Pinkie Pie loved visiting Fillydelphia. She hadn't been there in forever and she was literally bouncing with joy to be back. The big city had some of the best candy shops in Equestria, and nopony in Ponyville knew how to make a proper Filly cheese and pepper sandwich. Judging the smells wafting past her nose, somepony in this deli knew exactly what they were doing. She no idea why nopony else was in there, it being the lunch hour and all, but thems was the breaks. She was visibly drooling, but she had to wait. After all, she was meeting somepony she hadn't seen in nearly five years. The letter telling her when and where to meet wasn't signed, but she recognized the writing instantly. She was so excited that she didn't realize she was speaking out loud. "I'm so excited! I've never been so excited, except for that one time I..."
And then a handsome stallion, with practiced economy of motion, opened the door to the deli. He held the door open while averting his gaze. What Pinkie saw through the open door was slightly ridiculous: a bright blue pony in a black and pink dress being carried by two earth ponies on a luxurious litter, like an eastern potentate. The two joyless ponies lowered themselves to the ground, allowing their passenger to hop off. With an imperious voice with more than a hint of a Ponyconian accent, she barked, "Go. Be back in thirty minutes." Her orders were carried out as soon as the words left her lips.
The owner of the deli, who had been reading the newspaper in an effort to ignore Pinkie's incessant chatter, dropped everything and was at her side in an instant. "G-good afternoon, Miss Finish!"
Despite her thick, decorated sunglasses, Pinkie got the impression that Photo Finish was judging him with an inveterate perfectionists' eye for detail. She seemed to find him wanting, but acceptable. The burly Fillydelphian shrank slightly under her gaze. The blue pony's face was an emotionless mask. "I trust you have made ze arrangements." It was not a question. It was a statement. The deli owner nodded. "Zen go get ze meal, und leave us be."
No sooner had he gone to fetch their lunch when Pinkie was at Photo Finish's side with a hop, skip and jump. She embraced the blue pony, who stiffened at her touch. "Sister sister sister sister sister! I missed you so much! Why are you blue and dressed all funny? And is it silly accent day already? If I'd known I would have brought my fez! Oh well, it doesn't matter because we're gonna have so much fun! We can go see where Parliament meets and tour the Horseshy chocolate factory and I have a huuuuge list of other places we can go! And then we can go back to Ponyville and you can meet all my friends and..."
Not for the first time, Pinky found herself with a hoof shoved violently into her mouth. Pinkie gave a muffled sigh. Why did everypony always want her to be so quiet? Photo Finish dispassionately said, "We eat." As if on cue, the deli owner came out of the kitchen and deposited plates of steaming food in front of them; one of the city's famous sandwiches for Pinkie, and a bowl of soup for Photo Finish. He also put out cups of coffee for them and said something under his breath about calling if they needed anything. He retreated back to the kitchen, making sure to never lock eyes with Photo Finish.
Pinkie devoured the first half of her gooey sandwich in seconds, leaving her face covered in cheese and green pepper. She noticed the slight frown from Photo Finish and said, "Excuse me," quietly. She wiped her face and began daintily nibbling the sandwich. Pinkie interpreted the return to the poker face as approval.
After eating in silence for a minute, Photo set aside her bowl of soup half finished. "Hm. Sub par."
Pinkie frowned. "Aw, I'm sorry you didn't like your lunch. We could have the nice owner-pony get you one of these sandwiches instead. These things are good!"
Photo Finish shook her head. "Nein. I do not eat here for ze food. I eat here because ze owner will close the shop for me for private meetings."
She sounded so... flat. Was this the same pony she'd taught to party after that rainbow-thing exploded in the sky? Pinkie put out a hoof on Photo Finish's in a comforting gesture. "Is something wrong? If you need me, I can..."
Photo gestured violently, forcing Pinkie's hoof away. "Nein. Nothing is wrong. Yet." She paused. "Before we begin, how is ze family?"
Pinkie brightened up again instantly. "They're doing super! Mom and Dad are still at the rock farm and they just had a great harvest. The price is good this year 'cause of that highway they're building between Canterlot and Stalliongrad, so Mom finally got that sewing machine she wanted. Granny Pie just sent me a letter and some cookies, and she's having a wonderful time at her condo in Hippo. She says the hot weather's great for her arthritis. Oooh, we're aunties now! Achromatic Pie just had her first son with that boy from the old country!"
"Hm." Photo Finish seemed to ignore what Pinkie said and took a sip of her coffee. "I lied ven I said I didn't go here for ze food. He knows how to make a passable cup of coffee."
Pinkie's heart fell a little. Why was her sister being such a weirdy weirdo-pants? "I... I don't know what's wrong Purple Pie, but..."
At that name, Photo Finish finally displayed some real emotion. The blue pony was in her face in an instant. "Nein nein nein! Purple Pie is dead, you hear me? I do not dye mein fur and mein hair and talk in zis stupid accent so that ponies can know I'm Purple Pie! You call me Photo Finish, or ma'am, or nothing at all!"
Pinkie blinked. "Wait... Purple Pie is dead? Then what are you..." She paused. "Zombie pony! Aaaaaaaaah!" Pinkie Pie ducked under the table. Of course, she was just playing. This would make her drop character! After all, Purple Pie had always had a great sense of humor, even before the day with the rainbow thingy. It had just been more subtle before; how anypony could stack rocks in a funny way, Pinkie didn't know, but Purple Pie had always managed to do it.
Pinkie noticed a distinct lack of laughter. In fact, she heard Photo Finish smack her forehead and utter a profanity. Pinkie frowned again and poked her head up. Photo Finish sat back down and finished off her coffee. The robotic mask was up again.
Pinkie took a sip of her own cup. She figured if her picky picky-pants sister said it was passable, it must be scrumptious. She was wrong. Bleah! So bitter! How could anypony drink coffee? She resisted the urge to spit it out. She suspected that would just make Purple Pie unhappier. Reluctantly, she swallowed the bitter brew.
Photo Finish let annoyance creep into her voice. "Just add some sugar to it so you'll like it."
Realization dawned on Pinkie's face. Of course! Sugar! Sugar made everything better! The resulting mixture, which might be more technically sugar with some coffee for flavoring than coffee with some sugar for flavoring, was much better.
As Pinkie finished loudly slurping up the rest of her sugar and coffee slurry, Photo Finish spoke up. "Und now we discuss ze business."
Pinkie nodded. "Yup, we have a big day ahead of us! I'm thinking that since we already ate, we should go to the Parliament building first and build up an appetite and..."
"We are not hanging out today. I have an appointment to keep in," she said, checking her wristwatch, "twenty minutes, und my ride will come in ten minutes."
Pinkie's face fell. "B-but you sent me a letter saying to meet you here. Why bring me all the way out here if we weren't going to see all the cool stuff?"
"Because I am coming to Ponyville soon. I have found a model who may have... ze magic, according to Hoity Toity. Your last letter said you were living there, und we needed to talk before I arrived."
A goofy grin plastered itself across Pinkie Pie's face. It was only slightly forced. "Oooh, that's why we can't do fun things in Fillydelphia. That's okay, when you get to Ponyville, you can stay at my place. I rent this awesome room in a bakery and I have a pet gator named Gummy who will just love you! Then you can meet all my friends and..."
The fashionista shook her head. "I am not meeting your friends. At least, not on purpose."
Pinkie Pie wanted to cry. "Why are you doing this? You shoot down everything I say! I've missed you! I want to hang out with you and show you all the cool stuff I've been doing. How can we do that if we don't hang out?"
Photo Finish steepled her hooves in a pose that reminded Pinkie of comic book villains. "Zat is why I met you here before you could spoil everything." She leaned in ever so slightly. Pinkie found her goggles almost hypnotic. "Pinkie, I wasn't kidding. Purple Pie is dead. I have spent many years making sure zat nopony knows that the great Photo Finish is an Amish rock farmer named Purple Pie."
"But I love you, Purple Pie." Hot tears were starting to well up in Pinkie's eyes and she was losing the fight to keep them from flowing.
Photo Finish's expression soured at the use of her old name. "I have no use for love right now. I need a good reputation, und my reputation is as a taskmaster und a serious fashionista. Nopony who is anypony wants to buy a dress from a hick who grew up on a rock farm."
"My friends can keep secrets, Pur... Photo Finish." Pinkie hated correcting herself, but it did make the blue pony give a slight grin when she conceded that point. "They'd love to meet you."
"Correction, Pinkie. Two ponies can keep a secret. They can keep it forever, if they have to. Three ponies cannot. Und that is why nopony must know that we are related. It would destroy me."
"How can you just sit there so calmly and tell me to go jump in a lake? That isn't what sisters do! Sisters do stuff together and answer letters when I send them! I wasn't going to bring that up, but it hurts when you don't write back!" Pinkie finally lost the war with her tears. She hated crying, unless it was crying because you laughed too much, but this was the equivalent of an emotional sucker punch.
"I do get them. I appreciate you keeping me in the loop. But I can't afford to break character to write back. I'm in a harsh industry, und slipping back into being Purple Pie risks making me soft." The small hint of a smile was gone, and the mask was back up.
"If you have to be a mean old meaniepants to be a fashionista to start with, why do it? You could be anything else you wanted!"
Photo Finish allowed herself a real smile. "Because of ze magic. From zat first moment when I sewed that dress for Achromatic Pie und won ze blue ribbon at the fair, I was hooked. I had to have that feeling again. I hate ze backroom nonsense, but zat moment, when something you make or a talent you find gets to shine, is heaven. Simply heaven. This is what I want... no, this is what I need. I make sacrifices for it. Some of them seem stupid, but they are necessary." Her expression softened subtly. "I know this is harsh, but I do what I do because I don't want others to go through what I did. I help ponies. I go to the small towns the other fashion moguls avoid, giving ponies the chance I never got back in Rockton. The only way I can be kind to them is to be cruel to you. If I let my reputation die, many ponies will never get their chance to experience ze magic."
Pinkie's jaw dropped. "Wow, I didn't know fashion was so... mean!"
Photo Finish nodded, frowning deeply. "Jah. It is. So promise me. Nopony must know that we are related. You don't know me und I don't know you." Photo Finish was leaning in and Pinkie could feel an intense gaze behind those soulless lenses.
"B-but..." Pinkie stammered.
"I have done many things in these last five years to get to where I am. I am not proud of all of them und I want none of it to be in vain. Swear that you will never tell anypony."
Pinkie sniffed. "If... if this is what you need..."
"Say ze words. 'Photo Finish, I promise to tell nopony that we are related. Forever.'" Photo Finish gave the last word an almost terrifying emphasis.
Pinkie nodded. "Okay. Photo Finish, I promise to tell nopony that we are related. F-forever." Pinkie had much less force behind the last word. "Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye." She felt like she was cutting off her own arm. In fact, that probably would have hurt less, because she could get through it if her friends and family were there for her.
Photo nodded. "Wunderbar. Und perfect timing as well; my entourage will be here shortly." She got up to leave, leaving a small pile of twenty bit bills on the table. The smiling face of Princess Celestia just made Pinkie all the sadder.
Once again, Pinkie embraced Photo Finish. Again, the fashionista stiffened. This time, Pinkie didn't let go. "I still love you, Purple Pie. Even if you're being a meaniepants who's embarrassed by me. Just promise me that it's not forever, okay?"
Photo Finish relaxed slightly and returned the hug. "Okay, Pinkie Pie. It's not forever. Someday, I'll go back to being Purple Pie. Photo Finish can't have a family slowing her down... but Purple Pie still loves you."
Pinkie Pie was crying freely now. "I miss Purple Pie. Make sure she comes back, okay? I don't want to have to tell Granny Pie on you."
The mask was gone. It was Purple Pie who smiled back at Pinkie. "I will. I hope you liked your lunch." Her voice was free of the accent for just a moment.
"It was super duper. Thanks for treating me." With that, they broke the embrace and Photo Finish left the deli, trotting with a confident gait. Pinkie could hear her bark orders outside and soon, Photo and her employees were gone.
Pinkie decided to go see the Parliament building and the Horshey chocolate factory after all. Both were awesome, even if she went by herself.
A week later, when she saw Photo Finish again, she kept up her best poker face. After all, she'd made a promise to her sister, and sisters kept promises.