• Published 1st Nov 2014
  • 1,585 Views, 38 Comments

Button Cash - CouchCrusader



Button Mash and Diamond Tiara bond over a single cent.

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On most days, Button liked coming to Sugarcube Corner. Maybe there was a little too much pink wrapping around the columns and bannisters, and he certainly wasn’t there for all the hearts laid into the woodwork and walls, but a colt as coltish as he could only demand so much of the town’s number one bakery and sweet shop. Ponies young and old packed the seating area, sipping on smoothies and munching on cupcakes, though their chatter had died down somewhat with his entrance.

Or, rather, hers. And only now he noticed, bracingly, how quiet it had become as the portly, blue-coated earth mare glared across the counter at his current company.

“And how do you plan to pay for that today, dear?” Mrs. Cake demanded, smoothing down the ruffles on her apron straps.

“Daddy’s tab, as always,” Diamond shot back, smirking. “Just put it on there with the rest of what he owes you.”

Button shied a step back, allowing a display case of fruit pies to half-hide himself from the rest of the bakery. Mrs. Cake was always nice to him, but she was acting a lot like Mom did when she caught him doing something bad, and everypony knew all mothers could read minds and follow up accordingly.

“I ran into your father the other day, young lady,” she said, veins tensing in her neck like piano wires. “He’d never heard of a tab under his name here—or with anywhere else in all of Ponyville. The only reason you’re still in my store is because he paid for everything, then and there.”

“But surely you value my repeat business?” Diamond sidled up to the counter and leaned a foreleg against the glass. “I’m never that much in need of a milkshake that I can’t have one delivered from Canterlot in a refrigerated car. You should be glad there’s nothing I enjoy more than supporting my local economy.”

Mrs. Cake stood her ground, purple eyes boring into Diamond’s blues. “I’ll be happy to make your milkshake after you pay for it, just like how it works for everypony else,” she said, sweeping her hoof toward her diners. A couple of them gave her a nod.

The kitchen doors burst outward, expelling a wiry orange stallion with a bow tie and a grimace on his face. “And even if we let you pay later,” he said, whisking by with a tray of pastries destined for the window display, “you’d have to wait until we repaired our sprinkle machine. Poor thing finally gave out this morning.”

Mrs. Cake turned on her husband. “Dear!”

“Best sprinkle machine we ever had, too,” Mr. Cake continued, lime-green eyes sliding upwards in recollection. “Good ol’ Betty, puttin’ em out one at a time since my great-great uncle bought her from the old Foalsworth’s in Manehattan.”

“Dear!” Mrs. Cake repeated, an octave higher. “We’ve enough sprinkles in reserve to last us through the week. That’ll give us plenty of time to find a replacement.”

The kitchen doors burst outward again, this time disgorging a puffy-maned pink earth mare with her cheeks flecked with every color on and off the rainbow. She more bounced than walked, and it was hard not to hear her perky, balloons-rubbing-against-each-other squeak-talk from a hundred paces, much less ten.

Button liked her.

“Hey, Mrs. Cake!” said Pinkie Pie, peppering her boss’ face with confectionary shrapnel. “I’m taking this week’s pay in sprinkles ‘cause I realized I was really really hungry and in the mood for, like, a gabzillion of something. You ever been in one of those moods before? Sprinkles are really good for that, I’ve learned! Oooh, that’s a journal entry!”

Mrs. Cake blinked.

“Don’t worry—there’s still a sack back there for the rest of the day. I’m off to Twilight’s, but I’ll be back for the lunch rush!” Pinkie cartwheeled between Button and Diamond on her way toward the front door. “See you later!” she trilled, and with one final bang she disappeared into the city.

The door creaked closed behind her. For a few fragile moments, the only sound in the building was the hum of display cases refrigerating their contents.

“Ahem.” Diamond Tiara rapped on the counter. The grin she wore had far too many square, shiny teeth for Button’s comfort, so he reached up and retrieved his penny from under his beanie.

“So I hear you’re having trouble with your sprinkle machine,” Diamond said.

“Oh, most definitely,” said Mr. Cake, swinging around the counter.

Button would swear on his Joy Boy that he heard a sound—something between a spike slamming into something meaty and a baseball bat obliterating a skull. It came from the glare Mrs. Cake shot at her husband, and his head jerked forward before he could skitter back into the kitchen.

Diamond tapped on the counter once more, and not in the oblivious way other foals stuck their hooves in things like wall outlets, bear traps, or Mom and Dad’s Completely Unremarkable Drawer of Mom and Dad Stuff. Button had stumbled across that drawer once, and to this day he still had no idea why Mom turned that red when he asked why they kept those weird rumble packs in there.

Completely Unremarkable his poor, bruised hiney, but his parents probably had a point. They didn’t even plug into any of his controllers.

“…still hung up on the part where you make me my order and I pay you later,” Diamond’s voice came fading back in as her hoof pulled Button to the counter. “So, let me introduce you to my friend.”

Flat-hoofed! Button cursed his inattention as he gazed into Mo—Mrs. Cake’s eyes. His ears folded against the certain hurricane, one he’d already survived that morning in the living room, if barely.

Only, Mrs. Cake didn’t yell.

“You?” she mouthed at him, eyes wide and unbelieving.

“My friend carries with him a very precious commodity, Mrs. Cake.” Diamond’s voice had somehow turned sweeter than a box of Calf ‘n’ Hobs’ Sugar Bombs, though Button was too occupied with not being vaporized on sight to appreciate that. The hoof in his side jammed him out of it as Diamond told him, “Show her what you have there.”

Button gave her a confused look, to which she only answered with a smile and a “Go on.” It was worth millions, according to her. Button wasn’t a hundred percent sure what a million came after, but it sounded about as valuable as a purple Corona blaster in Burrolands 2, and he wasn’t sure if waving that kind of tech around in public was a good idea. Cringing, he sat back on his haunches and presented his penny with both hooves.

Mrs. Cake peered over the counter, brows furrowing. “That’s it?”

“To you, it’s a simple penny,” said Diamond, leaving the counter to circle behind Button. “To Penny Royal down the street, it’s a very rare kind of penny. It’ll be worth a fortune.”

“Oh, dear.” Mrs. Cake held a hoof to her mouth, though even Button could cotton onto something weird going on with her. “That’s quite compelling. I never realized how much I could trust you in these matters.”

Diamond chuckled. “Don’t patronize us, Mrs. Cake. It’s quite insulting. At any rate, this penny will make me—I mean, us—” she said, patting Button on the head when he glanced at her, “quite the tidy sum. And when you see us walk past this building without the brand new sprinkle machine you so dearly need right now, you’ll realize just how much that milkshake you wouldn’t make me will have cost you.”

Button blinked. One by one, wheels came unstuck in his head, conveying Diamond’s words from his ears to the sleepy little part of his brain responsible for processing them. “You want to buy them,” he whispered, grasping for words, “a sprinkle machine? For a milkshake?”

“Two milkshakes, actually,” Diamond said, nudging Button in the side with a wink. “Can’t forget about you, can I?”

Mrs. Cake struck her countertop hard enough that Button thought he heard something splinter. “I’ve had just about enough of this,” she declared, staring the both of them down—yep, Button too, he realized as his insides curled up and asked for blankies—with apocalyptic Mom-level threat. “I will not be swindled in my own store. Leave.”

Button’s ears folded. So did the rest of him, at the thought of what Mom’d do to him if she heard about this. When she heard about this. His older brother always talked about the time he’d been stuffed into a box for a week without his LPs...

Diamond held her hooves up in front of her chest. “Perhaps I may have done a few things—”

Mrs. Cake pointed at the door. “Now!”

“Excuse me, rude!” Diamond barked back. Pressing her counteroffensive, “So I was saying that I may have done a few things to cause friction between us but Mrs. Cake please return behind the counter and hear me out!”

Way back when Button was a newcolt to the gaming scene, exploring the world of Ponyroth with his first ever zombie cleric, he’d somehow stumbled beyond the borders of the lowbie glade into a corrupted forest where the only life was death. Not ten yards into the zone, a reanimated manticore picked up his scent beyond sight range, somehow, and welcomed his arrival by spreading his character over a half mile of terrain.

Being honest with himself, the whole thing got kind of insulting after the quarter-mile mark. Now that this was real life, it was all terrifying.

He put his hooves together, held them up, and prayed to gods named and unnamed that he’d still have both his ears attached after Mrs. Cake dragged him back to his house.

“Oh, good job, good job,” Diamond said.

“I’m sorry!” Button whimpered.

“Not you! You.”

Until then, Button had had no idea that Diamond had put points into Petrifying Glare. No other explanation sufficed for why Mrs. Cake stopped in her tracks, her wheeling rage arrested along with a junior seismologist’s love for his job. Her hoof had shot up to her mouth, and her eyes darted towards the still-occupied seating area.

“All right, all right,” Diamond conceded, walking toward her vanquished foe. “I admit you and I may not see eye to eye when it comes to you giving me stuff when I ask for it. But what right do you have to barrage this poor little colt because he just happened to walk in here with nothing beside him but me and my good intentions? Are you going to tell him that the penny he holds right now isn’t worth what he thinks it’s worth? Can you live with that? And if you can...”

Diamond folded her ears and sniffled. “... will everypony else here be able to, after they saw you yelling at two members of your largest business demographic?”

Hard to say whose jaw dropped first. Button was content to call it a tie with Mrs. Cake.

“I, um…” Mrs. Cake backtracked behind the counter.

“You just want to make children like us cry,” Diamond said, wiping her eyes.

“No, dear.” Mrs. Cake couldn’t keep her eyes off the two or three ponies standing from their tables. “I-I do have a business to run, that’s all.”

“Children who only wanted to help you in your time of new sprinkle machine need.”

Mrs. Cake flicked her tail, turned her head toward the kitchen. “Dear?”

“You’ve got this, honey!” Mr. Cake called from somewhere near the back.

Button put his hooves down. When he chanced a glance at Diamond, the wink she passed back lifted something on his face.

His cheeks. The corners of his lips. For the first time that day, he smiled.

Mrs. Cake shook her head, sighed, and after a moment’s composition put on a tired smile that couldn’t have been anything in Button’s eyes but genuine. “Two milkshakes, was it?” she asked, tilting her head.

“That’s right,” said Diamond Tiara. “But now that I think about it, I hope you wouldn’t mind adding an extra or two on there…”

***

Chocolate milkshakes were the best thing ever, and nothing was going to lead Button Mash from the light of that sacred truth.

He was far from a perfect pony, however. On occasion, he encountered temptation. In its current incarnation, it sat before the pink earth filly seated next to him in the corner booth, casting its shadow on a family two tables over. He beheld layers of vanilla, chocolate, mint, and raspberry swirling their way up the sides of a glass the size of a birdbath, a glorious foundation for a pyramid of ice cream scoops of every flavor ranging from apple pie to zebra stripe (a combination of white and dark chocolate, Button was informed, not meant to model the taste of an actual zebra’s stripes), caulked in with lines of frothy whipped cream, chopped nuts of every variety, morsels of candy bars, Rodeo cookies, and peppermint pieces, and rings of sliced strawberries and bananas drizzled with hot fudge and caramel and melted toffee, all sealed at the top with a perfectly spherical mareschino cherry.

True to her word, Pinkie had also left a few sprinkles behind.

Diamond Tiara put her hooves up and leaned back from her straw. “Ahh.”

“How much did that cost, again?” Button asked, looking the monstrosity up and down once more.

“More than your daddy makes in a week, I bet,” said Diamond, patting the Cakes’ last burlap sack of sprinkles on her other side.

“What?”

“Hm? Did you say something?”

Button blinked, then shrugged it off and went back to his milkshake. Man, chocolate milkshakes. Best thing ever.

“Almost done?” Diamond asked, cracking an eye at him.

He still had an inch of milkshake left, but he wasn’t about to fall for its brain-freezing trap just yet. “Getting there,” he said, panting from his last pull.

Diamond sighed. “The sooner you finish, the sooner we can keep swindling ponies out of th—the sooner we can help them get what they need.”

Button raised an eyebrow. “You know, that’s the third time today you’ve changed something mid-sentence,” he noted. With his head a little lighter from the frostiness of his milkshake, he found his thoughts emerging into a cool little clearing of clarity.

“And why does that concern you?” Diamond’s brows went flat enough to plane wood.

“Because most of the time an NPC does that in one of my video games, it means they’re up to something.” Button’s eyes narrowed, as did his smile. “Actually, make that every time.”

Diamond’s jaw dropped. “Oh, for the love of—we’re not in a video game, are we?”

“I fail to see how that’s relevant, Diamond Tiara.” On the outside, Button relished the last sip of his milkshake. On the inside, he was tap dancing. Intrigue! He loved intrigue, especially when it came to unmasking it.

“Because real life isn’t like your video games or whatever,” said Diamond, burying her face in her hoof. “Light of Celestia, being your girlfriend can be so embarrassing sometimes.”

Diamond’s words did nothing but spin the vanes of Button’s beanie a little quicker. “Whaf?” he asked, mouth full of shake.

“What?!” squeaked the squeakiest voice to ever squeak in Equestria, directly behind him.

As Button turned and flailed and coughed for air, locking eyes with the white-coated unicorn filly staring at him with pale green eyes the size of saucers, he allowed himself a moment to consider the possibility that chocolate milkshakes were no longer the best thing in the world, especially when dumped down his windpipe.

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