• Published 5th Jan 2016
  • 13,352 Views, 567 Comments

Reticence - Fire Gazer the Alchemist



Marble Pie is forced to hold a conversation with a cute stranger. It's basically her worst nightmare.

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Shy Pie and the Cute One

Marble Pie shrouded her face behind her mane, refusing to glimpse at the outside world unless it was pleasantly obscured by hundreds of gray hairs. She’d only just stepped off the train and into Canterlot and she hated it.

It was so loud. From the whistle of the parked locomotive to the tidal wave of background chatter from dozens—dozens—of ponies flooding past her into the terminal. The stamping of hooves, the clacking of metal wheels on tracks, the hiss the doors made as they shut behind her… it was all just too much.

She wanted to be back on the rock farm, growing rocks, breaking them into smaller rocks and then hauling the smaller rocks across the field. There it was simple, quiet, lonely. All of the things Marble loved. But Canterlot was a whole other universe compared to her home and not in a good way.

“L-Limestone?” she whispered through her veil made of mane.

In front of her, her older sister stopped and whirled around, ears finely tuned to detect the soft sound of her voice. She raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, sis?”

“I… wanna go home.”

Limestone Pie waited until the last of the exiting passengers passed her before taking a step closer. “Already? We’ve been here for two seconds, Marble.”

“I know,” she mumbled, refusing to make eye contact.

Limestone pressed her lips into a thin line, rolling her green irises to the ceiling and back. “Look, I don’t like being away from the farm either, but we have a job to do, okay? The sooner it's done the sooner we can leave.”

“Mmmhmm,” Marble replied, slipping into her defensive speaking habits.

Last week, their father had gotten a tip that a wealthy mining company based in Canterlot had been putting out feelers for any new product ideas. Seeing a chance to help keep the farm afloat, he’d decided to try pitching the rock candy recipe that Maud had created. Unfortunately with Maud returning to her university to continue her studies and Pinkie Pie being… never around, the duty had fallen to Limestone and Marble to travel to Canterlot and make the sales pitch.

Marble just wished she knew what she’d done to deserve such a punishment.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be in and out before you know it,” Limestone assured her.

“Mmmhmm,” Marble mumbled. She poked at the ground, but made no effort to continue into the hell that was undoubtedly Canterlot.

“Well come on then,” Limestone turned and started walking.

Marble adjusted her saddlebags, the rock candy inside clacking together, and rushed to her sister’s side. She didn’t want to get separated for an instant, fearing that she’d be swallowed up by the city otherwise.

They made their way out of the train station, Marble taking great care not to bump into anypony and Limestone taking great care not to care about bumping into ponies. Whenever she did the offender would earn themselves a heated glare that sent them scurrying in another direction, which was just fine by Marble. Less ponies coming her way was a good thing as far as she was concerned.

Unfortunately, the second they stepped outside she was bombarded by ponies in all directions. And she’d thought the train station was crowded. There must have been hundreds—nay, thousands—of ponies in the city alone and those were just the ones her mask of hair didn’t leave out. The streets were packed! Everywhere she looked ponies were shoulder to shoulder as they scuttled about.

Her years of reclusion on the farm made the scenario before her seem impossible. She knew a lot of ponies could fit into a town but she never knew this many could. Hustle and bustle the likes of which her worst nightmares couldn’t imagine must’ve been a daily occurrence here.

Marble’s heart stopped.

It started again, of course, the moment after her brain became unfried. Then it started beating double time, followed swiftly by hyperventilation. She’d been drifting deeper into new levels of uncomfortableness since stepping off the train, but now she was doing a ninety degree nosedive into distress.

Limestone sensed this shift in her demeanor and stopped. “Marble? You okay?”

“Mmm mmm.” She shook her head. Everything was decidedly not okay. In fact, it was about as far away from okay as you could possible be.

Limestone stopped walking and put her hoof on Marble’s shoulder. “You gonna live?”

“...” Marble genuinely didn’t know the answer to that. She probably wouldn’t die out of pure social anxiety, but she was a long way from stable.

Biting on her lip, Limestone looked around and pulled her sister off the crowded street and onto the grassy side where less Canterlotians bothered to travel. “Okay, look. I get it, all right? Big city, lots of ponies, it’s not your thing.”

Marble nodded along, agreeing so far.

“But do you want to know why Pa asked you to come with me?”

Marble hesitated, but nodded again. She needed to know.

Limestone sighed. “It’s cause he wants you to come out of your shell a little. And you know what, so do I. It’s ridiculous that you can barely talk to anyone outside your own family, Marble.”

She bowed her head, shame flooding her. She hated being reminded of that.

Sighing again, Limestone brushed her mane out of her eyes. “Look, I know you aren’t exactly happy about this, but give it a shot. Try to talk to somepony here. There’s like a million ponies in this city, one of them will listen to you, all right?”

Marble blinked, her pupils shrinking. “A m-m-m-million?”

“Oh geeze.”

She felt light-headed. She felt weary. Why was her vision blurry? She couldn’t tell if it was from the world spinning around her, or the fact that she was about to pass out. Oh Celestia, she was about to pass out!

“Marble, calm down! It was an exaggeration, okay?” Limestone grabbed her by the sides, holding her upright. “Relax a little bit, everything’s fine.”

“M...Mmmhmm.” Marble took deep breaths. Through her nose. She couldn’t quite bring herself to breathe out of her mouth, or even open it for that matter.

“Okay, okay good.” Limestone breathed a sigh of relief with the knowledge that she hadn’t sent her sister into shock. “...You need a minute?”

Marble nodded slowly.

“Fine.”

They stood in silence, Marble doing her best to calm down and Limestone doing her best to be patient. Neither of them were in their element, but they managed through it. Once Marble felt a little better, they started walking again.

She decided it was best to not look at the potential million ponies of the city and kept her head down, only focusing on the rhythmic stepping of Limestone’s hooves. To her surprise, she actually managed to keep this up for the duration of the walk, which gave her a little time to reflect on what she’d been told.

Pa wants me to… come out of my shell? While her father had expressed a desire for her to talk more, it usually came in the form of ‘Speak up, Marble!’ or ‘Say something, Marble’, not ‘Marble, go to your own personal worst nightmare and live out your biggest fears’.

Had something changed his mind? Or had Pinkie Pie’s visit at Hearth’s Warming just remind him of how sheltered he’d kept his other daughters. After all, between the four of them none could be considered normal. Pinkie was, well, Pinkie. Maud loved rocks so much she built her very existence around them. Marble couldn’t speak more than two sentences at a time even on her best days. And Limestone…

She looked up at her sister, who was currently yelling at a food vendor for accidentally squirting a drop of ketchup in her general direction.

Okay, so none of them were the textbook definition of normal, but why was he suddenly trying to change her? Was it because she needed it the most? Or was it just that he saw an opportunity by sending her here?

As they rounded their last corner and came up to the building for the Canterlot Mining Co. Marble decided she didn’t want to know. She just wanted this to be over and done with.

“Here we are,” Limestone said, stopping in front of the modest four-story office building. “You ready?”

Marble stared up at the building and folded her ears down. Limestone groaned.

“I assume that means no?”

Marble nodded.

“Figures.” Limestone unstrapped her own saddlebags and opened one of the pockets. “Here, just dump some of your rock candy in here. I can do the presentation on my own.”

Pausing only for an instant, Marble unhooked one of her pouches and loaded her flavors into Limestone’s pocket.

“Uh… w-what should I do while you’re in there?” she asked.

“I dunno, whatever you want.” Limestone muttered as she readjusted her saddlebags.

“I want to go home,” Marble whispered.

“Yeah well, I’m gonna ask that you wait for me before doing that.” She looked around and pointed across the street. “Look, there’s a cafe over there. Just go get some lunch and maybe talk to somepony while you’re at it.”

“B-By myself?”

“Yeah,” Limestone replied like it was the easiest thing in the world. “Look, you don’t have to find a date or anything—that’s the Pairing Stone’s job. Just open your mouth and make words happen.” She tightened the strap on her saddlebags and turned. “I gotta go. See you in about an hour-ish.”

“Bye.”

Limestone disappeared into the lobby of the building, leaving Marble alone.

Well, not entirely alone. All around her ponies were still surging in all directions. Almost immediately a few shoved past her, impatient to get to whatever destination they had in mind.

Dropping her mane in front of her face again, Marble fled from the street and over to the cafe Limestone had pointed out. Within seconds she had successfully sealed herself away from the outside world.

As soon as the door closed, Marble realized just what a big mistake she’d made. The cafe, despite having a nice atmosphere, soft jazz music and a granite floor, was crowded.

Ponies swarmed every table in the place. There didn’t seem to be an open seat to speak of. Even the tiny bar area near the front was crowded.

“Hello.” Marble nearly leapt out of her coat as a cream colored waitress approached her. “Would you like a table?”

Marble was frozen for a moment, before finally mustering up the courage to utter an “Mmmhmm.”

The waitress smiled. “Right this way.” Her purple bob swished as she turned around. “Unfortunately, we only have a table out on the patio right now. I hope that’s okay.”

“Mmmhmm,” Marble managed. Anywhere that was away from this crowded room was fine with her, even if it was back outside.

“Great!”

She was led through a meandering path that eventually brought them both onto the patio. It had an admittedly nice view of a nearby garden and while there were ponies, the tables were much more spread out then they were inside. Marble managed to relax a smidge. Just a smidge.

“Can I get you anything to drink?” The waitress asked, sitting Marble down and passing her a menu.

“Uh...w-water.”

“Coming right up.” And just like that, she was gone.

Marble breathed a sigh of relief, happy to be left alone. She poked at the menu a little, but found herself more taken by the garden just on the edge of the patio. As it turned out, it was in the backyard of one of the upscale looking houses that plagued Canterlot. Fairly convenient location for this cafe, at least.

She was so engrossed in the garden that she hadn’t noticed the waitress return until the glass of water was placed in front of her. However, Marble was quick to note the extra pony she’d brought along.

“I hope you don’t mind,” the waitress said. “But we’re pretty crowded right now. Do you think you could share a table with her?”

Marble’s gaze darted over to the pony in question. Her coat was one of the brightest of blue’s she’d ever seen, which wasn’t saying much given the muted landscape of the rock farm. Still it was bright. Her hair was a mix of silver and a much darker shade of blue than her coat. The two colors waved in tandem and curved down her neck. Her eyes were like little pools of water, irises matching her hair.

The next thing that stuck out was her smile. It was so… wide. Ear-splitting almost. And it radiated with a desperation that said “oh please, noble stranger, allow me to dine with you so that I might not be evicted from this establishment for I promise my chit chat skills are most excellent and this will definitely not be awkward in the slightest”.

The mare herself was… actually really pretty. Her features weren’t very pronounced, yet cute all the same. And that smile certainly did wonders to make her go from cute to beautiful. Marble felt the faintest of heat rise up under her cheeks.

“Uh… Mmmhmm,” Marble mumbled after she finished staring. Shy as she was, she couldn’t say no to that smile. And that was the only reason she was letting this mare sit with her. It had absolutely nothing to do with how pretty she was. Nothing at all.

Probably.

“Oh thank you so much!” The mare slid into her seat and held up a hoof to decline a menu. Though, she did turn to the waitress. “I’ll have a vanilla-banana milkshake to start.”

The waitress nodded. “I’ll give you both some more time to decide what you want to eat.” She vanished back inside, leaving Marble alone with the pretty stranger.

“Thank you again for letting me sit here. I always come here on my lunch break but it has never, I mean never, been this crowded before. But it’s a good thing it is because otherwise we never would’ve met. I’m Minuette by the way, dentist extraordinaire. Lived in Canterlot my whole life and love it with every fiber of my being. Oh, but look at me, I’m rambling. Please, tell me your name.”

Marble blinked, realizing that she’d been staring again. After a healthy dose of blushing, she stammered out. “M-Marble Pie.”

Now it was Minuette’s turn to blink. “Pie? Hmmm, you wouldn’t happen to know a Pinkie Pie would you?”

Marble brushed her mane over her eyes. How did this mare know Pinkie? “Mmmhmm… She’s… my s-sister.”

Minuette’s eyes widened. “Oh my Celestia. You’re Pinkie Pie’s sister?” Her voice climbed a few octaves on that last word. “That’s wonderful! Pinkie is kind of like my sister too, only not literally. She’s more of this really close friend I hang out with all the time. You know, I really should’ve recognized your name, now that I think about it. Pinkie’s told me so much about you!”

Marble’s face full on flushed. Pinkie was friends this mare? And she talked about her? Well the first one was a given. Her twin was friends with every pony, griffon and semi-sentient plant on the continent. But the fact that she actually mentioned Marble on a regular basis and to Minuette no less?

“W-what has s-she b-been telling y-you?” Marble stuttered out.

“Only about how you’re the bestest little sister ever!” Minuette giggled. “But also about how you’re shy, reclusive, basically a hermit, you know?”

Marble shrunk into her mane. Great, now this beautiful mare thought she was a weird anti-socialite. How… accurate…

“Oh, wait wait wait!” Minuette pulled out a camera. “I’ve got to get a picture with you really quick.” She slammed the camera on the table to face the garden off the patio and pulled Marble up. Minuette positioned them right in front of the camera and wrapped one foreleg around her.

“My friends will just not believe how cute you are!”

She thinks I’m... cute?

Marble’s face exploded into a blush the exact second the camera went off. She was blinded for a moment and Minuette removed her hoof from her side. Marble was a little upset when she regained her sight; she normally didn’t like being touched by strangers, but this was a little different. It was nice.

“Hey, Marble… is your face okay? You look really red.”

“Eep!” Marble slapped away her blush as best she could, eventually managing to calm down slightly. “I’m f-fine.”

“Okay, great! So, what brings you to Canterlot?” Minuette asked as she tucked away her camera and took her seat. “Come here to see the sights?”

“Uh…” Marble slinked back to her seat, unsure of how to respond. “W-we… my sis… L-Limestone… r-rocks…”

You’re ruining it! Marble yelled at herself. Do something before she hates you forever!

Suddenly, Marble remembered her saddlebags were still mostly filled with her reason for visiting. She reached inside them and yanked out a hoof-ful of rock candy, depositing it on the table.

“What’s this?” Minuette asked, tilting her head.

“C-candy. W-we’re p-pitching the idea.” Marble mumbled. “...You can t-try some.”

Minuette smiled and sparked her horn to life. A piece of candy flew into her mouth and she bit down.

And then bit down again, harder.

And then even harder.

On her fourth try the rock finally split. She closed her eyes, putting as much force into her jaw as she could. After chewing it down a little bit, Minuette looked up. “It’s… crunchy.”

Marble looked away. “...yeah.”

Minuette swallowed. “But it’s also very sweet. I like it.” Marble’s face brightened. “You said you were pitching the idea to someone?”

Marble started to nod, but then remembered Minuette said something about being a dentist. This was bad. Candy was probably the last thing she wanted catching on.

“That’s great.” Minuette smiled, punching holes in her theory. “You’ll probably be sending a lot more business my way. Hey,” she giggled. “Maybe we should team up and get a conspiracy going. You give people cavities and then I fix ‘em up. Hehehe.”

Her laughter was infectious and Marble released a single chuckle. Her first laugh in… well, months.

“Ready to order?” The waitress was back, cutting into the conversation Marble was actually starting to enjoy.

It was then that she realized that she’d been talking so much she’d forgotten to even look at the menu.

“Two honeycomb salads, please.” Minuette said. She winked to Marble, which just made her blush more. “Hope you don’t mind me ordering for you, but I eat here all the time. I know you’ll love it.”

“Mmmhmm.” Marble nodded. “I-I doubt it’ll be better than rock soup though.”

Minuette snorted with laughter. It was the most adorable thing Marble had ever heard. “Hahaha! Oh gosh, you’re a real riot, Marble.”

“I-I am?” she squeaked out.

“Absolutely. And here I thought Pinkie Pie snapped up all the funny genes in your family.” Minuette paused, then winced. “And I just now heard how potentially insulting that was. Sorry.”

Marble blinked in confusion. She hadn’t really been offended, but it was nice to have her feelings considered, especially by somepony she’d just met. “Uh… Mmmhmm.”

“So Pinkie’s told me you live on a rock farm. Naturally, I have about a bazillion questions about that.”


Marble Pie pushed her finished, admittedly-better-than-rock-soup honeycomb salad away. The waitress was back, exchanging a few words with them, but Marble wasn’t really hearing them.

She was in utter shock that for the past hour she’d actually managed to hold a conversation with somepony. Who wasn’t even a member of her family. And also very, very cute.

Had it actually been an hour? There wasn’t a clock on the patio, but Minuette did say she only had about an hour for lunch before she needed to get back to the dentist office. Since she’d been winding down the conversation it must be getting close to that time.

An odd feeling bubbled up inside Marble when she realized this. It took her a while to work out the foreign sensation, but eventually she figured it out; she didn’t want to stop talking to this fascinating mare.

Minuette was just so vibrant and full of energy, not unlike Pinkie Pie. Though, unlike Pinkie, Marble never felt that like energy was being forced onto her. Minuette just had a more relaxed, warm demeanor about her that Marble couldn’t help but open up a bit. Sure, she’d failed to get beyond her two sentences at a time limit, but after all, it was only their first date.

Wait, d-date? Marble’s cheeks burned as she realized what she’d been thinking about. T-this isn’t a date! We just met by chance! And talked… and laughed… and she thinks I’m cute... and I think she’s beautiful… and… and…

This was totally a date.

Right?

No. No, there’s no way Minuette is seeing me in the same light. She’s just so… amazing. Why would she ever want to date a pony like me? Marble’s mane slid in front of her face for the first time in nearly an hour.

“Well, I hope you two enjoyed your meal.” Their waitress set the check down on the table, only for Minuette to immediately scoop it up. Marble reached for her money, but was cut off.

“Not today, Marble.” Minuette gave a hoofful of bits to the waitress. “This one’s all on me.”

“W-what? But I…”

“You can just make it up to me next time.” Minuette winked.

Next time? So this was a date. Sure, Minuette might just be paying for everything out of kindness, and maybe it was Marble’s hopefulness talking, but it certainly sounded like she was seeing this in a romantic light. And she wanted to do this again, which meant…

Second date.

“O-okay.” Marble smiled and brushed her mane out of her eyes.

Minuette stood up. “Well, as much as I hate to say it, I have to go. Teeth don’t clean themselves, you know.”

“Mmmhmm…” Marble felt her heart sink at the thought saying goodbye. She looked at the table, unable to bring herself to say the word.

“Hey, before I head out...”

Her head shot back up.

“My friend Moon Dancer is throwing a party today for the first time in like, forever. You should totally come.”

“M-me?” Marble’s pupils shrunk. “A p-party?”

“I know that look, Shy Pie, but don’t worry. It’s only a couple of friends hanging out together with some punch and a piñata.” She smiled comfortingly. “Trust me, it’ll be great. And you’ll get to meet all my friends!

Meet more ponies? Marble’s knees shook at the thought. But as long as Minuette was there it would be all right. She just knew it. “Okay,” she whispered.

“Great!” She practically leapt across the table and wrapped Marble in a hug.

For a moment, Marble was utterly paralyzed. Minuette’s embrace was so sudden and warm that she didn’t quite know what to do. Eventually she did bring her hooves around Minuette, who in turn gave her a squeeze.

Marble bit her lip as Minuette pulled away. “Just stop by my office around closing time and we can walk to the party together, okay?”

“Okay,” Marble agreed, unable to stop a giddy smile from breaking out on her face. It did fade when Minuette waved goodbye and walked away, leaving Marble alone at the table.

Faced without Minuette’s companionship, Marble felt lonely, and not in a good way. She wasn’t really sure what to do besides wait, so she left the table and just stood at the patio for a few minutes.

“There you are.” Marble turned at the voice of Limestone, who was worming her way through tables to catch up to her. “‘Bout time I found you.”

“Hi Limestone. Uh…. how did it go?”

Limestone flopped her empty saddlebags in front of her, grinning. “They ate it up. Literally. And maybe broke a few teeth, but they didn’t seem to mind, so… eh.”

“That’s nice,” Marble said softly.

“Yep. So, what happened with you?” Limestone asked.

“I’m not sure,” Marble admitted. A tiny smile and matching blush formed on her face. “But… I think I have a marefriend now.”