The truth about Pumpkin and Pound Cake's parentage.
Unable to have foals, Mr. and Mrs. Cake turn to a new technology. It works, and Pumpkin and Pound Cake are born as a result, but unfortunately, it also opens up a whole new can of worms with regards to parental rights when Pumpkin Cake's biological father tracks them down. Family ties are strained, friendships are tested, and the very foundations of Equestrian law are shaken in the resulting conflict. Meanwhile, how is this affecting the foals? Who is the true parent- the biological father, or the father that raised them?
Even before they were married, Cup and Carrot Cake had known they wanted to have foals. Everyone who had known them knew this, so it was so strange to them that it had taken so long for the bakers to procreate. And when the Cakes did produce offspring, no one batted an eye at the fact that the twin foals were a pegasus colt and a unicorn filly, despite the fact that both parents were Earth ponies. And if anyone did raise a question, they were quickly placated by Carrot's explanation of the family histories of himself and his wife. Everyone accepted that- after all, Ditzy Doo the mailmare was a pegasus, and her daughter was a unicorn. Despite that, there was no question of parentage there (well, at least not with regards to who Dinky Doo's mother was anyway)- anypony with eyes could see that Dinky was definitely Ditzy's daughter, from their similar coloring to their shared obsession with muffins.
But the truth is that pony genetics, while an extremely complex subject, are not so complicated that two Earth ponies who had several generations going back of their ancestors being Earth ponies as well, would suddenly randomly produce children who were so drastically different from them. While occasionally some recessive genes would pass down the line and result in a bit of a surprise (for example, it would theoretically be possible for two Earth ponies or two pegasi to have a unicorn foal, or for two pegasi or two unicorns to have an Earth pony foal, or for a unicorn and a pegasus to foal an Earth pony, and so on and so forth in that vein), those instances were... uncommon. Not unheard of, but uncommon. In the case of Dinky Doo, since her mother was a pegasus, there was a certainty approaching 100% that her father was a unicorn. But even in those cases where parents produce a foal so drastically different from themselves, the odds of the two having twins, one each of a different species than their parents, are nigh-nonexistent.
Of course, in the middle of Cup Cake's pregnancy, Ponyville, no, Equestria itself, was besieged by an entity whose very purpose for living was wreaking havoc. Certainly Discord could have done something to the foals while they were still being carried by their mother, that could change their species? Despite what he would like everypony to believe, Discord did not and does not have the power to alter the very building blocks of life, the genetics. But the excuse was believable enough that anypony who did know something about how unlikely it would be for the Cakes to have a pegasus colt and a unicorn filly as twins, would brush their concerns aside with the simple explanation: "Discord did it."
So how did Pound and Pumpkin Cake really come into existence? The truth is a potentially explosive mixture of luck, both good and bad, a fervent wish of two parents, bitter desperation on the part of two stallions, and science. This is the story of the birth of the Baby Cakes.
Eleven Months Previously
Dr, Null Result was Ponyville's only reproductive health doctor, and to be honest, he was not a very good one. He might be able to tell a couple what their problems were, but as for fixing it? He had been known to say things along the lines of "There's nothing I can do, just give up, or go to that Zebra lady in the Everfree Forest if you're feeling adventurous." He was obnoxious towards his patients, and liked to tell people about his very large family ("I had eight foals myself, and now they're all starting their own families! I've got seventeen grandfoals so far, and we're still counting! Oh., by the way, my daughter Blueberry Jam is pregnant again!") But still, Cup and Carrot Cake were at their wits end. They had been trying for five years to conceive, to no avail, and in desperation, Cup Cake had decided to get tested to see if the problem was with her.
"Well, Mrs. Cake, I have some good news, and I have some bad news," the doctor told the nervous blue pony sitting in his examination room. "The good news is that there is nothing wrong with you- you are physically capable of carrying a foal. You are not infertile." Mrs. Cake breathed a sigh of relief. So the problem wasn't with her- she wasn't deficient as a mother. But Dr. Null Result just snorted and shook his head, not wanting his patient to get her hopes up too much.
"The problem is your husband. As things stand now, he will never be able to sire a foal. But I'll give you the same advice I gave my son when his marefriend found out she wouldn't be able to have foals- divorce him. Find a better stallion, settle down, and get to work on building your family! Who knows? Maybe you'll find the true love of your life." He grinned at Cup, who shuddered. She was beginning to see why more ponies who were having trouble starting a family didn't seek the advice of this one creepy stallion, instead preferring to visit more expensive doctors in the larger cities like Canterlot or Manehattan, or seeking a more traditional remedy from Zecora.
"Thank you, doctor, but no," Cup said firmly. "I love my husband, and I'm sure there is some way around this." Offended, she tossed the doctor her bits and cantered out of the clinc, not looking back, and wanting to get back to Sugar Cube Corner as soon as possible to take a shower, wash off the slimy feeling that disgusting stallion's touch had left on her. What did that fool doctor know anyway? Perhaps someone else might know a way around this setback. Ditzy Doo had sought prenatal care from a highly-regarded doctor in Canterlot, on the advice of her boss(Boxy Stacks, for all his faults, did at least know to look after his employees by giving them good health insurance). Most of these cities were only a train-ride away. But first she would have to let Carrot know the news.
He took it about as well as any male being told that he was the reason he and his mate were having trouble conceiving would. Which is to say- not very well. He locked himself in the basement of Sugar Cube Corner for three days (making both Cup and Pinkie Pie's jobs very difficult when they had to get certain supplies, like flour, out of storage). Finally, on the fourth day, he crept out of the shop in the dead of night, without telling his wife where he was going. Cup spent another week worried sick about her missing husband, wondering if she should call for help. But who would she call? The police? Scottneigh Yard? The Equestria Bureau of Investigation?
On the seventh day of Carrot's disappearance, he cantered back into the shop. Simultaneously furious and relieved, Cup berated him for disappearing without telling her where he was going "What if a hydra had gotten you!" Once she had finished, Carrot explained what he had done.
"I went to see Zecora," he began, "and she confirmed what you told me. Apparently the dragox pox I contracted as an adolescent was the problem, and there's no way to reverse the damage. But she also told me that she knew of a doctor in Manehattan that might be able to help."
"You wen to Manehattan?" Cup shrieked. "Do you have any idea what could have happened to you? Don't you know that the mafia has been active there recently? You could have been killed!"
"I'm not rich enough to be their target, nor am I involved in the liquor industry. Berry Punch would have more of a reason to worry about them than I would," Carrot replied. "But mobster ponies aren't the important part- the important part is that there is a way you can have foals. They... they won't be related to me, but they will still be your foals, and I am willing to accept them as my own. I'll do my best to be a good father to them."
"Say what you're saying, Carrot," Cup said sharply.
"There is... new technology. It's meant to help ponies who can't have foals, for whatever reason. There are these new clinics. Mares and stallions who need the money can go there and donate their, uh, materials, which are then redistributed to other couples who want to have foals. The doctors can make it work."
At first, Cup was appalled. Yes, she wanted to have foals, and she wanted to have foals very badly, but not if it meant that Carrot couldn't be the father! She had taken a marriage vow to remain faithful, and she would honor that vow until the day she died. But her husband insisted that it wouldn't be adultery since nothing would actually be happening between Cup and some random, anonymous stallion, and that the procedure would be happening with his full knowledge and permission. He would love whatever foal came of it as much as he would if he'd been the biological father himself. He loved Cup, and he wanted her to be happy. He wanted to have a family just as much as she did.
As the weeks passed, Cup began to think about the treatment that Carrot had explained. It would require a trip to Manehattan to talk to the doctor, in order to determine if she was a candidate for the new treatment, and they did have the shop to worry about. It would also look suspicious if they just disappeared one day. Not since Carrot had opened Sugar Cube Corner as a recent high school graduate and he'd employed Cup O'Coffee, a mare a year younger than him, had the store been shut down for anything except for Hearth's Warming Eve, and for the honeymoon when Carrot Cake married Cup O'Coffee. Not since they'd married seven years before had they taken a vacation. It would look suspicious if all of a sudden the two bakers went off on holiday.
But now they had a third employee, Pinkie Pie. And even though she could be a bit scatterbrained at times, she had already proved her business acumen with a few new programs that she'd convinced the Cakes to implement. She was also extremely talented at finding the best ingredients for the best price, so maybe it would be alright?
After waffling back and forth about it for several weeks, Cup finally made a decision, while she and Carrot were working hard in the kitchen. "Alright," she said. "I'll do it."
"Do what?" Carrot asked absentmindedly over the whirr of an ice machine. He was keen to try out a new recipe from Neighpon, a sort of frozen confection with flavored syrup, ice-cream, and condensed milk, hoping that during the hot summer months it would be a best seller. Aloe and Lotus from the spa had given him the recipe, speaking fondly of it from their childhood in Neighpon.
"What... what we discussed a while ago. You know, with regard to... the problem," Cup replied cryptically, not wanting their hyperactive pink employee to overhear and ask awkward questions. Carrot sent her a look that clearly conveyed that he still had no idea what she was talking about. So, she decided to make it even more obvious: "You know, about the trip to Manehattan."
Carrot Cake's eyes lit up and he dropped the bottle of melon-flavored syrup he had been holding into the ice machine, where it shattered with an almighty crunch. "Really? Really! You want to do it after all!"
"Oooh! You're going to Manehattan! Can I go? Are you going to the Cupcakes Expo? Oh wait, no, I'd rather stay here and watch the store since the last time I went to anything related to cupcakes my friends were all scared of me for a week! Something about some stupid movie, whatever. Yeah! That's what I'll do! I'll watch the store! Definitely! Hey, why are you going to Manehattan anyway? Oooh, I know! I'll throw you both a Going-Away party, and don't worry, I won't use shop materials this time!" A certain pink pony had walked in at a most inopportune time. Both of the older ponies jumped backwards, surprised and shocked by the interruption, although rather inexplicably. They knew by now to expect Pinkie Pie to appear at the most awkward moments possible.
"Pinkie Pie! What are you doing back here?" Mrs. Cake exclaimed, extremely unsettled. How much had the other mare heard? Granted, they hadn't been talking about anything in detail, but Pinkie Pie had an uncanny (and a bit disturbing) ability to ferret out information that she wasn't supposed to have access to from just a few snippets of conversation- it was how she had figured out the code to Sugar Cube Corner's safe, after all. And while Pinkie might be smart enough to know there were some things it's not a good idea to go yelling all over Ponyville (the safe's code being a perfect example), she was also a bit of a loudmouth. And if she didn't think anypony would be placed in clear and present danger from her running her mouth, she would run it. But this time, the hyperactive mare just shrugged.
"We sold out of the red velvet cupcakes, I was just coming back to get another tray of them. Hey, are you okay Mrs. Cake? You don't look so good."
"I'm fine, dearie," Cup replied. "Just kind of tired. Please, get the cupcakes on the tray, they've been selling well today."
"Okie dokie lokie!"
Once their employee was safely out of earshot, the Cakes put their heads closer together again and spoke more quietly. "When should we leave? We'll need to keep it quiet unless we want to explain to the entire town why we're going to Manehattan," Carrot whispered urgently. "You know Pinkie, she means well, but she just can't keep her mouth shut, and she'll throw a party, and then everypony in the town will be wanting to know about why we're going on a trip!"
"I'm pretty sure my cousin Pear Tart lives in Manehattan, or at least a few miles outside of it," Cup replied. "If we do have to have an excuse ready, just say she's ill and we're going to help her out."
"Pear Tart?" Carrot asked. "You mean that obnoxious filly who told you not to marry me because I was 'too damn ugly,' in her words?" Cup winced.
"I said I was sorry about that..."
"It's not your fault! I just can't stand that pony! Oh well, you are right that it would make a good excuse," Carrot finally agreed.
Two days later, the Cakes crept out of their house in the middle of the night, and boarded the 3:00 AM train, bound for Manehattan. The journey would take the better part of the day, so Carrot and Cup had packed a bunch of snacks and light reading material to keep themselves well-fed and entertained. But Carrot fell asleep almost as soon as the train had started rolling, snoring loudly. Cup, on the other hand, was too wound-up to sleep. Instead, she decided to look through the pamphlets Carrot had brought back from his last trip.
While the procedure didn't sound particularly painful, it certainly didn't sound like something she would want to do on a regular basis. But her main thoughts weren't even for herself- the thing that concerned her the most about this whole venture was the effect it would have on Carrot, and on the foals. No matter how many times Carrot insisted that he would always see the foals as his, whether or not he was their biological father, the thought still daunted Cup. What would happen if she gave birth, and Carrot decided that he no longer wanted to go through with the plan? And what about the foals? Eventually they would need to be told the truth about their origins- how would they take it? Would they just accept that their father wasn't really their father? Would they rebel? Would they want to find their biological father and go live with him?
With all of these troubling prospects rolling around her brain, Cup fell into an uneasy sleep just outside of Hoofington.
To Be Continued
I can't believe I'm doing this, I told myself "no more multi-chapter fics until the other ones you're working on are completed," but after seeing yesterday's episode I couldn't help it- the plot varmints that live in my head started eating my brain and wouldn't stop until I started working on this.
Did anyone else think that Mr. Cake's explanation as to how his foals ended up being a pegasus and unicorn sounded a little like he made it up on the spot like that? It's almost like he hadn't been expecting a question like that and he had to think fast to come up with something to say. I don't think that Mrs. Cake would have cheated on him, so that didn't really cross my mind, but then I started thinking- what if the baby Cakes were conceived through in vitro with donated genetic materials? Obviously, that's not going to be canon- it's a show for young girls, after all. Shows for young girls (and for young boys) don't really deal with complex issues like infertility and bioethics. So that's why I'm writing this.
I feel like I should state right now- I'm not a geneticist. I'm a minimum-wage purveyor of snacks who's studying to become an IT professional. I'm doing a lot of research for this fic, but we all know how reliable the Internet can be, so I apologize in advance if I get something wrong, and if you catch an error, please let me know. And yes, I already know that I greatly simplified the way genetics work for the opening of this chapter. I also understand that there are a lot of complicated moral and ethical issues surrounding this topic. I won't lie and say I'm going to avoid touching on them in this story, because a major part of the plot later on is going to be that of parental rights, and who is the true parent, but please be aware that I am not condemning any real person's choices or existence through my writing of this story.
Also, those twins were the cutest damn thing I've seen in a long time and I wanted to write about them. There, I said it.
Oh, and by the way- the dessert Mr. Cake was making right before Pinkie Pie barged in was kakigori, sort of a Japanese snow-cone, made with shaved ice, different-flavored syrups, ice-cream, sweetened condensed milk, and fruit. They're very good- my professor brought in stuff to make it with one day as part of our lesson on ordering food.
A/n- this chapter will contain the respective fathers of Pumpkin and Pound Cake- neither of the Cakes will actually be in this chapter, but don't worry, they're coming back and this will be the last of the other dads until... oh, chapter five or so.
Nineteen Months Previously
Outside a high-rise Manehattan apartment, two extremely loud unicorns were engaged in a heated argument. Said argument sounded like something out of a television drama, or something from one of those trashy books most mares and stallions will deny reading but privately hide under their beds or in the laundry room behind the detergent. Mostly being a proper folk, the passing Manehattan ponies pretended that they didn't hear what was going on, but honestly, it was very difficult to ignore. Right outside the ornate glass door, a pale orange unicorn stallion with a wallet for a cutie mark, and a shocking pink unicorn mare with a diamond ring for her defining mark stood shouting at each other.
"I did not marry you so that I could ruin my figure having foals!" the mare shouted. "What do you take me for, a common broodmare? I am not ruining my looks just so that your bucking mother can have a grandfoal! If that was what you were after, then why didn't you go down to the harbor and pick up one of those common fillies? I'm sure they would be more than happy to marry into money! What do you take me for, a cheap low-class filly? I am Ideal Diamond! My father is the vice-president of Haystack Corp.!" The stallion snorted derisively.
"Diamond, you idiot, I know very well who your father is, I see him every bucking day at work! He is my direct subordinate, I'd very well think it would be a bit hard for me to forget something like that!" he exclaimed. "My elder sister was right- you really are a no-good gold-digger." The mare just laughed in his face.
"With your terrible personality, you'd be lucky to even get a 'no-good gold-digger.' I'm so done with you, Moneybags, I'm going to find someone who will appreciate me for who I really am, and buy me everything I want! You'll be hearing from my father's lawyer!" And with that, she snootily stepped off, trotting down the street.
The stallion, Moneybags, cursed under his breath. He'd known when he proposed to her that Ideal Diamond wasn't the sort of mare that he would really want to spend the rest of his life with. His older sister, Trust Fund, had told him about this kind of filly from hre days at finishing school in Canterlot. "They only want one thing, Moneybags, and I'll tell you one thing- it's not your love," she had warned her brother. "They start out acting all nice and sweet, but once they think they've got you hooked, they turn into the pony equivalent of a horde of hungry parasprites! They'll take everything you have, mark my words, Moneybags," she had concluded her dire warning. But after Trust Fund's death in that horrific hot-air balloon accident over Fillydelphia the previous year, the one that killed not only all the passengers in the balloon but sixty-three other ponies on the ground, Moneybags was the only one left in his family line, that could carry on the family name. His mother hadn't ever recovered from her daughter's death- when she was told that Trust Fund was in the hospital, she got it into her head that she was going to be a grandmother, and even after her son and several doctors tried to explain to her that her daughter had passed away from injuries sustained in the accident, she never really gave up on her hope that she was a grandmother, and that her daughter would be showing up any day now, with her children in tow.
Of course, it didn't hurt that Moneybags was the CEO of Haystack Corp., and a marriage to the vice-president of the company would be politically expedient for him. The marriage was not completed out of love, but rather out of convenience. And as such, it had been a rocky relationship from the start, with Moneybags constantly being shocked by the sheer amount of stuff his lovely bride would return with every time she went out. And it seemed to him that Ideal Diamond would go out of her way to spend as much money as possible- most recently she had bought a pashmina from Neighman Marcus for nearly four thousand bits. The next day, Moneybags had seen the exact same pashmina for sale at Manecy's for two thousand bits. So it wasn't like he hadn't known his wife was using him, but it still hurt a lot to be so harshly reminded of that fact.
It was still a shock to the system for him to see how strongly she had reacted. All he had done was mention his mother's desire for a grandfoal, and Ideal Diamond had acted as though he had suggested that she go and kick one of the princesses in the face. She had immediately started shrieking about how having foals would ruin her figure and make her flanks fat, and how she would never debase herself like that. It had led to an argument between the two, both Moneybags himself and Ideal Diamond becoming ever more strident. Finally, with that promise to divorce, Ideal Diamond had stalked off furiously, no doubt to empty the joint bank account before she cut him off permanently. But, Moneybags was alright with that. He didn't actually think that she had the guts to go through with it, but that was fine. He would begin the proceedings the next morning, to do everything possible to get the upper hoof. It might make working with her father a bit awkward for a while, but in the end it would most likely all work out. As it was, Moneybags had the distinct feeling that Onyx Prism didn't really care too much about his daughter one way or another- in fact, the other unicorn got the distinct impression that his subordinate saw his daughter as an annoyance.
Still, though, it was kind of a shame. Not only was Moneybags the last male in his family line, after Trust Fund's death, he was the last in his family line altogether. He would have no heir to take over the Haystack Group, except for maybe his cousin, but that airheaded prep-school stallion had about as much business acumen as a half-eaten turnip.
Sighing, Moneybags was about to go back inside to contact his lawyer, when he suddenly noticed an advertisement innocuously tacked to an electrical pole. Curious, he approached it so that he could better make out what it said. It read:
Want to be part of a scientific breakthrough?
Do you want to create LIFE?
Contact the Equine Reproductive Project today and become a donor! Mares and stallions of any species wanted, 200 bit reward for participation.
Hmmm, Moneybags thought quietly, mulling it over in his mind. Yes. Yes, he would like to be part of a scientific breakthrough, and yes, he did want to create life. He just didn't want to have to deal with the mare involved. He wanted to be a father more than anything. It wasn't just the fact that his mother was desperate to see her grandfoal before she died, he really did want to be a dad. He wanted to be able to see his offspring grow up. He wanted to be able to cheer for them when they played sports- if they wanted to, of course, he wouldn't force them into doing anything they didn't want to do. He wanted to be able to throw them a lavish cuteceñera when the foal got his or her cutie mark. He wanted to be a father, more than he'd ever wanted anything.
So, he followed the instructions on the poster to contact the Equine Reproductive Project, and went to their office in Midtown Manehattan. He was interviewed by a charcoal-gray pegasus mare with a test tube for a cutie mark, who introduced herself as Dr. Scientific Method. She asked him a bunch of questions about his family history and his own health, ranging from the innocuous, like "Have you ever had a serious illness, like Cutie Pox or Mange?"- to the awkward- "Do you have any siblings? If so, tell me anything you know about their mental and physical health that might be cause for concern,"- to the downright embarrassing: "What was the age when you first mated? Was it with a mare or another stallion?"
After what seemed like ages, Moneybags eventually finished the interview, and the reams of paperwork he was required to fill out, Scientific Method left him in the interview room for about half an hour, then returned with even more paperwork.
"Congratulations, Mr. Moneybags," she said calmly. "You pass our criteria. I will just need you to fill out these forms, and then we can get started. If we do end up using your genetic material and a foal is born, you will receive notification. By signing this contract you are legally bound to allow us to use your genetic material, and that if any foal is born that they would have, if they so choose, once they reach the age of majority, the right to learn of your identity."
"Of course!" Moneybags exclaimed. "Why wouldn't I be alright with that? I'd love to be able to meet my foal!" Scientific Method smiled softly.
"I'm sure you would," she replied. "And if I may say so without overstepping my bounds, any foal would be lucky to have you for a father."
All things considered, once the paperwork was complete, the rest of the procedure didn't take long at all. After a quick physical exam (from a doctor whose hooves were like pure ice- seriously, hadn't that stallion ever heard of hoof-warmers?), Moneybags was led to a small soundproofed cubicle, and the rest of his duties were explained to him. Once he had been sufficiently debriefed on the proper procedure, he was left to complete his business. When he was done, he left the cubicle and placed the tightly-sealed sample in the deposit box, and then waited for a moment. Sure enough, Scientific Method came trotting up the hallway.
"Thank you for your help, Mr. Moneybags," the mare said cheerfully. "And remember what I told you- even though you did meet our requirements, there is no guarantee that you will be selected to be in any experiment. However, if you are selected and a healthy foal is born, you will receive a letter of notice."
"Thank you, Dr. Method," Moneybags replied. "It was wonderful to meet you, and I thank you for your willingness to include me in this most worthwhile endeavor." The scientific mare smiled.
"Please, Mr. Moneybags, call me Scientific. 'Dr. Method' sounds so formal."
"In that case, Ms. Scientific, I'd like to wish you the best of luck with the project, and I hope that you do not have to worry about funding issues for this. If you do, Celestia forbid, ever find yourself in need of financial help, well, after all that paperwork, you know where to find me." Scientific Method laughed.
"Why, of course, Mr. Moneybags! Thank you for the generous offer!"
The two parted ways, both feeling very proud of what they had done. Moneybags was definitely feeling better. Who knew a fight with Ideal Diamond could turn out to provide such a wonderful opportunity! And it was such a pity that he'd ended up saddled with that useless, vapid, featherbrain of a unicorn when there existed intelligent, charming mares like Scientific Method.
The pegasus researcher felt rather giddy as well, as she trotted down the hallways of the laboratory. So far all of the donors for the project had gotten were either destitute and only had shown up for the 200-bit compensation money, or students trying to get a bit of extra credit for their Equine Biology class. But this one... now this was one high-class pony! Surely he would be a great asset to the project!
Three Months Later
"Get off me! Let me go! I never agreed to this- you told me I'd be part of some experiment and that you'd pay me and let me go! Nopony ever said anything about- wait, what are you doing with that thing? GET IT AWAY FROM ME! AAAAARGH!"
Steel Seethe, a light blue-gray pegasus, winced as he heard the loud crashing sounds from inside the examination room, the mare in question apparently doing everything in her power to get away from the doctors. Like him, and like the thirteen other ponies currently in the waiting room, that mare had answered an advertisement put out by the Equine Reproductive Project, offering 200 bits to anypony who came in and was a candidate for their new research project. Steel, along with all of the other ponies currently sitting in the waiting room (and the mare already in the back), had passed the rigorous physical exams, filled out what seemed like all of the paperwork in the entirety of Manehattan, and answered some very awkward personal questions. Apparently, they'd all done something right, because here they were.
But from the sounds coming from inside that room, Steel Seethe was beginning to wonder if this whole thing was worth it. He needed that 200 bits, he wasn't making enough from his locksmith business to support his daughter. Ever since his wife was badly wounded in an accident at the Manehattan weather factory, she had been unable to work. Without the second income, he couldn't afford to pay the rent, buy food, pay his wife's medical bills, and pay his daughter's tuition for that fancy private school. Theoretically he knew he could take her out of her current school, but it was his wife's fervent wish that Lavender Blitz get the best education that Manehattan had to offer.
Eventually, the yelling and thrashing stopped and the door swung open. A rather rattled-looking, bright red Earth pony mare limped out, followed by a lab-coat clad unicorn stallion, who cleared his throat and looked at a chart on the wall.
"Mr. Steel Seethe? Please follow me and we can get started." The mare stamped her hooves.
"HEY! What about my 200 bits, huh?" The doctor turned to her and glared.
"Considering you did not allow us to get the sample we needed and that you very nearly gave Nurse Morphine a concussion when you bucked her in the face, we'll just have to see about whether or not we can spare that money for somepony who didn't even meet the basic requirements," the doctor said grimly. When the mare started to snort and stamp her hooves as though she was getting ready to charge, the doctor hastily hurried Steel Seethe into the back room.
"Alright there, sir, there's an instruction sheet on that table over there. We'll give you forty-five minutes to complete your task, and then you'll just have to meet with Quick Notes to collect your money."
"Wait, what happened to that mare? Is it painful?" Steel asked nervously, remembering the pained, panicked yelling from earlier. The doctor just smirked at him.
"Oh no, it's not painful at all. Well, not for stallions, anyway." With that, the doctor shut the door behind him as he left the room, leaving the other stallion alone with the necessary equipment and the instructional sheet.
Once he realized exactly what he was supposed to do, he felt the blood drain from his face, and all his other extremities. Nopony had told him that... that the research would be based on... on something like that! He was about to march on out of there and tell that doctor that there had been a mistake, he was not about to clop into a test tube, and that this was not what he had signed up for. But then, he remembered that he had an unpaid tuition bill sitting on top of the rickety old table in his dingy apartment. There was also no doubt in his mind that the school administration would expel his daughter in a heartbeat if he didn't manage to come up with the money by the tuition deadline. And even if he did borrow money from his savings, he wouldn't be able to pay for his wife's medical bills as she slowly recovered from the accident. All he needed for the tuition was 175 more bits, but the medication that was supposed to help numb the pain in his wife's damaged wings was also 175 bits- it was one or the other, unfortunately, unless he made this choice.
Gritting his teeth, Steel Seethe decided that he would just have to pony up and deal with it, at least if he wanted to keep his daughter in her school and be able to pay for the necessary medical help for his wife.
Once he'd finished what needed to be done, Steel Seethe put the materials in the designated containers and shuffled out of the room as discreetly as possible. He reconnected with the doctor, who led him to another small cubicle, where an extremely bored pony sat counting out bits into a cloth satchel. Steel received the bits and listened to the mare tell him the standard spiel that she probably told everypony that came through. "By participating in this study you hereby give the Equine Reproductive Project the rights to everything you've signed, and with full knowledge that a foal may result from your participation. You will be informed if and when a foal is born, and while you will remain mostly anonymous, your information may be made available to said foal when he or she comes of age."
"Yes, yes, that is fine," Steel said quickly, wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible. This was definitely not the proudest moment of his life- essentially, he was selling himself. Ostensibly it was for science, but it still felt... almost borderline illegal. The mare regarded him cooly for a moment, before double-checking to make sure he had received all of the bits he was entitled to.
"That you for participating in the project," she said, before waving a hoof at him dismissively. Steel Seethe shot of the clinic like his wings were on fire, heart beating furiously. He'd done what he needed to do to raise the money he needed. He'd technically done a good thing- he'd secured his daughter's education, at least for another year, and had made sure that his wife would be able to get the medical care she needed, as well as helped to further Equestria's medical technology. He'd been patriotic and a good father and husband all in the same day: by all rights, he should have been feeling pretty good about himself. But somehow, he had the distinct feeling that he had opened an entirely new can of worms of potential problems. Only time would tell whether or not his hunch was correct...
The rest of the trip to Manehattan went uneventfully enough. Carrot Cake awoke from his nap a few miles outside of Fillydelphia, and noticed that his wife had fallen asleep as well. Smiling gently, he dug around in their luggage until he found the throw blanket they had packed, and carefully placed it over Cup. Once he was sure that she wouldn't catch cold, he stared out the window, thinking about what this meant for them.
Although the whole endeavor had been his idea in the first place, Carrot was beginning to wonder if he'd done the right thing. At first Cup had been so opposed to the idea- had he forced her into this against her will? She had told him that she wanted to do it, but how much of that was her just trying to get him to shut up about it?
He wanted to be a father- that much he knew. And he knew that Cup wanted to be a mother. But did she want to be a mother so much that she would actually want to carry some random stallion's foal?
Carrot hadn't been lying when he'd said that any foal that resulted from this treatment would be as good as his. After all, he would be the one to raise it. But Cup... Cup had been suspicious of the whole thing from the start. And maybe she did have a point, after all. So many things could go wrong with this. And what if after they'd taken all the time to come all the way out to Manehattan, only to discover that Cup wasn't a candidate for the treatment after all? Or even worse, what if Null Result had been wrong, and that his wife actually was incapable of having foals? Would she be able to stand the disappointment?
Suddenly feeling like he'd rather be anywhere else but on that train, Carrot slouched down in his seat. Of course, as usual, he hadn't thought things through to their logical conclusion- the same thing he'd done with that damned coupon service, not realizing that everypony and their cousin from here to Canterlot would end up buying the wretched things. This was just more of the same- he hadn't thought things through all the way, and now all he could see for the future was more anguish and pain. And, even in a small part of himself he didn't like to admit existed, he doubted that his marriage would survive.
“You're not having second thoughts, are you?” a voice startled him out of his introspection. Carrot jumped, turning to realize that his wife had woken up.
“Oh good, you're awake,” he replied, hoping that he sounded nonchalant. “We should be there in half an hour or so. Hey, you know the appointment isn't until later, do you maybe want to check out that bakery that won the Royal Canterlot Cupcake Battle? We could spy on the competition! And anyway, I've heard their cupcakes are amazing, but I'm sure we can do better. Hey, how do you think Pinkie Pie is doing? Hopefully she won't have blown up the shop by the time we get back...” Carrot gave a nervous laugh, the prospect of actually returning to find Sugar Cube Corner a smouldering pile of wreckage actually not too much of a stretch for him to worry about. But Cup knew her husband better than that, and she of all ponies was the best equipped to tell when he had something on his mind.
“You didn't answer my question,” she said. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“No,” Carrot replied, immediately going on the defensive. “I'm not. But what about you? Are you sure you want to go through with this? You originally... well, you didn't seem like you really wanted to do it, and I don't want you to feel like I'm forcing you into anything. Where we go from here... it's completely up to you.”
“You ought to know me well enough that if I didn't want to do this, I won't be on this train right now,” Cup said shortly. “I know it's not ideal, and I will be honest with you, she continued. “I would rather the foal be both of ours. But it's like the doctor said... if we're to have a family, it's going to have to be either this or adoption.”
“You don't feel like I pressured you into this?” Carrot asked.
“No. I made this choice myself,” Cup stated bluntly. “I'm not backing out now, unless you change your mind.”
“Of course not!” Carrot exclaimed. Cup nodded.
“Good. And yes, I do want to go to that bakery while we're here.”
The rest of the trip was fairly easy, if a bit tense at times, with both ponies making banal small-talk about what they would do while they were on this trip. Cup wanted to see Broadmane, even if they wouldn't have time to attend a show, and Carrot wanted to see the Statue of Friendship. Since they knew they would have several hours between getting off the train and the scheduled appointment, they figured that they might as well do some things that they wouldn't otherwise have the chance to do.
Once they got off the train, they realized that the famous bakery was right across from the station. There was no need to hunt down a map of Manehattan, at least not yet. Feeling like a couple of foals on a school trip despite themselves, Cup and Carrot hurried into the bakery, taking a look around.
For a supposedly famous shop that had won one of the most prestigious baking contests in all of Equestria, it was surprisingly small and dingy. The counters looked to be in need of a good scrubbing, and the young mare running the cash register stared blankly off into space, as though she was thinking about being anywhere other than in the shop. “Welcome to The Cake Store,” she said in a monotone when she realized that she had customers. “My name is Sparkling Sage and I'll be your server today/ While you make a decision, allow me to recite some facts about our store. In 20XX, The Cake Store was invited to participate in the annual Royal Canterlot Cupcake Battle bake-off in Canterlot...” as she droned on, Carrot smirked and turned to his wife.
“It makes you grateful that we have Pinkie Pie, huh? At least she knows a thing or two about 'service with a smile,'” he said. Cup laughed softly under her breath.
“Now don't be mean to the poor filly, dear, it's not her fault that she has so much energy!”
“Energy?! What are you talking about? This filly sounds and moves like she has a hangover! Does the Apple family ship their cider out to Manehattan? Because I tell you what, it sounds like she was up all night drinking a whole barrel!”
“I was talking about Pinkie Pie,” Cup replied. “Although now that you mention it, I think the Apples do ship their cider... at least I know they send some of it to their relatives that live here. I remember last spring, when Applejack came to ask me if I knew how to ship a pie safely that she needed to package it with some bottles.”
“... and that is the story of our shop up until last spring. Can I take your order now?” Sparkling Sage's conclusion of her spiel snapped both ponies back into the moment, and they realized that neither of them had picked a cupcake out. With so many choices, it would take forever to look at and decide what to get. Thinking quickly, Carrot asked-
“Which one is your favorite?”
“Which cupcake flavor is your favorite?” Carrot reiterated. “You have so many choices, which do you like the best?”
“I actually hate sweets,” Sparkling Sage replied in a monotone. “I only work here because my brother owns this place and the pay's good. I can't help you out.”
Cup and Carrot exchanged horrified looks. How could anypony hate sweets, let alone anypony who worked in a specific sweet shop! But, there was a first time for everything, they supposed. Realizing they would have to make a decision fast, Cup picked a strawberry cupcake, and Carrot got a vanilla cupcake.
“Eighteen bits, please,” Sparkling Sage demanded. Eighteen bits for two cupcakes? That was practically extortion! But now that they had gotten the cupcakes on the little paper plates, it would be bad form if they backed out now. Feeling ripped off, Carrot dug around in his saddle-bag before finally finding enough loose change to pay for their treat. The mare took the money, deposited it in the cash register with a clink, and went back to staring off into space.
The two other bakers took their cupcakes and settled down at a table far away from the register. Cup removed the liner from her cupcake and took a bite out of it. Chewing slowly, her face became unreadable. “How is it?” Carrot asked.
Making sure to finish eating before she spoke, Cup replied, “honestly? It's dry and flavorless. I don't think there's any real strawberries in here, either.” Carrot nodded, then tried his own cupcake, immediately gagging as soon as he had taken a bite. Concerned, Cup looked around to see if the shop's staff was paying attention. Luckily, it appeared that Sparkling Sage was more interested in studying her hooves than in anything the customers were doing.
“Bleh...” Carrot groused once the taste was out of his mouth. “I can't tell if they iced that with buttercream or cement!”
“It's hard to see how this place won that contest,” Cup agreed. Carrot stood up, taking their trash with him.
“We still have two hours- did you want to see the Statue of Friendship?” he asked. Cup shook her head.
“No, we should just go. We don't know for certain where the clinic is, we should probably try to get there early. The pamphlet said that if we miss the appointment it won't be rescheduled.”
Luckily, the two out-of-town ponies found the building housing the Equine Reproductive Project in record time, probably thanks to the logical grid layout of the city, combined with the numerical naming system of the streets. Both Cup and Carrot Cake stared in awe at the huge building- and it was only twelve stories tall. Even though it was rather puny by Manehattan standards, it was still exponentially larger than any building in Ponyville.
“Are... are you sure we're in the right place?” Cup asked, daunted by the sheer size of the building. “It looks much to big to be a doctor's office!” Carrot pointed his hoof at the sign reading “Equine Reproductive Project- World Headquarters.”
“It's probably got all their offices and data files and research laboratories in it too,” Carrot replied, trying to hide the fact that he was daunted as well by the huge building. Steeling his courage, he added. “Well, we don't want to miss our appointment...”
When they walked through the shining glass doors, the Cakes found themselves in a huge foyer, completely empty except for an oversized white marble desk, occupied by a coal-black unicorn mare with some sort of headset on, and with her magic being used to scribble down something on a roll of parchment.
“Mmmm-hmmm,” they heard her say when they approached. “Well, I don't know what she expects u sto do about it, all of those files are protected under doctor-patient confidentiality.” A pause. “Is she seriously that stupid that she thinks the law in Califoalina applies to Manehattan? I don't know how to break it to her... well, actually I do, but I don't know if I can use small enough words for her to understand. That's a local law, it doesn't have any traction here.” Another pause. “Look, I don't care who her father is, nopony can access any records here that aren't their own without an order from one of the Princesses or a valid DNA test!” A brief pause. “It doesn't matter if they're married! She cannot see that file, and that is final! Do whatever it takes to get that through her thick skull, even if you have to break her horn off and yell into the stump! Good day to you!” Using her hoof, the mare pressed a button on her headset, and finished scribbling the notes, putting her pen down. She then turned to the Cakes, eyeing them disdainfully, as though they were a couple of cockroaches on a scone.
“State your name and business,” she ordered sternly. Beside him, Carrot could feel Cup shaking, and he couldn't blame her. That was one scary mare- she could probably give Nightmare Moon herself a run for her money.
“Uh... Cup and Carrot Cake, for an appointment with Dr. Scientific Method at four o'clock,” Carrot said nervously. Using her magic, the unicorn summoned a file of a cards, and immediately started shuffling through them. Apparently she found the one she was looking for, because she set it down on the desk and banished the others with another surge of magic.
“Cup Cake? Blue Earth pony mare, cupcakes for a cutie mark, husband is impotent, here all the way from Ponyville?” she asked. Carrot Cake's face lit up like a flambè at the problem being stated so bluntly (not to mention loudly) like that. Cup nodded.
“Yes, that's me,” she said with a nervous little chuckle. The other mare nodded almost imperceptibly.
“Dr. Method's office is on the fourth floor, she's waiting there for you. As for your husband, well, he may wait here until the conclusion of the appointment.”
“You mean he can't come with me?”
The unicorn smiled rather nastily. “Trust me, it's probably better if he doesn't see this.” To Be Continued
Author's Comments: I know it seems like nothing really happens in this chapter, but it's actually pretty important, since it kind of sets the foundation for what's to come later. Sorry it's so boring.
Also, pony names are really hard to come up with, but something occurred to me- the names for cosmetics sound a lot like pony names. Sparkling Sage is actually the color of an eyeshadow. But no one cares about that, do they? :P
Chapter Four: The Donor Selection Book “What the buck is that supposed to mean?” Carrot exclaimed, turning to face the sardonically grinning unicorn mare, as his wife stepped into the elevator that would take her to the examination room. “Are you- what- what’s going to happen to her? What do you mean, ‘it’s better if I don’t see this?! What are you planning on doing to her?!” His heart beat so furiously that he was certain it would jump out of his chest, but the mare was nonplussed.
“Relax, you tight-flank, all I meant by that was that it’s a very long, complicated exam, with a lot of talk about… well, you know- mare stuff,” she replied. “Don’t worry, your wife will be fine. Why don’t you go have a seat in the waiting room? I’ll send your wife in to meet you as soon as the procedure is completed and the appointment is over.”
Carrot wanted to argue, to demand that the sarcastic, cold mare step down and let him go after his wife, but he knew a lost cause when he saw one (especially seeing as how immediately after she’d finished speaking to him, she reactivated her headset and began talking furiously into it again, this time with regards to a stallion whose STD results had come back positive, awkwardly enough), so, reluctantly, he followed the directions that the unicorn had given him and shuffled off to the waiting room. It was a bland, institutional beige room furnished with a busted television stuck on one channel (ENN- the Equestria New Network), and a few magazines several years out of date, not to mention the painfully non-ergonomic plastic chairs that are the staple of every waiting room ever. Although he knew it would do absolutely nothing to ease his troubled mind, Carrot picked up a three-year-old copy of Cosmarepolitian and began to read an article on “25 Ways to Please That Special Stallion.” But, to be honest, he couldn’t for the life of him begin to figure out why he might ever need to know 25 ways to please another stallion.
Meanwhile, Cup was shown to an examination room by a friendly enough mare (really, more of a filly- she couldn’t have been more than a few years out of her school days) and told that the doctor would be with her shortly. Five minutes passed, then ten minutes. Fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty… Cup began to wonder if “shortly” meant something different to Manehattan ponies than it did to others. Finally, after a little more than an hour had gone by, the door clicked open and in stepped a gray pegasus mare.
“Cup Cake? Nice to meet you, I’m Dr. Scientific Method. So, why don’t we get started?”
The preliminary exam itself didn’t take more than half an hour, but to Cup, it felt like it took decades. She was pinched, prodded, poked, hooked up to machines, poked a bit more, stuck into something kind of like a huge version of the machine Twilight Sparkle at the Ponyville library used to make copies of documents, and pinched again. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing, and by the end of it, Cup was ready to call the whole thing off and head back to Ponyville if it meant she didn’t have to undergo anymore “tests”
“Well, Mrs. Cake, I have some good news!” Scientific Method said to her after she’d looked over all of the test results. “Like your doctor back in Ponytown said, you’re healthy enough to have foals. It really does look like your husband was the problem there.”
“Ponyville,” Cup corrected quickly, choosing to ignore the jab about her husband. But the other mare either didn’t hear, or more likely didn’t care, and continued on:
“In fact, you’re exactly the sort of mare we’ve been looking for!”
“Yes- you’re healthy, you’re strong, you’re relatively young, and best of all, you want to have foals!” the doctor exclaimed cheerfully. Cup, once again, chose to ignore that little pointed barb regarding her age. “It’s perfect, you see? You’ll get to have foals, and we’ll get to see if our technology actually works!”
Something seemed slightly off about the doctor’s words, but Cup bit back any concerns she might have had. After all, it was probably just a slip of the tongue. From what she could tell, the doctor didn’t seem to have much of a filter between her brain and her mouth- what with the little “jokes” about Cup’s age and Carrot’s fertility. Surely they knew that the technology was safe, and the doctor was just shooting her mouth off, right? They wouldn’t actually use her as a guinea pig, would they?
“Now, this right here is our option book- the compendium of all of the profiles of our male donors,” the doctor continued, grabbing a large binder and dropping it on the examination table next to her patient. “You can look through it and decide on up to two donors that you think would be good candidates for fathers.”
“Doesn’t my husband get a say in this?” Cup asked, surprised. Dr. Scientific Method just looked at her as though she’d grown an extra head. Then, she just laughed.
“Oh, no! He’s not the one who’s going to end up pregnant, now, is he?”
“Ah… alright,” Cup replied nervously. She definitely felt very unsure now- she would have thought that the prospective father-in-all-but-genetics would get a say, but she supposed that the other mare did have a point after all- Carrot would not be the one carrying any foal that could result from this treatment. Hesitantly, she opened the book, leafing through the different profiles of stallions who had contributed to the project. A lot of them, Cup could tell from their brief profiles were so different from her and her husband. One seemed to have a special talent for being unemployed, considering he hadn’t had a job since… ever, at least according to the “job” section of his profile. Another looked to be alright, but closer inspection of the “potential hereditary diseases” section revealed that he had the potential to pass on a rare genetic disorder called “pegarcornism,” where the afflicted pony would be born with a small, non-functioning nub of a horn and underdeveloped wings that would never be able to fly. The condition itself was not fatal, but could also come accompanied by several other problems, such as a greater susceptibility to certain illnesses. Yet another seemed to have slept around a lot, possibly not in the safest way, as well as involved himself in some high-risk behaviors (such as traveling to different parts of Equestria where diseases like Cutie Pox and Marelaria were a problem) and while his test results had come back clean, Cup didn’t want to chance herself (or even worse, her foal) contracting something that the tests had missed.
It wasn’t until she’d gotten about halfway through the binder that Cup realized something. “You don’t have the type of any of these ponies listed!” And it was true- with the exception of the pony with the carrier gene for pegacornism, it did not say what the donor was, whether that be unicorn, pegasus, or Earth pony. Scientific Method fixed Mrs. Cake with a hard stare.
“Do you have a problem with that?” she asked, her tone betraying that she found Mrs. Cake to be quite bigoted. Realizing how that had come off, Cup clapped a hoof over her mouth.
“I… I didn’t mean that!” she said quickly. “It’s just that my husband and I are both Earth ponies… wouldn’t it look odd if our foal was a unicorn or a pegasus?”
“Not necessarily… genetics are a strange thing,” Scientific Method replied, fluttering her wings, all former thoughts of Mrs. Cake being prejudiced disappearing. “My parents are both unicorns, but my mother’s father was a pegasus. I inherited the pegasus gene, as did my older brother. But my sister is a unicorn like our parents.” Cup nodded. That made sense. But then again, her family had been nothing but Earth ponies for as part back as anypony could remember (or keep records). She wasn’t quite sure about Carrot’s family line, but she suspected it was something similar. The Cakes and the O’Coffees were, as far as anypony knew, completely Earth ponies, with the exception of Carrot’s random unicorn aunt, but then again, nopony was actually sure if Frilly Lilly was related to the Cakes, or if she was a cousin of a cousin, or related by marriage, or if she’d just shown up one day and sort of ingratiated herself with the family.
Deciding that the doctor had a point, and that it wasn’t a big deal after all, Cup continued looking through the different depictions of the stallions who’d contributed.
The first donor she found that she liked, both in personality and resemblance to either herself or Carrot was the profile of a pale orange pony that lived in Manehattan. From the short biography listed on the paper, Cup learned that he was apparently a high-level executive at a major corporation. There were no listed potential health problems that a foal could inherit, so Cup checked the box next to the donor number then showed it to the other mare.
“Good choice,” the pegasus said approvingly. “You’ll just need to select a second donor, and then we can get started with impregnating you!” Cup flinched a bit at the blunt way the doctor explained the procedure, but another question took precedence.
“A second donor? Why is that?”
“In case the first one doesn’t take,” the doctor explained. Cup flushed furiously. Oh. OH. Yes, that was a potential risk… after all, Carrot hadn’t exactly… “taken” himself, had he? It was possible that the first one she had selected could potentially have the same problem, after all, and then she’d be right back at square one. Embarrassed by her own naïveté, Cup continued flipping through the profiles until she found a second stallion who sounded like he would be a good match. This one was also apparently a Manehattan pony, and he already had a foal. So obviously he had already proved that he was able to reproduce. He was also blue- well, blue-gray according to the profile, which meant that if a foal did result, it would be in the realm of plausible deniability that it was hers, assuming that the genetics for coat and mane color worked that way. He also had his own business, and while it wasn’t implied that it was anywhere on the level of that of a major corporation, it was more than likely that his work ethic was similar to that of the Cakes, what with them both being business owners and all.
Once she showed this selection to the doctor, the pegasus mare input both of the forms into a machine that made a loud beeping sound. “It copies the forms and automatically sorts them into both your file, as well as those of the donors you chose,” she explained. “I don’t know how it works exactly… magic, I guess, considering a unicorn designed it.”
“Yes…” Cup agreed weakly. Once again she found herself amazed by the advanced technology in use throughout this whole enterprise. A few months ago she never would have dreamed that it would be possible for infertile couples to conceive foals through the help of technology and some random, anonymous mare or stallion. That was the first miracle. But since coming to Manehattan, she had become even more attuned to the more minor “miracles.” And the more she thought about it, the more she realized how useful a machine like that would be to her own business. Imagine being able to automatically copy and sort orders, and then file them away properly! She made a mental note to talk to Twilight Sparkle the moment that she got back to Ponyville, to see what the other mare knew about this sort of machine.
“Now,” Scientific Method said, jolting Cup out of her reverie. “Let’s get you pregnant.”
To Be Continued
Author’s Comments: I really wasn’t all that sure how to present this chapter. Obviously from the episode, at least with regard to Applejack, ponies with two parents of one type, while they themselves are a different type aren’t all that common. That was what I was going for with Cup’s confusion when it wasn’t mentioned in the profiles whether a pony was a unicorn, pegasus, or Earth pony. I was hoping to convey that she was trying to avoid having to answer awkward questions about whether or not she’d cheated on Carrot when the foal was born, if it ended up not being an Earth pony, since from what we’ve seen, most ponies are the same type as their parents. Twilight Sparkle and Rarity’s parents are unicorns. Pinkie Pie’s family is Earth ponies. So are the Apples. Diamond Tiara and her dad are Earth ponies as well. And what we saw with Applejack’s reaction to the foals in the episode itself: “How in tarnation is one of them foals a pegasus and the other a unicorn?” Obviously it does happen, since according to show canon, the foals are actually Cup and Carrot Cake’s children, so that’s why I had Scientific Method be a pegasus with unicorn parents, since it apparently can happen in the show itself.
From what I’ve read on the subject, however, in the real world, just about everything is logged on the donors, from things like their race, hair color, eye color, and potential genetic predispositions to certain conditions, down to things like job, personality, and even really random things like shoe size.
I’m probably overthinking it, but it occurred to me as I was writing this chapter that it might not be very clear why I had Cup react the way I did, or why the donor registry didn’t contain that information. Confound these ponies, they make me get all philosophical on myself! -Kaboom
Several hours and several awkwardly invasive medical procedures later, Cup was unceremoniously packed onto the elevator and given these terse instructions: “if more than two months go by and you find that you are not pregnant, then come back and we'll try again.” Upon stepping out of the elevator, the coal-black unicorn mare with the headset directed her towards the waiting room, where she was immediately accosted by an extremely tense Carrot.
“Are you alright? Did they hurt you? When are we going to decide on which donor will be the father? What happened? Are you going to be able to have foals after all?” He fired off a barrage of questions, seemingly in no particular order, all the while bouncing around like Pinkie Pie on a sugar-high. Cup giggled, to see her husband acting so out of character. Of course, this only unnerved the stallion more. “Why are you laughing? Oh Celestia, they didn't give you some kind of weird drug, did they?”
“No, Carrot, I'm fine,” Cup replied. “I'm kind of sore, but I'm fine.”
“Sore?! What in Equestria did they do to you? That's it, I'm calling this whole thing off. We'll find another way around this. I'll go see Zecora again, maybe she'll be able to find another way around the problem. Come on, let's go. It's obvious this isn't going to work out like we'd hoped. I don't think there's much point in us staying here any longer.”
“Carrot, it's already done. We were going home anyways.”
“What?” came Carrot's confused reply.
“I mean they've already completed the procedure,” Cup replied. “I chose the donors, they combined the material, and they sent me home with instructions to come back if I'm not pregnant after this.”
“The procedure is complete?” Carrot clearly felt like he was missing something fairly important. “You chose a donor already? Nopony told me anything about that! Which did you choose? I thought we were going to decide on the father together.”
“I know,” Cup answered soothingly. “I thought it was strange, but the doctor told me it's standard procedure for the stallions to not be involved in the choice. I did everything I could to make sure that the donors I picked were as similar to us as possible. One of them is a CEO, Carrot! A real CEO!”
Carrot was less than impressed with that factoid than his wife was, still miffed about being left out of what was quite possibly the decision of a lifetime. This was about the father of his children. That would seem to be the sort of thing that everypony who would be the parent of the resulting child ought to be involved with, but then again, who was he to question these doctors? Maybe they really did have a legitimate reason for it? But not matter how much he tried to rationalize it to himself, he still found it to be very dodgy, and something about Cup's reactions weren't sitting right with hin. She had a hyperaware, almost shell-shocked look about her, and she would wince with pain whenever she moved in certain ways. But she seemed to be happy, so he decided to let his misgivings go, at least for the time being.
“So, you're pregnant now?” he asked, trying to keep his tone light. Cup shrugged.
“Hopefully. They told me to just go back to Ponyville and if it turns out that I'm not pregnant, come back in a few months.”
“Well, hopefully it worked,” Carrot said. “Now let's get out of here. No offense, but this place creeps me out. Di you get the feeling that something here is very wrong? All of the ponies in this place freak me out, especially that mare at the information desk!”
Cup did her best to dissuade Carrot's fears, even though she privately agreed with them, at least a bit. Something definitely did seem off about the place (especially with regards to that doctor). But she hid her true feelings and convinved her husband to enjoy the rest of their time in Manehattan. “Why don't we go to that fancy restaurant you saw in that weird cooking magazine you get?”
“You mean Candlelight?” Carrot asked, eyes widening in excitement. “Are you sure? I know it's very expensive...”
“How bad could it be?” Cup asked in response. “We already paid eighteen bits for some mediocre cupcakes. We knew coming here would be expensive. Why don't we celebrate this?”
Even though she'd expected it to be expensive, Cup still nearly jumped out of her skin upon seeing the bill at the restaurant. “Nine hundred and sixty-three bits?” she squeaked. “For a plate of vinegar-soaked lettuce and a glass of grape juice?”
“Well, I did tell you it was going to be expensive...” Carrot muttered under his breath. But he just shrugged. “Well, you know, Lyra and BonBon's anniversary is coming up- we always make a few thousand from catering their party.” Cup agreed, realizing with embarassment that the upcoming event had completely slipped her mind. And she was going to have to get started on designing the cake if she wanted it to be ready in time... BonBon was particularly picky about her sweets (being a confectioner herself, she held any cakes she consumed to an incredibly high standard).
After they paid the bill, the Cakes chose to return to their hotel room and get some sleep before the long train ride back to Ponyville the next day. Both ponies had an unspoken agreement that they would not discuss the day's events, at least until they returned to Ponyville. Tired, both Cup and Carrot fell into bed, sleep overtaking them almost instantly.
The trip back to Ponyville went well, or at the very least, nothing unexpected happened. Carrot napped the whole way home and Cup read through a cheap, tawdry thriller of a novel she'd picked up at the train station bookstore.
The next few weeks were business as usual for the Cakes. Carrot kept experimenting in the kitchen, finally having perfected kakigori (Aloe and Lotus had proclaimed it just as delicious as they remembered it from their childhood). Carrot was eager to try out some more dessert recipes from the far-flung regions of the world. Zecora had given him a recipe from her homeland, a unique sweet made by baking bananas, then covering them with a honey-cinnamon glaze. Twilight Sparkle had also been kind enough to share with him a recipe she'd learned in Canterlot growing up: tiny tea-cakes filled with lemon curd and iced with a powdered-sugar/milk icing.
Cup, meanwhile, dutifully produced her namesake product. Her visit to Manehattan had only rekindled her desire to make the best cupcakes in Equestria, the best cupcakes that she possibly could. She didn't much experiment with the flavors (that was more Carrot's area of expertise), but she did fiddle with the icing and proportions of fruit in the cake batter and such. When she wasn't doing that, she was taking care of business with the customers. Lyra and BonBon had dropped off the specifications for their anniversary party; Cup had nearly blanched when she realized that the two mares had invited not only the entirety of Ponyville, but all 1500 members of the All-Equestria Conspiracy Research Society that Lyra was the treasurer of. All in all, the Cakes would need to come up with more snacks for more ponies than they'd ever had to do in one order before.
On a slightly smaller scale, Derpy Hooves had commissioned the Cakes to make a cake for Dinky's birthday party. As usual, the mailmare tried to pay for the cake, and as usual, Cup and Carrot refused to take the pegasus mare's money. “You buy enough muffins over the course of the year that we can afford to let you have the cake for free,” Cup said firmly. “All we want in exchange is for you to take that money you'd have spent on the cake and buy Dinky Doo a nice present. Celestia knows you both have had one hell of a year.” The wall-eyed mare smiled gratefully.
“You're too good to me, Mrs. Cake,” she said. “You helped me out when Foal Protective Services was investigating, you make the best muffins ever, and now you're giving me a free cake? Thank you so much!” The pegasus thanked the Cakes again and flew out of the bakery, very nearly crashing into a lamp-post. Cup sighed.
“That poor mare works so hard,” she told her husband. “A mailmare's salary can't be anywhere near enough, and after having to pay all those legal fees...?” she let her voice trail off. Carrot nodded in agreement, staying silent.
Ever since returning from Manehattan, Cup had taken to noticing how the parents of Ponyville raised their foals, and how said foals acted around others. On one end of the spectrum, there was Derpy and her daughter Dinky- Derpy was definitely living a hard-scrabble life, a life made even harder in the past year by one particularly mean-spirited pony who called Foal Protective Services on her, saying that the mailmare was an unfit mother. Fortunately, FPS had dropped the case after seeing how much Derpy cared for her daughter, but the scars of the incident remained. Derpy was clearly doing her best for Dinky, and it showed. Cup couldn't remember the last time she'd met such a polite young filly.
On the opposite, there was Filthy Rich and his daughter Diamond Tiara. Filthy, despite his rather unfortunate given name, wasn't actually that bad of a stallion, and always made sure to have the Cakes cater his corporate events, and he always insisted that he pay twice the normal price, no matter how many times Cup and Carrot insisted that wasn't necessary. Diamond Tiara, on the other hand? Cup had never met a more obnoxious, entitled, spoiled little brat of a filly, and Carrot had even gone so far as to ban her from the shop for a month, after he'd overheard her picking on Dinky Doo for her mother's health problems. It only went to show that just because a parent did their best to be a good pony, it didn't always mean that the foal would follow in their hoofsteps.
Cup made up her mind that if the experimental treatment actually worked out, she was going to do everything she possibly could to make sure that her foal would become a productive member of society, who would actually know how to behave right.
A few more weeks passed. The Cakes finished Dinky Doo's birthday cake, and had Pinkie Pie deliver it. Sugar Cube Corner was invaded one day by a herd of very enthusiastic, although unskilled, Cutie Mark Crusader Cake Decorators (which went about as well as would be expected, resulting in three frosting-covered little ponies, still sans cutie mark, much to their consternation). And preparations began for Lyra and BonBon's epic anniversary party to end all anniversary parties. It would be the biggest bash ever undertaken by the staff of Sugar Cube Corner, and it was even stressing a certain pink party pony out.
“BALLOONS!” Pinkie Pie cried in something akin to despair. “Where am I going to find sixty-seven thousand balloons in time for the party?”
“Why in Equestria would need sixty-seven thousand balloons?” Carrot asked in shock. He was used to Pinkie Pie's... excesses, but that was excessive even for her. The pink mare shot him a withering look.
“Well duh,” she said, wit the air of somepony explaining that one plus one equals too. “How else am I going to make the tables float?”
Chalking that very odd response up to Pinkie being Pinkie, Carrot shrugged and looked around the kitchen. Cup was supposed to be icing the cookies that would served as a part of the extravagant feast Lyra and BonBon had planned, but she was nowhere in sight. The cookies weren't visible, either.
Carrot grit his teeth. Of all days for his wife to decide to flake out, it had to be today!? Didn't she understand the seriousness of the situation? Irritated, he turned to his equally-stressed employee, who was now frantically loading confetti into some sort of insane cannon-like contraption.
“I've never had to use the party cannon for a party this big before, not even when I threw that party for everypony in Ponyville, or even at the Grand Galloping Gala? Oh, what if it doesn't work or there's not enough confetti? Then the party won't be as fun! Maybe Twilight...” Pinkie Pie's muttering trailed off into something unintelligible, which was when Carrot decided to confront her.
“PINKIE!” he yelled. “Do you know where Cup is?”
“Mrs. Cake? Oh, she's still in bed,” Pinkie Pie replied, still messing around with her party cannon. Carrot's eye twitched.
“In bed? What the buck is she in bed for? Doesn't she know what today is? We need all the help we can get, and today's the day she decides she's going to be so Discord-damned lazy to actually do the work we're being paid to do?!” He was ranting now. Pinkie gave him a strange look.
“You mean you didn't notice?”
“Notice what?” the stallion snapped. Pinkie looked at him again, a frown on her normally-cheerful face.
“Last night she was throwing up all the time! It was gross. I wonder if she ate something bad? Maybe those oranges had gone off...” the pink pony mused, going back to her work. “I thought you knew she was sick!”
At first, Carrot's reaction was concern for his wife's well-being. Cup had gotten food poisoning a few years back, and had been in the hospital for a week, trying to replenish her body's nutrients. Then, his worry turned to irritation. Well, this was a fine time to get sick, wasn't it?! Did she eat basil again? Cup ought to have known that basil didn't agree with her- how stupid did she have to be to eat something that she knew would make her sick the day before such an important event!
And then, Carrot felt all the blood drain from his face. Pinkie Pie had said that Cup had been up all night vomiting. He remembered, being a colt and in school, when all the fillies and colts had been separated. All the colts had been herded into an empty classroom, where Mr. Test Tube, the science teacher, had awkwardly given the “birds and the bees” talk. And one thing in particular stood out to Carrot: “Sometimes a pregnant mare will experience nausea and vomiting. Generally it is called morning sickness, but it can happen at any time of the day.”
Without giving an explanation for his sudden odd behavior, the stallion dashed up the stairs like someone had strapped dynamite to his tail. Pinkie called after him, but Carrot didn't hear what she said. He didn't really care what she said, honestly. He flung open the door to the bedroom, looking around desperately for Cup. She was sitting up in bed, looking rather sickly, but pleased. “Are you alright?” Carrot demanded to know. Cup smiled wanly, gesturing towards her nightstand, where a small plastic rectangle lay on a towel. Carrot recognized it as a pregnancy test. Apprehensively, he looked at the little viewing window, beholding a small pink plus sign.
For a few minutes, Carrot just stared unseeingly at the pregnancy test, not sure if this was actually happening, or if it was some crazy dream that his stressed-out brain had come up with. Even Cup's words sounded eerily hollow- they were going to be parents. The long-shot, experimental treatment from Manehattan had actually worked. The odds of that happening were about equivalent to Nightmare Moon herself appearing in the middle of the shop and asking him to tea. He stared at the pregnancy test some more, and then, almost as suddenly as the news had come, his brain snapped back into business mode.
“This is terrible!” the orange stallion moaned. “Of all the days for you to get pregnant it had to be today! The anniversary party! How are we going to have everything ready in time if we're down a baker!?”
“I'll be downstairs in a minute,” Cup replied, making to get up from the bed. But Carrot put his hoof down.
“No you're not! Not in your condition! You are going to stay up here and rest. Then I am going to go find Dr. Null Result and get you checked up! Don't you know how dangerous this is- you can't go to a huge party like this when you're pregnant!” Before Cup could protest, Carrot cut across, saying: “Don't worry, Pinkie and I will manage.”
“You mean Mrs. Cake is PREGNANT?!” the pink mare screeched. “You are going to be a mommy and a daddy? You're going to have a foal?
“That's what it means, yes,” Carrot replied. Pinkie Pie immediately hugged him.
“Yay! I'm going to be the best auntie ever!” she chanted. “I'll make it cake and ice cream and teach it how to have parties, and how to eat sugar cubes and sundaes and sarsaparilla!” Carrot had to chuckle. Pinkie was almost as excited at the prospect as he and Cup were. But his happiness was short-lived. They still had the mother of all parties to pull off, and with Cup unable to help, there was simply no time for Pinkie Pie's shenanigans, not if they wanted to finish everything in time.
“Yes, we're all very excited, Pinkie, but we can be excited after work! We've got to get this food finished!”
“Oh, no worries,” the pink mare replied. “I finished it all while you were upstairs!”
Planning to rebut her, saying that there was simply no possible way that she could have finished all that work by herself in fifteen minutes, Carrot turned to survey the complete nightmare that he knew awaited him. The words died on his tongue, however- Pinkie had, in fact, finished all the work. Everything, from the gigantic cake to the armada of cupcakes to the bushels of cookies, were ready for delivery and consumption.
“Wha... wha... how?” was all the astounded stallion could manage. Pinkie Pie just grinned at him.
“I have my ways, Mr. Cake,” she replied cryptically before skipping off to load the treats into the transport wagon. Mr. Cake just sighed. He would never understand that mare... although he would have paid good money to figure out exactly how she'd managed to do all that work in such a short period of time. As it was, he'd have to look into giving her a pay raise.
The party turned out to be a roaring success. Lyra and BonBon loved the treats Carrot and Pinkie had brought, and Lyra insisted that the two bakers stay and enjoy the party. “It's my anniversary, and if I want you to stay, you're going to stay, and that's final!” the mint-colored unicorn mare said sternly when Carrot tried to make his excuses. Berry Punch and her husband, Malt Liquor, had provided the drinks, and the libations were freely flowing. The Apple family had supplemented the food the Cakes provided with their own delicious apple confections, and as a special treat, Derpy Hooves had flown all the way to Canterlot to pick up a batch of gourmet muffins from Princess Celestia's personal favorite bakery. Vinyl Scratch was DJ-ing, and almost as soon as she'd gotten started, Pipsqueak and Dinky Doo got into a dance-off, much to the amusement of the adult ponies.
“Carrot Cake!” an ecstatic BonBon shouted about halfway through the party, making her way towards the stallion through the sea of partying ponies. “You'ver really outdone yourself this time- these are the best bucking cookies I've ever eaten!”
“Actually, Cup baked these, and Pinkie Pie frosted them,” Carrot replied, not wanting to unfairly take credit. “I'll be sure to let them know you liked them!” BonBon smiled.
“Say, where is Cup, anyway?”
“Oh... she's not feeling well,” Carrot replied, hoping that the other mare would drop the subject. Sure, he and Cup couldn't be happier about the pregnancy, but he wasn't sure if the time was right to let anypony else know, at least not yet. After all, wasn't it generally accepted that you didn't tell anypony until the mare reached the second trimester? So many things could potentially go wrong in early pregnancy... and if the unthinkable did happen and Cup miscarried, how would they explain it to the entirety of Ponyville? And there was no doubt in Carrot's mind that it would come to that- nopony in this town could keep a secret. Everypony would know within five minutes of the announcement.
Unfortunately, BonBon didn't get the hint. “Oh no! She didn't eat basil again, did she? She knows what it does to her. Oh, it wasn't the oranges, was it? I know Carrot Top and Bluenotes were sick after eating that last batch that came into the market.”
“Um, no, that's not it,” Carrot said haltingly, trying to quickly think up an excuse. However, he didn't have to- Pinkie Pie butted in.
“Oh, BonBon, Mr. Cake didn't tell you? Mrs. Cake is pregnant!”
There literally was a record scratch after Pinkie Pie's statement (Vinyl Scratch had slipped and accidentally moved the record at the wrong time). The entire party fell silent for a moment, and then, an excited “squee” sound began lowly, then crescendo-ed to a roar. Immediately, Carrot found himself inundated with well-wishers all congratulating him on the good news.
“I know you'll be a wonderful papa!” Derpy exclaimed, drawing the orange stallion into a hug. “If you need anything, just let me know, I'm sure I've got Dinky's old foal stuff around here somewhere!”
“Ah was wonderin' when a spry young stallion like yerself would git settled in and start yerself a family,” Granny Smith told him. “Ah was startin' to wonder if yeh were one-a them 'foal-free' types Ah keep hearin' about!”
“Oooh, maybe we can be Cutie Mark Crusader Babysitters!”
“Oh... oh my. You're going to be a father? Well, if you want, I can give you some baby blankets... that is, if you don't mind terribly much and you want them...” Fluttershy provided hesitantly.
“Of course you're going to need to read up on foalbirth and parenting,” Twilight Sparkle exclaimed, running up to confront the baker. “And you'll want some name books, of course... come by the library tomorrow and I'll have a stack of pertinent books ready for you!”
Carrot winced inwardly as pony after pony came up to him to congratulate him and Cup for the wonderful news. Unfortunately, a good amount of those congratulations came with parenting advice of one sort or another, completely unsolicited.
“Be as careful around Cup Cake as possible until the foals are born,” Cranky Doodle Donkey advised. “When I lived in Las Pegasus for a year, my neighbor bucked her husband out of a window when she was pregnant, because he didn't bring her the right kind of pie!”
“And you might want to lock Cup up away from any alcohol until your foal is born,” Malt Liquor advised. “When Berry was pregnant with Ruby Pinch I basically had to lock her in the bedroom so she wouldn't drink. It's bad for the foals, see?” Carrot backed away slowly. He knew that the relationship between Ponyville's resident liquor store owners was a complicated one, but he really didn't want to hear the details of Berry Punch's alcoholism, or the ways that her husband and child dealt with it...
Luckily, Zecora noticed the stallion's discomfort and intervened. “It seems you took my advice, and it was money well spent. It seems it worked, since now Cup Cake is pregnant.” Carrot smiled.
“Thank you, Zecora,” he replied. “You certainly did point us in the right direction.”
Eventually, though, the news spread throughout the party and everypony who wanted to come up to share their knowledge wit h Carrot did so. All things being equal, however, the party was for Lyra and BonBon, and once the novelty of the idea of the Cakes being parents had worn off, everypony quickly went back to partying, for the most part.
Carrot wasn't sure if he should be annoyed with Pinkie Pie or relieved that she'd taken the pressure off of him to come up with excuses for Cup. On one hoof, it wasn't Pinkie's place to tell everypony about the news, especially not without clearing it with himself or Cup first. On the other, however, he knew BonBon. That mare was notorious for weaseling information out of whoever she set her sights on. Carrot knew that if the conversation had continued, it would only have been a matter of time before she broke him down and found out what she wanted to know.
The next few months were among the best that the bakers could remember. Everypony was so happy for them. Derpy Hooves made good on her promise that she'd made at the party, and came by a few days later with a load of baby things. Including, of all things, a high-quality teak-wood crib. “I won't be having any more foals, so this stuff is all yours now!” the walleyed mare said cheerily. Cup and Carrot were shocked.
“Derpy, there's no way we can accept this,” a surprised Cup said quietly. “This stuff must have cost a fortune!”
“Nah,” Derpy replied. “Almost all of this stuff was in an abandoned storage locker on Boxy Stacks' property. When he found out I was pregnant with Dinky Doo he gave it all to me for a couple bits. It's no trouble at all- you need it more than I do, and it's just taking up space in my house!”
The Cakes tried to protest more, saying that they couldn't possibly accept it for free, but Derpy was insistent. “Just consider it payment for Dinky's birthday cake.”
In the end, they realized that there was no way to make the mailmare change her mind, so the Cakes gratefully accepted the gift, only after making sure Derpy knew that she was welcome to free muffins whenever she wanted them. It went against the baker couple's code of ethics too much for them to accept such an expensive present for no payment at all, and figured lifetime muffins would be a fair trade. Derpy happily accepted, immediately chowing down o n a chocolate chip one.
Twilight Sparkle as well kept her promise and came by with a load of books on topics she thought would be of interest to the expecting parents- foalbirth, child psychology, parenting manuals, even a few baby name books.
Fluttershy and Applejack also came by the shop to share some things they thought might be useful, and Rarity sent a note wanting to know if Cup would need any maternity clothes.
What was harder to feel grateful for was the constant outpouring of unsolicited advice from the other denizens of Ponyville. “Be sure to watch your figure!” Carrot Top admonished, upon seeing Cup snacking on some flan. “You'll put on baby weight, of course, but if you put on too much, you'll never get it off! Besides, flan already goes straight to your flank as it is!”
“Yes, thank you,” Cup said dryly, not appreciating the other mare insinuating that she was fat.
“Oh, do be aware of your wife's moods,” Mr. Breezy warned Carrot one day, as he went shopping for a new exhaust fan for the oven. “My ex-wife was a complete monster when she was pregnant! Of course, it turned out that the colt wasn't mine, it was the damned delivery-stallion's...” he muttered under his breath, going on a tangent about horrible cheating wives.
A few more weeks passed, and Cup was beginning to show her pregnancy. Rarity finished making her a new maternity wardrobe (99% of which Cup wasn't sure where she would ever wear it, pregnant or not). And Pinkie Pie was getting even more excited for being able to play with the new baby pony. Even Twilight Sparkle was beginning to take an interest, coming to Cup with a proposition. Or, technically, with an idea that didn't start out as a proposition at all, but a passing idea. She had been reading a new book, and wanted to ask Mrs. Cake what she thought of one of the concepts.
“Have you ever been to a baby shower?” Cup couldn't say that she had. Of course, though, there was somepony in Sugar Cube Corner who had.
“What a great idea, Twilight!” Pinkie exclaimed. “We should totally throw Mrs. Cake a baby shower! Call everypony and tell them to bring presents! I'll get my spare party supplies! We can have everything ready in an hour!”
“Pinkie Pie!” Twilight nearly yellled. “Do you even know what a baby shower is?” Pinkie actually looked offended.
“Of course I know what a baby shower I! You have one when one of your friends is pregnant! Everypony brings presents for that will be useful when the foal arrives!” Twilight nodded.
“I think it would be best if we waited a few days, so everypony has time to come up with really good presents. And we'll need treats... maybe we can get some from BonBon's shop?”
“Okie-dokie-lokie! Just let me know when we should hold this party, and I'll get everything ready!” The two mares hurried off, probably to begin the preparations, leaving a rather confused Cup behind. Baby shower? Presents? What was going on?
To Be Continued
I don't actually have all that much to say about this particular chapter, but I am going to give a heads-up about the next one. I don't think this is really necessary, but in the past I've experienced on certain other sites that you need to tack warnings onto every single thing that could be considered potentially offensive unless you want the wrath of god rained down upon you, so I'm putting it here. Next chapter, we get back into the part of the plot dealing with the bio-dads, and as such, there is a portrayal of a very dysfunctional marriage. It is not abusive, per se, but it is definitely not the happy marriage that the Cakes have. Like I said before, I don't really think it's all that bad, but I just thought I'd do some good old CYA in preparation.
While the thought wasn't constantly hanging over his head, and while he really could say that he had other things on his mind, Moneybags hadn't forgotten his foray into biological experimentation at the Equine Reproductive Project. Just the idea that somewhere out there, there could be a little filly or a colt- HIS filly or colt, captured his imagination when he had an idle moment to let his mind wander.
He'd seen Scientific Method a few times since then- in a purely platonic context, of course, he was still married, after all. And even though he wasn't particularly fond of her, it was in his best interests to keep Ideal Diamond in a relatively good mood- Moneybags didn't dare attempt to pursue a relationship with another mare. But he had been to lunch a few times with the doctor, and he was able to do it without it being suspicious. He was rich, and the Equine Reproductive Project was always in need of funding. To any outsider it would just appear to be a business meeting, even though they rarely ended up talking about business for long. Every time he saw her, he always made sure to ask the pegasus mare if he'd been chosen yet. And every time he asked that, Scientific Method kept putting off answering him. “You'll get a letter if and when the time comes.”
“Can't you just tell me?” he'd plead.
“No, I can't,” the doctor would reply bluntly. “It's against protocol for me to tell you before the initial announcement. So I wouldn't tell you even if I did know.” And grudgingly, Moneybags accepted. He supposed the doctor wouldn't want to reveal confidential patient information before he was allowed to know- he was a businessman himself. He knew how predatory lawyers were, and the mare probably wanted to avoid any messy lawsuits.
Still, it didn't stop him from thinking about it. Would his foal be a filly or a colt? What would their mother be like? Or, what would their mothers be like (Scientific Method had mentioned that the treatment was likely to be used by pairs of mares, who obviously would be unable to have foals on their own. Medical technology was advanced, but not advanced enough to remove the stallion from the conception equation)? But if the parents were a mare and a stallion, what would the mother's husband or coltfriend be like? Would he be a good parent to Moneybags' foal?
Somehow, though, if that was the case with the couple, the unicorn stallion couldn't bring himself to think of some nameless, faceless stallion as the father. The nameless, faceless mare? No problem, she clearly would be the foal's mother, having carried the child inside of her for the full gestational period. But some random stallion? No, he wouldn't be the father. Moneybags was the one who was the father, it was his genetic material that gave that foal life!
It didn't help that the orange unicorn had heard horrible stories about what some parents did to their foals. Sometimes it seemed like whenever he turned on the television news, or opened up a newspaper, there were more stories about little fillies and colts being rescued from their abusive parents by Foal Protective Services. Why, just recently, Princess Celestia herself had intervened on behalf of a young filly whose father had burnt off her cutie mark, because he didn't approve of his daughter's special talent.
His own sister had spoken of some of the other young mares at her finishing school, who had arrived clearly traumatized, terribly frightened of everypony and everything. Trust Fund, in her own, naïve, sheltered way, hadn't understood what was the matter until one of the other fillies had confided in her, what she went through on a daily basis in her home.
Later that day, a shell-shocked Trust Fund had written a letter to her younger brother, expressing horror at what she had found out. That had been nearly a decade ago, and as time went by, both brother and sister learned that the world was not as cushy for everypony as it had been for them. Moneybags shook his head, remembering of what a shock it had been when he'd learned of his sister's demise. That hot-air balloon accident had been horrifying on its own, but he'd known they were possible, even somewhat common. But on some level, he'd thought ponies like Trust Fund and himself were immortal. How quickly things could change, he thought ruefully.
It was exactly at that moment, with a start, that the unicorn realized that he'd made a terrible miscalculation. He'd just made allowances for his foal to be raised by some unknown quantity of a couple. While he was a good pony, what if the couple chosen to raise his foal were not? What would become of his offspring? Would they be subjected to the sort of horrors that haunted his nightmares, incidents ripped straight from the headlines? Moneybags shuddered violently, his mind consumed with gruesome images, thinking of that most recent story. That poor little filly, languishing in Canterlot Hospital, while the doctors tried to find a way to graft large portions of her skin back on...
“Dear, you've got some mail~!” a high-pitched female voice cut through his gloomy thoughts, only to replace said gloomy thoughts with others. Wonderful. Ideal Diamond was back, probably with another ridiculous credit card bill. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you wanted to think of it that way), Moneybags had sort of repaired his relationship with his wife. At the very least, he'd decided it would be too much of a pain in the flank to divorce her. Ideal Diamond was still an empty-headed, vapid excuse of a trophy wife, but at least she generally left him alone, preferring to spend his money rather than spend time with him. Which was annoying, but at least it was less awkward working with her father than it would be if he'd gone the divorce route.
“Let's see... it looks like the credit bills from Neighman Marcus and Manecy's came, oh, and look, the Hoity Toity's Secret lingerie catalog! It looks like your aunt China Teacup sent a card,... oh, there's some junk mail from some Equine Repro...ductive Project-” Ideal Diamond rambled on, oblivious to anything not relevant to her interests. Moneybags, used to his wife's inane chatter, mostly tuned her out, but when he heard the mare stumbling over that familiar name, he nearly jumped out of his skin.
“Give me that!” he demanded, using his magic to snatch the envelope from Ideal Diamond.
“Kya-!” the mare cried out in shock. “Moneybags, what-?”
“I-it's nothing,” Moneybags stammered, immediately realizing his mistake. “I'm just... expecting some mail from somepony who works there. They... and I have workd together on an... investment, of sorts,” he continued, telling half-truths that he was certain anypony with half a brain could see through. But then again, he wasn't entirely certain that Ideal Diamond had half a brain in the first place...
To her credit, said mare looked suspiciously at her husband for a moment, then just shrugged. “Whatever,” she said, turning and trotting out of Moneybags' office. “Just make sure you pay off the Neighman Marcus account on time. I don't want my credit withheld again because you were lazy!”
Normally, Moneybags would have offered a scathing retort, something along the lines of ordering her to get off her lazy flank and do something to earn the money if she wanted to make sure she could buy things, but at the moment, he didn't care. He just wanted her out of there. “Yeah, fine,” he said. Ideal Diamond shrugged, surprised at the lack of her husband's usual sarcastic vitriol, but left all the same. It wasn't like she was going to stick around and wait for the inevitable enraged invective to be flung her way. Besides, she'd seen a pair of absolutely lovely horseshoes for sale in the cutest little shop, and she absolutely had to have them as soon as possible.
Once that infernal excuse for a wife was out of the way, Moneybags used his magic to open the envelope and remove the single sheet of paper inside. Scanning it quickly, the unicorn stallion let out an excited whoop. Finally- FINALLY- his dream had been realized. There was a couple that had selected his number as their choice of donor. The note did not go into too much detail, simply letting him know that he'd been selected, but Moneybags didn't care. He was going to be a father! And it was just a matter of bribing the right ponies to get the information he needed. As though simply not having access to who the supposed parents of his foal were would stop him... he'd gotten business information out of the most recalcitrant of ponies in the past. How hard would it possibly be to get it from a medical organization, especially one that he knew was desperate for funding? Moneybags smirked to himself. Being wealthy had its perks...
“Hey, Dad, you have a letter!” Steel Seethe looked up from his workbench to see his daughter, Lavender Blast, holding a nondescript envelope in her mouth. The locksmith pegasus walked towards the filly with some trepidation, not wanting to find out what was in that envelope.
“It's not from the creditors again, is it?” he asked. “I just worked out another payment plan with them... your mother should be able to get her medication without us needing to pay in full for another two months.” Lavender Blast shook her head, speaking around the mail in her mouth.
“No, it's from some doctor's office- Equine Reproductive Project or something like that.”
Steel Seethe started. Truth be told, he'd completely forgotten the deal he'd cut with the research project. He'd done his business and collected the 175-bit reimbursement, securing his daughter's place at her private school for another year, while still being able to pay for his wife's medications, and the rent, and the utilities. That money, however, was long gone. As far as he knew, he wasn’t entitled to any more money from the researches, and he wasn’t about to go do it again- once was enough, even if he was broke still. Sighing, the pegasus took the envelope and placed it on his workbench. He’d get to it later- for now there were more pressing matters to be concerned with.
“How was school?” he asked nonchalantly. The little purple pegasus scowled.
“Strawberry Tart and Shale made fun of me again for being a blank-flank,” she complained. “It’s not fair! Shale only got her cutie mark last weekend!” the filly continued- “and Peach Smoothie was showing off her new horseshoes! Why can’t I have new horseshoes, Dad?”
The blue-gray pegasus stallion winced. He already hated the fact that the only thing he’d been able to provide his daughter with (that wasn’t an absolute necessity) since his wife’s accident was a new saddlebag, and even that had been for school. Lavender Blast hadn’t asked for much else, but now she was bringing up horseshoes? And of course she couldn’t have picked a worse time to mention the expensive accessories- it was around that time of the month that the rent and utility bills would be coming in. While as much as he knew his daughter might actually need new horseshoes (for that matter, Steel Seethe couldn’t even remember the last time he’d bought her new ones), but he was pretty sure it would be better for the filly to wear old, ill-fitting horseshoes for the time being, rather than losing her home. Even if said home was a crappy, moldy old apartment.
Poverty sucked, the stallion decided. It was hard enough trying to raise a daughter in the middle of a world that seemed to have the mentality of “the one with the most stuff at the end wins.” It was doubly hard when he couldn’t even afford the most basic of “stuff.” But how do you explain that to a little filly? Steel Seethe couldn’t expect his daughter to grasp the intricacies of economics and financial planning- the child barely understood that her mother would never be able to fly again, and might never even be able to walk- that put having any sort of job out of the question. As far as Lavender Blast knew, money came out of those weird square machines at the bank. She didn’t understand, except on a very superficial level, that one had to work to get money, and that even simple things like being able to live in a dwelling cost money.
But instead of choosing to explain the harsh realities of the world, Steel Seethe shrugged off his daughter’s request for new horseshoes with a simple “we’ll see.” Maybe it was cruel to lead her on like that, but the stallion had a feeling that telling her the truth, point-blank, would be even crueler.
Instead, he changed the subject. “Is your mother awake?” Lavender Blast shrugged.
“How would I know? I didn’t go looking for her. The letter was for you!”
“Go and see if she’s up,” Steel ordered. “If she is, make sure she takes her medicine, it’s on the nightstand. If she’s not, let her sleep for now, I’ll wake her in time for dinner. And then go do your homework. I don’ t want to hear from your teachers that you’ve been slacking off again”
“Fine,” the filly grumbled, shuffling slowly out of her father’s workroom. But before she left completely, she stopped and turned around. “You will think about, though… right?” It didn’t take a genius to figure out what she meant by “it.” The stallion winced again. Perceptive little thing, wasn’t she?
“I’ll see what I can do, but I’m not going to make you any promises.” It was the truth, softened a bit- Steel Seethe already knew that there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot that he could do, short of him winning the lottery or something. Lavender Blast visibly deflated at that, but accepted it with only minimal sighing.
Once she was gone, Steel opened the envelope and removed the letter. He scanned it quickly, not knowing what to expect- perhaps a request for a monetary donation (ha- as if!) or information on the organization’s progress. Despite himself, a small part of him hoped it would be a request for another kind of donation, again. It was humiliating and degrading, but Celestia knew he needed the money. Another 175 bits… that would be enough to buy some nice things for his daughter… including horseshoes.
What he did not expect was the notification that his genetic material had been chosen for one of the experiments, and that it was very likely that a foal of his would be born.
Immediately, Steel started hyperventilating. No, no, nonononono… he couldn’t afford foal support payments now! It was a minor miracle every month he managed to pay the rent AND buy food at the same time, how would he support a whole other pony, on top of his invalid wife and young daughter?
But then, he remembered something from the contract he’d signed- the Equine Reproductive Project had agreed to keep him anonymous. No one, without an order from one of the Princesses, or his consent, would be able to find his identity until the foal became an adult, if he or she wished to find out who their father was. As far as the mother of this foal was concerned, he was just Donor # Whatever.
A strange sense of calm washed over him. Yes, he was broke and desperate, and yes, there could potentially be another child of his running around sometime soon, but at least it wasn’t going to be his problem. Maybe it was a horrible thing to think, but so be it- he already had a family to take care of, he couldn’t deal with another. So what if he was the foal’s father? It’s not like he had engaged in the act that would have created it himself- so why would he be beholden to care for it?
Author’s Comments: This is out quite a bit later than I had planned it to be, thanks to a few nasty surprises that cropped up over the past few weeks, two of the most obnoxious being one of my coworkers buggering off to Florida on vacation (without telling the boss until the last minute), so I had to cover her shifts, and a surprise (and very painful) medical issue that reared its ugly head last weekend while I was at work. Add in the fact I’m a student as well, and the past couple of weeks have basically consisted of me running around like a crazy person and ending with me practically dropping dead from exhaustion. I’m really hoping that I’ll have some more time to write soon, but honestly? Until mid-May it’s looking like I’ll be lucky if I can get a chapter out a month. I will do my best to update as soon as possible, though.
I personally find the bio-dads very difficult to write without them coming off as complete assholes (especially Moneybags), and in a way, they kind of are, but I don’t think they mean it maliciously. This will be the last of them for the next few chapters, again, focusing back on Cup and Carrot.
Weeks went by, and Cup's pregnancy began to show. Although it was awkward, and it felt strange wearing such haute couture around the house and the shop, Cup had taken to wearing the maternity clothes Rarity had made for her, rather than her normal uniform. Well, technically, her normal lack of uniform, considering that most of the time, Cup went au natural, with the exception of her work apron. But with her stomach swelling and pregnancy becoming obvious, the blue mare was hyperaware of everypony's eyes on her, waiting to see how the pregnancy was going or figure out how far along she was. The constant staring made Cup Cake feel violated, and at the very least, the flashy maternity clothes gave her an extra layer of protection between herself and the rest of Equestria.
But it was also becoming more and more apparent that she was going to need to seek some kind of prenatal care. She and Carrot had read the books Twilight Sparkle had given them, and they realized that the morning sickness was supposed to have passed by the end of the first trimester. But it was well into the second, and Cup wasn't feeling any better. If anything, she seemed to be getting worse. Not only was she at constant risk of emptying the contents of her stomach at any given time, she also was experiencing dizzy spells, and often felt a strange fluttering in her chest. But, she still kept quiet, for fear of scaring Carrot, and to a lesser extent, to avoid going back to the doctor.
You see, Ponyville did have a hospital, but it was not a very large one. Most serious illnesses or injuries (the ones that were especially difficult to treat, or that had a high mortality rate) were treated at the Canterlot Royal Hospital. As for pegasi who contracted pegasus-specific illnesses, they were usually checked into the Crash “Leeroy” Wingkins Memorial Hospital in Cloudsdale. Ponyville Hospital was a good facility, but it wasn't the same as going to a research hospital or one in the big cities. Dr. Flatline and Nurse Redheart were fine ponies and were very good at their jobs... but Dr. Flatline was a general practitioner and surgeon, and Nurse Redheart was a nurse practitioner. In an emergency, they could serve as specialists, but for the kind of care that Cup needed, she would really be better off seeing an OB/GYN. And there was only one of those in Ponyville: Dr. Null Result.
And to be quite frank, Cup would rather seek medical care from Nightmare Moon than go back to that particular stallion, especially after how that last appointment had ended.
How could she go back to a doctor that had basically told her the only way she'd ever conceive a foal would be to cheat on her husband?
To make matters worse, in a way, he had been correct. Carrot was not the father of this foal, at least biologically. But if the doctor kept to his code of ethics, he wouldn't share the news at all, and keep silent. Almost everypony would never know the truth, that Carrot Cake was not the biological father of Cup Cake's foal.
The mare had to suppress a snort at that. Everypony knew that Null Result talked more than Pinkie Pie on a sugar rush, and had no filter between his brain and his mouth- something that had gotten him in trouble more than once, when he accidentally over-shared the status of a patient's STD results without clearing it with them first. And if that wasn't bad enough, Cup could just imagine how that appointment would go.
”So, Cup, I see you took my advice and ditched that useless bump on a log of a husband of yours. So who's your paramour? That's Prench for lover, by the way- who is it? I'm sure the handsome fellow will be a much better parent to your foal than your husband would have been. By the way, have you started the divorce proceedings yet? I know an excellent lawyer in Canterlot, never failed a client yet...”
Yeah. She could live without that. No, Cup decided early on that she was going to get through this pregnancy with as little doctor contact as possible, and keep herself healthy without outside interference.
Which was all well and good, and certainly an admirable goal. Unfortunately, it was not realistic, as Cup found out the hard way. It was the middle of the second trimester, and the morning sickness was not subsiding at all, and if anything, increasing in its intensity.
“Mrs. Cake, are you sure you're alright?” Pinkie Pie asked, concerned, after her boss staggered into Sugar Cube Corner's kitchen two and a half hours after the shop opened. She was breathing heavily and looking the worse for wear. “If you want I can call the doctor...”
“No!” Cup exclaimed heatedly. “No, I'm fine, I don't need a doctor.” Pinkie didn't look convinced.
“But if you're sick, isn't that bad for your foal?”
“PINKIE!” Cup yelled, feeling a headache coming on. The pink mare stepped back, shock plastered all over her face. Mrs. Cake, even when she had screwed something up epically, never shouted at her like that. She never shouted at anypony like that, not even when a certain troop of three fillies had decided to try their hooves at being Cutie Mark Crusader Dine-and-Dash-ers. Cup immediately realized her mistake and approached Pinkie cautiously, the pounding in her head increasing. “I'm sorry, Pinkie,” she continued, her tone gentler. “I'm just tired is all, not sick. I'm sure I'll be fine tomorrow, after a good night's rest.” Signifying that the discussion was over, Cup turned away from her employee and made her way towards the pantry to get started on making the toffee for an order due to be picked up the next day.
Squinting, Cup looked ahead. Huh. That was odd. The pantry kept wobbling in and out of her vision, coming closer and then snapping backward, as though it had been attached to a rubber band. Was there an earthquake?! The pounding in her head reached a fever pitch, and a sudden, unexpected pain in her womb made her stagger backwards. The last thing Cup heard before the world went black was the high-pitched voice of a mare screaming for help, and a male voice swearing.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Cup's eyes fluttered open. Where was she? This didn't look like Sugar Cube Corner at all. And that beeping noise- it sounded like that Annoy-O-Tron thing Pinkie Pie had bought from some mail-order joke shop. But hadn't Rarity blown it up in a fit of rage when her pink friend had hid it in her workroom as a prank? Cup groaned. Pinkie must have bought another one of the wretched things.
Belatedly, the mare realized she was lying down on something- her bed? No, that wasn't possible- this was a lot lumpier and itchier than her bed. With her eyes finally focusing, she realized that this room was also much more... beige than any room in Sugar Cube Corner. She also realized what was making that beeping noise- it wasn't Pinkie Pie's Annoy-O-Tron.
It was worse. She was in a hospital bed, and hooked up to some kind of medical device.
“Oh! Mrs. Cake! You're awake!” a familiar voice called out. The beige curtains drawn around the hospital bed rustled, and Pinkie Pie peered at her, usually happy expression replaced with one of concern. “You passed out, so Mr. Cake and I brought you to the hospital! Dr. Flatline's been looking out for you!”
Cup dearly wanted to shout at the other mare- hadn't she told her multiple times that she did not need to see a doctor? But if she had passed out... well, Pinkie had been right. That wouldn't be good for the foal. But she really did not want to have to put up with Null Result.
“Ms. Pie, I thought I told you to stay in the waiting room! Oh, nevermind,” Dr. Flatline stepped into the room, pulling the curtains totally back. Levitating a clipboard with his magic, the unicorn began reading the different screens on the machines, checking things off and making notes.
“You are pregnant,” he stated. It wasn't a question.
“Um... yes?” Cup replied hesitantly. Flatline nodded.
“Good, good, one less thing I have to worry about- you know that you're expecting already. Before I continue, though, I have to ask- was this pregnancy planned?”
“Of course it was,” Cup replied, feeling slightly offended. Dr. Flatline frowned, looking at the clipboard.
“If you knew you were pregnant, and the pregnancy was planned, why have you not been receiving prenatal care? Your vitamin levels are dangerous low, it's no wonder you passed-” abruptly, the doctor cut himself off, eyes widening as he looked at one of the output screens on the machine. “That can't be right,” he muttered to himself, flipping back through his notes. Then, he checked the monitors again, and a small smile broke out on his face.
“Cup Cake, do you or your husband have any unicorns in your family tree?” Cup's brow furrowed, thrown for a loop by the seemingly random question.
“Um... Carrot's aunt Frilly Lily is a unicorn, and I think my mother had a few unicorn cousins. Why?” she asked. Dr. Flatline chuckled.
“It is just that your foal is giving off a large amount of ambient magic, as well as absorbing more nutrients than an Earth pony or pegasus foal would. Unicorn foals need more vitamins in utero than an Earth pony foal would- it helps their horn develop, and they also start to build up magic in their systems at about ten weeks. Congratulations, Mrs. Cake, you're going to have a unicorn!”
“A unicorn?” the mare repeated. The doctor nodded, looking pensive.
“Well, we'll need to do an ultrasound to be sure,” he responded, “but I have never come across that level of ambient magic naturally in an Earth pony or pegasus. Every time I've seen readings that high, the mare in question was carrying a unicorn foal. If my suspicion is correct, we'll need to make some adjustments to keep the both of you healthy. Right now your body is trying to process the needs of two different sort of pony, which is draining you. It's no wonder you collapsed, your body is basically fighting the foal for the nutrients you both need.” At Cup's horrified expression, he hastily added, “it's not a problem yet- neither one of you is malnourished or anything, it's just that if you want to make sure you're both in top condition you'll need to make sure you're meeting your dietary needs.”
Cup nodded faintly. She'd known going into this that there was a chance she would give birth to a unicorn or a pegasus, but somehow, she'd been certain that her offspring would be an Earth pony, like its parents. But a unicorn was fine, too. No matter what, she and Carrot were going to love this foal, no matter what kind of pony they ended up being.
“Unfortunately, Dr. Null Result is in Las Pegasus until next Wednesday,” Dr. Flatline continued, “and it is extremely important that we verify this with the ultrasound as quickly as possible. Is it alright if we have Nurse Redheart perform the procedure? I assure you, she is perfectly qualified.”
“No, that's fine!” Cup exclaimed, startling the doctor. “I- I mean, that's fine. I think I would be more comfortable with Nurse Redheart anyway.” The doctor shrugged.
“Alright then. I'll send her in soon. Until then, just rest for a bit. If you'd like, I can have your husband and Pinkamena Pie come in to keep you company until she gets here.”
“Please, if you don't mind,” the mare replied. Dr. Flatline nodded, then departed the room. Momentarily, both Carrot Cake and Pinkie Pie came back in- the former looking angry, the latter looking uncharacteristically nervous.
“What were you thinking?!” Carrot exploded. “If you were feeling so sick, why didn't you say anything? Something could have happened! Do you know how scared I was when you collapsed? I thought I was going to lose you! I thought something had happened to the foal! Pinkie Pie nearly had a heart attack, you practically fainted right on top of her!”
“Just... just don't say anything right now,” the stallion replied, shaking with barely controlled fury. “I thought you had died! I know you didn't want to have to travel all the way back to Manehattan for the medical care, but Ponyville has a good hospital too! If worse came to worse you could even go to Canterlot! But no, you decided to suffer in silence and almost kill yourself!”
“Manehattan?” Pinkie Pie asked. “Why would you need to go to Manehattan just to see a doctor? That's so far, far away!”
The married couple completely ignored her. “Do you have any idea how humiliating it would be for me to go back to that damned doctor?” Cup shouted right back, voice cracking. “Do you even know the kind of things he would say about me? He'd make comments about my infidelity and how I should leave you, since you obviously can't perform your husbandly duties! He'd make comments about how I must have had to... to... well, never mind! Or did you forget who it was that figured out you were infertile?”
“I know Null Result is an ass,” Carrot said, very calmly. His composure, however, was undermined by the rage apparent in his body language, ears flattened against his head and tail twitching violently. “Do you honestly think I want rumors being spread around by that pathetic excuse of a stallion? No, Cup, I do not. But your well-being is more important to me than my reputation. If I have to be known around Ponyville as the guy whose wife cheated on him and got pregnant from it, then so be it. And your own health should matter more to you than your reputation.”
“You're not the one who has to live with the shame of everypony knowing you're a whore who cheated on her husband!” Cup sobbed, tears flowing freely from her eyes.
Pinkie Pie's jaw practically hit the floor. No way- it wasn't true, was it? Mrs. Cake had cheated on Mr. Cake, and that was where the foal came from? How... horrible! The pink mare's eyes narrowed, and her mane flattened out a bit, something akin to disgust flooding her system. And she had actually respected this mare?
“But all that matters is that you know it's a lie!” Carrot replied. “Besides, ponies in this town talk a lot, and then they'll forget all about it in a few weeks. Remember when Derpy got pregnant and she wouldn't tell anypony who the father was? Everypony went on and on about what a scandal it was, but two weeks later nopony cared anymore.”
“Yeah, because everypony decided that Derpy should terminate her pregnancy,” Cup said dully. “Because obviously she was too stupid to care for a foal, remember?”
“It doesn't matter now, though! Nopony has said anything like that since Dinky Doo was born,” Carrot answered. Cup laughed bitterly.
“No, but they've tried to get Dinky taken away by Foal Protective Services. Or did you forget that? That's what most ponies think should happen to illegitimate foals- they should be taken away from their parents and raised by good, married parents, not the village idiot.”
“You know that's not true. Fifty years ago, maybe, but not now. And you remember what happened when the FPS agent showed up, don't you? Or did you forget how the entire town threatened to buck that agent to the moon if she tried anything?” Carrot shot back. Cup froze, then nodded.
“Or what about the time Malt Liquor caught Berry Punch hooking up with Roid Rage?” the stallion continued. “Everypony forgot about that within the week... although that might have been because nopony wanted to imagine those two together...” he grimaced and shook his head, trying to clear his mind of the unwanted images of the town alcoholic and the town juice-head engaged in... conjugation. “The point is, I know you weren't unfaithful. You know you weren't unfaithful. And do you really think anypony would listen to Null Result anyway? That stallion talks more hot air than Rainbow Dash describing herself.”
“I... I guess you're right,” Cup whispered, the tears beginning to flow again. “But... but Dr. Flatline says he thinks our foal is a unicorn. How will we explain that?”
“R-really? A unicorn?” Carrot looked both intrigued and alarmed by this new development. “That's... that's...” he never did get to finish his thought, because Pinkie Pie interrupted with an annoyed snort, her mane looking much less poofy than before.
“Will somepony PLEASE tell me what the buck is going on here?”
Immediately, both the bakers froze, previous argument completely forgotten. Pinkie Pie was there- they had overlooked the fact that the fight had been witnessed by somepony who didn't have the full story. Of course she would be confused. Cup and Carrot glanced at their employee, expecting her to be completely befuddled, maybe bemused, waiting for an explanation. Instead, they both nearly jumped back in alarm. Pinkie was glaring at Mrs. Cake, mane flattened and a hard look in her eyes.
“You broke your marriage vows?” she said, any trace of her usual happy attitude utterly obliterated. “That's not very nice.”
“Pinkie, we can explain-”
“What is there to explain?” Pinkie asked. “If you cheated, you cheated. How can you possibly have an excuse for that? And you know I hate excuses.”
“I heard everything! So Mr. Cake can't have foals? But Mrs. Cake is pregnant? It sounds to me like somepony lied. That's not nice, you know.”
“Pinkie Pie,” Mr. Cake said firmly. “I know that what we're saying sounds bad, but I promise you that Mrs. Cake did not cheat on me. We can explain what happened, but first you have to promise us that what we tell you today will not leave this room. Can you do that for us?”
Pinkie Pie looked at him, clearly insulted. “Of course I can! Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye. Unlike some ponies, I always keep my promises.”
Ignoring Pinkie's comment, clearly meant to insult her, Cup spoke up. “Everything you heard is true, Pinkie. Mr. Cake cannot father foals, and the foal I am carrying is not biologically his. But I swear to you, Pinkie Pie, that I never slept with anypony else. I did not break my vows. Mr. Cake had full knowledfge of everything from the beginning.”
It was obvious that the pink mare didn't buy this at all. “If that's the case, how are you pregnant?” she accused. “I know everypony thinks I'm too naïve to know this, but I actually do know where foals come from. A stork doesn't bring them, I'll tell you that much.” She shot a disgusted glance at her employer. “You really think I'm going to believe you?”
“Pinkie, you know that we were trying to conceive for quite some time. Do you remember a few months ago, when I disappeared for a few days?” Carrot asked. The pink mare nodded slowly. “That was right after we found out I wasn't able to have foals. I had gone to see if there was any way around this. You have to understand, we really wanted to be parents- this was something we've wanted since before we got married. I found out that there was no way for my... problem to ever be fixed. But we still didn't want to give up, and I did learn that while I wouldn't be able to have foals of my own, Cup still could, and we would raise it as though it was both of ours, and not only biologically related to Cup.”
“I.... don't understand,,” Pinkie Pie said, after a very heavy pause. “Mrs. Cake could have a foal, but it wouldn't be your foal? I don't understand how that could happen without somepony cheating on their spouse. And it sounds like an excuse to me! Mr. Cake, if she hurt you, you should say something! Nopony should be able to walk all over you!”
Not letting Pinkie's not-so-subtle jabs rile him, Mr. Cake continued. “In Manehattan, there is an ongoing research project on the topic of equine reproduction- it's actually called the Equine Reproductive Project. Ponies will donate their... uh... well, you know-” the orange stallion really didn't want to put it so bluntly- firstly, he didn't know exactly how Pinkie would react, and secondly, the whole thing was just so awkward to say aloud. He didn't want to explain anything in detail, even if it was for science. “Oh, you know what I mean!” he finally exclaimed. “And ponies who can't conceive on their own can go and get the genetic materials so that they can have foals, just not necessarily foals that are biologically theirs.”
Pinkie Pie considered this, although she remained unconvinced. “But what's the point to it” she asked. “Why would anypony want to carry a foal that isn't theirs?”
This time, it was Mrs. Cake who provided the explanation. “Well, usually it would be related to at least one of the parents. If it's the stallion that's infertile, the foal would still be related to the mare. If it''s the other way around, the stallion would be the biological father, the mother having gotten pregnant from the donated egg.”
“Why would anypony go to all that trouble just to have a foal?” Pinkie queried, although she seemed to be accepting the explanation. At the very least, her mane had begun to reinflate and she was no longer glaring at Mrs. Cake as though she was an enemy combatant. “What's the point?”
This, at least, was a much easier question to answer. “Well, for one, there are ponies like us, where we want to be parents but only one is capable of it naturally,” Mrs. Cake replied, “and then there are some other situations. Couples like Lyra and Bon-Bon might want to have foals, you know.”
“But that doesn't make sense at all! Mares can't get other mares.... oooooohhh...” the bakres could practically see the lightbulb illuminate over their employee's head. “I get it now!” With a “whoosh” sound, Pinkie's mane was back to its normal volume, and a wide grin broke out on her face. Microseconds later, she was right up next to Mrs. Cake's hospital bed, throwing her hooves around her employer for a hug. “I'm sooooo sorry I doubted you! I should have known you'd never cheat on Mr. Cake, you're not a big meanie liar! Can you ever forgive me?”
“Of course I can, Pinkie,” Cup replied, twitching a bit in the other mare's grasp. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate Pinkie changing her mind and not thinking poorly of her, it was just that she wasn't comfortable with the spontaneous hug. But that was Pinkie Pie for you- a more tactile pony you'd be hard-pressed to find.
Fortunately, Pinkie let go quickly, and then turned back to face Cup and Carrot, her expression sobering again. “But Dr. Flatline said your foal is a unicorn. How are you going to explain that?”
“Both Dr. Flatline and the doctors at the Equine Reproductive Project told us that foals aren't always the same type of pony as their parents,” Cup replied. “And I guess it makes sense, Dinky Doo is a unicorn even though Derpy is a pegasus.”
“But nopony knows who Dinky's dad is,” Pinkie Pie pointed out in a remarkably clear manner. “He probably was a unicorn too.” The pink mare shook her head resolutely. “But don't worry! Nopony will question you. You're important pillars of the community! I know I got the wrong idea, but that was because I heard something I wasn't supposed to hear! As long as you don't talk about it in public, nopony will know anything and you can just say that you have unicorn relatives!”
Startled, Carrot turned to his wife. “She's right- we were careless. I was upset and said too much, and Pinkie got the wrong idea about what happened. We will need to be more careful.”
“In a way, this may have been a good thing,” Cup agreed. “Since it was Pinkie who found out, at least we can trust her to keep what she knows to herself.”
“You can count on me!” Pinkie exclaimed, nodding. “I Pinkie Promised that whatever you told me would stay in this room, and that's what it's going to do! Nopony can make me say ANYTHING about what happened in here today!”
“I know that we can trust you, dear,” Cup said. “I just worry that other ponies may not be able to be trusted as much. It's not that I think anypony in Ponyville would be purposefully malicious, it's just that this whole treatment is so experimental. Not very many ponies know about it, and I don't want anypony to misunderstand or get the wrong idea. And most of all... I want our foal to know that we love him or her no matter what.” Carrot nodded.
“I don't care that I'm technically not this foal's father,” he added. “As far as I'm concerned, it is my son or daughter.”
“Don't worry, Mr. and Mrs. Cake!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed cheerily. “I know you'll be great parents! And don't let anypony tell you differently!”
I know it's quite a bit shorter than usual, but this chapter really couldn't be extended all that much, since it's really just sort of a bridge. That, and I wanted to get this out quickly because I won't have time to write for the next couple of weeks, since I've got exams coming up and a major deadline looming at work. Even though it is quite short, I hope you enjoyed it anyway.
Ultimately, Pinkie decided that the Cakes' first chance to get a glimpse of their foal on the ultrasound was something too personal for her to be privy to, and she decided to head back to the shop to re-open it. After all, when Cup collapsed, she and Carrot had just sort of herded everypony out the door and quickly closed up shop. They'd written a hastily-worded, vague explanation on a piece of paper and thrown it up on the window for the moment, but it hadn't been meant to be a long-term solution. No doubt there would be a crowd of curious ponies by now, wondering why their favorite bakery had just randomly shut down in the middle of a weekday.
“Are you sure you can manage the store on your own, Pinkie?” Cup had asked nervously. It wasn't exactly that she didn't trust her employee, it was just that, well... the pink mare tended to make her nervous when she was given responsibilities. Pinkie just laughed.
“Oh, don't worry, Mrs. Cake! I ran the store while you and Mr. Cake were in Manehattan with no problems!”
She was right, Cup had to admit. She watched her employee bound out of the room as though nothing had happened, leaving her alone with her husband. “Do you think we did the right thing, telling her?” she asked. “Do you think she even understood what we said?” Carrot looked at her, an unreadable expression on his face.
“Pinkie Pie is an adult,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “And you know she is more aware of the world around her than she often appears to be. She truly is smarter than she looks. Sometimes I wonder if she's hiding her true personality for a reason...” he mused. Cup blinked in surprised.
“What do you mean?” she asked. Carrot shrugged.
“Just that sometimes I think the Pinkie Pie we know is a front. There have been a few incidents where it was almost like... almost like she let her guard down, or something,” the stallion explained hesitantly. “It was like her real self slipped out for a moment or two. Come on, Cup, you can't tell me what you saw back there wasn't strange. Pinkie looked like she was ready to buck you in the face or something, when she thought you had cheated on me. That sort of extreme reaction... somepony as happy-go-lucky as Pinkie seems to be wouldn't behave like that naturally.”
“So you're saying Pinkie Pie is a danger to us?”
“No, not at all,” Carrot replied. “But I'm thinking there is more to her than we realize, and I'm very sure that she pretends to be less intelligent than she actually is. I don't know why though. But I will say this- that mare takes promises and loyalty seriously, almost as much as that Rainbow Dash does. I don't think we have anything to worry about from Pinkie. She will keep her promise.”
“I do not doubt that she will, but still, what you said worries me,” Cup answered. “If she's hiding who she really is, how do you know we can trust her with the store? What if she's skimming money from the cash register or something like that?”
Carrot simply howled with laughter at that, startling his life. “Are you kidding me? Pinkie Pie is about as much of a thief as I am. No, I'm pretty sure that whatever she's hiding is personal. I get the feeling she's hiding from her own personal demons, trying to deceive herself, more than anypony else. Do you know anything about her foalhood, anyway?”
“Not all that much,” Cup admitted. “I only know what she told us when she applied for the job and to rent the room, that she grew up on a rock farm outside of Trottingham until she discovered that her special talent was planning parties. I don't think she's ever talked about her family much, or why she left them in the first place. I never thought it was my place to bring it up, especially since I got the feeling she didn't want to talk about it.”
“Yes, I got the feeling too,” Carrot agreed. “And it makes me wonder what happened with her family. I think whatever it was affected her so deeply that she wouldn't want any reminder of it, and that's where her weird behavior comes from.”
A horrible thought occurred to the blue mare just then, prompted by some recent news reports she'd seen, in the newspapers and on the television. Equestria, by and large, was a very safe place to live. Most ponies did their best to guide their lives by the principles of the Elements of Harmony. But there were those that didn't. There were bad ponies out there, and they were not as rare as one would like to believe. Despite the best efforts of the justice system of Equestria and the good intentions of the vast majority of its citizens, there were monsters lurking among the pony population. And unlike the more literal monsters that did infest certain parts of the country, like manticores and hydras, or the ponies who had become so utterly corrupted that their physical appearance warped, like Nightmare Moon, these ponies looked just like everypony else, completely indistinguishable from a perfectly friendly, safe pony. “Oh Carrot,” Cup breathed, daunted by her realization. “You don't think...?” She did not need to finish her sentence for her husband to know what she meant.
“Honestly, I don't know,” Carrot replied, face grave, “and I don't want to speculate. It is not fair to Pinkie. If, someday, she wants to tell us what happened in her past that led her to Ponyville, she will tell us. Until then, I don't think it's wise to theorize. We shouldn't think any differently of her just because she let something... slip.” He sighed heavily. “And to think this whole mess came about because we wanted to have a baby...” he muttered more to himself than to Cup, shaking his head.
“Do you regret the decision?” she asked quietly.
“No! NO! Of course not!” Carrot amended quickly. “I don't regret it at all, I'm thrilled that I'm going to be a father!” Here, thought, he paused for a bit. “I just wonder... well, you saw what happened with Pinkie. What else are we going to find out about everypony we know that we would have been better off not knowing? We already knew that Null Result was a bucking idiot, but Pinkie Pie reacting that way? It's strange, thinking that all of that, we wouldn't have found out if you hadn't gotten pregnant. What else do you think could come to light from this? Do we even want to know?”
Cup smiled softly at her husband. “I think you're overthinking it,” she said. “We'd always known there was something Pinkie Pie wasn't telling us. Eventually we would have reached the same conclusion. This was just the catalyst.” The two fell into a calm silence, both processing the reality of what had transpired over the past hour or so. They could try to sugar-coat it all they wanted, but the fact remained that they had seen a very different Pinkie Pie than the one they were used to. It also brought some other disturbing questions to light, like what had happened to make Pinkie react that way in the first place? And if Pinkie Pie of all ponies, the very same Pinkie Pie that had worked and lived with the Cakes for several years, could misinterpret the situation so drastically, thinking that Cup Cake had been unfaithful to her husband, then what would the rest of Ponyville do if they reached the same conclusion?
Cup shuddered, remembering the way the pink mare had looked at her. Pinkie Pie's expression had been one of pure, undiluted disgust- it had almost bordered on hatred. And it would be a long time before she would forget how Ponyville had reacted to certain other incidents in the past. Yes, the populace had stood up for her when the Foal Protective Services agent had come calling, but when Derpy had fallen pregnant, it really had been the talk of the town for the entire nine months. And the vast majority of that talk had been needlessly and pointlessly cruel. Cup would never forget the conversation she'd heard between Roseluck and Dasiy, right in the middle of Derpy's pregnancy. Daisy had been utterly scathing: “Who knew the village idiot was also the village whore? You know, she won't tell anypony who the father is,” she had gossiped to her friend.
“She probably doesn't even know who he is,” Roseluck had replied, wrinkling her nose.
“Honestly, I don't know why the doctors haven't recommended that she terminate,” Dasiy had continued. “The poor foal will obviously come out as stupid as its mother!” The two mares had yukked it up, not knowing that their conversation had been overheard. At the time, Cup had been horrified and appalled that anypony would even think that way, let along actually say it aloud in public. The callous disregard for another pony had been disturbing at the time, but now, just remembering it froze Cup's insides. She wouldn't put it past the rest of Ponyville to react in a similar way if they thought she had been lax with her morals.
Carrot worried as well, although his thoughts centered around Berry Punch and Malt Liquor. When they weren't being cast as the butt of jokes - “haw haw look at the town alcoholics, they're drunk again, I wonder if Malt will try to fly again”- they were popular topics for gossip. He hadn't been completely truthful, when he'd said earlier that everypony quickly forgot about Berry Punch's dalliance with Roid Rage. The mares had forgotten quickly enough, but the stallions had not. Even now, nearly a year afterwards, Carrot was aware that many of his compatriots would mock Malt Liquor. “What's the matter, Malty, not enough of a stallion for Berry Punch?” Sure, it was meant to be good-natured joking, but nopony could deny the subtle undercurrent masked bythe “hilarity.” The message, although well-cloaked, was undeniably that Malt Liquor was pathetic for having his wife cheat on him. No, he was pathetic for letting her cheat on him. Gone was any sense of proportion or understanding of the context.
Berry Punch and Malt Liquor were, to put it mildly, not well. Both were very sick ponies. Overindulgence in alcohol had pickld their marriage and led to some very serious problems. Carrot Cake was privy to some information that he was very sure nopony else knew. He hadn't even told Cup about it, but he knew that Malt Liquor was slowly dying from cirrhosis of the liver. He'd found out quite by accident, but the other stallion had told him while he was drunk off his flank. He probably didn't even know he'd done so, but Carrot remembered it very well.
It was likely that on some level, most ponies knew that there was something very wrong in the Berry Punch/Malt Liquor household, but their knowledge was tempered with the wacky hijinks the liquor-store owners would get up to. But Carrot knew how much it must hurt them, and even more than that, how much it must hurt Ruby Pinch, and always winced internally every time he heard a new “Berry and Malt are so crazy” story.
Was that what would happen if ponies decided that Cup must have cheated on him? Would he suddenly be the laughingstock of Ponyville, that poor pathetic bastard who was such a lousy husband that his wife had to go elsewhere to get satisfaction, not to mention conceive a foal?
Quite frankly, Carrot didn't want to find out.
Completely lost to their own darkening thoughts, both ponies nearly jumped out of their skin when Nurse Redheart knocked on the door. “Hello? Are you ready? I have the ultrasound equipment right here…”
“Oh! Please, come in,” Cup called back. Seconds later, the door opened and the nurse entered the room, pulling a complicated-looking piece of equipment on a rolling cart behind her.
“Have you ever had an ultrasound before?” she asked. Cup shook her head, and the other mare smiled. “Well, you’ll have nothing to worry about. It doesn’t hurt, and it won’t take long at all. All I am going to do is put this gel on your abdomen, and then move the sensor across it,” she explained, gesturing towards the attachment of the machine. “It will allow us to get a look at your foal. We should be able to determine the type and gender with this. Now, if I could just have you remove the blankets and lie on your back…”
Cup did as she was told, pushing the blanket back and adjusting herself so that her pregnant belly was easily accessible to the nurse. Redheart picked up a nondescript-looking bottle with her mouth, only to set it right back down.
“This might be a little cold,” she warned, before grabbing the bottle again and squeezing a generous amount of its contents onto Cup’s stomach. The blue mare winced- Nurse Redheart had greatly understated how cold the ultrasound gel would be- the stuff was freezing. And slimy. It felt disgusting, and if it had been for any other reason, Cup would have been tempted to call the procedure off. But she understood why this was necessary. She was going to see her foal, and she would learn whether it was a filly or a colt, and what sort of pony it was! For the chance to see her foal, Cup would put up with some minor discomfort. Even so, she couldn’t stop herself from letting out a little uncomfortable gasp when the other mare spread the cold ooze over her stomach. Carrot noticed his wife’s discomfort, and immediately interjected.
“Are you alright?” he asked Cup, while he demanded to know, “What is that stuff doing?” from the nurse.
“It’s fine, Carrot,” Cup reassured. “It’s just cold and slimy, is all.” The nurse shrugged apologetically.
“I know it’s very uncomfortable, but if it gets too warm the gel does not work properly.”
“Hmmm…” Carrot hummed skeptically, not completely convinced. He looked like he might want to argue further but a glare from Cup shut him up.
Once the gel was in place, Nurse Redheart grabbed the apparatus and began slowly moving it over Cup’s stomach, occasionally glancing up at the screen as the device provided a picture of the contents of the other mare’s womb. Suddenly, her brow furrowed, and she let out a quiet “huh.”
“Well, Mrs. Cake, I have some interesting news for you,” the nurse said, her expression deadpan. “It seems that you’re not going to have a foal after all.”
Immediately, Cup and Carrot froze, their minds playing through hundreds of horrible scenarios. Had Cup miscarried after all? Was it a molar pregnancy? Had something else gone wrong?
But before they could voice their questions, Nurse Redheart gave them an answer. “You’re going to have two foals! Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Cake, you’re going to have twins!”
“Twins?” Cup gasped.
“Yes, twins. A filly and a colt,” the nurse confirmed. “And, if I’m not mistaken, the filly is a unicorn, and the colt is a pegasus. That is very rare,” she continued, frowning a bit. “I take it you both have unicorns and pegasi in your family?”
“Uh… yes,” Carrot interrupted. “My aunt is a unicorn, and Cup, isn’t your mother’s second cousin a pegasus?” Cup nodded. The nurse didn’t look like she completely believed them, but shrugged her shoulders and let it go for the time being. It wasn’t really her business anyway. “Well, because you are an Earth pony carrying both a unicorn and a pegasus foal, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting the proper nutrition,” she said. “Unicorns need more vitamins in utero than a pegasus or Earth pony does, to build up their magic. Normally a unicorn foal from a unicorn mother can get all of what they need naturally, because the mother’s own magic regulates it, and will actually create the vitamins needed. Obviously, an Earth pony or a pegasus mare cannot do this, so you’ll need to take a vitamin supplement. Fortunately, this is a fairly common occurrence, so you can buy the supplements over the counter. The best one is called Chanalin, but there’s another one called Ronalene that has fewer side effects, but is less effective. I would start with Chanalin, but if you still have the side effects after a week, you should probably switch to Ronalene.”
“Chanalin and Ronalene… I’ll remember those,” Cup said.
“As for your pegasus foal, you won’t need to take any special medicines, but you will want to make sure that you get plenty of calcium,” Redheart continued. “Pegasi are able to walk on clouds because their bones are hollow, like birds. But because of this, they are also very susceptible to fractures and breakage, especially as foals, so they need plenty of calcium. For the rest of your pregnancy, make sure you drink a lot of milk, and eat plenty of calcium-rich foods. Other than that, you’re doing very well,” the nurse finally said. “I would suggest you come in once a month for a checkup, until you actually do give birth, just to track your progress, but other than that, as long as you get the proper nutrients and avoid unnecessary stress, you should be fine.”
Half an hour later, Cup and Carrot left the hospital, carrying a bottle of Chanalin, the prenatal vitamin for non-unicorns, that Dr. Flatline had given them for free.
Twins. Where one twin was a unicorn and the other was a pegasus. Just having one or the other would he difficult enough to explain if anypony brought it up, but both? On the bright side, at least it was almost so unbelievable that most ponies wouldn’t be able to get past that fact and start speculating about things like infidelity? Maybe this was a blessing in disguise- everypony would be so focused on the fact that Cup, an Earth pony, had given birth to a pegasus and a unicorn, that nopony would start to wonder if maybe Carrot wasn’t the father.
But then, why did both of the bakers feel like a storm was brewing?
To Be Continued
OK, there’s a few things I should probably explain about this chapter. I know the first half seems very random, with Cup and Carrot thinking about what had happened in the past, with Pinkie’s reaction but it is actually very important to the plot. It will become clear later on. The same goes for the conversations about Derpy Hooves and Berry Punch- they are also going to be fairly important to the plot later on, but if there’s one thing you should really focus on it’s the stuff about Pinkie Pie’s past. It will all become clear in time.
Also, just a heads-up, the next two chapters move away from Cup and Carrot and instead focus on Moneybags, introduce a few new characters (who I’m very fond of, personally), and the plot really picks up. But, as usual, the standard warnings for the Moneybags chapters apply- he and his wife really do not get along, and although their relationship isn’t exactly abusive, it’s not really healthy, either.
Document File's eye twitched, the charcoal-colored unicorn mare recognizing the stallion striding into the facility like he was on a mission from Celestia. This was the third time that week that Moneybags had come to her, demanding to know information that she was not free to divulge. It seemed he was completely unable to get certain concepts like “confidentiality” through his thick skull. But, she still had to be polite- he was, after all, the Equine Reproductive Project's biggest financial sponsor. “Good afternoon, Mr. Moneybags,” the mare said, carefully schooling her features to avoid betraying her true thoughts. “What can I do for you today?”
“Cut the crap, Document, you already know why I'm here,” Moneybags snapped, not in the mood for pleasantries. “I want that information.”
“We've been over this already,” Document retorted, polite mask dropping away almost immediately. So this was how he was going to play it, was it? Well, that arrogant orange unicorn was about to learn that just because he had an obscene amount of money didn't mean he was above the same rules and laws that everypony else had to play by. When she'd taken this job, Document File had made a promise that she would never divulge any unauthorized information to anypony. There was ponies' lives they were dealing with here- it was going to take a whole lot more than some obnoxious (albeit smooth-talking) asshole of a stallion to get her to break that promise.
“No, we have not 'been over this' already,” Moneybags shot back. “All we've done is see you deny a perfectly reasonable request for no good reason at all. I want to know who is going to be raising my foal, that is all. It is not as though I'm asking you for somepony's Equestria Identification Number or their credit card information. If I wanted that, I wouldn't need to come talk to you, I'd just buy it myself.” Here, he laughed at his own wit. “I'm kidding, of course. I don't need to steal anypony's credit card information.”
“Ha ha,” the mare said dryly. “Very funny.”
Moneybags ignored her. “I only want one thing from you, is that so hard? All I want is the names of the couple that will be raising my foal. Nothing difficult, nothing all that illegal. All you have to do is give me two names, and I'll set it up so that you can take a two-month vacation anywhere in the world. You want to go to some tropical island? Done, I'll pay for it. Or maybe you want to go to Las Pegasus? I'll take care of that. Just give me the names I need and it's done.”
“I'm sorry, but the answer is still no,” Document repeated, slamming her hoof down on the desk. “I can't even access the information anyway, it's all stored in that new computer thing that the government gave us- all my paper records have been digitized, I can't get at them even if I wanted to. Now if you'll excuse me, sir, I am going on my lunch break.” Slamming a sign reading “be back later” onto the desk with her magic, the unicorn mare trotted off in the direction of the break room. She had a salad with her name written all over it.
Privately, Moneybags fumed. Why did this have to be so damned difficult? All he wanted was to know who would be raising his foal, was that so wrong? Considering what kind of a place the world was, Moneybags didn't think so. There was nothing wrong with him ensuring that his foal would not wind up being raised by some psychopath or a pervert. It was actually quite prudent, and the responsible thing to do, he decided, to make sure that his child would be safe. Anonymity be damned- Moneybags would do whatever it took to keep his foal safe, no matter what that was. And he was certain that nopony would fault him for it. Wasn't that the whole point of being a good pony, to look out for the welfare of society's most vulnerable? And what group was more vulnerable than little fillies and colts?
But no matter what he tried, it seemed to Moneybags that there was some wretched mare standing in his way. Lately, Ideal Diamond had been even more irritating than usual, something he hadn't previously thought possible. Apparently, she'd sensed he was up to something. How exactly she managed to figure that out eluded Moneybags, considering that the mare made a parasprite look like a genius, but she had, and she'd been clinging to him over the past few days like ugly on a hydra. He'd only managed to get out of her grip that morning by telling her that he had an important, confidential business meeting to attend.
And technically, it hadn't been a lie, the stallion thought to himself as he left the Equine Reproductive Project. That had been an important, confidential meeting, even if it hadn't gone the way he'd wanted it to. Honestly, what kind of excuse was that? Document File couldn't get into the computers...
Wait a minute. Computers.
Just then, an idea occurred to the stallion. Computers were still relatively rare in Equestria, usually only the very rich ponies or large businesses having them, but he did know a few ponies that might be able to help him. Turning around and cantering off in the other direction, Moneybags hoped that they hadn't moved their location.
He trotted in the direction of his destination, noticing as the structures gave way from shiny new office buildings, high-rise apartments, and high-end, fashionable shops, to run-down, dirty offices, discount stores, and ramshackle apartments. The buildings grew progressively shabbier and more dilapidated, until he finally stopped in front of an old building that looked like one good buck would bring the whole thing down. A faded, scratched sign reading “Computer Cafe” adorned the door.
Moneybags sighed. He could have gone the rest of his life without having to interact with those two again. Hexadecimal and Binary were the best in their not-so-legal business and were virtually untraceable... but their personalities were so warped that it was amazing nopony had offed them yet. But they still did a good business, both with their Internet cafe and with the... other stuff.
Stepping into the little shop, the orange stallion was pleased to note that it was entirely empty, with the exception of a little Earth pony colt, who was playing a game on one of the machines. Recognizing the foal from his parents' yearly Hearth's Warming Greetings, he cleared his throat to get the colt's attention. The colt turned and looked suspiciously at the stallion, taking in his business attire. Moneybags winced, wishing he'd thought to change before coming here. It was probably deeply ingrained in this young pony to automatically mistrust anypony that looked official.
“Good afternoon, Keylogger. Are your parents in?” he asked. The colt jumped, clearly frightened.
“Who are you? How do you know my name? You're not EBI, are you? Because you're in the wrong place if you are! My folks haven't done nothin' wrong!”
“Calm down, kid, I know your parents quite well,” Moneybags said. “We've worked together before, when you were a tiny little foal. Oh, and word of advice- asking ponies if they're with the EBI tends to look a bit suspicious.” The colt looked down at his hooves.
“You just scared me, is all,” he said.
“And I do apologize for that,” Moneybags replied. “But I really do need to speak to your parents- are they in right now?”
“Mama is upstairs sleeping,” Keylogger replied, “but I can get her up. I think Dad's in the basement. I'll go get them. Who should I say is here to see them?”
“Just tell them Moneybags is here with a job.” The colt nodded and dashed up the stairs. A few minutes later, there was a high-pitched shriek, and a rose pink Earth pony mare was cantering down the stairs like Nightmare Moon was chasing her. She caught sight of the unicorn stallion, and the rest was history.
“EEEEE! MONEYBAGS!” she cried, moving so fast that if she'd been a unicorn, Moneybags would have said she'd teleported. Before he had time to react, the mare had enveloped him in a bone-cracking hug. “Ohh~ it's so good to see you again! It's been far too long, we haven't seen you since Keylogger was a foal! That's way too long! How have you been?”
“Hexadecimal... you're... squashing me,” Moneybags managed to get out. Thankfully, the mare immediately released him, stepping back to a reasonable distance to let him catch his breath.
“But really, it's been far too long,” she continued. “Little Keylogger is all grown up and ready to join in the family business! He even got his cutie mark already! Go on, dear, show Mr. Moneybags would new cutie mark!”
Reluctantly, the colt turned so that the businessman could get a look at the USB flash drive that adorned his flank. Hexadecimal beamed with pride. “Just like his old lady, only more relevant to the current time!” she said happily, casting a glance at the floppy disk on her own flank. “Obviously, Binary and I couldn't be more proud of him. And you know,” she added, casting a sly glance at her son, “all the fillies will be getting their sights on him. I'll have to beat them off with a stick! I can't say I blame them, though, what mare wouldn't want to catch a genius computer hacker like my son?”
“Mama, stop...” Keylogger muttered, very embarrassed.
“But I suppose this isn't just a social visit, am I right, moneybags?” Hexadecimal asked, her tone sobering immediately. “What's the matter, you don't have your own personal hackers on staff?” Moneybags glared at her.
“Hexadecimal, I run a legitimate business and you know that. The last time I asked you and Binary for help with my company... well, it was a lapse in judgment, one I will not make again.” The mare opened her mouth to protest, but Moneybags interrupted. “No, I need your help this time for a personal mater, one that is extremely important. Are you willing to help me?”
A predatory glint entered Hexadecimal's eyes. “Oooh, a personal matter... this should be fun! What do you want me to do? Divorce you from that waste of space you call a wife and hook you up with a rival business-colt? Oh, my, how romantic! Star-crossed lovers, divided because they are the heads of rival companies, and still tied to mares they only married to hide their true feelings for each other! Oh, it could just make me cry! Of course, I'll help you, dear! Just let Momma Hexadecimal take care of you!”
Keylogger and Moneybags looked at each other, Moneybags in alarm and Keylogger with rolling eyes. “Don't listen to her, mister,” the colt said. “She gets like this sometimes.”
“Hey, it entertains me and gives me a hobby,” she explained. “Binary doesn't believe me, but Okane ga Neigh is one of the greatest masterpieces of our time. And I never thought that girl deserved you, anyway.”
Moneybags almost made an attempt to defend Ideal Diamond, but then he remembered that she truly was a pain in the flank, and that once the hacker had gotten an idea in her head it was nigh-impossible to get it out. Fortunately, he was spared any more awkward moments by a gangly blue Earth pony stallion stomping out of the basement.
“What in Equestria is going on up here? Hexie, what the buck are you- MONEYBAGS!” he interrupted himself. “Now there's somepony I never expected to see again! How's it going? What can I do you for?”
“Moneybags says he needs our help for a personal matter,” Hexadecimal answered her husband. “Although he won't tell me what it is,” she added as an afterthought. The orange unicorn rolled his eyes.
“Only because your guesses were completely ludicrous,” he replied. “If you're willing to do business with me again, I will definitely tell you whatever you want to know. I trust your usual fee will be enough- 300 bits for each of you?” The mare, however, held up a hoof.
“Not quite,” she said. At Moneybags' incredulous look, she hastily explained. “You see, we recently added a third member to our operation. Keylogger is finally old enough to join the family business, and you're our first, uh, customer since he got his cutie mark. So our fee this time will be 650 bits. 300 for me, 300 for Binary, and 50 for Keylogger.”
The colt's eyes shone with excitement. His first real job, with pay! And 50 bits was more than enough to take that cute purple pegasus filly in his class on a date! This was going to be so awesome!
Moneybags considered it. Yes, an extra 50 bits for the newest member of the team was fair. “Alright. 650 bits it is,” he decided, even though he had reservations about somepony as young as Keylogger getting involved in a shady business like this. But the colt seemed excite about the opportunity, and his mother and father clearly didn't have a problem with it. So he figured it to be okay.
“We need to make time to properly discuss this,” Binary stated. “Would you like to stay for dinner? It's nothing fancy, just salad, but we can talk shop while we eat.”
The unicorn hesitated. He knew from experience that Hexadecimal was a terrible cook, and that Binary was even worse, and he knew that Ideal Diamond was probably lurking around at home, waiting to interrogate him about what he'd done all day. But salad was pretty hard to screw up, and he really did need to lay out the parameters for this job. So he opted to stay.
Over dinner (which, surprisingly, turned out to be quite good- apparently Hexadecimal's culinary skills had improved over time), Moneybags explained his predicament, and the reasons that he needed them to get into the records at the Equine Reproductive Project. When he finished, the family of cybercriminals just stared at him for a moment. Then, in tandem, Binary and Hexadecimal jumped up and embraced him.
“Oh, Moneybags, sweetheart-” Hexadecimal began. “Of course we'll help you with this!”
“Yes,” Binary agreed. “There's no better feeling in the world than being a parent. Not even quadruple overclocking.”
“I'll pretend I understood what that meant,” Moneybags replied, but the other stallion ignored him.
“I don't blame you for wanting to make sure your foal will grow up in safety. Did you hear that horrible story out of Canterlot a few weeks ago?” Binary continued, shuddering. “I cannot believe anypony would do something like that to their own foal. That stallion is nothing but scum.”
“Completely agreed. Why I'd like to... well,” Hexadecimal cut herself off. “I'm not going to go there, there are children present. Anyway, don't worry. We'll get you the information you want. We'll get names, addresses, dates of birth, Identification Numbers, credit card information-”
“Uh, you don't need to get credit card numbers...” Moneybags said quickly. Hexadecimal, however, just winked at him.
“Nopony said we'd give it to you,” she giggled. “Silly.”
Moneybags sighed. There was a reason he'd avoided dealing with this particular family in the past, and that, right there, was why. It was only a matter of time before Hexadecimal or Binary got careless and stole the wrong pony's identity. And as utterly annoying as they could be, Hexadecimal and Binary really were the best at what they did. The seedy underbelly of Equestria would lose their king and queen if those two were ever caught. And apparently, it was now time for the coronation of the crown prince Keylogger.
“Just be careful,” he said quietly. “Your son needs his parents around still, and you can't do that if you're in a dungeon somewhere.”
“No worries,” Binary said reassuringly. “Just come back in a week. You'll get your information then.”
Thanking them, Moneybags began the long walk home. Despite his misgivings, he was becoming more and more convinced he'd made the right choice. Hexadecimal and Binary would be able to retrieve the information easily, and Moneybags would know who would be parenting his foal.
What could possibly go wrong?
Ah, I love the hacker ponies. They're so much fun to write. I know they seem kind of random right now, but they're actually very important. Pay special attention to Keylogger and you might get a clue as to what is the catalyst for both of the biological fathers getting involved.
Also, Okane ga Nai is a yaoi manga. It was the first thing that I thought of that would be easy to ponify for Hexadecimal's fangirling.
Ideal Diamond paced back and forth in her husband's home office, eyes narrowed. That lousy... rotten... weasel of a stallion was hiding something important from her, she just knew it. She wasn't sure what it was, exactly, but she knew it had the potential to be highly explosive. And more than likely, it would affect her, most likely in a negative way.
Despite what Moneybags seemed to think, she wasn't stupid. Okay, so maybe she didn't know very much about economics and she couldn't care less about the inner workings of her husband's company. Maybe she couldn't name any high-ranking government officials (with the obvious exceptions of the princesses). And maybe she couldn't cook., didn't care about whatever crisis was going on in Zebrica or Griffonia, wasn't all that great of a conversationalist, and maybe she didn't really give a flying hoof about most other ponies, but damn it, Ideal Diamond wasn't a complete idiot, and she highly resented anypoiny who suggested that she was. And it was clear to her that her husband didn't think very highly of her.
It didn't help that she knew that Moneybags had considered divorcing her already. She'd overheard a phone conversation between the stallion and some unidentified pony where he'd gone off on a rant about how Ideal Diamond was the most utterly useless pony he'd ever had the misfortune to meet. He complained that she'd never done an honest day's work in her life and yet she felt entitled to all of his income, spending ridiculous amounts of money on frivolous things nopony actually needed. “My god, man, that mare has enough shoes to give a pair to every single zebra in Zebrica!”
Ideal Diamond had been indignant. No, she did not have enough shoes for everypony in Zebrica! That was ridiculous. She might have had enough shoes for... oh, maybe one-eighth of the population of Zebrica, but certainly not all of it!
A few days after that inicident, the mare had found a letter on her husband's desk from a pony named Alimony Loophole, from Loophole & Loophole Divorce Attorneys-at-Law. Curious and just a bit enraged at the implications, Ideal began to read the letter. “Considering the fact that your current wife is also your business partner's daughter, I would advise you to tread very carefully with this annullment. You do not want to burn bridges within your company, and if you are careless, she could demand a large portion of your income as alimony. But if half of what you told me is true, you shouldn't have much of a problem getting a judge to-”
“WHAT THE BUCK ARE YOU DOING IN MY OFFICE READING MY MAIL!?” Surprised by her husband's sudden appearance and violent outburst, Ideal Diamond lost her telekinetic control over the document and it fell to the the ground. Moneybags immediately snatched it up and incinerated it with a burst of his own magic.
“Is nothing sacred?” he snarled. “I know you already feel entitled to use my money whenever you want, but now you're reading my private communications too? What the buck is wrong with you? If I didn't know your father, I would say you had been raised by a bunch of unbelievably uncivilized, classless timberwolves!”
“You're one to talk!” Ideal Diamond shot back. “You've been planning to divorce me, and you haven't said anything about it? You're a bucking liar, Moneybags!”
“What, because I didn't tell you I was starting the divorce proceedings? That's not a lie, you stupid filly, I didn't say anything that was untrue! And do you really think I'm stupid? If I had told you about it, the next time I turned around you'd be gone off to Las Pegasus or somewhere like that, and you'd run up my credit cards and leave me with the debt!”
They continued on arguing like that for several hours, until both Ideal Diamond and Moneybags had run out of bile to spew at each other. Realizing they'd reached an impasse, they'd agreed to go to bed and pick it back up in the morning.
But they never did. That had been several months ago now, and as far as Ideal Diamond knew, her husband had canceled the divorce proceedings, saying it would be too much of a bother to continue with it. “Just stop spending all my money all the time, amd we'll consider this whole thing behind us,” he'd said. Idea had agreed, thinking that this could possibly be the end to all their marital problems. And it wasn't like she was actually going to stop buying nice things for herself... she would just have to be more careful about it.
But ever since that incident, Moneybags had become paranoid. He never spoke on the phone, or even in person with anypony else, if he thought his wife was in the house. He'd canceled a good number of his credit cards (much to Ideal's irritation), seemed to sneak around more than usual, and put an encryption spell on every single piece of paper that he received. No matter what she did, every time Ideal looked at one of them, all she saw was a blank piece of paper. He even used the spell on things as mundane as the takeout menu . What was so top-secret about the cucumber roll special at Neighpon Garden, that it needed to be kept from her? Maybe the menu had just accidentally been caught up in the spell or something.
Everything like that aside, though, Ideal Diamond knew that her husband was up to no good. It wasn’t hard to figure out, but it still bothered the mare. Moneybags didn’t trust her any further than he could throw her, and their relationship was not one that she could just up and ask him what was going on. That would be an excellent way to make the stallion even more paranoid than he already was.
And it wasn’t like Ideal Diamond really cared one way or another about her husband… but if he was having an affair, it would reflect badly on her. She didn’t care if anypony thought Moneybags was a philandering jerk, but it did matter to her that nopony thought poorly of her. Knowing Manehattan’s high society the way she did, she knew that if Moneybags was cheating and word got out, everypony would blame her for it. She was not about to let that happen. She liked her position just fine the way it was, thankyouverymuch, and she was going to find out what Moneybags was plotting if it was the last thing she did.
Or, at least, she would if her husband hadn’t been so thorough at covering his tracks. Ideal snorted in annoyance, her most recent search of her husband’s office coming up null. Again. She was starting to wonder if Moneybags had simply warded the office against her presence as well as encrypting all of his documentation. Now that she thought about it, she wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. She wouldn’t put that kind of sneakiness past him.
Huffing in annoyance, Ideal stomped out of the office. Yet again, it had been another fruitless waste of an afternoon. She should have gone shopping instead. That would have been a much better use of her time. But, she didn’t get very far out of the office before she heard an odd crinkling sound coming from underneath her hooves. Looking down, she realized that there was a scrap of paper that had adhered itself to her hind-hoof. Irritated, she lifted her leg to remove the offending piece of paper, then froze once she’d gotten it off herself. For once, the paper wasn’t blank. Granted, it wasn’t the most informative clue, either, since it only had a phone number, but at least it was something. Maybe it wasn’t a clue at all- it could just be the phone number to the dry cleaners’ or the takeout place, something that Moneybags didn’t feel the need to hide. But, it could also be a clue as to what he was up to. And it wouldn’t hurt to investigate, even if the lead actually led to nowhere.
If Moneybags wasn’t back at home by noon on a weekday for his lunch break, it meant that he’d opted to eat at work or go out, and that meant that the earliest he would return would be around 5:30 PM or so. Once the clock showed 12:30, Ideal Diamond decided that her husband wasn’t coming back anytime soon, and that it would be safe to do a bit of detective work. Grabbing the house phone off the wall, the mare viciously punched in the numbers written on the scrap of paper.
The other end rang once, twice, three times. Then, a click on the other end. “Hello?” A mare’s voice came through the receiver.
Ideal Diamond saw red. She had just known it! She knew it! That pathetic excuse for a husband of hers had been cheating on her! And with an incredibly low-class mare to boot, if the other pony’s voice inflections were anything to go by.
“Hello? Is anypony there?” the other mare asked. “Hello? Can I help you with anything?”
The unicorn slammed the phone down, enraged. “Yeah, you can help me with something,” she snarled at the disconnected device. “You can help me by throwing your whore flank off the nearest tall building!”
Hexadecimal stared at the phone clasped in her hooves, expression worried. “Who was that, Hexie?” Binary asked, not looking up from the machine he was tinkering with.
“Well… it was nopony. Nopony was on the other end,” the Earth pony mare replied. Binary made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat.
“It was probably just one of those political calls again. You know it’s an election year for the bucking Parliament, they’re spending all our tax bits to drum up support from the voter base.”
“But Binary, we haven’t paid taxes in a decade and neither one of us is registered to vote,” Hexadecimal pointed out.
“It’s never stopped them from calling us before, Hexie,” Binary said soothingly. “Personally, I’m pretty sure they just use a random number generator and call every number they come up with. Don’t you remember when it was the last election cycle and MP Magna Carta’s campaign was driving everypony crazy with the non-stop pre-recorded calls?”
“You’d have a point if the caller ID hadn’t said ‘I.’ on it,” Hexadecimal replied.
Now, that made her husband look up from his work. “’i.’? What the buck is that supposed to mean? Do we even know anypony named I? Or anypony whose name even begins with I?”
“Instant Ramen from down the street,” Hexadecimal mused, “and Ink Cartridge from the printer supply shop, but I can’t figure out why either one of them would call here in the first place, let alone call and hang up.” The mare shook her head, dark pink mane falling into her eyes. “No, I’m worried this may have something to do with the job Moneybags gave us. He told us we had to keep it secret from everypony, no matter who they claimed to be.” Even though his coat was a bright blue, the Earth pony stallion visibly paled at that, eyes widening.
“You don’t think it was the EBI checking to see if we were home, do you? Maybe the I stood for Investigation!” he exclaimed. Hexadecimal shrugged.
“I don’t know. I kind of doubt it, though, that’s not really their style. They’d probably just buck our doors down and barge in here, yelling about how we have the right to remain silent and anything we say will be used against us in court. You know, like what they do on the television dramas. No, I think it might have been Moneybags’ nag on the other end.”
“You mean his wife?”
“Of course I mean his wife,!” the mare shouted. “It only makes sense! From what he’s told us about her, and the nature of the information we’re looking for, it’s obvious that she would be suspicious and try to figure things out. She probably found our phone number and called it to see who would pick up.
Binary looked skeptical, but he kept his doubt to himself. Instead, he said, “well, I’ve gotten through the Equine Reproductive Project’s firewall and disabled it. Would you believe their password is ‘password?’”
The couple had a good laugh about that, but it wasn’t enough to put Hexadecimal’s mind at ease. She was going to have to find a way to warn the orange unicorn stallion about his wife’s nosiness. It just wouldn’t do for Ideal Diamond to screw up Moneybags’ hard work and noble plans. Even if the unicorn wasn’t the most righteous of stallions, at least in this particular endeavor, his motives were pure.
And Hexadecimal swore that she would see that her friend’s goals were realized, no matter what it took. Not even if it was the last thing she ever did.
Ugh, this chapter was hard to write. Next time we’ll be back with the Cakes, although that chapter probably won’t be coming out for a while, since tomorrow I’m traveling and won’t have reliable Internet access for about a week.
Logically, Cup knew why Carrot and Pinkie constantly buzzed around her like a pair of extremely worried bees. After all, she'd already pushed herself too hard once and collapsed, ending up in the hospital and threatening her pregnancy. Since ten, they'd learned that she was in a much more high-risk situation than they'd originally thought. The Earth pony mare was pregnant with not one, but two non-Earth pony foals. Furthermore, one was apparently a unicorn and the other a pegasus, which presented some rather unique challenges. Cup knew that it was important that she not over-exert herself and that she remember to take her vitamin supplements and avoid undue stress, but her husband and her employee didn't have to constantly nag her about it!
Things had fallen into a fairly predictable routine. Cup would get up in the morning around 8:30 and take her magic supplement with a bite of breakfast. At 9:00 sharp, she would open the shop. And at 9:05, Carrot would come in and start giving her the third degree.
“Did you take your Chanalin yet? It's really important that you take it in the mornings with breakfast- aren't you supposed to take it at the same time every day, too?”
“Yes, Carrot, I already took my medication.”
“You took it with food, right? It says on the bottle that you need to take it with food.”
“Yes, I took it with food.”
“Well, what did you eat?”
“Does it even matter, Carrot?”
“Of course it matters! If you only eat things like sweets and potato chips and instant soups, you won't get the nutrition you need for one pony, let alone three!”
“Fine. I had a bowl of avocado and a glass of orange juice. Does that pass the muster, O King of Breakfast?”
Of course it was passive-aggressive, but Cup was just completely out of patience. She was a grown mare, for Celestia's sake! She didn't need her husband hovering around like she was a little filly who didn't want to eat her alfalfa! A similar conversation happened at the exact same time every single day, and one would think that by this time, Carrot would have learned that Cup knew how to take care of herself.
At lunchtime, Pinkie Pie would step up to the plate.. “Mrs. Cake! Mrs. Cake! Don't forget to take your calcium supplements! And you should have some foods with a lot of calcium in them! Like spinach or sundaes or Swiss cheese or strawberries- well, maybe not strawberries, I don't know how much calcium they actually have-”
“Pinkie Pie,” Cup sighed. “I know that. I'm having some yoghurt, it's fine.” Pinkie didn't look convinced.
“At least gave a glass of milk or something!” the pink mare exclaimed. “You can never be too careful! I oughta know-”
It was an innocuous comment- Cup wouldn't have paid any attention to it if Pinkie hadn't reacted the way she did. Immediately, the hyperactive pony clamped her mouth shut, mane deflating rapidly, like a popped balloon.
“I... I'm sorry,” she said stiffly, before turning and cantering out of Sugar Cuber Corner, not bothering to clock out first.
“Pinkie! Wait!” Cup called, following her employee (albeit at a much slower pace). “You didn't do anything you need to apologize for! I'm used to you and Carrot lecturing me! I know you're just looking out for me and the foals!”
But Pinkie either didn't hear or didn't care, and before long, she'd completely disappeared from the vicinity of the shop, heading towards the Everfree Forest, at least as Cup could tell. Cup stood outside of the cafe, looking blankly off in the direction that her employee had headed. Carrot, hearing the commotion, wandered out of the kitchen to stop next to his wife.
“What did you do?” he asked.
“I honestly don't know,” Cup replied. “I said that I was going to eat yoghurt for lunch, she said I should have a glass of milk too, and then she just ran off! Was it something I said?”
“It's probably just Pinkie Pie being Pinkie Pie,” Carrot said placatingly. “She might just have gotten another one of her strange ideas and dashed off to go do it. You know how she is. She'll probably be back by closing time.”
Pinkie Pie did not come back by closing time. She didn't return by the time Cup and Carrot decided to go to bed, and she hadn't showed up when they got up in the morning. By this time, both of the older ponies were beginning to get worried.
“She's never just disappeared like this without at least telling us where she was going,” Cup fretted. “I must have upset her somehow. I must have been too harsh on you two.”
“I think it is too early for us to really start worrying,” Carrot replied, although he didn't sound convinced. “She hasn't been gone for twenty-four hours yet. The EBI only starts considering somepony missing if they've been gone for seventy-two. We'll see if she comes back today- if she's not back by dinner we'll talk to her friends. They might know what she's up to.”
It placated Cup temporarily, but the blue mare still worried about Pinkie. The had been something so... sudden about the way Pinkie's mood had just changed so rapidly. It was like a switch had been flipped. And on top of that, Cup still remembered the way that Pinkie had gone from happy-go-lucky to enraged and wrathful in seconds when the pink mare thought her boss was cheating on her husband. She wasn't sure if she could logically connect the two incidents, but if she was being perfectly honest with herself, Cup had to admit that they were startlingly similar in both suddenness and intensity.
That day, it turned out that business was incredibly slow. Deciding that both she and Carrot did not need to work the empty store at the same time, Cup told her husband that she was very tired and was going to take a nap. Carrot agreed that it was a good plan, and so Cup went upstairs to the living quarters above the shop.
Instead of going up to her room, though, the blue mare carefully nosed open the door to Pinkie Pie's room.
As usual, it looked like a bomb had gone off. Party paraphernalia was all over the place, combined with strewn-around books and half-eaten cupcakes. Cup let out a little cry when she tripped over something green and leathery, which turned out to be Gummy, Pinkie's pet alligator. Gummy watched unblinkingly as Cup went through his mistresses' personal belongings, then yawned and padded off to curl up next to the air vent.
Cup spent several hours going through the stuff in Pinkie Pie's room, hoping to find some hint as to what had upset the pink pony so much. Unfortunately, all she found were piles and piles of random party equipment, books in various stages of being read, remains of snacks, and for some odd reason, stacks of old newspapers from Hoofington. But nothing that would tell Cup what had triggered such an extreme reaction from Pinkie Pie.
Sighing, the mare got ready to leave the room when one of the old newspaper fell off of Pinkie's desk and hit the ground with a soft “thump.” Cup walked over to the desk and picked it up with her mouth, placing it back on the desk. Glancing briefly at the headline, she read: “Hoofington Rock Farm Infidelity Scandal Ends in Tragedy.”
She didn't think anything of it, other than to make sure that the newspaper was placed more or less the way it had been before, then left the room.
I know, I know, this chapter took forever to get out. To make a really long story short, I participated in a different fandom contest, which had a deadline, and, as usual, I've been called into work a lot more often as well, since my dumbass coworker got caught stealing money. I actually have to travel again in a couple of days and may not have Internet access, but I promise I won't take as long to get the next chapter out as this one did. I am so sorry for the delay, and I feel bad about putting up a short chapter after all this time, but the next one is going to be a doozy in length and plot importance, so hopefully that will make up for it.
No Matter What You Do, You're Gonna Learn The Truth
Chapter Fourteen: No Matter What You Do, You're Gonna Learn The Truth
Note: Please do be aware that this chapter contains themes of violence, especially domestic violence culminating in a murder. I do not think it is particularly graphic, but readers with a sensitivity to this content might want to tread a bit carefully.
On the morning of the third day since she abruptly ran out of the shop, a bleary-eyed, sickly-looking Pinkie Pie barged back into Sugar Cube Corner, startling her employers. The bakers' first reaction was one of relief, but that quickly died when they noticed her unkempt appearance and erratic behavior.
“Pinkie Pie... are you drunk?” Cup demanded. The pink mare shrugged.
“Mebbe a little,” she slurred. “Been at 'luttershy's. Sh' keeps th' good stuff around. I've... I've gotta tell th' truth, gotta tell th' truth. Granny Pie always told me th' truth would out. I waited long enough, I gotta tell you. I just gotta.”
Cup and Carrot exchanged glances. Pinkie Pie never drank alcohol, not even when she put on a party that included the libations. She'd always said it interrupted the “party flow” or something like that. A drunk Pinkie was alarming enough on her own, but a drunk Pinkie spouting cryptic messages about needing to tell the truth? Something serious had obviously happened, and both ponies were very sure that they weren't going to like it.
“Pinkie, dear, why don't you lie down for a while and then we can talk about whatever it is you'd like to tell us,” Cup suggested gently. “Maybe when you've gotten some rest, you'll be in a better frame of mind. Whatever you want to talk about sounds important, we should all have clear heads to hear this.”
The other mare shook her head. “No. I gotta tell you now. I've been a bad pony. With all the lyin' and keeping secrets. Y'know how I told you I was from a rock farm outside 'a Trottingham?” It was clear that the pink pony was rapidly sobering up, the gravity of the situation clearing her mind from the alcohol's affects.
“Yes?” Cup asked.
“Well, I'm not from Trottingham. I did actually grow up on a rock farm though.”
“I'd always wondered about that,” Carrot mused. Cup shot him a reproachful glare. “What? She never had the accent! But I always figured she'd had elocution lessons or something to get rid of it.”
“You give me a lot of credit, Mr. Cake,” Pinkie replied. “But you would have been right about that. I've never been to Trottingham in my life. The truth is, I was born on a rock farm outside of Hoofington.”
Hoofington... now why did that sound so familiar to Cup? She felt like there was something she should know, something that she needed to remember, but for the life of her, she couldn't think of what it was. She had a vague sense that it was something bad, however. Maybe a terrorist attack? For some reason she was connecting Hoofington to activity by insurgent deer groups. Hoofington was a fairly big city, although Cup would have thought that a terrorist group would prefer to go after one of the main centers of government or commerce, like Canterlot or Manehattan.
Pinkie continued on. “I always thought we had a pretty good life. We were a happy family, my parents, my sisters, and me. My dad would sometimes get angry, though, and it was really scary. My sisters and I used to hide in the barn when it would happen. He would shout and scream and break things, and sometimes he would hit our mom. He never laid a hoof on us, though.”
Carrot sucked in a breath. This was worse than anything he could have thought up on his own. Pinkie Pie's father had been abusive? Out of everything he'd come up with, that could have been in the pink mare's past, he wouldn't have suspected that. Out of the corner of his eye, he could tell that his wife's reaction was much the same.
“One day, though, I was about twelve or so at the time,” the pink mare continued, “we found out my mom was pregnant. My sisters and I were really excited- there was going to be a new foal to play with! We talked for hors about whether or not it would be a filly or a colt, what its name would be, what its personality would be like. We didn't pay any attention to the fact that our mom was even more scared of our dad than usual, or that our dad seemed to be even angrier than normal. He didn't hit our mom during her pregnancy, though, so we thought it was a good thing-” here, Pinkie broke off, clearing her throat to compose herself.
“Do... do you need some water?” Cup asked, hesitating. Pinkie shook her head.
“No, no,” she replied, voice cracking. “It's just... wait here. I don't know if I can do this. You'd better read it yourselves.” She dashed up the stairs, returning shortly with a pile of what Cup belatedly realized were newspapers.
“Start... start with this one,” Pinkie suggested softly, laying the paper down on the table in front of her employers. It was the gossip section of The Hoofington Post, dated some seven years previously. A few months before Pinkie turned up in Ponyville, to be exact. The headline read “Local Builder In Affair?”
Hoofington, Equestria- On a recent Saturday evening, this reporter spotted Palladian Window, the builder responsible for the city's state-of-the-art new courthouse, out enjoying a bite to eat at a cafe with an unknown mare. This reporter did not approach the couple for questioning, but one wonders what Mr. Window's wife has to say about all this!
“Oh, Pinkie...” Carrot breathed. “That mare... was she...?”
“My mother?” Pinkie finished. “Yeah. And just for reference, Mr. Window was a unicorn. The Pie family has been nothing but Earth ponies all the way back to before Equestria was even founded. This is the nexgt one,” she said with forced cheerfulness. The next piece of newspaper was not the gossip column. Instead, it was the front page, and the headline screamed- “BUILDER AND ROCK FARMER CAUGHT IN EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIR! BUSINESS TO BE SOLD!”
Hoofington, Equestria- Local construction magnate Palladian Window, 43, and rock farmer Silky Pie, 39, were recently revealed to be involved in an extramarital affair. Window, the owner and CEO of Palladian Window's Construction Corp, and Pie, wife of Big Boulder Farm's owner Shoofly Pie, were arrested last Tuesday on charges of public lewdness, after an area business owner called police, reporting that the two ponies were engaged in an indecent act outside of her shop. Upon arrest, it was revealed that Ms. Pie was pregnant. Pie maintains that the foal is her husband's, but both Window and Mr. Pie are demanding a DNA test to determine which stallion is the father. In the meantime, however, Mr. Window's wife, Moonlight Glow, has released a statement saying that she will be filing for divorce.
“It turned out that they couldn't get a definitive reading on the paternity test,” Pinkie said flatly. “We later found out that my little brother's magic was blocking everything the doctors tried. It was almost like he knew what was going to happen and tried to protect himself.”
“Oh dear Discord!” Carrot swore loudly, causing both of the mares to flinch at the oath. “Pinkie Pie, don't tell me...”
The pink mare's eyes filled with tears. “Ah... well...” she choked. “Maybe... maybe you should just read it.”
The final newspaper that Pinkie had brought down was dated some eight months after the first gossip column had appeared. According to the dates, Pinkie would have been thirteen years old at the time, assuming the mare had been truthful about her birth-date and age. Afraid of what they were going to read, the two older ponies looked at the headline. All of a sudden, Cup realized why Hoofington had sounded so familiar. Six years previously, it had been all over the news. A stallion just outside of that city had gone berserk after learning his wife had cheated on him and murdered his entire family, committing suicide when the authorities arrived to arrest him. At the time it had been believed that there were no survivors, although Cup remembered with growing horror that the body of the mad stallion's eldest daughter had never been recovered. As was the legal custom in Equestria, the names of the deceased foals were not released to the press, although the more graphic details of the case had not been spared. The part of the story that had haunted Cup when she first heard about it was the fact that EBI investigators had recovered the body of a newborn unicorn colt, not more than a few hours old.
The realization of the matter hit Cup like a freight train, and it was obvious from the horrified squeak that Carrot made that he'd realized as well.
“That was... that was your family?”
Pinkie laughed bitterly, a hard edge coming into her voice. “When my half-brother was born, my dad realized that my mother had, in fact, had an affair. It was like- like a switch flipped. When he rushed out at us, I dropped to the floor and played dead; he was too far gone to tell I was faking it. Mom, Inky, and Blinky didn't think of that, and it wasn't like my half-brother would have been able to defend himself. I guess my dad thought I was already dead and didn't need to double-check. I watched him kill them,” Pinkie stated. “I saw them all die right in front of me. And then I watched my father kill himself. Do you know what his last words were?” she asked suddenly, sharply.
Still shell-shocked from the horror of what they were hearing, both of the bakers shook their heads. Pinkie laughed a mirthless laugh.
“He said he was sorry for killing us. He apologized to us foals. And then he told my mother he'd see her in hell.”
There was complete silence for several horrible minutes, all three ponies just staring at each other. Pinkie no longer held any malice towards her employers, but the act of finally telling the truth to somepony, the truth that she'd kept hidden for six years, left her with a slightly manic expression across her face. The Cakes, for their part, were horrified and daunted. How does one even react to somepony telling them about a horrific even they'd been involved in?
Finally, Carrot found the courage to speak. “How... how did you end up in Ponyville?”
“I knew they'd put me in an asylum if they found me,” Pinkie replied. “I couldn't let that happen, so once I was sure that my father was dead, I ran. I didn't care what direction I went, I knew I just had to get away from Hoofington. But I knew once I got to wherever it was I was going, I would have to have a cover story. So I came up with the lie that I was a party planner's apprentice from Trottingham. I made it to Ponyville, and you took me in. That was all. But sometimes it was hard,” she continued. “You both have such a loving marriage, it makes me wonder what it would have been like if my parents had been more like you. And you know, I still hear them sometimes. Sometimes I think my family is trying to contact me from the beyond, to tell me how to live. That's why I reacted so badly when I thought Mrs. Cake had cheated on you. I could hear my dad.”
Cup and Carrot exchanged worried glances. This was a disturbing revelation that merited further consultation. While they didn't want to believe that the pony that had been a part of their family for the past six years was dangerous, it was also unlikely that she would have walked away from her family's murder without some mental scars. Carrot's own grandfather had fought in the Great War, and he'd returned with post-traumatic stress disorder. While Pan Cake hadn't been violent, exactly, Carrot had vivid memories of his grandfather waking up screaming in the middle of the night, desperately trying to get phantom ponies from the past to dodge grenades or magic blasts, or fighting nonexistent camels and griffons. The orange stallion could only imagine what it must be like for Pinkie. But her comment about being able to hear her family unnerved him. While he was sure that Pinkie was safe most of the time, it would be years before he forgot the rage in her eyes that he'd seen when she thought Cup was cheating on him.
“I won't hurt them, you know,” Pinkie said quietly, as though she could read his thoughts. “I meant what I said about protecting your foals. I couldn't save my sisters or my half-brother. Discord himself could show up here and I wouldn't let him get one mean old lion paw on you or the foals!”
“Pinkie Pie,” Cup said gently, “I'm sure you would. But I think you need to talk to somepony about this. Somepony who might be able to help you. You've lived with this as your own personal hell for too long. Nopony should have to go through what you did, but it's time that you sought help. It's not that we're afraid of you,” she said quickly, recognizing the dark, despondent expression coming over the other mare's face. “It's just that almost everypony thinks you're dead. In the eyes of the Equestrian government, Pinkamena Diane Pie died six years ago, at the age of thirteen. I always thought it was weird that you never got any tax notices. I would have thought Princess Celestia would have realized it, considering she's met you several times. I guess she didn't figure it out.”
“So, what, you're saying I should just go tell the Princess that I'm technically dead?” Pinkie asked sarcastically. Cup looked thoughtful.
“Well, you are friends with her personal student,” she mused. “Twilight would probably be able to get you an audience with her.”
Pinkie Pie opened her mouth to protest, and then conceded that the older mare had a point. She'd been carrying around the anguish of that day for far too long, and if anypony would be able to help her, it would be Princess Celestia. As it was, just telling the Cakes about her past made it feel like a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Still, though, telling the story once in a day was enough. Pinkie felt emotionally wrung out,l like she'd just run straight from Canterlot to Ponyville. All she wanted to do at the moment was to sleep.
“Tomorrow, then,” she said. “Tomorrow I'll talk to Twilight, after I get some rest.”
Carrot and Cup couldn't argue with that in the slightest, not with the way Pinkie seemed so shaken up (justifiably so, in the older ponies' opinions). Bot Cup and Carrot watched as their employee trudged up the stairs to her room, and then sat in an uncomfortable silence for quite some time.
Finally, Cup spoke. “Did you know?” Carrot shook his head.
“I knew that Pinkie Pie wasn't being entirely truthful, but I had no idea that she was connected to the Hoofington incident. Everypony thought that there were no survivors, it never occurred to me to doubt it. I know Pinkie said she grew up on a rock farm, but she said it was outside Trottingham. Apart from the accent, I never had any reason to doubt her.”
“But why didn't it occur to anypony that the name- Pie- would be connected?” Cup continued. “A filly with that name, suddenly appearing in town without her parents saying she'd grown up on a rock farm? Somepony should have recognized the red flags!”
Carrot shrugged. “Really, Cup, it's not as though 'Pie' is an uncommon name- think of everypony in Ponyville named Pie. I doubt that Sugar Pie the unicorn is related to Peachy Pie the Earth pony filly, or to Mud Pie. He's a donkey, for Celestia's sake! There is no reason to suspect everypony with a similar name is related!”
“I guess you're right,” the mare agreed. “I just wish there was something we could have done to help her! If she'd told us earlier we could have gotten her help.”
“What would we have been able to do?” Carrot sighed. “After tonight, nopony could deny that Pinkie needs psychological help. But you and I are not psychologists. The poor mare has had to live with this for six years, and you know as well as I do that it has probably caused her a lot of pain, and definitely damaged her on some level. I'm not saying she needs to be in an asylum, but you can't deny that Pinkie has problems.” Cup opened her mouth to argue against that seemingly callous statement, but Carrot continued. “And she is entirely justified in that. But do you honestly think that she would be able to live on her own?”
Cup had no way to refute that, and the couple fell into an uneasy silence once again, until Cup suddenly doubled over, breathing heavily and whimpering.
“Cup!? What!? What's wrong?!” the stallion exclaimed, frightened by the sudden onset of these symptoms.
Then, he realized that the area Cup was sitting on was damp. While he was still trying to reorganize his thoughts, Cup whispered:
“Carrot... my water broke. The foals... I'm going to have the foals!”
To Be Continued
Yow. This chapter was very difficult to write, and it's definitely a lot darker than the rest of the story, but it was necessary for some later set-up. And yes, Cup is in labor, but there's no need to worry about a graphic birth scene next chapter. I know almost nothing about how baby horses are born, and I don't think it works the same way for humans. I also do not care to Google it, either, so while the next chapter is the birth chapter, it will mostly focus on Carrot's anxiety about his wife's delivery, and Pinkie's reactions to the whole thing.
Hopefully this chapter didn't turn you off too much to continue reading...
BTW, chapter title comes from a line in the song “Bartholomew” by The Silent Comedy. I had it on repeat while I was writing.
EDIT: Oops, borked my code. Sorry about that. Hopefully the chapter should be readable now.
Deciding that it would be far better for Cup to foal at the hospital, rather than in the middle of Sugar Cube Corner, Carrot quickly called the emergency services to give his wife a lift. That left him with the awkward task of having to inform Pinkie Pie of the situation. Carrot was unsure if approaching the pink mare was a good idea at this time, especially considering what she had revealed less than an hour earlier. Ultimately, though, he decided that she deserved to know. Pinkie was in a fragile state of mind- who knew what damage it could cause if she went downstairs to discover that Cup and Carrot, the ponies who had been her surrogate parents for more than half a decade, were gone. Carrot worried that she might see it as a rejection.
So he knocked softly on Pinkie's door, entering only after he heard a muffled voice saying “come in.”
He hesitantly entered, mindful of the mare's emotional state. After what she'd told them, he was doing everything in his power to be as non-threatening as possible. While Pinkie had never shown signs of being especially wary around stallions before, Carrot knew that it was common for survivors of abuse to be hyper-vigilant around ponies that were the same gender as their abuser. So he went out of his way to show Pinkie Pie that he wasn't a threat. If the mare noticed this, however, she didn't say anything.
“You wanted to talk to me?” she asked. “I don't mean to be rude, Mr. Cake, but I don't really want to talk to anypony right now. No offense. I just need to be alone and think thinky thoughts.”
“I completely understand,” the stallion replied. “I just wanted to let you know that Cup went into labor. I'm on my way to the hospital right now. I just didn't want you to come downstairs and wonder where we were.”
It took a couple of seconds for Carrot's words to register, but once they did, Pinkie gasped in delight, eyes widening and mane returning to its usual poofy disarray.
“Mrs. Cake is having the foals?!” she squealed happily. “That's awesome! I can't wait to see the new baby ponies! I bet they're going to be soooo~ cute! We should totally go to the hospital! Mrs. Cake will need all the support she can get! We'll need to help her! And then I'll throw the biggest bestest birthday bash for the babies that Equestria- no, the entire world has ever seen! Whee!”
“Um, Pinkie?” Carrot suggested gently, “I'm not sure if that's such a good idea, for you to be in the delivery room...”
“Oh, don't worry about it, Mr. Cake! I actually know a lot about foaling! I helped my mom deliver my brother when I was thirteen!”
She said it so casually, as though she was discussing something as mundane as the weather or a new cupcake recipe, but given she she'd told him earlier in the day, it was impossible for Carrot to not notice the desperation mixed with bitter sarcasm underneath his employee's words. Had Pinkie always been like this, with despair and a caustic attitude just barely concealed by her happy demeanor? What else was lurking beneath the surface? But even as those more existential thoughts occupied his mind, he couldn't help but admit that Pinkie had a point. He didn't know the first thing about foaling. He technically knew how it worked, of course, he'd been given the birds and the bees talk when he was a colt, and he and Cup had been trying to conceive for several years before they'd turned to the Equine Reproductive Project. But all things considered, Carrot really didn't know that much about the actual foaling part of the process. And if the process of bringing new ponies into the world was as painful as movies and television shows made it seem, Cup was probably wanting to buck him in the face like Kim Kardashamane did to her coltfriend when he cheated on her on that stupid reality show he wouldn't admit to watching. Having somepony there that knew about the process (and that wasn't a doctor) might make Cup feel more at ease.
“Alright,” he said. “You can come, if you're sure you're feeling up to it.”
“Are you kidding?” the pink mare asked excitedly, bouncing around the room like her usual hyperactive self. “I'd love to! Let's go!”
Carrot followed as Pinkie rocketed out of her room and down the stairs. She ran out the door in the direction of the hospial, looking much more cheerful than he'd seen her in months. Since the incident in the clinic, if he was honest with himself. Feeling hopeful for the first time that day, Carrot thought that maybe, just maybe, everything would turn out okay.
It didn't turn out okay.
“I'm sorry, Mr. Cake, but Dr. Null Result says that nopony is to be allowed in the delivery room,” Nurse Redheart said nervously, biting at her lower lip.
“What?!” two voices, a mare and a stallion, said in unison.
“But Mrs. Cake needs another mare with her!” Pinkie protested. “A mare needs a midwife too, not just a doctor! And it's improper for her to be alone with a stallion that isn't her husband while foaling!”
“Null Result?” Carrot asked, talking across Pinkie's explanation of (rather old-fashioned) values. “I thought I made it very clear that Dr. Flatline was to attend to her! And why the buck can't I go in there with her? She's my wife! She's delivering my foals! This is ridiculous!”
“You're not being a very nice pony right now,” Pinkie said dangerously, eyes narrowing sharply. “A nice pony would at least let Mr. Cake see Mrs. Cake!”
“Pinkie, calm down,” Carrot said quickly, recognizing the danger zones he'd become intimately acquainted with in the past several hours. “It's alright. I'm sure this is just a misunderstanding. Right, Redheart?”
The nurse looked around uncomfortably. “I understand your frustration, Mr. Cake, I really do, and I do remember that you'd requested Dr. Flatline to help with the birth, but he's been called away unexpectedly to Canterlot. A family emergency, he told me- his niece was in an accident at school. Some sort of spell blew up in her face. I am not qualified to assist with a foaling, and Dr. Null Result was the only one available.”
“Fine, fine, but why can't I see my wife? She is bringing my foals into the world! I think I should at least be able to be by her side!”
Nurse Redheart shrugged apologetically yet again. “I'm sorry, sir, but the doctor told me that nopony was to go into the delivery room until the foals were born. If you'll have a seat in the waiting room, somepony will come and inform you when you can come in and see your children.”
Carrot knew when he was outmatched, so he sighed and trudged toward the waiting room. He wasn't happy about it, but he knew a lost cause when he saw one. Pinkie Pie, on the other hand, looked as though she was going to protest more and potentially cause even more problems, so Carrot decided to intervene before Pinkie could get violent.
“Pinkie, I think I forgot to lock up the shop. Why don't you go back and make sure it's closed up, and then go let your friends know about what's going on? They all mentioned wanting to come visit when the foals were born. I mean, if you want to, of course.”
The pink mare shrugged. “I guess. If you're sure that's really what you want me to do...”
“If you don't mind,” came the reply. Pinkie did as instructed, hurrying off to follow Carrot's directives, and the orange stallion sighed in relief. He had been worried for a moment, afraid that Pinkie Pie might have tried to force her way past the nurse. But once she'd left the hospital grounds, he plopped down into a hard, uncomfortable chair in the waiting room and perused the magazine selection. What was up with medical institutions only having periodicals at least three years out of date? The copy of Time laying next to him was proudly proclaiming Sapphire Shores as Mare of the Year. Hadn't that been four years ago? Picking up the horribly outdated magazine, Carrot settled in for the long haul.
Pinkie Pie, meanwhile, hurried back to Sugar Cube Corner as though she was attached to a jet-propulsion system. Just as Mr. Cake had feared, there was a queue of ponies waiting to buy sweets, Rarity among them. “Pinkie, darling, what's going on? Why aren't you at work?”
“Sorry everypony,” the pink mare called, “but we're closed today! And probably for tomorrow and the next day and the next day...”
“Oh come on!” somepony yelled. “You can't just close up like that for no reason! I got family visiting and I need a cake!”
“Then go to Bon-Bon's place,” Pinkie replied nonchalantly. “There are no cakes today. Well, there are, but there's only a few and I can't bake more and run the store at the same time, silly! Mrs. Cake is in labor!”
Suddenly, the crowd of ponies understood. “Ooohh...” came the collective gasp.
“The foals are coming? No wonder you guys closed down!” somepony said. “I completely understand! When you see her again, tell your boss congratulations!”
“Will do,” Pinkie replied, watching the crowd disperse. Rarity, once most of the ponies were gone, approached her.
“Is Mrs. Cake really in labor?” the unicorn asked. Pinkie nodded.
“Yeah. Mr. Cake is at the hospital right now, Mrs. Cake is in delivery. I came back to make sure everypony knew that we were closed for now. I could probably keep the store open for a while, honestly, but I'm just one pony! I can't bake and run the cash register at the same time!” Pinkie shook her head vigorously. “Nope. No can do. But come on! Let's go tell the others! I bet they want to see the new baby ponies too!”
“Are you sure that's a good idea, darling?” Rarity asked. “Mrs. Cake must be terribly tired after foaling!”
“Oh, don't worry about it!” Pinkie chirped. “Mr. Cake told me to let everypony know what was going on! He told me all of my friends would want to see the foals, so he told me to bring you all by!” The pink mare conveniently left out the fact that her employer had suggested that to get her out of a tense situation. Rarity really didn't need to know the details. They didn't concern her.
Of course the white unicorn was curious about the foals, and she also especially liked to gossip, so she didn't take much convincing. “Oh! Well, if you're sure...” she said, “why don't I go tell the girls?”
“Okie-doki-loki!” Pinkie replied cheerfully. “You go get everypony and head over to the hospital. I'll meet you there. I've got some stuffies to take care of here!” Rarity agreed, and hurried off to go spread the news. Pinkie, however, slipped up to her room as soon as Rarity was out of sight. She collapsed onto her bed, tears leaking from her eyes. She wept for the past, for the deaths she'd failed to prevent, for the incidents she blamed herself for, and yet, she also cried from happiness. Maybe this was her chance to right the wrongs of the past. She'd failed to protect her half-brother. But she could protect these foals.
“I swear I won't let you down,” she whispered. “I swear it on my Element!”
Carrot thought he was going to explode from nervous energy. How long did it take for a mare to give birth, anyway? He paced back and forth, mind running a mile a minute. Was Cup okay? Was that useless waste of space of a doctor doing his job properly? What about Pinkie Pie? Carrot knew, theoretically, that his pink employee knew how to handle things regarding the shop, but it still worried him. One doesn't easily remove six years of an impression of somepony being flighty and kind of irresponsible, even if it, in fact, becomes apparent that said irresponsible pony's behavior was nothing more than a front. It was still a lot to take in, and for a stallion eagerly anticipating the birth of his foals, rationality was not necessarily the order of the day.
Grinding his teeth in frustration, Carrot resumed pacing back and fort. He almost regretted stopping Pinkie from barging into the delivery room. At least then he would maybe have some idea of what was going on.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Dr. Null Result poked his head into the waiting room and grinned nastily at the waiting Earth pony stallion. “Your wife has delivered safely and is resting with... her foals,” he said sardonically, placing special emphasis on the female pronoun. “She's asking to see you, so I told her I'd come get you. But don't be surprised if they're not quite what you expected... seems like Cup Cake has been a bit, shall we say, busy?” the doctor snickered.
Carrot felt like the bottom had dropped out of his stomach. He knows, he thought. He knows the foals aren't mine!
Instantaneously, however, Carrot's fear was replaced by a wave of vicious rage crashing over him. Where did that worthless doctor get off making assumptions like that, even if they might technically be true? What business was it of his if those foals weren't biologically related to the father? Since when was Cup's “virtue” any of his concern? And whatever happened to doctor-patient confidentiality?
Before he could think any more and talk himself out of it, Carrot launched himself across the room so that he was glaring down at the shorter stallion. Instinctively, Null Result flinched.
“I swear to Celestia, Result, if I ever hear you say anything of that sort again, I will end you,” Carrot snarled. “What happens in my family is none of your concern, and if you think I will let you threaten them or insinuate untrue things without consequences, you have another think coming. Now get the buck out of my sight before I kick you into next Tuesday and let Discord sort you out.”
Null Result shrank back in fright. Quiet, unassuming Mr. Cake really could be quite frightening when he was angry.
“Very well, then,” the doctor said, rather shakily. “I'll let you and your wife bond with your... offspring.”
Carrot glared at the other stallion's retreating form. Somehow he thought he hadn't seen the last of the disgusting doctor, but he couldn't bring himself to expend any more mental energy on the wretch. He had a wife and foals- FOALS! to attend to.
The orange Earth pony made his way to the delivery room, where his wife was resting with the foals. She lay back on the pillows, eyes closed, while two tiny ponies- a male and a female- laid against their mother's chest. The filly was a pale orange unicorn, a few shades lighter than Carrot himself, the colt a cream-colored pegasus.
They were the most perfect foals he'd ever seen.
Lazily, Cup opened her eyes and focused on her husband, smiling weakly. “We have a son and a daughter,” she whispered.
“Yes we do...” Carrot murmured, still trying to really process the situation. He was a father. He and Cup were parents. “What... what are their names?” he asked.
“I thought I would ask you before I made anything official,” Cup answered, “but I think I like Pumpkin for our daughter. Pumpkin Cake has a nice sound to it, don't you think?”
“Yeah. Pumpkin Cake. I like that,” Carrot replied. “What about the colt?”
“You know, his coloring reminds me a little bit of those soap-cakes you used to be able to buy, that smelled like lavender. I was thinking Soap for our son. What do you think?”
Carrot looked at his wife, mirth dancing in his eyes. “I think the pain medication has scrambled your brain,” he gently teased. “Soap Cake? What kind of a name is that?”
Cup did laugh at that. “Now that I think about it, you're right. But what do you think we should call him, then? Nothing else makes sense to me.”
“What about Short Cake?” Carrot suggested.
“Isn't that your cousin's name?”
“What about Funnel Cake?”
“Ugh, no, that sounds ridiculous.”
“That sounds like a mare's name, don't you think?”
“True, true... what about Pontefract Cake?”
“Yuck. You know I hate liquorice. Why would I name my son after a liquorice cake?”
“How about Banana Cake?”
“Nah, he's not the right coloring for that.”
“Let's see you come up with something better, then!” Cup challenged.
“Fine,” Carrot said. He thought for a moment. Then, “Pound Cake. Our son is named Pound Cake.”
“Pound Cake,” Cup murmured. “I like that.”
Almost as soon as they'd decided on a name for him, the little pegasus opened his eyes and blinked up at Carrot quizzically, like he was asking “who are you?”
“Hello there, son,” the orange stallion said quietly, smiling when his voice woke up the tiny unicorn as well, who peered up at him like she was studying him. Carrot felt like his heart was going to burst from his happiness. He was the father of these foals! “Happy birthday,” he murmured, taking Pumpkin from her mother and cuddling her close. “Happy birthday.”
Sororal Heart Private School, in downtown Manehattan, was an ideal learning environment featuring attentive teachers, rigorous academics, and a diverse student body. The school boasted a surplus of highly-ranked teachers, and was proud to welcome students of all races and species, from all over the world. The facilities were state-of-the-art, and students could join various clubs and activities to keep their minds sharp.
At least, that was what the promotional materials for the school said.
In reality, while the school facilities were quite nice, most of the other claims were either outright lies or the truth had been stretched so much that it was now paper-thin. The students who got the top education were mostly either the children of celebrities, politicians, or wealthy ponies who could afford to donate fat checks to the school every so often. The students who'd gotten in on merit, or scholarship, or whose parents had to work three jobs to afford their tuition? They were relegated to the lowest priority, and the school's administration turned a blind eye to problems like bullying and low academic performance. That was the way it had always been, and that was the way it was going to stay, at least if those at the top had anything to say about it.
Which was why students like Keylogger and his two best friends were such a problem. Nopony could deny that the Earth pony colt was brilliant, but he was such a troublemaker. He already knew the entire computer class curriculum, and he had no qualms about obnoxiously correcting the teachers if they got something wrong. He also seemed to have some sort of misplaced sense of morality. After all, a year ago, the administration had to suspend him for bucking a filly in the face. The filly in question had been the daughter of one of the biggest donors to the school, so of course, there was no question that the colt would have to be punished severely.
Keylogger, unsurprisingly, didn't see it that way.
“But Miss Chalkboard, Shale called Saffron a really rude specist name! My mom said that if she ever caught me using words like that, she'd wash my mouth out with soap and kick my flank! “ the colt protested. “If anypony should be getting in trouble, it's Shale! Do you know what she called Saffron? She called her a 'sand-muncher!'”
Saffron was a camel. By all rights, it should have been a cut-and-dried case- Keylogger should have been suspended for fighting, and Shale should have been suspended for specism and bullying. But instead, Shale got off scot-free while Keylogger and Saffron ended up suspended. Once they were allowed back in school, however, the two became fast friends. A few weeks later, a unicorn colt named Dark Star joined their group, and the three of them had been inseparable ever since.
Because of their bond, Saffron and Dark Star were the only other ponies (or in Saffron's case, camel) that knew about Keylogger's family “business.” And since the colt told his friends everything, of course, he told them about the visit with Moneybags.
“So yesterday this really weird unicorn comes into the store and asks for my parents,” Keylogger explained during break time. “I thought it was really weird, especially since he knew my name, and I kinda panicked. I thought he might have been with the EBI or something. But it turns out he's worked with my parents before, back before I was born and when I was a little foal. Anyway, he had a job for them, and for the first time, my parents are letting me join in and get paid for it! Can you believe it? I'm gonna get 50 bits for it too! I'm gonna ask Lavender Blast to go see the new Iron Mare movie with me, once I get the money!”
“Awesome, dude!” Dark Star cheered on his friend. Saffron, however, just rolled her eyes.
“Bulls,” she said in her accented Equestrian. “You never think anything through! A cow doesn't want to go to action movie on first date! You have to take her some place nice. Like a fancy restaurant. Like Lemongrass.” Keylogger stared at his friends.
“Are you crazy?! I can't afford to take her to Lemongrass! Like, a small salad there is 40 bits! I can't afford that!”
“How many times do I have to tell you,” Dark Star said, in good-natured irritation, “ponies are mares and stallions, not cows and bulls!” Saffron shrugged.
“But I am not a pony,” was all she said.
“Anyway, I'm going home today and working on this project. You guys wanna come? I can ask my mom to make some smoothies and cookies or something.”
“Sorry Keylogger,” Saffron answered apologetically. “I got D on my last Equestrian Literature test. Mother will be angry if Mr. Syntax calls her. I have to go and study and warn her.” Dark Star snorted.
“That's horseapples. You moved here from Saddle Arabia what, two years ago? Sticking you in Equestrian Literature with the rest of us who've been speaking Equestrian our entire lives isn't fair! Syntax has it in for you!” Keylogger nodded in agreement.
“Seriously, Saffron, that's bucked up,” he agreed. “You want me to re-route his paycheck for you?”
“No! Please do not do that!” the camel exclaimed in alarm. “Do not get into trouble for me!” I just need to study more, is all.” Keylogger rolled his eyes.
“Do you honestly think Dark Star and I would be able to learn Bactrian that quickly if we moved to Saddle Arabia? You already speak Equestrian better than I do anyway. Besides, you even understood that stupid book more. You were the one who figured out it was an allegory for Princess Luna's banishment! I just thought it was about a really obnoxious pegasus. Syntax has no legitimate reason to give you bad grades.” Keylogger shook his head, Dark Star copying his friend's movement.
“I'm not stupid, Saffron,” the unicorn said. “I know exactly what's going on here, and I think you do too. This school is full of specist idiots. That's all it is. No amount of studying will get your grades up. The best thing you can do is let Keylogger go to town.”
“I have to try,” the camel protested.
Keylogger hummed slightly, lost in thought. “This guy my parents are working with apparently has a lot of influence and is really powerful... maybe we can ask if he'll help us.” He turned back to his friends. “Come over. I'll finish this job thing, and then I'll ask my mom how to get in touch with Mr. Moneybags. From what I understand he's big in the finance district, maybe we can convince him to cut off money to this place if they don't change or something.”
“Great idea! Let's meet back here after school and we'll head on over to Keylogger's house!”
“I don't really have a choice, do I?” sighed Saffron.
“If we didn't take the initiative, nothing would ever get done around here!” Dark Star exclaimed. “You're lucky to have us looking out for you!”
Hexadecimal glanced at the clock adorning the shop's wall. 2:56 PM. In a few minutes, barring anything unexpected (like Keylogger getting stuck in detention- again), her son would be home. Binary had already done most of the really hard parts- he'd broken into the Equine Reproductive Project's database. Hexadecimal wanted Keylogger to get a good look at the internal structure of the database, and she wanted especially for him to get some practice using queries. After all, if he was going into their line of work, he would be seeing a lot of the insides of databases, and he needed to know how to access the information contained therein.
At exactly 3:02, the door to the shop opened, and Keylogger entered, accompanied by his two best friends- the unicorn colt and the camel... filly? Hexadecimal wasn't exactly sure what one called a female camel, but Saffron was a good kid. She was polite and respectful, something that Keylogger could occasionally stand to emulate.
“Hello,” she greeted, watching as the children entered. “Not that I mind that you two are here, but Keylogger has some obligations to take care of.” The mare shot a glance at her son, who just shrugged. “He needs to take care of them before he does anything else, but you two are welcome to play around on the computers free of charge.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Hexadecimal,” Saffron said politely, “but I really cannot stay...”
“Mama, do you think that Mr. Moneybags could help us with a problem?” Keylogger cut across his friend before she could object. “Saffron is having some trouble in school, and it's not her fault. That teacher is a bucking specist asshole-”
“Language,” Hexadecimal warned, but there was no bite to it. “Is this true?” she addressed the camel gently. Saffron stiffened, and looked like she might try to deny it, but Dark Star stepped in.
“Yes ma'am,” he answered. “Mr. Syntax has Saffron in the same Equestrian Literature class as native speakers and he keeps finding excuses to give her failing grades, even when her work is better than everypony else's. It's not fair, and Saffron is too scared to say anything-”
“Hey!” the camel protested.
“What? It's true. Keylogger says that the stallion you're working with is important and that he might be able to help us get the school to stop treating her so badly.”
The mare rounded on her son. “You told them?” she practically shrieked. Keylogger nodded, looking defensive.
“Mama, they're my best friends. And they were here when you and Dad did that Bank of Equestria job. They kind of already knew about the family business.... and it's not like they'll tell anyone.”
The dusky-pink mare deflated a bit at that. “I'd forgotten about that,” she murmured, more to herself than to anyone else. “Well... I suppose in that case... well, I don't know what Moneybags would be able to do in your school.... as far as I know he has no connection to it at all. But don't worry, Saffron dear. Binary, Keylogger, and I will look into everything. It will turn out alright, I promise you.”
Saffron looked uncomfortable. “Mrs. Hexadecimal, I appreciate it, but it is not necessary. I solve the problem myself.”
“On the contrary, my dear,” Hexadecimal responded. “I raised Keylogger to accept everyone for who they are. I don't much like the idea of my son going to a school where specism is acceptable. I'm very proud of him for not letting your instructors' prejudices rub off on him. My own mother hated non-Earth ponies. I swore I wouldn't be like her, and I swore I wouldn't let my son turn out like her either. Why, when she found out my father's birth father was a unicorn...” the mare cut herself off there. “Well, it's not important. You two, go have fun. And you,” she snapped, eyes darting towards her son, “had best get your flank in that basement and find that information for Mr. Moneybags!” Having given her orders, Hexadecimal turned back to the children. “I'll set to making some smoothies and cookies for you, alright? I have chocolate chips, but do you have any particular smoothie preferences?”
“Just hay for me please,” Dark Star said.
“Can you make strawberry banana?” Saffron asked. Hexadecimal nodded.
“You're in luck. I have strawberries and I have bananas. I'll get right to it.” Then, she turned to look at her son. “What are you still doing up here? Get in that basement, now!”
Once Keylogger was in the basement and his mother safely out of earshot in the kitchen, Dark Star turned to Saffron. “Do you think Keylogger's mom's okay? She seems a little worked up.”
“Isn't Mrs. Hexadecimal always kind of... oh, how would you say it in Equestrian?- hyper?” Saffron answered.
“Yeah, but it's usually like happy-hyper or something.” The unicorn colt obviously wasn't sure what he wanted to say, exactly. “She usually doesn't get pissed like that, and Keylogger says she never, ever mentions her mother. I don't think Keylogger has ever met his biological maternal grandmother. I always assumed she was dead.” Saffron looked bemused.
“Do ponies often discuss their families with one another?” she asked. The unicorn colt snorted.
“Seriously, Saffron, I wish you could come to a Hearth's Warming Eve party sometime. Most ponies reunite with their entire extended families before they go watch the pageants. It's really something to see. My entire family comes all the way in from places as far as Las Neighgas and Appaloosa. My uncle married a zebra, and he and Auntie Zoan fly in from Zebrica every year. I have a cousin who works as liaison to the griffons, and he always tries to come in from Griffinvale, although it's not always possible.”
“I believe you. I am sure it is interesting. I just cannot go to one,” Saffron replied sadly. “I would like to meet your zebra aunt.”
“Yeah, I know. Your parents don't want you to get too Equestrianized. Which is horseapples, just so you know. Don't camels have holidays where they get to see their families?” Saffron shrugged.
“Sort of. But when a cow gets married, she is no longer considered to be a part of her family, she is part of her husband's,” the camel explained. “And in traditionalist families like my mother's, the cow is often not allowed to see her family unless it is for funeral.”
“That's horseapples,” the unicorn reiterated. Saffron laughed.
“My family, on my father's side, isn't so traditional. But I do not see them often either, because my grandmother does not like my mother very much. Religious conflict, you see- Mother is very strict in following the traditional camel religion. Grandmother... well, she's an... I don't know how to say it in Equestrian, but she doesn't believe in any god or goddess, not even Princess Celestia or Princess Luna.”
“She doesn't believe in the princesses?” Dark Star asked, confused. “Like... she doesn't believe they exist?”
“No, no, she believes they exist,” Saffron answered. “She just doesn't think they are... uh... I don't know the word.”
Dark Star laughed and rolled his eyes. “Then who does she think raises the sun and moon?”
“I never asked her,” the camel replied. The two broke down into giggles.
“Your family is weird,” Dark Star teased good-naturedly. Saffron snorted.
“You ponies are not much better,” she shot back, before dissolving into laughter again.
In the kitchen, Hexadecimal cradled her head in her hooves. “Stupid, stupid,” she muttered to herself. “Why are you so bucking stupid?” Not even Binary knew the full extent of her family drama, and he'd been dating her when it all went down.
It wasn't really anything tragic, unless you considered it tragic in the sense that it showed the darker, more corrupt side of the pony condition. Hell, if it had been the storyline to one of her television dramas, she would have lapped it right up, glued to the screen throughout. It was a classic drama- stallion falls in love with mare, mare turns out to be a bigoted jerk, stallion is actually of mixed heritage, so he hides his background, stallion and mare get married without the mare ever knowing. That accurately described the predicament that Hexadecimal's father, Black Hat, found himself in when he met her mother, Pink Tweed. Pink Tweed came from a family of Earth pony supremacists. Supposedly, they could trace their lineage all the way back to Chancellor Puddinghead, although the lessons about learning to cooperate, understand, and trust other ponies despite their differences obviously didn't take for that branch of the family.
Black Hat had been an Earth pony as well, although he came from a mixed union. While his mother, New Clover, had been an Earth pony, his father, the unfortunately-named Zero, had been a unicorn. When Black Hat met Pink Tweed, it was love at first sight. When the stallion learned of his wife's... beliefs, he'd done everything in his power to hide the truth of his parentage. Zero had died of an illness two years before his son met the love of his life, so it wasn't especially difficult to pretend that his widowed mother had been married to an Earth pony stallion. It also helped that New Clover absolutely despised Pink Tweed and wouldn't let the other mare in her house.
The pair had three foals: Hexadecimal, the eldest, Unplugged Cable, a colt, and Starlight, a filly. Starlight, unfortunately, fell ill while she was very young, the disease rendering her essentially catatonic, although she did have moments of lucidity. Currently, she lived in Manehattan Assisted Living Facility. While as time went on, she became more and more lucid, she still wasn't strong enough, or conscious enough consistently to be able to live on her own. Pink Tweed had all but abandoned her youngest foal when she'd fallen ill. Black Hat used to visit his daughter, until he was sent to prison for breaking into computer systems, and nopony had seen Unplugged Cable for years, so Hexadecimal was the only one who still bothered with her.
Hexadecimal and Unplugged Cable grew up about as well as could be expected, given their circumstances. Unplugged Cable probably turned out the best, having adopted neither his mother's bigoted beliefs nor his father's disregard for the law. Hexadecimal did inherit her father's attitudes, but disavowed her mother's beliefs. Things were calm, for a while.
Then everything got shot to shit.
First, Black Hat tripped up and got caught breaking into the Equestrian government's computer systems. Two days after he was arrested, Unplugged Cable announced that he'd gotten a pegasus mare pregnant.
Pink Tweed was furious, but was willing to overlook her son's transgression and help raise her grandfoal, provided that it was an Earth pony like its father, and not a pegasus like its mother.
Nine months later, the pegasus mare gave birth to a unicorn filly.
The truth eventually came out- Black Hat's father had been a unicorn, and Unplugged Cable had passed on the genes to his daughter. The reveal was too much for Pink Tweed to take, who divorced her incarcerated husband and disowned the two children who she'd still acknowledged.
Hexadecimal, for her part, didn't give a flying hoof about her mother abandoning them. Frankly, she was glad to see the back of the meddling old nag. But she did worry for Unplugged Cable and his family. Cable refused to reveal the identity of the mare and her daughter, then one day up and disappeared without a trace. It had been six years since then, and nopony had seen mane nor tail of the stallion.
Hexadecimal smirked bitterly to herself. Her mother's attempts at indoctrination had utterly failed. The mare might have had somewhat skewed morals (and that was putting it mildly), but she had two principles that guided everything she did: loyalty to her family and friends, and a deep, abiding disgust for bigotry. That's why her rage had boiled over at her son's explanation of what his little camel friend had been enduring.
No, she wouldn't stand for it. Not at all.
Keylogger went down to the basement, ready to complete the task that his parents had set for him. Just as his mother had said, his father had already done most of the hacking itself. All he had to do was find the information. Given that Moneybags had provided them with his official record number assigned by the Equine Reproductive Project, it took less than ten minutes for the colt to ferret out the information he was looking for. Apparently Moneybags had only been selected as a donor by one couple.
Clicking on the profile, Keylogger scanned the information about the mare that would be carrying the unicorn's foal before hitting “print.” She seemed pretty ordinary: worked as a baker in a small, podunk town in the middle of nowhere called Ponyville, was married to another baker, the works. Her name was apparently “Cup Cake.” Keylogger snorted at that. He knew it was impolite to make fun of somepony's name, but seriously? Cupcake? Why couldn't she just be called Cupcake? Why Cup space Cake? That was just silly.
Once the page had printed out, Keylogger was about to close out of the window when something else on the page caught his eye. Apparently Cupcake (sorry, Cup Cake) had chosen a second stallion as a donor. Curious, the colt clicked on the hyperlinked number and was taken to a different page, featuring an oddly familiar-looking pegasus stallion named Steel Seethe. Deciding that Moneybags might want this information too, Keylogger printed out that page as well. He wouldn't have given it any more thought if he hadn't glanced down at the stallion's home address, in black-and-white on the printed page.
137490 Rainboom Way, Unit 2F, Manehattan, Equestria.
Lavender Blast's house.
To Be Continued
ARGH. Too... much... plot. The next time I decide I want to write a novel-length fic, someone stop me.
Actually, I have a question for anyone reading this: would you prefer for me to cut out some of the side plots, and streamline the story somewhat? When I first planned out this story, it took up one page of looseleaf paper, front and back. Now, it's six pages of looseleaf, front and back on all of them. But some of the extra layers to this story could be deleted without affecting the main storyline. Like, the hacker ponies, Derpy's part (which will be coming up eventually although you do get a clue to what it is in this chapter), and the side plot with Keylogger's friends... none of this is exactly directly related to the Cake family, although it does add more depth to the story. All of this could be deleted and it would shorten the eventual length of the story by about ten chapters.
I don't want to bore anyone reading this, so let me know if you want me to keep the sub-plots. If you don't, that's fine too, I won't be offended. :)
“Guys! Guys! Hey, guys!” Keylogger hissed, poking his head out of the basement. “Get over here! I need to talk to you!”
Saffron and Dark Star looked at each other questioningly but did as the Earth pony colt asked. “What's up, dude?” Dark Star asked. “Did you finish whatever it was that you had to do?”
“Yeah, and you'll never guess what I found out! This is crazy, you won't believe it!”
“Are you going to tell us, then?” Saffron asked.
“I was getting to that!” Keylogger retorted. “You guys remember what Mr. Formaldehyde was talking about in biology class last month?”
“Uh... how ponies used to have to dissect frogs for biology when he was growing up, but that Princess Celestia outlawed those experiments ten years ago?” the unicorn guessed.
“What? No! You weirdo, that's not what I meant at all!” Keylogger exclaimed. “Remember what he said about genetics? How that different kinds of ponies can mate and have foals with zebras and donkeys, and sometimes other things can have offspring?”
“Uh, sure, I guess,” Dark Star replied. “But what does that have to do with anything?”
“If you would stop interrupting me for three bucking seconds, I'd be able to tell you!” the Earth pony colt snapped.
“Hey, you asked!” the unicorn retorted.
“It was a rhetorical question, numbnuts!”
“Who are you calling numbnuts, numbnuts?”
“GUYS!” Saffron yelled, the camel quickly losing her patience with her friends. “You fighting over which is the numbnuts is getting us nowhere! I don't even know what that's supposed to mean!”
“Sorry,” both colts apologized. Keylogger quickly picked up where he left off. “Anyway, as I was trying to say, this place we had to hack into to do the job? It's this place called the Equine Reproductive Project. Apparently they study how we get baby ponies.”
Dark Star was lost. “But... don't we already know how we get baby ponies? I mean, when a mare and a stallion love each other very much...”
“Well, no, everypony knows where foals come from. This is more, uh, theoretical, I guess. Like what happens if you cross different types of ponies, or a pony and a zebra, or if two ponies can't have foals... it's like... genetics or something. Yeah, they're studying genetics.”
“I do not understand... that is not a good thing?” Saffron asked. “I know back in Saddle Arabia they were doing something similar, to make sure cows are healthy before they give birth, so the calf will be healthy too. I know Equestria is better with medicine, but still, it is dangerous, yes?”
“It's not exactly a bad thing.... it's just that in order to do that, they need, uh, donations. Mr. Moneybags provided one of those donations, and according to what I found, so did Lavender Blast's dad!”
“What, so they donated money or something?” Dark Star was completely baffled as to why his friend was freaking out about this. Ponies donated money to causes they found worthy all the time. Why was this any different?
“No, not money!” Keylogger practically shrieked. “They donated their genetic material!”
“Keylogger, speak plain Equestrian!” The Earth pony colt huffed.
“I was trying to be polite and subtle, but fine. Dark Star, it's a sperm bank.” The unicorn burst out laughing, while the camel just looked confused.
“I... don't know what that means,” Saffron apologized. That only made Dark Star laugh even harder, and Keylogger resisted the urge to face-hoof.
“Will you shut up?” he snapped at the other pony before turning to Saffron. “Uh, you know how to make a baby, you have to have the female's... uh, you know, what's inside of her? And that you also need the male's... stuff? Oh Celestia I wish I spoke Bactrian, this would be so much less awkward. Well, the Equestrian word for the males stuff is, uh, sperm, and sometimes ponies will donate it to make more ponies with.” The colt was blushing a ferocious fuchsia color underneath his blue coat, powerfully enough that it was clearly obvious. It took a little while for Saffron to parse what Keylogger had just explained, but before long, she was blushing furiously as well, muttering under her breath in an embarrassed mixture of Bactrian and Equestrian.
By this point, Dark Star had finally stopped laughing and was instead looking at his two friends with a contemplative expression on his face. “So you're saying this Moneybags guy donated to this sperm bank? So what?”
“I don't give a flying hoof about Moneybags,” Keylogger responded. “But I just found out that Lavender Blast's dad did too.”
“AND that the same ponies that chose Moneybags to be the father of their foal ALSO chose Lavender Blast's dad as a father! Do you know what this means?”
“Oh...” Understanding dawned in Saffron's eyes. “Lavender Blast might have a sibling!”
“Oh yeah? And how did you deduce that, Sherlock Pones?”
“Sherlock Pones? Really?” Keylogger rolled his eyes. “And yes, I know that the pony involved is Lavender's dad because it had his address on it. Lavender once mentioned that she doesn't have any siblings, so it couldn't be an older brother or something.” The Earth pony colt nodded. “Yeah, so I've got to tell Lavender about this. She deserves to know about it!”
“I dunno, Keylogger,” the unicorn said dubiously. “It's really not our business. Maybe we should just let it be. I mean, that guy you did the work for will get all that stuff and he'll decide if he wants to tell the other stallion involved. I mean, technically you weren't supposed to be in that database at all. How are you going to explain how you have sensitive information about Lavender Blast's family?”
“Since when are you the police?” Keylogger dismissed. “You've never cared about that sort of thing before.”
“I know. It's just that this whole thing is different. This isn't breaking into the school's system to change our grades or downloading movies and video games, Keylogger. This is about other ponies' lives, and I don't think we should be messing with this. It's not right, and it's dangerous.”
Keylogger, however, ignored his friend's reservation. “Whatever. You two do what you want,” he said, sliding the printouts into his the folder his mother had prepared for Moneybags. “I'm going to do what I know is right.” He snorted irately. “See you guys at school tomorrow.”
“I think we've been kicked out,” Saffron whispered. Dark Star nodded.
“See you, I guess,” he said hesitantly, before leaving the computer cafe. Saffron shrugged, looking at the door the unicorn had just exited, then turned her attention to Keylogger.
“I will support you, but Dark Star does have a point,” the camel warned. “I hope you know what you are doing. I do not want to see you hurt.” With that, she left as well, leaving a fuming Keylogger behind.
“Nopony understands!” the colt grumbled under his breath. “Nocamel either! Why do they not get how important this is? Maybe Lavender Blast has a sibling! She has a right to know! I'll have to tell her, it's the right thing to do! I'm doing it because it's the right thing to do!”
Making up his mind, Keylogger dashed back down to the basement and printed off another copy of the information about the pegasus stallion he believed to be Lavender Blast's father. Stuffing the paper into his saddle-bag, he picked up the folder with the other documents and took it into the kitchen, setting it down next to his mother. Hexadecimal looked up and smiled.
“Oh good! You got it! Excellent! Money bags will be here in an hour or two to pick it up. You'll have to tell him all about what you found!”
“Actually, mama, I've... got to do something. I'm, uh, going over to Dark Star's place. We're going to work on a project for school. Yeah.” The colt looked at the floor, desperately hoping that his mother wouldn't see through his (fairly obvious) lie.
“Why can't you do it here?” Hexadecimal asked, frowning.
“Because, uh, we don't want to get in the way of any customers,” Keylogger said quickly, aware that his excuse sounded terribly unbelievable. Three foals using one computer was unlikely to have any sort of effect whatsoever on the customers, assuming anypony even came in. Hexadecimal knew her son was up to something, but ultimately just shrugged.
“I suppose it's alright. Just don't stay out too late, it's a school night.”
“Yes mama,” Keylogger said quickly, before dashing out the door.
“Why are we hiding behind Keylogger's house?” Saffron asked, rolling her eyes at the way Dark Star lurked behind a trash can. “We will get all smelly.”
“Keylogger is going to do something stupid, I just know it,” the unicorn colt replied. “If we hide here we can keep an eye on him and stop him before he does something he'll regret!”
“And the best way to do that is to hide in the trash?” the camel asked dubiously. “What if Mrs. Hexadecimal comes to empty the bin and finds you here? How will you explain?” Dark Star snorted.
“Mrs. Hexadecimal never comes outside unless it is dark out and Mr. Binary is usually asleep now. Nopony will come out here. It's fine, Saffron, stop being such a scaredy-pony. Uh, camel,” he quickly amended. “Is scaredy-camel even a word?”
“I don't know, you're the one whose native language is Equestrian,” Saffron sighed.
“That doesn't mean I know every single word!”
“Then why say it if you do not know?”
“Shut up, not all of us can be bilingual.”
“Actually, I speak three languages. I am also fluent in the Dromedan dialect. I cannot read it well though.”
“Well, excuse me, Ms. Egghead!”
“What is 'egghead?'”
“Oh come on, seriously? You speak three languages but you don't know what 'egghead' means?”
The pair was so busy bickering that they did not notice the slam of the shop door and the hoofbeats hurrying off in the opposite direction.
Keylogger did not often venture into this part of the city. It was a run-down area, and not the sort of place you'd want to be lost in. It wasn't that the Earth pony colt was afraid of the area, or that he was any stranger to poverty and desperation. The section of Manehattan that he'd been born and raised in certainly wasn't wealthy. Manehattan in general was not devoid of crime, and Keylogger could recollect several instances right in his own neighborhood. In the past year alone, the mare that ran the bar a few shops down from his own family's business, Melon Daiquiri, had been assaulted and robbed, Moonshadow, a clerk at the local electronics store, had disappeared, and there had been several home invasions. But all things considered, the residents of Keylogger's neighborhood all looked out for each other. After the attack, the ponies had all banded together to help Melon Daiquiri and even three months later, everypony was still looking for Moonshadow.
No, the part of town that Lavender Blast called home had at one point been prosperous, or at least a great deal wealthier than Keylogger's home. However, due to that, it had been hit incredibly hard by the economic recession that had occurred several years prior. It was also the home of the Manehattan Weather Factory, which a year previously had been the site of a destructive industrial accident. Several ponies were killed in the explosion, and over a hundred others were injured. Due to that combination of factores, this part of the city felt dull, lifeless, and shrouded by despair and desperation. It chilled the colt to the bone, to think that it was possible for an entire neighborhood to lose its soul and life like that.
Eventually, Keylogger turned onto Rainboom Way, the street where Lavender Blast lived. He trotted up to her apartment, and knocked on the door.
He waited. And waited.
After a while, just before he was about to give up and go home, the colt heard unsteady hoofbeats coming up to the door. The latch clicked, and Keylogger suddenly hoped that his mane and tail were presentable. Even if he was about to drop some potentially earth-shattering news on her, Keylogger still wanted to look his best for his crush.
The door slowly swung open, and Keylogger took a deep breath, ready to explain to Lavender what he was doing at her house. Instead of a filly, however, a skeletal-thin pegasus mare stood at the door. The resemblance to Lavender was uncanny, but Keylogger couldn't stop staring for a different reason. The mare was covered from her shoulders to the middle of her chest in painful-looking scars, and what remained of her wings was a tattered mess.
Belatedly, Keylogger remembered that Lavender Blast had been out of school for a month and a half last year, around the time of the weather factory accident. Putting two and two together, he deduced that this badly injured mare was a survivor of the accident, and was likely Lavender's mother. All of a sudden, Keylogger started to rethink his plan. Maybe Dark Star had been right, that this really was none of his business. In his desire to get Lavender Blast's attention, he had ignored the possibility that maybe it would be better if the pegasus filly and her family didn't know about a potential sibling. Would Mrs. Blast (or whatever her name was) see the existence of a potential foal as infidelity? Was it really a good idea to mess around with other ponies' information the way he had?
“Can I... help you?” the mare asked slowly, yanking Keylogger out of his thoughts. Oh. Right. He'd just knocked on this door and the mare was probably wondering what he was there for. Thinking quickly, the colt came up with a cover story, using the name of one of his parents' clients. The name was common enough that it wouldn't attract unwanted attention and he could play it off as simply a case of the wrong address.
“Oh. I'm sorry,” he bluffed. “I must have the wrong apartment. I was looking for Crème Caramel. I guess I wrote the apartment number down wrong.”
The mare looked confused. “Crème Caramel? I don't think there's anypony by that name in this building.”
Again, Keylogger had to come up with a quick cover story. “This isn't 134790 Rainbow Way?” he asked, doing his best to school his features into a look of confusion. Thankfully, the mare seemed to buy it, since she laughed a bit.
“You have the building number right, but the wrong street. Rainbow Way is six or seven blocks west. This is RainBOOM Way.”
“Oooh!” Keylogger tried to fake surprise. “That would make sense. Thanks, ma'am!”
“Anytime,” the mare said, watching as the colt scurried way. He was so focused on getting out of there that he didn't even notice a piece of paper fall from his saddle-bag and float gently to the ground. “Hey!” the mare called, as loudly as she could without breaking down into a coughing fit. “You dropped-” but it was too late. The colt was long-gone.
Wincing with the exertion, the mare bent down to retrieve the paper. Ignoring the horrific pain that shot through her body, she opened it up and read what it had to say. Her eyes widened. “But this is-” She never got to finish her thought, her mind blacking out and her body falling over in a dead faint.
“So you're telling me that this is definitely the couple that's going to have my foal?” Moneybags asked, eyeing the printout that Binary and Hexadecimal had given him.
“That's what Keylogger found,” Binary replied. “He did find the right ponies. I checked it myself.”
“Cup and Carrot Cake? Of Ponyville?” the unicorn stallion read. “Where the buck is Ponyville?”
“Don't look at me,” Hexadecimal said, shrugging. “I haven't left Manehattan since my middle-school field trip to Canterlot!”
“Of course,” Moneybags muttered. “Hey, what's this?” he asked, noticing the second printout.
“Beats me,” Binary replied. “Must've been something Keylogger printed out and it got mixed in with your stuff. Sorry about that. It seems like I'm always telling that colt to stop leaving his stuff all over the Discord-damned place. I'll get it, don't worry.”
But the unicorn ignored the Earth pony stallion and instead stared at the extra paper. “Hexadecimal... Binary- did you take a look at this?”
“No,” Hexadecimal replied, at the same time her husband added,
“Should I have?”
“Probably,” Moneybags stated gravely. “Apparently these Ponyville ponies took a second donor. And he's here in Manehattan as well.”
The Earth ponies peered at the document, seeing for themselves what the unicorn was telling them. Both of them looked at each other, back at the paper, at Moneybags, then back to each other.
“Remind me to give that colt an increase in his allowance,” Hexadecimal finally said.
To Be Continued
I'm sorry this took so long to get out. I had a combination of factors working against me here- I fell down the stairs and hurt my back, which made sitting, standing, lying down, or really doing anything at all excruciatingly painful. Once I had recovered from that, I had the start of midterm exams and, as usual, got stuck working overtime. I'm already about 1/3 of the way done with the next chapter, so it probably won't take as long to get out as this one did.
Now, for some stuff actually related to this story. I've decided that I'm not going to cut chapters that are unnecessary to the main storyline, but that I will preface them with “Bonus Chapter” so that you can decide whether or not you want to read them. The majority of everyone who responded said they wanted me to keep them, so hopefully that's an acceptable compromise.
Also, someone PM-ed me a question about the ages of Keylogger and his friends. Originally I had planned for them to be around the ages of the Cutie Mark Crusaders (elementary school aged), but I realized they act more like teenagers. It was implied earlier that Keylogger had only recently gotten his cutie mark, and Lavender Blast does not have hers yet, but the Manehattan foals (and camel) are a bit older. Cutie marks in-show appear to be an allegory for puberty/growing up, which (in people) can start at around age eight or nine up to even seventeen years of age. I would assume that the Cutie Mark Crusaders are eight to ten years old, so the Manehattan kids are approximately twelve to fourteen years old- middle-school aged to first-years in high school. Hopefully that was helpful and didn't confuse you even more...
Two days after the birth of the twins, Dr. Null Result declared that both Cup and her foals were ready to leave the hospital. Of course, he couldn't help but throw in a few sarcastic comments at Carrot's expense, informing the new mother that he hoped the foals would have a “strong male parental figure” in their lives.
“Of course they wil!” Cup had snapped back. “Their father is a fine stallion and a great role model!”
The doctor only just smirked at her. “Be that as it may,” he said, leering at the mare and her foals, “if you ever get tired of the ruse, you know where to find me, heh.”
“That is enough, Dr. Result!” a familiarly hyperactive, yet enraged voice said out of nowhere. Both older ponies turned to see Pinkie Pie in the doorway of the hospital room, looking decidedly un-Pinkie-ish. “Upon graduation of the Royal Equestrian Institute of Medicine, you had to take an oath, right?” The cold smile on the pink mare's face could have melted the penguin lands.
“Pinkie Pie?!” the doctor exclaimed, his shock mixing with his indignation. “What are you doing back here? This is a restricted area!”
“Nurse Redheart sent me back here to see what was taking so long- it seems like you've been back here with Mrs. Cake, like, FOREVER!” Then, she returned to her more serious tone. “You didn't answer my question, doctor. Did you or did you not take an oath when you graduated from medical school?”
“I fail to see how that is the concern of a little pony like you,” the doctor replied coldly. Pinkie just smirked at him, the uncharacteristic expression sending a chill down the doctor's spine. The mare looked like she had just stepped out of one of those horror movies his eldest son was so fond of, like she was about to carve him up and bake him into cupcakes. It was very unnerving.
“That's your answer, then, hmm?” Pinkie stated. “Interesting. I'm sure that the Royal Equestrian Institute of Medicine will be interested to know that one of their alumni has been disregarding the seriousness of the Cloveric Oath. And if, in fact, you are not breaking your oath by engaging in sexual harassment of your patients, then I believe the Board of Directors at this hospital will be fascinated by the fact that they are apparently paying the salary of a charla... charles... a fake doctor!” she finally concluded with vehemence. “So what is it going to be, 'doctor?'”
“You know I could have you committed to the psychiatric ward,” Null Result spat. “Fine. I retract my earlier statements, Mrs. Cake. You and your foals are free to go.” He trotted out of the room with as much dignity as he could muster. Astonished, Cup turned to her employee.
“You didn't have to do that,” she said. Pinkie Pie just shrugged.
“He's always been a creepy creeper,” she replied, any trace of her previous animosity completely gone. “And I promised you and Mr. Cake I'd protect you and the foals. By the way, my friends brought up the whole 'Mr. and Mrs. Cake and the babies are all different kinds of ponies' thing. Applejack was especially curious, but Mr. Cake's explanation seemed to make sense to them.”
“Well, that's good, at least,” Cup mused. “They didn't want to know more about that? I worried that Applejack especially wouldn't let the question go so easily.”
“Nah, she believed Mr. Cake,” the pink mare replied. “Rainbow Dash did warn us though that Pound might start flying around all crazy-like, so we'll need to be on the lookout for that.”
“Really?” Cup was surprised. “Pegasus foals fly so early? But that little Scootaloo can't fly yet...”
“Hey, I don't know so much about pegasuses,” Pinkie said, shrugging. “But if you're curious I can ask Dashie about it.”
“No, you don't need to do that,” Cup replied. “Actually, please don't do that. Scootaloo's situation is really none of my business. I don't know whether or not that could be considered offensive to pegasi. By the way, Pinkie,” she continued, fixing the other mare with a stare. “The term is 'pegasi.'”
“Oh., that's right!” Pinkie exclaimed, paying no attention to Mrs. Cake's worried of potentially offending a pegasus pony. “Pegasi! I knew that! That definitely sounds better than pegasuses! Pegasuses sounds like sausages, and that doesn't make sense because ponies aren't sausages! Ponies aren't snausages either, even though I don't know what a snausage even is! Oh yeah, Twilight also said to be careful around Pumpkin because baby unicorns can't control their magic yet and they might blow things up! So we need to watch out for that, although Twilight didn't exactly say it like that. She just warned us that unicorn foals can't control their magic, which is really just a fancy way of saying that they blow things up!”
“...huh?” Cup asked, only catching the tail-end of Pinkie's stream of consciousness rant. “Did you say that baby unicorns blow things up?”
“Well, like I said, Twilight didn't up it quite like that, but pretty much, yes.” Before Cup had time to panic about that, however, Pinkie interrupted. “You can probably talk to Twilight about ways for you and Mr. Cake to make sure she'll be safe. If anypony would know about that, it would be Twilight.
“I suppose...” Cup said doubtfully. It wasn't that she didn't trust Pinkie Pie to accurately interpret her bookish friend's advice, or that she didn't trust the educated unicorn... okay, maybe it was that she didn't trust Pinkie or Twilight. Both mares technically had good intentions. Still. If baby unicorns did have controlling their magic, it would be prudent to consult an actual unicorn. And consulting Ponyville's most powerful unicorn would be the best...
“Anyway, what are we standing around for?” Pinkie Pie asked. “Let's go home!”
After the initial incident at the hospital with the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, nopony else raised any objections with regard to Pound and Pumpkin Cakes' race. The ponies of Ponyville were nothing but supportive towards the new family. Three days after the foals came home, Boxy Stacks himself dropped by with a small trailer full of baby supplies.
“They're from Derpy,” the gruff pegasus stallion said. “She was gonna drop it off herself but she got held up on a delivery to Canterlot. Some sorta crap about the delivery needing to go through customs inspection due to a security threat. Yeah, like a whole shipment of teddy bears is a security threat,” he muttered to himself.
“Oh...” a very surprised Carrot replied. “Well, I'll have to thank her. How much do I owe you for the delivery?”
“Don't worry about it,” Boxy replied, shrugging. “No charge. Least we could do after all those free muffins you've given us. And congratulations, by the way!”
A few days after that, Berry Punch staggered up to Sugar Cube Corner, a bottle of high-quality Trottingham whiskey in her saddle-bags. “Congradulashions on yer foals!” she slurred, although it was impossible to determine whether or not she was actually drunk. “Have a present, compliments of Ponyville Liquor Supply! But it's not fer you,” the magenta mare interrupted herself, pointing a hoof accusingly at Cup. “You can't have none. It's bad fer the foals, y'know. You can't have none until they're weaned! I didn't touch a drop until Pinchy was two, y'know! Hardest years of my life! Now where are the little cuties?”
Blinking, unable to respond to Berry Punch's odd tirade, Cup just pointed her hoof in the direction of the other room. The purplish mare immediately trotted over and poked her head in, grinning widely when she saw the small ponies asleep in their cribs.
“Aww! They're so cute! Congratulations!” Berry exclaimed loudly, wincing once the words came out of her mouth, seeing that she'd startled the babies. Being a mother herself, the town drunk could tell when a foal was about to let loose with an ear-splitting racket of sobs and cries. “Well, anyway, congratulations again!” she said quickly, before turning and cantering away. She'd made it to the door before the babies let out a long sustained wail in unison.
“Oh come on!” Carrot cried out, exasperated. “I had just gotten them asleep!”
“I think she did mean well,” Cup said faintly, hurrying over to soothe her foals.
Several more weeks passed, and life continued much as it always had at Sugar Cube Corner, except this time, with the additions of two little foals. Cup and Carrot loved every second of it. Playing with the foals, singing them to sleep, bonding with them... every moment that passed just brought the little family closer together. Even the day that the older bakers had to leave the twins in the care of Pinkie Pie, despite their reservations about the whole thing, turned out alright in the end. The hyperactive pink mare, unfortunately for her, happened to be the only one around when her friends' warnings about the unpredictability of unicorn and pegasus foals came true. After an entire day of chasing after that little winged speed-demon (it was increasingly clear that in a few years they would have Rainbow Dash 2.0 on their hooves), and trying to keep up with a remarkably powerful miniature unicorn, Pinkie had realized something. Something that she realized she needed to discuss with her employers.
“I don't know how long ponies are just going to ignore their abilities,” she warned the Cakes. “If what Rainbow told me was right, baby pegasuses usually show their future abilities at a month or so, even though they'll lose the ability to fly until puberty a few weeks later. And I don't know much about unicorns, but I think Twilight mentioned something about how the most powerful unicorns show it really early.”
“What are you trying to say, Pinkie?” Cup sighed, massaging the sides of her head with her hooves. She'd very nearly had a heart attack when the younger mare had described the day's events to her. Even after checking on the foals herself and confirming that they were fine, she wasn't in the mood for Pinkie Pie's whole “mysterious” thing. The mare needed to speak plainly, something that she wasn't especially good at. It was an endearing quirk when it wasn't connected to very serious situations. Lately, most of the situations that the Cakes had found themselves in were nothing if not serious.
Fortunately, Pinkie seemed to get the point, and she got right down to the bare bones of her argument. “I'm saying that if their abilities get stronger and everypony knows about them, then everypony will want to know where they're coming from. I dunno if just saying that you have unicorn cousins or whatever is going to cut it. If Pumpkin turns out to be really powerful with magic, then everypony will want to know where it came from. They're going to want to know which unicorn relative it was. Especially if she's eligible to go to Celestia's Academy for Gifted Unicorns. For ponies like Twilight, it's not a big deal, see, because she's actually from a unicorn family. But, like, if Dinky Doo was to go, Derpy'd probably have to finally tell everypony who Dinky's dad is.”
Carrot's eyes widened. “That's right...” he said, alarm creeping into his voice. Cup, however, just rolled her eyes.
“So what? Maybe we just don't allow her to go to any school other than the one here in Ponyville,” she suggested. Pinkie looked like she wanted to say something, but Carrot interrupted before she had a chance.
“And what? Deny her the best education possible because we're afraid of what some ponies might think of us?!” he shouted. “Fine. I'll take the reactions. And Cup, you know I'm the one who'd be taking the brunt of it! 'Oh look, there goes Carrot Cake, that stallion so useless his wife had to pick the father of her children out of a catalog!' I'm the one who has to live with that, don't you get it? But I will deal with it if it means my daughter can have the best life possible!”
Cup just snorted in annoyance. “Not everything is about you, or your pride,” she continued sarcastically. “Who's going to believe that's what happened? Nopony. Everypony will assume that I cheated on you. Look at how Pinkie Pie acted when she reached that conclusion! No, you won't be the one taking it!”
“Oh shut up,” Carrot snapped, his patience finally breaking. “I've put up with your hysterical stupidity since we went through with this treatment. I've dealt with you refusing to get the medical care you need, I've put up with you snapping at me and Pinkie Pie over the slightest things, I've gotten used to the idea that my children aren't really my children, and I've had it up to here with your selfish flank! And you know damn well why Pinkie acted that way, or did you forget about that since it wasn't all about you, Cup O'Coffee?” The blue mare flinched at the use of her maiden name- Carrot only did that when he was beyond furious with her. But she drew herself up again, indignant.
“I'M the one who's been selfish?” Cup practically screeched. “YOU'RE the one who wanted to have foals so badly! I went along with it because you felt so bad about not being able to be a father!”
“Are you regretting it?”
“Of course I'm regretting it! What's more, I'm regretting ever having met you!”
The shouting reached the foals, who woke up from their slumber and immediately started crying. Their parents, however, ignored the wails and continued arguing, their angry words growing more and more vicious.
“I should never have broken up with Dewy Papaya! Now THERE was a mare who knew what was what, and how to respect a stallion!”
“HA! Dewy Papaya? You mean that vapid little unicorn you dated in high school? Oh come on.”
Pinkie Pie realized that the two older ponies weren't planning to comfort their children anytime soon, and she took it upon herself to calm the foals down. Several minutes later, she returned, covered head to hoof in flower and looking angrier than either of the bakers had ever seen her, including the time she'd explained her past to them.
“Enough!” the pink mare finally snarled, getting the attention of her employers. The older ponies froze, recognizing that tone of voice. Indeed, Pinkie's mane and tail had flattened out again, and she was fixing the Cakes with a dark stare that rivaled that of a cockatrice.
“Do not start with me,” Pinkie said shortly. “I try to give you both a warning about what could happen, and you start fighting like a couple of foals! You're supposed to be the parents here! But you fight over the stupidest things imaginable! Do you know how many ponies would love to have a life as stable as yours? Don't you know how many foals live in broken homes? Of course you don't. But you ought to know it happens! I'm standing right here! Don't you care about Pound and Pumpkin?”
“Pinkie-” Carrot started, but she cut him off.
“No. Don't start. Don't even go there,” the mare warned. “You knew what you were getting into when you had the foals, and if you can't get over that, then maybe you shouldn't have had foals at all. Nopony is going to think well if you can't be bothered to care about your own children because you're too worried about your own image. No foal should have to grow up like that. If you don't want to be parents, then you'd best put the foals up for adoption. I'd offer to take them in myself, but Celestia knows I'd be a terrible mother. I heard Lyra and Bon-Bon have been considering having foals themselves. Maybe they'd be willing to raise Pumpkin and Pound. Lyra's even a unicorn- it would be good for Pumpkin.”
“Pinkie, that's not-”
“Shut up,” Pinkie snapped. “Just shut up.I am going to go have a shower to get all this Discord-damned flour off of me, and then I'm going out for a while. Who knows? I might not even be coming back! I'm sick of this. I really am.”
“Pinkie Pie, please-”
But Pinkie was already halfway up the stairs.
To Be Continued
This has been another installment of Everypony Standing Around Arguing. I mean, The Donors.
Everyone who's in the middle of Hurricane Sandy, please be safe.
Cup and Carrot just watched helplessly as Pinkie stormed upstairs, not looking back at either one of them. Pinkie's words had an affect on them both, but they were still too angry at each other to do anything more than exchange glances and go silently back to work.
Pinkie Pie kept up her facade of rage until she got into the bathroom. Once she'd turned on the shower and stepped inside, she finally let her guard down and began to cry silently, tears mixing with the warm water streaming from the shower-head. How had everything gone downhill so quickly? All she'd been trying to do was tell the Cakes about Pumpkin's apparent abilities and everything had suddenly blown up in her face. She was suddenly very glad she hadn't mentioned Pound's strength to them. Who knew how much worse the incident would have been if she had
You know what everypony says, a horrible little voice in the back of her head whispered. History always repeats itself. You couldn't save anypony then, Pinkamena, what makes you think this time is any different? You're pahetic, weak, useless! You couldn't even save one foal, what makes you think you could save two?
“Shut up!” Pinkie cried aloud, clutching at her head. “Shut up! Shutupshutupshutup!”
Well, maybe it's not your fault, Pinkamena, the voice continued. How could you have stopped anything? You were a filly. Just a helpless little filly. It's not like you couldn't have grabbed your brother and made a run for it, right? It's not like you had any other options than taking the coward's way out and pretending to be dead. Oh, wait, that's right- you DID. What do you have to say for yourself, coward?
“No,” Pinkie gargled, sinking to her haunches, the shower's water running cold. She didn't notice. “No- what could I have done?”
You failed, Pinkamena, the voice continued. You failed, and now Inkanetta, Blinkinea, your mother, and your brother are all dead. But you don't have to fail this time. You can make it right.
“But how?” Pinkie asked aloud. This time, however, the voice stayed silent. Coming out of her trance, the pink mare realized that the hot water had run out, and she was sitting in the middle of what was essentially an icy-cold waterfall. She shivered, getting to her feet and shutting the water off as quickly as she could. Without any real understanding of what she was doing, she dried herself off, tried to style her flattened mane and tail somewhat, gave it up as a lost cause, then crept out of Sugar Cube Corner without actually attracting the attention of her employers.
Aimlessly, Pinkie began wandering around Ponyville, ignoring the usual evening hustle and bustle. Several ponies stopped and stared, not used to seeing the usually bubbly mare shambling around town like an extra in a zombie movie. But again, she paid them no mind. It wasn't until she literally ran into Applejack that she started to pay attention to her surroundings.
“Ouch! What the hay- Pinkie Pie?! Are y'all alright, sugarcube?” the other Earth pony mare asked. Pinkie blinked.
“Oh. Hi Applejack,” she replied tonelessly. “Yes. I'm fine. Sorry I ran into you. Like, literally. He heh,” she chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. Applejack took one look at the stat her friend was in and frowned.
“Now you know Ah know when yer lyin',” the farmer pony said sternly. “What's wrong, sugarcube?”
“Seriously, Applejack, I'm fine. I'm finer than a couple of fine things at a fineness convention!” Pinkie cried, giving the other mare a half-hearted grin. “I'll just be on my way then.”
“Pinkie, you know if'n something's bothering you, you can talk to me,” Applejack said, alarm bells going off inside her head. Something was clearly seriously wrong- Pinkie hadn't been that out of it since the day of her birthday party. In fact, Pinkie had a look on her face much like she was trying to outrun something horrible.
Applejack's insides froze. “Are the babies alright?”
“The babies?” Pinkie asked, taking a few seconds to realize what Applejack was on about. Then, she connected the dots. “Oh, the babies. Yeah, they're fine. I was actually just with them. Yeah, they're fine.” Before Applejack could ask for clarification, however, Pinkie took off like a gunshot, galloping off in the opposite direction. Applejack narrowed her eyes.
“That mare ain't right,” she muttered to herself, before unhitching herself from the apple wagon and turning to shout at her brother. “Big Macintosh! You mind getting' these apples home? There's something Ah need to do!”
Applejack eventually found her hyperactive pink friend at the edge of the Everfree Forest, a bottle of Trottingham whiskey next to her as she stared listlessly out into space. Only upon moving in closer could the orange mare tell that Pinkie was muttering to herself under her breath.
“Pinkie Pie?” Applejack asked gently. “Are you alright, sugarcube?”
Pinkie immediately leaped up into a defensive posture, then relaxes slightly once she realized it was only Applejack. Still, her eyes were alert, as though she was getting ready to rocket off again at the first sign of trouble. Eventually, she realized that Applejack would not go away until she answered her questions, and also understanding that it was essentially futile to try to lie to the Element of Honesty, Pinkie Pie just sighed.
“Not really,” she said quietly. Then- “Applejack? Can you keep a secret? Not just any secret, either- a really, really, really big secret?”
“You know Ah can,” Applejack replied, a little insulted that Pinkie felt the need to ask the question in the first place.
So, Pinkie told the whole sordid story from the beginning, all the way up until the birth of the Cakes' foals. All told, it took an hour and a half, including the fifteen minutes Applejack had taken to violently expel the contents of her stomach at the part about the birth of the other mare's doomed half-brother.
“So yeah, I don't really know what to do,” Pinkie finally concluded, pretending not to realize that the other Earth pony was gaping at her with bald-faced horror. “Mr. and Mrs. Cake keep fighting about stupid things- it's like they don't care about what happens to the foals at all! I would think they would get over it, right? I mean, they really wanted to have these foals! Why is everything falling apart?”
Applejack, however, didn't particularly care about Pumpkin and Pound Cake at the moment. She was still hung up on what Pinkie Pie had told her about the time before she arrived in Ponyville. “Why in tarnation haven't you told us about this before?! Ya can trust us- you know that!” she exclaimed, almost accusingly.
“The same reason you haven't told us about why you and your siblings were raised by Granny Smith instead of your parents,” Pinkie countered. Applejack reared back as though she'd been slapped.
“Ah wasn't... Ah never... it wasn't anything like that!” she shouted. “Mah parents are gone, but it wasn't nothin' like what you just told me!” She steped forward again, holding her ground, as though she half expect Pinkie Pie to charge her. The pink mare saw her friend's fear, masked by aggression, and just shrugged.
“It's alright, Applejack, I wasn't going to ask you about it. It wasn't any of my business. Besides, I already knew. I'm sorry.”
“How did you-” Applejack trailed off, eyes wide.
“Granny Smith,” Pinkie Pie replied simply. “She commissioned a cake for Apple Bloom's birthday last year, and you know she would tell her life story to a brick wall. Or a stone or a cement wall. Anyway, she told me about why Apple Bloom's birthday is a sad day for your family. Apple Noodle died in foaling, but Apple Bloom survived. And everypony already knows about how your father died- it's practically common knowledge. 'Nopony should mess with machinery if they don't know what they're doing- you don't want to end up like Tinned Apple, do you?'” the pink mare put on a highly affected, falsetto voice to state that last part, as though she was role-playing a mother warning her foal. Applejack stared at her, completely and utterly dumbfounded/ She had always gone out of her way to never mention her mother, Apple Noodle, because she didn't want anypony to get the wrong idea. If Apple Bloom knew that she was the reason her mother was dead, it would break the filly. It didn't help that despite her best efforts, Applejack couldn't help but resent her younger sister a bit, even if it was completely irrational and not her fault in the first place.
As for her father, Tinned Apple, it wasn't exactly a secret that he'd died in an accident while tinkering with a tractor engine, which exploded when he tried to start the ignition. But to hear somepony state it so abruptly like that, was a shock for her. As it was, Applejack avoided talking about it for two reasons- one, she missed her father dearly, but his death had been entirely preventable and she couldn't help but be kind of angry about how he'd left the mortal coil. Secondly, talking about her father tended to bring up awkward questions from other ponies about where her mother was, which was a subject to be avoided at all costs.
It had worked well for nine years, and now, it was all gone, thanks to her grandmother's motor-mouth.
“I never told anypony else,” Pinkie Pie said quietly, very uncharacteristically for her. “But I have to ask that you do the same in return.”
“Of course Ah will,” Applejack replied. “But you're tellin' me that the dang government thinks you're dead? Since they never found yer body?”
“Yeah,” Pinkie said. “And that's why it's super-duper important that you don' t tell anypony else about it! I mean, can you imagine the panic there would be if everypony knew there was, like, a technical zombie hanging out in Ponyville? It's also really super-duper important that you don't tell anypony else about the Cakes' foals. I already broke a Pinkie Promise by telling you abou-” here, she cut herself off, a horrifying realization occurring to her. “Oh my Celestia, I just bucking broke a Pinkie Promise!”
“Calm down, sugarcube,” Applejack soothed, before the pink mare could do anything rash. “Nopony's going to think any less of you b'cause of it. Ah'm not gonna tell nopony about what you just told me, even though Ah think you should. Ah can't see how keepin' it all inside like that could be good for you.”
“I'd ask you to Pinkie Promise but it's meaningless now,” Pinkie Pie said morosely. Applejack sighed.
“Ah want you t'tell me something, and Ah want the honest truth,” the orange mare said sternly. When her pink friend nodded, she continued. “Did you think that th' foals were in danger, or at risk of harm in any way?”
“Not immediate danger... but I didn't know what the Cakes might do,” Pinkie muttered.
“But you thought that it could be the case?”
“Yeah, I guess...”
“Then you did the right thing,” Applejack said firmly. “And Ah don't think that's a bad thing. Now, you'd better go on and git back to work. If'n what you told me is true, the Cakes are probably panicking right about now. And Ah'm sure they do mean well, too. They're just.. tryin' to figure it all out.”
“You promise me you won't say anything to anypony else?” Pinkie asked.
“Ah promise.” The two mares parted, each going their separate ways. Applejack began the long walk back to the farm, her mind reeling.
If she was being completely and truly honest with herself, she had to admit that on more than one occasion she had regarded Pinkie Pie as a hyperactive nuisance. Even the times when the mare had shown she had a more mature side were easily forgotten, especially when she was busy tying balloons to the tails of random passing ponies five minutes later.
It had also been clear, if she was honest with herself, that Pinkie Pie had a darker side. Anypony could have known that. But the idea of a completely twisted, maybe even downright evil hyperactive sugar-addicted pink party pony was too terrifying to even think about.
Yet Pinkie Pie had just admitted as much to Applejack. She had also dropped some privileged information not only about the Cakes, but about Applejack herself as well. That would be disturbing enough on its own, but Pinkie had also had insider knowledge of a horrific atrocity that had occurred nearly a decade earlier. Pinkie Pie was the missing victim of the Hoofington attack, and legally dead in the eyes of the Equestrian government? How had nopony noticed this, especially after it had been revealed that Pinkie Pie was the bearer of the Element of Laughter? Surely somepony would have realized that a bucking dead mare was wielding one of the most powerful forces known to ponykind.
Then, there was the fact that Pinkie had also known about Applejack's family situation. How she'd discovered that was a mystery- sure, the other mare had explained that Granny Smith had told her, which admittedly might be true- the Apple family matriarch was a bit notorious for lacking a brain-to-mouth filter, but Applejack found it hard to believe that she would just shoot her mouth off about hre daughter-in-law's death. Granny Smith was, if nothing else, aware of how Apple Bloom might take the realization that she was the cause of her mother's death. So why would she just yak on about it to a relative stranger (well, to Granny Smith herself, at least) like Pinkie Pie?
The more Applejack thought about it, the more concerned she became. Was Pinkie telling the truth? A pony would have to be the most evil, manipulative pony ever or completely deranged to lie about something like that. And while Applejack didn't think her friend was a bad pony, a case could certainly be made for her being a mad pony. Clearly she wasn't at the point of Screwball or Barking Mad, but it was still disturbing to think that Pinkie Pie could be... well, to put it in a politically correct manner... unwell.
And even if Pinkie Pie was telling the truth, there was still a high possibility she'd be insane anyway. Applejack didn't know how anypony could survive witnessing something like that and still have their mind intact. Nopony would have made it out unscathed.
This put Applejack in an incredibly uncomfortable situation. She told Pinkie Pie that she would keep her secret, but could she really hold herself to it? Applejack didn't want to break a promise, and she didn't want to think of her friend as dangerous- but who knew? Pinkie had always been a bit... off. And if she was lying? That would, in a way, be worse than if she was telling the truth.
With that, Applejack made up her mind. “Ah'm sorry, Pinkie,” she whispered, before cantering off in the direction of the library. Hopefully Twilight, or at least Spike, would be at home. She had some mail to send.
To Be Continued
Happy Season Three! I wanted to get this out yesterday to celebrate but I've been sick and forced myself to go to my six-hour weekend class yesterday afternoon. By the time I got back home I just wanted to take some NyQuil and sleep. Oh well.
Also, Applejack's accent is ridiculously hard to write. Hopefully it came across alright this time... I'm pretty sure the other customers at the coffee shop I wrote the draft at think I'm kind of crazy now, muttering under my breath in a pseudo-Southern accent.
Chapter Twenty: Paved With Good Intentions Please note: this chapter contains a somewhat graphic description of an industrial accident. It is not particularly gory but sensitive readers might want to tread with caution.
Outside of the school gates, a unicorn colt and a camel waited for their friend, watching the other students walk by into their classrooms. “Check out what Double Espresso is wearing!” Dark Star snickered, pointing a hoof in the direction of an (admitted very oddly-attired) unicorn filly. “I didn’t even know they made hats out of old coffee cups!”
Saffron rolled her eyes. “Will you grow up? I am sure that Double Espresso thinks her hat looks nice, and you are being rude.”
“Aw, c’mon, Saffron, you have to admit that it looks ridiculous. And you have to know that the teachers are gonna make her take it off.”
“Yes, alright, fine, it looks ridiculous. But I’m not going to make fun of her for it!”
Dark Star opened his mouth, as though he was going to argue the point even further, but closed it immediately as he spotted another pony out of the corner of his eye. “Hey! Keylogger!” he called, oblivious to the fact that the Earth pony colt looked like he’d been run over by a stampede, his mane and tail in complete disarray and an empty, hollow expression on his face. “Get over here and check out Double Espresso’s hat! It’s hilarious!”
“Are you alright, Keylogger?” Saffron cut across the other pony. “You do not look well. Are you sick? I know Freshwater Pearl was out earlier this week with the pegapox!”
“Unicorns and Earth ponies can’t get the pegapox, stupid,” Dark Star rolled his eyes.
Ignoring both Saffron’s query and Dark Star’s rather obnoxious correction the former’s misconception, Keylogger turned to his friends and muttered very quickly under his breath. “You two… I might have done something very, very bad last night. Come on, let’s go to Dolomite’s, I really need to talk to you two in private- somewhere we won’t be overheard by anyone from school, or who might know anything.” Both of his friends looked shocked, but for entirely different reasons. Saffron, because Keylogger was suggesting that they skip school, and Dark Star, because of the place he’d suggested they skip school at.
While ponies (as well as camels, zebras, cows, buffalo, and several other sentient species) were entirely herbivorous, there were several others that were omnivorous. Dolomite’s Deli, a little-hole-in-the-wall restaurant run by an elderly female Diamond Dog, was one of the few restaurants in all of Equestria that catered to her omnivores as well as herbivores. It was a popular stop for visiting dragons, griffons, Diamond Dogs, and even the occasional visitor from the Penguin Nation. Most ponies avoided the place like the plague, although Saffron liked it, because she felt like less of an outsider there. Plus, Dolomite made, in Saffron’s opinion at least, the best hay fries ever, and at her request, the Diamond Dog proprietress learned how to make halwa, a dessert popular in Saddle Arabia that was unfortunately not well-known in Equestria. Dark Star looked at his friend in horror. “What do you mean, you want to go to Dolomite’s Deli? The owner will cook us into soup!”
“Honestly, you are so paranoid,” Saffron rolled her eyes. “Ms. Dolomite is nice. She does not eat ponies. She will not eat you. The other customers will not eat you either. I just want to know what happened that we cannot discuss it here! We will get into trouble if we skip school!”
“Look, guys, I did something really stupid last night and I can’t talk about it here. No one from school ever goes to Dolomite’s and I can’t talk about it at home because my parents might overhear. Please?”
“Fine,” Dark Star sighed. “But if I end up in Unicorn Soup I’m blaming you.”
Dolomite Diggington had, in eighty years of life, seen some odd things. She’d also become quite familiar with teenage angst, having raised six puppies on her own, as well as having multiple grandpups and, as of the week prior, a great-grandpup. She was also used to herbivorous species being afraid of her restaurant. But this had to be the most ridiculous thing she’d seen in at least a decade. During school hours, no less, that sweet little camel cow was coming to the shop. But this time, she had friends with her- two colts, an Earth pony and a unicorn. The Earth pony looked slightly apprehensive, which was common for her pony customers, but somehow, she could tell that it wasn’t the store that was making the pony uncomfortable. The unicorn, however, looked ready to bolt at any second, his ears flat against his head like he was expecting an attack at any time.
Inwardly, the elderly Diamond Dog sighed. It was unfortunate the more obnoxious members of her species were the ones that ponies thought of as the default, and that they were so frightened by the idea of omnivores in general… never mind that Equestrian law strictly regulated the sorts of meat that could be consumed by non-herbivores, they all seemed to think she’d jump over the counter at any second and try to eat them. Internally she smirked at that. Her arthritis was so bad that she probably couldn’t jump over the counter even if her tail was on fire. Fortunately, as the main financial hub of Equestria, there were enough visitors from other lands to Manehattan, who wanted a taste of home, to keep her business afloat.
“Good morning, Saffron dear,” Dolomite greeted, once the camel and her friends were seated at a table. “Is school off today?”
“Um…” Saffron stammered, not sure how to respond to that. Dolomite laughed.
“Don’t worry, dearie, I won’t tell anyone. Celestia knows I skipped enough school growing up, and I had the hardest time keeping my puppies in the classroom when they were your age. Everydog at your age wants to spend time with their friends, not study a bunch of dusty old books.”
Unable to help himself, Dark Star blurted out, “Diamond Dogs go to school?” Saffron instantly sucked in a breath while Keylogger facehoofed.
“You dumb-flank…” the Earth pony colt muttered under his breath.
Dolomite, fortunately, just laughed. “Of course we go to school. Despite what the television programs- as well as not a few ponies- want you to believe, we are not all savages. How do you think we are so good at geology and finance? We don’t have our own country, exactly, but the Equestrian government allows us to govern our own affairs. You’ve heard of Haxonite University, right?”
“Yes,” Dark Star replied. Haxonite University, towards the northern border of Equestria, before it became the Crystal Empire, was a school world-renowned for its geology and geomancy programs.
“Haxonite University is one of the best in the world,” the Diamond Dog continued, “and while it’s technically in Equestria, it is under the direct supervision of the Diamond Dog government. Now, I know ponies think of us as dangerous criminals, and I know I probably can’t change that. But I just want to let you know that I don’t eat ponies. Never have, never will. You would probably taste nasty anyway,” she laughed. “Now what can I get for you pups, on the house. I know you must have been afraid to come here like so many of your peers, even if Saffron here reassured you.”
“Uh, ma’am, I apologize for my friend,” Keylogger spoke up. “He’s usually not this much of a gigantic dumb-flank.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Dolomite waved his concerns off. “At least he was up-front about it. And I know your friend Saffron well enough to know she’s a good judge of character. Now, what can I get for you?”
At Saffron’s urging, all three adolescents got the halwa and the coffee. As Dolomite set about to making the food, Keylogger began explaining everything, but not before aiming a kick at Dark Star for being a prejudiced idiot. “You’d kick the flank of anypony who said anything like that about Saffron! What the buck made you think that was appropriate?” “Sorry,” the unicorn colt muttered, chastened.
“Anyway,” Keylogger continued, “I might have done something really stupid. You know how last night I was talking about that docu- uh, information about the stuff and telling Lavender Blast about it?”
“Oh Keylogger…” Saffron breathed. “You did not.”
“Uh… maybe I kinda did?”
The camel swore under her breath in Bactrian before turning back to her friend. “She did not take it well, did she?”
“Well…” the Earth pony colt fidgeted. “I don’t really know. I didn’t find Lavender. But I think I might have met her mother. Do you know anything about Lavender Blast’s family situation? It looked like her mom might have been in some kind of accident. Since she was a pegasus, I think she might have been working at the weather factory when it, you know…”
Once again, the camel muttered something in Bactrian that did not sound complimentary. “Please tell me you did not.”
“I didn’t! At least, not directly anyway. When I ran into that mare I made my excuses and got out of there as soon as I could. But, uh… I may have dropped the paper. When I got back home I couldn’t find it. And I think I might have dropped it at that apartment.”
“Oh for the- Keylogger, you bucking idiot! Your mom is gonna kill you! And then you’re all gonna get arrested, although I don’t know if you can arrest a dead pony. Maybe they’ll bring you back as a zombie and then arrest you! I told you it was a stupid-flank idea!”
“Yes, thank you, Star, it’s not like I had already figured that out on my own,” Keylogger retorted sarcastically. “But now I don’t know what to do!”
Lavender Sugar’s life had never been particularly easy. Born seventh into an already over-large family, her parents had never been able to give her an especially easy life. At age fifteen, the minimum age for dropping out of schooling, she had done so and gone straight to work in the Manehattan weather factory. It was there that she’d met her future husband, Steel Seethe, another pegasus from the same inauspicious background as herself, while he was changing the locks on the chemical storage area. They’d had a daughter together, Lavender Blast, and they’d eked out an existence barely enough to be considered above the poverty line- it probably didn’t help that Lavender Sugar insisted on her daughter getting a top-quality education at a very expensive private school, but she thought it was worth it. She would make sure her daughter had a chance for a better life even if it killed her.
And then, it nearly had, that fateful spring day nearly a year ago now.
Lavender Sugar had gone to her job that day at the weather factory, checked her assignment for the day. Clouds. Clouds were easy enough, she thought back bitterly. All she had to do was mix the components into the barrel of the machine, and said machine would do the rest. It was one of the easiest, safest jobs in the factory.
At least, it was until the rotating mechanism jammed.
The forestallion on duty, North Wind, had attempted to fix the problem. And he did fix the problem- with his wing in the way. Sugar was certain that she would never forget the stallion’s dying scream as the machine tore his wings from his body, the feathers clogging up the gears yet again. The mare remembered her coworkers rushing past the stallion as he exsanguinated all over the floor, hoping to hit the emergency shut-off button before the catastrophe would get even worse. Unfortunately, they were too late.
All Sugar remembered after that was a lot of screaming, smoke, and a loud booming sound. Then pain. Nothing but pain. Pain that still lasted to this day.
And then, there was the guilt- she’d sustained some of the same injuries as her boss had. But she had been rushed to Manehattan General Hospital in time for the medical ponies to save her life. North Wind? Everypony had left him to die. Herself included.
She never thought she would feel worse than she did the day she regained consciousness, remembering what had transpired and then reading further details in the newspaper.
And then, the previous night’s incident with that little Earth pony colt happened.
Lavender Sugar was used to ponies being uncomfortable around her, ever since the accident. It was quite rude, honestly, but she knew she was disfigured and that it was disconcerting for the average pony. But that colt’s reaction had been different from the typical ignorant revulsion. He had seemed almost ashamed of something. But that didn’t make sense. Then colt had then stammered out an explanation that he must have read the address of the apartment he was looking for wrong, then shot off in the opposite direction like there was a rocket tied to his tail.
The pegasus mare might have been able to write it off as a fluke, but then she’d noticed that the colt had dropped something. Picking up the paper, she read it, and immediately went into shock.
Her husband had apparently fathered a foal with another mare, although not in the traditional way. If she was reading the paper right, he’d apparently clopped into a test tube or something, and his genetic material had been used to impregnate some random mare.
And he appeared to have done it to either afford her medication, or their daughter’s school tuition.
It was then that Lavender Sugar broke down and cried for the first time since the accident. If only it hadn’t been for that damned accident, Steel Seethe wouldn’t have been driven to such desperate measures. Even with this knowledge, however, a small part of her couldn’t help but resent him for what he’d done. He should have discussed this with her first? Did Steel think she would have objected?
Maybe she would have.
“Oh Celestia-“ the mare whispered to herself. “This is all my fault.”
And now, she had a… a step-child, possibly? Was that what it was called? Certainly her husband had another child now. But what did that mean for her family? Would Steel Seethe want to be a part of that foal’s life? Would she even be able to accept the foal, knowing that it was the offspring of her husband and another mare, even if she knew her husband hadn’t been unfaithful to her in the technical sense? They could barely afford one foal as it was, would they have to pay for this one too? What would their daughter say? At thirteen, Lavender Blast had been given the birds and the bees talk and knew where foals came from, at least in theory (well, Lavender Sugar hoped it was only in theory). But that was a very different thing from understanding all of the complexities of adult relationships. How would the filly view it?
Sugar stared at that damn piece of paper again, before finally making up her mind. She would confront Steel about it, get his side of the story, and then go from there.
“Dear? Is something wrong?” Speak of the devil… there he was. The blue-gray pegasus stallion was at the top of the stairs that led to his locksmith workshop, peering at his wife. Abruptly forced to respond, the mare turned to look at her husband.
“Yes. I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“It’s just that you’ve been staring at that paper for a while. Is everything okay?”
“Oh. That.” Sugar hesitated, not ready to admit the truth to Steel quite yet. Yes, she was going to tell him. But not yet. “It’s… uh… it’s a letter from Legal Loophole, the lawyer representing everypony who was in the accident. He was wondering if I’d be willing to go and testify for the suit.” And that part, at least, wasn’t a lie- Legal Loophole had, in fact, sent a letter a day ago asking the same thing. Steel Seethe’s face darkened at that.
“Again? Doesn’t he have any compassion?” the stallion, well, seethed. “Why would anypony who survived that want to go to court to relive it?”
“I know,” Sugar soothed. “I’m not going to do it. I’m not feeling well enough to do so anyway.”
“Good,” the stallion glowered. “Don’t dwell on it too much, dear. Why don’t you take your medication and have a nap?”
“Yeah,” Sugar agreed, folding the paper in on itself so that her husband wouldn’t see it. “I’ll do that.”
Yes, she would tell her husband. Eventually. Soon. But not now.
“That has got to be the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard!” Keylogger was on the verge of screaming. Dark Star just winced.
“Well, I was just saying that maybe you should go stay with a relative for a while. My neighbor went to go stay with some of her cousins for a while because some little nags in her class were tormenting her because she doesn’t have her cutie mark yet.”
“Ugh. Are foals still that immature?” Keylogger said, disgusted. “Don’t they know that a cutie mark can appear at any time during a pony’s life?” Then, he shook his head. “But never mind that! You’re forgetting something. My dad was an only foal. My aunt Starlight is in a psychiatric ward, so unless I start thinking there’s a human in my closet or that Nightmare Moon is telling me to do things, I can’t really move in with her. And no one’s seen my uncle Unplugged Cable in years,” he added. “Well, there’s more to an extended family than just aunts and uncles. Don’t your parents have cousins or something?” “Um…” Keylogger actually thought about that one for a while. “My mom has some cousins, but I think they’re government attaches to the Equestrian embassy in Griffondale. My dad has a cousin in Detrot, but I don’t really want to go to Detrot. And I’m not entirely sure what their name is. I don’t know how to bring it up without looking suspicious.”
Saffron, who had been quiet throughout this entire exchange, finally spoke up. “What if you had a reason for being out of the house all the time? What if you had a job?”
“Uh, Saffron, I already have a job,” Keylogger pointed out. But the camel just shook her head.
“No, not one with your family. A different job. You could tell your parents it is to get more money for something big that you want. They will not object to that.”
“But where am I going to get a job? You know any places that are hiring foals in their second year of secondary school?”
“I might be able to help with that.” All three adolescents jumped, not realizing their conversation was being overheard. Dolomite was grinning at them, the elderly Diamond Dog nodding her head. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. But these old paws are getting arthritic. I could use an assistant around here to help with things like dish-washing and ingredient preparation. I’d get the grandpups that still live in the area to help me but one just had a puppy and the other is completely useless when it comes to these sorts of things. Mulia Mild she’s not. I can’t pay you much, but it would be a big help to me, and it might help with your little dilemma.”
Keylogger looked tempted, but still unsure of the offer. “Uh… I won’t have to handle any, you know, meat, will I? Not that there’s anything wrong with you eating it, of course,” he added quickly. “I just don’t really want to…”
“Of course not!” Dolomite looked offended by the very suggestion of such a thing. “I don’t sell that much of it anyway and I’d never ask an herbivore to prepare it!”
“Sorry ma’am. I just thought I would check. I just have one more question.”
“Ah'm tellin' ya, Twilight, Pinkie Pie told me she was at the Hoofington killing and that she's th' daughter they never found!” Applejack was vehemently describing her encounter with the pink mare to her friend. “That's why we gotta write to th' Princess! She needs to know about this!”
Twilight sighed, setting down the book that she had been reading. “Applejack... it's not that I think you are lying to me, but don't you think you might be overreacting a bit?”
“I didn't mean it like that!” the purple unicorn quickly corrected. “What I'm saying is- how do you know Pinkie wasn't playing a joke on you? She and Rainbow Dash do things like that all the time. I'll admit that it's kind of a disturbing thing to joke about-”
“That's th' understatement of the year-”
“-BUT you don't have any other proof that Pinkie Pie wasn't playing a prank on you?”
“Well, no, but-”
“Applejack, I think you're better off just letting it go for now,” the unicorn said. “If she keeps acting strangely, come back in a week and we'll send a letter to Princess Celestia. But honestly? If you ask me, it's probably just Pinkie Pie being Pinkie Pie.”
“But Twi,” Applejack protested. “You didn't see her! She wuz lookin' like she'd just lost everything.”
The unicorn mare sighed heavily. “Applejack, I definitely believe you. What I'm not sure I believe, and this is going to sound terrible, is Pinkie Pie. I don't think she intends to do it, but she does exaggerate things, sometimes to the point of practically parodying herself. And you saw how she was behaving on her birthday. You can't deny that Pinkie isn't always the most stable of ponies. She probably just read a news article and started feeling bad about it, and she chose a... a... well, she chose that way of dealing with her emotions.”
“Ah dunno...” Applejack wasn't convinced. What Twilight was saying did make a lot of sense. But the other mare also hadn't been there. She hadn't seen the way that Pinkie related that horrific story so earnestly, knowing details that only somepony who had lived through it would know. Twilight hadn't heard Pinkie calmly discuss information about Applejack's family that nopony else should have known. “Twilight. Ah really don't think this is a good idea. Pinkie needs help!”
“Like I said,” Twilight responded, “if she continues to act strangely then I'll write to the Princess. But I don't want to bother her with something that turns out to be nothing.”
“Yeah, alright,” Applejack grudgingly admitted. “Ah'm still not comfortable with this, though, Twi.”
“I know,” the unicorn soothed. “I completely understand. But I am pretty sure this is just Pinkie being herself. She'll be back to normal in a day or two, you'll see.”
Despite Twilight's reassurances, Applejack couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen, and she couldn't help but think that Pinkie was going to be in the center of the maelstrom, no matter what it ended up being.
Walking back to the farm, the orange mare passed the bakery where the subject of her thoughts resided. Not wanting to dwell on on Pinkie Pie's revelations any more than she could avoid, she prepared to continue past when an almighty crash and a horrified shriek came from inside the shop. Not wasting a second, Applejack bucked the door down, her mind unavoidably providing her with any number of horrific scenarios, all of them involving the snapped mind of a certain pink mare. “Mrs Cake! Mr. Cake! Are y'all alright?”
But the sight that greeted her wasn't the one of horrifying carnage that she had imagined. Well, at least, it wasn't carnage of the pony kind. A glass display case full of fruit pastries and cupcakes had been tipped over. Miraculously, no glass had been broken, and a tiny unicorn sat in the middle of the pile of sweets, munching cutely on a strawberry danish. An equally tiny pegasus zoomed around the room on his wee little wings, giggling madly. Next to the scene stood too frazzled adult ponies, each shouting at the other.
“Get that pastry away from her, she could choke on it!”
“Catch Pound before he knocks something else over! And be careful of Pumpkin's magic- I don't think she realizes that she's casting it!”
“On it! And look out for the bags of flour!”
Applejack, thinking quickly, jumped up and snagged the baby pegasus out of the air. “Ah gotcha!” Pound proceeded to stick his tongue out at the mean old grownup who'd ruined his fun and blow a raspberry. Applejack handed the colt off to his grateful parents before turning to the unicorn filly, who was determinedly gnawing on her treat despite the fact that it was much too big for her.
“Now how are ya gonna eat that?” Applejack asked sternly. “You don't have teeth!” Pumpkin steadfastly ignored her until the older mare picked her up. Years of dealing with Apple Bloom's disobedience had prepared her to deal with this sort of situation. Pumpkin, however, did not see it that way, and began to wail.
“None of that now, y'hear?” Applejack said sternly. “That's a mighty big pastry for somepony as small as you are.” When the foal continued to cry, however, Applejack relented and scooped out some of the strawberry cream, allowing the filly to lick it off of a spoon. That certainly calmed her down, and Applejack was able to hand the placated unicorn back to her mother.
“Thanks, Applejack,” Cup muttered gratefully.
“Don' mention it,” Applejack replied. “Ah heard the crash and decided to see what was goin' on. Ah though... well, it doesn't matter what Ah thought. Ah',m just glad y'all are alright.”
“Yes, we're fine,” Carrot replied, his exhaustion evident in his voice. “I just wish we'd listened to Pinkie... if you're looking for her, by the way, she's not here right now. She's... uh, running some errands.”
Carrot really should have known better than to lie to the Element of Honesty. Even if she hadn't already run into Pinkie Pie and heard about the situation, Applejack could spot a lie a mile away. But out of respect for the Cakes, she did not call him on it.
“No, actually. Ah was just on my way home when Ah heard the ruckus. Ah thought Ah'd help you out.”
“Well, than you very much,” Cup said quickly. She looked very uncomfortable with the situation, so Applejack decided to take her leave. Before she was completely out the door, however, she heard Carrot say-
“I told you we should have listened to Pinkie Pie!”
The entire walk back to Sweet Apple Acres, that sentence kept rolling around in Applejack's mind. Had she been wrong about Pinkie? Had Pinkie been doing the right thing after all? Maybe the other mare wasn't as crazy as she seemed.
Applejack carefully ordered preconceptions of everything were falling down around her ears, and it troubled her.