• Published 18th Oct 2019
  • 2,024 Views, 167 Comments

A Slice of Cheese - MrNumbers



If everyone could see themselves as L'il Cheese saw them, the world would be a much brighter place. A story about love in the shape of laughter.

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The Aunt

Rarity opened her door and gasped at Pinkie’s terrible state of a mane. Worse than usual, and “usual” had come to include a rubber duck as a fascinator. Which, well, it certainly was a fascinator...

But the bags under her eyes were deep enough to use as Hearthswarming stockings, and she had that unfortunate gray lustre that only meant the worst.

“Hey, Rarity,” Pinkie groaned, “sorry to bother you—”

“No, no, darling, you look simply dreadful. Come in, come in.”

Pinkie rubbed the back of her neck and stepped aside. “About that.”

L’il Cheese looked up at Rarity with eyes as wide as saucers.

“I need a sitter.”

Rarity looked at Pinkie with dawning horror. “You know I love you—”

“Great! So you’ll do it?!”

“There was going to be a but there.”

“I know,” Pinkie sighed. “That’s why I interrupted when I did.”

“I see.” Rarity looked down at L’il Cheese, who was smiling just as wide. Then he fluttered his eyelashes, Celestia help her — wherever she was these days. “Your mother told you to do that, huh?”

“I’m precocious!” L’il Cheese smiled, then wobbled one of his loose front teeth with his tongue. Rarity was enthralled. Normally that would be gross, but he did it in this hypnotically cute way that made her want to drop all her barriers and smoosh him.

Pinkie was trying to hide her budding grin.

“How old is he now, exactly?”

“I’m this many!” L’il Cheese tapped his hoof four times.

“You’re a filthy liar, sweetheart, but I respect the hustle.”

“Darn. Can’t blame a guy for trying, huh, aunty Rarity?” He smiled again, and this time his eyes were misty. Rarity bit the tip of her hoof.

“He’s twelve, now.”

“I see. So he’s not a teenager?”

Pinkie managed a weak smile, in spite of everything. “Thank Celestia, wherever she is right now.”

Rarity snorted. “All right. I was just enjoying the lavish and comfortable lifestyle that being single and childless affords me, but I suppose I can help a friend in need.”

“Believe me, I tried everything, but it’s really hard to find a sitter in Manehattan, and... well, it’s late notice.”

“I’m glad I was your last resort, dear. I really appreciate that.” And Rarity hugged her sincerely. “It’d be my pleasure to take my ‘nephew’ for... a night?”

“At least a night, but ... look, it’s a long story. And when I say it’s a long story—”

“Right,” Rarity nodded, looking down at L’il Cheese, who hadn’t moved an inch. His pupils had grown about a third since she’d last looked though. She had the sneaking suspicion if she looked away for long enough he’d find a violin and start playing sad songs on it. “Is he sticky?”

“Most kids stop being ‘sticky’ around four or five.”

“That’s not what I asked, Pinkie.”

Pinkie sighed. “Okay, L’il Cheese is unusually sticky for his age.”

“I’m very precocious!” L’il Cheese wiggled his tooth again for emphasis.

“Is there anything I need to know, before I take custody of him?”

Pinkie hugged Rarity tight, and for a few seconds too long. “He’ll tell you most of it. He mostly looks after himself. Just give him something to do so he doesn’t get too bored — he’s only a problem if he gets bored, but if he gets bored he’s a big problem, you get me?”

“Ah. I see. Because he’s precocious?”

“Twilight says he really is my son, and I don’t know if she meant it as a compliment or not.”

“Ah.” Rarity repeated. “Ah.” She said, rolling the word around in her mouth. “I promise I shall do my best. If it goes badly, how should I contact you?”

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll just see it on the news and know, you know?” Pinkie hugged Rarity tight again, and ran away. “Bye! Love you both! Hugs and kisses!”

“Hiya, Aunty Rarity!” Cheese wiggled a wave at her this time. “My mum talks about you a lot.”

“Please, don’t call me that. I’m far too young to be an ‘aunty’.”

Cheese thought about that. “I dunno. You look old enough to me.”

Rarity clutched her heart. “Oh! You little—”

“Mums can have younger sisters too, right?” he beamed.

Rarity paused. “... I shall take it.”

L’il Cheese did a hoofpump. “Aunty Rarity it is.”

“You just like how ‘aunty’ and ‘Rarity’ sound together, don’t you?”

Cheese nodded, then shook his head. “I mean, yeah, but I kind of call all my Mum’s friends that. It makes talking about the Princess kind of weird though.”

“Hrrm. Yes, I imagine it would.” She squinted at him. “Tell me. What do children... do? It’s been so long since Sweetie Belle was your age, and thank Celestia for that.”

“Figuring out what the nearest grown up will let us get away with, then maybe taking about ten percent off that.” L’il Cheese shrugged. “I mean, if we like them. Or we’re good.”

“I see,” Rarity massaged her temples, “I’m starting to remember now. You’re surprisingly honest.”

“My Dad says I’m introspective!”

“I see. And where is he, right now?” Rarity started guiding Cheese through her large — very large — Manehattan apartment, towards the kitchen. “Your mother neglected to mention.”

“We don’t know.” Cheese’s face fell. “I think that’s why Mum’s like that. She says it’s a long story.”

“Ah.” Rarity felt the tension in the air, and decided to gracefully sidestep it, “Well, would they mind you having a soft drink?”

“Soft drink?”

“Ah... the thing you mix bourbon with, but without the bourbon. Cola! That’s it.”

“Oh!” Cheese brightened up, “Yeah, I love cola. I’ll have some of that, please.”

Rarity grabbed her soda from the fridge door, next to the orange juice she only bought to mix her gin with. No need to tell the child that. She poured a big glass of it, put ice in it, and slid it across her marble countertop to the floating barstool that Cheese had climbed up on. “Just one. I don’t want to give you too much sugar before bed.”

Cheese stared at her. “Too much... sugar?”

Rarity massaged her temples again. “Never mind. I forgot who your mother was for a moment. Yes, I imagine that is a foreign concept.”

“That’s so weird.”

“Well, if most other ponies eat too much sugar, they get fat.” Rarity grimaced, and glared at her butt. “I don’t know how your mother does it.”

“Mum’s pretty amazing, I guess.” Cheese sipped his cola. “So what do you do for fun around here?”

Rarity blinked. “Fun? Yes, fun. Recreation. Uh, I host parties — though not the kind you’re used to, I imagine. Boring grown-up parties.”

“Wow. I ask you what you do for fun and you immediately say it’s boring.”

Rarity pointed a threatening hoof at the young man. “When you get older, you start enjoying boring things.” She paused for thought. “Not as much as Twilight, mind you, but I think she was born old.”

“I thought you were too young to like boring stuff, yet?” Cheese hid his smile behind his glass of cola. Rarity laughed.

“Oh, you are a charmer, aren’t you? Well, it’s just a thing that happens to you, I’m afraid. Aside from that, I work, I suppose. Keeping up with fashion takes a lot of it.”

“You enjoy your work?” Cheese asked, in that way that kids have of just casually and sincerely asking very heavy questions that can cause adults months of therapy afterwards. Rarity could tell he didn’t buy her fake smile, so she dropped it and went for honesty.

“No. Most of the time, I don’t. It’s miserable, and I make a lot of mistakes, and I can spend hours on something I just throw in the bin. Then I cry a lot, and eat an entire tub of ice cream by myself, and then I start again until I get it right.”

Cheese stared at her. “Wow. Why?”

“Well, ice cream is very therapeutic, sweetheart.”

Cheese shook his head, leaning over the countertop. He’d found a silly straw... somewhere, and was now sucking his soda out the side of his mouth with it. “No, I mean, why do you do it if you don’t like doing it? That’s so weird.”

“You really are Pinkie Pie’s son, aren’t you?” Rarity went to the fridge and pulled out two boxes of takeout leftovers — both double orders for herself, last night and the night before’s — and put them in the microwave. “Sometimes we do things we don’t enjoy, because we enjoy how it feels to have done them. Does that make sense?”

“No.” Cheese shook his head, “Not even a little.”

“Oh.”

Cheese stuck an elbow on the countertop, resting his chin on his hoof with his ears pricked right up. “So, like, tell me more!”

Rarity thought about it. “I don’t know. I’ve never needed to explain it before. How do I put this into words...” She looked down at the gorgeous pink silk gown she was wearing, the one that matched the fuzzy bunny slippers she was wearing since she hadn’t been expecting guests. “You see this gown?”

“It looks really nice. And comfortable.”

“It is. Though I made it just for myself, it’s probably one of my favourite pieces. And do you know why I only made it for myself?”

Cheese shook his head, listening attentively.

“Because this material is awful to work with. It slips under the sewing machine, the tears are unpatchable. Oh, it feels like a dream to wear, but making it was hours of sheer torture.”

Cheese’s ear flicked. “Was that a pun?”

“‘Sheer’ torture, yes, I’m rather glad you picked up on that.”

Cheese nodded, then made a go-on gesture. Rarity coughed.

“Right. Well, now whenever I wear it, I feel wonderful that I did make it. That it’s absolutely stunning, and it came from me. It makes it all worthwhile in the end. That, and being better than everyone else in Equestria at it. Nobody else could have made this gown, and that’s very important, too.”

Cheese nodded. “Right. So it’s like... planning the perfect party is really hard, but you do it so you know everyone can have a good time later. But with... stuff?”

“That’s... I suppose that’s as good a way to put it as any, yes.” Rarity pulled the takeaway containers steaming-hot out of the microwave, and slid Cheese his box with a pair of chopsticks. He took one in each hoof and tried to pincer the noodles like he was a clapping seal. Rarity grimaced, and reached into her drawers for a fork.

“No, it’s okay, I got this!” Cheese reassured her, missing the first dumpling he tried for, dropping it down the side of his face, and watching it splatter on Rarity’s pristine white tile floor. “Oops.” He giggled.

Rarity heaved a sigh, and gave him the fork anyway, plucking the chopsticks from his loose grips. “You’re a little young to be worrying about those things just yet. You haven’t even got your cutie mark yet, and—” she paused. “Ah, I see.”

Cheese sipped his cola thoughtfully. “I’m sure I’ll be good at something. I think. I mean, I’ll figure it out.”

“You’ll... figure it out?”

“Yeah. You know.” Cheese shrugged. “I’m not in any rush to figure out what the rest of my life is.”

Rarity burst out laughing, and Cheese didn’t know whether to be hurt, or offended, or what, but Rarity held up a hoof, and so he waited. “I’m sorry, it’s just... Sweetie Belle, Applebloom, and Scootaloo? You know those three, yes?”

“Yeah! Of course I do. They’re like... my cousins, I guess? I don’t know how that works. Or are they just really young aunts? I think I need, like, a graph for this.”

Rarity waved him off. “Well, they couldn’t wait to grow up and find their cutie mark. They did everything, and I mean everything. They didn’t work out what their talent was until they gave up looking, and that took years.” Rarity reflexively reached for her liquor cabinet, but decided against it. “Years, and a lot of property damage.”

“That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, though.” Cheese shrugged. “I don’t really see the point.”

Rarity swooned. “Oh, Pinkie Pie’s done something right with you. You’re not half as insufferable as I thought having a child around would be.”

“Thank... you?”

“I mean it with love, darling, I’m... well, I wasn’t your mother’s first choice for a sitter for a reason, we’ll leave it at that.” Rarity grimaced under the weight of old memories. “Certainly, I expected something to be on fire by now.”

Cheese’s eyes widened. “Oh, no. Am I underachieving?”

“Heavens, darling, you keep behaving like this and I might just volunteer the next time your mother needs something. You’ve been pleasant company.”

Cheese grinned. “So pleasant I can get a scoop of ice cream in this cola?”

“And you’re conniving! A very encouraging trait to see in someone so young.” Rarity got the good vanilla out of the freezer, the one she kept for company and not for dress-depressions, and dropped a scoop into the cola. It made a very pleasant fizzing sound, and the bubbles turned creamy. It looked so enticing she made a second glass of it, and Cheese passed her a second silly-straw.

She made sure to wash it thoroughly under hot water before using it, but she could see the appeal.

“Hrrm.” Rarity looked him up and down. “You know, you’d look very fetching in a dress.”

Cheese blinked. “What? I’m a boy.”

“Sure you are. But those eyelashes? That curly mane? That figure? You’d look smashing in a ball gown.”

Cheese frowned. “You really think so?”

“Of course. I’m making the measurements in my head as we speak. You just scream for a periwinkle ensemble.”

He sipped his ice cream float thoughtfully. “That could be cool. I would look super pretty.”

“You absolutely would.”

“I don’t know if I want to look pretty, though.” He sighed. “Even though I think I’d be really good at it, because I’ve got these killer dimples in my cheeks.”

“You know, darling, I wasn’t going to say anything, but you’re right. You absolutely do. Here, look at me and smile?”

Cheese flashed the high beam megawatt smile at Rarity, and she appraised it like a jeweler with a diamond.

“Like puffy marshmallows, but twice as sweet. And any filly your age would just about murder for those eyelashes?”

“Right??” Cheese nodded, “I have very good self esteem.”

“Hrrm.” Rarity sipped from her crazy straw, and somehow found a way to make it look elegant. “I still think periwinkle is the right call.”

“What about, like, a really puffy shirt? With lots of ruffles?”

Rarity’s eyes sparkled. “Ruffles, you say...”

“Yeah! Then it’s like, shiny, and puffy. I like shiny and puffy things.”

“You know, your mother asked me to design a dress for her when she was just a bit older than you are now. She asked for streamers. And balloons.”

“Wow! That sure does sound like my Mum!”

“Oh, it was ghastly. Truly awful. Thankfully, she let me design her dress in the end. Some of my best work. Your mother is a wonderful baker, but... alas. Her design didn’t fare much better than Applejack’s, and she asked for galoshes.”

“Oh.” Cheese frowned. “What’s wrong with galoshes?”

“They’re useful. They’re not very fashionable.”

Cheese got down from his stool, and pulled his drink down after him, wandering into the living room. Rarity followed after him. “Did all my aunts tell you to make dresses you didn’t like?”

“Dreadful, awful things. On a deadline too. Miserable experience.”

Cheese looked around her apartment. “So, is the moral of the story sometimes we don’t really know what we want, and we just need to find someone else to tell us?”

“The moral of the story is that I am a fashion goddess with impeccable taste, so it’s quite the compliment for me to agree with you vis-a-vis ruffles.”

Cheese snorted. “Thanks, I guess.”

“There wasn’t really a moral, I admit,” Rarity hid the more adult magazines when Cheese wasn’t looking one way, and the coasters and dress scraps when he looked the other. “I’m just a dreadful gossip.”

“What’s a gossip?”

Rarity paused. Turned on Cheese, stared at him. “What’s a—? Oh, you are so sweet and innocent, aren’t you? Gossip is... gossip is when you say things behind ponies’ backs that you wouldn’t necessarily say to them. It’s just a bit of fun.”

“Oh, okay. I think I get it.” Cheese thought about it. “So, kind of like when I tell Big Sugar his Dad is so cool, but I wouldn’t say it to his Dad. Is that a kind of gossip?”

Rarity considered that. “I... suppose it is, yes.” She looked around. “If you wanted that shirt, my work room is just upstairs. Third door on the right.”

“Okay!” Cheese raced up the stairs. “I think I got it.” He counted three doors, opened it, and was buried in a mound of fabric rolls that Rarity had left leaning by the door.

“I should have warned you, there’s a trick to opening it... nevermind,” Rarity called, as she trotted up after him. “Are you still alive under there?”

“Yeah!” Cheese wriggled his way out from under the bolts.

“Good. Pinkie would have been very upset with me.” Rarity’s horn glowed and the mess... well, it stayed a mess, but it became a mess with very clear paths to a raised platform for measurements, and a working table. The sewing machine was bright red, and matched the neat glasses lying beside them.

“Ooh. Those are pretty.”

“What, these?” Rarity put the glasses on and smiled in that sad way that happens whenever someone compliments you on something you wished weren’t noticed at all. “They’re gotten a lot thicker over the years, I’m afraid. Not just a fashion statement.”

“You sound sad about that.”

Rarity ushered him up to the platform. “Well, let’s just say that I fear I am old enough to be ‘aunty’ Rarity. I just don’t like it.”

“Why not?” Cheese tried to hold still as a barrage of measuring tapes snicker-snacked across his body.

“You’re doing better than your mother did. Or Rainbow Dash for that matter. Are you sure you’re Pinkie’s child?”

“I’m trying to count how many different things are in this room, and it’s taking forever.”

Rarity looked around, and smiled. “Ah, yes. My creative chaos saves me again.”

“I don’t want to get older, either.” Cheese admitted, with a solemnity that surprised Rarity.

She frowned, and the tape measures all slapped shut at once. “I was hoping you had your parents’ attention span and wouldn’t notice me dodging the question. I even changed the subject, that usually works.”

“I can hold, like, three trains of thought at the same time.” Cheese grinned. “I’m also thinking about trains right now.”

“... trains?”

“Well I was thinking about trains of thought, but that made me start thinking about actual trains.”

Rarity sighed. “Ah.” She looked over her notes. “You can get down now. I’ve finished taking measurements.”

“Okay!” Cheese sat on the raised platform cross-legged, and watched Rarity attentively.

Rarity moved to the sewing machine, and he watched her the whole time. She frowned. “What are you doing?”

“Watching you make stuff.”

“Yes, I gathered. I suppose I meant why are you doing that?”

“Because it’s interesting!” Cheese started swaying a steady rhythm side to side, since he wanted to fidget but he thought making noise would probably just get him kicked out, “I’ve never seen anybody sew before.”

“Really, never?”

“Well, like... I’ve seen ponies fix things, and that was really cool. But making stuff’s got to be even cooler, doesn’t it?”

Rarity looked at him suspiciously, trying to work out his angle. But Cheese just kept swaying from side to side, smiling at her. Tapping out a simple beat - Rarity’s eyes darted to his hooves and he stopped immediately.

Hrm.

She selected the bolts of fabric. Periwinkle silk and... white lace? For a shirt ruffle? Hrrm. Lace was too much. Cotton?

“Can you play piano?”

“I play accordion. Is that close enough?”

“In the same way a ukulele is close enough to a violin.” Cotton instead of lace, then.

“Oh! Oh! ‘Cause I can play that too! If that helps.”

“... of course you can.” Rarity sighed, adjusting the design in her head. Something with a bit more ‘swish’ to it, a little bit more ‘islands’ by way of ‘polka’? If anyone could design something that would make that combination work, it was her...

The light blue silk flowed like water under her hooves, into the whirring need of the sewing machine. White thread, white cotton. Rarity paused, and looked at the end of the table, where Cheese Pie was resting his chin on the edge of her work surface, eyes wide.


“I thought you’d have gotten bored and wandered off by now.”

“It’s been, like, three minutes?”

“Exactly.” Rarity emphasized. “Three minutes and you’re still watching me?”

“Yeah. I guess?”

Rarity squinted at him over the top of her pince-nez. “Do you want to try? Is that it?”

Cheese laughed. “Ha ha! No way, I’d probably mess it up.”

Rarity nodded, and looked back at her work. “Mm. You probably would, yes.” She paused, and looked back at him with a grimace. “Not to cast shade over your abilities, this is just not... a good place for a beginner to start, I should think.”

“Yeah, I know,” Cheese shrugged, “that’s why I like watching you do it.”

“I see...” Rarity said slowly. “Is this a ploy to get better Hearthswarming presents?”

Cheese looked very unimpressed, and replied in a flat monotone, “My Dad owns a party factory and you’ve met my Mum.”

“Hrrm. Touche.” Rarity tapped her pen to the side of her cheek. “I’m sorry, I just feel like there’s something I’m missing here. You’re a child.”

“Yeah!”

“And you are content to watch me work?”

“Yeah! Content is a good thing, right?”

“Yes, content means satisfied.”

“Oh. Then yeah!”

Rarity tapped her cheek harder. She started chewing on the cap. She chewed so hard in her frustration that the casing broke, and a bitter squirt of black ink shot under her tongue. She spiked the pen into the trash, Cheese watching with wide eyes.

“What-”

“I am an old pony! I am old, and I am boring! I do boring work, and I attend boring parties, and it makes me very happy, but...” Rarity paused, slinking back down in her chair. “I have no idea how to handle young ponies.”

Cheese blinked. “I don’t think you’re boring.”

“I know, and that’s the frightening thing.” Rarity found a kerchief from the scrap pile, and started rubbing the inside of her gums with it. “If you’d been like Sweetie Belle, I could have laughed, called this a terrible evening, and then had your mother owe me a favour. It would have been perfect. But no. You had to be scared to grow up, too.”

“Wait...” Cheese pulled up a chair. “I thought you were already grown up.”

“Darling, it’s so kind of you to say that, but the truth is I would consider who I was at twice your age still a child. You never stop growing up.”

Cheese’s eyes widened. “Oh. Oh no.”

Rarity reached out with her magic to find wherever she’d last put that ice cream float down, just so she could tip it at him. “You see the problem.” She sighed. “You know, I still feel the same as I did at twenty? But then I look in the mirror...” Rarity slurped hard on her silly straw, hard enough to make her cheeks pull in.

“You’ve been living here since you were twenty?” Cheese’s eyes bulged.

Rarity snorted. “Goodness, no, I could barely make by just having my own place in Ponyville at that point.”

Cheese looked at the clothes on ponequins in the work room. “So you were making dresses like this since you were twenty?”

“Heavens, no.” Rarity snorted, “Young me dreamt of making a gown as elegant as the one back there. I think she’d just about die if she saw the Canterlot Boutique show floor. I think she’d die hearing I opened a Canterlot Boutique at all, actually.”

That took a bit longer to put together. “Wait, then why are you scared of getting older?”

Rarity flinched. “I beg your pardon?”

“I mean, I’m scared that when I get my cutie mark, I won’t be a kid anymore, and my life is like perfect right now. And Pumpkin Cake told me my life could get more perfect, but I don’t even know what that means.” Cheese threw himself onto a pile of fabric like it was a heap of autumn leaves. “But you already know your life got better when you got older.”

“I... I suppose it did.” Rarity admitted. “It has been nice to have gone from that young nobody, desperate to be noticed, to the one who others are desperate to be noticed by.”

“That sounds cool,” Cheese sprawled out over the linen, started trying to make snow-angels in it and mostly got tangled. “I would love to get older, if I were you!”

Rarity paused, and considered that. “Really?”

Cheese rolled over to look back at her, pulling half a roll with him, cocooning himself. “Yeah!”

“Well. That’s an interesting opinion,” Rarity concluded, and got back to working on the shirt. “I’d never considered that before.”

The cocoon got tighter, and Cheese giggled as he rolled himself across the floor. “I mean, what’s been the best year of your life so far?”

Rarity tried to concentrate on the shirt, so she didn’t think too hard about the answer. “Well, I suppose every year has been better than the last. So this one.”

“Wow! That’s so cool!”

Rarity paused and squinted at him. Cheese’s cocoon was now three times his width, and his head was popping out of the top of it. “You think everything is cool!”

“Well, you say everything’s boring, and it’s not.” Cheese blew a raspberry at Rarity. “Also, I can’t move. Little help?”

“Hrrm. In a moment. You’ll get in less trouble that way, I think.” Rarity went back to the shirt. “I’m nearly finished, anyway.”

Cheese strained forward and rolled his big cloth ball until he was next to the work bench again, so he could keep watching. “I’ve been good, though!”

“You’ve been gauging my boundaries since the second you walked through my door, and while I must say I am very impressed by your ability to pull the long con, I have not been deceived.” Rarity paused sewing long enough to gesture at the giant fabric ball. “For instance.”

“Ooh. You’re good.”

“Darling, I am the best.” Rarity paused, “And still getting better, apparently.”

Cheese frowned. “That doesn’t really help me, though.”

“Did you not hear me?” Rarity repeated with a laugh. “I said every year’s been better than the last. Do you think I was never your age? There’s a whole world of experiences out there that you haven’t even discovered yet.” Rarity smiled to herself. “I can tell you one thing that gets better every year.”

“What’s that?”

Rarity finished the shirt, held it up to the light to inspect it. Not her finest work, but fine work indeed. “Memories. Every year you’ll have more of them, and they only get better with time.” She stared at the ball, sighed. “Now, let’s finally get you out of that thing so we can try this on.”

Rarity’s horn glowed, and the ball of fabrics around Cheese shrank from a sphere, to a cocoon, to nothing. Then Rarity slipped the shirt onto him and appraised it. A perfect fit. Definitely much easier when they didn’t squirm.

Cheese ran over to a mirror to check it out. “Ooh! This is really nice. It’s soft, and it’s swishy, and it’s a really pretty colour.” He ran up to Rarity and gave her a big hug, and to her surprise, she hugged him back... even if he was just a little sticky.

“Now, you’ll probably grow out of this fairly quickly. Children are like that, unfortunately.” She smiled warmly, though, and gave Cheese a pat on the head. “But you’ll always remember that time your Aunty Rarity made you a nice shirt.”

Cheese nodded again. “I think I’m a little less scared about getting older. Thanks, Aunty.” He chewed his bottom lip in thought. “What do you want to do now?”

“Well,” Rarity thought about it, “My plan was to watch romantic comedies, and eat a lot of ice cream, but I’m not sure if-”

Cheese had already bolted for the door. When Rarity looked out over her stairs landing, it was just in time to see him flop down on her couch and bounce in excitement, a tub of ice cream and a spoon already tucked under an arm.

“Take that shirt off! Ice cream is impossible to wash out!” Rarity stormed down the stairs after him, trying not to giggle.

“Okay! But I also want to practice this gossip thing!”

Rarity grabbed a throw rug for the both of them, an especially fuzzy one that she planned on washing soon anyway. “I think gossip might be one of those things you’ll need to practice when your older...”

“I was gonna say how I think Pumpkin Cake knows Big Sugar has a crush on her, but she’s way too nice to tell him she’s not interested, so she’s just pretending she doesn’t notice it. And I think Big Sugar knows, but he’s pretending not to, because he doesn’t want to be weird. And I like them both a lot, but I don’t really know what to do.”

Rarity bit down hard on her spoon. “Ne-ver mind,” she sang, “the savant awakens. Tell me everything.”


“Doorbell!” Cheese shouted, “Pizza’s here!”

Rarity was already on her hooves for it. “You take that shirt back off before you eat, or I’m getting you a bib.”

“If I wear a bib I can keep the shirt on?”

“... fine. But roll up the sleeves, at least, or you're eating yours with a fork again.”

Awwww.”

It was not the delivery colt at the door, but a much better rested looking Pinkie Pie. “Hey.”

Rarity frowned. “Is it time already?”

Cheese shot for the door, “Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!” Zipping right past Rarity and colliding with Pinkie’s neck, just as she readied herself like a baseball catcher to receive him. She squeezed him tight, and Rarity felt a pang in her heart.

“Well, I hope you enjoyed your visit, Cheese.”

Cheese twisted in Pinkie’s grip. “Do we have to go now? We just ordered pizza.”

Pinkie laughed, and gave Rarity a knowing smile. “I’m sure Aunty Rarity will be just fine eating it all by herself.”

“Actually, I was just talking to Little Cheese about how dreadful this is going to be for my waistline.” Rarity held the door open a little wider. “I really don’t think I could handle it all by myself, if you’d like to stay a little longer?”

Pinkie blinked in surprise, looking down at Cheese in her hooves. “You think you could-”

“Yes! Pizza with Aunty Rarity!” Cheese whooped, and shot right back inside to snuggle himself deeper under the throw rug, waiting patiently for the two adults to come back so he could unpause Weirder Than Fiction, a movie Rarity had picked expecting to be schlocky but had found herself surprisingly invested in.

It wouldn’t have been the same finishing it by herself.

Pinkie nudged Rarity, her eyes sparkling. “That’s a really nice shirt.”

“You could learn from your son a few lessons in sitting still.”

Pinkie did that sharp inhale Rarity had come to associate with the phrase; ‘Can you believe it???’, with the vital triple question mark. “I know! It’s so weird! He must have gotten it from his Dad, because he sure as sugar didn’t get it from me.”

Rarity giggled. “Next time you’re in the neighbourhood, consider bumping me up a few places from last resort. I certainly have enough guest rooms for you, if you give me enough warning to clean next time.”

Pinkie squeezed Rarity in a big hug. That, Cheese had learned from her. “Thanks, Rarity. It looks like L’il Cheese really had fun, huh?”

“Yes, well, of course he did.” Rarity flicked her mane up and out of her eyes. “I still know how to be ‘hip’ and ‘with it’ with today’s youth, I should say.” Then, after a moment, in a much lower voice. “It was my pleasure, really.”

“Mum! Mum!” Cheese patted the spot next to him on Rarity’s couch — the side Rarity hadn’t been sitting on, she noted — “I’ll catch you up! I want to know what happens!”

“Ooh. Is this a comedy, or a tragedy?”

“That’s what we have to find out!” Cheese said excitedly, before filling his mother in, in that way children have of stringing things together in a very literal, half-remembered way. Pinkie, to her credit, nodded along attentively.

Pinkie really had grown up to be a great mother, hadn’t she?

Rarity made a note to herself to buy some grey hair dye. If she were to be getting older, she was going to do it on her terms. Dignified, distinguished.

Fearless.

Proud to be someone’s cool aunt.