"...and I mean, I know you don't like being considered a religious figure--"
"I don't dislike it," Pinkie assured Ruby, "but I can't be the holy manifestation of laughter all the time."
"I get that! Really! I mean I am very proud to be the pope, but even I have to have a break every now and again."
Sunny rolled her eyes. "You know she still gets people asking me to bless their bacon? Literally, bless bacon. And don't get me started on the arguments I hear between different sects of Shimmerism--"
"Why'd you agree to be a bishop if you knew there was going to be a mess?"
"Because I know you, Ruby! You wouldn't be able to handle the workload on your own!"
"I think she's done pretty good!" Pinkie piped in.
Sunny gave her a look. "You would, though."
Ruby glanced at them. "Huh?"
"Nothing!" Pinkie and Sunny chimed as one.
Pinkie Pie shot Sunny L. Dragon a thankful grin, which was responded to with a flat look. She glanced away, clicking together her hoof-like finger nails. It wasn't like she intended to keep Ruby Rose in the dark about her crush indefinitely, it was just... well, Ruby was the leader of a religion which worshipped one of her best friends, and she herself was kind of important in that religion, and... and it would be a little awkward, right? Especially since Sunset Shimmer was always on edge around her worshippers...
So, yeah, things were weird. But Pinkie could handle weird, and Ruby probably could too. So she would tell Ruby about her, well, crush, and she would do it reasonably, and she'd look into those silver eyes and Ruby would lean forward and they'd clasp their pink hands together and the days ahead would be filled with her stroking that blood-red hair--
Pinkie Pie squeezed her forehead in her hand. Not so fast not so fast! One step at a time. Obviously first she had to tell Ruby about--well, first she had to make Ruby a cake. No, not a cake. Something smaller and more personal. Ice cream? Cookies? What kind of cookies did Ruby like? Chocolate chip was just so generic. It did its job, but it didn't show much thought. Maybe she could go with cupcakes, those were like cakes in minature. Or ice cream cupcakes. Baked ice cream. Baked Alaska. That... no, wait, that made no sense!
"What's on your mind?" Sunny asked.
"Why's it called Baked Alaska if nobody in Alaska bakes it?"
Sunny shrugged. "Historical in-joke? I've nary a clue."
The three of them turned a corner, and Ruby spread her arms wide. "And here we are, Patch Avenue. Home sweet home. Our house is the one with the sunflowers and... the blue station wagon..."
Sunny looked into the sky and groaned loudly. "Of course. It would have to be today... Hey! Agent Carolina!"
A cyan-skinned woman slammed into the ground in front of them, brushing some red hair out of her eyes. "Sunny, Ruby. And... you're Pinkie Pie, aren't you?"
"That's right," Pinkie said. "Wow, I'm usually the person who knows who the other person is when I'm meeting them for the first time! This is kind of weird for me, which is really saying something!"
"I know, I've read your file." The woman stuck out her hand. "Carolina McAlister, Interpol. Don't worry, you're not in trouble," she added with a smirk.
Pinkie grabbed the hand and shook it enthusiastically. "I really hope not, miss! If I was, we'd all be in trouble!"
"Hey, thanks for pointing your niece to Bacon Academy," Ruby added. "I think she's been a lot happier since she came."
"Yeah, Red Lily says Pyrrhic really came into her own with you guys. Is she really dating that Gilded Archs boy?"
"It took a hell of a while for them to hook up," Sunny said with a wry grin. "But yeah, they're together now."
"Well, I've got somebody new to intimidate when I go off duty. Oh, yeah, standard protocols girls, you know the drill by now--I expect you to fill in miss Pie."
Ruby nodded. "We will!"
With a nod, Carolina flicked her lightbow out and went back to patrolling the sky. Pinkie stared after her for a moment, before looking at the two sisters. "So... what exactly did all of that mean?"
Sunny Little Dragon sighed. "It means," she explained in a long-suffering voice, "that our moms are home."
"We're home!" Ruby shouted as she entered the house. "And we brought a guest!"
"Oh?" A woman with bone-white skin leaned into the foyer from what Pinkie guessed was the living room, looking her over with strangely familiar silver eyes. "Oh, miss Pie! What in the world are you doing here?"
"There was... a thing," Pinkie explained awkwardly.
"Her big sister tore up the park to scare Ruby before her bigger sister put a stop to it," Sunny deadpanned.
Pinkie cringed. "Yeah, there was a misunderstanding about a food fight me and Ruby had. Limestone yelled at Ruby, Sunny yelled at Limestone, one thing led to another..."
"She and Sunny got into a fight," Ruby explained. "Sunny almost got taken out!"
"Hey," Sunny protested, "she was cheating with that earthbending stuff and the Aztlan magic!"
The woman frowned, stepping into the room fully. "Aztlan magic?"
"She works for the institute," Pinkie assured her quickly. "Security stuff. Are you with interpol too?"
"Yep." The woman smirked, jerking a thumb toward the living room. "Fair warning, there's a dangerous criminal lurking around these parts. You'll want to watch yourself. And your wallet."
"Hey!" shouted a voice. "I've graduated from wallets!"
"Then how did you get into my hotel room last month?"
"Swiped a backup keycard from the desk." Another woman, this one with cherry red skin, walked into the foyer. "Hey Sunny, hey Ruby. Who's the cheerleader?"
"This is Pinkie Pie," Ruby explained. "One of Sunset Shimmer's friends?"
"Pinkie, these are our moms," Sunny said. "Summer Rose and she of the infinite aliases."
The woman rolled her red eyes. "Raven Magpie."
"Oh, is that what you're going by these days?"
Pinkie quirked a brow at the pair. The silver gem embedded beneath rose red hair marked Summer as a unicorn aspect, and Raven seemed to be griffon aspected by the white lines that ran down the center of Raven's face and whiskered across her cheeks. Pinkie was used to that sort of thing, of course--it had been a few years since the Saturation, and she was fond of reading Discord's reports on the various new aspects cropping up, but... well, she couldn't help but notice the tracking monitors on Raven's ankles, or the pistol on Summer's hip, or the scaled gauntlets that kept Raven from using her griffon claws, or the monitoring spell that hovered in front of Summer's eyes...
"And you two are married," she said, just to clarify.
"Us three," Summer corrected. "Dragon Sun is part of the relationship too--actually, kind of the reason there's a relationship at all."
"I dunno about married," Raven mused, idly fiddling with some spiky black hair that had gotten caught in her the tracking collar around her neck. "I mean, we love each other and all and do the financial support thing, but we never had a ceremony and we're all swingers. So basically we're a living teenage fantasy."
Ruby's pink skin somehow became pinker. "Oh my Shimmer, Mam! Really?! We have a guest!"
Sunny rolled her eyes, turning to Pinkie. "Yeah, our home life is kind of a sitcom."
"Mine is too. More childsafe, though."
"Right, your sisters..." Sunny shrugged. "Anyway, where's Dad?"
"He's out back working on The Machine," Summer replied casually.
"Oh, sweet! I'll be right back." Sunny smirked at the two women. "Try not to tease these two into pink smears while I'm gone."
"So has being the pope affected your sex life?"
Pinkie looked at the flustered Ruby Rose, who was trying desperately not to meet anybody's eyes. Her heart leapt in her chest, and she cleared her throat. "SO! I'm Pinkie Pie. I do weird things because I'm basically a living cartoon. You wanna see?"
She pulled out a balloon and rapidly twisted it into the form of an octopus before inflating it so large that it burst, releasing confetti that rained down on the party hats all four of them were suddenly wearing.
"...Huh," said Summer Rose.
Ruby smiled. "That's Pinkie Pie for you!"
Raven took off her hat and examined it curiously. "Yeah, I'm going to be in the den."
"Hold on there, criminal scum!" Summer followed her into the living room with a grin.
"Thanks for that," Ruby murmured to Pinkie. "I mean, I love my moms and all, but... they can be so embarrassing, you know?"
Pinkie giggled. "Oh, yeah, moms. I mean I've only got the one, but... yeah, I get where you're coming from."
"So, uh, miss Rose!" Pinkie stepped into the living room, waving awkwardly. "It's nice to meet you!"
Summer Rose rolled her eyes. "I think I'm supposed to say something cliche about me not being a 'miss.' Tell you what, if you get to call me Miss Rose, I get to call you Miss Pie."
"Why are you calling her Miss Rose?" Ruby asked, dumbfounded. "You're usually more casual than that."
"I can be formal!" Pinkie protested. "I have formal parents. I know formalities. I can be formal. Did you think I couldn't be formal? Cause I can formally form a form to formally invite you to a formal gathering of formality formally!"
"Hey, nobody said you couldn't be formal!" Ruby assured her. "I'm just... kind of surprised that you are!"
"I'm meeting your mother! I don't know anything about her, I actually thought she was dead or something!"
Pinkie blinked. "I... don't actually know. Weird." She turned to the amused-looking Summer Rose. "You're not dead, right? Like a ghost or a zombie or something? Cause there's nothing wrong if you are, I just might have to give Sunset a heads-up about another form of magic--"
"Oh, I'm alive and very much aware of how frustrating the undead can be."
"Oh that's good also wait what?"
"Yeah," Summer explained breezily, "the Aztlan Institute proved that ancient Kemet had magic too--back before it went into remission. So now Interpol is having to go through all the kemetian relics and deal with so many pharaoh's curses now that they're actually powered up again. Lots of ancient corpses getting up and railing about their old treasures."
"That's actually how she caught me this time," added Raven from her position slumped in an armchair. "I was planning to grab a fancy bit of jewelry from this famous singer and, it turns out, the woman was some sort of Kemet death priest the whole time. Figured out how to keep her magic fueled during the interim and is basically the world's most successful serial killer, did not take kindly to me breaking her security."
Pinkie Pie nodded thoughtfully. "I guess she wouldn't."
"Luckily Summer was already investigating her and kicked in the door just in the nick of time." Raven shrugged. "Not that she was at all nice about it. I woke up in the hospital three days later and what did she say? 'You've lost a lot of blood, made one of my case trails run cold, and you're under arrest. Again.' Like it was my fault the woman was an ancient monster!"
"You like being under arrest," Summer pointed out with a smirk.
"No, no I don't. Screw the law!"
"I am the law!"
"And I screw you all the time!"
The sound of canned laughter rolled through the room.
"Sorry!" Pinkie smiled awkwardly, pulling out her phone. "That was me. Let me just... oh, it's a text from Applejack."
"Really?" Ruby looked at her. "What's it say?"
"Basically she's asking for a custom-baked pastry for her and Rarity's anniversary. Surprise."
Raven quirked an eyebrow. "You have a laughtrack as a ringtone?"
"I'm basically a living cartoon. You tried to rob an immortal serial killer?"
"I'm basically a career cat burglar."
"Fair enough." Pinkie hummed thoughtfully. "You know, three years ago I wouldn't be talking about a murderer so casually."
"Three years ago you wouldn't think mummies would get up and walk around."
"Actually I've always believed that. I mean, not that they were actually the people that got mummified," she explained quickly, "but why would you wrap something up if you didn't want to save it for later? I figured the Kemetians had stumbled on some secret or other that vanished with their civilization."
Ruby groaned. "Don't tell me you thought aliens built the pyramids or something."
"Nah, they were too busy putting billboards around stars back then."
Raven frowned, giving Summer a curious look. "Is she serious?"
"Look, you know how Sunset Shimmer is now somehow the world's manifestation of harmony?" Summer jerked a thumb at Pinkie. "She's the part-time manifestation of laughter."
"That doesn't answer my question. Were aliens actually putting up orbital billboards or what?"
"Not my department. I chase thieves and killers, not galactic mysteries."
"Speaking of..." Pinkie Pie rose her hand. "How did you two even meet, anyway?"
"Corrupt politician in some country put on a party," Raven replied dismissively. "She was sent undercover to check for schemes, I decided to rob the place at the same time."
Summer crossed her arms. "I still say I could have gotten those files if you hadn't triggered the alarm!"
"For the thousandth goddamn time, you were the one who triggered the alarm when you opened that safe!"
"I followed protocol! There was no way opening that safe would trigger an alarm!"
"You're just lucky I was willing to get you out of that mess."
"Excuse me? Who was it that knocked out the guards before they could shoot you? Oh, right, it was me!"
"I was busy picking the lock, which I wouldn't have needed to have done if I could have gotten out my usual way!"
"Hey, I offered you a ride in my getaway car!"
"Yeah, and then you tried to arrest me thirty minutes later!"
"Um," said Pinkie quietly.
"Don't worry about it," Ruby assured her casually. "This is workplace banter for them. Every time they're home at the same time they start blaming the other one for ruining some job or other. You know, goshdarned dirty thief, friggin' nosey cop, the usual drill."
"Yeah, no I got that... it's just kind of weird?" Pinkie gestured at herself. "Like my whole thing is making people happy, and it feels like I should be feeling some urge to intervene or something, but I'm not. They're yelling at each other and I can tell they're enjoying it. Is that... weird?"
"Yes," Ruby said bluntly. "I know because I can tell too." She paused, giving Pinkie a look. "Although I'm kind of wondering why you're concerned about being weird all of the sudden."
"Maybe I just want to make a good impression?" Pinkie offered with a grin she hoped wasn't nervous or at least not nearly as nervous as she felt.
"I... guess that could make sense?" Ruby frowned, ignoring her mothers' continued bickering as she put a hand to Pinkie's forehead. "Are you sure you're okay, though? You seem really subdued lately, do you have some sort of bug or something?"
"Yes, Ruby Rose. I have some sort of bug... a lovebug. It has bitten me and made me fall deeply in love with you! I know this must come as great shock--"
"Oh, but Pinkie Pie, I wish you'd told me sooner! For you see, I too have found a healthy and burgeoning attraction to you! And at last, I feel my heart lifting again!"
"Oh dearest Ruby, how is it that we ever felt fear to confess our feelings to another? Now at last I feel free, free to once more sail the winds of whimsy! Come, let me show you wonders worth a thousand giggles!"
"I come, my lovely Pinkie! And lo, I do find these pies you present a suitable gesture of your romance! Perhaps in turn I shall return the gesture and--"
"Huh, what?" Pinkie shook her head, noticing Ruby's concerned look. "Sorry, I drifted off into a mental tangent. It, uh, it happens. Sometimes. It's a thing. It's nothing to worry about. I was just thinking about, uh, pie. And other things, but pie was there too. There was a lot of pie. I'm fine. It's fine. Situation is perfectly fine. How are you?"
Ruby leaned back, her lips pressed tightly together. "You... sure?"
"Yep. It's totally okeydoke. Everything's cool. Nothing you need to worry about." Pinkie grinned just a touch too broadly. "So, uh, are your moms going to keep arguing about things or--?"
"Oh, them?" Ruby glanced at the two women. "They're almost done. They should be wrapping up right about... now."
"--and wreck the system completely!"
"Sure you will, Rae, sure you will."
Raven threw up her gauntleted hands with snarl. "Fine, whatever. Don't believe me. Are your cookies done?"
"Well, they should be--" Summer glanced at her wristwatch. "You know I should check on them now. Hey Ruby, can you watch her? If she breaks one of the monitors let me know."
"Will do, Mère!"
The moment the other woman stepped out of the room, Raven pulled out a screwdriver, propped up one of her legs, and set to work on one of the metal bracelets around her ankles. "Want to time me, kid?"
"Sure thing, Mam."
Pinkie blinked. "Wait, but... isn't that illegal?"
Raven gave her a flat look.
"Career criminal, right, forgot. I..." She considered for a moment. "I'll just go help miss Rose with those cookies."
"Try not to eat them all!" Ruby requested, pulling out her phone. "Okay, ready Mam... go!"
"So! Cookies. I am an expert on cookies, and cakes, and all kinds of pastries, and a number of other sugary things! I can even make a fondue-style sundae."
The expression on Summer's face would be best described as disbeliving curiosity. "Really? Fondue-style? That's... what does that even mean?"
"Well, it's kind of complicated to get the ice cream to the right consistency while still keeping it cold enough to be ice cream. It's closer to froyo anyway. And you have to have the dish heated to just the right temperature and keep it adjusted at all times... I guess I could show you," Pinkie mused, "but not right now. I don't have the fondue dish on me."
"Fondue-style sundae. Huh." The woman shrugged, closing the oven. "Learn something new every day."
"I guess so!" Pinkie cleared her throat. "Like... I don't know... learning that an interpol agent is pseudomarried to an international thief and, uh, whatever weird backstory that your husband has."
"And what makes you think he has a weird backstory?" Summer asked with an amused smirk.
"You said it yourself, he's the reason there even is a relationship."
"I did say that, didn't I?" Summer shrugged. "Well, it'll be his decision whether he shares his past with you."
"Right." Pinkie nodded. "Right... so... those ankle monitors that miss Magpie has--"
"Raven's under house arrest."
"No, I'm pretty sure I got that, just..." Pinkie took a breath. "Hy-po-thet-ic-al-ly.... Let's say that she decided to try to remove them or something..."
"Well," Summer mused thoughtfully, "if I were to catch her performing such a dastardly deed, I would of course be obligated to report it and take measures to restrain her more than she already is. I could speculate as to how she accomplished the act of sabotaging such a device, of course, but stopping her would legally be paramount. If, however, I discovered Raven had removed the device while she wasn't in my sight, I could examine it at my leisure after cuffing her."
"Aaaaaaand if, say, there was a witness to the event...?"
"Such a witness would have to be chastised for allowing it to happen and interrogated for information regarding the event, especially in the purely theoretical case where they took video on their phone of Raven managing to somehow circumvent one of our recent and most high-tech restraints under the guise of, say, timing her."
Pinkie nodded slowly. "But, strictly speaking, since Raven is technically your responsibility, the witness would not suffer any legal repercussions, and the video provided would outline the weaknesses of the ankle monitor, which could afford you leniency from your superiors if it were used to develop a more robust and harder to subvert model in the future."
"That's certainly a benefit that neither I nor Raven have thought of," Summer agreed, raising her hand to show off her crossed fingers. "But I'm sure that she has enough respect for the law to not at all attempt such a thing while I'm here looking over cookies." She winked surreptitiously.
"You're entitled to your beliefs," Pinkie replied, winking back. "So! Here we are, in the kitchen, with an oven. Are we going to talk about cookies? Because like I said I am an expert on cookies."
"We could," Summer allowed. "Or we could talk about your brazen and obvious crush on my daughter."
"Wh--Whaaaaaaaaat are you talking about?" Pinkie drawled, casually leaning against the fridge. "I mean, that is quite the accusation to make. Me, crushing on Ruby Rose, psssssh. That's like, probably tabloid material right? Manifestation of Laughter falls for head of the Church of the Divine Bacon Horse. Heck that's not even tabloid material, a few years ago that would have been clickbait nonsense. I can appreciate a silly story a lot more than the average person, but really miss Rose I would have thought an interpol agent wouldn't read such things and take them seriously."
"Oh I don't," Summer replied. "But I've read your file. And for your whole visit here you've been acting extremely out of character."
"I'm having... an off day. Because of, you know, the whole thing where my sisters kinda misinterpreted events and decided to protect me by fighting your daughters which I know sounds bad but it was actually only Limestone who did that and Maud just wanted to talk to Ruby and! And Sunny because they are both members of the Church and they did want to talk to the other bishops but by sheer happenstance Limestone ran into Ruby first and then Sunny misinterpreted her aggression and then they fought but Maud talked them down and it was all totally just a misunderstanding about how the church has been treating me which is not Ruby's fault and you're not buying any of this for a second are you."
"Nope," Summer agreed. "Especially since you knew I was talking about Ruby and not Sunny."
"Yeah, that's--wait, quick check, I kind of assumed you were her biomom, and Raven was Sunny's... that is right, right?"
"Biologically, yes. Family-wise, we're both their moms."
"Okay! Okay, sorry I..." Pinkie giggled, awkwardly running her fingers through her hair. "I sometimes make bad assumptions and I don't think things through and... yeeeeeah, you're their moms, didn't mean to imply otherwise. But I don't have a crush, and if I did it wouldn't be brazen or obvious, because Ruby clearly hasn't noticed so it can't exist, right?"
"Uh-huh." Summer crossed her arms. "Right, since you're clearly going to dance around this the whole time you're here, I'll be direct. What are your intentions toward my daughter?"
"I intend to confess my undying love and upon earning her heart sweep her off her feet and lead her into an eternal fantasy of sugary sweets and magic punctuated by awesome monster-fighting adventures and the occasional bout of eight-hour sex which may or may not include any number of other participants and inevitably lead to us adopting a minimum of twelve children to start a family so we can grow old together and eventually accept our lives as the most loving and deep experience we could have had," Pinkie Pie did not say, because despite all evidence to the contrary she did have a few survival instincts.
"Can, uh.... Can I get back to you on that?" she asked instead.
"Wow." Summer quirked an eyebrow. "You've got it bad, huh?"
"Um... is... love ever really bad?" Pinkie offered hesitantly.
"It is if it's the kind of love that leads people to kill anyone who's had contact with the object of their affections. Or to try to force their 'love' to love them back."
For a moment, the silence in the kitchen was accompanied by Raven's loud cursing in the living room and a mysterious clanking coming from the backyard.
"...You don't seriously think I--"
"Not seriously," Summer replied, "but I do have the whole protection instinct writing up worst case scenarios in my head and... well, I've read your file, I know you're not exactly a bastion of mental stability."
Pinkie crossed her arms with a huff. "Why'd you read a darn file on me?"
"Well, my daughter became the pope of a religion centered around a VIP responsible for holding the world together, so the higher-ups gave me files on Sunset and her friends to read."
"Why do I even have a file--no, wait, stupid question." Pinkie rolled her eyes. "It's because of all the Party incidents, isn't it?"
"And because of how you're the manifestation of laughter," Summer added. "Kind of more important."
"Right, that, yeah..." Pinkie threw up her hands. "Geez, I don't know how I feel about this! I mean, how would you like it if I read your file?"
"Tell you what, if you ever actually get out of your denial and really start dating Ruby, I'll let you read it." Summer paused. "Well, the parts that aren't classified or redacted. You know, governmental security and all that. Which... actually isn't really fair to you at all, is it?"
"It really isn't," Pinkie agreed. "Especially since I am not crushing on your daughter in any way, shape, or form. Nope! I am a totally crush-free Pinkie Pie who absolutely has only platonic admiration for Ruby Rose and--"
"You have no idea how to confess to her do you."
"--oh my god no I don't I don't have a clue I know it's weird to ask you since you're her mom but please please please please please pleeeeeeeease help me!" Pinkie cried, falling to her knees and grasping Summer's pants with an expression of pure desperation.
"Alright! Alright, I do have a few ideas, but maybe we should talk about them later. The cookies are almost done, which means--"
"Aha!" Raven cried triumphantly. "Take that you piece of scrap metal!"
"--that I need to go handcuff my wife," Summer finished smoothly. "Could you handle the cookies for me? Plates are in that cabinet, bring them to the den once they're ready."
It took Pinkie Pie fifteen seconds to pull out the cookies and arrange them into a cookie castle on the plate. It would have taken ten if there had been more cookies, but apparently Summer Rose was one of those people who believed in only baking forty cookies at a time. Four tens, and no more. In Pinkie's professional opinion, that was pretty terrible. Still, it was her house, her cookies, and her wife she was handcuffing as Pinkie returned to the living room, and Pinkie Pie had learned long ago that attempting to impose her own standards in somebody else's home was not the best idea she could have had.
"You're getting off on this aren't you?" Raven accused with a smirk.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," Summer replied. "And I definitely won't answer while we have a guest in our house."
"Is this the part where I'm supposed to act flustered and embarrassed?" Pinkie asked, putting down Cookie Mansion. "Cause I know about BDSM."
"PINKIE!" Ruby squeaked.
"I mean the internet exists," Pinkie backpedaled rapidly. "And Rarity is a, um, professional dressmaker, so sometimes she gets interesting commissions and... I haven't done it myself obviously, not that there's anything wrong with it so long as it's safe sane consensual and fun for all parties, it's just that I don't quite project the energy needed for that sort of thing, because I'm kind of hyper and run-onny and..."
She considered for a moment.
"...You know what, there is no way for me to save this conversation. So I'll just stick to facts: I am aware of BDSM and have studied but not used any of the techniques so that I can keep up with people when they bring it up. So... yeah." She coughed into her fist.
"...I see," Summer stated flatly.
"Want tips?" Raven offered.
"MAM!" Ruby shrieked. "That's--oh my Shimmer... She's as young as I am!"
"You mean as old as you are," Summer corrected.
Raven shot her a flat look. "You're not putting me in that position."
"That was a blatant 'let's tag-team to tease our daughter' line, and I'm supposed to reply with 'when are we getting grandkids' except I don't want grandkids. I mean I wouldn't mind, but in the end it's Ruby's choice and frankly I'd be hypocritical if I tried to pressure down that road."
"You're right," Summer agreed, bowing her head. "I apologize, I should not have tried to open that avenue of teasing."
"Wow, I can really tell they're married," Pinkie murmured to Ruby. "I mean--"
She paused, taking in the other girl's horrified expression. And it seemed to be a genuine horror, formed not from extreme embarrassment but actual, deep-rooted fear.
"Um... Ruby? Are you--?"
Ruby ran out of the room. Then she returned to the room, grabbed the west wing of Cookie Mansion, and ran back out.
Summer Rose sighed, slowly pinching her headgem. "...We took it too far."
"You go talk to her, you're better at this sort of thing." Raven jabbed a thumb at Pinkie. "I'll keep an eye on the walking cotton candy."
"That... should work, yeah." Summer followed Ruby's path out, turning in the doorway. "Just... try not to scare her too badly? She is technically a VIP."
"Fine, whatever, I won't scar her delicate psyche." Raven rose a hand enough to wave Summer off. "Go talk to Ruby already."
Pinkie watched the unicorn aspect walk out, before turning back to the other woman. Who had apparently managed to move forward so swiftly that they were now nose-to-nose. "Oh. Hello...?"
"Let's cut the crap and get right to the point. I'm an international criminal, Summer's a government agent, and Dragon's got his own bevy of skills. We can do a lot without being caught. You've got a thing for Ruby, fine, she's a great girl. But you ever do anything to break her, and you'll find out just how much of a hellhole your life can be. You get me?"
"Uh..." Pinkie glanced down at the pair of hands held in metal restraints and cuffed together, and further down at what was apparently the highest-tech ankle monitor on the market. "...s-sure. I get you."
"Good." And just like that, Raven was lounging in the armchair again, as if she hadn't been in Pinkie's personal space not two seconds ago. "I mean, I'm not saying 'don't ever hurt her,' cause you know, you're going to fuck up sometime. Shit happens. And she's got that monster scythe to defend herself if you ever get really bad. But that's different from breaking her, you know? From making sure she can't heal."
"I... think I understand the distinction." Pinkie Pie swallowed, forcing herself to sit down on the couch. "I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. You know, if I had enemies. I'm more of a not-very-serious rival sort of girl." One hand idly started grabbing cookies and stuffing them into her mouth. "And I definitely wouldn't want Ruby to break--I mean obviously I wouldn't want her hurt in any way, bumph fa wah 'u're describing I really wouldn't want. Because it's bad."
"And because you want to get in her pants."
"S-she wears a skirt!" Pinkie protested.
Raven's eyebrow slowly rose.
"Also I don't just think of her as a sex object," Pinkie quickly added. "I want--um. Well, imf I wem 'o 'ursue a relationship with her, I would want it to have an emotional bond."
"Are all kids these days so serious about relationships?"
"Nah. But this relationship would be serioumph nm mammeh hm 'eriously we took it. I mean, Ruby's a pope!"
"I still don't understand why Sunset Shimmer lets her do that. From what I hear she's not big on the whole worship thing."
"She can't actually stop people worshipping her. Not without abusing her power in ways she... doesn't want to. So she tries to at leamph irec herm 'ormphippehmph 'owarn good habits, keep them from committing atrocities in her name... Ruby's a little quirky, but she's also somebody who actually asked Sunset permimphmnn 'o 'aph a shursh. And for all her 'interpreting' of Sunset's words, she does actually listen to the meaning behind them."
Raven nodded thoughtfully. "Vetting the heads to keep the whole thing from being a mess. That's probably one of the better ways to run a hierarchy."
"I mean, I'm kind of curious why Ruby didn't just start the Church of the Divine Bacon Horse right away. She's clearly very skilled at it, and she lived pretty close to Hunhemph e'fe bmmfoh fe Hachurashun--"
"Sunny Dragon came home without an arm."
Pinkie choked on her cookie.
"It was the whole mess in Tauros," Raven explained. "Sunny was in one of the neighboring countries for some university thing, and she heard about what Tirek was doing. Summer apparently did too well instilling virtues into that girl, because she dropped everything and snuck over the border to help refugees, fight corrupt cops, you know, usual hero shit. Got together with a local resistance cell, was a combat medic--she was studying to be a doctor, you know? And then, one of Tirek's bitches got ahold of her."
"She was obviously from out of the country," Raven said. "So, logically, she had to be an agent of somebody--so starts the interrogation. And she had the luck to be picked up by a woman the rebels called 'Cinder the Ashen-hearted.' Who had a way with magic fire--"
"Oh my god," Pinkie breathed.
"...Yeah, that was about my reaction when I found out. Luckily Sunny was rescued by her rebel friends, and they spirited her across the border--into Summer's hands, as it so happened. I only saw the photos after the fact, she..." Raven sighed. "She had to cut off Sunny's arm herself."
"...I... I didn't know," Pinkie murmured. "I thought..."
"Yeah... Well, Summer pulled some strings, got her one of the first-generation enchanted prosthetics. There's a spell that makes it look like her original arm unless the light hits it in a particular way. Of course, Sunny was a wreck when she got home, and Ruby... I think Ruby had a crisis of faith. Which really says something, since she didn't have a faith before. Then she heard about that bacon horse joke and... well, she threw herself into it."
"Wow." Pinkie sunk into the couch. "I mean... I know she took it seriously, I just thought... I never thought about why."
Raven shrugged. "Not really something that comes up in casual conversation."
"...do you know what ever happened to this, uh... Cinder woman?"
"What, are you worried about her tracking Ruby down and exacting vengeance for something that happened years ago during a war in the streets?"
"...strangely yes," Pinkie admitted. "I honestly don't know why."
"Well, you don't need to worry about that," Raven assured her. "I tracked her down and had a little... chat." She snapped her fingers. Then she looked at them with a frown. "This would be a lot more impressive if I didn't have these magic-resistant gauntlets on."
"Er... when you use chat as a euphemism--"
At that very moment, a loud roar came from the backyard.
"Sounds like The Machine is acting up," Raven grumbled, standing.
Pinkie Pie had, throughout the course of her life, encountered and constructed many technological devices. There was the balloon-cycle for getting around rapidly, the sillie suit for maneuvering into the best position to give her friends a fun surprise, the Rotary Auxilary Pastry Intelligent Delivery Flexible Itenery Robotic Engine that principal Celestia had decreed to be a work of genius before banning it forever from school celebrations, and of course her party cannons. The original model, the funderbuss, the Pinkie-portable party cannon (she still got a faint thrill of joy from remembering Ruby's eager squeal upon seeing the thing)...
Oh, and the room temperature superconductor that Twi had freaked out about that one time. Which she guessed was a little more impressive, but not nearly as iconic. Diversification was important, though.
For all her surprisingly intricate knowledge of gadgetry, she was not prepared when she stepped out into the backyard and first witnessed The Machine.
A framework of wood, metal, and concrete meandered across three separate foundations held together by planks, nails, and not too little good luck. Mounted on the bewildering assemblage was an even more bewildering array of gears, cogs, pumps, Jacob's ladders, partially vivesected computers, monitors, conveyor belts, windmill blades, and what looked to be the disassembled frame of a vehicle designed by drunken insect aliens who had heard about cars and didn't quite understand what they were meant to be.
The whole thing wove through one boxy chamber in the center, which was currently rattling and clanking away as smoke poured out of three of its vents. A half-gear of teeth spun in and out of the top, accompanied by a rapidly vacillating black accordion thing and the electrical sparks coming off a globey sparky thing that Pinkie Pie was sure she knew the name of, she just couldn't think of it right now because she was distracted by all the graphs and warning signals flashing across the bevey of monitors.
"Soooooooo..." She shimmied toward Sunny Dragon, who was leaning against the house casually. "Your dad's an engineer?"
"Schoolteacher. Home economics."
Pinkie nodded, turning back to The Machine. "Well of course he is..."
One particularly rattily bit of The Machine flew apart suddenly, tubing and wires scattering across the backyard. A large cogwheel flew at Pinkie's face, spinning around her forehead and down her hair as the attaching bungee cords bound her limbs to her body. Sunny reached out, casually snatching a heavy-looking circuit box out of the air before it could smash through the window next to them, and gave Pinkie a concerned look. "You alright there?"
"Yeah, peachy." Pinkie gave her a reassuring smile. "Don't worry about it, this kind of thing happens."
"If you're sure. I can help untangle you from all that--"
"No no no," Pinkie said quickly, "I'm the manifestation of laughter. If you help me we'll probably both end up tied together in an embarrassing position."
"...Sooo... this thing--"
"Dad calls it The Machine," Sunny explained, watching the gears wind down. "He's been working on it on and off for... basically ever."
"What does it do?"
"I have no idea. He never gives me a straight answer."
"That's because I'm pansexual!" announced a voice from behind The Machine.
Sunny fingergunned. "Eeeeeey!"
An orange man popped out from behind The Machine. "Eeeeeeeey!"
"Eeeeeeeeeeeey!" Pinkie added with grin of her own. "I'd fingergun too if my hands were free!"
"What bizarre technobabble did you fuck up this time?" Raven shouted from the doorway.
"I jiggered where I should have twigged."
"Fine, whatever, don't tell me."
"Everything okay down there?" shouted a voice from the sky.
"We're fine Carolina!" the man replied. "Just a little accident--none of you are hurt, right?"
"Nope," Pinkie replied. "Just a little tied up is all."
"You sure? I don't want to have to do paperwork on hurting a religious figure or something."
"The more you worry, the more likely I am to be ironically injured in my attempts to reassure you."
"You're being surprisingly open today," Sunny noted. "Except about the one reason you're actually here."
"Why is she here anyway?" Carolina asked.
"She's crushing on Ruby," Raven replied. "And hiding it so terribly Ruby's the only one not to have noticed."
"'Gee I don't know if I should tell you, Carolina,'" Pinkie chirped sarcastically, "it's kind of personal and I only just met the girl today!'"
Carolina shrugged sympathetically. "Yeah, Raven's a bitch."
"Fuck you," Raven deadpanned.
"Don't think I don't notice those cuffs. You broke another ankle monitor, didn't you?"
A single gauntleted finger was raised up in reply.
"Dad, this is Pinkie Pie, she's one of Sunset Shimmer's friends. Pinkie, this is Dragon Sun, he's the guy who convinced two women not to kill each other and then got them pregnant."
"Wow." Pinkie gave her a look. "You went there. Should I be worried?"
Dragon Sun laughed. "Don't worry, I'm not that kind of lech. I respect the people I bed, and I only bed people who are legal."
"And one criminal," Raven added.
"And one criminal," he conceded. "You're far too young for me, miss Pie--as is anybody my daughters could have as classmates. Speaking of... you've got your eyes on my little girl." He walked over to her. "And what makes you think you're good enough for her?"
Pinkie frowned. "So, hold on, Summer asked me what my intentions were, Raven pulled off an actually very scary 'if you ever do anything to hurt her,' and now you're doing the 'what makes you think you're good enough' thing." She looked at Sunny accusingly. "What's your stake in this?"
"I'm the awesome sister-in-law that asks when I'm going to have nieces to spoil," the blonde replied with a grin.
"Just making sure."
"Alright, alright, so it's kind of cliché," the man admitted, unraveling the bungee cords around her. "But you have to admit it's cliché for a reason."
"Culturally ingrained ideals of equivalent exchange in relationships and worth being found only in the continuation of your bloodline?" Raven offered.
"...Alright, let me rephrase the question. Why should Ruby like you?"
Pinkie Pie opened her mouth.
Pinkie Pie closed her mouth.
Pinkie Pie opened her mouth.
Pinkie Pie closed her mouth.
"Wow." Sunny shook her head. "Come on, Pinkie, you aren't that horrible."
"I'm trying to think of why Ruby specifically should like me, not why just anybody would like me."
"You're smart, funny, good at keeping up with things, know how to make people happy, surprisingly talented, kind of cute, and genuinely concerned about the well being of anybody you meet."
"Well yeah," Pinkie said, "but that's enough reason for anybody to like me. Not just Ruby. Ruby has to like me for a specific reason."
"You made a grenade launcher that shoots parties and turns into a hammer."
"Oh yeah! That's one thing!" Pinkie paused. "One... thing. Hmm. Oh! I can make--no, wait, making cookies is too easy..."
"She likes strawberries," Dragon Sun offered in an amused tone.
"Oh, strawberries! I can totally make strawberry cookies... um... I'm just realizing how shallow this is sounding. Guns and cookies. Things. Um... Oh oh oh! I've been helping her with some of the Church of the Divine Bacon Horse stuff! Because that's important to her. Oh, and, and you know what else is important to her? The war corgi project!"
"Oh hell, I'd forgotten about the war corgi project," Raven groaned.
"I didn't!" Pinkie beamed. "I've been helping her with... part of it... I mean I don't get it myself, but it's important to her."
Dragon Sun nodded as he removed the last bungee cord. "You're starting to get it. So how far along is this relationship anyway?"
"It isn't," Raven said flatly.
"Pinkie hasn't told Ruby about her feelings for some bizarre reason," Sunny explained.
"I'd like to think it's a perfectly normal reason," Pinkie groused, pulling the cogwheel from her hair.
"The manifestation of laughter having a normal reason to do something?" Agent Carolina shook her head. "Wow, will wonders never cease."
Raven glared at her. "This is a family matter, suit, get the fuck off my lawn."
"Technically, it's his lawn."
Dragon Sun waved her off. "Go back to patrolling Carolina, we've got this."
Pinkie watched her fly away for a moment. She turned to Raven curiously. "So... how bad are you, that you've got all those restraints and a dedicated watchguard?"
Pinkie Pie was well aware entering another's bedroom had implications. Being invited in was a gesture of trust--being allowed in without question, even more so. But it must be said that while Pinkie Pie understood the importance of trust, she didn't comprehend the concept of reticence; her default state was trusting everyone she spoke with, and it simply didn't occur to her that bursting dramatically into the bedroom of the friend she was crushing on while carrying said friend's sister's detached robotic arm might be considered as anything beyond supreme concern for her friend's emotional state.
Not up till Sunny L. Dragon caught up with her and said "Eager, huh?" in a low teasing tone.
The door to the Primary Planning Palace of Pinkie's mind was kicked open by a thigh-high leather boot. "ALRIGHT, I'VE BEEN SUMMONED! Where are we, what do we have, and who are we doin'?"
The figure sitting in the command chair rubbed her brow with a small sigh. "False alarm, Perversion. We just got a saucy comment is all."
"Really?" Perversion put her hands on her scantily clad hips. "But Ponderance, that's Ruby Rose, isn't it--and this is her bedroom! At least I think it is from the fancy blueprints and Shimmerist symbology--"
"Hey!" barked another figure, stalking up to her and waving a finger in Perversion's face. "This is me and Positivity's deal! Read the situation!"
"Ugh, fine Perturbance." Perversion sashayed over to a spare seat and sunk into it seductively. "I'm sticking around, though, just in case."
Ponderance shook her head. "Today has been kind of stressful... where were we?"
"She's been freezing up a lot recently," Ruby mused, leaning into Pinkie's face. "You think something's wrong with her?"
"Oh definitely," Sunny agreed as she reattached her arm. "Don't think there's anything I can do to help, though."
"Sorry, I spaced out there for a moment," Pinkie said.
"Pinkie, you froze up," Ruby pointed out. "I know you can get distracted and go on tangents, but you've been acting really weird today."
"I always act weird!" Pinkie insisted.
"You always act offbeat," Ruby corrected. "Is... is something wrong? I mean, if you need to talk to somebody I... actually have a lot of experience talking about personal issues--"
Sunny covered her snicker with a single hand.
"Sis, this is serious! I'm really worried about her!"
"Did you hear that, Pinkie?" Sunny put a hand on her shoulder. "She is really worried about you. You should do something to reassure her."
Pinkie gave Ruby a polite smile. "One second please."
She shut the door to Ruby's bedroom and spun on the blonde, a rare scowl on her face. "I get that you find this funny but no matter how I feel about Ruby I think it should be my responsibility to decide when and how I confess my love for her and your teasing is really not helping so if you would kindly not try to pressure me into something that I am already panicking about I would be extremely grateful thank you very much."
The smile reappeared on her face as she opened the door. "Sorry about that, just had to clarify a thing."
Ruby looked from her to Sunny's shocked expression, confusion pouring over her face. "What did you--?"
"Anywhozits, enough about me! What about you? You seemed kinda bummed when I opened the door."
"I--" Ruby shook her head. "It's nothing. Really."
"Really, it's--....." Ruby sighed. "It's... oh, I don't know. I'm just being kind of..."
She glanced at her sister, biting her lip.
"...Sunny? Um... do... do you mind if I talk to Pinkie alone?"
Sunny inhaled. "...One sec."
She shut the door and turned to Pinkie. "Am I alright to leave you with my little sister?"
"I--think so?" Pinkie asked, bewildered.
"I mean if she wants to confess to you, you're not going to jump straight to hanky-panky. Kissing is fine, but go beyond that right off the bat and we're going to have a very unfunny talk."
"Of course, I would never--" Pinkie's ears caught up with her and her smile widened. "Wait you think she wants to--?!"
"She's trying to kick out her cool big sister and have a private chat with her friend," Sunny pointed out. "It's a definite maybe. Don't get your hopes up though, this is way out of character for her and I don't know what this is, I'm just guessing."
"Right. Right, don't worry, that's not going to happen."
Sunny searched her eyes for a moment or two, before shaking her head. "Really hope I won't regret this..." She opened the door, smiling at the now visibly annoyed Ruby. "Sorry, just had to clarify something."
"This is my door," Ruby deadpanned. "I should be the one who controls it."
"Sorry!" Sunny and Pinkie chimed together.
Ruby rolled her eyes. "It's fine, it's whatever." She grabbed Pinkie's arm, tugged her fully into the bedroom, shot her sister a pointed look, and shut the door. "So... right."
"Right." Pinkie Pie swallowed. "So... that's a nice drafting table?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Mam got it for me... says she stole it from some mob boss somewhere." Ruby rolled her eyes. "Personally I think she just paid for it with stolen money, but you know, some people just want their tall tales believed."'
"You seem pretty chill with your Mam being... you know..."
"An international thief?" Ruby smiled wryly. "Yeah, well... she never plyed her trade around here. Plus Mère is basically her morality... uh..." She chuckled awkwardly. "Either pet or chain? Probably morality chain, if I'm honest. I don't think she'd be as good as she is if Mère ever fell out of her life."
Pinkie nodded. "Yeah... Raven does seem a little rough. A little too rough to be called 'Miss Magpie,' really. But I guess she must have some shreds of decency..."
"Mam was always the one who pushed us, growing up. Whenever she dropped by, she'd ask what new things we'd done--we'd show her color drawings at first, then when we got older we'd tell her we got good grades or this or that trophy for some local competition, and she'd say 'getting better every day,' or something like that. And theeeeeen she'd drill us on whatever we'd shown off until she left--color theory for the early sketches, math for the grades, she would have us running laps if we won some race."
Ruby shook her head with a rueful grin. "I always hated her visits when I was a kid... right up until the last day, when she would just give us something wicked sweet, tell us how proud she was of what we did, and then she'd ride off on her motorcycle like a boss. Then I forgot why I hated her visit and would want her to come back... right up till she did and repeated the same old routine. It wasn't till I was twelve that I realized what she was doing."
"Huh. That seems..." Pinkie pondered for a moment. "...kinda like she was more of a coach than a mom?"
"Oh, yeah, I mean don't get me wrong she did do the occasional 'mom' thing but it was pretty clear she never knew what she was doing. Mère, on the other hand, she's basically supermom. All hugs and cookies and nurturing advice... when she was around, anyway." Ruby sat down on her bed with a small sigh. "I mean, I get it. Working for Interpol, she's always chasing down some criminal or other. Didn't mean I didn't miss her when she was gone. A lot of the time I would brag about my awesome cop mom and the other kids on the playground would say 'Oh she's making that up, she doesn't have a mom.'"
"Yeah. But Mère always came home for parent's days, you know? Whenever there was an official 'show off what your parents do for a job,' she was there, and I got to rub it in everyone's noses. Course I grew out of that," she assured Pinkie quickly, "I think the last time I went Smuglord was when I was... eiiiiight? Maybe ten?"
"You're entitled to the occasional smuglord," Pinkie assured her. "I know my friends and I pull it off around each other a lot."
Ruby looked at her for a moment... before snickering. "I'm sorry, I'm just... picturing you going smuglord and--"
Pinkie put on an insufferably smug expression. "Aaaaaaand?"
"Pffffff okay, okay! I get it!" Ruby waved her off. "Geeze, that's even more ridiculous than I thought it would be!"
"Glad to oblige."
"Heh... I remember one time Dad tried go smuglord. He just can't pull it off at all. The guy's a goofball, really--like the walking manifestation of the absolute 'perfect' dad jokes, just cringe enough to make me groan without throwing me into full embarrassment. You know, though, he's... I don't want to say he's a better baker than Mère, but he's definitely got a wider base of skills. Mère can make cookies, but Dad can make a casserole, if that makes any sense.
"Oh, yeah, cookies aren't too hard to learn. Slightly more difficult than pancakes."
"Oh, Dad makes the BEST pancakes. I mean yours are great, but... they're just a little too, you know, perfect? I don't know. Dad always... got us. Knew what we wanted and why, even before we figured it out. When he wanted to discipline us, he wouldn't 'punish' us, but make us work harder for whatever reward we thought we'd get. This one time, Sunny broke a window, and Dad wouldn't get her this video game she wanted until she'd done twice her usual chores in the week. Stuff like that. A carrot carved into a stick... but he also always got us what we really wanted, in the end."
Ruby fell back onto her mattress. "And I mean... they're not perfect people, but I know they love me. It's just... I don't know. I... I'm not sure how to tell them..."
Ruby rolled her eyes. "No, Pinkie, asexual. One word. Meaning, one who does not have any sexual attraction or urges."
"Oh," said Pinkie.
Ponderance sighed. "Perversion--"
"No no, I get it." Perversion stood, raising her hands. "I'd only be a problem here, right? Fine, I'm going."
"Perversion--" Perturbance tried.
"But I am coming back TONIGHT! WITH A POOL NOODLE!" The figure flounced out of the room.
"...I like pool noodles," Positivity murmured.
"Focus people," Ponderance ordered. "Our current goal is helping Ruby."
"...I guess it is kind of shocking--"
"No no no!" Pinkie assured her quickly. "I just... don't think I've ever heard that word before--"
"I'm not surprised," Ruby admitted. "I didn't even know there was a word for it before one of the herd brought it up with me in a private consultation. It's not so much repressed as it is... just not brought up. Like, sex is so much a part of life and our culture that the idea of somebody who doesn't want it--not somebody who's avoiding it for moral reasons or got traumatized, but just somebody who simply doesn't have that urge... it doesn't click for most people to even think about it."
Pinkie nodded slowly, sinking into the chair next to the drafting table. "I... yeah, I can see how it might be... difficult to grasp."
"I mean it should be simple, right? 'No, I just don't want sex.' End of story. Except..." Ruby flopped her hands skyward. "'Oh, you just haven't found the right one yet.' 'Maybe it's a hormonal imbalance?' 'Why are you wearing a corset?' I mean, what does a corset have to do with sex? I don't like bras, they dig into my shoulders, this gives me the support I need without that. Plenty of people wore corsets without expecting... whatever, the point is there are people out there who cannot grasp the idea, who try to say 'you're mistaken' in whatever way they can. At least that's what I've heard, I haven't... actually told anyone yet. Not even..."
She trailed off.
"...not even your parents?" Pinkie finished quietly.
"...yeah. I mean... it was kind of cute in an annoying way, when I was still young, that they'd tease me whenever I said I liked this classmate or the other. It wasn't like... significant, I guess? There wasn't pressure, but... it was always there. If that makes sense. This unspoken expectation... maybe assumption is a better word. That somebody would catch my eye and..."
Ruby sat up. "I mean, the three of them are incredibly sexual! Mam and Mère have flings while they're globetrotting, Dad can literally just walk out to a bar and pick up chicks or dudes at his leisure, and then they all get together in the house and--well, there are guidebooks for ropeplay in the bedroom, let's leave it at that. And Sunny, she's not nearly so bad, but she's also got a pretty active sex life with her girlfr--well, her wife. Gotta remember she's married now... which is sort of why this has been on my mind recently, you know?"
"Aaaaah." Pinkie nodded in comprehension. "The ol' 'one of our kids is growing up so all of them must be growing up' thing, right?"
"Right! Except that part of it, the whole sex thing, it just isn't a part of me!"
"But you've done pretty well," Pinkie pointed out. "You're the head of a religious organization that is respected and has yet to pick up any of the baggage that... some other groups have. And you're also doing that whole thing where you protect people from the angst monster outbreaks... oh and you're technically skilled, too! I mean, that scythe thing--"
"I thought you didn't like Crescent Rose."
"No no no, I love Crescent Rose, she's awesome, I'm just... not a fan of combat," Pinkie explained. "Or, well... potentially lethal combat. Because... I don't like the idea of people dying. Especially not--"
She bit her mouth shut.
"...Especially not friends?" Ruby asked.
"Yes. Friends dying in fights. Something I really don't like."
"I can get that. I mean, after Sunny came back from Tauros..." Ruby shook her head slowly. "Yeah. I can get that... but Pinkie, you've got to realize that sometimes there is no other way. I don't fight because I'm just ludicrously awesome at it--"
"--although you are--"
"--although I am," she agreed with a giggle. "I fight for... for the same reason I lead the Church of the Divine Bacon Horse. Because there is evil in the world, but I believe we can stand up to it, work together and create a better world to live in."
Pinkie nodded. "That, that optimism... That you've become somebody that helps so many people, despite what--um, I should mention that Raven told me about what happened to Sunny's arm."
Ruby winced. "Oh... yeah, that was... yeah."
"And I mean, that's terrible, but you didn't let it hold you back," Pinkie continued. "You stood up to something that I'm pretty sure hurt all your family, and said 'no, I'm not going to let you break me.' And you built... let's be honest, before you the Church of the Divine Bacon Horse was an internet joke, not even taken seriously by the rest of Shimmerism, and now you're one of the most forward-moving and active branches of the faith--and one that actually takes the time and effort to help people instead of just worshipping Sunset."
"Pinkie, I get it, I've done some incredible stuff. That's not even the point, though." Ruby rubbed her forehead. "The point is... How would my parents react to me saying I'm asexual?"
"From what I've seen of them, they care about you a lot," Pinkie pointed out. "I don't think they'd disown you or anything like that."
"I don't want to think that either, it's just... I know everyone wants to believe that their parents' love is unconditional, but I've heard plenty of horror stories. Even if they don't kick me out, they could... just start pressuring me, not think about how much that... I don't know." Ruby's small laugh was saturated with melancholy. "It's funny, if somebody were to come to me with this kind of fear I could promise that the herd would be there for them."
Pinkie stood, walking over and taking her hand gently. "Well then... maybe you need somebody here for you this time."
"Look, whatever else I am, I'm your friend." She smiled gently. "And I'll always... I'll always be ready to stand by my friends no matter what. You want to go downstairs and tell them right now, I'll be ready. Or wait two weeks... or a year... or if you need to get away for a bit, I'll be there for you when you need me. So you're a little different, so what? I'm a lot different, and I was even before magic gave me these honking fingernails. With pies for eating... and pies for throwing at anybody who needs a clue-by-four."
Ruby snorted. "Really? You'd throw pies at them?"
"As the opening volley," Pinkie explained quickly. "I can escalate very quickly if I need to."
"Yeah... pies would be a good start." Ruby gave her a wry grin. "I mean I don't want you going full slapstick on my parents."
"Yeah, I don't want to do that either. Especially since... I kiiiind of think you might be overthinking things just a little?"
"I never said it was a rational fear," Ruby admitted. "I'm trying to picture them going all 'WE HAVE NO DAUGHTER' and throwing me out of the house and it's... utterly ludicrous. But... the idea of them just looking at me and not... getting it. Not understanding why. That... that sneaks in. I don't think they'd hate me, they're my family, I just think... I don't know if they could understand, you know?"
Pinkie thought about her own overly formal parents. "Yeah... I know. Truth be told... I'm not sure I understand. But that doesn't mean I don't care," she reassured her quickly. "So long as you're not hurting anyone--yourself included--then I'm behind you a hundred and twelve percent!"
"A hundred and twelve, huh?"
"Yeah, you don't want me to pull my entire Might Of Laughter schtick on this, so that's as much as you're going to get."
Ruby snickered. "Yeah, that, heh, that would be bad. Thanks, Pinkie, I... well, thanks for listening, anyway. It helps so much to get this off my chest..."
She considered for a moment.
"...Pinkie? Do... do you think maybe, um... I mean, if I go downstairs right now, do you think--"
Pinkie proceeded producing pratfall-prepared pies. "Ready when you are!"
Ruby looked at the pies curiously. "...why didn't you do that during our food fight?"
"We already had food to fight with," Pinkie pointed out. "Why waste a pie unnecessarily?"
Four sets of eyes looked up as the pair entered the living room. Sunny's initial smirk lessened somewhat as Pinkie hoisted her pies up with a grim expression.
"Ruby has something she wants to tell you," she announced, her voice grave. "I think you should listen."
Sunny leaned back a bit. "Ooooooooooookay?"
Pinkie stepped aside, pies still prepared, and nodded to the redhead. She stepped forward, taking a breath. "So, um. You... I mean, you know how some people, they come out to their parents as gay and get rejected and kicked out of their home?"
Summer nodded. "Sweetie, you know we would never--"
"No, I know you'd be fine if I was gay, but... I'm not gay. Or straight. Or bi, or pan--I... I'm asexual."
"A sexual what?" Sun Dragon asked.
"Already made that joke," Pinkie interjected.
"So... just to clarify, I mean I don't get sexual attraction," Ruby explained. "Not that I don't understand it, I just... I don't look at people and say 'that's hot,' if that makes sense. And I get that, um, in this particular family that could be considered weird, but... I am... what I am..."
She trailed off, not quite looking at anyone.
Everyone looked from her to Pinkie. She shrugged helplessly, raising her pies and glancing significantly toward Ruby.
"...Well, that explains a lot," Raven deadpanned.
Ruby glanced up. "You're not... upset?"
"Why would I be? Do whatever you want to, just make sure you do it well."
"Did you really think we'd be angry about this?" Summer asked.
"I mean, not angry..." Ruby admitted. "...maybe confused and unable to accept--"
Summer embraced her. "Oh honey... I'm sorry if we ever made you feel that way. You're our daughter, and we want you to live your best life. Not ours."
"I thought I just said that," Raven grumbled. "Didn't I just say that?"
Summer broke the embrace and gave her a pointed look.
"Oh, fine." She got up, spread her arms as far as her handcuffs would allow, and put them around Ruby. "There there. This is a hug. You're getting that, right?"
Ruby giggled. "Yeah, Mam. Thanks."
"Don't mention it." She pulled her arms off. "Seriously, don't, I have a reputation to maintain."
"Gotcha." Ruby turned to Dragon Sun. "Dad?"
The man had an expression so severe it couldn't be taken seriously. "I hope you realize the responsibility you are foisting onto your sister."
"It's a big one," Sunny agreed, her face equally ridiculously severe.
"She's the one that will have to get us grandkids."
"Yep. Months of my body tormenting me as it balances everything for the little critters growing inside me."
Pinkie rose her pies, but Summer held up a finger.
"Cravings, stretch marks, moodswings, for almost a year," Dragon Sun continued solemnly.
"And then a few hours of pain to push out something about as big as a football," Sunny L. Dragon confirmed somberly.
"Covered in blood and mucus and wailing its little lungs out."
"And then keeping the tiny bundle of meat alive for a few years."
"Diapers, nursing, burp rags, and carrying the thing around constantly until they can walk on their own."
"Then I'll have to worry about keeping the little beast safe as it wanders around and learns how best to horrify me."
Ruby put her hands on her hips with a frown. Dragon Sun and Sunny Dragon returned the look. For a moment, all three of them were portraits of serious seriousness.
Well, if Pinkie ignored the way the corners of their lips were twitching.
"...You fucking jerks!" Ruby finally cried, jumping forward and hugging them tightly with a broad grin.
"And that's a dollar for the swear jar," Raven informed her.
Pinkie blinked. "What? But you weeeeeere--"
Summer and Raven both wove their hands rapidly, shaking their heads and glancing at Ruby.
"--taaaaalking about that TV show you watched earlier," Pinkie continued smoothly. "I heard online it had lots of swearing."
"Yeah, well, just because I watch stuff with bad language doesn't mean I use it around here," Raven agreed, shooting her a grateful look.
"Yeah, Pinkie," Ruby said, breaking off her hug, "I've never heard Mam swear."
"Aaaaaaah." Pinkie nodded in understanding. "My bad. I guess I thought she was rough and tumble enough that it would come naturally."
"I can't blame you for that," Sunny agreed. "I know I'm kind of a bruiser myself, and a lot of people expect me to have filthy language. I only use that for--" She cut herself off, looking at her sister. "Hey Rubes?"
Ruby rolled her eyes. "You can still keep the sex jokes, sis, just leave me out of that kind of teasing."
"Oh good, I was worried I'd have to make a big adjustment. And hey, now I have more reason to pound anybody that tries to flirt with you into the dirt."
"And if she's not around to punch them, I can always show up to pie them!" Pinkie added.
"Where did you get those pies, anyway?" Summer asked.
"I refuse to answer on the grounds it might implicate me."
Ruby giggled. "Thanks, but... I think I can usually protect myself. Besides, just because I don't have sexual attraction doesn't mean I can't fall in love. It'd just be a bit more of a... snuggly relationship."
Four sets of eyes turned slowly from her to Pinkie Pie.
"...what?" Ruby looked around, then at Pinkie. "Why's everyone looking at her?"
"I have no idea!" Pinkie lied brightly, putting the pies on the table. "Well, this has been interesting, but I really should get going, my party senses are tingling."
Dragon Sun covered his face with a single hand. "Oh boy."
"Hey, uh... thanks for being here for me," Ruby said. "It really... it helped a lot."
"Not a problem!" Pinkie chirped, smiling to hide the faint crack in her voice. "Anything for a friend!"
"Yikes," Raven muttered, as Sunny hissed in sympathy.
"You know there are some spare cookies in the kitchen," Summer offered. "Ruby, why don't you get them and, uh, show our guest out?"
"So, yeah, that's... that's my family," Ruby managed as they stepped out onto the porch.
"Yeah, your sisters are an entire spectrum of 'interesting'," Ruby agreed. "Are your parents as... 'interesting'?"
"Well... they're pretty formal and old-fashioned in their speech, but they do have four daughters so..." Pinkie shrugged.
"Heh." Ruby shook her head. "I wouldn't mind being a part of your family."
"I mean there's a lot of fascinating people in it."
"Oh," said Pinkie.
"Of course, you're the manifestation of laughter!"
"Oh," said Pinkie again.
"But you're so much more than that, too. You're smart, caring, always know what to say..."
"You're one of the best friends I could ever ask for!"
"Oh," said Pinkie a third time.
"And..." Ruby rubbed her head awkwardly. "I... I'm really glad you came over today."
"I don't know if I could have talked about, you know, me with anyone who wasn't such a good friend."
"Oh," said Pinkie, automatically.
"And standing up to my parents--even if it turned out not to be necessary, it was really sweet. Really, really sweet..."
"You sound... grateful?" Pinkie asked, with just the faintest hint of hope.
"Of course I am! If that's how you help Sunset out, then it's no wonder the two of you are such good friends!"
"Oh," said Pinkie, her smile twitching once more.
Ruby bit her lip. "Of course... you're welcome to come visit any time, if you want. I mean, you're practically part of the family after today, you know?"
"Yeah! My parents all seem to like you a lot." She nudged Pinkie with a playful elbow. "Guess me and Sunny got them used to offbeat personalities, huh?"
"Oh," said Pinkie, her voice as level as it had been the past few times.
"Que les invités qui entrent dans cette maison, repartent en amis."
"What's that mean?"
"It's a prench phrase. 'The guests who come to this house leave as friends.'"
"Oh," said Pinkie, her hands twitching.
Ruby leaned forward and, quickly, pecked her on each cheek. "It's been fun, Pinkie! I'll see you around!" With a happy wave, she stepped back into the house.
Pinkie remained stock still for a few seconds. Then, in a daze, she stepped off the porch, swaying distantly as she started walking down the road. Her expression flickered occasionally to joy, or to sorrow, but remained for the most part in a state of bewilderment.
At the end of the block, she stopped. "...Sunset?" she pleaded weakly.
With a golden flash, her friend who happened to be a demigod of the new world was beside her. "Pinkie? What's--"
"I need you to teleport me to my room, give me a giant plush of indeterminate species I can sit against, cover me in a thick woolen blanket, summon thirty gallons of ice cream in no less than five different flavors, and call Rarity over so we can talk about things."
Sunset Shimmer processed this for ten whole seconds.
Pinkie Pie fell to her knees, wailing to the heavens. "I DON'T KNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!"