"You really don't think I did it?"
"Of course not. I know you think 'a dozen dozen' is clever wordplay, but do the math. Not even you can eat one hundred and forty-four donuts."
Frederic Horseshoepin grinned. "A hundred forty-five, actually. Joe made the last one a baker's dozen."
"Yeah," Bluenote said, nodding. "We thought he was crazy, but he really did it. His stomach must be made of iron or something."
Octavia rolled her eyes at the sousaphone player. "C'mon, you don't really expect me to believe that."
"Weren't you there, Octavia?"
"Nah," Harpo said, taking a sip of his drink. "That was the night she got kicked out for decking that Hawthorne guy, remember?"
"Octavia got thrown out for kicking somebody's flank?" Vinyl Scratch chuckled. "You know, that actually doesn't surprise me."
"He deserved it," muttered the bassist, folding her forelegs and leaning on the table.
An impish smile spread across Frederic's face. "Well, since you missed it the first time, I think a repeat performance is in order."
"I really don't think that's a good idea, mate," Harpo said, shaking his head. "It didn't exactly work out too great before, remember?"
"Yeah," said Bluenote. "You're kind of scary when you've got a year's worth of sugar in you."
Octavia chuckled. "Oh, please. Could you three be more transparent?"
Frederic slammed his hooves onto the table and stood up tall. "Very well, then. If you don't believe me, I have no choice but to prove it."
"I really think you shouldn't," Bluenote said meekly.
"I'm sorry, Bluenote, but I must. At times like this, a stallion has to stand up and let the light of truth cast out the specters of skepticism and doubt."
Scratch raised an eyebrow. "I think you're takin' this a little too far, bud."
"That's just Frederic," Harpo said with a shrug. "He refuses to believe that any amount of suspicion is healthy. You know those sketchy ads you find in the back of the paper? They're for him."
Frederic turned towards the donut shop's counter and called for its keeper. "Pony Joe! Bring me a dozen donuts, squared!"
"You sure about that, Fred?"
"Then I guess you got it, boss." Joe knew he shouldn't be condoning this kind of behavior, but he couldn't say no to a sale that big.
"You're seriously going to do this?" asked Octavia, sounding doubtful.
"Of course I am. I meant what I said, and I said what I meant; a Horseshoepin's faithful, one hundred percent."
"It's not really a question of faithfulness," said Harpo.
"That's beside the point, dear Harpo. After all, we're a team, and teamwork is predicated on trust. How do you expect us to play together if we can't take each other on our word?"
"We wouldn't have that problem if you didn't keep making these ridiculous things up," Octavia opined.
The pianist scoffed. "I've never made anything up in my life."
"Like your little grey ponies?"
Frederic stuck his nose in the air with a harrumph. "They are real and I will hear nothing to the contrary."
Octavia, Harpo, and Bluenote glanced away awkwardly and waited for the moment to pass. Scratch, sensing that she was better off not knowing how deep this particular rabbit hole went, followed their lead.
Finally, Octavia broke the silence with a sigh. "Look, all I'm saying is I won't be the one dragging you home once you pass out halfway through."
"I dunno, I think he can do it," said Scratch. "At least, it doesn't seem like he's lying." The DJ shrugged. "Besides, it's not like believing him hurts anything."
"Yeah?" said Octavia with a devious smile. "Well, what if we put something on the line, then?"
Scratch thought a moment, then leaned forward onto the table. "Okay, sure. Whaddya have in mind?"
Harpo shook his head. "Really? You two are ridiculous."
"If Frederic can't eat all of the donuts," Octavia said, ignoring him, "you'll have to pay his tab, and if he needs someone to carry him back home- or to the hospital, for that matter- you have to do that, too."
"Oh, so you're just trying to pawn off the dirty work? Boring!" The unicorn grinned. "But I'll take it."
"Good. I'm sure there's no way one pony can take that much sugar at once, so I'll let you name your own terms."
"Alright, then. Once my man Freddy here-" Scratch threw a foreleg around the pianist's shoulder- "plows his way through that mountain of fried dough, you'll have to come watch my set down at the Trotsbury next week."
Octavia would never agree to do so without being coerced; she despised the nightclub atmosphere, and while she respected Scratch as a friend and musician (to the extent that she respected anyone, at least, which was less than you might expect) she simply wasn't a fan of electronic music on the whole. Scratch knew this, of course, but she always thought it would do the bassist some good to move out of her comfort zone- by force, if necessary. The fact that it would make her squirm was just an added bonus, really.
"Fine. I accept." Octavia put a leg out and shook Vinyl's hoof, sealing the wager.
Scratch nudged Frederic playfully. "Alright, big guy, I'm countin' on you. Don't let me down here, okay?"
The pianist grinned. "I assure you I shan't, Miss Scratch."
Pony Joe came by and deposited a load of donuts before returning to the back of the store and preparing more. Frederic eyed the confections and, after a brief moment of mental preparation, began to dig in.
"Oh, dear," Bluenote said softly, trying to make herself look smaller in the hopes that she wouldn't be noticed once things invariably went south.
Harpo sighed. "Now we are all sons of mares."
"He's really goin' at it, huh?" Scratch observed idly, staring in bemusement as the voracious pony downed donut after donut.
"It won't last," Octavia said with wavering certainty.
The group watched in slightly disturbed awe as Frederic devoured dozens of frosted confections, steadily approaching his goal with no sign of slowing down. Pony Joe stepped in every now and then with a fresh batch, but the pianist was otherwise left undisturbed.
"You know, ponies look really weird when they eat stuff," observed Scratch.
"Trust me, we are all acutely aware of that fact," Harpo said.
After what seemed to be both an impossibly long and frighteningly short time, Frederic finished off his one hundred forty-fifth donut. "See, I told ya!" he said, grinning triumphantly. "A dozen dozens, plus one. So there." He stood up and glanced at the door. "Now, if you'll excuse me a moment, there's something I want to do. See ya!" The pianist burst into a gallop and ran out of the shop. The others watched him go in stunned silence.
Joe looked up from the glass he was washing. "Is he gonna pay for that?"
"Uh, he'll probably be back soon," Harpo said, feeling even less sure than he sounded. "Just give him a few minutes."
"If you say so." Joe looked back down and resumed working on the dishes.
"You said this happened before?" Octavia asked, still staring blankly at the entrance to the donut shop.
"Uh, well… yes," said Bluenote, whose worried gaze was bouncing between her friends and the door.
"Why didn't anybody mention it before tonight?"
"We didn't really want to talk about it."
Octavia pulled her eyes away from the entrance and glanced around the table. "…Fair enough."
"Looking back, this probably wasn't a good idea," said Scratch.
"You think?" muttered Harpo.
"Well… Hey, at least I won, right?"
Octavia stared at the DJ for a moment and then sunk her head into her hooves. "I hate everything."
Suddenly, the door burst open and Frederic ran inside carrying a bag of golf clubs. "Hey, guys! Look what I got!"
Everypony stared at him for a moment until Harpo broke the silence. "Frederic, why do you have those clubs?"
Frederic's expression went blank as his brain tried to reconcile this question with his previous line of thought, which had been decidedly light on whys. "I dunno, mate. I just kinda felt like I needed a nice set of golf clubs, y'know?"
Scratch glanced at Octavia, who had buried her face into the table. "I think your piano guy might be a bit unstable."
The bassist lifted her head up just enough to glare at Scratch. "Please shut up."
"Maybe that was the wrong question," said Harpo, rubbing his temples. "Can you tell me where you got them?"
"Oh, that's an easy one!" said Frederic, relieved to be asked something he could answer. "I picked 'em up at this lovely old pawn shop just down the street a bit."
"Did you pay for them?"
"Erm, well, I mean… The stallion at the register gave 'em to me. Yeah, that's it. Said I was a good colt and told me to go ahead an' take 'em."
Harpo looked at him suspiciously. "He really liked you, huh?"
"He wouldn't a gave me these clubs if he didn't like me."
Harpo sighed. "Alright, Frederic, you're not fooling any of us. Just take them back before-"
The door burst open again and a hoofful of guards entered the shop. "Hey there, gents!" said Fredric, beaming as one of them grabbed him by the shoulder.
Scratch made a show of looking innocent while Bluenote squeaked and stood up perfectly straight, attempting to appear as polite and respectful as possible. Octavia and Harpo just put their hooves to their faces and sighed in frustration.
"C'mon, buddy," said the guard who had Frederic's shoulder, shoving him towards the door. "You're coming with us."
"Alright, guys, these nice fellows need me for a bit, but I'll be back soon! See you later!" called Frederic as the guards lead him outside. "Say, are we going down to the station? I'll race you!"
"Do you think he'll be okay?" asked Bluenote once they were gone.
"He'll be fine," said Scratch, waving a hoof dismissively. "Worst that'll happen is they might throw him in lockup for the night until the sugar wears off."
"It'd be for the best, really," said Harpo. "He'll probably just hurt himself otherwise."
"The glutton's probably hurt himself already," muttered Octavia. "That can't have been healthy."
Harpo shrugged. "He seemed to be fine once the donuts worked their way out of his system last time. I wouldn't recommend he try for a third, though."
Pony Joe walked over to their table. "Y'know, someone's still gotta pay for Fred."
Scratch looked around at the others and shrugged. "I only got a couple bits on me, so you guys are gonna have to hoof the bill."
Bluenote glanced at a clock mounted on the wall. "Um, it's getting late and my appetite's kind of shot, so, uh, I think I'm going to leave now," she said, quickly dropping a couple of bits on the table for her food and heading for the exit.
Harpo and Octavia looked at each other. "…He'll probably pay you back tomorrow," said the harpist, edging away from the table.
Octavia sighed. "Just go."
Harpo nodded appreciatively, handed Joe some money, and left the shop.
Scratch stood around awkwardly as Octavia pulled out a bag and started counting out bits. "Uh… Do you want me to stick around, or…?"
The bassist looked up and glared at her.
"Right, gotcha. I'm gone." She handed Joe some money and headed for the exit. "Show's next Wednesday at seven," she called as she left the shop. "See ya there!"
Octavia stared at the door for a moment after the DJ left, then groaned and dumped out a large pile of bits onto the table. "Give me whatever I can get with what's left over."
"You sure?" asked Joe. "That's a pretty big chunk of change."
The bassist just stared at him.
"Alright, kid, if that's what you want."
Octavia was halfway through her own sizable plate when Frederic burst back into the store, carrying a guard's helmet. "Hey, Octavia!" he shouted, unfazed by the fact that the others had left. "Look what I- hey, are those donuts?"