• Published 17th Nov 2014
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You Are Normal Too - Never2muchpinkie



When mother and daughter get into a fight over a misunderstanding their reconciliation leads to the reveal of Dinky's father, a cruel stallion who broke Derpy's heart. Can Derpy put her past regrets behind to find love and romance in the present?

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Chapter 4: Starting anew

Derpy blinked, the morning sunlight rousing her from sleep. With half-lidded eyes she looked towards the clock she kept next to her bed, her vision still blurry. When her eyes focused she gasped as she saw how late it was. “Oh, no!” she said, shooting up. “My alarm didn’t go off.” Before she could do anything else she heard the voice of her daughter.

“Morning, mom!” Dinky said cheerily, her horn glowing gold as she hovered a tray in front of her. “I shut your alarm off so you could sleep in a bit today. Here!” She set the tray of food down on her mom’s lap. “I made you breakfast in bed.”

Derpy smiled down at her daughter. “Thank you, Dinky.”

“Downstairs on the kitchen table I put your lunch in a bag for you. You better eat it all. No more going hungry, understand?”

Derpy giggled. “Yes, my dear. I get it.”

Dinky hopped up on the bed and leaned against her mother. “Well, go on. Eat up. I worked really hard on it.”

Derpy had to laugh. “Listen to you, Dinky. Growing up so fast.”

“No.” She shook her head. “I’m not too grown up yet. I still need you a lot, just like you need me. I just want to ease your burden. We’re a team, and that’s never gonna change. I know I was acting like a brat recently, but that’s over. I’m gonna let you be there for me, but you have to promise to let me be there for you too.”

“You have my word.” She picked up the toast on the plate, munching on it. As she ate a few gentle tears came down her face as she held her daughter close. “I’m so lucky to have a daughter like you.”

“Hey, I’m only so amazing because I had a fantastic teacher.” She patted her mother on the head. “I have to go to school, but I hope you have a great day. Like I said yesterday I have to do my detention, so I’m gonna be home late.”

Derpy turned to her daughter, pushing her head until they were face to face. “Hmm. The swelling has gone down since yesterday. Hopefully in a few days it will be all healed up.” In a solemn voice she said, “Please promise me you won’t get into any more fights today. I know it may hurt to hear others make fun of me but why burden yourself with their problems?”

“I’ll do my best.”

With that she hopped off the bed, grabbing her saddlebag from her room and heading off to school. Thankfully Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had the good sense not to provoke her again, so she kept her mouth shut as well.

After school she stayed for an hour, helping to clean the chalkboards, wash off the desks, empty the trash, and sweep the floor. The work wasn’t strenuous, and she didn’t have any complaints. She had done something she wasn’t supposed to, so it was only natural that she make up for it.

When she finished her assigned hour she bid Miss Cheerilee goodbye and headed for home. On the way there she heard a voice call out to her.

“Hey, Dinky!”

Dinky looked over, seeing Doctor Hooves. He was an earth pony with a light brown coat and darker brown hair, with an hourglass for a cutie mark. “Hey there!” She trotted over to him, seeing him replacing some broken boards on his fence.

“Whoa!” he said as he noticed her eye. “What happened to you?”

“Um, I got into a fight yesterday.”

“Well, that’s no good. I’m sure your mom was happy to hear that.”

Dinky let out a small embarrassed giggle. “Not at all. I got a detention for it, but I feel they deserved it. They made fun of my mom’s eyes and called her a freak.”

Doctor Hooves’ eyes narrowed a bit. “I can understand your frustration. That would hurt me too.

“Well, I’m not here to judge you. I just wanted to know if you had any plans tomorrow night?”

Dinky began snickering. “Why? You wanna ask me on a date?”

Doctor Hooves let out a pained laugh. “No! The Apples are planning a charity event tomorrow. It’s gonna be like a small amusement park, with little rides and stands, and it’s gonna end with a big fireworks show. All the proceeds are gonna go to Ponyville Hospital. I thought the three of us could go, and maybe we can get Lyra and Bon Bon too. Every bit helps, and it’s for a good cause.”

“That sounds awesome!” Dinky hopped up and down a few times. “I’d love to go! I’ll ask my mom about it when I get ho-”

Doctor Hooves gave Dinky a questioning look as she suddenly paused, staring off into space. “Are you alright, Dinky?”

She looked up towards him, an idea on her face. “Hey, Doctor?”

“Yes?”

“You’ve been a good friend of the family for a long time, just like Lyra and Bon Bon.”

“Yes?”

“So, how do you feel… about my mom?”

He blushed at the question. “Oh, um, I think she’s a great mare and a wonderful mother.”

Dinky felt her heart start racing when she saw him blushing. That was a good sign. “So, is that all? I mean, do you think maybe you, I don’t know… might possibly consider her special somepony material?”

“Dinky!” Doctor Hooves cried out, his face turning crimson. “What kinda question is that?”

JACKPOT! “So you do like her that way.”

He looked flustered, stuttering out, “N-now come on. I-I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Hopping onto the bottom rung of the fence she rested her front half on the top, almost eye level with him. “Have you ever told her how you feel?”

He let out a small sigh. “No. I did ask her out one time, but she turned me down. She said she had too much to deal with to worry about dating. I don’t know if that was actually the case or she was just trying to spare my feelings, but I haven’t pursued the issue any further. I respect your mother, so I respected her wishes.”

Dinky’s throat felt dry and she had trouble swallowing. “Doctor Hooves?” she said in a small voice.

He noticed her change in attitude. She seemed like she was off in another world. “What’s wrong, Dinky?”

“Do you… do you think you can try again?”

“Dinky, I don’t want to make your mother uncomfortable. She said no, and I accept that.”

Tears began coming down her eyes. “But she needs you!”

His eyes went wide. “H-hey! Why are you crying?”

Dinky wiped her face. “Yesterday my mom told me about my dad. He was a popular wealthy jerk who only pretended to like her so the other mares would leave him alone. He stayed with her only until she decided to mate with him to show him how much she loved him, and then he abandoned her afterward even after hearing she was pregnant. Following that I don’t think she’s ever been on a date again. And then I heard that she hasn’t been eating lunch for over a month now! She keeps sacrificing everything for me, and I hate it!”

Sniffing, more tears trickled down her face. “She never does ANYTHING for herself and she’s miserable. She’s always struggling with money and hurting and sad. I mean, she promised that she wouldn’t hide things from me anymore and that we’d work together, but let’s face it. As much as I hate admitting it I’m still just a stupid little kid. I don’t understand everything she’s going through, and she won’t give me the full story anyway because she doesn’t want me to worry or be overwhelmed.

“She needs someone like you! Someone around her age who knows what it’s like to be an adult. She always tries to do everything alone, and she just can’t handle it anymore. So, please… can’t you try one more time? She told me that she was leaving her past regrets behind last night, so now is the best time to ask.”

Doctor Hooves let out a long sigh. “I never even imagined that was why she’s single. But, Dinky, I think you’re racing ahead a little bit. Even if she was interested it doesn’t mean we’re suddenly gonna get married and live happily ever after. These things take a lot of time, especially with her previous heartache.”

“I know that.” She wiped her face again. “But can you try anyway?”

“Are you sure it’s a wise idea? I heard the story of when your friends tried to play matchmakers.”

“Hey! That’s completely different. They used a love potion to force them to fall in love with each other. I’m just asking you to flirt with her.”

“It’s still not that simple. I mean, your mom always has to put you first. Assuming for a second everything goes as planned,” he paused as his eyes looked down at the ground before settling back on her, “would you even want me as a dad?”

Dinky smiled at him. “I wouldn’t mind at all. You’ve always been nice to me. I think it’s better this way. I mean, we’ve already known you for years, so my mom doesn’t have to worry about how you’ll get along with me, which would probably be her biggest excuse. The less excuses she can use the better, because I know her. She’s gonna try whatever she can to avoid it.”

“Dinky, I do have to remind you one of one important thing.”

“What’s that?”

“This is all about your mom. I may love your mother, and you may want us to be together, but your mom may not feel the same way about me. I’ll do my best, but if she doesn’t love me or feels uncomfortable that I’m trying to push our relationship from simple friendship to dating then I’m going to back off. I value your mother far too highly to risk losing her friendship by alienating her.”

“I understand.”

“So, about tonight. I think you should make it seem like your idea. If I ask her she might think of it as me asking her out again. We don’t want her to be on guard right at the start. We’ll go out, enjoy ourselves, and, when the right opportunity presents itself, I’ll make my move.”

“Sounds like a plan!” Hopping over the fence she ran up to him and hugged him. “Thank you!”

“No problem.” He tapped her head a few times before Dinky let go and went running, jumping and letting out a cheer before she was out of sight.

When she got home she ran to the kitchen, following the sound of her mom’s greeting.

“Whoa, Muffin!” Derpy said as Dinky nearly knocked her over.

“Hi, Mom!”

Derpy rubbed her daughter’s chin a little. “Well, you certainly seem to be in a good mood. I’m glad. Much better than yesterday.”

“Yeah! I got something for us to do tonight!”

“Oh?”

“Yeah! I heard that the Apples are having a big charity drive on the farm. They’re gonna have all kinds of games and activities and rides. All the proceeds are gonna go to Ponyville Hospital. I ran into Doctor Hooves on the way home and he’s gonna come too. We can get the rest of your friends and all go together.”

Derpy let out a heavy sigh, her joy draining. “Dinky, I’m sorry, but we can’t go.”

“Why not?” Dinky felt her heart sink.

“You know why! I’m basically broke until payday.”

“So what? You can just take some more money from that account you set up for me.”

Derpy let out another big sigh. “Dinky, I set that account up for your future! For the time when you became an adult and you were in an emergency situation. I didn’t spend all those years contributing to it just so I can start draining it dry at my every whim.”

At first Dinky looked upset, but then she started getting angry. “You just don’t get it!”

Derpy’s eyebrow rose. “What don’t I get?”

“We’re going, and that’s final!”

Derpy felt a little surprised at Dinky’s shift in attitude. “Excuse me?” she said, an edge in her voice.

“You heard me! You’ve been abusing yourself for far too long. You always focus on me and me and me and me and me and me AND ME! What about YOU? I understand that I’m your daughter and you want what’s best for me, but you never ever do anything for YOURSELF!

"You never go out, or really hang out with your friends or just go wild and crazy and have a good time. I’m sick of it! You say you want that money for my future? Well, I think this is the perfect investment. If you’re always cooped up at home because you refuse to spend any money on yourself you’ll make yourself sick from all the boredom and sadness.

"And then what? What if you don’t come home? I don’t want to lose you! All the bits in the world won’t be enough to save my future from a lot of pain if that happens.” A few tears came down her eyes. “It’s not always about ME. I don’t want to be selfish like that. That’s why we’re GOING to go out, and you’re GOING to have a good time for once. YOU’RE important too! I know that jerk made you feel like you’re not important, but you’re important to ME! I don’t always need some new thing on payday. What’s most important to me is to see you happy! OKAY?”

Derpy sighed, seeing she wasn’t going to emerge victorious from this battle. “Alright, Muffin. You win. Team Muffin will go to the Apple fair.”

“Good!” Dinky let out a sigh of relief. “It would all be ruined if you didn’t come.”

“What would be ruined?”

“Huh?” Her head shot up, and she forced a smile on her face. “Oh, don’t worry about it. I, um, I just really wanted to go, that’s all.” Dinky saw tears forming in her mother’s eyes. “What’s wrong, Mom?” she asked, concerned.

Derpy put a hoof on the back of her daughter’s neck, putting her forehead on Dinky’s. “Thank you, Dinky. Once again you’re teaching me. Shooting Star left a deep scar on my heart, worse than all the bullies combined ever did. I want to let the past go. I told you that last night. However, it won’t just go away overnight. I’m going to need your help through this process, to remind me when I’m still acting like I’m not worth anything. It’s so easy to slip back into bad habits, and I know I’m probably going to fall many, many times before I start truly believing in my worth.”

Dinky’s face clenched up as she threw her hooves around her mother’s neck, crying a little herself. “Of course! Together we’ll beat this! I’m gonna yell at you as many times as I have to until you believe it!” Her mind turned to Doctor Hooves and she thought, 'And if everything goes well today he’ll start helping you heal too.'

Derpy nuzzled her daughter’s nose before pulling back, a warm smile on her face. “I need to remember that today is a new day, and it’s time to start treating myself the way I deserve to be treated, and I deserve to have a good time once in a while like anyone else.”

“Yes! Yes! That’s right!” Dinky nodded her head hard. “Now you’re getting it.”

Derpy mussed up her daughter’s mane a little. “That lunch you made me was delicious. It really helped me get through my day.”

Dinky’s grin grew wider, and she blushed a little. “Thank you. I’m glad you liked it.”

Dinky set her saddlebag on the kitchen table, humming contentedly to herself as she did her homework. Today was going to be a great day. She could just feel it.

After eating dinner they stopped at the bank to get some money. They went to Lyra’s house to see if she wanted to come. Bon Bon answered the door, telling them that Lyra had come down with the flu and couldn’t make it. Bon Bon wanted to stay nearby her friend in her time of need, so she wasn’t coming either.

Following that they went to Doctor Hooves’ house to get him. He looked a little flustered as he saw her. “G-good evening, Derpy. Oh, and you too, Dinky.”

Derpy laughed a little. “You slicked your hair back for a change? Isn’t that a bit much for some carnival games?”

“W-well, you know… you gotta change things up every once in a while.”

Derpy just shrugged. “Let’s go, then.”

As they began walking Dinky elbowed Doctor Hooves. “Cool it!” she said in a sharp whisper. "This is supposed to be a casual outing.”

He let out a nervous giggle. “Well, I thought there were supposed to be more of us,” he whispered back.

“They couldn’t make it.”

After a small hesitation he said, “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”

“Well, if you’d stop acting like a total weirdo it will be a good thing.”

Derpy noticed the other two lagging behind, and turned around. “Hey, you two. What’s the holdup? What are you whispering about back there?”

“Nothing!” the two of them replied in unison, speeding up until they were next to her.

After a twenty minute walk they came upon Sweet Apple Acres. The cacophony of sounds reached them even from that distance. Bright lights lit up a large, treeless area of the farm. Stands were set up all around.

“Whoa!” Dinky said, her eyes lighting up. “This is so cool!” She tugged on her mom’s saddlebag, saying, “Come on, come on!” before she went running ahead.

Derpy snickered. “Ah, to be young again.”

Doctor laughed as well. “Yeah, but it’s still nice to watch other’s experience the kind of happiness we shared as kids.”

“I guess you’re right.”

As they reached the first set of stands they saw Granny Smith in her rocking chair. “Hello there, youngins. Welcome to the farm. Take this.” She held out her hoof, and they both took a piece of paper. “This is a list of the events for tonight. Have a good time now, ya hear?”

Derpy bowed her head a little. “Thank you, Granny Smith.”

The Doctor did the same. “Yes, thank you.”

“Such a sweet old lady,” she said as they continued walking.

“She really is.”

They caught up to Dinky before long. She was sitting there with an irritated look on her face. “Come on! You two are so slow! I wanna play some games!”

“Alright, Dinky. Just be patient.”

“Dinky!” came a voice from the side, and a filly ran up to her.

Dinky turned to look, and saw one of her classmates from school. “Hey, Tootsie Flute!” The blue unicorn’s face looked like a sunflower.

“Glad you made it! I just got my face painted.”

“I had nooooo idea,” Dinky replied with a laugh.

“You should come get yours done too. They have so many designs to choose from. Ruby Pinch is getting hers done too.”

“Cool! Can I go, mom?”

“Sure, Dinky,” said Derpy. “How much is it?”

“It’s only two bits,” said Tootsie.

Derpy handed Dinky a few bits and the two children ran off. Derpy and Doctor Hooves went to a game stand where you had to knock over a pyramid stack of six bottles with a ball. Doctor Hooves put two bits down and got three balls. Winding up he threw it, completely missing the first time. He let out an embarrassed laugh. Taking a deep breath he picked up the second ball, throwing it hard. He only wound up hitting the topmost bottle.

“Come on, Doctor!” said Derpy. “You can do it!”

His heartbeat went up. He picked up the last ball, his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth. He pulled his hoof back, throwing it as hard as he could. With a loud crash the entire stack of bottles went flying.

“Yes!” Derpy cried out, giving a cheer.

He picked out a stuffed dog, handing it to her.

“Thank you!” She hugged it close to her.

Doctor Hooves smiled. “We shouldn’t go too far from the face painting booth, so what do you say we go over there?” He pointed to a stand where Pinkie Pie and the Cakes were serving bowls of ice cream.

“Sure. I could go for some ice cream.”

Walking over, Doctor Hooves said, “One bowl of chocolate, please.”

“Vanilla for me,” said Derpy.

“Coming right up!” said Pinkie. “That’ll be six bits.”

Derpy went into her saddlebag, but Doctor Hooves said, “I got it.”

He set some bits on the counter, and Pinkie rang them up, grabbing two bowls and filling them up. “Here you go.”

“Thanks.”

As they began walking away Pinkie said, “Enjoy your date!”

The two of them both blushed heavily. Derpy turned her head and said, “We’re just friends! I’m here with my daughter!”

“Oh. Sorry.”

The two of them went to a table and began eating their ice cream, neither of them looking up toward each other until they heard Dinky’s voice again.

“Mom! Mom! Look!”

Derpy looked over, and she began laughing up a storm, breaking the tension between them. Dinky’s face was painted up like a muffin. “Really, Dinky?”

She wasn’t fazed in the slightest. “Hey, you always call me muffin. Why not embrace my heritage? I should be fine… just so long as you don’t try to eat me!” She began laughing too.

“I guess you really are my little muffin now.” She hugged her daughter.

Ruby Pinch ran up with Berry Punch, done up like a cat. “Hey there, Derpy… Doctor,” said Berry. “How are you enjoying this fine night so far?”

“Fine,” Derpy responded. “It’s been too long since I’ve had a good night out.”

“I hear ya. Being a single mother isn’t easy.

“Would you like me to take Dinky for a little while so you can finish your ice cream? We’re gonna go to the bumper cars.”

“Sounds great.” She reached into her saddle bag and handed Dinky ten bits. “Go play some games. I’ll give you some more when you run out.”

“Okay. Thanks, mom!” Ruby Pinch and Dinky ran off, leaving their mom’s behind and giggling up a storm as Tootsie Flute joined them.

Berry shook her head. “Kids. So full of energy.”

“I hear that,” Derpy said as Berry walked away after them.

Once it was back to the two of them Derpy let out a small sigh, aimlessly stirring her treat with her spoon.

“What’s wrong, Derpy?” asked Doctor Hooves.

She huffed defensively. “YOU WOULDN’T UNDER-”

She stopped, sighing again as Dinky’s words came back to her. She was so used to handling things by herself it was hard to talk about her issues, but she couldn’t really say she was leaving the past behind if she was still going to hide behind her usual excuses.

“Look, I’m just a little… down. Dinky pushed me to come out tonight. She yelled at me and pointed out that I needed to have a fun event for once. I was hesitant because I told her about the account I set up for her future last night, and now she pushed me to use the money I set aside for her.” Tears began pouring down her eyes. “I mean, how pathetic am I? I have to borrow money from my own daughter!”

“Derpy, you’ve always worked hard, supporting yourself and your daughter. You’re very independent, always giving Dinky the best you can.” Doctor Hooves took a steadying breath before getting up the nerve to put a hoof on her cheek. “Dinky told me about her dad.”

Derpy let out a small sob. “Oh, great! Now even more than before you know how pathe-”

“STRONG you are!” he said, cutting her off as he began rubbing her cheek. “You’re so strong I can hardly believe it. You always hold everything in and give it your all to make sure Dinky is happy, safe, and full. You’re a wonderful mother.

“You give everything to your child, but what about you? What have you done for yourself lately? Isn’t it about time someone helped you out and cared for you for a change?” He took another deep breath. “Derpy, I told you a long time ago I’d like to go out with you, and you told me that it was a bad time. I’ve been very patient, and I’ll continue to be patient, but what do you say you drop that pride of yours and let me foot the bill for tonight?”

Without intending to she pushed herself harder against his rubbing hoof, her eyes slowly closing. She hadn’t had this kind of intimate contact with anyone since Shooting Star. Sure, she was very intimate with her daughter, but that was a different kind of affection. The love for family was vastly different than the one a pony has for the opposite sex.

“Derpy?” he said after a while, but she didn’t respond.

When he pulled his hoof away she frowned, pushing her head forward as she sought out his touches again. It took her a little while to open her eyes again, looking like she was lost. “Wha-what?”

“I was asking whether you’d like to go on a date? It can be a 'just friends' date if you wish.”

Derpy felt her heart start racing. “Look, I already told you I can’t! Dinky is around and there’s so much to-” She stopped talking, sighing as she began shaking her head. “But that’s just another excuse, isn’t it? Fine, then. A date. On one condition.”

“Let me guess: Just keep things simple. I won’t push my suit with you any further than you’re comfortable with.”

She shook her head, a blush appearing on her face. “No, that’s not it. Would you-I mean-well… would you do that again?”

“Oh. Sure!” He grinned at her, rubbing her other cheek.

She closed her eyes again just like before, a smile starting to cross her face. “Now that you mention it I haven’t had anyone take care of me for a very long time. So sure. I don’t really know what kind of a date there is for 'just friends' but it sounds like you’re just trying to make an excuse to spend money on me.”

“Maybe so, but it’s money well spent.”

Derpy put her hooves up, pulling his away. “I really like that, but we can’t spend the whole night doing it. I accept your offer, but please don’t get offended when I say this will likely be a one night thing. Don’t expect me to suddenly fall at your hooves.”

“Of course not. I don’t care what we do. A date with you is a date with you.”

“Soooo… what do you wanna do?”

“Let’s go find Dinky and then we can see what other activities they have.”

“Sounds good to me.” Going into her bag she looked over the list. “It says that there are three spots for music. Octavia is doing classical, Vinyl Scratch is doing rock, and the Apple family is doing country. I’m in the mood for some upbeat music. Let’s go to the barn. I’m sure that’s where Applejack is.”

“Okay.”

After asking one of the ponies where the bumper car game was they headed off in that direction. They could see Twilight and a few other unicorns powering the vehicles so they’d move.

Dinky was just getting out as they arrived, having a friendly argument with Ruby Pinch and Tootsie Flute. “I got you way more!”

“No way!”

“I got you the most!”

“I did!”

“Oh, yeah? Did you count?”

“No, but I know I heard you a lot more when I’d slam right in the back of you.”

“Hello, girls,” said Derpy. “It sounds like you had fun.”

Dinky immediately broke off and ran up to her. “Hey, mom!” She threw herself at Derpy, hugging her.

Derpy hugged her daughter back before asking, “So, Tootsie Flute, where’s Shoeshine? I figured you’d be here with your mother.”

“She’s sleeping,” responded the filly. “She has to work early in the morning so she asked Miss Berry if she could take me.”

“Well, that’s nice of her. We’re gonna go over to the barn to dance a little. You all game?”

“Cool!” The three fillies said in unison.

Berry Punch laughed. “Well, I guess that’s where we’re going then.”

Just as Derpy expected she heard the sound of music getting louder as they neared the barn. Various members of the extended Apple family were there. Entering the barn they went up to a bucket near the stage, depositing bits in it.

At first Derpy danced with Dinky, but she quickly felt unsatisfied. This was her first night out in forever, and she wanted something more. She felt something awaken in her, a desire for something to set her soul aflame. “HEY, APPLEJACK!” she yelled out, not caring that everyone was now staring at her.

Even the band paused in their music. “What is it, Derpy?” asked Applejack.

“You’re putting me to sleep over here. Give us something more lively! I thought you Apples knew how to get down and dirty. Or is that all talk?” She smirked over at the earth pony.

Applejack returned the favor. “Is that a challenge?”

“You bet!”

Applejack turned to the band. “You heard her. Let’s show her what the Apples are made of, everyone.”

“RIGHT!” they replied.

“You want a hoedown, you’ll get a hoedown.”

The music began again, much more fast paced than before as Applejack sang vocals.

Derpy felt her hooves moving almost automatically. Turning to Doctor Hooves she extended a hoof and said, “May I have this dance?”

Dinky jumped up and down in joy. “Do it, do it!”

“Sure,” he replied, taking her hoof before going to the middle of the dance floor.

Derpy moved to the rhythm of the music, flourishing as she moved all around. She didn’t even care if she tripped and fell. She just didn’t want the music to end. She became more and more spirited, her body burning with fervor.

One by one the other ponies noticed her passion and zeal and simply began to observe, crowding around her as they began to stomp their hooves in time with the music.

Back and forth they went, spinning, twirling, their bodies close to each other before they’d do a move and split apart for a second before closing the distance again.

When the music finally ended a chorus of whistles and cheers erupted over them. Derpy was panting heavily, but she felt so alive.

Dinky ran up to her, amazement clear on her face. “Wow, Mom! That was amazing! I had no idea you were such a good dancer.”

“Me, neither,” she replied.

Applejack hopped off the stage, saying, “It’s not about skill. It’s about enthusiasm. Thanks fer entertainin’ us all. I hope that number was more ta yer satisfaction.”

“Yeah,” she said with a pant. Her legs felt like butter, and she nearly fell to the ground before she was caught by Doctor Hooves. “Sorry,” she said with a laugh. “It’s been a while.”

“No problem.” He held onto her, directing her to a seat before going to get her some punch.

She drank it down gratefully. She was hot and sweaty and a little tired, but more than that she felt exhilarated and full of life. As soon as she got her breath back and her legs felt a little more steady she got up and said energetically, “Come on! The night’s still young! Let’s find something else to do!” She began trotting out, leaving the rest of them behind.

“Wait for me!” Dinky cried out as she ran after her mom.

They all followed along until Derpy suddenly stopped, turning to them with a mischievous grin. “How about this one?” Pointing with her hoof they saw a fenced in area covered with various boxes and crates strewn about randomly. “Let’s play paintball.”

“Oh, what’s that?” asked Tootsie Flute.

“It’s real simple. You’re all given balls of paint and you have to throw them at each other. The one who walks away the least soaked wins. Well, technically there is no winner. It’s about having fun.”

“Does it hurt?” asked Ruby Pinch.

“Like getting hit by a pillow.”

“I’m in!”

Derpy began to reach into her saddle bag when she stopped and said, “Oh, that’s right, Mr. Doctor. We’re on a 'date,' aren’t we? YOU pay,” she said playfully as she gave him a little push.

He began chuckling. “Who are you and what have you done with Mopey? Oops. I mean Derpy?”

She started cracking up too. “She’s gone!” With that she took her allotment of paintballs and went to hide, giggling like mad.

Dinky went up to Doctor Hooves and hugged him, happy tears on her face. “Wow. You’re really amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mom like this, except maybe on my birthday.”

“It’s not too surprising. She knows she needed a special night out. She’s just getting into the spirit of things.”

The other five of them grabbed some balls and went to wait for the signal to begin. After about thirty seconds a whistle blew. Cautiously they walked around, looking for any of the others.

Dinky looked around a corner, seeing no one. Turning around she went around a box and nearly screamed as she saw her mother.

Derpy let out a relieved sigh. “Oh, it’s only you, Dinky. We shouldn’t fight each other.”

Dinky nodded. “Okay.” She started walking and then let out a scream as she felt an impact on her back.

Derpy laughed so hard tears started coming down her eyes. “That’ll teach you not to be so trusting. We’re all enemies here!” She went running before Dinky could muster a response.

“H-HEY!” Dinky said, her mouth going to one side of her face. She started to get mad, but then she got a devious smile on her face. “Alright, then. If that’s the way you want to play.”

Derpy ran around, pelting Ruby Pinch and Tootsie Flute with one ball since they had decided to team up.

Running around another corner she came face to face with Doctor Hooves, who was already winding up. Getting a shocked looked on her face she said, “Princess Celestia? What are you doing here?”

“Huh?” He turned around to look and only got a paintball to the chest for his troubles.

Off she went again, having a blast.

About ten minutes later they had all ran out of balls to throw and met up at the exit. Derpy was clearly the winner. She had only been hit twice. As they went to leave two unicorns cast spells on them to remove the paint from their coats.

“Ah, that was fun!” said Derpy in a relaxed voice. “What do you say we do something more low-key, hmm?” Going into her bag she pulled out the activity list again. “It says here that Big Mac and Caramel are doing hay rides around the orchard.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Berry. “I’m not used to all this running around. I usually leave that sort of thing to my husband.”

After getting directions all of them got in the short line for the hay rides. It took about ten minutes before Big Mac and Caramel returned with the latest group. Once they were all off the six of them hopped on, giving Big Mac a few bits.

Derpy sat next to Doctor Hooves, leaning against him as Dinky sat on her lap. As they got the tour of the farm they enjoyed the breeze and observed the animals walking around. The three adults and the three fillies got into their own conversations. Derpy was laughing and smiling away.

After about fifteen minutes they returned to the spot they began at. They played a few games, winning some prizes, until they heard it was almost time for the fireworks show to start.

Following the crowds of ponies they all headed to a relatively clear patch near the edge of the farm. At the top of a hill stood Applejack with a megaphone. “Good evenin’, Ponyville! Before we start the fireworks I’d just like ta thank all a y’all fer yer help tonight. We have a few 'special guests' here who have some words for you.”

A sickly looking colt came up to the megaphone. He turned away, coughing a little, before saying weakly, “Thank you. This money will go a long way towards my surgery.”

A hush went over the crowd as all of them felt themselves tearing up a little bit.

Other fillies and colts came up, some of them helped by doctors or nurses from the hospital, each expressing their gratitude for everyone’s donations.

Once the last one was done Applejack spoke up again. “Now, we have one more guest. She’s someone that I’m sure needs no introduction.” Gesturing with her hoof a blue coated pony came up. “The Great and Powerful Trixie!”

Several ponies gasped.

“Now, I know that she’s caused some trouble here in the past, but when she heard about our charity drive she felt that this was the best chance to repay past wrongs.”

Trixie came up to the megaphone. “Hello, everypony. When I saw an ad looking for a firework specialist Trixie knew it was her duty to come help out. THE GREAT-” She stopped, coughing as she caught herself starting to do her usual showboating. “Excuse me. So Trixie is now here, with a show that will mesmerize. Anything you can contribute to this final performance would be much appreciated. As you just saw a lot of little fillies and colts are in desperate need of that money.”

A lot of ponies were shocked. “Wow,” said Derpy. “I never thought I’d see the day that Trixie would sound almost… humble.”

“Me neither,” said Doctor Hooves. “I guess the third time IS the charm.” He stood up. “I’m gonna go donate all the bits I have left.”

“Mom!” said Dinky.

“Yes?” she replied.

“You should do that too. I know that you said you don’t like to spend the money that you were saving for me, but those kids need that money way more than I do.”

Derpy felt herself tearing up. “I agree, Dinky. You’re such a wonderful child.”

Actually seeing the children that needed their help made everything more real to everyone. It pushed them to open their hearts and their wallets. Pony after pony came up to the hill, dropping large sums of bits into the bucket set aside for the donations.

Once the last pony was done and seated again Trixie’s horn began to glow, pulling a cart full of fireworks over. “Watch, and be amazed, at the GRE… at Trixie.”

All of them “Ooh’d” and “Aah’d” as the sky began to light up at her will. The fireworks didn’t just make fancy explosions of color. They took all sorts of shapes: of the six ponies wielding the Elements of Harmony, dragons, and their mighty foes.

“These next ones are for our guests.”

As the latest firework went off the sickly colt from before gasped. “It’s me! It’s me! Look, Mom!” One by one each of them got their picture in the sky.

“And now for the grand finale!” Her horn grew brighter as the sky was wrapped in a cacophony of sound as countless fireworks shot off into the sky. For an entire minute explosions went off in every direction and every color. It was so bright that it felt like daytime.

When it finally stopped loud cheering went out through the audience. Trixie bowed, looking a bit smug, but she wisely kept her mouth shut.

Applejack took the megaphone again. “Thank y’all for comin’. Each and every bit you contributed will go a long way towards helping those least able to deal with the pain of illness. Fer that I consider all a y’all family. That’s all the entertainment we have for tonight. However, that don’t mean the night is over. Feel free to stay on the farm and chat and hang out as long as you’d like.”

The six of them just stayed by the tree they were leaning against, chatting away as the moon slowly rose over the horizon. As time passed more and more ponies began getting up and leaving for home.

Eventually Berry Punch threw in the towel as well. “Hey, it was great catching up, but Ruby’s falling asleep and Tootsie isn’t far behind, so I’m gonna head for home. It was nice seeing you, Derpy. We should do this again sometime.”

Derpy felt a void in her heart as Berry set her daughter on her back.

With a heavy sigh she said in a forlorn voice, “I-I guess I should get going too. Dinky’s falling asleep as well.”

Dinky immediately stirred from her stupor, hearing the shift in her mom’s tone. “You don’t have to go home yet!” She gestured to Berry and Ruby. “I forgot to tell you earlier, but Miss Berry said we could all have a sleepover at her house tonight.” She gave Berry Punch a teary, pleading look, not wanting to be the cause of her mother’s sadness.

Berry Punch got the hint immediately. “Yeah, sure. If it’s okay with you, Derpy?”

Derpy felt a little bit of relief. “Are you sure?”

“Of course.” Patting Dinky’s head she said, “She’s a little angel.”

“Well… alright, then.”

“Yay!” Dinky cheered, giving her mom a hug. “Thanks, Mom!”

“Be good, Dinky.”

“I will. Goodnight!”

After exchanging more goodnights the three fillies and Berry left.

In a guilty voice Dinky said, “I’m really sorry for putting you on the spot like that, Miss Berry. It’s just… my mom…”

“It’s okay, Dinky,” said Berry genially. “I get it completely. I’ve never seen your mother act so giddy and lively as she was tonight.”

“Thanks for not being mad.” Grateful tears came down her eyes. “Maybe now my mom will have some peace.”

“I sure hope so.”

Derpy gave a little look around. Besides the sound of crickets chirping it seemed almost unnaturally quiet. After just wanting the night not to end she began feeling anxious and nervous. She wondered if they were the only two left at the farm.

Doctor Hooves noticed her shaking. “What’s wrong, Derpy? Are you cold?” He scratched the side of his head with his hoof. “I wish I had a blanket or something.”

Derpy shook her head. “No. I’m not cold. I’m… I’m… afraid.”

“Of me?” he asked in a neutral voice.

Derpy had been leaning against him, shoulder to shoulder, for a while, but she suddenly got up and walked a short distance away, flopping to the ground as she curled up into a ball, hugging her knees. In a quiet voice she said, “You said Dinky told you about her father. How much did she tell you?”

“She said that he was a wealthy stallion who only used you and then abandoned you when he got what he wanted out of you.”

Derpy sniffed, taking shaky breaths as she tried not to break down crying. “You have no idea what that was like. It still hurts even now… even all these years later. The night I gave myself to him was prom night. We danced the night away, were crowned the king and queen of the dance, and I felt the happiest mare in the world. I was so full of love that night I wanted to show him just how much he meant to me. That night was perfect from start to finish… and then it was tainted... soiled... and I can’t ever look back on those times without remembering the ache in my soul.

“And now, tonight, I’m having the same feeling. This night has been almost magical. Everything is going right for a change. I’m happy, I’m free, I’m content, I feel full of life. I haven’t felt this way in forever.” Burying her head into her knees she clenched her eyes tight, almost breaking down again. “To think of having this night tainted like that one is more than I can bear.”

“Derpy,” he started, but was cut off.

“NO!” she yelled, not turning around. “You don’t understand a thing about how I feel. Did you know how badly his betrayal affected me? I came within a hair of ABORTING Dinky! She almost never had the chance to be born!” The anger faded away, and self-loathing was clear in her voice as she said miserably, “What kind of parent does that to their child? A parent is supposed to suffer for their children, not force them to bear the punishment for their parent’s mistakes.

“Whenever Dinky has a sleepover like tonight and the house is completely empty but for me I spend the night barely able to breathe. I keep thinking that that is what life would be like if Dinky hadn’t been born. I’d be all alone! I feel like such a wretched, terrible mare sometimes. So maybe I deserved a stallion like Shooting Star, because that’s all I was worth as a pony.”

Doctor Hooves was crying, anger on his face as he got up and walked over to her, sitting down in front of her before roughly yanking her head upward. “That’s enough, Derpy! I’m sick of hearing these lies! You’re not worthless, and you certainly didn’t deserve what was done to you!

"You are very precious to me. Look at the type of pony your daughter is. She’s respectful, she’s kind, she’s smart, she’s funny. The type of mare a filly grows into is majorly dependent on their upbringing. Even if you were struggling you always gave Dinky everything you could. Your decision to almost get an abortion is perfectly understandable under the circumstances. You felt lost and out of options.

"But you know what the most important thing of all is? YOU… DIDN’T… DO IT! That’s more than a number of mares can say. Those who just want to take the easy way out. You’ve made up for that near-error in judgment in spades. You’ve attacked and blamed yourself for years, and now it’s time to let it go!

“I love you, Derpy! You hear me? After you turned me down the first time I kept my distance and enjoyed your company as a friend, but I’ve always admired you and all that you’ve strived to do.”

“Why? Why do you love me? Why do you want… someone like me? I’m no prize. You can do so much better.” She looked down at the ground, tears dripping down onto the earth.

“How does one define love? Love is a gut feeling, a special moment in time in which your heart goes on full alert and tells you things are right. But I suppose if you want a real answer,” he put a hoof on her chin, gently pushing until they met eyes again, “there was a definitive time when you stole my heart. One very special moment that I’ve never forgotten.”

Derpy saw a tender smile on his face. “Yes?” she said, not trying to look away. “When was that?” She felt herself getting lost in those eyes. They were so comforting.

“It was after Berry Punch’s wedding. You were dressed up in a beautiful white gown, with a necklace of flowers around your head. We were walking home, just the two of us. It was a cloudy day. We were just chatting about unimportant stuff, and then you pulled away to go smell a flower.

"As you bent over and began to sniff a butterfly flew off the flower and landed on your nose. Most ponies would have panicked a little, but you just stood still and let it stay. You crossed your hooves, closing your eyes as it flapped its wings and tickled you, giggling just a little. Your face was scrunched up a little as you tried to keep as still as you could. You had the sweetest, most innocent smile on your face.

"Suddenly the clouds began to dissipate, a sunbeam landing on you and you alone. In that moment you looked like such a little angel. A perfect, pure little angel. Right then and there I knew. I knew I wanted to be with you.”

He began rubbing her cheek. “After that I couldn’t get you out of my mind. I wanted us to be more than just friends, but I respected you far too much to push things when you said no. I knew you had to put your daughter first. I’ve had several mares ask me out, but I always turned them down. No mare has captured my heart so completely as you, and no other one would satisfy. I never knew if the time would come when you would change your mind, so I didn’t even bother trying to date someone else just to pass the time.

“You may not think you’re a prize, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.” Tears began coming down his eyes as his heart filled up with all his affection for her. “I would fight Nightmare Moon, Discord, King Sombra, Queen Chrysalis, and her entire army of Changelings all together if it meant keeping you safe and happy.”

Derpy blushed, unable to meet his eyes. “Oh, come on. You’re just exaggerating.”

“No, I’m not. I mean every word. Come here with me.” Gently tugging at her she reluctantly let herself uncurl and was led back over by the tree. “I… well, I…” He reached into his saddlebag, saying, “I had no idea what would happen tonight, but just in case I… I got you this.” Pulling out his hoof he showed her what he had.

It was a beautiful daffodil. On top of it was a little plastic model of a butterfly. He used a hoof to push her mane aside, putting the flower behind her ear. “There you are. Now you look even more beautiful.” He looked up at the moon, once more thinking back to that moment. “When I saw that smile on your face there was one thing I promised myself. I said that if there ever came a time when you agreed to a date with me that I would make you smile again. Not just a regular smile, but the kind of smile you wore back then. That kind, carefree look, like a filly who’s never experienced the wrongs of this world. I’d do whatever it took to make that happen.”

Derpy slowly reached her hoof up, touching the flower. “It’s… it’s lovely.”

“Thank you.

“So I’m serious, Derpy! I love you and I-MMM!” His eyes went wide as she put her muzzle to his, a hoof around the back of his head to stop him from pulling back.

After a few seconds Derpy pulled away, her face feeling red hot. Her heart was racing, and she felt like a school filly again. She gave him an embarrassed grin, her hooves crossed. “Well… how was it?”

Doctor Hooves looked shell-shocked. “Wow,” he said, dazed. “And I thought the firework show was over a long time ago.”

Derpy felt like she was having trouble breathing. Nerves and doubt were racing through her again, but she ignored them. Little by little he had pushed his way past her defenses. The part of her heart that had been broken, shattered, and obliterated by Shooting Star’s betrayal was attempting to resist her, but she didn’t want to stop. It had been too long since she had felt this way. She didn’t want to start having second thoughts now.

In a quiet voice she said, “So what about me? I haven’t seen any fireworks yet. Maybe yours are defective?” She giggled a little at his sly look.

“Oh, is that what you want now?” He had quickly recovered from his surprise at hearing she wanted more. He began kissing the side of her neck, hearing her let out little purrs and whimpers of enjoyment before he arrived at her mouth, pushing his lips hard against hers.

Derpy pushed back against him, her heart going a mile a minute. She had forgotten what this had felt like. She was ready to kiss a little longer, but he abruptly pulled away, making her pout. “What’s wrong?” She started feeling afraid.

He let out a contented sigh. “Nothing. It’s great. It’s wonderful. It’s amazing!”

“So why’d you stop?”

“Because I love you,” he said plainly, meeting her eyes. “The most I expected of tonight was to hear you say you wanted to spend more time together, and that I might be able to give you that flower without you getting offended. The kissing was a big bonus.

"However, I know what happened in your past. I know myself that I would never, EVER do what that stallion did to you, but YOU don’t know that. We’ve gone far enough for one night. Any more than that, and we run the risk of letting passions cloud our minds and we both wind up going further than we intended. You already have enough regrets, and I refuse to be your next one. I don’t want you to wake up tomorrow and freak out, wishing that you had never done this.

“I’m happy with what I got tonight: A few hours with a beautiful, special mare, and a few kisses to boot.” He nuzzled her nose a bit. “We can leave what comes next for another night. I don’t ever want you to think I’m going to break the trust you put in me. I value it far too highly. And even if we never have a romantic moment like this again I’ll still be happy with it.

“It’s like I told you before: I’m patient. I’m willing to wait for you. As long as it takes. So for now let’s just enjoy the night.”

Derpy wiped her face of the joyful tears coming down her eyes, taking his hoof in hers as they looked up toward the moon, feeling the gentle breezes pass them by. “Thank you. For everything. After Shooting Star threw me away I was so broken inside. I didn’t think I would ever get the chance to pursue another love, especially with Dinky to care for.

“For so long I’ve been alone. My parents died in an accident when Dinky was only a few years old, and I had no one to rely upon to help me get by. I’ve strained and done my best, always feeling like if I let up or dropped my guard for even a second I’d fall and never be able to get back up.

"There were some nights I’d feel so broken and lonely that I started to wish I wasn’t alive anymore, but then Dinky would remind me of how necessary I still was. She’d smile and laugh and hug me and kiss me and for a time I’d forget my sadness. Without Dinky I don’t think I would be alive today. If Shooting hadn’t gotten me pregnant I think I would have gone crazy with both him dumping me and the loss of my parents.

“This-” Her body clenched, and she squeezed his hoof hard as the tears poured down. “This has been the best and happiest night I’ve had since Dinky was born. I’ve gotten so used to putting on a brave face and never showing weakness that I buried all my pain into a box in the corner of my mind. I always put Dinky first, never doing anything special for myself.” She buried her head in his chest as she began sobbing a little. “Thank you! Thank you for everything!”

He put his hooves around her, closing his eyes as he rubbed her back. “Shhh. Shhh. It’s okay. Don’t cry.”

Derpy lifted her head a little, shaking it. “You don’t get it! I WANT to cry. I’m so tired of always holding everything inside. Please. I’m just asking you to listen and be there for me.”

“Of course!” he said immediately, going back to stroking her back. “Cry as much as you need to. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Over the course of tonight you reminded me of something I forgot a long time ago: I am special! I am valuable! And I deserve to be loved! I deserve love just as much as everyone else!”

“That’s right, Derpy,” he said gently, kissing her forehead. “I’ll be there for you as long as you need me.”

“T-t-thank you.” She set her head back on his chest, letting her emotions run free.

Doctor Hooves did all he could to help calm her down. Little by little she started to settle down until she was quiet again.

After a time, when her breathing was slowing down, she lifted her head. Her eyes were red from crying. She kissed him on the lips. “Thank you. It’s been too long since I’ve had a comforting hoof extended to me.”

“No problem,” he said, grinning at her as he returned her kiss with one of his own.

“So… you really like me, huh?” she asked with a sniff.

“More than you can imagine.”

“Alright.”

“Alright… what?”

“I’ll give it a shot. I’m opening my heart and risking the pain of rejection. Will you be my coltfriend?”

He had to stop himself from immediately saying yes. “Derpy, is that what you truly want?”

“Tonight was fantastic. I want more nights like this. I can’t do that if I go back to being alone. Dinky is a wonderful daughter, and I love her dearly, but I… I need a little more. I’ve been ignoring that for a long time, but I need a companion. Dinky just can’t get all my struggles. She’s too young.”

“She said something similar to me. To answer your question: yes. Yes, I will.” He grinned at her. “There it is. Your adorable smile is back.”

“Oh, hush up, you,” she said as she gave him a little push. She turned herself around so she could lean against him again. She could feel the warmth of his stomach on her back.

He gave her some gentle kisses, putting his hooves around her as he rubbed her stomach. “I love you, Derpy.”

She pushed herself more firmly against him, letting out a relaxed sigh. She closed her eyes, enjoying his touches.

For a short time he tried to make conversation, but her short monosyllable responses quickly made it clear she was more interested in the physical sensations than talking, so he shut up and just enjoyed her company.

After about ten minutes he felt her body go limp, and her breathing shifted as she let out soft snores. Doctor Hooves looked up joyfully at the stars in the night sky, thinking about how lucky he was to have Derpy as his own. He closed his eyes, resting his head on hers. “Goodnight, Derpy. Sleep well.”

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