Pepper noticed his stomach grumbling in protest at him.
"Hey, we haven't eaten since this morning," he said, "Do you think we can have something to eat before we go to sleep?"
Pinkie rolled her eyes at him. "Aw, is the bitty baby boy hungry?"
"Is the poor, little baby boy hungry?"
"Why are you calling me a baby? We've barely eaten all day!"
"I've gone entire weeks without eating a thing," Pinkie said proudly, lifting her nose high in the air.
Pepper snorted. "You can't do that without dying."
"You can so," Pinkie said sternly. "You'll get very sick, but you won't die. And you won't die, either, if we don't eat tonight."
"You know, since this journey was supposed to help us get food, I wasn't expecting to go to bed hungry. Normally, that only happens if mom sends me to bed without my supper."
"Oh, quit whining, here," Pinkie huffed, and threw some thin strips of dried meat onto Pepper's bed.
"Where did you get these?" he asked.
"Ferret's. I brought some with me."
Pepper took a bite of one. It was quite delicious, actually! Like the beef jerky that his dad used to let him share when they were watching the football game together. Pepper was never very interested in the football game, he just liked hanging out with his dad and getting to share his food. He wondered if he would ever see his father again, now that he seemed to be on an adventure in a mysterious place. His mind was wandering, now, with thoughts of his mother and father. They were almost distant memories, now... he cursed himself silently for ever thinking becoming a hermit would be a good idea. He wondered if his mother missed him. He imagined himself, back at home, wrapped up in her arms in a big, soft, warm hug...
** ** **
Pepper's eyes blinked open. Had he fallen asleep? Where was he? How long had he slept for?
He sat up and looked around. His eyes were adjusting, slowly but surely, with the help of a thin strip of moonlight casting its glow on the floor.
"Oh," he said out loud, as he recalled Vanessa, Pinkie, and the beef jerky.
He laid back down, but realized in doing so that nature was calling him. He sat back up. "Pinkie," he said, his voice still filled with night time gunk. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Pinkie," he said a little louder this time, and glanced over to the bed across the room.
She didn't answer. He remembered what a heavy sleeper she was, and felt a little bad waking her up, but there was no way he'd be able to find the bathroom in Vanessa's maze of hallways. Pepper slung his feet over the edge of his bed and hopped off. He crossed the room and leaned over Pinkie's bed.
"Pinkie?" he said, his voice loud now.
Still no answer.
He reached down to shake her, and his hand hit only blanket. "Pinkie!" He felt around the entire bed, but she wasn't in it.
Pepper tried not to panic. She was probably going to the bathroom herself, he thought. How late is it? He looked around for the light switch but he couldn't find one. Feeling around in the dark, his hands finally fell on a doorknob. He turned it and found himself in a hallway. Maybe, he thought, I can find the bathroom on my own. He did his best not to think about the previous night, the monster, the blood, that Pinkie might be somewhere with that thing, that... that It, right now, in trouble. No, no, he thought, she is fine. She can handle herself. She is a murffle, after all.
He walked down the hallway, doing his best to keep an eye out for a door that might lead to a bathroom. But he didn't want to open any, for fear that he might walk into Vanessa's room and wake her up.
The hallway, like his bedroom, was lit only by the moonlight streaming through the windows. He held out his hands to guide him along the wall, but he could see a little bit better now that his eyes had had time to adjust.
He had wandered down several hallways with little success when he heard voices coming from the end of one hall. He paused, listening, but he couldn't make them out. Peering down the hallway, he could see a door with light leaking out from under it.
Someone was awake, Pepper thought to himself.
Very quietly, as slowly as he dared, he snuck down the hallway, ears straining to hear what the voices were saying. In the back of his mind, he could hear his mother chastising him for eavesdropping, but he didn't care. He was curious, and he was alone with no one to stop him, so he would eavesdrop if he wanted to.
It wasn't until he had made it pracically the entire way to the door that he could make out what the voices were saying. He held his breath, held as still as he could, and listened.
"No, don't worry about it, Pinkie, you know you're always welcome," came Vanessa's voice. "I shouldn't have to tell you this every time."
"I know. I feel like I never see you anymore, though," came the second voice, Pinkie's.
"Don't even mention it, love, I know you've got more than enough to occupy you right now. Plus, you think I want you running around here with It on the loose?"
Pepper heard Pinkie sniff.
"Never mind that," Vanessa said. "How are things, you know, at home?"
"He's getting worse," Pinkie said. It sounded as if she was crying, or had been recently.
"Aw, sweetie, I'm sorry. What did Morggison say?"
Pepper perked up his ears. Would he find out what Pinkie had asked Mr. Morggison?
"He said I should stop trying to do everything myself."
"Wise man," Vanessa said. "You pull yourself in too many directions."
Pinkie was silent.
"You think it's the kid?" Vanessa continued.
Pepper's heart sped up a bit. Was she talking about him? Was there another "kid" she might have been referring to?
"I don't know," Pinkie said.
"Well, did you see his..." Vanessa's voice trailed off. Pepper leaned in closer, straining.
"Yeah, I did. He calls it his Lucky Thing," Pinkie said. "I asked him about it, he said he found it in a... in a sandbox."
"A sandbox?" Vanessa snorted.
Why were they talking about his Lucky Thing?
"Well, you'll know when you take him to the Plantation tomorrow for the ball."
"Me?" Pinkie asked, startled.
"Of course, you'll be his plus one!" Vanessa said.
"I thought that... you know, that you would go."
"No, sweetie, I've got things to do tomorrow. I need to take Smithhugh to the vet, he'd developed a nasty cough. Then I have to train."
"So I'm going to the ball with him? As his... date?"
Vanessa laughed. "Oh, Pinkie, love, I never said that!"
Pinkie laughed, too, but it seemed to be forced.
"Unless," said Vanessa, her voice quieter now, so that Pepper had to lean in even further to hear, "you WANT him to be your date."
Pepper strained as hard as he could to hear Pinkie's answer, but before she could get her words out, his foot slipped and he stumbled forward, stubbing his toe on the wall.
"OUCH!" he cried. Then he stood straight up, freezing in place, hoping beyond hope they hadn't heard him. His toe was throbbing, but it was too late, he heard Vanessa say, "What the?" and could make out the shuffling of feet. Without thinking, he turned and ran, despite the pain in his foot.
He wasn't really sure where he was going. He did his best to remember the pathways the hallway had made, but it was pure luck when he found the open door of the bedroom. He flew in, shut the door, and jumped back into his bed, heart pounding and head racing.
Why had they been talking about him? Who was it that was getting worse? Did Pinkie want to be his date or not?
He tried not to think too hard about that last one. Pepper wasn't exactly sure about the protocol for dating murffles, and he was way too panicked and tired to even try to think about it.
A few minutes later, he heard the door open and shut again.
"Pepper?" came Pinkie's voice. "Are you awake?"
He didn't dare reply, for fear that she would realize he'd been listening in on her conversation with Vanessa, so he remained as silent and as still as possible. This was especially difficult when Pinkie walked right over to his bed and leaned over him, as if looking to see if he was really asleep. He kept his eyes shut, hoping they looked natural and not squeezed too tightly or anything. After a few moments that crept by like hours, Pinkie finally made her way to her bed, climbed in, as before long, both she and Pepper were fast asleep.
Chapter 1: Pepper
Chapter 2: Pinkie
Chapter 3: Dune
Chapter 4: Mugget
Chapter 5: Deltiology
Chapter 6: Umbrella
Chapter 7: The
Chapter 8: Exsanguination
Chapter 9: Oubliette
Chapter 10: Ferret
Chapter 11: Defenestrate
Chapter 12: Pound
Chapter 13: Aerodynamics
Chapter 14: Callipygian
Chapter 15: Cosmonaut
Chapter 16: Ensue
Chapter 17: Translucent
Chapter 18: Shindig
Chapter 19: Pseudocyesis
Full Story at pepperadventure