“So it was a no go with Twilight?”
It was the morning after his walk through Whitetail Wood with Twilight Sparkle and Big Macintosh was sitting down to breakfast with his two sisters, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo. Applejack had asked the question, her efforts to keep the grin from her face failing miserably.
“I think we're better off friends,” he answered, sipping his coffee.
“Well friends is an improvement over your date with Rainbow Dash,” Sweetie Belle offered. It made Big Mac chuckle.
“Dash is a fine mare but I reckon she's better fit for a pony who likes competition. Set of wings probably wouldn't hurt none, either.”
Scootaloo's eyes narrowed. “So pegasus ponies are out.”
“Well now, that ain't true. There are a lot of pegasai that don't mind livin' down here.”
“Like Fluttershy!” Apple Bloom exclaimed.
Applejack looked at her brother and quirked an eyebrow. “That who you're goin' out with next?”
Big Macintosh cleared his throat uncomfortably. “No, not exactly. Ya'll remember that tonight they're showin' My Fair Pony downtown tonight, right?”
“Oh yeah,” said Sweetie Belle. “It's going to be outside and playing on the side of the windmill. Everypony's going to be there!”
“Well I figured that'd be the best place for me to take Pinkie Pie on our...uh...date.”
Applejack looked at him with confusion. “But if you're watchin' a movie how the hay are ya'll gonna have a chance to talk?” He looked at her and blinked slowly. When it dawned on Applejack she nodded and smirked. “You won't. Not bad, big brother.”
“But how will you know if you like her or not if you don't talk to her?” asked Scootaloo. “I thought the whole point of a date was to talk and be goopy and gross.”
“We'll talk some,” Big Mac promised. “We're gonna have supper at the cafe first.”
Apple Bloom furrowed her brow. “Does this mean we can't go see the movie? Because you said we can't follow you on your dates.”
He smiled and reached over to ruffle her mane. “Course you can go. Just means you can't sit with me. Or sit an' stare at us all night.” His green eyes fell on Applejack. “That means you, too.”
“I Pinkie promise,” she said between giggles.
The three fillies got down from the table, finished with their breakfast. “A date with Pinkie Pie,” muttered Scootaloo to her friends. “Better get the next one ready. I don't think ANYpony is nuts enough to want to kiss her!”
“Let's do my sister next!” squeaked Sweetie Belle as they ran from the room.
Big Macintosh sighed and shook his head. “Remind me again why I'm doin' this?”
“Because you love our baby sister.” Applejack cleared the dishes from the table and started to fill the sink to wash them. “An' because you knew I haven't had a laugh this rich in a long time!”
“What did Dash tell you?”
“That you bowl like a blind filly with four left hooves.”
Big Mac shrugged and took another sip of his coffee. “Sounds about right.”
“We are...I am confused.”
Luna sat in the front room of Sugarcube Corner watching Pinkie Pie wrap up the last pumpkin spice whoopie pie for an overly excited colt. “Big Macintosh is asking Applejack's friends out on dates to appease the littlest Apple?”
“Correctamundo,” answered Pinkie Pie. She followed the little colt to the door and closed it behind him when he was gone. The lock was pushed forward and the “Open” sign was flipped over to say that the bakery was closed. “It was so weird when Big Mac asked me about tonight because nopony's ever asked me on a date before, let alone one of my best friend's brothers but then he told me all about the Crusaders and what they're doing and said he'd buy me dinner and we could go watch the movie in the park together so of course I said yes because I LOVE movies in the park and who in all of Equestia can turn down free food?”
Luna blinked patiently. “But you do not care for him and he does not care for you?”
“Not in the smoochy poochie, lovely dovey way,” Pinkie giggled. “He's just Big Mac and I'm just Pinkie Pie. And together we're just friends.”
With a slight frown, Luna rubbed her head with a hoof. “Perhaps it is I who needs the lessons in friendship and not Twilight Sparkle. I do not understand why you would waste each others time on a date that is not real. Do you not wish to find real love?”
“With Big Macintosh?” Pinkie snorted and bounced over to Luna to nuzzle her affectionately. “You're so funny, Luna. That's why you're my bestest best friend!”
“Not with Big Macintosh necessarily. I suppose I meant in general. Why would you go on a date with a pony you know you are not interested in in that way when you could be going out on a date with a pony you saw a potential future with?”
Pinkie's smile was sweet as she looked at her friend. “Silly Luna. I'm not smart like Twilight, strong or fast like Applejack and Dashie, and I'm certainly not beautiful like Fluttershy and Rarity. When you're Pinkie Pie, you take what you can get. And did I mention free food?”
“Oh, Pinkie.” Luna hugged Pinkie tightly. “There is a stallion out there who matches you perfectly.”
“I know.” The pink earth pony pulled back and gave a little shrug. “But he's not here.”
There was a knock on the door and both mares turned to see a big red stallion on the doorstoop, looking around as he waited with a chaff of wheat between his teeth. Pinkie Pie bounced, her energy level picking right back up again. “How's my mane?”
“Perfect!” She trotted happily to the door to push the lock back and let Big Macintosh in. “Hiya, Big Mac!”
“Evenin' Pinkie.” He nodded to the alicorn inside. “Luna. Will we be seein' you at the movie tonight?”
The navy mare nodded. “A movie in the park with the rest of Ponyville sounds like...fun. Yes, we...I shall be there.”
“Well all righty. Ready to go, Pinkie?”
“Yep! See you later, Luna!”
“Farewell!” Luna trotted to the open door to watch the pair as they headed toward Clover's cafe. With a confused shake of her head she closed the shop door behind her and took to the sky.
“How was your day?” asked Big Macintosh politely, smiling down at Pinkie as they walked.
“It was the most incredible day ever! First I got to bake one of my very favorite kinds of cupcakes, three dozen of them, for a birthday party this afternoon. Then Mrs. Cake and I tried a new recipe for something called chocolate lava cake which really isn't made with lava but it really is made with chocolate and is a cake with ooey gooey yummy hot runny melty delicious chocolate inside that makes you have to just close your eyes and imagine what it would be like to bathe in chocolate which kind of reminded me of the chocolate rain so then I suggested building a chocolate milk fountain replica of the fountain we have in the middle of town but use this one at the next Grand Galloping Gala because, I mean, really. What kind of a party would it be if there was no chocolate milk!”
Big Macintosh blinked. “Uh...eeyup.”
“Oh Big Mac,” Pinkie giggled. “You're so insightful!”
“Uh...so what made it the most incredible day ever?”
Now Pinkie blinked as she looked up at him as though he should already know the answer. “I'm alive! I get to taste yummy things and talk to my friends. I can breathe the air and walk the streets of a town I love. That makes this the most incredible day ever. And tomorrow will be even better!” She smiled happily and looked ahead as they walked along. For the stallion beside her, the answer she'd given was not what he'd expected. But it made him think.
Pinkie Pie was genuinely happy just to be alive. No wonder she was so bouncy and giggly all the time. If she was this content just to be able to wake up each day and live, anything on top of that must have overjoyed her. Hearing her humming softly beside him brought a small smile to his own face. Truly, she was one of a kind. “Somethin' tells me there's a lot more to you than meets the eye, Pinkie Pie.”
“Isn't that true about everypony?”
He chuckled quietly to himself. Who would have guessed the party pony would be so wise? As they drew upon Clover's cafe, Big Macintosh opened the door for Pinkie and let her in before following after her. They were led to a table nearby and seated. Once their drink orders were given and the waiter gone, Pinkie Pie looked at the string of small white lights that clung to the wooden crossbeams above the dining room. “I love eating here,” she said dreamily. “It's like eating outside under the stars without having to worry about all the bugs who want to share your food with you. I don't mind sharing with other ponies or the occasional baby dragon. But I don't know where those bugs' mouths have been!”
It didn't take long for the waiter to come back with two tall glasses of sweet tea, and when they were asked their order, Pinkie batted her big blue eyes at her date. “Will you order for me? The stallion always orders for the mare in the movies and since we're seeing such a wonderfully sweet movie tonight, it would make it even better!”
“I can do that,” Big Macintosh acquiesced. “We'll both have the almond quinoa and asparagus, please.”
“Oooh, I love asparagus!” Pinkie exclaimed. “And quinoa is so fun to say. Quinoa, quinoa quinoa!”
The waiter just gave her a side eye before trotting back to the kitchen. “You know, Big Macintosh, this thing that you're doing for your sister is really nice. I wish I had a big brother like you.”
“I figure it can't really hurt nothin' if I go along with it. All the same, thank you for comin' out with me tonight. For the Crusaders' sake, I appreciate it.”
“It's no biggie.” Pinkie took a sip of her tea. “Even though we're just friends, a date is a date. And I haven't been asked out on a date in...well...never!”
“Now that can't be true.”
“It is! I wouldn't kid a kidder, and you look like you can be quite the kidder, Big Mac. Yessiree, you are my first official date.”
“Well then I feel doubly honored then.”
“How come you don't have a fillyfriend anyway? You're friendly, caring, not at all hard to look at.”
“Careful. Might make me blush.”
She giggled. “Not that I'd be able to tell.”
“True.” He grinned but gave a small shrug. “Never really gave it much thought. Takin' care of the farm an' my family always comes first. I got my hooves pretty full there. Don't reckon there's a filly out there would be interested much in what I do.”
“I know what you mean.” The answer, for Pinkie Pie, was somewhat deflated. She took another sip of her tea and looked up at the lights again.
“What about you?” Big Mac asked curiously. “How come you're still single?”
Her pink coat could not hide her blush, and her eyes almost looked sad. “Aw, you know. I'm crazy Pinkie Pie! The party pony extraordinaire, the one to whom the rules of time, space, and gravity don't apply. No one wants to be with someone as silly as me.”
Big Mac frowned slightly. “You don't really believe that, do you?”
“Maybe.” The usual flare with which Pinkie spoke was lost in her quiet reply. For the first time in Big Mac's recollection she actually looked shy and vulnerable. “Can you keep a secret?”
“'Course I can.”
She hesitated slightly, running a hoof along the rim of her glass. “It's all an act. Me being silly and random all the time? It's not really me. Well some of it's really me but a lot of times it's not. Growing up on the rock farm with my family...my sisters and I never felt like we were good enough, or smart enough, or enough in general. Please don't think badly of my parents; they're good ponies who just didn't know how to love us the right way. The day I got my cutie mark was the happiest day of my life but it was also the saddest.”
The waiter approached and she paused in her story, all sadness leaving her as she smiled and thanked him. “Mmmm,” she sighed. “This smells so yummy!”
They both dug into their dinner and were silent for a few minutes. But Big Mac wanted to hear the rest of her story and wasn't quiet for long. “What happened when you got your cutie mark that would make it so sad?”
“I realized I would never be happy there.” Pinkie took a sip of tea to clear her throat and wash the quinoa out of her teeth. “Before I kept telling myself that I would get my cutie mark and know what my calling was. You may or may not believe it, but parties and rock farms don't go well together. My mom and dad didn't really know how to relate to me after that, though it did bring me closer to my sisters. I was the one to be silly and crazy during the long days. It made them feel better and I was able to push my own sadness away in order to make their days easier. When I realized I couldn't stay there anymore and moved here, I was so sad. Only Mr. and Mrs. Cake know this, but I cried a lot.”
“I remember you comin' to town. Applejack came home one day tellin' me about a crazy filly livin' with the Cakes.”
Pinkie nodded. “That was me. At least, that was the me I was hiding behind. I was so lonely and so wanted ponies to accept me that I started acting that way all the time. It made ponies remember me, like me. And it let me kind of turn off my brain. When I'm silly and random I'm not worrying about what everypony else is thinking of me, what they say about me when I'm not around. I don't question compliments given or look for a double meaning in their words. I'm not self-conscious or uncomfortable in my own skin. I'm just happy.”
“But it's a fake happy.”
“Sometimes. The Cakes know the real Pinkie. Applejack does, too. She and Luna are the only ponies who have ever seen me really cry.”
“Pinkie...” Big Macintosh felt sadness for her and it showed in his expression.
“It's all right, Big Mac. It's taken me a really long time but I'm learning how to let ponies in and to be myself. And maybe it'll take the rest of forever to feel like I don't have to be the Pinkie everyone knows, but it's okay. I have friends I can talk to when I need to be sad.”
“I hope you can count me as one of 'em now.”
Her smile was different from all the smiles from before. There wasn't a space-case vacancy in her eyes but a genuine warmth. “I think I can.”
“An for the record, I believe you'll make somepony real happy someday.”
Now she grinned. “Really? Oh, I'm so glad you said that, because -”
She was cut off as the waiter came over to clear their dishes away. At the same time, the front door opened and Twilight Sparkle walked in. Big Mac waved and Pinkie, turning to see who he was waving at, saw her friend and did the same. In a rather chaotic manner. Twilight, in turn, waved back in embarrassment.
“What's got her tail in a twist?” Pinkie asked.
Clover, a gray stallion with black hair and three clovers for a cutie mark, came out from the kitchen and met the unicorn at the counter. “Twilight Sparkle. You know, if you keep coming by like this I'm going to start thinking you're here for more than the food.”
Twilight's cheeks burned red and she gave a nervous laugh. “What? Ha ha! It's not the food. I mean, it is the food, it's not anything else. I'm a terrible cook!”
Everyone in the cafe turned at the outburst, which only made Twilight blush deeper. Her ears drooped and she gave another nervous laugh. “It's okay,” Clover said smoothly. “You can tell me the truth. You're here because of Deep Fry, aren't you?”
Both of them looked toward the kitchen through the open door. A pony three sizes too big around the middle, with a pale blue coat stained yellow in places and a white unruly mane that stuck out at all odd angles peered back out at them upon hearing his name. He blinked and then went back to work.
Twilight laughed quietly. “Yep, you caught me. I just like to come here and look at Deep Fry.”
“I knew it,” said Clover. “Same as usual.”
“That would be nice. Thank you.”
Big Macintosh bit down hard on a smile, remembering his conversation with Twilight the day before. Seemingly knowing his thoughts, Twilight looked in his direction, gave a half smile and shrugged. When Clover came out with her order she paid and hurried out the door.
“That was weird,” Pinkie said.
Big Macintosh cleared his throat, ready to bring the subject back to their conversation and take the attention off Twilight. “So what were you sayin' before?”
Pinkie took another sip of her tea, smiling around the straw. “Oh, nevermind.”
The entire town had come out to see the movie that night. Blankets were laid out where friends gathered to share snacks, jokes, and each other's company before the movie began. Big Mac told Pinkie that Applejack brought them a blanket they could have to themselves but the party pony shook her head when it was mentioned.
“I just had the best dinner, and it wasn't because of the food. As much as I have enjoyed our date tonight, don't you think a movie is better when shared with friends?”
Big Macintosh couldn't help but smile. “Pinkie Pie, I couldn't agree more.”
While Pinkie went from group to group rounding up their friends, blankets were moved together so all of the six close friends could sit together along wiht Luna, Big Macintosh and the Crusaders. As he settled down in the group of females the stallion looked around himself with a peaceful smile. So far he'd gotten to see a side of Twilight he never knew and a side of Pinkie he never would have guessed existed. Regret hit him, thinking of the train wreck that was his supposed date with Rainbow Dash. Had he known what was going on he might have tried a littler harder. But then glancing at her now and seeing some of the looks that passed between her and Applejack, a few things fell into place. Those looks, the teasing, and the level of Applejack's amusement after the date all made him open his eyes to what had been there all along.
Now there were only two mares left. His gaze fell on the timid Fluttershy, then went to the elegant Rarity. What surprising things would he learn about them, and would either one of them turn out to be the mare of his dreams?