When Vanessa finally said, "Okay, guys, I think we should start getting you two ready for the Throwbanger's Ball," he couldn't help but sigh with relief.
"I don't suppose you could tell me what, exactly, the Throwbanger's Ball is for?" Pepper asked.
Vanessa was scurrying around her living room, looking for something, apparently. Pinkie answered for her.
"It's an annual party thrown by the Mayor of the Dune, just as sort of a, 'Hey, guys, remember to vote and isn't it great how we all get along' type of thing."
"There's a Mayor of the Dune?" Pepper asked, surprized.
"Well, kind of. Self-declared. He's very charismatic. Honestly, the Dune doesn't really use a governmental system. It's sort of self-governed. And this is the most boring conversation we could possibly be having."
Pepper laughed. "So, let's converse about something else," he said. "What do you think of the weather?"
Pinkie looked up at him. She smiled a little. "Well," she said, "I find the weather to be entirely too dreary for the type of day it has been. I always find it so crass, the way weather tries to match your bad mood. Don't you agree?"
Pepper stood up grandly. "I agree entirely, Pinkie, in fact, I feel we should write a strongly worded letter to whoever is in charge of this weather today and ask them ever so politely if they wouldn't mind improving upon it tomorrow."
"Yes, yes, a capital idea," Pinkie said, nodding. "In fact, I am considering boycotting the weather all together tomorrow, in protest."
She was smiling, now, her face lit up like the sun on a much sunnier day. It was the first time since that first walk in the Dune that Pepper had seen her smile so brightly, and he couldn't help but smiling, too. He walked up to her, took her by the hand and said, "Tell me, madam, is there dancing at this ball?"
Pinkie giggled. "Of course, fine sir, dancing and song. But I must warn you that everyone at this ball is classically trained, and I'm afraid you wouldn't fit in."
"Well, then, you shall have to teach me how it is done." He took her waist, and she looked up at him, that beautiful smile still on her face, but now, there was something else. Something in her eyes Pepper couldn't pick out. He would have thought about it more if Vanessa hadn't burst in, holding the thing she had been looking for, which turned out to be a paisley blue printed tie.
"I found it," she said, then, "And what are you two doing?"
Pepper suddenly realized what he was doing, and quickly let Pinkie go. "I'm not sure," he admitted, at the same time Pinkie said, "Teaching him to dance."
Vanessa gave them both an odd look, like a half-grin, as if she knew something they did not. But she didn't say anything, instead, she just held the tie up to Pepper and said, "This would look better with a fancier shirt, kid." And she scooted off to another part of the house to find something else, presumably a fancier shirt.
Pepper and Pinkie stood awkwardly in front of each other.
"Um," Pepper said, not quite sure what to do next. He made sure that his fingers were still on his hands by interweaving them a couple of times, then looked up at Pinkie, who was making sure her hair was still attached to her head by twisting it in between her fingers.
"So, what are you going to be wearing?" Pepper asked, breaking the silence.
"Vanessa has a dress my size," she said.
"Really? Where did she get a dress your size?"
"She bought it for her little niece, but she never got to give it to her, because..." she trailed off.
Uh-oh, Pepper thought to himself, and we were doing so well. It had been almost a whole day before he brought something up that reminded Pinkie of a horrible tradgedy.
"It's okay," Pepper said, "You don't have to tell me."
Pinkie gave him a grateful look. "Thank you," she said.
He decided to change the subject. "Have you ever been to this Ball before? You seem to know a lot about it."
Pinkie shook her head. "No, actually. I've only heard about it. Mostly what Vanessa tells me, what Ferret tells me, I hear things from them."
"Ferret?" Pepper said. "Will he be there?"
"Oh, yes, he's an ambassador."
"An ambassador?" Pepper said in a knowing way, pretending he knew what an ambassador was. He had heard the word on TV, but never a defenition. He hoped that Pinkie would either explain, or not ask.
"Between the Dune and where he comes from," she said.
"You mean he's not from here? There's other places?"
Pinkie nodded. "No, he's not a native Dunite. He's from Nasakia. It's north of here."
"Is everyone invisible on Nasakia?"
Pinkie crossed her arms. "Ferret isn't invisible," she said curtly.
Great, Pepper thought, now she's doing the bossy thing again. Murffles, he noted to himself, are extremely fickle with their moods.
"Sorry," he said. "I only thought he was invisible because I couldn't see him."
"Well, maybe you'll get another chance tonight," Pinkie said.
They stood quietly for a while, Pepper worried to speak again in case he made Pinkie angry or upset. Why is it, he wondered, that they got along best when discussing nothing more complicated than weather? Or when talking about things that didn't exist? He was sure glad he wasn't a murffle. They were confusing creatures.
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
Chapter 20: Plantation
Chapter 21: Filch
Chapter 22: Detumescence
Chapter 23: Gelid
Chapter 24: Murrain
Chapter 25: Homunculus
Chapter 26: Somnambulate
Full Story at pepperadventure