So thin, too. Each tiny rib poking through her pink fuzz. Every beat of her little heart would make her whole body shake. I was in tears by the time I got her inside the restaurant."
"I remember coming home from the buttermilk factory, and finding out Cup had quit her job. I wasn't sure why until I saw the little pink bundle she was holding." Mr.Cake smiled a bit, but there was sadness in his eyes. "I didn't think she was going to survive, honestly. You could almost see through her."
"For the longest time, we thought we couldn't have children." Mrs.Cake continued. "We tried and tried but could never, you know, conceive. I was determined to help that foal. But so upset at the same time. It was as if Celestia had heard our prayers and answered them in the cruelest way possible."
"It took a year before we got her to say anything to us. We asked her for her name so many times and finally one day she said 'Pinkamena'. Then we got the silent treatment again. When she saw the finished bakery, that helped a lot. Something about the catering, baking and parties seemed to bring her to life. After that she never stopped chattering!"
Dash smiled at the story. The Cake's really did see Pinkie as their daughter, even if they weren't related by blood.
"Do you guys think....that....I'd be good at that? Taking care of someone?" Dash grimaced. That question was awkward even for her.
"Rainbow, you are going to be absolutely fine." Mr.Cake said with a small nod. "I think you've proven you're more than qualified."
"Dash, Carrot and I weren't prepared at all when we found Pinkie. We had no money, no real jobs, no home, and no real knowledge on how to raise a child. It wasn't easy. It never was or will be. But you will learn, just as we did. You'll be perfect, honey. Just have a little faith in yourself." Mrs.Cake nodded approvingly in Dash's direction.
Dash said thanks and turned to leave the room, ready to finish up business with Twilight. But before she left, she glanced at the twins, Pound and Pumpkin who were still suckling, their stubby tails waving excitedly. A new question popped into her head.
"Don't you guys have formula you give them?"
As if on cue, both of the Cakes shrugged.
"We try, Rainbow. They seem to prefer this." Mrs.Cake replied.
Dash marched back and forth in the hallway outside of the room Scootaloo was sleeping in. The last person she wanted to talk to before she set out to finish her business was perhaps the most important person of all. Dash was as serious as she was able. Her orders, quick and concise. Her rule, absolute.
"Tank." Rainbow began, turning a steely eye at the large grinning tortoise. "I have a very important mission for you, soldier."
Tank nodded slowly.
"I may be gone most of today, Tank. I have to get the right papers so Scootaloo can come home with us. Meaning I won't be here to see her open her gifts. Your mission is a simple one, Tank. But it is dire. I won't lie to you, soldier. This mission is dangerous. Deadly. It may scar your soul for life. Leave your mind in shreds. And leave you as a sad husk of a once proud reptile. Are you prepared, Tank?"
Tank, unfazed at the peptalk, nodded his head and made a low grunt that sounded sort of like "gufgh".
"Good man! That's what I like to hear from my second-in-command! Your job today? Make sure Scootaloo has the best Hearths-Warming she can until I arrive back here. Play with her. Help her open her gifts. Keep her occupied so Pinkie doesn't have to. Make sure Pinkie spends as much time with the Cakes as possible. Her family. I think she needs that. Also I know you've been trying to eat Gummi's tail. If I find out you've bitten him again, I will not hesitate to court-martial. Is that clear?"
The old tortoise smiled mischievously. He enjoyed taking advantage of the capricious alligator. Seeing Gummi go from a state of complete blank-faced quiet to suddenly squeaking in panic and running around in circles filled Tank with a cruel delight.
"I said is that clear, soldier!?" Dash barked, looking as stern as possible.
Tank raised one of his stumpy legs and saluted. Being a tortoise, he soon found himself off balance with one of his legs so high in the air and flopped over to his side.
"Good!" Dash grabbed the tortoise, hugging him and rubbing the top of his head with her snout affectionately. "Good boy, Tank! I got you a gift too, you know. It's that lumpy green one with a turtle drawing on the tag. I can't really wrap gifts well. Or draw. But I know you'll like it!"
A look of glee slowly appeared on the tortoise's wrinkled features. He had no idea what this holiday was about or why it was so important to these horses, but he was going to have a darn good time regardless. And he was determined to bite Gummi's tail one last time before the day was over. And if Rainbow got upset...well....
So be it.