Time Turner is in love but is hesitant to really act on it. Other things in his life also distract him like the clock tower and a new employee at his shop.
He's the official Time Keeper of Ponyville. He is the one who keeps the clock tower of Ponyville in working order. He makes clocks and sells them in his shop as well as reparing any clocks that need to be fixed for the citizens of the town. His life is pretty normal, but it may be changing. He has begun to realize that he's attracted to the local mail mare but he's far too nervous to do much about it. Other things also distract him as the clock tower needs minor repairs and he gets a new employee at his shop. Then things go south when the mare he loves has some trouble with her daughter's father.
Ponyville clock tower chimed six times indicating the current hour of the morning. Not many ponies were up and about but there were few around, mostly ponies that had to open shops and needed to prepare them for opening hours.
Time Turner was one of the ponies, in his shop he sold clocks and repaired broken ones for the citizens of Ponyville. But right now he was not heading for it. The brown Earth stallion with the spiky darker brown mane and hour glass cutie mark also had other duties besides his clock shop. He was the official Time Keeper of Ponyville, a title given to him by the mayor when he was first hired.
The stallion stopped in front of the clock tower and out of his saddlebag produced the key to its door. As Turner unlocked the tall building a small smile crept over his lips. This was a regular routine but he always enjoyed it, clocks and their mechanics had always fascinated him since he was just a small foal. He had caused his mother plenty of grief taking apart the clocks of their home while trying to understand how they worked.
His entry into the tower was very familiar sight in Ponyville. Some ponies didn’t even look at the position of the sun or the giant clock at the top of the tower to see the time; they pretty much knew it just by seeing Time Turner entering or leaving it.
Time Turner hummed a tune as he took off his saddlebag and put it on a small desk he made use of inside the tower. The pony then grabbed for his tool belt that hung on one of the walls. It had everything he needed for the maintenance of the clock tower.
“Well old girl, you’re not breaking down on me yet are you?” he said while climbing up the stairs that lead up to the gears and mechanics that ran the clock.
The stallion slipped around the gears with practiced ease. The work wasn’t too difficult for the most part since it was just inspection to make sure the clock still ran. If anything needed to be oiled it was and anything that needed fine tuning was quickly done.
“Now what is this,” Turner peered critically at one gear wheel. It was beginning to show slight signs of wear on the teeth.
“I am going to have to order a replacement from Manehattan,” the stallion grabbed a notebook from this belt and while balancing that on one hoof managed to produce a pencil as well. He quickly jotted down in the book about the wheel before replacing both items back on his belt.
“Aside from that wheel everything looks like it is in working order my dear, time for some breakfast,” Turner walked over to the top of the stairs and climbed down.
On the bottom floor he hung up the belt again and turned to the desk. From his saddlebag he produced a brown paper bag, grabbing it in his mouth the stallion turned to the stairs and returned to the top of the tower.
The clock itself did take up most of the space on the west wall, but on both north and south walls was a window. Time Turner made his way to the south window where he had a small table and stool set. This was the clearest space away from all the gears and mechanics of the clock. In fact it was meant to be a safety space of sorts for anyone working in the clock tower.
The stallion hadn’t originally eaten his breakfast at the top of the tower in this space. He had usually done it on the ground floor. The view from the south window wasn’t too remarkable. Since the tower wasn’t far away from Town Hall the south window only showed the very outskirts of southern Ponyville and the country beyond it.
At least for most ponies the view wouldn’t be anything to tell home about, but Turner had ended up eating his breakfast there for a reason. He would never speak of it to anyone, for that he was too afraid and shy and quite a bit nervous.
Time Turner got seated and produced a daffodil sandwich from the bag. As he began eating the pony would occasionally glance out the window. The sun was slowly beginning to rise due to the power of Celestia and more ponies were out and about. None of it really interested the stallion.
Maybe she’s taking a different route today, Time Turner thought while taking the last bite of the sandwich. He tried not to sigh in disappointment and stood up.
Might as well head off, need to open the shop. Have few items to finish before noon, he thought and picked up the bag. The pony gave a one last glance out of the window and ducked as if he feared being seen.
Outside Time Turner had just spotted what he had hoped to see. Flying past the south side of the tower was a female Pegasus. Her yellow mane and tail flapped in the air and the gray coat seemed to shimmer in the early sunlight. She carried saddlebags on her back and instead of the regular cargo of items, in each bag was a unicorn filly, both waving their legs in excitement.
“Higher mommy, higher,” the violet coated filly shouted loud enough to be heard in the tower.
“Yes, higher auntie Derpy,” the light opalish gray filly as well shouted.
“You silly fillies, with the two of you in the bags this is the highest I can go,” Turner heard Derpy faintly respond with a giggle before she disappeared out of sight from the window.
I think she becomes more even more beautiful every day, the stallion sighed and shook his head.
“Oh Miss Hooves, Derpy Hooves. Light gray angel in the sky, why did you have to captivate my mind and heart like this,” Time Turner lamented quietly, then almost immediately groaned. “Oh that was sappy, what am I saying?”
Feeling very foolish for his bad attempt at poetic speech and thanking Celestia that he was alone the stallion made his way to the stairs and climbed down to the ground floor. Time Turner grabbed his saddlebag and put it on his back before heading out. He locked the clock tower and headed for Town Hall, he needed to inform the Mayor that he would be ordering new parts for the tower since it was the town that paid for those not him.
Town Hall was not bustling with activity when Turner entered. Some of the ponies working there greeted the stallion as he passed them on his way to the Mayor’s office and he greeted back.
“Come in,” the mayor responded when he knocked on the office door.
“Hello Madam Mayor,” Turner addressed her as he made his way into the office.
“Ah good morning Mister Turner, the clock tower is still running?” Mayor Mare looked up from her desk smiling. Judging by the full in-basket on her desk, she was only recently arrived.
“The old girl is still running smoothly,” Time Turner chuckled while he got seated in front of the desk.
“Well that’s good, but surely you didn’t come over just to report on that?” the mayor asked.
“Right, though the clock is running well at the present time I did spot a wear in one of the gear wheels. It will need to be replaced and I need to order the parts from Manehattan,” Turner explained to the older pony.
“Oh I see yes,” Mayor Mare frowned as she now realized why the stallion had come to her office.
Turner had to wonder about the frown, even though it had been a while since he had to order spare parts for the tower, it had never been a problem before. The stallion decided not to question it just yet and wait patiently for the mayor’s response.
“And I guess the bill will have to be paid by Ponyville as usual,” the mayor sounded almost uncertain.
“Is there a problem Ma’am?” Time Turner decided to ask after all since the mare seemed unwilling to answer right away.
Major Mare took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She really did not like causing one of Ponyville’s more diligent civil servants any trouble. But this time she was forced to relay some bad news to him. She reassumed her smile though it was a bit more solemn.
“Well the thing is, we just don’t have the budget right now this quarter, we’ve already had to cut down on some expenses,” she told the stallion.
Inwardly Time Turner cringed. This meant he could probably not order the parts for several months and when he could it would still take time for the parts to arrive. Right now the wear on the gear wasn’t bad, but it would eventually since the clock didn’t stop running. He could probably keep it going long enough though, but if there was one thing Turner was not known for it was taking chances.
“Tell me, could you order the parts paying through your store and we then pay you back at a later date?” Mayor Mare wondered.
“Uh well,” Turner blinked, he hadn’t really thought of that. His store didn’t make awful lot of money and he had to order parts for other clocks he was repairing for private customers.
I guess I could manage that; I would rather fix that wheel sooner than later, he thought.
“If it is not possible, we will have to wait until next budget meeting and try and work it into next quarter,” the mayor added.
“No, no it’s alright, quite alright,” Turner quickly responded when the pony realized he had been hesitating with an answer for few seconds.
“Are you sure, I do not want to cause you any problems,” Mayor Mare said and meant it. She rather liked Time Turner and his work ethics; he was never late and never complained.
“No, it will be tight but as long as I get paid back I’ll manage,” the stallion assured her and stood back up. “I better get going then. I need to open up the store and order those parts.”
“I’m really sorry about this Mr. Turner; it’s too bad that wheel didn’t need replacing earlier, we could have worked it into the budget then.” The mayor’s smile turned more apologetic.
Time Turner just nodded with a smile of his own, though deep in his mind he was desperately trying to work out his own budget and how to fit a clock tower wheel into it. He left the office and as he closed the door, his smile dropped a bit and became nervous.
As the stallion walked for the main entrance of town hall, his mind was so deep in thought he barely acknowledged his surroundings. The Earth Pony didn’t notice at all that another one, a dark gray stocky stallion with dark sea green mane and in a police uniform was entering. Not at least until both collided with each other.
“Ompf,” Time Turner grunted as he fell on top of the other pony.
“Ow,” the stocky pony complained.
Turner quickly scrambled off and rose back to his legs. The police stallion took a second longer as the wind had been knocked out of him by the collision. When he rose up he dusted off his uniform and rescued his hat from off the ground.
“I’m terribly sorry, Mulberry. My mind just all over the place, I didn’t see you,” Time Turner apologized. He felt dumb for not paying more attention as he went.
“Oy, tell me about it,” the stocky pony sighed, the frustration portrayed quite visibly on his face. The brown pony winched thinking at first that Mulberry was cross with him.
“I mean, now that I’m working alone it’s like I have to be in several different places at the same time. I need to remember reports I didn’t even know I had to remember, I now have twice as much of the town to cover and I swear the president of the Hay Board has it in for me,” the officer grumbled and resisted the urge to stomp one hoof to the floor.
“Oh, they aren’t hiring a replacement for Tango?” Turner inquired and calmed down a little when seeing that Mulberry was not angry at him.
“No, they decided suddenly that one police officer for a small town like Ponyville was more than enough after all,” the officer began snorting but it somehow managed to morph into a slightly depressed sigh. “I miss Tango.”
“Weren’t you hired originally because Tango insisted on a second officer?” Time Turner frowned slightly.
“Exactly, Tango always knew how to talk, stand the ground. He always knew what to do. He’ll probably never work another police job when he gets out,” Mulberry nodded.
“Well looks like I’m not the only one to experience government cutback. I need a new wheel for the clock tower but this time I have to buy it through my own store, they are then going to pay me later for it,” Turner told the officer though he didn’t sound half as annoyed as the stocky stallion.
“Sorry to hear that,” Mulberry shook his head in dismay. “Oh hey, since I have you here.”
The officer quickly began searching the pockets of his uniform. He soon pulled out a pocket watch and showed it to Time Turner. The small circular clock wasn’t very remarkable in appearance and looked old and worn, the brown pony was pretty sure they didn’t even sell this brand anymore.
“You think you can take a look at this? I keep winding it up but it always stops much too soon, sometimes just seconds after winding it,” Mulberry explained.
“Sure, I’ll take a look at it,” Turner accepted the watch and stashed it away in his saddlebag. “Drop by my shop later this week, I should have it done by then.”
The officer thanked him before saying goodbye and heading inside town hall. Turner left the building and made his way for his shop. On the way he thought about Mulberry’s words and how he was now the only police Ponyville had. The brown pony couldn’t help but think about the events that led up to it, he had been partially involved himself though not voluntarily.
Several weeks ago Filthy Rich’s daughter Diamond Tiara had been foalnapped and her friend Silver Spoon left injured in a dumpster. Time Turner didn’t have all the details about the case as he had been away on a weekend exhibition to add to his plant collection. He had been on his way home through Whitetail Woods when he ran into Ponyville’s local troublemakers the Cutie Mark Crusaders. They somehow managed to convince him to show them where an abandoned cottage in the woods was, thinking the foalnappers were hiding there.
They had been all to right, Turner and the Crusaders barely escaped one of the foalnappers simply because one of the fillies older brother Big Macintosh had been in the area and fought the foalnapper. It then turned out that one of Ponyville’s own officers; Tango had in fact been involved as well having been directly helping the mastermind behind the foalnapping. His job had been to sabotage any search efforts, unfortunately for him this case caught the attention of entire Equestria and Princess Celestia sent Royal guards to help with the investigation and search effort. The mayor had been so thrilled she pretty much put the leader of the guards in charge of the search. Everyone was caught and now Tango was in jail. Some ponies expected him to be out on parole in very short time, though whether he would ever return to Ponyville was doubtful.
Turner dropped out of his thoughts when he arrived at the store. It wasn’t very big, one story building with a dark brown wooden roof and vanilla yellow walls. Behind the large front display window hung many clocks of different shapes and sizes. All of them showed the exact correct time, no clock was too late or too early in his shop.
The stallion unlocked the door and turned the closed sign around to display open to any potential customer. Inside, the walls were lined with clocks of differing types, he even had few tall standing grandfather clocks. All ticked in harmonious synch, Turner found the sound rather soothing.
He walked behind the counter and took off his saddlebag. The pony rescued Mulberry’s pocket watch from it and put it on a small workbench that was placed up against the wall behind the counter. He usually worked on fixing clocks while waiting for customers to show up.
Before starting on any repair jobs, Time Turner first did a quick inventory check on the display case on the counter. That’s where he showcased the various watches intended both for wrists and pockets. He made sure that the cash register was in ready shape before taking a quick round around the shop to ensure all clocks were working. Some were imported, but there were few that he himself had custom built.
“Everything seems to be in order,” Turner mused and returned to the workbench. First thing he did was getting an order form for parts to the clock tower. He filled it out and made a note to mail it during lunch.
The thought of the mail reminded him of a certain gray Pegasus mare that had caught his fancy. It had happened rather gradually and he wasn’t even sure how. His shop and house were in her mail route thus he pretty much met her regularly enough. It was never more than she brought the mail, he said hi and thanked her, she said hi and you’re welcome before leaving.
The stallion knew roughly when he realized he was attracted to her. It had been several months ago when someone else came with the mail. She had gone on a vacation and another mailpony who was filling in for her came with his mail. Turner found himself feeling quite disappointed and actually counted the days until it was Derpy again who delivered it.
Am I in love or am I just being pathetic? he thought sighing softly.
Since there were no customers at the moment, he decided to start looking at Mulberry’s pocket watch. He gathered the tools needed and began taking it a part. It was a long work and in the meantime the occasional pony wandered in, some were fetching clocks he had already repaired for them or delivering some for him to fix. Others were browsing and no one really purchased anything.
It was nearing lunchtime when Turner was almost ready to declare the pocket watch lost cause. But he still refused to completely give up on it; the pony figured he could maybe get some spare parts from one place in Canterlot he knew specialized in old watches, which meant he would have to pull out another order form.
The stallion was writing it down when the bell above the door chimed, indicating that someone had entered the shop. He looked up and raised an eyebrow when seeing the young magenta colored Unicorn mare enter the shop. She had violet mane and tail with purple highlights, her cutie mark were three cut diamonds. With her was the opalish gray unicorn filly he had seen Derpy carry in her bag this morning.
It took him a moment to recall their names. The mare, though she was still young enough to be considered a filly by some ponies, was Amethyst Star though he had heard she was also called Sparkler. The younger girl was Tootsie Flute.
“Ah hello, what can I do for you two young ladies?” he asked and stepped away from the workbench.
“You need to fix this now!” Tootsie Flute snapped and pointed at the saddlebag Sparkler was carrying.
“Tootsie,” Sparkler grunted in annoyance, she used her magic to open the bag and levitated out a blue and yellow alarm clock.
Turner really had to resist his urge to groan when seeing the clock and especially the front of it. It was an official Wonderbolt alarm clock with an image of Spitfire adorning the face. But as shiny and colorful as it looked, it didn’t change the fact it was a factory made merchandise made to profit on the Wonderbolt name. Time Turner really hated these clocks; he considered them such shoddy pieces of work that he refused to sell them in his own shop, even if he could be raking in the bits through young and old Wonderbolt fans.
“Can you fix this? It keeps going off for no good reasons, even if it’s not set,” Sparkler asked and put the alarm clock on the counter.
Fix… this? Turner was almost tempted to tell them to just throw it away and get a new one. He did not relish the thought of having to touch that thing now offending his display counter.
“You must!” Tootsie Flute demanded and rose up to place her front hooves on the counter, frowning hard at him. “Auntie Derpy bought it for me when she went to Cloudsdale. It has to be fixed.”
Oh right The stallion mentally slapped his face, it had slipped his mind that both ponies lived with Derpy. Amethyst and Tootsie Flute had been placed there years ago in foster care if he recalled correctly.
“Alright, I will take a look at it. Might take a day or two though,” he relented and managed to produce a smile even if he was revolted at the thought of fixing that clock.
“Yeah that sounds great,” Sparkler shrugged. Tootsie jumped and smiled in joy. “How much does it cost?”
“Oh not much really,” Time Turner wondered if they would notice if he just replaced it with a new one. “Five bits at most.”
The young mare nodded and prepared to leave, she nudged the younger filly whose mood had quite brightened now that her special clock was being repaired. Turner watched them leave the shop before looking down at the alarm clock with mild disgust.
“These things are no better than scrap metal,” he muttered and gingerly grabbed the clock in his mouth and transferred it to his workbench. When he put it down the stallion noticed that on the back were the words ‘Tootsie’s clock’ written.
Now I have no choice but to fix it, there is no way I can copy that mouth writing on a new one, Turner shook his head.
“Besides it would just not be right to replace it with just a new one,” he admitted to himself as he glanced at the various clocks on the wall. “But fixing it can wait until after lunch.”
Time Turner stopped and eyed the pony who had greeted him front of the Café. It was an Earth pony like him, with amber colored coat and brown tail and mane. Three blue horse shoes adorned his flank. With a frustrated groan he turned to face him.
“Turner, my name is Time Turner,” he corrected.
“Oops sorry, guess it is just habit,” the other stallion apologized, his ears lowering a bit in embarrassment.
“A habit I would very much like to see ponies break, Caramel,” Turner grunted and got seated by a table.
This was one of the big mysteries for the brown stallion. Various ponies around Ponyville often seemed to think his name was Hooves or Whooves and some even added Doctor in front of it. Time Turner did have full training and education as a clock-smith but it was a bit farfetched to call him doctor over it.
“So um… how are things?” Caramel asked now that Turner was seated on the table next to his.
“Can’t complain, enough work to do, life just goes on and on,” Time Turner said, he accepted a menu from the waiter that had just arrived.
The café was a good place to go to lunch. It was not far away from his shop so he never left it for too long. Turner could also see if anyone was coming, a good thing if it was someone who was scheduled to come pick up a clock. Then it was easy to just run over and give it to the customer.
“And you?” He looked at the amber stallion who chuckled nervously.
“Oh… I lost my job… again,” Caramel admitted with a sigh and sunk down until his head rested on his table. “Sassaflash is going to kill me.”
“Where were you working again?” Turner asked, he couldn’t really recall. As Caramel had noted, this wasn’t the first time he lost a job.
“At the toyshop, they got a whole new shipment of those Wonderbolt stuff and well… I managed to drop a crate and it damaged hundred bits worth of merchandise. I was already on the last leg there after the incident where I managed to misplaced those new Smarty dolls,” the amber Earth Pony sighed.
Time Turner was about to ask how he had managed to misplace those dolls but thought better off it. He knew Caramel was a hard worker and always meant well, but sometimes he could get a little forgetful and had a habit of accidentally losing things without really meaning too.
The waiter returned and Turner decided to treat himself to some salad. Caramel on the other hand was just sipping on a hay smoothie looking very gloomy. He was no doubt trying to think up various ways on how to break the news to his girlfriend about his latest job loss.
“I’m really sorry about your job, Caramel, you have any plans?” the brown stallion asked.
“Well… no, not really at the moment,” Caramel shook his head. Then suddenly his ears perked up as an idea hit him. The pony rose up to sit more properly before quickly scooting closer to Turner’s table. He placed his front hooves on it and crouched down in a begging position.
“You wouldn’t happen to be looking for some extra help in your shop do you?” the amber Earth Pony asked pleadingly. Time Turner had almost jumped away from the table after Caramel’s sudden appearance.
“What? No, I’m sorry but no,” the brown pony claimed.
“Please, I’ll work for minimum wage if necessary. I can’t go to Sassaflash and tell her I lost another job and don’t have anything else lined up. She’ll complain and then complain to her mother who will nag at me,” Caramel begged, lowering his ears again and tried on his best sad puppy impression.
“Will you stand up; you’re a grown stallion for Celestia’s sake,” Time Turner cried and managed to push the other stallion off the table and have him stand up. He didn’t add that he had found this display rather disturbing.
“Look Caramel, I’m really sorry. I’m already stretching my own budget thin, I need to order clock tower parts and pay them through my shop, not to mention all the clocks I’m repairing that also need parts ordered. I just can’t afford an employee,” he tried to explain to his friend.
“Please Doc…Time Turner, see I even told your name right. I beg you; everypony in town knows what an imbecile I am. I doubt even Applejack will let me clean out the pig stables at Sweet Apple Acres.” Caramel dropped back down to begging position.
“All right, first of all you are not an imbecile and second…” Time Turner glanced around with a grimace. “Will you please stand up, everypony is staring at us.”
Indeed both ponies at the café and walking the streets were watching the spectacle. Some chuckled while others stared in utter confusion. Few shook their heads and continued on their way. Caramel chuckled nervously and stood up again.
“Please Turner, please can you give me a job? You don’t have to pay right away; I still have some back pay coming from my old job even if they fired me.” The amber stallion really did sound desperate.
Turner was about to say no for the third time but he found himself a bit stuck. Caramel really looked right now like a sad puppy that had just been kicked. He had never really considered having someone assist him in the shop before, never needed it really. But deep down the idea was appealing, being someone’s boss and maybe even able to let the assistant handle the shop for a day or two while he focused on other projects.
“Alright, alright,” he finally relented. “I can’t pay you much, at least not for a while.”
“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you. You are a lifesaver Turner,” Caramel reached with his front legs and grabbed the brown stallion in a tight hug.
“Erk… no problem… you can start tomorrow, eight o’clock sharp.” Turner gasped for air and managed to free himself from the air chocking hug.
“Sir yes sir, eight tomorrow I’ll be there,” Caramel nodded furiously and then hurried off laughing with joy.
Time Turner wiped sweat from his brow and returned his attention to the table. His salad had arrived during the commotion with Caramel. His stomach growled so the stallion wasted no time diving in, munching on his lunch with great delight. He was so busy gobbling up the salad that he didn’t notice a shadow passing over him. Shortly later a Pegasus landed by his table.
“Hi Mister Turner.” Hearing the voice greet him almost caused the stallion to spit out his mouthful. He looked up and for a split second his eyes soaked up the sight that for him was as divine as it was beautiful.
“Ah… Miss Hooves,” he stammered and finished swallowing his mouthful before it leaked out. “Um excuse me…”
Derpy Hooves giggled when the stallion began to desperately drying his mouth with a napkin and trying not to look like a slob. He sat straight up and did his best to smile normally.
“I was on my way to your shop with your mail,” the gray Pegasus explained and opened her mailbag. “But I saw you sitting there by the café, so I thought I would just drop it here.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Time Turner said and accepted the mail and one package she produced from her bag.
“Well since I have you here, I do need these sent,” he said and produced the two order forms from his own saddlebag. By now both placed in an envelope each, addressed and stamped.
“Okie Dokie,” Derpy took the two envelopes and put it in her bag, making sure it was placed with other mail bound for the post office.
Oh come on you fool, say something, complement her on her looks, anything. You’re actually talking with her, a small voice kept shouting at him deep in his mind, but nothing came out. He half expected that with the mail delivered she would be on her way.
“Oh by the way, did Sparkler and Tootsie come to your shop? Tootsie’s alarm clock was not working right and Carrot Top told them to take it to your shop to see if you can fix it. Since you fix clocks and all,” the gray Pegasus inquired. She smiled friendly like but for Turner it was the most beautiful smile he had ever seen.
“Why yes… yes they did come just before I went to lunch. The clock will probably be finished in two or three days. Tootsie seemed to think very highly of it,” he told her. Derpy giggled again.
“Yes Tootsie really loves that clock. I bought it for her when I went to Cloudsdale few months ago. She was in tears when it started to go all noisy for no reasons at all and I had to tell her it was broken,” she told him.
“Well we can’t have that now, can we? I’ll fix the clock as quickly as I can,” Turner assured her with a smile of his own.
“Oh you are so sweet, thank you. It means a lot to me to see my little girls happy, they are my whole life.” Derpy let out a happy sigh. “Well I better go and deliver the rest of the mail. Thank you again Mister Turner, nice talking to you.”
“Yes, no problem,” Turner watched while she spread her wings and flew off. Once she was out of sight he almost felt like melting in the chair. She said it was nice talking to me.
Oh come now, anypony would say that. But it was she who said it… Time Turner didn’t even realize how goofily he was smiling right now as he made his inner debate. She addresses me by my actual name; her friend suggested my shop to fix the clock. But you are the only clock-maker in the town of course they would send the clock to me.
The stallion dropped his smile when he remembered the dratted clock. Time Turner wasn’t sure how to really fix it. For him it looked like the factory just crammed some gears and wheels together into a round metal box and hoped it would do tick tock noises. He hadn’t been too surprised when hearing that these clocks had very short life spans and where really only just shiny clock shaped paperweights when it came down to it.
Hey wait a minute. What if I just build a proper clock mechanic into it and just use the old casing? That way Tootsie will get her clock back, just a more improved clock, he thought. His eyes grew wider and the stallion hammered one hoof on the table, causing the salad bowl to dance around on it. “That’s brilliant.”
Not really noticing the stares he received from other patrons Time Turner rose up. He left payment for his meal on the table and hurried back to his shop, he had work to do.
Golden Harvest, or Carrot Top as she was usually known by her friends and family, observed Ponyville marketplace from her vegetable stand. The day had been a bit slow, only few ponies had come to buy her wares. There were many ponies around; just no one seemed to need vegetables at the moment.
“Slow day here too huh?”
Carrot Top glanced to the side and saw Applejack approaching. The orange farm mare had her own stand not that far away. The yellow pony had noticed that things had been slow there as well, only the occasional pony had come to buy apples.
“Yes, I think I’ve only sold few carrots and a box of lettuce,” Carrot confirmed with a nod.
“Tell me about it, but hey maybe things will pick up in the afternoon when ponies need something to snack on between lunch and dinner,” Applejack suggested with a chuckle.
“Oh I’m sure they do, how are things on the farm?” Carrot Top inquired.
“Busy as you wouldn’t believe it, we finally managed to git rid of most of the fruitbats infestin’ the west orchard, but we also needed to get rid of a whole warren of bunnies trying to eat up our vegetable patches. Fortunately Fluttershy was a big help in that regard, she’s always good with critters, found a new home for them far away from mah farm,” the farm mare began telling her.
Carrot Top listened with some interest. She had sometimes dreamed of having her own farm, much like Applejack. Unfortunately the best the yellow mare could settle for at the moment was her large vegetable garden in her backyard. Half of the crops she sold in the market, but the other half was eaten by her and those living with her in the house. A farm would be too expensive to start from scratch.
“Big Mac has been plowin’ up a new field to grow more corn; we need to expand in that area though nuthin’ will come out of it until next year. Oh and the first apple harvest is finally here,” Apple jack continued and finished by gesturing to her own stand. “So how are you and yours?”
“Well I’m doing alright, I can’t complain. Derpy as usual is all dedicated to the girls, working her hooves off to give them a good life. I wish could help more than just being supportive roommate but my own work barely gets in enough for my share of the rent and food,” Top told her.
“I know it’s a sacrilege but if you ever need anythin’ just let me know and Ah’ll sneak a basket of apples your way,” Applejack winked and grinned. Carrot Top pretended to be horrified at the prospect.
“Accepting apples, from my rival, the very thought,” the yellow mare snorted in pretense offensive tone. Then she quickly leaned closer to Applejack and whispered. “Make sure it’s golden delicious ones, Dinky and Tootsie love those.”
“Ah’ll see what I can do,” the orange farm mare chuckled. “Just a second.”
Applejack headed over to her stand and Carrot Top couldn’t help but laugh a little at the pretense rivalry. Considering the size of Sweet Apple Acres she would be lucky to even be considered a minor competitor. The yellow Earth Pony started to observe the market place again; there had been some increase in ponies around so maybe Applejack was right about things picking up.
“Make way, make way, the Unicorn parade is here,” a bright voice shouted from the crowd, soon enough Sparkler came walking through it and behind her giggling and jumping were Tootsie Flute and Dinky the violet colored unicorn filly.
Oh those girls, Carrot Top shook in laughter, the three young Unicorns made their way right to her stand as she expected.
“And you wonder why your mother calls you three silly fillies,” the yellow mare addressed them still laughing.
“What? We’re not sillies,” Sparkler faked an innocent look.
“No, we are,” Tootsie giggled.
“Fillies,” Dinky finished and the three Unicorns were now all laughing.
“Oh don’t you rhyme on me,” Carrot Top stuck her tongue out at them and got the same respond back from all three. “Well I’m glad to see you three are enjoying yourself. You took the clock to the clock shop?”
“Yes we did, the clock maker said it would take few days and maybe cost five bits,” Sparkler told her nodding.
“He’s going to fix my clock,” Tootsie declared pumping one front hoof in the air with a big smile.
Five bits? That’s cheap, the yellow mare thought but didn’t say anything out loud. She had a theory but didn’t want to divulge into it without more proof.
“Then we met Dinky at the playground again as we planned and now we are headed to Sugarcube Corner,” the magenta pony told them.
Carrot Top nodded. Tootsie had insisted on coming along to deliver the clock but Sparkler hadn’t planned to go there until just before lunch. So Derpy had dropped the younger fillies at the playground on her way to work until Sparkler was ready to go.
Sparkler was about to say something more but a stallion arrived at the cart to buy vegetables. She stepped aside and while Carrot Top took care of the customer, the Unicorn watched the younger fillies who had engaged in a short game of tag around her. Sparkler held back a giggle when Dinky almost stumbled but recovered quickly though for a second she walked a bit silly. Tootsie on the other hand chuckled and tried to use this opportunity to tackle her sister.
More ponies arrived at the vegetable stand. Seemed things were really picking up, Sparkler and the two filles were forced to go behind it where Carrot Top stood so they had a little bit of space.
“Need help?” Sparkler asked though her foster mother’s roommate seemed to be handling things well.
“No it’s alright. Just take the girls to Sugarcube Corner as you planned,” Carrot Top assured her.
“Okay,” Sparkler was hesitant to leave, really wanting to assist at the stand. But Dinky and Tootsie were now jumping up and down around her shouting the name of the local bakery in excitement. There was no way she could delay going there by now.
The influx of ponies buying vegetables did end almost as quickly as it had begun. Carrot Top didn’t complain though, she had already sold a lot more carrots and various other vegetables just now than this morning. She glanced back and just missed Sparkler and the girls disappearing into the crowd.
“Frankly Ah don’t care what you have to say about that, if ya can’t say anythin’ nice just don’t say it at all,” the sharp voice of Applejack reached her ears.
The yellow mare looked over to the Apple stand and saw the farm pony pointing an Earth Pony away while sporting an angry scowl. The unknown pony strutting away with the muzzle high up in the air was pink with a blue mane and tail with lighter blue highlights. She wore a darker pink west and orange tinted sunglasses. In her main and tail were golden bands and on her ears hung earrings shaped like lightning bolts.
I’ve seen her before, Carrot Top thought, she considered heading over to Applejack to see what had happened, but didn’t have to. The orange mare was trotting over with a basket full of golden delicious apples.
“Hey, ooh those do look lovely,” she addressed Applejack when the other pony arrived.
“Well hope the youngins like them,” the orange mare said but it was audible she was upset. Applejack put the basket down behind the vegetable stand.
“Dare I ask what was going on over there?” Carrot asked concerned, Applejack always seemed to be on such good terms with most ponies, it was rare to see her cross with anyone. Her face fell when Applejack hesitated and looked uneasy to spill, the yellow mare could almost guess now what this had been about.
“Out with it, what did she say?” she asked tiredly though she dreaded to hear it and was now thankful Sparkler and the girls were gone.
“Do you get this a lot Carrot Top? Or Derpy that is?” the orange farm pony asked quietly. “Ah swear Ah was almost ready to buck that missy straight into the nearest mud pool.”
“What? Surprised she is allowed to take in foals in foster care? Don’t get it that she is actually responsible enough to care for them? Yes, yes we get it a lot,” the yellow pony snorted.
“The nerve, she’s qualified right? She’s approved by the government and all isn’t she? Who are they to say she can’t be a good mother,” Applejack grunted.
“Yes she is, sure we a get the occasional visit from the authorities but it’s routine to make sure the foals Derpy is caring for are alright and everything is in order. Honestly, most of the time the visits are just one big muffin tea party. The government ponies that come are nice and supportive and they don’t even question her anymore,” Carrot Top explained glancing around, feeling her anger rising a little.
“Ah’m sorry, didn’t mean to be ruinin’ your day. But if you must know she was makin’ snide comments about the girls, saw them playin’ there by your stand. When her turn came she made a rude comment about them and Derpy as if she expected me to agree with her,” Applejack snorted in disgust.
“Thank you… I mean for telling her off, not sure if I would have been as polite about it as you were.” the yellow pony smiled a little but it was very weak.
“Think nuthin’ of it. Ah meant what Ah said earlier, if ya need anything, just let me know,” the farm mare smiled warmer and added a small wink.
“Thank you Applejack, we will.” Carrot Top nodded. She was then forced to return back to business, more ponies had arrived to buy from her. Applejack hurried back to her own stand as ponies were filing up there as well.
It had clearly been too soon call this day slow. This time the surge of ponies coming to buy lasted for almost two hour and before Carrot Top knew it she had sold everything. She was almost tempted to consider that Applejack had somehow known of this beforehand. Things were just as busy at the apple stand, a huge crowd of ponies were buying apples.
Well might as well pack up seeing that I’ve sold everything, the mare thought and started to put everything away and folded up the stand.
“Whoa,” someone shouted out from above and when Carrot Top looked up she saw Derpy descending to land. She had miscalculated and ended up landing on her own butt right in front of the vegetable stand.
“Owie,” the Pegasus cringed and looked rather embarrassed, blushing under her fur.
“Derpy, are you alright?” Carrot Top asked and helped her friend back to her leg. She ignored some ponies around who were laughing.
“I’m fine, confound those eyes sometimes.” Derpy frowned a little and dusted off herself. One eye was looking at the yellow pony but the other wandered off into another direction.
She always seems to fly fine when taking the girls for a spin, the Earth Pony thought to herself. Then again she never takes them that high.
“Wow, have you sold everything already?” the Pegasus looked at the now closed stand, it was now a cart that could be pulled.
“Yes I have, after a very slow day the afternoon came and it was like everypony needed some veggies,” Carrot Top told her. “Sparkler came here just after lunch with Dinky and Tootsie and went to Sugarcube Corner. But they are probably home by now.”
Derpy nodded and helped her roommate to put on the cart harness so she could pull it. The Pegasus then spied the apple basket and picked it up. She stared at it for a moment then eyed Carrot skeptically.
“What is this, apples with you?” she asked and giggled.
“Well I eat fruit sometimes,” Carrot Top pointed out. “Besides these are mostly for the girls. You know how they love the golden delicious apples.”
“Nothing compared to your carrots,” Derpy grinned and balanced the basket on her head as they began walking.
“Hah! Fruit and veggies won’t even compare to their love for your muffins,” the yellow pony smirked.
“Nothing compares to muffins,” the gray mare stated as a matter of fact, nodding sagely nearly spilling the apples. The two ponies burst into giggles.
“Ah well, Tootsie should get her clock back soon,” Carrot top commented.
“Yes, I met Mister Turner when I delivered his mail to him, he mentioned it,” Derpy said and a wider smile crept over her lips. “Tootsie will be so happy to get her clock back.”
“Yes, tell me Derpy why do you always fly past the clock tower these days, I’ve been hearing it’s becoming as common occurrence as Time Turner entering and leaving it,” her friend asked casually. It didn’t escape her attention that Derpy clamped her mouth shut and shifted her good eye back and forth as well as possible.
“Um… no reason,” the Pegasus stated innocently.
“Riiight,” Carrot peered at her roommate. “So you spoke with Mr. Turner when you brought his mail?”
“Oh yes, a lot more than usual even, he was so sweet, insisting he would fix the clock as soon as he could,” Derpy said nodding furiously thinking she had evaded the subject.
“Sweet?” The yellow pony raised her eyebrow and smirked wider.
“Yes, sweet, he was being kind and considerate for the plight of a young filly whose precious clock was broken,” Derpy responded flustered when she realized what kind of a trap she was headed into.
Again she clamped her mouth shut and the Pegasus didn’t seem likely to comment more on this. Carrot Top was tempted to dig more into this discovery with more questions but decided against it, she felt she needed to confirm this differently than trying to grill her friend.
This is going to be interesting, she thought and smiled to herself.
It was eight o’clock sharp when Caramel stood in front of Ponyville’s clock shop. The amber Earth Pony took a deep breath before entering. Time Turner was already inside sitting by his workbench and handling a clock. The brown stallion looked up when the door chimed.
“Good morning, Caramel. Ready for you first day at your new job?” he asked and rose up.
“Yes, yes, thank you again so much for this, you’ve saved my hide,” Caramel said with a grin. Turner didn’t notice that it was a bit strained as he was putting the tools away before walking around the counter.
It wasn’t until Turner was standing face to face with his brand new employee that he realized he had no idea what to do. The stallion was so used to never having anyone working for him and being his own boss. It really never occurred to him that there were few more steps in the process than just welcoming him to work.
Caramel on the other hand was waiting for the usual tour around the new workplace, signing the contract and the usual warning of ‘you break it, there is the door, go ahead and kick yourself out’. He started to shift a little uneasily when few seconds had already passed in silence, aside from the ticking of all the clocks around him.
“I uh… guess I should show you around,” Time Turner finally spoke, realizing himself that he hadn’t said a word while trying to think of something.
“Yes, that’s usually what happens.” The other stallion nodded.
“Right, let’s see now,” the brown pony turned around and gestured around the store with one hoof.
“This is pretty much the main area; here are most of the clocks for sale on display. There are also watches in the display case on the counter.” he started the tour.
“In the back there is a small delivery room where imported clocks arrive and there is also storage for clocks waiting for space in the store. I also keep the clocks I’m fixing there and haven’t gotten around to yet.” Time Turner walked to the back of the shop and opened the backdoor to show Caramel the rooms he spoke of.
“Clocks I’ve finished fixing I keep here under the counter, ready for customers to come and pick them up. I usually work on the workbench fixing clocks while waiting for customers, so feel free to bring a book or a magazine or something to read.” Turner showed him the space under the counter where few fixed clocks of various sizes waited their owners.
“I do not expect you to do any clock repair. I’ll handle all of that. But you will be working the cash register, there are price tags on the clocks and you will also hand over clocks being picked up by customers and receive broken clocks and give them to me,” he explained how Caramel would be working.
“Sounds good,” the amber pony nodded eagerly. “So where do I sign?”
“Sign? Oh a contract, of course,” Turner palmed his face with one hoof. “Look, I’ll have to get help writing that one up and I’ll have it ready tomorrow for you to sign.”
“Alright sounds good to me, I’m just glad to be at work,” Caramel chuckled. “You really are new at being an employer.”
“You have absolutely no idea.” The other stallion shook his head and gestured to the counter. “Well you can sit down there, but if you want to run out to get a magazine or a book first that’s alright.”
“No, no I’ll be fine for now,” Caramel assured him and hurried to sit behind the counter, whistling happily.
Time Turner shrugged and returned to the workbench and sat down. He was currently in the middle of a delicate operation of changing the clock mechanics of Tootsie’s clock into a proper one. He had already stripped the innards of most of the old gears and was replacing them with better ones from his own stock of spare parts, putting them all in far more proper and efficient places to correctly run a clock.
The stallion was not too absorbed in his work to forget his new employee. Turner had already trained himself not to forget himself completely, it was important to able to jump to the counter if a customer came.
“So, how is Sassaflash?” he asked casually. He was familiar enough with Caramel though they were acquaintances at best. It was difficult not to know at least something about everyone living around such a small town.
Turner looked up when there was no reply. He looked over to the counter and saw Caramel hanging his head looking gloomily down at the floor. The amber stallion had been examining the contents of the display counter when the question came.
“Caramel? Are you alright?” he asked concerned and rose from the workbench once more.
“I’m… um fine,” Caramel mumbled and rubbed his left front leg with his right hoof.
“You don’t sound fine, something happened?” Turner walked over and sat down near the glum stallion.
“Oh it’s nothing, really, honestly.” The amber pony tried to grin but it barely lasted a second before it broke back down into a sad frown. “She broke up with me.”
Caramel sighed deeper and hung his head even lower towards the floor. The pony had been so certain if he could land a job immediately after losing his last one everything would be fine. It hadn’t turned out that way at all.
“She said she couldn’t stay with someone who can’t stick to one job for more than few months. I tried to tell her I already had a new job lined up, but she didn’t care and her mom just asked how long it would last until you threw me out as well,” he sniffed. The stallion was trying not to cry, especially in front of another male but life was just so unfair right now.
“Well you aren’t fired yet,” Time Turner pointed out and smiled reassuringly. “And now you have a chance to prove them wrong.”
“True,” Caramel agreed, his sad frown lifting a little.
“And I personally want this to work. You see, I was thinking a lot about this new arrangement last night. With you helping me in the shop, handling customers who are just coming to buy clocks or picking up fixed ones, I have much more time to repair clocks and work on designs I’ve been wanting to do,” the brown pony continued gesturing towards his workbench.
“I’m sorry though that she broke up with you. I know you mostly begged me for a job yesterday to show her you had a new job already even after losing your last one. But if you don’t feel like working today, you don’t have to.”
“No, I got nothing better to do and rather not hang around Ponyville moping,” Caramel assured him, he was feeling a little better.
“If you are sure, it’s really not a problem. You haven’t even signed a contract yet anyway,” Time Turner told him.
The chime of the bell interrupted them and the two ponies looked towards the door. A green stallion with a blue mane was entering the shop. He had an image of a spinning top as a cutie mark. When Caramel saw who the newly arrived was he gasped in shock and ducked behind the counter.
Time Turner eyed the amber pony skeptically for a second before returning his attention to the customer. He did recognize him as the owner of the toyshop but couldn’t quite recall his name just at the moment.
“Was that Caramel I saw ducking behind your counter?” the green pony asked unsure while walking closer.
“Yes it was,” Time Turner sighed and nudged at the amber pony covering beside him and told him to get up. Slowly Caramel obeyed grinning nervously. His new boss just shook his head, but the old one didn’t look too impressed.
“Hello Mr. Top Spin,” the amber stallion greeted his former employer nervously.
“Huh, I hope you know what you are getting yourself into by hiring him,” Top Spin snorted. It almost caused Caramel to sink back down behind the counter but Time Turner prevented him by putting one hoof on his shoulder.
“Can we help you?” the brown stallion asked hiding his irritation. He put emphasis on the ‘we’.
“Doubt he can, but I sure hope you can. I’m in a bit of a fix that I hope you can help me with,” Top Spin grunted. Caramel’s ears flopped down and the stallion again wished he could disappear.
Time Turner held back a sigh, so much for trying to give his new employee an encouraging pep talk when said employee’s former employer comes along to talk him down. But the stallion had been a shop owner long enough to know you had to deal with overbearing customers sometimes.
“Thanks to that idiot over there, a whole lot of merchandise was damaged beyond repair. We had to throw it away, but we think we can still salvage the clocks if you could fix them,” Top Spin explained giving Caramel a slight glare, the amber stallion chuckled nervously.
Clocks… wait… oh no. Time Turner had to sum up all his willpower not to recoil in horror. He remembered what kind of merchandise it was Caramel had damaged by accident and that meant the clocks the toyshop owner was referring to could only be one thing.
“It’s about twenty Wonderbolt clocks we think that can be fixed,” Top Spin told him.
Twenty? The brown pony wasn’t sure how he managed to hold back a jaw drop.
It was tempting to outright refuse on principle, but in plain sight on his workbench was Tootsie’s alarm clock. It would look very stupid if he said he didn’t fix these clocks with that one sitting there and clearly contradicting his statement, even if it had been a rare exception he accepted to fix that one.
“Look I… ah…” Turner really regretted having his workbench out in the open and not in a backroom. Of course it had been impossible to do it otherwise before.
“Can you at least take a look at them and see if they can be saved?” Top Spin asked impatiently, tapping one hoof on the floor.
“Fine, sure,” Time Turner sighed, knowing there was no way he could refuse. “Have them sent over.”
“I already had the crate put behind your shop, figured you wouldn’t mind,” the green pony said and started towards the door. “Thanks Mr. Hooves.”
“Turner… my name is Time Turner,” the clockmaker said between his teeth but either Top Spin didn’t hear it or he ignored it. The brown stallion then added. “Caramel and I will look into it.”
“Great, just make sure the klutz doesn’t break any more of them,” Top Spin snorted before leaving the shop.
The two stallions behind the counter watched the green one leave, their eyes didn’t leave the door until it closed and the door chime fell silent. Then Time Turner slowly turned his head to look at Caramel, the amber pony still had his ears down and looked again pretty much like a beaten puppy.
“How long did you work for this pony?” Turner asked. He just couldn’t conceive how any sane pony would endure that jerk.
“Three months,” Caramel responded and turned his head to his new boss.
“How? Why?” the brown stallion was amazed that it was possible to work for three months with Top Spin.
“Because unemployment sucks,” his employee tried to grin but it was very weak.
“Good answer,” Turner had to admit that money was probably the only reason anyone would suffer such verbal abuse. He glanced over to the delivery room. “Come on, let’s survey the damage.”
“What about the store?” Caramel asked standing up as Time Turner did.
“We’ll hear it if anypony comes,” the brown Earth Pony stated and trotted to the back door.
The two stallions entered the small delivery room and Turner opened the door leading out to the backside of his shop. There stood the crate Top Spin had talked about; the large wooden box was marked in clear red letters ‘FRAGILE’. The two ponies walked out and Time Turner regarded it critically before flipping the lid off to see inside.
Inside the clockmaker saw a large pile of blue Wonderbolt clocks. Each one had a different image of a member of the famous aeral team on the face. Caramel peeked inside but with a grimace, remembering quite well why this pile of broken clocks now stood behind Time Turner’s shop.
Time Turner reached into the box to pick up one clock. Carefully he shook it and could hear rattling noise inside. The clock arms were loose and going back and forth on the round glass protection of the face. The stallion sighed and threw the device back down into the crate and looked at Caramel.
“Just because the case of the clock is not broken he thinks these can be salvaged. We are going to have to check every clock to see if it’s all the same problem, if it is he’s not going to like the news I’ll be giving him,” Turner said. His employee looked at him questionably.
“What? What’s wrong?” Caramel wondered.
“Clocks are delicate and complicated devices, you don’t just cobble together some gears and springs and hope it works. One spring out of alignment, one gear in the wrong place and the clock is ruined,” Time Turner explained and began trying to lift the crate, the other stallion helped and together they managed to carry it inside. There the clockmaker continued, picking up another Wonderbolt clock.
“Clocks aren’t toys; they are precise measuring instruments of time itself. The most complicated and advanced clocks can measure time down to nanoseconds. They are like the musical instruments of science; the tick they make is like we have given time a voice of its own. To make that work we must carefully craft the device, each part has a purpose to make the music. It has to be orchestrated with great care and precision. You don’t play a piano just by hammering your hooves on the keys and hope it resembles a song. You must know exactly which key to play and with clocks you must know where each part has to be for the clock to work and… I have completely lost you haven’t I?” Turner noticed that Caramel was staring at him blankly.
“Aaah I… well… clocks are complicated, yes got that,” the amber pony quickly sped out when he realized his employer had noticed the complete lack of understanding.
“It’s alright, sorry, I guess I take clocks a bit seriously,” Time Turner said and put the clock down.
“Looks like you have something to keep you busy, pick up every clock out of the crate and shake it gently to see if the gears are loose. Then put them on the shelf over there for now, tell me if a clock does not rattle or shows no sign of having gears loose. I’ll then open the case and ascertain what the problem is,” he instructed Caramel who nodded and began doing exactly what told.
Time Turner returned to the store proper and went back to repairing Tootsie’s clock. He had done a great deal of work already both yesterday and this morning before Caramel arrived. Right now the stallion was making sure the alarm mechanics were all probably set. Now with a new employee the clockmaker almost expected being able to finish this one ahead of schedule.
“Eighteen clocks, all rattling,” Caramel announced after a while, standing in the doorway of the back room.
“Right good,” Time Turner nodded and continued to work for a second but then he halted and looked up. “Eighteen? Weren’t they twenty?”
Caramel blinked and glanced back into the delivery room. He slowly backed in again and shortly after the clockmaker could hear frantic counting. The brown Earth Pony rose up from his workbench, walked towards the backroom and peeked inside. Caramel was counting every Wonderbolt clock on the shelf with a panicked expression.
“Eighteen…nineteen…twenty,” the amber pony finished and sighed in great relief. “Twenty clocks, there are twenty clocks.”
“That sounds more right yes,” Time Turner nodded. “And they all rattle when you shake them gently?”
“Yes,” Caramel confirmed.
“Then it’s most likely that all have loose gears and possibly damaged one,” Turner mused. “I’ll need more spare parts, Top Spin will not like hearing that.”
“Oh? Why?” his employee asked sounding mildly confused.
“I need to order them, I don’t have spare parts for twenty clocks, five maybe, ten if I stretch it but not twenty. That’s additional cost on the bill, so this is not going to be cheap for him,” the brown pony explained.
“Ah of course,” Caramel nodded, but slowly his expression changed from that of understanding to utter horror.
“He’s going to dock that off my back pay,” he gasped and slumped down to sit.
“What? No, I’m sure he won’t do that,” Time Turner tried to sound assuring but didn’t sound too convincing. The stallion had seen what Top Spin thought of Caramel and the amber pony was probably all too right. The toy shop owner would most likely dock the pay he still owed him for the damage.
Turner entered the room fully and took a moment to examine the clocks. He could of course also just report that they were damaged beyond repair, but that would only mean Top Spin would dock Caramel’s pay to order new ones.
He looked at Caramel who was right in the middle of the process of cursing his bad luck lately. The clockmaker couldn’t blame him, in the span of only 24 hours the pony had lost his job, lost his girlfriend and was at risk of losing his pay from his previous job. He almost wished he had the funds to pay his employee a little in advance, if only to cheer him up a little.
“Come on, it’s almost time for lunch, I’ll pay for it,” Time Turner offered and managed to prod Caramel to stand up again.
The two stallions left the delivery room in silence. Turner glanced at the clocks and saw it was bit early to really call it lunch, but he figured both could use the break and get a bite to eat early. They left the store and the brown pony put up the ‘out on lunch’ sign before they both headed for the café.
Derpy landed in front of the house Carrot Top rented with her. A relieved sigh escaped her lips. It had been a busy day delivering letters and packages and the mare was tired. She casually glanced towards the garden, half expecting to see the yellow pony tending to it like she usually did in the late afternoon. But no one was there.
Shrugging it off Derpy entered the house. Immediately her ears were assaulted with loud voices coming from the living room. The Pegasus lowered her ears while closing the door and wondered if she really wanted to know what this was about. Dinky and Tootsie could be quite vocal, Tootsie even more so as she could really make her voice sharp and loud when feeling slighted. Right now her tired ears just didn’t want sharp and loud around them.
Knowing this could, if unattended, go on for a while Derpy headed to the living room to investigate. Sparkler was on the couch attempting to read a book; Tootsie and Dinky were playing a board game on the floor. Right now there was a loud disagreement between them what exactly the rules of the game were. Sparkler was covering her ears with the front hooves and was trying to tell the younger girls to be quiet. They didn’t pay any attention to her at all.
“Hello everypony, did I come in on a bad time?” Derpy inquired with a small tired smile. She allowed her ears to go back up when the noise died down immediately at her arrival.
Her oldest foster daughter let out a breath of relief. The younger girls sprung up from the floor and raced over to the mare. It was hard to tell which one was happier to see her, though they quickly started to bicker again.
“Mommy, mommy, Tootsie is cheating,” Dinky accused pointing at the board game.
“It’s not true Aunt Derpy, it says in the book that getting six let’s you move again,” Tootsie countered and stomped one hoof on the floor.
“I’m glad to see you too, my little muffins,” Derpy greeted them with half a chuckle. Thankful that Tootsie kept her voice down at a manageable level. “Is this what all the noise is about?”
“Well, I can’t find it in the book,” the violet unicorn filly stated, scowling at her foster sister.
“It is too.” The opal unicorn girl stuck her tongue out.
“Girls!” Derpy frowned now. “Don’t be rude, we’ll settle this here and now.”
Both fillies hung their head and mumbled a weak sorry. The mare walked past them and towards the board game, the girls trotted after her and Tootsie grabbed the rule book from the box. She pushed it to Derpy who accepted it, sat down and started to skim through it. She had to concentrate so both her eyes focused on what stood there.
“This is odd,” the mare glanced at the board game and then at the book. She flipped back to the cover and looked at the box. “Girls, this is the wrong rule book, it’s for another game. It must have been mixed up.”
“What?” Tootsie gasped in shock. She started to rummage through the the box again and gave another loud ‘what’ when pulling out another book, this time the correct one.
Derpy grabbed and read it over before looking at the girls who sat both in front of her waiting for the verdict. The cringe on the opal Unicorn indicated she knew what it would be.
“Doesn’t say anything about six letting you have another turn, sorry Tootsie but looks like Dinky was right,” the Pegasus told them.
“Aw,” Tootsie hung her head, feeling bad for having checked the wrong rule book without noticing. She looked at Dinky with an apologetic look. “Sorry Dinky.”
“It’s okay; we can still let six give another go.” Dinky herself felt a bit guilty too. “Sorry I said you cheated.”
The two fillies hugged and then did the same with Derpy who returned it. A wide smile was on the mare’s tired face. She always loved how, despite their arguments, the two girls kept being such good friends. The sisters returned to the board game and the Pegasus turned her attention to the Unicorn on the couch.
“Sorry about the noise, they wouldn’t listen to me,” Sparkler said with a grunt, giving her younger sisters a slight glare.
“Yes, I noticed,” Derpy nodded and glanced back at the younger fillies. “Girls, you know if Carrot Top and I aren’t around, it’s Sparkler who is in charge. You are supposed to listen to her.”
Dinky and Tootsie both ducked their heads and smiled sheepishly as they carefully glanced back at the older ponies.
“Sorry Sparkler, we won’t do it again,” they both apologized.
“Yeah, until next time they forget it,” Sparkler joshed with a small smile.
Derpy chuckled and was glad to hear that Sparkler wasn’t upset. She usually did have pretty good control over her younger sisters, but the fillies could sometimes forget themselves as all children would.
“Where is Carrot Top?” the Pegasus asked and had to silently remind herself not to call Sparkler ‘muffin’ like she did with the younger girls. She and Carrot Top were striving to treat the magenta Unicorn like an adult now.
“I don’t know, she hasn’t come home yet,” Sparkler shrugged.
“She must have had an errand to run,” Derpy figured and started to remove her saddlebags.
“Here mom, let me help you.” Sparkler’s horn began to glow and using her magic she both undid the strap and then lifted the bags off her foster mother.
“Thank you, sweetheart,” the Pegasus smiled gratefully.
Derpy waited until the bags had been gently lowered to the floor before picking them up in her mouth and carried them out of the living room. She went to her own bedroom on the second floor of the house. The walls were littered with crayon colored pictures made by her two younger daughters.
The bags were put on the dresser; the big mirror on it was covered in photos of the three resident Unicorns at various stages of their lives. Derpy opened one bag and pulled out few letters.
Since she worked at the post office the mare just collected her mail there but didn’t usually open it until she was home. Like the other mail carriers, she had her own shelf at the post office the shorting ponies would put her letters in. Then when Derpy went home she would just grab the bundle and stash it in her bag to go through it later.
The mare began shorting through the mail, lots of bills as per usual but one caught her attention. She frowned when seeing that one was actually addressed to Dinky. Derpy stared at the letter, she recognized the writing. It was more elegant and fluid than mouth writing could write, so it had clearly been written by a Unicorn using magic to hold the pen. The mare flipped the envelope around and sighed when seeing the return address.
“Hey, just wanted to let you know I’m home,” Carrot Top peeked her head into the room. “I had to go to the bank before it closed.”
The yellow Earth mare arched an eyebrow when seeing Derpy staring at a still unopened letter. Carrot entered fully and approached her friend who still hadn’t noticed her coming. She glanced at the envelope and grunted when seeing the return address.
“You have got to be kidding me, he doesn’t let up does he?” Carrot snorted, now first did Derpy look up at her. Only one eye focused on the other mare.
“What do I do? He keeps breaking his promises then sends letters to ‘apologize’. Dinky keeps forgiving him. I don’t think I can take it seeing her crying over another broken promise.” The voice of the Pegasus was quiet and broken.
“Throw it away. If he asks, it got lost in the mail, that happens,” Carrot suggested without even hesitating.
“I can’t do that.” Derpy winched at the thought. “What if she finds out? Thinks I’m withholding other letters from him. I don’t want her to hate me.”
“She won’t hate you and will probably understand when she’s older and can understand what that stallion she calls father really is,” her friend tried to assure her, but the Pegasus didn’t look so convinced.
Downstairs they heard a knock on the front door, but almost immediately two young fillies shouted their assurance that they would get it. Carrot figured if it was something important the girls would get them, so she looked at Derpy, intending to continue the discussion. But her friend was already walking towards the door to see who had come.
Sparkler had followed her younger sisters to the door and could be heard speaking as the two mares walked out and approached the stairs.
“Didn’t you say this would take two days?” the young Unicorn asked. Derpy almost jumped when hearing who responded.
“Yes… uh well I had extra time and this is a simpler clock than what I usually handle so… uh yeah,” Time Turner explained in a nervous tone.
“My clock, my clock. Thank you Mister Time Turner,” Tootsie shouted and laughed. Then the filly came running up the stairs, in her mouth she held her prized Wonderbolt clock. Dinky was right on her heels looking just as happy as her sister.
“Look, my clock is fixed,” the opal Unicorn announced when seeing Carrot Top and Derpy at the top of the stairs.
The two mares couldn’t but smile at seeing how happy the filly was. The girl was positively beaming as she trotted up the stairs and headed straight to the bedroom she shared with Dinky. The violet unicorn halted her ascend after her sister when spotting the letter Derpy had half tucked under the wing.
“Mommy, is that a letter to me?” she asked, her name was visible on the envelope.
“Oh… uh yes muffin, here you go.” Derpy opened her wing and let Dinky take the letter. The Pegasus had just tucked it under her wing out of habit when heading out of the room to see who had been coming.
Carrot held back a sigh and silently berated herself for not having noticed. She would have made sure to stand in the way so the letter couldn’t be seen. Dinky smiled when realizing this was from her father, the little unicorn quickly hugged her mother before darting for her bedroom with the envelope in the mouth. Meanwhile Sparkler appeared at the bottom of the stairs looking up while addressing Derpy.
“Mom, we need five bits to pay for the clock,” she told them.
“No wait, I was trying to say it was alright, you can pay tomorrow or later,” Turner could be heard from the front door.
The Pegasus made a loud vocal gasp, forgetting all previous tiredness she immediately jumped and glided down to the ground floor. Once there and almost in the front hall she could see where Time Turner stood on the front step, the stallion had taken a step back in mild surprise when seeing the mare come literally flying down.
“Nonono, we’ll pay, why don’t you come in? Please come in.” Derpy didn’t realize how quickly she was speeding this out of her mouth. Before Turner could even really protest he had pretty much been dragged inside and the door closed behind him.
W-what just happened? Time Turner thought. Deep down he had half hoped to be invited in, though that hope was quickly dashed when only the fillies and Sparkler had answered the door. Then Derpy had arrived and done just that.
“Just wait here, I’ll go get the money, no wait, sit in the living room,” Derpy quickly pushed the dumbfounded stallion into the living room before disappearing to go get the money for the clock.
Time Turner blinked and turned around, he saw Sparkler watching him questionably. The Unicorn had returned to her book on the couch. The stallion cleared his throat nervously and wasn’t really sure if he should sit.
“So you deliver clocks now?” Carrot Top entered the living room, she sported a neutral expression but behind it she was laughing.
“Well… no… yes… kind of…” Turner grinned still looking and sounding nervous.
“Special occasion then, eh?” the yellow Earth Mare asked, her brow rising a little.
“I had extra time, so I managed to fix Tootsie’s clock. Figured hey since I was done I might as well deliver it on my way home,” the stallion explained with a weak chuckle. “I’ve some extra help in the shop now.”
“You live on the other side of Ponyville don’t you?” Carrot inquired.
“I don’t mind the walk, need the exercise,” Time Turner shrugged trying to make it look casual but failed. “Besides… uh I saved Amethyst Star and Tootsie Flute a walk?”
“Your shop is five minutes from our house,” Sparkler commented, unlike Carrot Top she didn’t look or sound very impressed. The Unicorn was already guessing why Turner had really showed up with the clock.
“Well that’s five minutes you can now do something else with,” the stallion offered. He glanced at Sparkler and immediately spotted the disapproval in the eyes of the younger pony. Turner cleared his throat and turned back to Carrot Top who on the other hand looked quite amused.
“Here we are, five bits was it?” Derpy flew into the living room. When she landed she gave the money to Turner who accepted it and put it in his saddle bag.
“Well, this wasn’t really necessary, you could just have paid tomorrow or something,” the stallion commented.
“No, no it’s no problem at all. Do you like to sit down, get something to drink?” the Pegasus mare offered. It was difficult to tell who was smiling more nervously, Turner or her.
“Ah, no I really should get going. I need to do the evening check on the clock tower,” Time Turner said and glanced at the living room clock that hung on the wall. Why am I turning down an invitation to sit down and have a small drink?
“All right then, uh thanks for fixing the clock for Tootsie.” Derpy managed to masterfully hide her disappointment. She wasn’t fooling Carrot Top who rolled her eyes and hid a chuckle.
The two adult mares escorted Turner to the front door again and after few more quick nervous words of bye and see you around, the door closed on the stallion who headed to the clock tower. Carrot looked at her friend who was sighing wishfully.
“Who do you think you are kidding?” the yellow pony asked with a smirk.
“What do you mean?” Derpy put on her best innocent face and headed for the stairs.
“Oh come on, you couldn’t keep either eye off him,” Carrot claimed.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” The gray Pegasus shrugged and trotted upstairs to the second floor.
“You’re impossible,” the Earth Pony called after her but didn’t follow. Instead she decided to start preparing dinner in the kitchen.
She is right. Who do I think I’m kidding? Derpy mulled while going to the fillies bedroom. She gently knocked and was invited in by both Tootsie and Dinky. The mare put on a smile before entering.
Tootsie Flute had already put her precious clock proudly on her nightstand. The filly was now sitting beside her sister at Dinky’s desk. On the violet unicorn’s bed was the envelope, ripped open and the contents lay on the pillow, a letter and few coins. Dinky was hard at work composing a letter and Tootsie was helping.
“Mommy, daddy said he was sorry he missed the graduation play, he sent me money too,” Dinky announced cheerfully to her mother.
“We are writing a proper letter in response,” Tootsie nodded.
“That’s nice, girls,” Derpy kept the smile but deep down she was not happy. Leave it to him to not just send a letter with yet another excuse but money as well to butter it up. To think of all the time he sends me excuse letters about why he can’t pay foal support in time.
“So Tootsie, are you happy that Mr. Turner could fix your clock for you so quickly?” the Pegasus asked and walked closer to the desk.
“Yes! He’s the best clock fixer in all of Equestria,” the opal Unicorn stated with a wide grin.
“I’m glad to hear that.” Derpy nodded approvingly. She glanced at the thank-you letter her daughters were composing. Dinky blocked the view of it with one front leg so she couldn’t tell what stood there but the mare could almost guess. “Dinky, I…”
Both fillies stopped working and looked at her. Derpy hesitated; she really wanted to explain to Dinky that her father’s apologies were empty, that if he really cared he would show up when he promised. Not just send letters and money. But the girl looked so happy and delighted.
“Is something wrong, mommy?” Dinky furrowed her brow. She could usually tell quickly if her mother was having trouble with something.
“No, nothing.” Derpy tried her best to keep the smile and a chipper tone in her voice. She just couldn’t do it.
“Just remember to leave the letter downstairs so I can mail it for you tomorrow,” the mare said and turned to leave.
Dinky and Tootsie looked at each other mildly confused for a moment before glancing back at the retreating back of the Pegasus. When Derpy had left the room the two fillies shrugged their shoulders and returned back to the letter.
“Is ‘overstated’ a single word or separate?” Dinky wondered.
“I think the word we want is ‘overstayed’. We are telling him to stop sending you money and phony apologies right?” Tootsie pointed out.
“Not sure ‘Your letters have overstayed their welcome’ sounds right,” the violet Unicorn frowned thoughtfully.
“Maybe we should get Aunt Derpy to help us with this.” Her foster sister considered but Dinky quickly shook her head.
“She’ll just say I should be polite and thank him, you know how mommy is about being nice to other ponies and forgive them and all that,” she told her.
Tootsie just nodded in agreement and the fillies continued with the letter.
Time Turner had a lot to think about as he walked home from his evening check of the clock tower. He had finished Tootsie’s clock sooner thanks to Caramel manning the counter of his shop. Thus the stallion had decided to just deliver it back to its owner, if only to have a small weak excuse to at least see the mare he was so smitten with.
Things had not gone the way he had expected them do go. Despite his hopes, he was realistic enough to figure he would only manage to hoof over the clock and that was it. Instead Derpy herself had all but shoved him inside, insisted he sat down and even offered him a drink.
Can it possibly mean, no it can’t be… can it? He didn’t even dare to hope.
“And why did I turn down an offer of a drink?” Turner asked out loud, waving one front leg into the air.
There was however no one to answer him so the stallion continued his journey. It was a slight walk since, as Carrot Top had pointed out, he lived on the other side of town from Derpy’s house. The sun was beginning to set and filled the town with an orange glow. All around him ponies were heading to their respective homes, shops were closing and the streets were starting to become empty of life.
Still deep in thought as he passed the train station, Time Turner didn’t notice another pony about to walk right into his path. She was apparently distracted as well since the mare didn’t see him either and the two of them collided.
“Ack, sorry,” the mare cried as the two ponies crumbled to the ground, she on top of him.
“Ugh.” Time Turner gasped for air, that mare was heavy.
Fortunately she was also quick to rise back up and help the stallion back to his feet. Turner had to take a moment to catch his breath again before he looked at the sheepish pony. She was rather tall for a Pegasus mare, stallion sized even and looked about as heavy. The mare was maroon colored but with a white snout and back. Her left front hoof and pastern were white and so was her right hind leg from down the gaskin. Her mane was navy blue and looked messy.
“I am so sorry, I can be such a scatter brain sometimes. I was just not paying attention at all,” the mare continued to apologize, she started to use her short bushy tail to dust off the stallion.
“It’s alright, it’s alright,” Time Turner assured her and lifted a hoof to stop the dusting. “I wasn’t paying much attention myself.”
“I didn’t hurt you did I? I’m heavier than I look and I don’t always know my own strength sometimes.” The mare looked concerned.
“Aside from having to re-inhale some air, I am quite fine thank you, miss,” Turner told her and smiled reassuringly. “Really, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? My sister is a trained nurse, she could take a look at you,” the Pegasus offered. Time Turner was starting to wonder if this happened a lot to this mare, she seemed almost on edge.
“I do not require any medical attention, thank you again. I really must be going though.” Time Turner said, he was starting to think that if he didn’t get away soon, the mare would end up shipping him to the hospital for a medical emergency.
Fortunately the mare just nodded and the stallion turned away. He hadn’t gone far though when the Pegasus suddenly landed right in front of him, having flown up to catch up. For a second Turner thought she had decided to take no chances and deliver him to a hospital.
“Sorry to bother you again, mister,” the mare giggled nervously. “I just completely forgot that I went to look for a hotel or something for my sister and I, we just arrived here in Ponyville and need a place to stay for a day or two.”
“Oh right.” Turner felt really stupid for being so paranoid. “The Ponyville Inn is close to the city center, very close to the town hall. You can’t miss it from here, you just approach the town tall, go to the left and there it is.”
The mare smiled wide thanking him. She spread her wings and flew back to the train station. Turner however continued his walk home, this small distraction had been enough to take his mind of today’s event. Now he was more concerned with maintaining by some miracle the budget of his shop.
The next day
Time Turner entered the Town Hall to fetch the employment contract for Caramel. The mayor herself had agreed to help him write one up, the stallion had a suspicion she was feeling guilty about the whole clock gear thing. It was still early morning but there were already some ponies around attending to various business.
He noticed Mulberry coming out of his office, since there was no official police station in Ponyville, holding a paper in his mouth. The short pony went to the waiting area where two mares sat. Time Turner recognized the maroon Pegasus from yesterday evening again but not the blue one sitting beside her. This mare was much shorter and bit pudgier, her mane was white with red stripes almost like a candy cane. Turner now first noted that the maroon mare had three suns as a cutie mark and the blue one had a heart with two lightning bolts shooting out of it.
As this was not important to his business, Time Turner paid no further heed to it. He went to the mayor’s office and knocked. He was immediately invited in. The mayor smiled at the stallion when he entered and he returned it.
“Well, Mr. Turner, I managed to write up a contract, it should be a standard one for a small shop owner and I did take into consideration your own budged as you explained it to me,” she told him and pushed two pieces of paper across the desk towards the clock smith.
Time Turner looked it over and couldn’t see better than it was a pretty fair and standard contract. It also had a copy of it made, which made sense since both he and Caramel had to have one each.
“This looks good, thanks Madame Mayor,” Turner thanked her gratefully. He picked up the contract and stashed it into his saddlebag.
“You’re welcome Mr. Turner. Though I’m a little worried and I hope you don’t mind me saying so but your budget as you explained it barely allows you to have an employee. I can only wonder why you decided to hire Caramel,” the mare said and frowned slightly.
Pity mostly, the stallion thought but didn’t want to word it like that. “What can I say, Caramel desperately needed a new job and I figured I could squeeze him in.”
The mayor’s expression didn’t change though she did nod at the explanation. She had to admit that if Turner had one big fault it was that others could so easily talk him into helping, no matter what it was. Her thoughts went back few weeks ago when Turner had been convinced by the Cutie Mark Crusaders to help them find the cottage of the fillynappers.
I hope his generosity isn’t going to end up biting him in the rump. She refrained from shaking her head. Instead the mare reassumed her smile and dismissed the clock smith.
Time Turner hadn’t been gone long from the office when there was another knock on her door. Mayor Mare invited the pony in and this time it was Mulberry. The stocky stallion entered fully and closed the door.
“Madame Mayor, I have given the social worker ponies from Fillydelphia the information they needed. However, if I may speak bluntly, these aren’t the usual ones who come to visit. They do not know the ponies they are going to visit and I’m worried they might get wrong ideas by hearing rumors or stories out of context,” the officer said.
“Officer Mulberry, this is a routine visit. Yes they are replacing the usual ones, which isn’t all that unusual, promotions or retiring or being too busy happens in social work as well. I’m sure Miss Doe and Miss Stripes will not be too judgmental and base their analysis on facts and their own impression on the ponies they are meeting up with,” the mayor told him.
But what if their first impression isn’t the best impression, Mulberry thought. He didn’t respond to what the mayor said, just nodded and left the office once he was dismissed.
Mulberry was happy to see that Time Turner hadn’t left yet. The mayor’s secretary had stopped the clock smith to ask him to take a look at clock on her desk. Time Turner was still in the middle of seeing if there was anything serious wrong and if he would need to take it to the shop for repairs.
The officer approached but waited until Turner was finished before addressing him. The other stallion looked at him curiously, wondering what the smaller pony wanted.
“Can we speak privately?” Mulberry asked.
“Sure,” Turner said and looked at the secretary as he put the clock in his saddlebag. “I’ll need to open it to check it out, swing by my shop later and I can give you more information what is wrong.”
The secretary nodded, thanked him and soon the two stallions were headed out of the town hall. They didn’t start to speak right away, Mulberry first made sure that there were no other ponies too close to them, he was especially on the lookout for certain ponies.
“Turner, there just arrived two new social worker ponies from Fillydelphia. They are here to see the ponies here who have foals in foster care,” the short pony whispered.
“That sounds routine enough.” Turner shrugged. Mulberry held back a sigh as he quickly glanced around.
“I’m not supposed to talk about this, but they especially asked for information regarding Derpy,” he whispered.
Time Turner had to muster up all his willpower not to freeze in his track. He did however glance towards Mulberry again with a surprised look. It took him a moment though to form the question he wanted to ask, since hundreds of possible scenarios were flying through his mind.
“Um why would they ask about her?” he asked and also wondered why Mulberry was especially telling him that. Surely he didn’t suspect the clock smith’s crush on the mail mare.
“That what worries me, you know Derpy’s reputation in this town. If we had a major drought some ponies around here would somehow manage to blame her for it,” the officer told him.
“That, unfortunately, is true.” Turner shook his head before glancing again at Mulberry. “So um, why are you telling me this?”
“Oh please, the other day at the Café, I think half the town saw your goofy smile after her,” the short pony snorted and grinned.
Turner cringed as he realized what Mulberry was talking about. Of course ponies would have noticed that, it had happened around lunch time with plenty of them around to witness it. With his luck most of Ponyville probably knew about his attraction to Derpy by now.
“Look I won’t bother you about it, trust me. However I figured you would like to know,” the officer said.
“I appreciate that, but maybe you should have gone and tried finding Derpy to let her know,” Turner pointed out.
“Chances are she already knows, I mean surely they send ponies a notice about upcoming visits,” Mulberry shrugged and the other stallion nodded, that did make sense.
They parted ways and Time Turner continued to walk to his shop. Now that Caramel was helping him, it was already open and the amber stallion sat behind the counter and read a newspaper. One potential customer was in the shop, it was Sweetie Drops or Bon Bon as she was also known among her friends. The beige mare with blue and pink mane was looking at grandfather clocks, she glanced over when Turner entered before returning her attention back to the clocks.
“Alright, I got your contract here, the mayor wrote it up for me, it should be pretty standard according to her,” he addressed Caramel and pulled out the papers from his saddlebag.
Caramel took one copy and started reading it over. His eyebrows rose skywards as he read it and his jaw dropped. The pony looked at Time Turner who could only wonder why his employee was looking so surprised.
“Have you read this?” Caramel asked.
“Yes, is there something wrong?” Turner asked concerned and worried that perhaps this was not as good as what Caramel was used to.
“Well… no… I just didn’t know I could get paid that much for a simple clerk job.” the amber pony looked at the contract again.
Turner frowned in thought. He had seen the wages he would be paying Caramel and figured he could reasonably afford it. The Mayor had explained to him the laws about minimum wage and he had told her to put the payment above that if possible. She had done so by the looks of it.
“The mayor told me this was a standard contract between a small shop owner and an employee,” he said and gestured to the contract. “I even told her to try and put the wages above minimum.”
“This is standard?” Caramel couldn’t believe his ears. “Have I been working my entire adult life for less than minimum wages?”
Hearing that, it was Time Turner’s turn to drop his jaw in surprise. He couldn’t comment further on it however as Bon Bon appeared by the counter and cleared her throat to get their attention. Contract discussions were dropped for now and the stallions turned towards their customer.
“Can we help you?” Turner asked, meanwhile Caramel stole another glance at the contract.
“Yes actually, you can,” the mare said and pointed a hoof towards the clocks she had been examining. “I want to buy that green grandfather clock. I’m redecorating the living room and I really think it needs a good standing clock.”
Time Turner glanced at the clock in question. That was one of the fancier clocks in his shop. It was imported from Canterlot and probably one of the more expensive ones he had in stock. He was passingly familiar with Bon Bon and wasn’t quite sure she could afford it, then again it was not his to judge what clocks ponies wanted. If she wanted that clock he might as well at least see if the mare could pay for it.
“Well that one is 100 bits, 110 if I have it delivered for you,” he told her. The stallion felt a little bad when seeing the mare’s face fall, she had clearly not paid attention to the price tag.
“Oh my, I didn’t realize it was that expensive,” she muttered and glanced back at the clocks.
“That blue one is 45 bits, 55 with delivery,” Turner said hoping that was an acceptable substitute.
“Hm,” Bon Bon furrowed her brow as she thought it over, then she looked at the clocks again. “Can it be painted green?”
“Yes it can, I usually take a bit for customizing clocks, so that would be 46 bits,” the stallion explained to her.
“That would be delightful. I’ll take that one then, paint it green and have it delivered to my house,” Bon Bon nodded with a wide smile.
“That will be 56 bits then, you can pay now or on delivery. Painting is a very simple customization so I can have it brought over to you this afternoon,” Turner told her.
The mare was satisfied with that and decided to pay upfront. Once the payment was made she trotted out of the store. Time Turner glanced at Caramel, intending to address him, but was silenced by the fact that the other pony was offering him the contract. The clock smith glanced to the bottom of it.
“You’ve signed it,” Turner took the paper, Caramel just nodded happily.
“I signed the copy too,” he added.
Turner looked at the copy that lay on the counter. With a shrug he took the pen Caramel offered him and signed both papers as well. Then pushed one over to his employee.
“Here, you keep this one for yourself. I’ll put this away,” Turner said and simply put his copy on the workbench for now.
Now that contracts were over and done with, Turner walked away from the counter and headed to the blue grandfather clock. With practiced ease he managed to pick it up and balance it on his back and started to walk towards the back room with it. Painting the clock wouldn’t take a lot of time but the type of paint he used needed time to dry, especially if he was going to have it delivered by the afternoon.
“I’ll be in the back taking care of this thing, call me if you need help,” Turner addressed Caramel who saluted.
Turner disappeared into the backroom with the clock and Caramel returned to his newspaper. The amber pony expected this to be a fairly calm day, the best part of this job he felt was the fact that he could most of the time just sit there behind the counter.
He was a little worried though. Time Turner had in the end declared all the Wonderbolt clocks beyond repair and delivered those bad news to Top Spin. According to the clock smith, the toy store owner had not been happy to hear that at all. Caramel was pretty sure that his back pay would be now docked to cover for new ones.
A chime of the door interrupted his newspaper reading. Glancing up he saw the blue Pegasus mare Turner had seen at the town hall. Caramel put away the paper since the pony went straight to the counter, but she didn’t address him and instead began immediately to look at the various pocket watches on display.
“Can I help you?” Caramel asked. Somehow her bearing indicated to him that she might be shy, at least she didn’t carry herself like she would be the first to address someone.
“Maybe you can actually,” the mare looked at him and smiled, showing no signs of shyness at all, her voice was clear and she looked straight at him. “I’ve been trying to find an old pocket watch for a friend. If it has some historical significance that’s even better.”
“Oh… right,” Caramel hesitated when he realized that he had absolutely no idea which pocket watch was old and if any of them had any history to them.
Caramel glanced back at the backdoor. He knew he should call Turner in for assistance. However he really wanted to show that he was the right pony for this job and if he could do this on his own, he might not just impress his new boss but other ponies in town as well.
The stallion took a look at the display case with the pocket watches, trying to find one that looked old enough. However, Turner kept his stock in good condition, most of the watched looked very well cleaned and polished with very little sign of any wear. Caramel glanced up at the mare who just waited there patiently.
“Is there anything especially special your friend looks for in watches?” he asked.
“No not really, for him it’s enough it’s old and has some historical connection,” the Pegasus said and shrugged. “He really likes history and I figured that maybe I could find something for him while I was visiting here. If not a watch, I’ll just try and find something else.”
Right, Caramel looked down at the display again. Finally he saw one watch that looked like it could be the oldest, though right now he was just wild guessing. He opened the counter and picked up the watch to show it better to the mare.
“This one is our oldest in stock,” he said even if he had no idea if that was true or not. “It was quite possibly owned by Stinking Rich, the pony who helped make Ponyville like it is today.”
“Quite possibly owned?” The mare raised an eyebrow.
Ah horse apples, I’m losing her, Caramel realized his error. “I meant it was owned, sorry. Yes most definitely owned by him.”
“But you’re not completely sure.” The Pegasus didn’t sound too convinced by Caramel’s sales pitch.
“No, no I’m very sure he did. This watch has just exchanged hooves so many times that it’s just not always too obvious,” the stallion told her trying his best genuine smile.
“Uh huh, and how much for that ‘historical’ watch?” the mare inquired.
“Uh… ten bits?” Caramel said, forgetting completely to check the sticker price.
“You say that like you are not sure it’s that much.” The Pegasus pointed out.
Jeez, she’s roasting me alive here. She’s probably heard every bad sales pitch in existence, Caramel felt a bit of sweat on his brow but managed to maintain his smile. He decided to just see if the pony wanted that watch or not.
“It’s ten bits, take it or leave it,” he said in his firmest voice, which wasn’t that firm at all, the mare didn’t look very impressed.
“Fine, I’ll take it,” she said with a roll of her eyes and gathered up the money from her saddlebag. Caramel gave her the watch and soon the mare left the store.
Wow, I actually did it, I sold something, the amber pony thought as he put the money in the cash register.
Feeling pretty good about himself, Caramel returned to the newspaper. At that moment Turner came from the back room, he was wearing a white apron that had splashes of paint of various colors on it.
“Caramel, can you run to the hardware store and get me some special green paint, I figured I might as well stylish up Bon Bon’s new clock a little since she couldn’t afford the more expensive one,” the clock smith said. “Lug Nut knows what paint I’m talking about, he’s my paint supplier.”
“Sure, by the way, a customer just bought a pocket watch just before you came in,” Caramel put the newspaper away.
“Oh really? Well that’s good,” Turner nodded in approval until he gave the display case a casual glance.
Caramel noticed that Turner was now staring wide eyed at the display case, especially the empty spot where the watch had been. The good feeling from earlier vanished and the amber stallion realized he may have done something incorrectly.
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
“Did you sell the watch that was over there” Turner asked and pointed at the empty spot.
“Um, yes. She wanted an old watch and that one looked the oldest,” Caramel explained.
“Caramel, that was a F.O.B watch. Fashioned to look Old B model watch. I used to make them myself but most ponies don’t want old looking watches so they never sell very well. That one has been there for weeks,” Turner was actually starting to sound impressed though deep down he was feeling guilty too, a customer had been sold it while honestly believing it to be an old watch. “Doesn’t help that the materials I use in them are rather expensive so I have to ask for 30 bits for each one.”
“Did you just say 30?” Caramel whispered in shock.
“Yes I did, those watches cost 30 bits each,” Turner nodded and scowled when noticing the terrified expression on his employee. “Caramel, you did sell it for 30 bits right?”
Hundreds of different thoughts were flying through Caramel’s head. Most of them involved the various ways Time Turner would be firing him on the spot. Any good feeling he had previously was utterly gone and he was picturing himself once again applying for unemployment benefits or asking another pony desperately for a job.
I wonder if Applejack will still hire me, even after the incident with the sheep, he thought as he tried to form some sort of a sentence for his waiting employer.
“I… kind of… sorta… sold it… um… for ten bits…” He managed to pry out of himself.
Time Turner groaned and put a hoof on his face. He was starting to see even more properly now why Caramel often had difficulties keeping a job. Still he didn’t want to completely blame him. The clock smith realized he probably should have been out in the store, ready to help Caramel during the first few days of his employment.
“Well it’s probably too late now, was it a local pony who bought it?” he asked.
“No, she said she was just visiting. I didn’t recognize her.” Caramel gulped and kept expecting to hear the dreaded ‘you’re fired’.
“We’ll sort this out later. Go to the hardware store and get me that paint,” Turner sighed, he was almost glad he had stopped making these types of watches, so at least he didn’t need to buy materials for a new one.
Caramel was more than happy to play errand boy for now and hurried out of the store. He desperately hoped that ‘short this out later’ meant he would still have a job. Though it was possible Turner might take it out of his pay.
At this rate, I won’t get paid for the next few months, the amber stallion thought as he raced across town to the hardware store.
It was a busy time in Derpy’s kitchen. The gray mare was all over the kitchen, frantically preparing for an incoming visit from the social service. As a designated foster care mare she routinely got visits from the social service to see how things were going. These were most of the time mere formalities and for the past few years the same two ponies had come and gone without any issue being raised.
This time was different because two new ponies would come visiting. Ponies she didn’t know and they probably had only vague information from any papers about her. Derpy had known about this upcoming visit for a month now but it was still making her nervous. There had been no explanation why the usual ponies weren’t coming and Derpy’s over active imagination was picturing all kinds of reason for this change.
She had taken half day off from work so she could properly prepare for this visit. They would be coming today around noon, so there was much to do and very little time to do it. Muffins had to be baked, drinks had to be prepared and the house had to be in order. Derpy was all too well aware that in this case first impression was vitally important.
Derpy was now on her third batter, the second batch of muffins was in the oven baking and the first was cooling down on the kitchen table. The mare only hoped she would have enough time to clean up the kitchen when she was done. She was immensely grateful that Carrot Top was home today and could help cleaning the rest of the house with the girls. Amethyst Star was old and responsible enough to clean up on her own but the younger fillies still tended to need supervision to make sure they finished what they were supposed to be doing.
“Mom!” The voice of Sparkler brought Derpy’s attention to the kitchen door. The mare was just in the middle of carrying the mixing bowl over to the counter with the muffin forms. Unfortunately Derpy’s right eye didn’t focus with the left one and thus she misjudged where she was stepping and tripped over her own legs.
“Oh gosh, mom, I’m so sorry!” Sparkler yelped and hurried over to her fallen foster mother. The bowl had slipped from her grasp and its contents was now spread all over the floor.
“It’s alright, I’m alright,” Derpy assured the worried young mare and accepted her help to rise up.
Sparkler still felt guilty, she knew too well that the Pegasus had to concentrate harder than most ponies. Her right eye sometimes betrayed her and due to that she could sometimes misjudge both distances and where exactly she was moving. This often made it look like the mare was a klutz with four left legs and that reputation still stuck around town with many ponies. Some even went so far to think she was retarded.
“Now will you look at that?” Derpy smiled and looked the spilled batter. “The floor wanted to lick the bowl.”
“Mom, sorry again, I was just going to tell you that we finished with the living room. Carrot is making sure Tootsie and Dinky clean up their room,” the Unicorn told her mother.
“Good, that’s good, and don’t worry about it Sparkler, it was an accident.” The Pegasus nodded and got a washing cloth to clean up the spill. Sparkler got one as well to help.
“Guess two batches of muffins will have to do, I don’t have more for a new third batch and I don’t think there is time to go buy more,” Derpy sighed a bit.
“You’re really nervous about this visit aren’t you, mom?” Sparkler glanced up from her cleaning work. The Pegasus tried to appear innocent.
“Whatever do you mean?” she asked.
“You haven’t folded your wings since you came home,” the Unicorn pointed out.
Derpy glanced at her back, indeed her wings were raised in a clear sign of agitation. That was sometimes a problem with being a Pegasus, the wings could sometimes betray them when trying to hide their true emotions. The wings were just as important part of their body language as the face and ears. The mare sighed in surrender, she was never good at keeping her wings in check at the same time.
“I can’t deny it, Sparkler. Yes I’m nervous. We’ve had Swift Mane and Trinity come for the routine visits since you came here first to live with us many years ago,” Derpy whispered and picked up the now very dirty cloth and put it in the kitchen sink.
“It took me so long to convince social service to validate me as a foster care mare. I keep worrying that one day they will change their mind about me, maybe hear one too many rumors or stories about me from the town ponies.” The mare bit her lips.
Sparkler finished up her part of cleaning the floor and threw the cloth to the sink. Then she put one leg around her foster mother in a hug. Derpy raised one leg to hug the Unicorn as well, she was shaking a little.
“I know this should just be routine, that this will probably go swimmingly and I have nothing to worry about. But I can’t help it, if they feel I’m not good enough, they will take you all away from me,” she sniffed.
“No they won’t, they will see what a great mom you are and everything will be fine,” Sparkler assured her and hugged the mare tighter.
“Yes, I know, I know. I’m worrying over nothing,” Derpy said and managed to smile again.
She hugged Sparkler one more time before they separated. The two then finished cleaning up what was left of the spill. The Unicorn rescued the second batch of muffins from the oven and both ponies began cleaning up the kitchen. They were almost finished when Carrot Top entered.
“What only two batches of muffins?” the yellow Earth Mare joshed, knowing that usually Derpy might be on her fourth batch of baking by now.
“Had a little accident,” Derpy chuckled and Sparkler blushed. “Two batches will just have to do. We don’t have time to go buy more ingredients.”
“Yes, they will probably be arriving any minute now.” Carrot nodded. “Now why don’t you two take a break, I’ll prepare the tea. I take it you have already made some juice?”
“Yes, it’s in the fridge,” Derpy confirmed, glad to have a break she left the kitchen with Sparkler. The older mare headed straight for the bathroom, intending to take a shower before the visitors arrived. Sparkler however trotted to the living room.
Carrot Top had just put the kettle on the stove when there was a knock on the front door. She quickly glanced at the clock and frowned, it was not time yet for the meeting, which was still half an hour away. Outside the kitchen, the joint loud voices of Tootise and Dinky declared their intention to get the door.
The Earth mare hurried to the front hall in case the social workers were arriving early; however, it turned out to be some school friends of the fillies. Carrot had seen them before but couldn’t quite recall their names. The friends were inquiring the girls if they could come out and play.
“I’m sorry but Dinky and Tootsie must be home for now, we are expecting visitors,” Carrot Top informed them. Dinky and Tootise both gave dramatic sighs as they did confirm her words.
“Can you come when the visit is over? We’ll be in the park,” one friend asked, a yellow earth filly.
Dinky and Tootise looked at Carrot Top for an answer. The mare nodded, seeing no reason not to allow that. Derpy didn’t mind her giving the girls permission to do things. All four fillies cheered before the friends departed. Dinky and Tootsie rushed back to the living room where they had been playing, Carrot returned to the kitchen.
Derpy felt far more relaxed and refreshed once she had finished her shower. The mare dried herself up and brushed her coat, mane and tail. Then she took a preening brush and preened her wings. Once all done she stepped outside the bathroom and went to the living room.
Carrot Top was busy setting everything up; muffins were on the coffee table along with both juice and a teakettle full of warm water. Sparkler was just bringing in a tray with the tea bags, sugar, honey and milk. Everything was just about ready for the upcoming visitors.
The most peculiar sight in the living room however were the two young fillies lying on the floor. They were on their backs, legs sprawled out and their tongues lolling out from the corners of their mouths. Derpy raised an eyebrow and glanced at her roommate, who was holding back a chuckle.
“Dare I ask what happened to them?” the Pegasus asked and gestured to Tootsie and Dinky with a hoof.
“Oh don’t you know? I’m horribly evil, I’m a hag, the worst pony, I’m the next Nightmare Moon,” Carrot giggled.
“They wanted a muffin early, Carrot told them they had to wait for the guests,” Sparkler helpfully supplied additional information. “And now they are dead from lack of muffins.”
“Oh my, that is evil.” Derpy faked a shocked gasp and approached the “deceased” fillies.
Dinky and Tootise were desperately trying to hold their vacant stares and lay still. However, the fact that they did quickly glance at the approaching mare was a good indication that their condition wasn’t as serious as they pretended to be.
“I better revive them, it wouldn’t look good when the social workers arrive and see two dead fillies,” Derpy declared, lifted one hoof and oh so gently poked Dinky in the tummy with it.
Dinky shrieked, giggled, and scrambled up to escape. She was extremely ticklish on the tummy and even just the slightest touch could set her off. The filly scrambled further into the living room, ducked behind a chair and from there peeked over the left armrest and stuck her tongue out.
Derpy knew though that Tootsie would not be so easy, she was not very ticklish in the stomach area. However, the mare knew her foster daughter well. Now she spread her left wing that was closest to the filly’s head and slowly lowered the longest feathers towards the girl’s nose.
“Meep.” Tootise quickly rolled to her feet and dashed to the safety of the same chair Dinky hid behind. If she hated anything then it was being tickled on the nose.
“Behold the miracle, two revived fillies, back from muffin death,” Derpy giggled and the other mares did as well. The two fillies grumbled from their hiding spot, it was obviously a serious business day if even Derpy didn’t sympathize with their plight of not getting a muffin early before a visit.
A rhythmic knock on the front door brought Derpy’s mind back to what everyone was actually waiting for. Derpy took a deep breath and hurried out of the living room to answer the door. Carrot Top and Sparkler gave the fillies a signal to not rush for the door as they were used to whenever anyone came over, this time it would be more appropriate for their mother to open it.
Derpy opened the front door and blinked a little at seeing the big maroon Pegasus mare standing there. She wasn’t gigantic but was still the size of a regular stallion. The blue Pegasus beside her was more regular size but slightly smaller than Derpy.
“HIII!” the maroon mare greeted cheerfully waving enthusiastically with one hoof. Then she assumed a more apologetic expression. “Sorry we’re late.”
“We’re only three minutes behind,” the blue Pegasus told her and then turned back to Derpy to greet her, but the maroon one interrupted her.
“That’s still late. We’re so unprofessional,” she grumbled but very quickly assumed her grin again.
“Anyway, hello I’m Dew Doe and the drama queen is Foxy Stripes. We are the social worker ponies temporarily replacing Swift Mane and Trinity,” the blue Pegasus introduced herself and the other one to the grey mare. Foxy just responded to the “drama queen” comment with a wider grin.
“Uh, welcome, I’m Derpy Hooves, come on in.” Derpy stepped back to allow the mares to enter. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of them, they looked friendly enough
Derpy took her guests to the living room and introduced them to Carrot, Sparkler and the fillies. Foxy greeted again with a very enthusiastic hi and a wave, while Dew was quieter and greeted with a nod of her head. Then everyone found a seat to sit in.
Foxy did have a little trouble, she actually managed to misaim for the couch landed her on rump and the left hind leg just barely missed the coffee table. Derpy let out a breath she had been holding. She had just about been ready to grab the coffee table. Everyone now stared at the sheepish maroon pony.
“I’m such a klutz, sorry,” Foxy giggled nervously and managed to sit up more properly on the floor. “Better just remain here, don’t want to risk breaking everything else.”
“Are you alright?” Carrot asked what pretty much everyone else was thinking.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” the big mare quickly assured her and shook one hoof dismissively. “I’ll just sit here, all fine and cozy.”
“Want a pillow?” Derpy offered, her living room floor was hardwood after all and wasn’t comfortable to sit on for too long.
“If there is one available thanks.” Foxy was already learning the fact about the floor, cringing a little.
Derpy grabbed a pillow from the couch she and Carrot were on and tossed it over to the big mare. She winched when her poor depth perception actually caused the pillow to go past Foxy and to the couch behind her, narrowly missing Dew Doe.
Oh, I’m off to a good start, Derpy thought, however neither social worker seemed fazed, if anything Dew was now glaring at Foxy.
“Why do I never catch anything that’s thrown at me?” Foxy sighed grinning innocently at the blue Pegasus.
“Here is your pillow.” Dew dropped the pillow right on top of Foxy’s head, from where it slid down to the floor.
“Thank you,” Foxy giggled and slid the pillow under her rump.
Derpy and Carrot exchanged glances; so far their guests had not really behaved like any social worker they had met before. Sparkler too looked rather surprised and the two fillies were in a giggle fit over the whole thing.
“Now let’s get professional,” Dew Doe declared and started to produce papers from her saddlebag.
“Says the pony who had to hang around the market for so long that we got here late,” Foxy remarked with a wry grin, earning another glare from Dew Doe.
“Anyway, you are probably wondering why you are not being visited by Swift Mane and Trinity.” The blue Pegasus decided to ignore the maroon one for now and focused her attention on Derpy and Carrot Top.
“That did cross our minds.” Derpy nodded.
“And we quite understand. You see, Swift Mane has been promoted to the head of the Social department that handle matters related to Social work and Childcare for Canterlot, Fillydelphia, Baltimare and Ponyville. Trinity has retired and she sends her love,” Dew Doe began explaining. While she did, Derpy and Carrot started to hand out the muffins and drinks. The fillies were especially glad finally to acquire some treats. Both guests accepted tea to drink.
“Foxy and I usually do not get these kind of assignments. Our jobs are often more related to children not in foster care and rehabilitate ponies on parole. However, the annual visits for Ponyville were coming up and with Swift Mane’s promotion and Trinity’s retirement there was nopony available immediately to take those assignments. So we have been sent here to cover it until more suitable replacements have been found,” Dew Doe told them.
Derpy wondered if this was why the mares acted more friendly and familiar. Not that Swift Mane and Trinity had been unfriendly, but they had carried a more professional attitude towards the visits. Perhaps their job required them to be more casual to assist the foals and ponies they helped.
“So, why don’t you tell us about yourself?” Dew Doe put the papers down and looked at Derpy and the others.
“Well uh… I’m originally from Cloudsdale but moved to Ponyville when I was old enough to live on my own. I’ve been a mailmare for almost ten years now. I was in a relationship from which Dinky is born, however we separated shortly after I gave birth to her. Carrot here then asked me if I wanted to rent a house together and we’ve been living here for about seven years. I applied to be a foster mare few year ago and after going through the application process, I was given Sparkler who had come from a bad home with abusive parents and Tootsie whose parents had died in an accident and there were no close family to take care of her,” Derpy recounted briefly about herself.
“Sparkler?” Dew Doe looked at her papers again.
“My name is Amethyst Star, but everypony just calls me Sparkler,” Sparkler told her, at that the blue Pegasus nodded and put her papers down again.
“I’ve lived in Ponyville my whole life, I’m a part time farmer and part time whatever small jobs I can find. That is, during the summer I sell the small products I grow from my vegetable farm but in the winter I clean houses or take on whatever temp jobs that are available,” Carrot Top started telling about herself.
“I started to know Derpy when she began delivering mail here in Ponyville and we became fast friends. I helped her when her relationship turned sour. Seven years ago, I had the opportunity to rent this house. It had a bigger garden more suited for my vegetable farm, however I couldn’t afford it without help so I asked Derpy if she wanted to rent the house with me. I’ve helped with taking care of the girls and my farm produces enough extra food from what I don’t manage to sell.”
While the adults talked, the fillies concentrated on the treats. This whole social worker thing held very little meaning to either of them. As far as Tootsie was concerned, she lived here and there was no indication that it was going to change. Soon she and Dinky were in competition of eating muffins as fast as possible.
Sparkler listened only half-interested; she was already old enough that these visits no longer affected her despite Derpy’s worries. They were mostly about Tootsie Flute now. She only liked to be around just in case Derpy and Carrot needed a third voice to assure the social workers that her foster mother was a good responsible mother.
“Foxy and I also come from Cloudsdale. We moved to Fillydelphia after finishing college and started to work as social workers there. We currently rent a little house in the suburbs with a third friend,” Dew Doe told them a little about her and Foxy. “Usually it’s Foxy who gets assignments with foals and I get assignments with ponies on parole, but occasionally we get joint assignments because they feel we work so well together. Which is probably why they sent us two here.”
Sparkler stifled a yawn, looked like this was just going to devolve into the usual chitchats these visits always turned into. Derpy was now telling about the girls with helpful comments from Carrot Top. She looked over to the fillies who lay bored on the chair they were sharing, clearly just wanting to go and play instead of hanging around here.
That actually gave the young Unicorn mare an idea; she innocently looked at the older ponies and waited for a pause in the conversation so she wouldn’t be interrupting.
“I was just thinking,” Sparkler spoke up when the pause finally came. The other mares looked at her. “I know I’m not really needed here and I think Dinky and Tootsie are about ready to revolt, maybe I should take them out.”
“Revolution!” Tootsie shouted and jumped to her feet, balancing on the thick armrest of the chair. She grinned innocently when getting unimpressed glares from both Carrot Top and Derpy, Sparkler hoofed her face and Dinky rolled on the chair in a giggle fit. Dew and Foxy were stifling their own giggles.
“Well, their friends are waiting from them at Ponyville Park,” Carrot mentioned and glanced at Derpy.
“The girls don’t have to be here for this, they can go if they want,” Dew chuckled.
Derpy considered it but seeing the now eager faces on both Dinky and Tootsie, the mare knew it was just impossible to say no, especially since it had been confirmed they weren’t really needed around.
“Very well but remember to be back for supper,” she reminded them.
The fillies cheered and didn’t waste much time jumping down from the chair and racing out of the living room. Sparkler dropped down from her seat and followed the girls. Soon after the front doors opened and slammed shut. The mares all smiled at the impatience of the younger ponies.
“Now that the fillies are gone I can give you this.” Dew Doe pulled out a sealed letter and with an uncertain expression offered it to Derpy. “Swift Mane asked me to give you this but not when your daughters were present.”
Derpy and Carrot Top exchanged confused looks before the gray mare accepted the letter. She removed the seal off the envelope and pulled out the note. She began reading it silently and her heart started sinking.
Dear Miss Hooves.
It is with regret that I must inform you that my office has been asked to investigate you and your ability to be a competent mother to your daughter Dinky. Dinky’s father, Barricade, is questioning your custody over her
I feel terrible for having to write to you this letter, but when this matter came up in my office, I personally took charge of it in hopes of sparing you the grief of having to deal with unfamiliar ponies. However, my promotion came quicker than I expected so I no longer had time to see to this personally. Instead, I sent two ponies I trust the most to take care of this case with it in mind that it is you who is being wronged.
I remember your stories about him, how he treated you and then just left when you gave birth to your daughter Dinky. How he constantly gives bad excuses why he’s late paying the foal support and how he keeps disappointing his daughter by never showing up when he promises. This is not a pony I would personally trust to have the custody of any foal, however he’s made his claim and my superiors have agreed it’s valid enough.
I know you’ll come through this on top. I trust Dew Doe and Foxy Stripes to do the right thing.
Derpy couldn’t hold it in, the tears began forming and slowly trickled down. The letter dropped from her hooves and landed on the couch. The Pegasus was resisting an urge to run out, go to her room and lock the door. As she stifled a sob, a yellow leg wrapped around her and Carrot Top pulled her into a hug.
“Derpy, what’s wrong?” her friend asked worried while she comforted the crying mare. Carrot Top could now glance at the letter and felt her anger rising to boiling levels. “Why… that… jerk!”
Dew and Foxy were now the ones exchanging confused glances, but they had to wait until Derpy had calmed down before making inquiries. It took a while since this had naturally upset the gray Pegasus very much. Eventually she stopped crying but she still looked down with the tears trickling down. Therefore, Carrot Top had to face their guests and give them the letter.
“Do you know the meaning of this?” she asked, not hiding her anger. She half suspected the two mares of just putting on some sort of a friendly façade.
The social workers read the letter, first with inquisitive frowns but then slowly their eyebrows rose high in surprise and Foxy’s expression became really confused. Dew scratched her head and mouthed ‘what’ at least three times.
“I assure you Miss Top and you Miss Hooves that we knew nothing of this,” the blue Pegasus looked up at the roommates.
“Yeah, Swift Mane just told us to go do the routine check and uh give you this letter when the foals weren’t around. Although he did tell us to get extra information on Miss Hooves,” Foxy claimed looking between the letter and the two upset mares. Then she looked sharply at the letter. “Wait, wait, wait! Barricade?”
“Barricade?” Dew looked down at the letter again and her expression turned into disgust. “Ugh, how in Tartarus did I miss reading that?”
It was Carrot and Derpy’s turn to look confused as they saw the social workers look at the letter almost hatefully. It was clear the two recognized the name and not too fondly either. Finally the gray mare swallowed the lump in her throat and addressed them:
“Y-you know Barricade?”
Dew put the letter on the table and took a deep breathe that she let out in a quiet sigh, before nodding slowly. Foxy nodded a bit more quickly almost as if she wanted to get that confession over quicker. It took a second before either mare then spoke.
“That is, if he is a dark gray Unicorn with dark blonde mane and tail and a brick wall for a cutie mark,” the blue mare said and shook her head when Derpy and Carrot Top nodded to confirm the description.
“How do you know him?” Carrot Top asked, her anger easing a bit and her suspicion vanishing.
“I think I’m starting to see why Swift Mane sent us,” Dew muttered then glanced at the yellow mare. “Oh sorry, well…”
The blue Pegasus hesitated and looked at Foxy who had picked up the letter again to read it once more. The maroon mare stared at it critically and turned it upside down and to the sides while examining it. Dew bit her lips while pondering how to put it in words.
“We know his twin brother, who is the third friend we spoke of, as I mentioned earlier we rent a house together in Fillydelphia. They do not get along at all. However during the first few years we rented together, Barricade would unfortunately sometimes come visit him for some reason, his brother is the literal silent type it’s very hard to get him to speak out…” Dew stopped again and looked at Foxy.
“Barricade and I dated,” the maroon mare grunted. “The first time he visited he… seemed charming enough.”
“Tell me about it,” Derpy grunted and that actually caused all four mares to giggle a bit.
“Then he showed his jerk side and well… it was his brother who told him off and helped me break up with him… and…” Foxy stopped and hung her head.
“Wow, I’m sorry, I know the feeling.” Derpy couldn’t but sympathize, she wasn’t too surprised that Dinky’s father had mishandled other mares. She just hadn’t expected meeting one of them.
Silence fell in the living room for a moment. Derpy used the opportunity to dry up her face, Carrot Top poured more tea which all of them accepted. Then for a minute, they reflected a little on the shocking revelation in their own thoughts. Dew broke the silence in the end.
“Swift Mane knows Foxy and I know Barricade and that we know how to deal with him, so it’s obviously because of that he gave us this case,” she said glancing at the parchment where it now lay on the table. Foxy nodded in agreement.
“We’ll take care of this Miss Hoov…”
“Oh just call me Derpy, I never was much for formalities,” Derpy interrupted with a small smile. Dew chuckled and nodded.
“Alright, as I said we will take care of this, it will probably take a few days, but I’m not about to let Barricade get away with something like this,” the Pegasus finished.
“Thank you,” the gray Pegasus felt a small tinge of relief and Carrot Top’s anger vanished though she was thinking some choice words towards Barricade.
“Well we better get started then, we have to send few telegrams and getting our thoughts together, we’ll talk again tomorrow maybe? We are staying at the Ponyville Inn,” Dew said and rose up.
“We’ll be there,” Carrot assured them as she and Derpy rose up with their guests.
The four mares walked out of the living room and to the front hall. Goodbyes were exchanged and Dew once again assured Derpy that they would do everything in their power to thwart Dinky’s father. The gray mare and her roommate then watched from the doorway as the social workers took to the air to fly back to their hotel. However before they got out of earshot, the two mares could hear Foxy exclaim:
“What are the odds though, she got a unicorn too!”
Derpy and Carrot looked at each other, wondering what that had meant.
“You don’t think…” Derpy whispered though she wasn’t sure why she was. The gray pony now recalled that Foxy hadn’t told too much about her past with Barricade and stopped rather abruptly.
“Not sure, sounded like it,” Carrot shrugged.
The social workers were already gone from sight and this mystery would have to wait for later. Derpy closed the door and the mares returned to the living room to clean up after the meeting.
The next day.
Time Turner always liked the weekends. He kept more lax opening hours then, opening late the first day and kept the store close the second day. Unless he took a weekend expedition to improve his plant collection, then the store closed the entire weekend, but he usually announced that well ahead of time for customers waiting for clocks to be finished.
He gave Caramel the entire weekend off; the clock smith figured the stallion needed it. The amber pony had been so devastated by the fiasco over the pocket watch he sold, that the clock smith figured he needed it. Time Turner had spent a good chunk of the day yesterday explaining to his employee that it was all right, he was not fired, and his pay would not be docked for this.
After thinking about it, Time Turner figured Caramel had done him a favor selling that watch. It had been in the store for way too long; he should have taken it away long time ago. The pony just never did it; his only move was simply stop making them. His only regret was that the customer had been misinformed.
“Nothing much to do about that, unless I luck out and meet her,” he mused as he walked passed Town Hall. He was on his way to the store but it was closing in on lunchtime, the clock smith had decided to open the store later than usual. He had so much to think about.
He was about to turn to the street leading to the store when seeing Caramel enter the town center. The stallion was making a beeline for Ponyville Inn. Time Turner raised an eyebrow. Allowing his curiosity to win he went to intercept his employee. Caramel almost jumped when seeing him.
“Oh hi, Turner, uh you on lunch break?” he asked.
“Actually I haven’t opened the store yet, what are you doing here and where are you going?” Time Turner asked in turn not failing to notice that the other stallion kept eyeing the inn.
“I know where the customer is living; you know the one I sold the watch to… I was going to buy it back from her,” Caramel explained with a sheepish grin.
Time Turner resisted an urge to put a hoof on his face. He couldn’t fault Caramel’s eagerness to fix his mistakes, however this was getting a little ridiculous.
“No, no, no Caramel, forget the watch. It’s alright, don’t waste what little money you have on fixing this,” Turner told him and patted him on the back. “However we can fix your little fib with her. That I can allow and if she requests her money back, I’ll pay it, my store after all.”
Caramel opened his mouth to protest but then thought better of it. Time Turner was probably right plus he didn’t have that much money left right now. The stallions entered the inn and the amber one immediately spotted the blue Pegasus sitting by a table eating lunch. His employer was quicker though to recognize the maroon mare beside her.
The mares looked up from their meal when the stallions approached; Foxy smiled a little when recognizing Turner and Dew raised an eyebrow when seeing Caramel. Both waited to see what they wanted.
“Hi, I’m sorry to interrupt, my name is Time Turner and I’m the owner of the clock shop you bought a pocket watch from,” Time Turner began. Dew nodded remembering that, Foxy leaned to her and remarked.
“That’s the guy I told you about, the one I accidentally crushed,” she grinned sheepishly.
“Ah yes, I remember,” Turner chuckled.
“Nice to meet you Mister Turner, my name is Dew Doe and this is my sister Foxy Stripes,” Dew smiled. “So what about the watch, I assume that’s why you are here?”
“Ah yes, my employee here, Caramel, is new. He wasn’t quite correct about the age of the watch and its historical significance,” the clock smith explained, Dew didn’t say anything and waited for him to finish. Turner cleared his throat.
“I call these watches F.O.B watches and they are designed to look old, sort of give them a vintage feel. However, that watch you bought is no more than few months old instead of years. I’m willing to refund the watch for you and give you a proper older watch free of charge in exchange for your trouble,” he told her. Caramel sunk a little beside him when given an unimpressed glance by Dew. He tried to whisper a meek sorry and kept his eyes to the floor.
“Thank you, I had a feeling it wasn’t as old as said, but couldn’t be sure. I’ve already bought anyway an old history book from the library. The librarian was putting it out since she was getting a newer version instead. You see my friend, he likes history and anything old and with history too it,” Dew began to suddenly ramble and Foxy shook her head and put a hoof on her sister’s mouth.
“You’re rambling again, Dew,” the maroon mare said in a sing-a-song tone.
“I’m not,” the blue one quickly protested.
“Excuse her, she can ramble all day about Private,” Foxy chuckled, earning a glare from Dew that she ignored.
“Private?” Turner wondered.
“Our roommate and Dew is simply gaga over him,” Foxy laughed and ducked when Dew swung a hoof at her.
“I’m not gaga over him!” Dew grunted and returned to her meal.
Time Turner held back a chuckle; he glanced at Caramel who was also mildly amused over this turn of event. The clock smith was relieved that Dew wasn’t too upset over the incident at his store.
“So, do you want to be refunded and get an old watch instead?” he asked.
“Nah, it’s alright, I’ll just give mom the watch next mother’s day,” Dew said with a shrug.
The brown stallion nodded, he was about to say goodbye and apologize again for the gaff when a voice reached his ears that made his heart jump a beat. Caramel noticed him stiffening up, looked back and rolled his eyes.
“Speaking of being gaga over somepony,” he muttered. Derpy Hooves had entered the inn with Carrot Top, the gray mare had spotted them and addressed Turner.
“Oh… uh um… Miss Hooves, hi,” Turner quickly turned around, ignoring Caramel and putting on a smile that was in danger of looking too goofy.
“Oooh, I think somepony is in love,” Foxy whispered to Dew with a chuckle. “Does this look familiar too you?”
“Shut up.” Dew eyed the maroon mare before looking back up at the arriving mares. She did note though that both Turner and Derpy looked at each other with nervous smiles as they exchanged greetings.
“Hello again, don’t mind Derpy, she’ll snap out if soon,” Carrot Top greeted the social workers and sat down by their table.
“I know, I have some experience with this situation myself,” Foxy grinned wide ignoring the withering stare she was receiving from Dew.
Before Carrot Top could inquire what she meant, Derpy Hooves sat down by the table. The social workers greeted her but then noted that the stallions still stood there nearby, though this time looking a little confused.
“Oh I hope you don’t mind, Turner and Caramel are good friends and I feel they should hear this,” Derpy Hooves quickly said with an apologetic smile.
Carrot Top smirked, she had a feeling Derpy had other reasons to have Turner around too. She wondered about Caramel though, sure he was on friendly terms with many of the town ponies, them included, but she wasn’t so sure to include him. Then she remembered that Caramel had worked as a mail shorter at the post office once, Derpy probably did in fact considered him a good enough friend to trust him to be around for this delicate discussion.
“Well if you are sure, but we probably should explain to them then what this is about,” Dew nodded, she wasn’t about to deny Derpy having her friends around. This situation was hard enough as it was for her. Then the she looked around, there weren’t many ponies in the inn but they were rather public.
“Do you want to move somewhere more secluded for this meeting before we start?” she asked.
“No, no it’s alright, it’s a small town, besides…” Derpy looked over the inn restaurant. “I know the ponies in here, they don’t spread things around.”
Carrot and she then looked at the stallions and told them in quiet voices what they had learned yesterday at their first meeting with the social workers. Time Turner’s jaw dropped in shock. He could only vaguely remember Derpy having been in a relationship long ago, couldn’t really put a face to the stallion she had been with. Caramel looked concerned but said nothing.
“That bastard,” the clocksmith found himself mutter, he was getting angry, a rather unusual feeling for him.
“We sent a telegram to Swift Mane yesterday, asking for more information if there is any,” Dew began telling them.
Time Turner didn’t pay much attention to what they said. He stared past them all, trying to remember something about this Barricade, but he just came up blank. Meanwhile his anger at the stallion rose for daring to shake up Derpy like this, questioning her ability to be a mother. He had no right, even if he was Dinky’s father. A father who never showed up.
“We are very optimistic that things are in your favor though, Derpy. Just based on what we’ve already heard, seen and read he has no case against you and it will be dismissed,” Dew said.
“What I don’t understand is why now, after so long, why now? He left because he didn’t want kids,” Derpy whispered, Carrot Top nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, this does sound unusual for him; you’ve been in no contact with him since he left?” Dew wondered.
“Well, I wrote him that I had Dinky and what I named her and I did tell him I expected him to pay foal support. He pays it though sometimes irregularly often with various excuses of why he can’t pay it on time, but other than that, it’s only been Dinky that corresponds with him,” the gray Pegasus explained.
Dew Doe nodded and for a moment took a sip from her glass, the blue Pegasu’s brow sunk a little as she considered this information. Foxy was busy with her desert, having ordered a pie and was stuffing her mouth full of it. Carrot Top and Derpy used the opportunity to order some light lunch, Caramel ordered a hay smoothie but Turner didn’t want anything.
“How does Dinky feel about her father?” the blue Pegasus asked.
“He’s met her a grand total of three times… not with me though; Carrot Top took her those three times to where he lives. I think she is happy about knowing of him, she at least gets excited every time a letter arrives. I just don’t have the heart to tell her how he really is,” Derpy sighed sadly.
Time Turner wanted to put a hoof on her shoulder for support, but no matter what his mind told him to do, his body didn’t obey. Carrot was already patting her reassuringly but the stallion’s hoof refused to leave the floor.
Come on you fool; this is no time for that. She needs emotional support of a friend, not some lovesick idiot who can’t say a straight line around her, his mind kept ranting. Finally, he managed to lift it and hesitantly placed it on Derpy’s shoulder. He really had to hold back the various emotions running through him when she dropped her head to the side so it leaned up against his hoof. Don’t think too much into it, don’t think too much into it, she’s just appreciating the support, nothing more.
“Where does he live?” Time Turner asked, looking at the social workers. A small thought was going through his mind; his anger towards the stallion was fueling it.
“Barricade? Manehattan last I heard, he runs a gym,” Dew answered. “Why?”
“Well you don’t understand why he’s doing this now and that this is unusual for him. So why not just go and ask him, find out why and what he’ll gain from it.” The clock smith’s eyes narrowed.
“That’s logical enough, except I seriously doubt Barricade will give us a straight answer. To be honest, he doesn’t take mares overly seriously,” Dew snorted and shook her head. “Don’t get me wrong, I would love to fly straight over to Manehattan and tell him a thing or two and interrogate him. However I think Derpy here can tell you just as well that he is not a reasonable pony.”
“It’s true Time Turner.” Derpy looked at the brown stallion, dropping the ‘mister Turner’ she usually used when talking with him at any other occasion. “He doesn’t listen if he thinks he’s right.”
Turner could only nod, deferring to the ponies who had more experience with pony. He gave Derpy’s shoulder a reassuring pat before returning his hoof to the ground. He looked at Caramel who had really only listened with a concerned frown, unable to really think of anything to add.
“I know I gave you the day off, but do you think you could help me for about an hour or two? Then you’re free to go?” he asked, Caramel shrugged mouthing ‘sure’.
“Oh I’m sorry, Turner, I didn’t mean to keep you away from the shop,” Derpy cringed and rose up from her seat.
“No, no it’s alright, Derpy.” Time Turner turned to the mare, also skipping saying ‘Miss Hooves’ since she wasn’t calling him Mister Turner. “I’m sorry this is happening, but I’m sure you’ll pull through… Uh don’t hesitate to call if you need any help.”
The stallion blinked when she grabbed him in tight hug. However, this time his brain and body worked in better synch and he hugged her back, though Time Turner did wonder if he would be able to breathe for a while. Once he was let go the two stallions said goodbye to the mares and left the inn.
Derpy stared after them leave and didn’t turn around even after they were gone for few seconds already. Carrot Top was about to rise up to see if she was all right when the gray mare turned around, grinning an ear splitting grin.
“He called me Derpy,” she squeaked in joy.
It took a moment for Carrot Top’s mind to register what her friend meant. Then she realized and chuckled, giving the social workers a knowing wink. Foxy smirked; Dew just smiled but said nothing.
“I happened to notice that you didn’t call him Mister Turner either,” Carrot mentioned casually.
“Yes well um…” Derpy fumbled her face turning red, having realized what she had just done. The mare quickly sat down again and refused to go further into the subject, managing to point out that they were discussing a more serious matter. The other mares did concede to that point and returned to their previous discussion before the stallions left.
“So what is it that you need help with?” Caramel wondered as he walked just behind Time Turner who was walking at a rather fast pace. The amber pony didn’t pay too much attention to his surroundings, balancing his half full smoothie cup on his nose.
“You’ll see,” Turner said quietly.
Caramel managed to shift the cup to his head and opened his mouth to say something when he noticed they were walking past the Golden Oak Library. The stallion blinked, this was in the opposite direction to the clock shop. Then he noticed that they were actually heading towards the train station.
“Uh, Turner?” Caramel looked back. “Where are we going?”
“Manehattan,” Time Turner responded and went to the ticket counter. “The Manehattan express stops in Ponyville and is 45 minutes from here to there.”
“What are we going to do in Manehattan?” the other stallion asked confused.
Time Turner didn’t answer right away as he was ordering two tickets. Just at that moment a train arrived at the station, a conductor announced the arrival of the Manehattan express. Caramel arched his brow. That was eerily coincidental, then again, Time Turner’s experience was with clock and time, he probably knew precisely when various trains arrived and had timed his departure from the inn to be close to this one’s arrival.
The amber pony was still confused about why Time Turner wanted to go to Manehattan. First, he assumed it was something for the shop and that’s why he had asked him to help, but as he boarded the train it suddenly occurred to him. The inn, the meeting, what Turner had asked about.
“You are going to meet this Barricade aren’t you?” he asked, Time Turner just nodded while sitting down in a seat.
“Honestly Turner, I don’t think you need to prove yourself to her,” Caramel stated as he sat down on the seat opposite his employer.
“Yeah, yeah I realize everypony knows of my crush on her,” the clock smith grunted. “I’m not doing this to prove myself. I’m doing this as a friend, somepony needs to confront this Barricade and ask him what the hay he’s thinking.”
“But didn’t she tell you that he was unreasonable? What makes you think you can get him to talk?” Caramel asked. Time Turner looked at him and couldn’t actually answer right away, the other stallion still had his cup of smoothie on his head. Combined with the serious expression on his employee, it looked absurd.
“Caramel…” Time Turner tried to contain a chortle. “You might want to remove that from your head.”
Caramel eyed up, but naturally didn’t really see the cup so he had to feel with his front hooves. He quickly removed it and furtively eyed around, there were few other ponies in this car and some were staring at him with unsure expressions.
“Not. One. Word.” Caramel grumbled and sipped on his drink.
Ponies used to gyms wouldn’t find the one Time Turner and Caramel walked into very remarkable. Immediately from the lobby you could see various ponies working out individually or taking part in a gym class. There were all types of ponies around, though several were on par not just with Big Mac back in Ponyville but Bulk Biceps too.
The two Earth Ponies felt scrawny, now they were of regular built for an average stallion and to their fellow Ponyvillians they looked nowhere out of shape. However, compared to the ponies they saw in the gym, even the mares looked like they could use them personally to bench-press.
For a while, they could only stare unsure around, not really knowing where to start. Caramel wasn’t even sure he wanted to be here, some of the ponies, be they mare or stallion looked grim and seemed like the types you just did not mess around with or ask questions too. One dark blue Earth Stallion had a long ugly scar across his face; his cutie-mark was pair of dumbbells.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Caramel whispered.
“Well… it was an idea,” Time Turner muttered, he didn’t like the looks of some of the ponies around either.
The stallions took a step back when a greyish opal Earth Mare suddenly appeared in front of them. She had been by the lobby counter earlier but had been busy talking with another pony. That conversation done, she had spotted the two new ponies and immediately jumped towards them. Her mane and tail were a mix of moderate turquoise and white and an image of a barbell adorned her flank.
“Hey and welcome to The Barricade. Are you here to sign up for a session or want try out a membership?” she asked flashing friendly smile.
“Um actually miss… we are looking for a pony named Barricade,” Turner said and suddenly realized that he didn’t actually know how the pony looked like. He could only hope that the name was enough. The clock smith also hoped he had guessed right that this was the gym he ran. They had gone in simply because of the name.
“Oh you want the boss, he’s probably spotting, come with me.” The mare gestured them to follow her deep into the gym towards all the weight lifting equipment and machines.
Caramel followed hesitantly with Turner in front of him, not really liking the idea to go further in. He also noticed from the corner of his eye that the scarred stallion he had noted earlier had stopped his workout and was watching them like a hawk. The amber pony gulped and wondered what they had walked into.
The mare took them to where an ash-gray Pegasus was busy lifting up a barbell with his mouth. Next to him stood a dark gray Unicorn with dark blonde mane and tail, his cutie mark was a brick wall.
“Yo Barricade, two ponies here to talk with you,” the mare announced.
The Unicorn didn’t turn his head, merely eyed towards them. He then signaled the Pegasus to stop lifting before turning to face them. Time Turner looked at Barricade and saw to his dismay that he was taller than him. Not as big as Big Mac, but he was still bigger and rather obviously used the equipment of his own gym.
Why must I confront stallions obviously bigger and stronger than me? The clock smith thought.
“Thanks Barbell, take over spotting for Tornado,” Barricade told the mare in a neutral tone before approaching the stallions, staring at both of them critically. The mare obliged and Tornado the Pegasus began lifting again this time supervised by her.
“You twigs look familiar, have I seen you before?” he asked them and smirked. “You don’t look like you come from around here.”
“Well no we don’t as a matter of fact,” Time Turner said, not liking the smirk or the smug tone Barricade spoke in. “I am Time Turner and this is my friend, Caramel.”
“And I should care what you are called because?” Barricade didn’t sound overly impressed. Caramel glanced around, the dark blue Earth Pony was approaching from behind and some of the bigger ponies around were all staring at them. The unicorn however just gave those around a look and nobody approached further, not even the scarred one.
“Look we’re not here to cause trouble, but we would like to speak with you… in private,” the clock smith said, it hadn’t escaped his attention either that they were being watched.
Barricade arched his brow, before eyeing around and nodding. Much to Caramel’s relief the other ponies returned to their workout, even the scarred Earth Pony. Barricaded pushed past the two stallions, nearly toppling them over in the process.
“Follow me, let’s talk in my office,” he said without looking back at them.
Time Turner grumbled a little, not impressed by being nearly pushed into a weightlifting machine. He followed and Caramel came behind still feeling small. They were not receiving friendly glances from the other ponies around.
They entered the office after Barricade opened it for them. It had a single desk and few shelves and a filing cabinet. There were trophies on the shelf and on the desk were framed pictures. Time Turner frowned when seeing that one picture was of Dinky, another picture was of another unicorn filly, that one was black furred with a thick gray mane. There was also a picture of Barricade and Barbell at a scenic location somewhere in Equestria, the clock smith couldn’t place it where.
“So what in Tartarus do you two want?” Barricade growled as he slammed the door to his office shut.
The two stallions looked at him. Caramel sunk back a bit, he really didn’t like the look on the Unicorn. Time Turner somehow managed to keep a steady composure but deep down he was as nervous as back when he had been face to face with Silver Axe several weeks back during the foalnapping incident.
“We are here on behalf of Derpy Hooves from Ponyville,” the brown stallion told him. Caramel gulped when Barricade’s eyes twitched and sneered.
“I knew it. I thought I remembered seeing either one of you back when I lived there years ago,” the Unicorn growled and approached, the Earth Ponies braced themselves but Barricade merely walked past them to sit down behind his desk.
“So, come to see the big bad Barricade have you? See the jerk in all his glory? Well here I am, so what do you want?” Barricade snorted with a stinging glare.
“Why are you asking for Dinky’s custody?” Time Turner asked, he failed to make it sound sharp and it came out more nervously than he intended.
“I’m not asking for her custody,” Barricade grunted. “I’m questioning Derpy’s competence as a mother.”
“Alright if you want to be technical, why are you doing that?” Time Turner felt his anger rising and this time his question snapped out.
“Because I’m getting sick and tired of those stupid letters she keeps sending me pretending to be our daughter!” the Unicorn snarled, hammering one hoof on the top of his desk, it formed a crack.
“What? She would never do that,” Time Turner protested.
Barricade eyes narrowed to a slit. His horn began glowing and an indigo magic aura formed around one drawer of the cabinet. It opened and out levitated several letters. Those he threw down on the desk.
“Then explain this,” the Unicorn growled. “Are you honestly telling me Dinky wrote those?”
Time Turner hesitantly approached the desk and even Caramel worked up a nerve to follow. The stallions scanned the top letter and it had Dinky’s signature. The mouth writing looked elementary school level and so did the vocabulary. Turner started to shift through the letters.
“Stop lying… bad excuses… I’m tired of reading your excuses… your letters are unwelcome…” The clock smith frowned thoughtfully as he muttered some of the lines written. No, he was positive Derpy couldn’t have written these, she was not deceitful and would never stoop this low.
“Have you ever considered… that these are written by Dinky?” Time Turner looked at the Unicorn. “From what I have heard you aren’t exactly the father of the year material. You never show up for Dinky and make excuses why you pay foal support late.”
“I pay it late yes, but I pay it!” Barricade snapped. “What, you think I live in a lap of luxury here? Does this look like an office of someone who is rich? You think Dinky is the only foal I am paying foal support for?”
Turner glanced at the pictures on the desk, his eyes going on the black filly. He looked at Barricade again; he had to admit that so far the Unicorn had been almost marginally civil, though the clock smith could live without the attitude.
“You didn’t answer my question, maybe Dinky has a good reason to send you letters like these. You can’t deny that you were rotten towards her mother.” Time Turner pointed out, it sounded so far Barricade felt he was the one wronged not the other way around.
“Yeah I was bad coltfriend, I don’t deny that. I was younger, stupider, full of myself and all that crap. Did I treat Derpy bad? Yeah, I did, I left when she was pregnant all right, what, you want all the sordid details? Hasn’t Derpy given you them all already?” Barricade growled.
“Look Barricade, you have to admit you have brought this on yourself…” Turner fell silent and took a step back when Barricade hammered his hoof again on the desk.
“Are you even listening twig?! I’m not denying ANYTHING!” he snarled. “You just run back to that backwoods town of yours and tell Derpy I’m not dropping the case, unless she stops sending these fake letters!”
“If… I could just ask one question before we leave?” Caramel suddenly peeped. Barricade glared down at him but said nothing.
“For sake of argument, considering that you were once in a relationship with Derpy…uh… did she ever strike you as the deceitful or the vengeful type?” the amber stallion asked hesitantly.
Barricade didn’t respond just continued to glare at Caramel. The Earth Pony felt a little braver now, since nothing really happened, safe for two hoof slams on the desk previously.
“If you think about it, Derpy and liar… does that really sound like two words that belong together?” Caramel glanced at Turner who looked impressed; he hadn’t really considered going this route, remembering Derpy’s words how Barricade was hard to reason with if he felt he was in the right.
“In fact, how do you really think your relationship with your daughters is? I see the pictures but they look old, when is the last time you saw either one of them?” Caramel wondered.
Surprisingly to the two Earth Stallions, Barricade sighed and his angry scowl eased as he glanced at the pictures. He looked away and for a small moment, there was just silence in the office.
“It’s been a while,” he muttered finally. The Unicorn turned away to look out of the window behind him.
Caramel was about to say something more when the door to the office opened suddenly. In walked Barbell along with the dark blue Earth Pony. Both looked unamused and glared at him and Time Turner.
“I think it’s time for you two to leave,” the mare retorted all previous friendliness gone. Time Turner wondered if they had been eavesdropping on the other side of the door.
“Can I take one of these letters and show them to Derpy?” Turner looked at Barricade. “I’m positive it’s Dinky who is really writing them and I think her mother doesn’t know she is writing them like this.”
“Whatever,” was the only response that came from the Unicorn.
Time Turner grabbed one of the letters and with that, he and Caramel quickly left the office, they didn't notice that Barricade was now watching them with a sinister grin on his muzzle. The two ponies hurried out of the gym, all the time watched by unfriendly eyes from the gym ponies. The two stallions walked swiftly away from the building.
“Well Caramel, you seemed to have been asking all the right questions, when did you get this brave?” the clock smith looked at Caramel who kept glancing back as if he worried they were being followed.
“I well… seeing you talking with him really.” Caramel shrugged, Time Turner stare him confused.
“What do you mean?” he asked. “I was shaking like a leaf… well at least on the inside.”
“But you still stood upright and talked, you brought me here with you to help and there I was just covering beside you… I felt guilty… then I considered what I knew of Derpy and decided to try asking him,” the amber pony said.
“Well I’m glad you did, because it didn’t really feel like I was getting anywhere with him and I didn’t even consider asking that.” Time Turner looked at the letter. “I guess we better head back to Ponyville and show this to Derpy.”
Unfortunately, there wasn’t another train heading to Ponyville for another hour. The stallions had been done sooner than expected, it was only about half an hour since they arrived in Manehattan and found by stroke of luck the right gym.
Turner wasn’t in much of a mood to take a look around, besides he wanted to think over what they had learned today and ponder this letter. They went to the train station and found a nearby diner to sit down in, Caramel ordered an oatburger but Turner just settled for some coffee, he felt the need for something a little stronger than tea.
The clock smith read the letter repeatedly, but he could really only conclude that Dinky was not being truthful towards her mother about her feelings for her father. Now the question was why and how would they convince Barricade that it was in fact his daughter writing the letters?
Caramel munched on his burger, not really in as deep thought as Turner. He had never been in Manehattan before, the furthest he had gone was to Canterlot while helping his neighbor Rarity and her friends pull a wagon. The pony wondered if he should buy a souvenir, you never knew when you travelled to somewhere next.
He was about to take another big bite out of his meal when something caught his eye just outside the diner. The pony gasped, dropped the burger and more on reflex than anything ducked out of sight. Turner blinked and rose up to look at the covering pony.
“What got into you?” Time Turner asked confused. Caramel didn’t answer, instead he carefully peeked out of the large diner window with puzzled expression.
“I swear I thought I saw Barricade, but no it’s not the right pony,” the amber stallion said. Turner arched his brow and looked out the window, his brow rose even higher.
Walking away from the train station on the far street from the diner was a unicorn stallion. He was almost a spitting image to Barricade, except his mane didn’t look as well kept and his cutie mark was a some sort of a book. His eyes were blue, Turner recalled Barricade’s eyes being bit more purplish or indigo colored.
“Maybe it’s his… brother?” Turner guessed. The resemblance was just too great to be coincidence. Without a word, he left the diner intending to follow the pony to see where he was going. Caramel scrambled to his feet and went after him
“What are you doing?” Caramel whispered when catching up with Time Turner, they were following the stallion from a discreet distance.
“Just seeing where he’s going,” Time Turner responded quietly, he could however already see that the mystery Unicorn was heading the exact way they had come from when leaving the gym.
Soon enough the two stallions had The Barricade gym in view again. They didn’t cross the street but could see the Unicorn head inside. Time Turner looked around and saw that they could possibly get behind the gym from an alleyway, the pony darted over with Caramel fast on his feels.
“This is crazy, we’ll get caught,” Caramel whispered as they made their way through the alley and came around the back of the gym. They could see the Barricade’s office window and Turner sneaked closer to it, making sure he was out of sight. He and Caramel almost jumped when hearing Barricade shout.
“Oh for crying out loud, for someone named Private, you certainly don’t seem to recognize privacy!”
Time Turner dared himself to peek inside the window carefully, he saw Barricade glare at the other Unicorn just as Barbell let herself out of the office and the door closed behind her. First now did the clock smith see the hard expression on the Unicorn identified as Private, he seemed unfazed by Barricade’s glare. Turner ducked out of sight when the gym owner headed to his desk and sat down behind it.
“So what do you want? I’ve had enough visits today for my taste! Foxy can’t possibly be complaining, I paid this month’s support for Coal and I agreed to have her next weekend, nothing has changed there!” Barricade was clearly irritated, he spoke loud and sharp.
Coal… that must be the other filly on the pictures. So he finally is seeing one of his daughters. Time Turner frowned and wondered brought that on.
“Frankly I’m surprised Foxy is even allowing me to see her considering it’s been two years since I saw her last time!” Barricade snapped. “So what do you want, saying the visit is cancelled? Well you can’t blame me for that one then.”
The two stallions outside could just barely hear someone say something and guessed it was Private, but it was low and hardly audible.
“Oh you got to be fricking kidding me! You’re here because of that!? I just had two idiots thrown out coming here to whine for her too. I’m just going to tell you the same I told them. I’ll drop it if Derpy stops sending me these stupid letters pretending to be our daughter!”
Wait, he’s coming on her behalf? Turner blinked then it hit him why the name was so familiar. This was Private, the roommate Dew and Foxy had mentioned to him. They must have telegraphed him and asked him to go and talk with his brother, there were more trains going between Fillydelphia and Manehattan on a regular schedule than from Ponyville.
“What letters? These letters. Here even take one if you want, I gave one of them to those two before Barbell and Blue evicted them!”
Time Turner would have liked to listen further but he realized that if they didn’t leave now they would miss the next train to Ponyville. Silently as he could, the stallion snuck away with Caramel. They made their way out of the alley and went back to the train station.
They arrived in nick of time, as the Ponyville train arrived just as they came to the platform. The two ponies boarded the train immediately and found suitable seats. Time Turner went back to thinking over today’s event, with the additional information they had learned from eavesdropping on the Unicorn twins. Caramel stretched out on his bench, figuring he might take a nap during the trip.
“The Manehattan Express to Appeloosa, with stops in Canterlot and Ponyville is delayed for ten minutes. I repeat the Manehattan Express to Appeloosa with stops in Canterlot and Ponyville is delayed for ten minutes. We apologize for the inconvenience!” announced the conductor suddenly outside.
Time Turner didn’t even stir from his thoughts, delays happened and it was only ten minutes. Caramel rose to sit and sighed lightly, wondering if he should just get something to read instead since he had apparently time to make a quick trot to the station kiosk. The amber stallion stood up and without a word headed out of the train, quickly heading over to the stand where he could buy some reading material.
Turner meanwhile was not sure what to think right now. He didn’t doubt Derpy and her experience with Barricade, however considering what he had now seen and witnessed, was it possible that he was no longer the pony she once knew? Was there more to this whole matter? The clock smith had expected a smug snake, a pony who trotted down anyone who got in his way, someone full of himself and truly believed in his own greatness or something like that. Barricade had come out as a jerk, rather loud and aggressive, very confrontational but did not deny responsibility or that he had been at fault with the relationship he once had with her.
However, he clearly could think the worst about anyone. He had obviously believed that Derpy could stoop so low to write him scathing letters pretending to be their daughter. But was it possible he was considering they were really from Dinky but was just in denial about it? He considered how Caramel had almost silenced Barricade with his questions, not stumped him, just silenced him.
This is more complicated than I anticipated it would be, Time Turner thought. Though maybe it’s possible to dissolve this drama by getting everypony to just sit down and just talk.
“Hey Turner.” Caramel suddenly stood in front of him, interrupting his thoughts.
“Guess who I just saw enter the train,” the other pony said. “That other Unicorn who looks like Barricade, the one we tailed back to the gym. He’s in the next car.”
“What?” Turner arched his brow. “But that means he must be heading for Ponyville to talk with Miss Dew Doe and Miss Foxy Stripes, this train doesn’t go to Fillydelphia.”
“He knows we were here talking with his brother and will probably tell them when he arrives…” Caramel cringed, thinking they were probably in trouble now.
“Yeah, maybe we should go talk with him and compare notes,” Time Turner rose up. “Which car did you say he was in?”
Caramel pointed to the furthest door leading to the next train car. The two stallions made their way to it and up on entering the other car saw it was bit less crowded than the one they had chosen. Turner spotted immediately where Barricade’s brother was sitting and headed straight for it. As they approached and now saw the Unicorn stallion up close, they saw that he was as tall as Barricade but with a slightly producing potbelly. He was clearly not as fit as his brother was.
“Hey,” Time Turner addressed him. The Unicorn didn’t lift his head, just glanced at him with one eye.
“I understand you are Barricade’s brother,” the clock smith continued, still no answer; Private just continued to glance at him.
“My name is Timer Turner and this is my friend Caramel, we come from Ponyville.” Time Turner tried to smile a bit but the silence coming from Unicorn made things a bit awkward, there was still no sign of response.
“I’ll get right to the point,” the clock smith sat down on the bench in front of Private, the Unicorn relented to look straight at him now. “Caramel and I are the two idiots your brother mentioned, the ones who spoke with him earlier.”
That prompted Private’s brow rise a little, but still no verbal response. Caramel was starting to wonder if the pony was actually mute. Time Turner cleared his throat but figured that since nothing had been said that was his cue to continue.
“You see, Mister Private…” Turner halted for a moment wondering if he had more than one name, but still the stallion didn’t speak. “Right… Mister Private. We saw you arrive shortly after we were done speaking with your brother, we couldn’t resist following you and well… we did eavesdrop for a little while on your conversation with your brother.”
Caramel sat down beside Turner since it seemed they weren’t going anywhere soon. It was rather uncanny now the silence from the Unicorn. He was a stark contrast to his louder more talkative brother.
Jeez, even Big Mac answers in ‘eeyup’ and ‘nope’, the amber pony thought.
“You were asked by Miss Dew Doe and Miss Foxy Stripes to talk with your brother, regarding a competency case against a friend of ours, Derpy Hooves right?” Turner ventured to ask. Finally there came an actual response from the silent pony, he nodded, it wasn’t a verbal response but at least he did something else than just stare and move his brows.
“We were not sent by Derpy, we went without her knowing about it. I… up on learning about the case, wanted to meet Barricade and see if I could figure out why he was doing this,” Time Turner explained, then he told about his and Caramel’s meeting with Barricade.
Private seemed to be listening, he tilted his head occasionally and the two Earth Ponies could have sworn there was mild interest in his eyes at some point. However so far he hadn’t uttered a word to them. Turner had to halt his story for second when the conductor yelled that the train was heading off and those coming aboard should come aboard. The train whistle blew and soon it was off. Once there was silence again, the clock smith finished telling about the meeting with Barricade.
“The nearest I can figure is that Dinky is indeed writing the letters, but hasn’t been honest to her mother about it. I happen to know that Derpy thinks Dinky likes her father. Maybe Barricade is under similar assumption and as such doesn’t want to believe that his daughter is writing them and instead blames them on Derpy,” Time Turner said, half expecting no response to his theory by now.
“That sounds about right,” Private grunted, his voice was low and bit raspy, like someone who isn’t too comfortable speaking in public.
Well he’s not mute, Caramel thought, though he wondered if this was the extend of what they would hear from him.
“I got the impression that Barricade is not very liked, although I can certainly see why, he didn’t quite match up with how I personally thought he would be, not considering how Derpy and the others talked about him,” Turner mentioned. “I am curious, as you are his brother, has he changed? For better or worse?”
Private shrugged making a grunting noise that sounded like ‘eh’. The Unicorn glanced to his side to look out the window and the landscape speeding past due to the motion of the train. Turner wasn’t sure if he would continue.
“Let’s put it like this. He’s less of a colossal jerk and more just a jerk,” Private muttered and looked at Turner again. “I guess you can call it improvement.”
Time Turner nodded, so he hadn’t been far off. Barricade had ‘improved’ if that was the proper term to use. However, considering how little interaction he had with Derpy, it probably didn’t show and the case probably didn’t help matters at all. The clock smith was becoming convinced this could be solved more peacefully than he had initially feared.
First things first though, we must show Derpy the letter and then she must talk with Dinky, he thought.
Derpy stretched out her wings where she sat somewhat relaxed on a cloud above Ponyville. The mare was trying not to think too much about latest events. There was nothing much to do but wait anyway and she didn’t feel like worrying herself over it, as the social workers had said, she had a solid case no matter what.
“Aaaand there.” The voice of Foxy caught her attention.
Looking over the gray pony could see where the bigger Pegasus mare was hovering next to a cloud she had slowly been molding with her hooves. Derpy tilted her head, the good eye focused but the other one went slightly upwards. The cloud resembled a pony rearing upwards.
“Voila, my current masterpiece.” Foxy Stripes proudly presented the cloud statue.
“Nice,” Derpy smiled. “So, you do this when Barricade upsets you?”
“That and other things.” The big mare shrugged and backed up until she could sit on the same cloud and Derpy. “What do you do?”
“Usually bake muffins,” the gray pony said, though right now she just didn’t have an appetite for anything. Foxy nodded and glanced over to another cloud where Dew Doe lay, she seemed to be thinking and paid no attention to the other mares.
“You didn’t mention you two were sisters during the first meeting,” Derpy pointed out, Foxy’s expression became a little more uneasy.
“Yeaaah, we usually don’t mention it too much, especially when on a job. Dew probably mentioned it to Time Turner because I had already met him and blurted out that I had my sister with me here and he could probably guess Dew was the sister I spoke of when seeing us in the inn.” The maroon Pegasus shrugged then she blinked and looked at Derpy. “Wait, we haven’t told you we were sisters. Dew confirmed it before you came.”
That prompted Dew to look up towards them. Derpy was chuckling to herself. In truth, she had merely guessed but it was apparent she had been spot on. Now the two social workers just stared at her wondering how she had figured that out.
“No, you didn’t, but Carrot Top and I started thinking yesterday and wondering how familiar you two acted with each other. I mean sure good friends can give each other hard time and all but you seemed to do it on a different level. Then during our second meeting at the inn it just hit me, you two reminded me so much of Dinky and Tootsie,” she explained to them.
“Our clever ruse, it has failed us,” Foxy gasped and pretended to pout.
“Well we were bound to run into somepony who would not be fooled,” Dew chuckled and rose to sit up on the cloud.
“I don’t understand though, you clearly like each other, so why aren’t you more open that you are sisters?” Derpy asked with a mild frown.
The two social workers sighed both at the same time. Then Foxy gave the white color on her legs a rueful look. Dew looked down for a second before turning her head towards Derpy.
“I hate to admit it, but there are worse ponies than Barricade,” the blue Pegasus said. “There are some who just can’t accept it that ponies don’t always look all pretty and symmetrical, all the colors in the right place or the mane just utterly perfect.”
Derpy raised an eyebrow, then her good eye wavered towards Foxy. Yes, it was unusual for a Pegasus mare to be this large and cruel as it was to say, she wouldn’t be winning any beauty contests, but it was still a stretch to call her ugly. Then again, the white color on her foreleg and the one on her hind leg did make her stick out a bit.
“I know the feeling,” Derpy said and looked at Dew again, her other eye didn’t focus almost as if to confirm that point. The blue Pegasus nodded.
“So as a rule we rarely bring it up that we are sisters, because we became rather tired of the ‘cute sister/ugly sister’ remarks,” Dew clarified. “We don’t mind ponies knowing we are sisters, but don’t advertise it either.”
Derpy nodded but before she could say anything, Foxy suddenly dropped from the cloud and hovered below them. The maroon mare stared at the clock tower for a second before lifting herself up again.
“You know when the next train from Manehattan comes here?” she asked.
“Ah no, why?” Derpy asked confused then she remembered the inn meeting. “Oh wait, you think he did go and will come?”
“If Private did go then yes he will come, whether he could talk any sense into his brother is a whole another matter,” Dew told her and stood up.
“Private and talking; now there is a concept.” Foxy rolled her eyes with a chuckle.
“Oh hush, let’s go and see the train schedules.” Dew dropped from the cloud and glided towards the train station with Foxy following.
“You two check the schedule, I need to go check on the girls at the park,” Derpy called after them before taking off towards Ponyville Park.
The gray pony felt bit more relaxed and at ease. It had been Dew Doe’s suggestion that the three Pegasi Mares went on a short flight. Stretch their wings and forget the current troubles if only for a short time. Carrot Top had gone back home to do some gardening in the meantime.
You know, maybe I should call Turner, Time instead of Turner, it still sounds too formal to call him Turner, she mused as the pony began circling the park looking for her two youngest.
I still can’t believe he called me just Derpy. She grinned wide when remembering the part of the meeting the stallions attended.
Derpy was no longer really paying attention to the ground to see where her daughters were playing; her thoughts kept wandering back to Time Turner. As she kept repeating the first part of the meeting at the inn in her mind, the mare didn’t notice she was descending. Her thoughts came to an abrupt halt when she crashed right into the canopy of a tree.
“Ow, ow, ow,” Derpy complained and tried to untangle herself from the branches and the leaves. She finally managed to loosen enough that now she just hung on the lowest branch, but her mane and tail were full of twigs and leaves.
That could have gone better. She grinned nervously. Ponies in the park were staring at her; some were snickering while others did look mildly concerned.
“Mom? Are you okay?” Dinky stood under the tree along with Tootsie, both fillies looked up.
Derpy chuckled weakly, seeing that she wasn’t that high up the mare allowed herself to drop down to the ground. She landed in front of the girls and almost immediately began cleaning out her mane.
“Oh just a little shaken, nothing broken I think,” Derpy assured them, she was sore and suspected she would be feeling this in the morning, however nothing felt out of place and she could move easily enough. Just in case she did sit down to rest a little.
“So you girls having fun in the park?” she asked the girls while continuing to clean her mane and tail.
“Oh yes, we were playing with the Cutie Mark Crusaders, but we didn’t have a third for a team at first, but then we found Button Mash and Sweetie Belle managed to convince him to get away from the arcade to play,” Dinky began telling her mother.
“Uh huh, though I don’t think Sweetie Belle was happy he was on our team, dunno why.” Tootsie Flute shrugged, her foster sister nudged her.
“Duh, everypony in school knows she’s crushing on Button Mash,” the violet filly said in a matter of fact tone of voice.
“I didn’t know that,” Tootsie countered and stuck her tongue out.
Derpy just listened to the girls bicker with a smile on her face. Dinky had now gone into a long description who had a crush on who in their class, something Tootise was apparently unaware of and her foster sister felt needed rectifying. Derpy couldn’t help but wonder though how her birth-daughter was so informed about the various school yard crushes. Then again, Dinky had been the one most enthralled by the Gabby Gums column that had run in the school paper a while ago.
“Diamond Tiara? Really?” Tootsie stared at her sister in disbelief.
“Yeah, she is totally just acting, haven’t you seen sometimes how she looks at him?” Dinky asked as if it was the most obvious fact.
If it is true, then I do pity him. Derpy shook her head trying not to laugh out loud how enthusiastically Dinky held on too her claim.
Dew and Foxy landed by the train station platform and climbed up the steps. The Pegasi walked over to the schedule and scanned it for trains coming from Manehattan. Foxy couldn’t make heads or tails out of it and decided to just take a look around while her sister worked out the trains coming from Manehattan today.
There weren’t many other ponies on the platform, at least no one looked to be waiting for a train. Foxy looked around but couldn’t see a concession stand, she peeked in through the window of the station and saw it was located inside. The maroon mare was still pondering if she should go in and grab a snack when Dew approached her.
“There are two trains coming from Manehattan today from what I gather, the first one comes in few minutes and the next one isn’t until later in the evening,” Dew Doe told her.
“Knowing Private, he would probably try and get this over with and is probably on the next train,” Foxy stated and entered the station.
“True.” Dew agreed and followed her sister in and towards the concession stand. “He is always reliable like that.”
Foxy made no comment; she wasn’t looking at Dew but could already guess there was a dreamy smile plastered on her muzzle right now. The bigger mare instead just continued towards the stand. She took a quick glance at what was available before ordering chocolate chip cookie and a paper cup of coffee.
“So… how is this case going to affect next weekend?” Dew Doe wondered, she didn’t order anything and just followed her sister to a nearby bench to sit down. Foxy sighed heavily and for a moment didn’t respond, just munched on her cookie.
“To be honest, I’m almost tempted to cancel the whole thing,” she finally muttered. “But Coal wants to do it, in fact she hasn’t quit asking for a year now and I… I just don’t know. I don’t think he deserves it, especially now.”
“I’m just surprised you agreed to the visit at all, even Private was surprised, then again he didn’t agree with his mother either about it being a good idea to give Barricade a chance,” Dew said shaking her head.
Foxy Stripes gave a halfhearted shrug and rolled her eyes. The mare sipped on her coffee and for another moment, the sisters just sat in silence. Outside a train arrived and stopped before the platform. Dew stepped down from the bench and walked over to the ticket stand.
“Excuse me, is that the train from Manehattan?” she asked, when receiving a positive nod the mare hurried to the exit and looked outside.
There weren’t many ponies stepping off. Few had arrived recently who were going onboard. Dew almost went back inside when spotting a familiar face; she signaled to Foxy that Private had arrived before going outside. The mare stopped short when seeing Time Turner and Caramel come out of the train as well.
Private wasted no words, in fact the other stallions hadn’t heard further peep out of him the whole rest of the trip, the Unicorn immediately headed towards the blue Pegasus. Dew however, surprisingly for those who knew her, paid no attention to him and just stared at the two stallions coming up behind him.
“Ah yes… uh you’re probably wondering why we were on the train coming from Manehattan.” Time Turner smiled uneasily, Caramel cleared his throat and for some reason found the platform rather fascinating.
“Wait, did you two go to Manehattan?” Foxy approached, much like her sister stared surprised the Ponyville stallions.
“Yeah we did.” Turner glanced at Private; the Unicorn was silent as ever, eyeing them now with a neutral expression.
Time Turner realized he better explain, so he told the mares about the trip to Manehattan and the reason why. Dew and Foxy listened without betraying any emotions at first, but both of them raised their brows in confusion when the clock smith began telling about Dinky’s letters and Barricade’s reasoning for questioning Derpy.
Dew glanced at Private who nodded to confirm what the stallions were saying. Turner then gave her the letter Barricade had allowed him to take. The mare looked it over before giving it to Foxy who also quickly scanned it, the Pegasi just looked even more confused now.
“Look I know Derpy, she did not write that. I think Dinky is not has happy about her father as she lets on,” Turner added in.
“Even I will give Barricade this one thing, he is maybe a jerk but he is an honest jerk,” Private chimed in. Everyone looked at him. “If he thinks he’s being played with, he lashes out.”
“I hate to admit it but he’s right, Barricade never outright lied, sure he could play up the charm but he never did seem to try and hide it that he was a jerk.” Foxy gave the letter back Dew.
“Yes, we better talk with Derpy and ask her to talk with her daughter, this needs to be cleared up, seems we have a serious miscommunication issue on our hooves,” Dew Doe said and held up the letter to Turner. “I assume I can take this to Derpy?”
“Yes of course, the sooner this is cleared up, the better.” Turner nodded. The Pegasi mares spread out their wings and took to the air.
“Alright, uh could you take care of Private for us while we go to Derpy, next train to Fillydelphia isn’t for another three hours, thanks,” Dew called as she and Foxy flew off in search of Derpy.
Turner and Caramel watched them go before glancing at Private who stood there in silence, still with that almost bored yet neutral expression. The Ponyville stallions wondered if it was even possible to see another facial expression on him.
“I guess we could show you around,” Time Turner mused.
“We could go to Sugarcube Corner; the Cakes are having a pancake special,” Caramel suggested.
It was almost as if the amber stallion had pushed the start button on a turned off animatronic. Private’s eyes lit up, his ears perked and his entire demeanor changed completely. Turner and Caramel blinked in confusion when the Unicorn went past them with the most eager grin possible on his muzzle.
“Well what are we waiting for? We can’t miss a pancake special.” Private suddenly sounded more like an eager child.
Time Turner and Caramel could only exchange glances in mild confusion before running after the Unicorn to make sure he went in the right direction. Caramel was though impressed with his own luck to have hit on something Private apparently enjoyed, they would at least be able to entertain their guest.
Derpy stared at the letter slack jawed, she had been like that for a short while now after Dew and Foxy found her in the park. The mare had found a bench to sit on and watch her daughters play with their friends.
“I think we broke her,” Foxy whispered when Derpy still hadn’t moved.
“Miss Hoo… I mean, Derpy. I know this is both shocking and confusing,” Dew said in reassuring tone. The social workers had already explained the stallions’ trip to Manehattan before giving Derpy the letter.
“He seriously thinks I would write something like this?” Derpy turned towards Dew before she could continue, waving the letter in agitation.
“He does it seems.” Dew Doe nodded and carefully put a hoof on Derpy’s back. “Which is why it’s very important right now that you talk with Dinky first before doing anything else.”
“W-why would Dinky not tell me she was telling him off,” the gray pony whispered and looked over to where her daughter was playing; none of the foals had noticed the exchange between the mares.
“That is why you have to talk with Dinky, we need to clear this up and then show Barricade that he was in fact wrong and that it was Dinky writing these letters,” Dew pointed out.
Derpy sighed; she grabbed the letter into her mouth and climbed down from the bench. For a moment the mare hesitated, she didn’t really want to interrupt her daughter while playing. After steeling herself the pony approached the foals. Dinky was the first to notice and immediately broke off from the ball game to go to her mother, Tootsie followed very shortly after; the two girls told their friends they would be right back, the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Button Mash resumed the game.
“Mom, something wrong?” the violet filly asked, she had already noticed the disappointed expression on her mother. Dinky raised an eyebrow when the mare dropped the letter in front of her. The girl picked it up and behind her Tootsie peeked over her shoulder. The sisters both gasped when recognizing the letter.
“Dinky,” Derpy started though she wondered at Tootsie’s reaction, then she recalled that she often helped her sister write the letters.
“Mom, I can explain,” Dinky started, quite ready to be harshly scolded and was picturing the weeks, no months of grounding she was facing.
“Yes, we can totally explain you see…” Tootsie fell silent when Derpy looked right at her with both eyes focused on her and frowned. The filly knew that when her foster mother managed to focus both eyes and frown she best not test her patience.
Derpy returned her gaze to Dinky who was smiling nervously, the reaction of the fillies looked more though as if they had been caught with their hooves in the cookie jar. The mare knew that was just because they didn’t realize the gravity of the situation.
“Dinky, why haven’t you told me this is how you feel about your father?” she asked quietly and sat down in front of the fillies.
“Well… mom…” the filly laughed nervously. “You’re always telling us to be nice to other ponies, even those we think are mean. Be polite and thankful and stuff. I figured you would just tell me to be grateful that he at least writes and sends money. I sort of hoped he would just stop writing if I wrote the letters like that.”
Dinky’s mother stared at her daughter dumbstruck. Derpy hadn’t in her wildest imagination even considered this scenario being the reason for the letters. Yes, she had always instilled into her daughters to be good to others, even if some ponies might try to bring them down. Yet she never, ever imagined it would be interpreted like this.
“Though we are sort of kind of not being nice by writing the letters like that,” Tootsie said and grinned innocently when receiving a not very amused glare from her foster-mother.
“Dinky, come here.” Derpy waved to her daughter to come closer. The filly did so but with some hesitation, still fearing that she was so in for it now. Her mother gently took her in a one legged hug.
“Dinky… if this is how you feel about your father, you should have told me. I wouldn’t have told you to be nice or grateful that he writes and sends money. I would have understood perfectly. Dinky, your father was not nice to me and I can’t say I care much for him,” the mare explained quietly.
“Is that why I stopped visiting him?” Dinky asked now with a thoughtful frown.
“Well…” Derpy wondered how best to put this. “I told him few years back, that if he couldn’t bother visit you, then you wouldn’t be visiting with him. It was when you and your class put on your first school play.”
“Aunt Derpy, where did you get the letter? It’s one we sent few months ago.” Tootsie suddenly interrupted; she had been examining the letter closer while Derpy spoke with Dinky.
“I got it from Dinky’s father.” Derpy realized there wasn’t really much going around it, though she didn’t need to go into all the details. “He thinks I wrote them and is not happy with me as a result.”
“What!?” both Dinky and Tootsie shouted in shock.
“Are you in trouble, mommy?” Dinky whispered looking much more worried now. Her mother hugged her closer. Tootsie, who had approached, was also drawn into the hug.
“Of course not, my little sillies, not now that I can clear it up with him,” the mare told them reassuringly.
Derpy then let go of the fillies. She took the letter from Tootsie, rolled it up, and placed it in her mouth. She then spread out her wings and rose to the air. She didn’t go far, hovered just above them and was looking straight at the confused girls.
“You two be good now, remember to listen to Carrot Top and Sparkler, you know they are in charge when I’m not home, I might be a little while,” she said and first now took off at impressive speed. The fillies blinked, still a bit confused over their mother’s sudden action. They barely noticed when Dew and Foxy came running.
“Wait, where is she going?” Dew asked the girls, both social workers looked startled and concerned.
“I uh… think she want to see dad.” Dinky glanced up at the blue Pegasus.
“Oh dear, Foxy go after her. If you can’t turn her around, then go with her,” Dew ordered her sister who started to take to the air but then glanced down at Dew unsure.
“Why me?” she asked.
“You are a faster flier than me. Also, I just love the mental image of Barricade having to face two angry mothers,” Dew explained and grinned.
“You’re evil,” Foxy chuckled before taking off after Derpy who had already disappeared over the horizon.
It took a little while for Foxy to catch up with Derpy. Although the Pegasus was a faster flyer than her sister, she was still bigger and heavier and the other mare did have a head start already. By the time she finally caught up all thoughts of trying to turn the gray pony around were gone, Foxy was now curious what was exactly going on.
Derpy had noticed her approach and put the rolled up letter between her front hooves. Even if she had managed to speak with her daughters earlier with it in her mouth, it would still make talking easier.
“So… what… prompted… this… spontaneous… trip…” Foxy wheezed as she lined up with Derpy in the air.
“Oh um…” the smaller pony hesitated. It now occurred to her that she had left rather abruptly and with two social workers just sitting there.
“I guess I figured Time had the right idea, best just to go and confront him, maybe I’ll have better luck,” Derpy chuckled nervously and produced an innocent grin.
“Time? Oooh gone to the front of the name have you now?” Foxy asked coyly when she realized Derpy was referring to Time Turner, she grinned wider when the gray Pegasus blushed.
“But yeah… maybe he did have the right idea. We’re just so used to Barricade being an unreasonable jerk that just going there and talk with him never crossed our minds,” the maroon pony said and shrugged.
“So you’re not here to tell me this is a bad idea and convince me to turn around?” Derpy asked, mildly confused and not sure if she should feel relieved or dreadful. Deep back in her mind, the thought of going to confront Barricade was still not very appealing. A small part was almost hoping someone would stop her.
“Heck no, need to give him an earful myself.” Foxy sighed then hung her head. “I was finally convinced to allow Coal to visit him next weekend.”
“Coal?” Derpy inquired, she already had a thought but didn’t want to state anything, she felt her suspicion was confirmed when Foxy hesitated a little as if the mare had said a little too much.
“My daughter… and Barricade’s,” the maroon pony said the latter part between her teeth as if she really hated to admit it.
Derpy nodded, she and Carrot Top hadn’t misheard the other day when the sisters had left their house. Though they hadn’t thought much about the remark, Derpy had wondered if it had been a reference to another child of Barricade’s.
“How old is she?” the gray pony asked.
“Not much older than Dinky, we broke up shortly before he moved from Fillidelphia to, well, Ponyville,” Foxy told Derpy and her brow sunk a little in thought. “I didn’t know I was pregnant until after, we broke up because Private got into his face and chased him away after one too many jerk moments.”
“Well at least his brother was born with a brain,” Derpy joked and the mares giggled.
They found a suitable cloud to rest for a little bit and continued to chat though their talk rather quickly turned to the children and their antics rather than the father of said children. Foxy quickly declared Derpy the winner when telling about the Mother’s day breakfast attempt last year by Dinky and Tootsie.
“I had never seen such a mess in the kitchen, how they got some of the pancake batter to the ceiling I will never know.” Derpy laughed and Foxy nearly fell down from the cloud she was shaking so much from laughter.
“Coal is such a sweetie but very curious and… not convinced about our stance on her father. I stopped the visits she had with him because he was always late with the foal support and I was worried he was lying to her. I just took it as a sign he wasn’t interested in her…” Foxy sighed as she brought back the element she and Derpy had in common.
That reminded them of where they were going and that they still had some miles to fly so they resumed their journey, but the talk had brought up something else to Derpy’s mind. She hadn’t been surprised that Barricade had been with others and mishandled those relationships as well. He was definitely the type of stallion in her mind who would.
However, with Foxy being a confirmed mother of another child of Barricade’s, the mail mare couldn’t help but wonder if there were more foals. Suddenly it sprung to her mind a nagging possibility that maybe on occasion he had been justified to be late with the support? Maybe he delayed one payment so he could make another? No that didn’t sound right to her, that didn’t sound like Barricade.
Besides, it doesn’t excuse his attitude towards Dinky, she thought.
Time Turner and Caramel weren’t really sure how to describe the scene they were witnessing. Private Iceland was gobbling down pancake after pancake in front of them with a content smile and near bliss in his eyes. This was such a stark contrast to how he had been in the train that the two Earth Stallions weren’t sure whether it was the same pony anymore.
The Cakes didn’t complain and Mrs. Cake brought on a plate after a plate at request. Then again, this was making money for them so why would they complain about a customer who liked to eat their product.
“If this goes on, he might just put the twins through college,” Mr. Cake had joked when the fifth plate was brought to the hungry, hungry Unicorn.
Turner couldn’t do much but watch in some morbid fascination having no appetite for pancakes while watching this spectacle. Private seemed to be a pony of many contrast, he contrasted his own brother with less outspoken manner and he even managed to contrast his own usual behavior when it came to something he loved, this case pancakes.
“Do you want some more syrup, dearie?” Mrs. Cake asked as she trotted closer with a tray that held a new pitcher of delicious looking syrup.
Private looked up and nodded, not eagerly but still with the message that more syrup would very much be appreciated. The pitcher replaced the empty one on the table and the Unicorn resumed eating.
“Oh my, I see you’ve discovered Private’s not so secret weakness,” Dew Doe addressed their table; she was newly arrived into the shop after a short search for the stallions.
“He’s on his fifth plate,” Caramel remarked and glanced at the Pegasus, his eyes alone asking if the Unicorn was always like this.
“Only the fifth? My, my, he’s slacking off,” Dew joked and couldn’t help but chuckle when seeing the faces on the Ponyville stallions.
“But seriously, we need to head to Manehattan, stat. Derpy decided to head over and give Barricade a piece of her mind. I sent Foxy after her but I don’t think she’ll manage to turn her around. However, I noted that there is only one last train that goes there today and it probably won’t arrive until those two are already there,” Dew then explained.
“Derpy is doing what?” Turner gasped, Caramel blinked in surprise. Private didn’t seem to have noticed anything and just kept stuffing on pancakes.
“Well we better go then, the last train does indeed only go in few minutes,” the clock smith jumped down from his seat.
“I’ve already made sure Carrot Top is watching over the fillies, though I probably didn’t need to,” Dew noted.
Now all eyes went to Private who was still oblivious to the talk. Caramel raised an eyebrow and silently wondered how they were going to get him to move away from his delicious meal. Dew answered the unasked question by simply heading closer to the table, grabbing the plate in her mouth and began backing away.
Turner and Caramel could once again just stare at the scene happening in front of them. Private stopped eating but now he scrambled down from his seat and followed Dew with his eyes fixed on the pancakes she moved towards the entrance of the shop.
“Just keep the plate, dearie, plenty of those where they came from,” Mrs. Cake called from the cashier counter when Dew had glanced over in case it wasn’t alright for her to take the plate outside.
“Wait, why doesn’t he just grab the pancakes away from her with his ma…” Caramel didn’t get further as Turner put a hoof over his mouth.
“I know you’ve been on a roll today, Caramel, but please don’t give him any ideas, we are kind of in a hurry right now, we have a train to catch again,” his employer whispered sharply before following Dew and Private out of the shop, Caramel came right behind him.
Once outside Time Turner and Caramel noticed Mulberry on their way to the train station, he was running towards them. The stocky police pony was almost immediately addressing the amber colored stallion.
“Hey Caramel, Sassaflash been looking all over for you today,” he informed Caramel who stopped short at hearing his ex-girlfriend’s name.
“Um did she look angry or annoyed when she told you that?” Caramel wondered and half expected the Pegasus mare in question to pop in from nowhere.
“Ah, Caramel, you resolve this, I’ll see you when I come back from Manehattan.” Time Turner began walking again, he had glanced at the clock tower and seen that the last train would be coming at any second now, Dew and Private were already long gone from sight.
“Wait but…” Caramel didn’t manage to speak further and Mulberry had to jump to the side when a turquoise Pegasus mare with a vanilla mane suddenly landed right next to him.
Mulberry grumbled something unheard to everyone and started to trot away. Caramel was thus left alone with the newly arrived pony. She didn’t look either annoyed or angry in fact she seemed almost pleased to have found him.
“Caramel, my pony, my tough cookie, the pony who just doesn’t give up no matter the hardship he faces,” the mare greeted cheerfully as she grabbed the stallion in a tight one leg hug.
“Hi Sass… um nice to meet you?” Caramel was very confused.
“So what’s happening here? You say you got a new job lined up and then you just vanish on me? I thought we were a team, a partnership, a peanut butter and jelly combination.” Sassaflash eased slightly on her hug but didn’t quite let go, she now stared questionably at the confounded stallion.
“Wait…what? You broke up with me.” Caramel pointed out and pulled himself out of the hug. Now it was the Pegasus’s turn to look confused.
“Y-you took that seriously? You actually thought…?” Sass blinked several times, then she quickly grabbed Caramel with both hooves, pulling him closer.
“Caramel, buddy, sweetie, you klutzy goof, you know my jokes are spoken in sarcasm, I didn’t mean to kick you out on the curb, no matter how many jobs you lose. I mean, sure mom probably didn’t get it either that I was joking… that probably didn’t help either…” Sassaflash blinked as it dawned on her.
“Ookay maybe we should have a proper talk about this, uh you busy?” she asked and grinned uneasily.
“Well… not anymore.” Caramel could hear the distant sound of a train whistle and guessed he would never make it in time to catch it.
Derpy landed on the sidewalk and Foxy made a bit heavier landing beside her. It was now late afternoon but there were still plenty of ponies around. The grey Pegasus was mildly relieved that they could just fly above the traffic if needed be. They had landed in front of The Barricade gym and ponies were still inside working out by the looks of it.
“So, ready to do this?” Foxy asked sounding all hyped up.
“Yes.” Derpy nodded determination in her voice and face.
“Right,” the maroon mare said.
“Right,” the grey one concurred.
They didn’t move an inch towards the door. Ponies had to walk around them as the two mares still just stood and stared at the gym, some gave them questionable looks but otherwise no one paid much heed to them.
“I suppose we should go in,” Derpy said after a short while.
“Yeah,” Foxy agreed.
“When was the last time you saw him?” the smaller pony asked.
“Eh, two years ago, about the time when I told him Coal wasn’t visiting him anymore,” the maroon pony explained. “What I know now days mostly comes from either Private or their parents, but since they know I’m rarely interested in him they don’t tell me that much.”
“Yeah… I haven’t really seen him since he left Ponyville… that was a while ago, I just sent letters or telegrams,” Derpy told her.
“Alright, let’s go in,” Foxy grunted and hung her head, realizing they were both just stalling.
“Can’t we stall a little longer?” the other Pegasus asked, knowing also that they were in truth in no hurry to meet Barricade.
“Yes, yes we can,” the maroon pony raised her head nodding sharply. Another moment passed before the grey one hoofed her face.
“No, no we better get this over with.” Derpy shook her head and started towards the door, Foxy followed hesitantly.
The mares entered the gym. Tornado, the Pegasus Time Turner and Caramel had seen lifting was behind the counter this time. There were not as many ponies inside as when the stallions had been there.
“Yeah, can I help ya, ladies?” Tornado looked up smiling from a magazine he was reading.
“You can tell Barricade that the mothers of his daughters are here to see him,” Foxy addressed the stallion giving him a frosty look.
“Oh… it’s you Foxy… uh…” the male Pegasus blinked when he recognized the mare. “Ah that’s going to be a little difficult.”
“Why?” Foxy’s eyes narrowed to a slit. This change in attitude surprised Derpy. The maroon mare had been just as unwilling to go in to face Barricade, but now she looked almost ready to burn holes into this stallion.
Tornado indeed looked like he rather be miles and miles away. He looked hesitantly around as if hoping for some help, but mysteriously all nearby ponies were very busy with their workouts and seemed to be actively avoiding looking at the counter.
“He’s gone home. He and Barbell always go home early on the weekends,” he explained and tried to maintain a smile but it slowly sunk away at the stinging glare from the mare.
“Fine then,” Foxy snorted and walked out with Derpy hurriedly following.
Outside Foxy took immediately to the air and the grey mare had to make some effort to keep up. Meeting Tornado had really riled her up. They flew around for a while before Derpy dared to break the silence.
“So uh… you knew him?” she asked cautiously, still not sure what mood the other mare was in. Foxy glanced at her before finally nodding.
“We dated few years ago or more like, I dated, he was just trying to get around me to get to my sister,” Foxy told her with a snort.
“What? What a jerk!” Derpy gasped, understanding the attitude change now.
“Yeah, Dew of course wasn’t having any of that, slapped him when he first tried to hit on her and told me immediately about it. Then we both informed him that I was not a checkpoint just to get Dew,” the maroon mare explained then sighed heavily. “Not the first somepony does that.”
“Wait, this has happened more than once?” the grey Pegasus blinked in surprise.
“Oh yes…” Foxy wasn’t hiding the bitterness in her tone, she stopped to hover in midair, gesturing to herself now. “Behold Foxy Stripes, the ugly gateway to the beautiful Dew Doe, who is so symmetrical, so photogenic, so pretty and prim and looks all proper with the mane and tail all lush and full and sleek soft coat. Ponies look at me and ask if I was adopted, they look at her and tell our mother she is so lucky to have such a beautiful daughter.”
Derpy watched silently as Foxy ranted, meeting Tornado had obviously brought up unpleasant memories. She thought back to earlier today and could see now why Foxy and Dew wouldn’t openly state they were sisters, even if they looked close and didn’t seem ashamed to be related. It was obviously done to spare Foxy’s feelings who was tired of being compared to Dew.
The grey mare could relate a little though, thinking back to those who thought she was nothing but a brain-dead klutz. Some didn’t even look further than to her mismatched eyes and immediately judged her. However, she couldn’t really say she let it bother her too much, her optimistic nature just didn’t seem to allow for it plus her real friends and her daughters and parents just always kept her spirits high up.
Derpy flew closer to Foxy now that the bigger mare had ranted for a minute and grabbed her in a hug. That silenced the maroon Pegasus who looked mildly surprised before hesitantly returning it.
“Mom always says, when someone is upset, let them rant for a minute, then hug them,” Derpy said when they parted.
“Yeah uh, sorry about that. I wasn’t really expecting Tornado to be working there, then again I have tried hard to forget that creep,” Foxy muttered and the two resumed flying.
“No worries, but I suppose we should try and find Barricade since we are here, you know where he lives?” Derpy asked.
“Unfortunately I do though I’ve never been, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find when you know the address,” the maroon Pegasus responded.
It took a little while and they did have to stop once to ask for directions but eventually they arrived at an apartment building deep within the city. Foxy and Derpy landed in front of it and looked up at the big building. The grey Pegasus then noticed a yellowish mare coming out of it and approached her.
“Excuse me, does Barricade live here?” she asked curiously. The mare stopped and regarded her for a second.
“Oh yes, Barricade and Barbell, they live on the third floor, apartment 3B,” she said before trotting off, clearly not too interested in why a stranger was asking about them.
“Wait, this Barbell lives with him?” Foxy raised an eyebrow. “Last I heard she was just helping him running that joint with her brother Blue.”
Derpy shrugged, really not interested in updated relationship status of her daughter’s father. The mares approached the door and realized they would probably need to ring the buzzer; however, another pony was leaving the apartment building, so they just slipped inside before the door closed.
They quickly made their way to the third floor and soon found the right apartment. Once again, they hesitated a little before Derpy finally worked up the nerve to knock. The mares held their breaths while waiting for an answer. It was quickly let out when it was not Barricade who opened the door nor was it Barbell.
Hovering in midair staring suspiciously at them was a small Pegasus filly. She looked about year or two older than Dinky and had a thin but healthy built. Her coat was dark grayish brown and mane and tail was dark grayish sapphire blue with grayish blue highlights.
“Um hi?” Derpy greeted her and smiled, Foxy’s jaw was nearly down to the floor.
“What’cha want?” the filly asked and scrunched up her face.
“First of all, don’t be rude, Cara.” Foxy collected her lower jaw up from the floor. “Second of all, what are you doing here?”
“Livin’ here,” Cara the filly snorted.
“You know her?” Derpy whispered, leaning slightly towards the bigger mare.
“Yeah, that’s Cara, Barricade’s oldest daughter, but last I heard her grandparents were raising… oooh that explains so much. They have sent her to live with Barricade from now on.” Foxy sighed and shook her head.
So he has three foals, Derpy thought and again started to wonder how many there actually were.
“Seriously Cara, you go answer the door and then don’t let us know who it is,” a very familiar voice to the mares suddenly came from inside the apartment.
Cara’s was bathed in indigo colored glow and pulled back a bit, the filly grunted at being removed from the door but didn’t otherwise protest. Then Barricade arrived in the entrance. He had been about to say something but when the stallion saw the mares and recognized them, it froze in his mouth.
“Oh…” Barricade raised one eyebrow; he regarded both Foxy and Derpy carefully.
“This is going to hurt, isn’t it?” he asked though it sounded more like a statement.
Time Turner watched the landscape pass by the train window with a worried frown. He couldn’t help but feel a little responsible for how things had escalated. The stallion had hoped his previous trip to Manehattan would yield results that would help Derpy against Barricade. In some ways that did happen, he did discover that there was a serious miscommunication issue going on.
Yet he couldn’t help but wonder if he had just stayed put things would have been solved anyway. Barricade didn’t have a case as far as the clock smith was concerned, both Foxy and Dew had probably seen by now that Derpy was in fact a competent and caring mother and would toss the case into the trash were it belonged.
However, Derpy had now gone off to Manehattan to confront Dinky’s father and there was no telling how that would end. Turner was worried they might just be heading towards a disaster zone. In what state would they find Derpy?
Time Turner turned his head away from the window and glanced towards the bench Dew and Private sat on. The mare was talking and by the sound of it was telling the Unicorn what she’s seen in Ponyville, telling him more about the case, telling him that he has a niece there. Private’s only responses to all of this were the occasional nods and low grunts.
Hard to tell if he’s even really listening or not, Turner thought, Private was back to his more neutral expression.
The mind of the brown stallion went right back to Derpy. He had no doubt that she could handle herself; she certainly seemed capable against those who would try to demean her. Yet now more was at stake, what if Barricade decided to be stubborn? What if he actually pressed this to matter to court?
Wait a minute, Time Turner blinked as a sudden thought occurred to him. He glanced back to Dew and Private.
“Excuse me, Miss Doe, this case Barricade put against Derpy. Could he ever take this to court?” the clock smith asked.
Dew looked at him and even Private had raised an eyebrow as if he was considering this question. The mare had to tap her muzzle in thought for second as she herself worked out everything she knew already.
“Well… no, not really. First of all even if he were to press any charges, which he hasn’t really, it would still go through social service first and we would go and see if there was anything to charge against and Foxy and I have already decided that there is no case, so this case has no hope at all,” she explained to him.
“Wait, he didn’t press charges?” Time Turner frowned; he could have sworn that is what Barricade did.
“That’s what we thought as well at first, but while you had gone to Manehattan we got a response from Swift Mane and he clarified what had happened. Barricade didn’t press charges, but he expressed concern and asked that Derpy be investigated, as the biological father and since he is paying foal support he had that right,” the mare said.
“But he told me that he wouldn’t drop the case unless Derpy stopped ‘writing’ those letters, if what you say is true then there is no case to be dropped since you would just kick it out and tell him that there is nothing to charge against,” Turner told her.
“He said something to the same effect to me,” Private muttered.
“Why would he do that? He had nothing to drop, no legal action is being taken yet, in fact Foxy and I have confirmed that no legal action should be taken.” Dew Doe looked very confused now. Then she put a hoof over her mouth as if something suddenly occurred to her.
“Mister Turner, when you and your friend went there, did something happen that struck you as odd?” she asked.
Now Turner’s brow sunk low as he played back his previous trip to the city with Caramel. Meeting Barbell, seeing all the ponies that seemed almost ready to go at them for bothering Barricade, how Barricade seemed to able to control them with just a look, the talk in the office and then being kicked out by Barbell and that bulky blue pony.
Hold on, those two that threw us out, they came out almost as if on cue yet allowed us enough time to get one of the letters. Time Turner suddenly realized that the timing of those two ponies had been rather uncanny.
“Now that you mention it,” the clock smith said. “Caramel and I were evicted by those two ponies, a mare and a stallion; I think the mare was called Barbell. Their timing was almost perfect if you ask me. I mean, would Barricade really need help to evict two ponies he could probably haul off on his own without even using his magic?”
There was a moment of silence now amongst the three ponies in the train car. Dew and Private were staring at Time Turner and even the Unicorn sported a concerned frown. The clock smith wondered if this had indeed been rather odd because now the mare and the other stallion exchanged worried glances.
“Barricade wouldn’t need anypony’s help to throw somepony out, you’re right there,” Dew whispered and didn’t look too happy. “Oh sweet Celestia, what was I thinking, I allowed both Derpy and Foxy to go there, alone!”
“What do you mean?” Time Turner didn’t like the sound of that one bit.
“It means Barricade’s been playing us all like a fiddle,” Private grunted and hoofed his face.
“Alright, Barricade. You got some explaining to do,” Foxy grunted and stomped forward, forcing the stallion to back into the apartment. Derpy followed but allowed the maroon mare to do the talking for now.
“By all means, come right in,” Barricade chuckled and used his magic to close the door after the mares.
Cara was buzzing around them, showing no indication of leaving but suddenly Barbell arrived in the hall and managed to grab the filly by the tail and pull her away. The girl didn’t like that one bit.
“FOUL! FOUL! FOUL! CHILD ABUSE, I’LL CALL THE POLICE, THE ROYAL GUARDS, THE PRINCESSES! I’LL SUE!!” the filly roared as Barbell took her away and to another room.
“You can talk with my attorney, Barbell!” Barricade called after them with a smile.
“She’s not a certified attorney!” Cara shouted just as Barbell closed the door and leaving the stallion with the Pegasi.
“I see Cara hasn’t changed much.” Foxy blinked, this had momentarily distracted her.
Wow, what a voice. Derpy gingerly rubbed her ear, she was glad Dinky and Tootsie at least never reached ear-splitting levels of loudness though it could sometimes come close.
“Well with that, I believe you were demanding an explanation?” Barricade said and walked through a door that lead to a sitting room. The mares followed and Foxy reassumed her more serious expression.
“Yes, yes we do,” she grunted.
Barricade just nodded and gesture to them to sit. The two Pegasi took a couch but Barricade sat in a chair. Derpy glanced around for a second. The sitting room was sparsely furnished but there were few shelves with books and other things. A table was between them and the stallion.
“Barricade.” The gray pony worked up a nerve to look right at him and speak. “How could you possibly believe that I would write letters like this and pretend to be my daughter?”
Derpy even managed to add an angry frown to follow that question, she also put the letter down on the table too further empathize what she meant. Foxy nodded sharply in agreement with her. Barricade looked at the letter, then at the mares, then he gave a sideway glance to a clock on the wall before chuckling.
“Oh I don’t believe it at all, not in the slightest. Honestly, I know many ponies didn’t give you much credit, Derpy, but hey I did live with you for long enough to know you are smarter than that,” the stallion said with a big sly grin.
A needle would have made an echoing sound if someone had dropped one. Foxy and Derpy were so stumped by the response that all they could do was stare at Barricade who was laughing now.
“Oh come one girls, especially you, Foxy, I thought you knew me better.” Barricade seemed to be having the time of his life.
“Of course you didn’t write those letters, any idiot with half a brain can see those are written by an elementary school foal. Sure it stings a little that Dinky feels his way about me, but hey I’m used to being hated even by some of my kids.” The stallion gave the letter a glance but then shook his head with a snort.
“B-but why then? Why would you do this to me?” Derpy whispered. She was just too stunned to speak any louder. Foxy’s mouth was hanging open.
“Eh, to be perfectly honest.” Barricade shrugged carelessly. “You were the safest bet. You have just enough reputation for a concern to be plausible but still with an airtight enough defense that nothing really would come out of it.”
“I… what?” The gray mare was really confused now and looked at Foxy who didn’t seem to have it any easier.
Barricade glanced at the clock again. He looked awfully smug, like someone whose plan had come together perfectly. The stallion turned his attention to the mares again who were still too thunderstruck to speak.
“I suppose I should elaborate,” he mused and grinned even wider.
“Aren’t you done tormenting them?” Barbell appeared in the doorframe looking unimpressed.
“I’m getting to it; gee can’t I be allowed to enjoy it for a moment that I have three sexy mares in my apartment?” Barricade laughed, that comment snapped Foxy and Derpy out of it and they gave the stallion wary glance. The Earth mare just rolled her eyes, obviously used to these kind of comments. Barbell left the living room, mentioning something about keeping Cara away.
“Now then, you two,” the Unicorn peered his eyes at the Pegasi mares with a smirk.
“Yeah I sent in a concern to the social service knowing full well that nothing would come out of it. Knowing you, Derpy, you told them all about how I treated you back when I lived with you in Ponyville. I know Swift Mane, have had to deal with him few times, he wouldn’t send just anypony to handle a case I was involved in, no he would send his best, Dew and Foxy, especially since they know me and know usually how to handle me,” he began telling them.
“What Swift Mane doesn’t know is that I know how to deal with them as well. I expected that somepony would come from Ponyville on your behalf, that friend of yours Time Turner certainly didn’t disappoint and as I also expected, Dew asked my brother Private to visit me as well to see if I had finally gone off the deep end,” Barricade continued chuckling a bit.
“Now this wasn’t about you at all, Derpy, as much as I would love to twist you around my hooves again. This wasn’t even about Foxy, who I thought was going to slap me when I saw you two standing there outside my apartment…”
“Then what, what is it about to be playing these sick games with us?” Derpy interrupted, feeling mildly disgusted that Barricade wouldn’t mind entering her life again and control her like he had done before. The mare was pretty sure she really wouldn’t have dared coming here in the end if Foxy hadn’t been there as well.
“Oh Derpy, life must feel so simple in that sweet safe little town of yours. Now I say safe with some hesitation considering what I’ve been reading in the newspaper about it. Still, it is a small country town where everypony knows everypony and the last big crime was that foalnapping thing.” Barricade grinned a shark like grin at Derpy’s outburst. He was slowly rubbing his front hooves together.
Derpy cringed at how Barricade looked right now; it brought up some uncomfortable memories. She eyed Foxy whose eyes were narrowing; the gray Pegasus wondered if there were more reasons Barricade hadn’t seen Coal for two years now.
“You are up to something.” Foxy was now glaring hard at Barricade.
“Yes, glad you could join the talk; I think I was just establishing that,” the Unicorn smirked then eyed the clock for the third time. “Tell me Foxy, how often does Private leave Fillydelphia?”
“What? You should know that yourself, he barely ever leaves the house unless it’s for work or if Coal manages to get him to take her somewhere which is usually within the city limits anyway. Or if Dew asks him to do something for her.” Foxy’s angry frown changed into confusion at the question.
That was an odd question, Derpy thought.
“Wait, Private left Fillydelphia today didn’t he? When he went to talk with… uh you,” she said causing Foxy to turn her head sharply towards her, her eyes lit up with realization.
“And after that he went straight to Ponyville to talk with Dew and me, that’s practically a record time for him outside the city,” the maroon mare gasped.
Derpy and Foxy returned their attention to Barricade who was slowly clapping. For the fourth time the stallion looked at the clock. He chuckled and slowly turned back towards them. The Unicorn grinned again.
“I assume the two of you just flew here. However, knowing Dew, she is probably on the train heading for Manehattan and Private most likely is with her. I wouldn’t be surprised either that one or two of Derpy’s friends are with them as well. I would say Private has been away from Fillydelphia most of the afternoon,” he said with a shrug.
What is going on? This is not why we came here. Derpy frowned in thought. This whole conversation was confusing her terribly.
“Why is it so important for you that Private leaves Fillydelphia?” she asked but Barricade didn’t get a chance to answer as this was the point Foxy exploded in anger.
“You son of a Manticore! You are still doing it aren’t you?!” the large Pegasus mare growled and jumped off the couch, her wings rose in irritation and she was glaring all kinds of sharp objects at the stallion.
Had Foxy seemed irritated when meeting Tornado, it was nothing compared to now. The mare was livid; she seemed just about ready to charge at Barricade. Derpy wasn’t sure if she could even hope to hold the bigger pony back. The Unicorn however just watched almost as if he prepared for this.
“I’m not going to sit here to play your stupid games. The damage is done anyway. It’s a mystery to me why your mother thinks you have changed. You haven’t changed one bit, you are still the same conniving manipulative bastard you have always been. Now you have even involved somepony who didn’t even need to be involved at all, just because you needed to distract us and especially Private,” Foxy snapped but managed to keep her voice surprisingly low, but Derpy could practically see the fumes coming out of her ears. “Well we are leaving! We are done here! Furthermore, you can FORGET next weekend!”
With that, Foxy Stripes stormed out of the living room and headed for the apartment door. Derpy started to follow but stopped to look at Barricade who had just sat there on the chair unfazed by everything.
“One last thing before I leave, Barricade,” she said.
The Unicorn did not see the slap coming. Suddenly his head snapped to the side as the gray hoof struck him. Barricade literally saw stars as he gingerly rubbed the sore spot and turned his head. The stallion just missed Derpy’s yellow tail as it left the living room.
“Right, this went better than I actually expected,” he chuckled.
Derpy caught up with Foxy just outside the apartment building. The maroon pony had in her anger gone all the way out before realizing that the other Pegasus hadn’t followed her. She had been just about to go back in when the gray mare came trotting out, feeling strangely good about herself for slapping the stallion.
“So, I’m a little confused,” Derpy said when seeing Foxy.
“Yeah I don’t blame you,” the bigger pony said solemnly. “I’m sorry you really shouldn’t have had to get involved in this.”
“Yeah… so what did I get involved in?” the smaller one wondered as the two mares began walking down the street and away from the building.
“It’s complicated, but you see Barricade sometimes engages in what’s best called problem solving and his clients are usually of the very unsavory nature. He doesn’t directly get involved in anything illegal but he’s done things in the past that has helped certain ponies acquire things they want by any means necessary,” Foxy began explaining.
“The best example is probably what he did right now. He needed Private away, which probably means somepony wanted something Private had but as you heard, he hardly ever leaves Fillydelphia or the house unless it’s work. But Barricade knows us and knows what will get Private away long enough. So the whole thing around you was just an overcomplicated way to get Private out of Fillydelpia for few hours because he knew we would ask him to talk with his brother.” The maroon mare sighed and shook her head.
“You’re right, that sounds overly complicated.” Derpy arched an eyebrow. “What would Private have that required all of this?”
“I don’t know I…” Foxy was interrupted as a blue flash suddenly collided with her and the mare was on the ground being tightly hugged by Dew Doe. Right behind her came Private and Time Turner running.
“Derpy, are you all right?” Time Turner immediately ran over to the gray mare, he had to restrain himself from grabbing her in a hug too, although he would probably be forgiven, the stallion just didn’t quite have the nerve to do it.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Derpy said with a smile. She had no qualms of putting a leg around him. “I’m actually glad to see you; this last hour has been confusing.”
“Confusing? How so?” Turner frowned, ignoring his rising heartbeat over the fact that she was giving him a one-leg hug.
Foxy and Dew rose back up and the maroon mare began explaining with some input from Derpy. The clock smith’s brow rose high as he listened but Dew scowled and even Private didn’t look impressed when hearing Barricade’s motif.
“It’s probably about those coins your dad sent you isn’t it?” Dew looked at Private.
“Most likely, they are probably gone now,” the Unicorn grunted.
“What coins?” Time Turner and Derpy asked at the same time.
“Private and Barricade’s parents are archeologists, Private works in the Fillydelphia History museum and his dad sometimes sends him small artifacts for further evaluation if he’s too busy to do it himself. Few weeks ago, Private’s father sent him few small ancient coins they found in a dig they are working on,” Dew told them.
“And you think Barricade did all of this just to help somepony steal those coins?” Derpy wondered.
“That is the most likely reason, which means the three of us must go back to Fillydelphia immediately,” Dew Doe claimed. “I’m sorry you had to be involved in our usual dispute with Barricade.”
“Usual? Something like this has happened before?” Time Turner raised an eyebrow when the Pegasi sisters and the Unicorn stallion nodded.
“Although we were hoping he had quit it, he hasn’t been doing much for the past two years as far as we are aware,” Dew said.
“But can’t we do something? I mean can’t we ask the police to arrest him or at least investigate him?” Derpy asked.
“For what exactly? He’s not actually done anything illegal personally, he was fully within his rights to ask the social service to investigate you and it was me who asked Private to go and talk with him, not he. When we go back to Fillydelphia and if we find the house ransacked, I don’t think we’ll find anything that links it to him because it was not Barricade or his ponies doing the break in. He was just distracting us for somepony else that he was working for and good luck proving that,” the blue Pegasus explained to her, it was clear from her expression that Dew didn’t like having to say this.
“Although we could theoretically get him in trouble for making a false statement of why he was concerned,” she then added as an afterthought.
“Yeah, I mean he didn’t actually confess to anything back in the apartment except that he always knew Derpy didn’t write those letters. I just got so fed up with him because I knew from experience what he was doing that I ended up storming off,” Foxy grunted.
Time Turner for now just nodded as he listened, he really didn’t have anything to add and his mind was going over this new information. Something still didn’t add up, this sounded like awful lot of trouble just to make sure one pony was out of town long enough. All someone would have to do was to wait until all three of them were off to work, the house would surely be empty then.
The clock smith was brought out of his thoughts when Derpy gently shook him. The stallion realized they were all probably ready to head to the train station. He guessed the Pegasi sisters and Private would take the next one to Fillydelphia, however there were no more trains to Ponyville.
“I know I don’t know the fellow as good as you do, but doesn’t it strike you as odd that he would so readily allow you to unravel what he was up to?” Turner asked. “I mean, he could have continued the façade and even pretended to be turned around when Miss Stripes and Derpy confronted him.”
Dew Doe opened her mouth to respond but then furrowed her brow as she considered. Foxy scratched her head and Private seemed to be thinking this over as well. Derpy looked at Time Turner and realized she still had her leg around him and let go, blushing slightly and was grateful nobody noticed.
“I hope we are not interrupting anything,” a familiar voice suddenly addressed the group.
Turner jumped a bit and so did Derpy. Turning around revealed Barricade come out of an alleyway and with Barbell following him. Across the street was Blue, the big blue Earth Pony Time Turner had seen at the gym. Finally, landing with a thud, Tornado and two other Pegasi stallions arrived. It was first now that the clock smith noticed that the street they were in was strangely empty and that the sun had already disappeared down the horizon.
“What is going on?” Foxy frowned as she warily eyed the ponies surrounding them.
“Oh you’ll find out,” Barricade chuckled with a sadistic smile on his muzzle.
Oh where is Big Mac when I need him. Time Turner slowly backed until he was standing side by side Private, Derpy also retreated closer to the other Pegasi mares. Four of them watched Barricade worriedly.
“So much for not being a colossal jerk, huh?” the clock smith whispered to Private.
“Can you blame a pony for having a slight hope his brother is finally turning around?” the Unicorn grunted, he was glaring at his twin.
“No, I guess I can’t.” Turner conceded.
The five ponies were only outnumbered by one but Time Turner could see they were clearly outmatched. He had seen all these ponies at the gym during the first trip to Manehattan. The clock smith did not like their chances of escape, it also puzzled him how quiet and empty this street was. It was almost as if the whole neighborhood had gone silent while this was happening.
Only Barricade approached the group, Barbell remained by the entrance of the alley and the others didn’t move from their points, it was like they were both making sure the five ponies couldn’t get away and keeping a watch for anyone walking in on this scene.
“Gee you know, I wonder what wild theories you have been having about what I’m up to,” Barricade chuckled as he began slowly circling them.
“Did I do this to lure Private away so someone who hired me to lure him away could break into your pathetic little house? Am I after those worthless old coins dad sent him? Have I gone mad? Am I trying to get rid of you so you stop bothering me?” The Unicorn entire focus was on Dew, Foxy and Private, so far he seemed to be ignoring Time Turner and Derpy.
“Maybe I’m trying to prove some sick point or maybe I just enjoy playing these sick games. Then again why be silent and docile for two years then suddenly spring this all on you?” Barricade’s eyes began to narrow and he kept circling.
“Barricade!” Private spoke up in an unusually audible voice for him. He gestured a hoof to Derpy and Time Turner. “Allow them to go; they don’t have to be involved in this. This is clearly between us three and you.”
Barricade stopped his circling and glanced at the two Ponyville Ponies as if he was noticing them for the first time. Derpy winched a little, uncomfortable memories were surfacing; now she wished she hadn’t so rashly flown to the city. She looked at Foxy who didn’t look as confident as before, she seemed mildly worried now. Dew looked nervous as well and only Private maintained a glare on his brother.
“Derpy,” Barricade snorted and peered down at the mare. “So, did it feel good to slap my face? Feel you finally have a backbone? You still think you can face me and come out on top?”
Derpy shrunk down at every question; this was more the Barricade she remembered. Her eyes went into two different directions; she just couldn’t focus them at the moment. The mare closed them and looked down, shaking her head. Time Turner frowned, he had never seen Derpy like this and realized now more than ever what damage Barricade had done to her. The clock smith stepped up in front of the Pegasus and glared right up at the Unicorn.
“Hey! You leave her alone you jerk! She’s a far braver and kinder pony than you will ever be!” he snapped. Deep inside his mind was going: What in Tartarus are you doing, you’re going to get yourself killed!
“Oh look, now the twig is speaking up,” Barricade chuckled and leaned a bit forward towards the clock smith. “You seriously think you are doing anything to impress? Are you hoping Derpy will just fall into your hooves by standing up against me? You honestly think you have even the slightest chance with her?”
Time Turner didn’t know what possessed him, but his right front hoof just suddenly rose up and hit Barricade right in the face. This wasn’t exactly a knockout punch, but it was enough that the Unicorn, despite his size advantage, staggered mildly disoriented back. The clock smith was frozen when he realized just what he had done; his expression was a mix of ‘what happened?’ and ‘I did not just do that.’
Derpy looked just as surprised, having dared to open her eyes again when Turner had stepped in front of her. Dew and Foxy’s jaws dropped but Private hoofed his face. The other ponies around looked grimmer, except for Barbell who was snickering.
“Seriously Barricade, I keep telling you. Don’t go within a striking distance of an Earth Pony, even the small untrained ones can give you a kick that you’ll feel for a while,” she chuckled. Barricade rubbed the sore spot on his face, glaring at the clock smith.
“Fine then, I’ll let an Earth Pony deal with him. Blue!” Barricade growled and looked across the street. There was no sign of the blue stallion. There came a faint groan from the alleyway he had been standing close too.
“Tornado,” the Unicorn frowned and gestured for the ash gray Pegasus stallion to check it out. The others became more alert and started to glance around expecting trouble.
The surrounded group had cringed when hearing what Barricade said, but they were now just as confused as to why Blue was gone. They watched Tornado fly to the alley, land in front of it and walk in. There was a loud smack and the Pegasus came sailing back to the sidewalk and crash landed there knocked out.
Out of the alleyway came a thinly built but a tall Earth Pony, dark gray with dark olive mane and tail. He looked grim and ready for anything; he nonchalantly stepped over the body of Tornado, narrowing his eyes on Barricade and the remainder of his gang. Time Turner and Derpy blinked when seeing the stallion, especially when noticing the police baton cutiemark.
“Tango?” they both said aloud.
“Take care of that idiot!” Barricade snapped to the two remaining Pegasi stallions. They both immediately took to the air and dove for the former police pony.
Tango followed their every movement and readied himself as the two Pegasi came in a high-speed dive. At literally the last second, the Earth Pony dove out of the way, making it impossible for his attackers to safely disengage and both crashed right into the ground.
The stallion looked up towards the rest of the ponies and his eyes opened wide in shock. He quickly ducked as a magic blast narrowly missed his head, but did singe the top of his mane. Barricade’s horn was glowing and was building up for another blast.
“Turner, Derpy, the rest of you, RUN!” Tango shouted after dodging the second blast. He took off down the street.
Since the path was clear, the group didn’t need to be told twice and all of them ran off, following the former officer. Barricade growled and was about shoot at them but changed his mind and with Barbell ran over to where the groaning Pegasi stallions lay. Just at that moment Blue came stumbling out of the alley, he had a two marks on his face where he had been kicked hard by Tango.
“Seriously, one pony?” Barricade growled at those of his gang who were still conscious. “Get up and follow them. Now!”
Tango lead them down several streets before they finally ran into an old looking apartment building deep in the city. They stopped in the hallway to catch their breaths but out of sight from the window of the door. Derpy and Turner looked at Tango after a second, they were now hugging each other, Derpy had just grabbed the clock smith in a tight embrace after they were clear and apparently safe and Turner himself was just glad to be hugging someone right now.
“Not to sound ungrateful or anything, but what are you doing here, Tango?” Time Turner asked.
“Hm? Oh.” Tango was approaching one of the ground floor apartment doors. He looked mildly ashamed when processing the question. “I was… given probation in light of my, uh, prior service in the police force.”
“Here in Manehattan?” Derpy raised an eyebrow.
“Uh yeah… at my request… I didn’t think I would be welcome back in Ponyville,” Tango muttered as he opened the door. He hesitated before entering. “You should come in until Barricade and his gang give up looking for you, it’s not safe out here in the hall.”
The five ponies followed him in and noted immediately how little there was in it, aside from some furniture in the living room, it didn’t seem Tango had made much effort in decorating it. There were empty takeout trays on the coffee table and lots of newspapers and magazines strewn around.
“So how in Equestria did you manage to get yourself in trouble with Barricade and his gang?” Tango asked as they all sat down in the living room.
“Well three of us,” Dew began as she sat in the only couch with Foxy and Private. “Have known him for a long time and we’ve had to deal with him on multiple occasions.”
“Well it’s a little complicated how Derpy and I got here,” Turner said, he and Derpy were seated close to the couch, after clearing some magazines away they had in fact found two stools. They then proceeded to tell Tango about how they got to the point of being surrounded by the gang. During the explanation they also introduced him to the ponies on the couch and told them a bit who Tango was and how they knew him.
“Oh right, Barricade lived in Ponyville didn’t he.” Tango nodded.
“Only for a short while but it was long enough,” Derpy sighed and shuddered. “I’m just about ready to go back there and just forget him. What was he going to do to us?”
“Well it looked to me he was about ready to trash all of you around. Barricade is very powerful in this part of Manehattan, most ponies living around here just know better than to get involved with anything he’s doing and keep out of the way,” Tango told them. “I’ve only been here for a little while and I’m already noticing how influential he is here.”
“That explains the empty street, nopony wanted to get involved and just turned a blind eye to it,” Turner muttered.
“And that might explain why we haven’t heard so much from him in the past two years, he’s been busy here in Manehattan, building up his connections and making sure ponies around here didn’t mess in his business. I can tell you that he was not a local gang leader before that. We were just so glad to not having any drama around him anymore we just completely missed it,” Dew said and sighed. “I’m so sorry you two had to get involved in this, I swear I thought this would just be a common social case.”
“Don’t apologize, we didn’t really see any of this coming until it was too late,” Derpy said and managed a weak smile. Turner put a hoof on her shoulder.
“Uh, thank you, Tango, your timing couldn’t have been better,” the clock smith looked at the former officer who hung his head but said nothing. “But why haven’t we heard about your probation?
“I…uh…” Tango fell silent. “Like I said earlier… I didn’t think was welcome back in Ponyville and… I… didn’t think I would be missed.”
“Are you serious?” Derpy jumped off the stool and approached Tango’s chair, she placed a hoof on his back. “Alright, to be fair, Filthy Rich and his family might not miss you. But lots of other ponies do, I know Mulberry would love to hear about you. I’ve certainly missed our chats when I delivered the mail to you and I’m sure Time Turner has missed you as well.”
“You made a mistake, Tango and we all make mistakes, you’re at least willing to pay for yours and I’m sure you can one day return back to Ponyville,” she told him and patted him reassuringly on the back.
Turner smiled a bit as he watched Derpy reassure their old friend. This was a trait he always admired about her. However, current events didn’t allow the clock smith to dwell on that, he looked at the trio on the couch. The mares seemed to have calmed down and Private was once again with a neutral expression.
“Well I can’t disagree with Tango’s assessment over what Barricade was going to do to us, but there still burns this lingering question, why?” Timer Turner asked.
“I frankly have no idea anymore,” Dew admitted with a sigh. “This was unusually violent for Barricade.”
All eyes now went to probably the only pony who could possibly have any clue what was going on. It took a second for Private to actually register that everyone was looking at him. The Unicorn raised an eyebrow but still didn’t say anything.
“Don’t give us that look, Private Iceland. Of all of us you know Barricade the best,” Dew said with a stern tone.
“Don’t ask about the last name, all you need to know is, eccentric parents,” Foxy whispered to Turner as she sat closest to him on the couch. The clock smith could only nod, but he figured the question was asked a lot if the maroon mare felt she needed to elaborate.
“Well the best I can guess is that he was both showing off and warning us to stay out of his business from now on. He’s never had help before when we’ve had to deal with him but now he does,” Private grunted.
“He’s never needed help before,” Foxy grumbled and folded her front legs, her wings rose a little in irritation.
“Then I think our best option right now is to try and get out of Manehattan as quickly as possible,” Time Turner suggested. “Derpy and I can take a train to Canterlot and take a late night train from there to Ponyville. But there should still be trains going regularly to Fillydelphia for you three.”
“But Barricade must still be sweeping the neighborhood for you five,” Tango pointed out.
“No, just us three, it’s us he wants. I’m positive he would just have let Derpy and Turner go after he was done messing with them,” Dew said and rose up and so did Foxy and Private.
“We’ll head off first and hopefully we’ll draw any searchers off until we can reach the train station, if Barricade sees us escape he’ll probably call his lackeys off, leaving a free route for Derpy and Turner,” she then explained.
Derpy was hesitant to agree with this plan, she looked at Turner who wasn’t so sure either. But the three ponies of Fillydelphia were already saying their goodbyes. So Derpy just stood up to hug Dew and Foxy and thanked them for their help. She would have hugged Private but the maroon mare stopped her, apparently the Unicorn did not do hugs, unless it was Dew.
“I swear they are both in denial,” Foxy whispered to her with a giggle then waggled her eyebrows. “Sound familiar?”
Derpy’s face flushed red as she realized the jab aimed at her but didn’t get a chance to respond. Foxy and her friends were already heading out, Tango followed them to see them away. That left her alone in the living room with Time Turner.
“Soo… this was uh… different,” she said and sat down in the couch now that it wasn’t occupied. “I hope they will be okay.”
“Yeah,” Time Turner nodded, he had actually been close enough to overhear Foxy’s whisper.
“Thanks for standing up for me. Don’t mind what that jerk said, it was really sweet,” the mare said and smiled warmly. Turner cleared his throat as he remembered just what he had done afterwards.
“Yeah um… I could have lived without decking him, Earth Pony or not, I’m pretty sure he could toss me off the tallest building in Manehattan without breaking a sweat,” he chuckled nervously.
“Then I would be there to catch you,” Derpy declared and giggled when seeing the stunned look on Time Turner, it was though only momentary as his expression eased and the stallion chuckled.
“Derpy… he was not right about my intentions… I wasn’t hoping to impress you or anything,” the clock smith said, gritting his teeth a little as he remembered Barricade’s words. He sighed, took a deep breath and let it out slowly to calm down.
“I just couldn’t stand there and let that bully torment you. He’s done enough already and he had no right to treat you like this. I just… thought I could shut him up, I expected no reward. I respect you far too much Derpy to ever consider such things. I love you and expect nothing from you…” Time Turner froze when he realized what he just said.
Derpy gasped when hearing Turner’s confession. The stallion covered his face with his hooves, feeling really embarrassed. The mare was at loss of words and could only stare at him. She wasn’t even sure what to think, this wasn’t something she had ever dared to even hope and there it was.
“You… love me?” Derpy finally whispered unsure, she had a strange urge to wrap her wings around her head to hide.
Turner dropped his hooves back down to the stool. Then he slowly looked at Derpy, feeling a little guilty and it showed on his face. The clock smith opened his mouth to say something, hesitated and then gave a really long sigh and hung his head.
“Y-yes… I love you Derpy… I just always saw you fly past the clock tower in the mornings and the more you did the more I liked it. For me it was like you were this beautiful gray angel with golden mane and tail bringing in the morning. I kept looking forward to see you when you brought the mail and I always admired your loving and happy nature and what strong mare you were to both foster two fillies and raise your own. Just seeing you happy makes me happy. Sorry… I’m sounding creepy now aren’t I?” Time Turner cringed, looked away and expected a verbal smack down.
Nothing happened and the clock smith dared himself to glance towards Derpy. She was not looking angry, or creeped out. She was trying to hold back giggles, both hooves were on her muzzle and the occasional ‘hihi’ escaped from her lips. Turner wasn’t sure what to think right now. The mare finally managed to calm herself down and removed her hooves from her mouth.
“No you didn’t sound creepy, you sounded really sweet,” she said was smiling. “You really think I look like an angel with a golden mane?”
“Yeaaah?” Turner still wasn’t sure what to think, Derpy was not behaving as he expected.
It was Derpy’s turn to become nervous, she didn’t have Turner’s excuse of accidentally confessing her feelings. Now that she knew how he felt about her, it seemed almost logical and appropriate that she return the favor. But the words just twisted inside her mouth and refused to come out.
“I… uh… Time… I… ah…” The mare entered another giggle fit.
“What? I know I thoroughly embarrassed myself,” Turner said and then it registered. “Wait you used my first name.”
“You I too love… I mean I love you too,” Derpy squeaked between the giggles.
Time Turner’s jaw slowly sunk towards the floor. He never expected to hear that in million years. Now he just stared at Derpy who had finally stopped giggling again and watched him with a nervous smile.
“You’re the sweetest stallion I have ever known. Always ready to help around town, you’re so kind and generous. I always look forward to deliver the mail to you… though I got a little confused once, there was this one stallion passing through town who kinda looked like you but he said he wasn’t you… but that’s okay he didn’t mind and told me you were still in your shop…anyway, you’re also one of the few who never made fun of my eyes or my clumsiness and… wow Carrot Top is right, I do ramble.” Derpy grinned innocently.
“Well… that’s that, um so what do we do? Hug? Kiss?” Turner realized suddenly he had absolutely no idea what to do, he never even thought he would reach this point ever.
“Oh… uh, I hope you don’t mind if we don’t kiss. Meeting Barricade again and how he talked to me… it brought up lots of unpleasant memories, kind of put me off kissing right now,” Derpy cringed and smiled apologetically.
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Turner quickly assured her. “I just I never really thought I would… so I really don’t know… sorry we are still in Manehattan; we probably should consider the next step when we get out of here.”
“He treated you pretty rotten didn’t he?” he then asked quietly.
“He is very convincing, especially if he knows your weak points. When we met, I wasn’t exactly as confident as I am now and he played all my insecurities against me and yet… somehow managed to make me think he loved me.” The mare closed her eyes, her voice lowered into a faint whisper. “And I believed him. I’m not sure how I could have gotten out of the relationship if he hadn’t left when Dinky was born.”
Derpy opened her eyes again, she opened her mouth to say something more but then frowned. Something suddenly occurred to her. Turner waited patiently though part of him was wondering were Tango was, he hadn’t returned yet since escorting the other three ponies out.
“Now that I think about it, before that, before he came to Ponyville, Foxy said he was dating her. He didn’t leave Foxy because she had a foal, Private chased him away and Barricade didn’t really leave the house that often… did he come to Ponyville to sulk and just grabbed me as some sort of a consolation mare… ugh now I feel even worse.” The mare shuddered.
“Derpy… I think it’s time to leave, Tango isn’t back.” Turner was staring the living room door.
“Oh no…. you don’t think.” Derpy gasped fearing the worst. However, the former officer suddenly came walking in and looked to be in a hurry.
“Guys, I have bad news. I went out to see if the coast was clear for you, it isn’t. Barricade is only a block away with his gang, he has not stopped searching which means if the others got away he didn’t see them leave Manehattan… or worse,” Tango told them gravely.
“What do we do? What do we do?” the mare asked and was starting to panic, Turner wasn’t doing much better.
“We need to get you two out of here and quickly. Barricade will come in here when he reaches this building,” former police pony told them.
“I’m really starting to seriously dislike that pony,” Turner cringed and jumped down from the stool and Derpy climbed down from the couch.
They started to leave but the way out of the living room was blocked by a dark gray Unicorn. Tango blinked and Turner and Derpy almost shrieked but then noticed the book on the pony’s flank and his eyes were blue. That wasn’t Barricade.
“Private?” Turner was very confused.
“W-why are you back? Where are Dew and Foxy?” Derpy asked uncertain.
“I told them to fly to Fillydelphia, it’s quicker and easier for them,” the Unicorn muttered.
“And you are here because?” Tango arched his brow.
“Settle the score with my brother,” Private snorted and his expression became dark.
Barricade was mildly annoyed. Things had not gone quite as he had hoped, mostly thanks to that Earth Pony who had just appeared out of nowhere, stunned Blue and disabled his Pegasi air support. If that pony lived within his area, that pony was going to regret it.
Manehattan was big and his area of influence was small relative to the city. Go enough streets beyond it and there were ponies who didn’t even know of Barricade and his gang. The Unicorn liked it that way because then the authorities tended to just dismiss it or ignore it. He wasn’t going to fool himself into thinking he was capable of ruling a too big area.
Barricade didn’t mind either that ponies knew he was trouble, there was a world of difference of knowing and proving it and the Unicorn always loved playing on that. Sure some of the members of his gang had gone to jail but it wasn’t a crime to employ them, give them a second chance in society, or so he would say to those who questioned him.
The stallion had spent two years building the system he had and he wasn’t going to let it crumble just like that. But risk was part of the game and he had been wanting to do this for a long time, he just wasn’t sure if the message went through.
“Not here either, boss.” Blue came out of yet another apartment building. The hoof marks on his face were starting to fade.
“Tornado was sure… where is Barbell?” Barricade growled and looked around. He spotted the mare come out of another building. “Well?!”
“Not here either,” she called.
“Say boss, why did you let your brother and the two mares go when Thunder Cloud said he spotted them?” Blue asked as he and Barricade walked over to the next building.
“Because they were alone and I’ve shown them now what I’m capable off. That was the whole point. Get them to stop putting their muzzle in my life and see just what I’m ready to do now if they don’t. They left me well enough alone for two years because I wasn’t really doing anything too obvious except staying here in Manehattan, but what if I did something? So I tested it by sending that concern claim to social service against Derpy and wouldn’t you know it, they were immediately all over it, so now they should finally know that the foal horseshoes are off,” Barricade grunted, he eyed Blue who looked a bit confused. The Unicorn sighed.
“We are looking for the idiot who kicked you in the face, not them, they no longer matter because we are done with them,” he clarified and then Blue nodded as if he understood.
“That guy really kicked you hard, you usually pick up quicker than that,” Barricade grunted and shook his head.
Blue shrugged and once they reached the entrance of the building he went in. Barricade waited outside. The Unicorn looked around making a mental note to update himself on new arrivals in the area. The list had arrived few days ago by one of his contacts but the stallion hadn’t had a chance to look it over properly. Usually he didn’t bother too much about it, as the word of mouth of who he was spread quickly enough. All he really needed was ponies knowing better than to stick around if he was conducting some business.
Something caught his attention and as he turned to look, he spotted a figure trying to sneak inconspicuously across the street. Barricade narrowed his eyes on the lanky little pony who froze when realizing that the Unicorn had in fact spotted him. It was a teenage Earth Colt, thin with dark aquamarine coat, cobalt blue mane and tail that had moderate azure highlights. On his flank was a yellow typewriter.
“Hello Paper Scribbler.” Barricade grinned wide as a shark when recognizing the pony and started to approach.
“Uh… oh hi Barricade, um just passing through, not sticking my muzzle into anything you’re doing, no sir, not at all. Just going home to Aunt Gretel with her almond cookies, you know how she loves her almond cookies.” The teenager smiled innocently and patted his saddlebag, a package of almond cookies was in fact sticking out of it a bit.
“Of course, of course.” The Unicorn nodded and didn’t stop walking until he was right beside Scribbler and put a leg around the colt. “So, how is that old Gryphon doing? I hear she’s been ill.”
“Oh… uh it’s nothing serious….” Scribbler gulped. He did not like being in this much proximity to the larger stallion. “Just her knee joints bothering her, she’s getting medication.”
“Bit of a stroke of luck to see you here, Scribbly. I was just thinking of updating myself on new ponies in the neighborhood and since you do seem to know so many with you always nosing around and all, I wonder if a certain pony I’m looking for right now rings any bells,” Barricade mused and tightened his grip on the colt. “I need to speak with him if you know what I mean.”
“H-How does he l-look like?” Scribbler tried to think happy thoughts, knowing the Unicorn could snap him like a twig.
“Gray coat, only slightly smaller than Blue, thin, olive green mane and hair, some sort of a baton as a cutie mark,” Barricade counted up and immediately spotted recognition in the eyes of the colt. He didn’t wait long for the answer though as Scribbler was immediately speaking, wanting this conversation over.
“Ahh, that’s Tango, yes Tango. He lives not far away, Hoofington Lane, moved there few weeks ago. I think he’s on probation or something and will you please let me goooo!” Scribbler squeaked. Then the colt spotted Barbell approaching them.
“Barbell. Can you please tell him to let me go, I’ve told him what he wants!” he pleaded, his voice panicky as Barricade still had him in a one leg grip.
“Scribbler, you know he’s just messing with you, he’s as straight as a lamppost, I can vouch for that,” the mare snorted dryly.
“Awww, you don’t love me, Scribbly?” Barricade put his head up against the colt, pretending to sound so disappointed. The moment Scribbler began screaming in panic, the stallion let go and watched the teenager run wildly as far away as possible.
“You’re evil.” Barbell shook her head. Barricade put on the most innocent face he could muster.
“Whaat? It’s not my fault he thought I was a colt cuddler when we first met, if he wants to cuddle, who am I do deny him that?” The Unicorn grinned.
“He doesn’t want to and you know it.” The mare pointed out and rolled her eyes.
Barricade shrugged, not really caring that much. He looked at Blue who was arriving from the building he was checking. The large stallion shook his head, indicating that this was not the right one. Now the Unicorn didn’t growl and was smirking.
“Don’t worry about it, Blue, we got the name confirmed as Tango and the street name,” Barricade told him. “Let’s wait for Tornado and the others, then we are going to pay him a little visit.”
The Unicorn closed his eyes and palmed his face with the right front hoof. Blue and Barbell looked towards the shout and were confused to see Private standing there at the end of the street. Barricade looked up towards his brother and let out a groan.
“I swear, he never learns,” he muttered. “Barbell, Blue, step aside, I better go talk with him. Maybe Tango hit his head too, because he’s never been this brainless before.”
“Coming!” Barricade then called in a sing-a-song voice and trotted towards his twin brother.
Soon the two nearly identical Unicorns stood face to face. One glared, the other seemed to look almost with a pity at the angry one. When they had really just stared at each other for a moment, Barricade arched his eyebrow.
“Um, so is your plan just to stand here and glower? I mean, I assume you sent the ladies away and decided to come and find me, probably thinking you could tell me a thing or two, maybe slap some sense in me or something. But it isn’t terribly effective if all you are doing is standing and staring,” he said with an amused smile.
“I hate you!” Private suddenly snarled. That caught his twin by a mild surprise.
“Careful now Private, you’re showing emotions, you might break something,” Barricade mocked.
“Oh SHUT UP for once!” Private shouted and this time Barricade actually did take a step back in surprise.
“I swear Barricade; I can take a lot from you. I don’t care if you harm me, I don’t care that you’ve set yourself up as some sort of a gang leader in a city. Heck I couldn’t care less if you were planning some stupid heist to break into the Royal Palace in Canterlot,” the normally quiet Unicorn snapped.
“But what you did today. What you did, makes me hate even more that I see your stupid resemblance in the mirror every day!” Private stomped down one hoof. Barricade’s brow rose high; he had never seen his twin brother this angry before.
“You actually made me start hoping that you were changing. Mom was starting to think you were finally changing. Dad actually spoke of you in positive terms just a week ago! You know how happy Coal was to hear that she could finally come and meet you again. She was jumping off the walls! Even Foxy was starting to entertain the idea that you had a decent bone in your body at least when it came towards your foals. Then you disturb the live of the mother of your own daughter who already has a bad enough reputation in the town she lives in without needing you adding to it and then you do this!” Private was straining his voice as he ranted, he so seldom spoke at length and it was audible.
“You know how often I’ve had to console your own daughter every time you break your promises? How often I had to try and explain to the young filly why my brother was being so awful that he couldn’t even come see her? You realize that Foxy is going to have tell her now that no, she can’t visit you, because you tried to attack her mother, her aunt, her uncle and the mother of her half-sister and a stallion friend of hers?” The stallion’s horn actually sparked a little he was so angry, Barricade took another step back, looking mildly concerned.
“Mom and Dad gave Cara over to you because they honestly trusted you. They thought you had stopped being so selfish and stupid and had finally settled down. I swear to Celestia, Barricade, if I see mom cry again because of you and what you did I don’t know what will hold me back from stomping on your stupid face until it no longer resembles me! I HATE THE VERY FACT THAT WE LOOK ALIKE!!” Private finally roared so loud that it echoed around.
Everything fell silent and Private was now just glowering again. Barricade had been quiet the whole time, and watched his brother rant. Even Barbell and Blue just stood there several feet away and stared in surprise.
“I… um I’m sorry?” Barricade finally spoke up but quickly lifted up one hoof when Private growled, sneered and seemed prepared to lunge at him. “Wait, Private! Wait! let me speak.”
“Right, good,” the indigo eyed Unicorn said when his brother backed off and seemed ready to let him talk.
“All right fine, I went over the line. I wanted to scare you guys to leave me alone. I know you don’t trust me right now and you probably never will… after this, I just wanted you guys to get off my back and stop coming galloping over every time you hear I’m doing something. I was never going to have any of you seriously harmed, just frighten you,” Barricade began.
“I know you left me alone these past two years, but then again I was laying low so to speak while building up my little area here. I didn’t trust any of you to leave me alone if my name caught your attention again. That’s why I had the case with Derpy happen. When it was obvious you would be sticking your muzzle into my business even over a case I didn’t have a hope to winning, I decided to scare you off,” he continued and while talking kept having one hoof up, just in case Private was done with being patient.
“Maybe… maybe this is a sign that we should just stay out of each other’s way from now on and just live our lives in our separate cities and so on and so forth,” Barricade suggested, he lowered his hoof when Private remained still.
“Whatever,” Private whispered, turned around and began walking away.
Barricade watched his brother leave around the corner before glancing back at Barbell and Blue who were approaching now that the conversation was over. The mare looked mildly concerned and her brother seemed unsure what to make of all this.
“You okay there, Barricade?” Barbell asked when the Unicorn still hadn’t said anything.
“Blue, find Tornado and the others and tell them to go home. We’ll deal with this Tango later,” Barricade said. “We’re done for tonight.”
Blue nodded and trotted away. His employer sat down and sighed deeply. Barbell sat down beside him and hesitantly put a hoof on his back.
“I really messed up didn’t I?” the Unicorn muttered.
“Yeah, yeah you did,” Barbell bluntly concurred.
When Private walked around the corner he was immediately face to face with Derpy, Turner and Tango. The three stared at the Unicorn a bit stunned, they had heard the rant loud and clear. None of them had guessed he had been holding down so much rage towards his brother.
“Wow… um I know I suggested you try and talk with him instead of attacking him and tell him how you felt, but didn’t quite expect this,” Derpy said smiling uneasily.
“Private? Are you alright?” Turner frowned when seeing that Private was neither sporting the angry frown nor his usual neutral expression. He looked downright miserable.
Tango walked to the corner while his friends tended to the Unicorn and peeked around it. He saw Barricade dismiss Blue and then him and Barbell sit for a little while together before standing up and also walk away.
“I think they have stopped searching, it’s probably safe to head to the train station now,” he told them and looked back.
“Thank you for everything, Tango, I think we can take it from here, I’ll write you when we’re back in Ponyville,” Derpy told the former officer then flew closer to him and hugged him.
After saying goodbye to the clock smith and Private who barely acknowledged him, Tango headed back to his home. Derpy and Turner looked at the Unicorn who had sat down and stared glumly at the ground.
“We can’t leave him like this, besides he’s going to the same train station as us anyway,” Derpy whispered to Time Turner who nodded in agreement.
“Wow, I never thought I would see anypony able to tell Barricade off, but I should have guessed his brother could,” the gray mare addressed the Unicorn trying to sound cheerful.
That made him sadder, how? She thought when Private looked even glummer.
“Derpy,” Turner whispered to her as he remembered something that had been said. “I don’t think he wants it to be like that.”
“Oh right… he was hoping Barricade was changing. He wants him to change, he… you… don’t hate him, you hate that you hate him.” Derpy gasped as she realized. Despite their resemblance, it kept dropping her mind that the Unicorns were brothers, twins even. The mare winched when Private slowly nodded to confirm she was right.
“Have you two always been like this, at odds with one another?” Time Turner asked carefully, he didn’t approach as he had already noticed that the other stallion valued his personal space and so far Dew was the only one allowed to violate it.
“No not always... we were close once... when we were little... but it started to change when we got older,” Private whispered. “Mom and Dad travel a lot and are always on digs so we changed schools often. I took interest in their work and history in general but Barricade was always different, brash, loud, selfish, confrontational. I was just schooled by mom and dad since I was headed towards their line of work or at least a similar one, but Barricade… they just couldn’t control him and sent him to a school in Canterlot, hoping that would put some discipline in him. They’ve regretted that decision ever since because that's when things started to change.”
“He’s never said he felt betrayed by them, we corresponded and visited as often as we could and were together during the holidays. But we just never connected really again… I am reserved as you’ve probably noticed… I don’t like talking too much and I don’t like too large company.” The Unicorn continued but his voice kept getting lower, Derpy and Turner had to strain their ears to listen.
“Barricade became even more of a jerk after he graduated and by the looks of it, he’s even worse now. I’ve seen other twins so close to one another, connected so well, sometimes feeling like they are just the one and the same pony… and I… I can’t even look myself in the mirror without being reminded that I have a jerk for a brother who mistreats ponies and his own family and just…” Private fell silent and tears formed at the corner of his eyes. "I miss it."
Derpy decided to heck with Foxy’s warning earlier. She walked closer to the Unicorn and grabbed him in a hug. Turner balked and feared Private might lash out or throw the mare off or something, but the clock smith’s fears shimmered down when nothing of such happened. Private didn’t seem to mind being hugged, Turner had a feeling they were witnessing rare moment with the dark gray stallion opening up so much.
“Private, I know you probably don’t want to hear it now, but don’t give up hope,” Derpy told him with a reassuring smile as she let go off him. “Maybe one day, you never know. Maybe it is hopeless, maybe he’ll never change, in that case just remember that he’s left some good behind him both with you in Fillydelphia and with me in Ponyville. Coal at least has her uncle and at least knows that not all ponies on her father side are bad and I wouldn’t mind Dinky knowing her paternal grandparents, especially now that I know she has an uncle who can shut her father up if he tries anything.”
“Dad isn’t so bad at it either,” Private shrugged and slowly stood up. “We probably should get going if we want to get home before this weekend is over.”
“Good point, are you feeling better?” Turner asked, the only answer he received was a neutral expression in response, seemed Private had been fully talked out and had resumed his quieter demeanor.
The three ponies headed off, it didn’t take them too long to find streets with more life in them, with Ponies still going about their business even though the hour was getting late. They finally did reach the train station and luckily for the Unicorn, a train to Fillydelphia would be departing in just few minutes.
“Goodbye and thank for everything again, we’ll be in touch. Oh and about next weekend, can you tell Foxy…” Derpy then leaned closer to Private and whispered something in his ear that Turner couldn’t hear.
“Uh… guess I can ask her.” The Unicorn looked uncertain. After saying goodbye he boarded his train leaving them behind on the platform.
“What was that all about?” Turner wondered.
“Oh,” Derpy said and put a leg around the stallion. “Just something between Dinky’s paternal family and her, nothing for you to worry about.”
“Right, let’s get to the platform where the Canterlot train comes,” Turner chuckled. “Then I guess we can uh… discuss you know.”
“Yes, I should warn you though, when dad hears about this, he’s gonna interrogate you. He’s always been a little jumpy when he thinks a stallion is after me after uh… Barricade,” Derpy told him as she let go and they both headed to the correct platform.
“After meeting the fellow two too many times, I can’t say I blame him,” Time Turner laughed. “He just wants to protect his little filly who got hurt by a big mean Unicorn.”
“Oh don’t call me little filly, I hear that often enough from him.” Derpy stuck her tongue out at him.
“Speaking of your parents, have you told them about this whole mess?” Turner asked, realizing that the subject of her parents had never been brought up before. Derpy giggled nervously and then smiled sheepishly.
“No…. I haven’t told them yet, didn’t want to worry them and uh… they would just fly down all the way from Cloudsdale and be all worried over something that was nothing anyway,” she said looking a little embarrassed. “No actually I was going to tell them afterwards because Dew and Foxy were so confident that it was an open and shut case, then I… well… flew off to Manehattan as you know.”
“Oh right, it’s only yesterday since Dew and Foxy came to visit you didn’t they?” Time Turner blinked as he realized it was still the same Saturday and when he had gone with Caramel to see Barricade. “Wow, this felt much longer.”
“Tell me about it,” Derpy grunted and planted herself on a bench on the train platform. “I’m sooo ready to just go home now.”
“You and me both.” Turner nodded in agreement and sat down beside her.
Dinky blinked awake when she felt a beam of sunlight tickle her nose. The little filly looked up with groggy eyes and saw that the curtains had been drawn and her mother sat by her bed and watched her daughter with admiring eyes.
“Mom,” the violet Unicorn rose up to sit in her bed. “When did you come back home? We were worried when you hadn’t come home yet yesterday, it was getting so late.”
Derpy didn’t respond just yet but reached forward to grab her in a tight embrace. The filly was lifted up and held in her mother’s forelegs, Dinky was mildly confused and wondered even more what had happened.
“Did you meet dad? Uh he wasn’t mean to you because of the letters was he?” Dinky asked, still a little worried that she was in trouble for the letter writing.
The mare put her daughter down so she could sit down on the floor with her. Derpy still had one hoof on Dinky’s back as she thought back to the events of yesterday. Tootsie was not in the room, having been sent out earlier as Derpy knew she would need to speak with Dinky alone.
“Yes, I met your father,” she confirmed. “And yes, he was mean.”
“Was it because of the letters?” Dinky cringed a little, to her surprise her mother shook her head.
“Dinky, no, this was not your fault at all. Your father did use your letters as an excuse to be very mean to ponies he knew and to me and even to Time Turner,” Derpy explained to the filly and her smile turned sadder. “Dinky, you never have to write to him again or ever have to hear from him again if you don’t want to.”
“Good, because if he was mean to you and to Mister Turner who I think is really nice for fixing Tootsie’s clock so quickly, I don’t want see him again,” Dinky said with a frown.
Derpy’s smile brightened a bit and the two ponies hugged again. She was so proud of her daughter right now, she just wanted to burst. The mare only wished she had known about Dinky’s feelings sooner.
“And Dinky, please tell me from now on if something bothers you like this. I won’t tell you to be nice just to be nice,” she told her daughter who nodded.
“Sorry about that mommy,” Dinky grinned sheepishly. “I won’t do it again.”
“Now my little muffin, I want to tell you about your sister and your uncle.” Derpy couldn’t help but chuckle a little at the confusion that came on the filly’s face.
“But I don’t have an uncle and which sister, Tootsie? Sparkler?” she just couldn’t understand it, what was her mother talking about? Derpy didn’t have any siblings and the only male in the family she knew was her grandfather, her mother’s father.
“Actually you have a sister that’s only few months older than you in Fillydelphia. Remember Foxy who came to visit us? She dated your father before he met me and she has little filly named Coal, you have the same dad but she lives with her mom who, if you remember, was super nice,” Derpy explained to her. Dinky’s eyes opened wide when hearing this. The mare wanted to wait though with mentioning Cara until she knew more regarding her, considering that filly was living with Barricade.
Wonder though if Dew and Foxy will have that arrangement changed, Derpy thought.
“And you know what, your dad was mean to her too, breaking promises and never visiting, the same with you,” she continued.
“Wow, can I see her?” Dinky looked up at her mother, excited gleams in her eyes.
“Hopefully, I told your uncle to ask her mother for me if that was possible next weekend. Speaking of your uncle, he lives in the same house as Coal and Foxy and Dew and he is really super nice to her, he’s there for her when her dad breaks promises, he plays with her and takes her places,” Derpy said, hoping she was mostly right. She was only going by with what she had heard mostly from Foxy and what was overheard from Private’s rant.
“How is he my uncle?” the little unicorn wondered, she was somewhat familiar with how relations worked. Her mother braced herself knowing this could go either way.
“He’s your dad’s brother, but he’s so much more different. He’s been more of daddy to Coal than her real father ever was. I won’t say he does as I don’t know, but I bet he goes to every school play she is in,” Derpy told her, deep down hoping it was true.
“That sounds like a real dad.” Dinky nodded, she had frowned a little when hearing the relations but it eased when her mother continued. “Will I ever see him?”
“If you want to, who knows maybe it will be him who comes with Coal next weekend, that is if Foxy agrees to it,” her mother said and made a mental note to send a telegram to Foxy about it.
I will wait telling about the grandparents until I know for sure that the visit happens, Derpy thought and rose up. “Now, how about some breakfast, Carrot Top is making her famous Carrot Delish.”
“Carrot Delish!?” Dinky gasped, sprung up and rushed out of the room, yelling: “Tootsie, you better not have eaten all of the Carrot Delish!!!”
Derpy giggled and followed out of the room. Downstairs Dinky and Tootsie had started bickering about the popular breakfast her friend sometimes made. The mare shook her head and approached the stairs to go down. As she started towards the kitchen there was a knock on the front door.
Now who could that be so early? Derpy thought and changed her direction to go to the front hall to open the door. To her surprise it was Applejack who stood here, smiling apologetically.
“Good mornin’ Derpy, sorry to for coming here so early, ya’ll probably still eatin’ breakfast and all. I just came over to see how ya’ll were doin’,” the orange mare greeted, then lowered her tone a little bit after glancing back. “Word on the street is that you’ve been havin’ some spot of trouble.”
The Pegasus mare couldn’t say she was surprised that the town knew, or at least thought they knew something was up. Dew and Foxy hadn’t just visited her and it probably spread that new social workers were doing the visiting rounds and of course the gossipers latched onto it that they came to her.
“Oh it was nothing, just Dinky’s father being his usual jerky self, actually he was being more of a jerk than usual,” Derpy told Applejack. Knowing that the apple farmer was not one to spread things around, she did tell her in brief what had happened.
“Oh that son of a…” Applejack stopped herself quickly when remembering there were foals around that could possibly overhear. “That Barricade, Ah always knew he was trouble. Glad ya’ll got out okay. Ah could kick that sorry excuse for a stallion from here to Appleoosa if I were to meet him again.”
“That is a mental image I’m going to savor forever,” Derpy giggled. “Thanks for stopping by, Applejack. I appreciate it.”
“Hey, like Ah said to Carrot Top, if ya’ll need anything just give a holler,” Applejack said with a chuckle. Then with that the apple farmer said goodbye and trotted away. Derpy close the door and went to the kitchen to have some breakfast, preferably before her daughters finished it all.
“Seriously, are you addicted to these?” Time Turner asked as he sat down at the café table in front of Caramel. The amber pony had a large cup of hay smoothie.
“What? Is good,” Caramel shrugged. “So uh how did to go yesterday?”
“Ugh where to start.” Turner rubbed his forehead for a second. “You should be glad you missed the train, though something good came out of it, I will gladly not repeat this experience.”
The clock smith then began telling Caramel about the second trip to Manehattan. The amber pony listened only half interested, thinking they had just gone to fix some communication issue after all, but when things reached the point of the group being surrounded by a gang, he was all ears. Then he almost dropped his cup when hearing about Tango and then when Private confronted his brother.
“This is crazy and wait, you and Derpy actually confessed your feelings?” Caramel asked but was careful to keep his voice down, not sure if Turner would be comfortable about it being known all over.
“Uh… yeah, so something good came off this trip… we had a long talk in the train about the next step now and… I’m invited to dinner at her house tonight, we want to make sure the girls are comfortable with me seeing their mother.” Turner smiled a little, he was still a little dazed that this was happening.
“Wow, you two, finally.” His employee didn’t seem to be able to wrap his brain around this either.
“Yeah… say what did Sassaflash want with you?” Time Turner then remembered why Caramel hadn’t been with them on the trip.
“Oh um… yeah, we never apparently broke up. She forgot to dial down her sarcasm a little and her mother who was visiting didn’t catch on that she was just teasing me and well… yeah we talked things over and she promised to watch her sniping next time and we apologized. I mean I was being a bit of an idiot myself not remembering that Sass is just a fountain of sarcasm,” the amber pony explained and chuckled a little.
“Ah yes, miscommunication and here I thought that was what I was trying to fix yesterday.” Turner shook his head.
The waiter came and Turner ordered some bagels. Since it was an already prepared item, the food was soon brought out to the clock smith. The two stallions were silent while enjoying their meals, Turner was mostly wondering if he should wear anything special for tonight. Caramel’s mind was just wandering, until the pony seemed to remember something.
“Oh. Ooh, Turner, I think I know why ponies have always been calling you Doctor Whooves,” Caramel whispered and leaned over the table.
“Do tell.” Time Turner raised an eyebrow.
“Yesterday evening, I was passing the train station when I thought I saw double,” his employee said. “I knew you were still in Manehattan, I had come by your house earlier to ask if you wanted my help in the shop today and you weren’t home and not in your shop and not at the clock tower. But I saw a pony with a striking resemblance to you.”
“Excuse me?” the clock smith blinked.
“Well more of a resemblance at a first glance, you don’t have a twin brother right?” Caramel asked for clarification. Time Turner shook his head. “Well this pony was an inch or two taller than you and his coat was a lighter shade of brown than yours.”
“Well I suppose it’s not impossible that a pony exists that bares a passing resemble to me, I mean I’ve seen my cutie mark on other ponies too,” the clock smith shrugged and continued with his bagel.
“But here comes the weird part.” Caramel wasn’t finished, Time Turner arched his brow.
“I walked over to him because I did think it was you at first, but then he said something about, just missing them, they are probably already gone and he’ll just meet them in Fillydelphia,” the amber pony told him. “He didn’t even speak in your voice and had really odd accent.”
“I uh then followed him from a distance, he went around the train station and then just vanished.” Caramel finished both his explanation and his hay smoothie.
“Caramel, are you sure you weren’t dreaming this?” Turner asked unsure, this sounded really farfetched in his ears.
“Yes,” his employee insisted and pushed his now empty cup away.
“And what makes you think that pony is the reason ponies can’t seem to get my name right?” the clock smith asked.
“Well, who knows, maybe he’s been here before and talked with other ponies, introduced himself and they just didn’t connect that you and him are different ponies,” Caramel suggested.
“I am not convinced you weren’t just dreaming this.” Time Turner remained skeptical of this theory.
“I swear I wasn’t and it makes so much sense, I mean you don’t know why ponies keep calling you that,” the other stallion pointed out.
“True.” Time Turner relented still not convinced. He shrugged it off and decided to just concentrate on finishing his breakfast.
“I am going to keep the shop open today, you can help at the counter if you want,” the clock smith informed Caramel once he was done, the amber pony nodded as he had no fixed plans.
Time Turner had considered just having the store closed today, but then he would usually be relaxing at home. Right now, looking forward to going to dinner at Derpy’s house, he just wasn’t sure if he could stay still. Better then to have the store open and concentrate on fixing clocks, there was small backlog anyway that he needed to catch up on.
The two ponies stood up, paid for their meals and trotted off towards the shop. Many ponies were out and about already on this lovely Sunday morning, many heading to the park or the café or Sugar Cube Corner. The most comical sight was Officer Mulberry, who had been roped by the Cutie Mark Crusaders into helping them rescue their kites out of a tree the stocky stallion was making an attempt to climb.
And in the Golden Oak Library, Twilight Sparkle was startled to learn that Princess Celestia had a test prepared for her.
Dew Doe opened the front door when there was a rapid knocking on it. The Pegasus mare frowned a little when seeing who it was before opening the door fully and gestured to a pony wearing a body covering brown cloak to come in.
“Just typical, you show up now. We could have used a little assistance yesterday,” she grunted as the pony passed her.
“I got a little busy and well things didn’t go quite as planned and oh you know how it is and things turned out alright didn’t they?” the guest said with a chuckle and disappeared down the hallway and entered the living room.
Private lay by the unlit fireplace, next to him was little black unicorn filly with gray mane and tail, she was drawing with crayons. Foxy sat on a couch and was reading a book, they all three looked up when the pony entered the room.
“Where were you?” the maroon mare grunted. “I had the worst day yesterday. Sorry, we had the worst day.”
“I was held up, couldn’t help it. But you all went didn’t you? You met them?” the pony asked excitedly.
“We did,” Dew Doe said as she now entered the living room. “Let me guess, you suggested to Swift Mane to send us to do that case, didn’t you?”
“No, no no…. yes.” The pony finally took down the hood of the cloak from his head, revealing a that he bore a striking resemblance to Time Turner, except the coat was a bit lighter shade of brown and he was bit taller.
“It needed to be you, only then would we truly know if Barricade was really being docile and settling down. Besides now you have met Turner and Derpy, now you know how they know you,” the pony explained, he only received unimpressed stares, except from Coal who just continued to draw once she had seen who had arrived.
The pony’s smile dropped a bit as he observed the ponies in the room and sensing that the room was rather grim. He finished taking off his cloak and began wrapping it up as he considered what to say next.
“I know this was very difficult for you all and especially Coal to learn how her father really is. But you know me and you know I protect those I care about and sometimes to protect you, I need to show you the hard bitter reality. I would love it myself if Barricade finally turned around, it would be brilliant to see him finally show some real remorse for all the things he’s been part of and done. I know deep down he has good qualities, just right now he isn’t really showing them. One day we might be able to help him bring them forth and one day he might even become a decent enough pony,” he said and smiled now more gently, almost fatherly.
“And considering what happened yesterday, that isn’t happening yet. The whole thing was a trap set up by him to see if we would interfere in his business,” Dew Doe muttered “I sometimes hate when you’re right.”
“Yes it’s infuriating, I know,” the brown pony chuckled and approached Coal and Private. “So Coal, you now understand why we are so reserved about your father?”
“Yes,” the filly looked up and sighed.
“Now what kind of a face is that on a little filly,” the brown stallion said and sat down in front of her. “You are young and still with many hopes and dreams, you wanted your daddy to be a good pony and really wanted to believe that. But chin up, you still have your mom, your aunt, your uncle, your grandparents, your grandmother and have they told you about your sister in Ponyville?”
“Yeah, but I’m not sure, what if she doesn’t like me? Cara doesn’t like me.” Coal asked looking unsure.
“Not like you? You? What are you talking about, I can tell you that she will love you, her mother is a wonderful pony who never judges you and you’ll be drowning in muffins. Heck you’re not just getting a new sister, you’re getting a new aunt I’m sure,” the pony assured her while gesturing wildly with his hooves.
Dew and Foxy watched while the brown pony tried to cheer up Coal. It had not been easy for them to explain to the filly yesterday when they picked her up from their mother. However, to their surprise the girl hadn’t really cried as they had expected her to do, just glumly accepted it that she wasn’t after all going to her father. Now a thought occurred to Dew that could possibly explain it.
“He showed her, didn’t he?” Dew Doe whispered to Foxy.
“That’s what I’m guessing…” Foxy nodded in agreement.
“Doctor, did you show her what happened yesterday?” The blue Pegasus decided to ask.
“Aaaah… uuuh…ehehe.” The brown pony glanced back at them with a half innocent and half nervous smile. “With your mother’s approval and she was there too just so you know before you do or say anything too rash.”
“So that’s why mom looked so relieved to see us,” Dew grunted. Foxy folded her front legs and was glaring at the brown pony, but before she could say anything, or do anything as she was tempted to, Coal rose up and quickly walked to the couch.
“Mommy wait… I sort of told him to show me… or it was more I was telling granny that I was going to see daddy next weekend, granny was surprised it hadn’t just been cancelled because daddy always breaking promises,” the filly said and climbed up to the couch to sit with Foxy.
“I told granny I would prove to her that it wouldn’t be broken and I asked the Doctor to show us.” Coal hung her head looking a little ashamed.
“I swear, Foxy, that she was never in any danger and your mother managed wonderfully to keep her from doing anything. I really wanted to come over and help you but Turner and Derpy were there as well and they haven’t met me yet and I couldn’t risk it. Thus I managed to attract the attention of Tango and lead him to you. Even though he made some mistakes in his life I knew he was still a formerly trained officer and could take care of sticky situations like these,” The Doctor told the mare, once again he had the gentler expression from earlier.
“Alright fine,” Foxy relented though mostly only because she heard her mother had been involved. She reached to grab her daughter in a hug. “And you little mischief, I’m sorry you had to see all of this.”
“No, I’m sorry I never believed you.” Coal hugged her mother back. “I don’t want to see dad ever again.”
“So you want to go to Ponyville next weekend instead?” the maroon mare asked and chuckled when the filly nodded her head eagerly.
Dew smiled, happy to see that her niece’s spirits were going up again. Her attention thought was quickly brought back to the Doctor who had turned to Private and was speaking to him and suddenly gave an indignant snort:
“What did he mean worthless? We ourselves used those coins back when we were stuck in ancient Spartacornia.”