"Scootaloo? Scootaloo, is that you?" Scootaloo froze. She hadn't heard that voice in years, but it was still fresh in her mind. Scootaloo felt rage fill her heart as she turned to face the mare that had given birth to her. "Look at you. My little filly, all grown-"
"Don't you EVER call me your little filly, you got that Aerial?!" Scootaloo screamed at her mother. "You have no more right to call me your daughter than Jade!" Scootaloo flared her wings and took a threatening stance. Aerial flinched and backed away from her.
"Scootaloo, I'm sorry for what you went through as a filly. What Jade did-"
"AND YOU WERE ANY BETTER?!" Scootaloo was not going to listen to that. "When Jade beat me, you watched! When he verbally assaulted me, you joined in! You're just as worthless of a parent as-"
"AND YOU THINK I HAD IT MUCH BETTER?!" Aerial, for the first time in twenty years had spoken up to defend herself. Scootaloo wasn't prepared for it. "Scootaloo, you know you weren't the only one in that household on the receiving end of his wrath!" Scootaloo did. She had watched Jade beat her mother just as many times as she had received one. But Scootaloo wasn't going to accept that as a response. Not after watching the way Rainbow and Spitfire defended her against Royal Guards and Princess Celestia herself.
"If I learned anything from Rainbow and Spitfire, it's that a mother protects her child, no matter what she's up against. A mother would sooner be killed than watch a single hoof be laid on her child. You never raised your voice in my defense Aerial. My parents fought Royal Guards in an attempt to keep me safe from him. They turned against Princess Celestia herself. You wouldn't even speak up." Aerial lowered her head. Tears began to fall from her cheeks.
"Scootaloo, when you were eleven you were stronger than I had ever been in my life. You always were stronger Scootaloo. You still are. Ever since the day Jade's brother died and he turned into what he is now-"
"Jade's brother? What the buck are you taking about?" This was news for Scootaloo. Jade had a brother? How could she have lived in that monster's home for eleven years and never learn he had a brother? Aerial sighed.
"There's a lot you need to know. Did I ever tell you about the happiest day of your father's life?"
"No you didn't Aerial. And don't call him my father." Scootaloo, though maintaining her composure, was stunned at how verbose her mom was being. This was the most she had ever heard her mother speak at one time in her life.
"Scootaloo, the happiest day of Jade's life was the day you were born." Scootaloo laughed.
"You're kidding right? You're talking about the Jade who only ever referred to my birth as a mistake?"
"Yes. Though your birth wasn't planned, Jade was more excited than he had ever been. He wasn't always so hard Scootaloo. Can we...find a cloud? There is a lot you deserve to know." Scootaloo looked at her mother, then back at her friends. Sweetie Belle and Applebloom nodded. Lightning put his wing around her again and nuzzled her.
"Go on Scootaloo. We'll be right here when you're done." Scootaloo kissed Lightning and looked at her mother who now wore a warm smile.
"You be good to her young colt. I know I never was." Scootaloo was surprised that her mom was so easily able to admit that to her coltfriend. Scootaloo and Aerial flew off to a nearby cloud and sat down. Aerial had some serious story telling to do.
"I'll start back a long time ago." Aerial began. "I met Jade six years before you were born. Back then, he was the sweetest colt I had ever met. We fell madly in love. When I introduced him to my parents however, he was horribly uncomfortable. His father treated him far worse than he ever treated you, if you can believe that. His mother died due to complications during his birth, and his father always blamed him. Jade's father turned to alcohol and landed himself in a state of almost constant inebriation. Jade actually refused to introduce me to him. He would always joke about it being the smell of alcohol and piss on his coat." Aerial chuckled at the memory and a longing tear rolled down her cheek. "He always had a way to lighten the mood in the worst of situations."
"This...doesn't sound anything like the Jade I know...what happened?" Scootaloo was confused by this representation of Jade. It made him sound like a good pony. That wasn't right...it couldn't be right. Aerial sighed.
"It wasn't long before we married. The first five years of our marriage were wonderful. The day you were born, Jade made sure to take a week off from work just so he could spend time with his daughter." Scootaloo was stunned. Never at any time in Scootaloo's memory had Jade ever wanted to be anywhere near her. Her mother had to be lying.
"There's no way...Jade hates me with every fiber of his being. He has never said anything good about me in my life. He was the worst father I could have possibly had."
"And that is why I didn't do anything the first time he kicked you out. When we abandoned you here. I knew that Ponyville was the best place we could leave you. I knew somepony here would take you in and give you the life you always deserved." Aerial began to cry. "I'm sorry it happened the way it did, but leaving you behind was the best thing we could do for you."
"It was the best thing that ever happened to me." Scootaloo said. She was speaking the truth. As much as she had cried that night, as scared as she was to be alone, it was the night that she had escaped Jade. The night she found a family that would care for her. The night her life began anew.
"At least I did something good for you." Aerial said and lowered her head. "But I want you to know what drove him to become the stallion you know. Jade used to be a good pony. I fell in love with a kind, generous and loving stallion. He was a construction worker by trade with his brother. He and his brother rose quickly up the ladder and became managers with their firm. When you were born, he and his brother were managing the addition of a new tower at Canterlot Castle. When Jade took the time off to be with you, it left his brother alone to manage the entire project. A small group of Jade's workers didn't react well to being under his brother's management and got sloppy. They didn't care. By the third day Jade's brother had had enough of their laziness and personally fired each of them. They didn't take well to being fired by somepony who technically wasn't their manager and they fought back. One of the workers hit him in the head and knocked him out. The hit also pushed him off the lift they were using. Jade's brother fell 200 feet. Despite being a pegasus, he never stood a chance of surviving the impact. When Jade learned of his brother's death, rage filled his heart. He vowed that he would never let anypony under his authority get out of his control again. He grew up under his father's complete control, so immediately he believed he needed to keep that same control over us. It was that night that he hit me for the first time." Aerial reflexively touched her cheek where she had received her first attack from her husband.
"I...had no idea." Scootaloo was stunned. She still hated Jade, but she almost felt...sorry for him. "Why didn't anypony tell me this before?"
"Jade felt that if you knew about his brother that you would have leverage against him in the event of a fight between the two of you."
"I never would use something like that against somepony!" Scootaloo was insulted that Jade would think that way.
"After his brother's death Jade never thought clearly again. He's changed Scootaloo. For a long time I tried to get the old Jade back, but...there's nothing left of him. Nothing left of the stallion I fell in love with all those years ago. And now..."
"You can leave him mom." Aerial looked up at Scootaloo's use of the word "mom." And in shock at her suggestion. "You can come live with my family."
"Oh Scootaloo...I wish I had half the courage you do." Aerial sighed. "I can't leave him. I've tried but I'm broken. I can't take care of myself. I can barely think for myself Scootaloo."
"We can get you help. My parents have me going to a therapist once a month. He helped me get past it, he can help you too." Aerial smiled.
"Those two have raised you into a wonderful mare. I'm so happy they took you in." Scootaloo felt helpless. She wanted desperately to help her mother. All the hatred she had felt only minutes before had evaporated.
"Hush Scootaloo. Jade is going to be off work soon. I have to head home. Can we meet again tomorrow? Around noon?" Scootaloo hesitated.
"I'll ask mom." She felt that Spitfire would understand this. "Before you go, I need to know something."
"What is it Scootaloo?"
"Is Jade hurting my brother? Like he did to you and me?" Aerial sighed.
"Yes, he's hurting him. But not like he did to you. Jade has never beaten Steel. He's hit him sure, but nothing that will get Steel taken from him."
"Then what's he doing to him?" Scootaloo was relieved that her brother wasn't getting the same harsh treatment she had growing up, but worried that he wasn't free of Jade's abuse.
"Jade manipulates him. He twists his thoughts so they mirror Jade's image of the world. I'll explain more tomorrow. Remember, noon." With that, Aerial flew away, leaving Scootaloo sitting on her haunches on the cloud. She turned and flew down to her friends and coltfriend. She needed their comfort.
Lightning looked up and was relieved to see Scootaloo flying towards his way. He loved hanging out with Sweetie Belle and Applebloom, but she was the only reason he ever did spend time with them.
"Well, speakin' of. Here comes Scoot." Applebloom spoke up first. Scootaloo flew right to Lightning's side and pressed herself tightly against him. He wrapped a wing around her as tears began to stream from her eyes.
"Come on, lets find somewhere a little more private for this conversation." Sweetie Belle said.
"Good idea. I know just the place." Lightning responded and led the way with Scootaloo still sobbing against his shoulder.
The four young ponies sat quietly around the lake. Scootaloo had calmed down and was able to tell her friends everything her birth mother had told her. Lightning had pulled her close with a wing and she was resting her head on his shoulder. Sweetie Belle and Applebloom just sat in awed silence. There weren't words to explain what was going on in their heads. They couldn't imagine how much of a mess Scootaloo's mind had to be at the moment.
"I think what you need is some time away from all this." Sweetie Belle said. "Jade isn't beating Steel, so there's no rush to get him out of there."
"If I don't get him away from Jade soon he'll be out of reach before I can get to know him. Jade will probably only keep him and my mother here for about six months before he loses his job and moves again."
"Scoot, Ah know ya want yer brother away from Jade, but yer in no shape to help him right now. Ya need some time ta calm down first." Applebloom agreed wholly with Sweetie Belle. Scootaloo stood up.
"I lived with Jade for eleven years. In that time, he beat me more times than I can remember, controlled almost every aspect of my life, never fed me after my fifth birthday, and used every conversation he had with me to tell me how much he wished I had never been born. You think I'm gonna let him do that to my little brother?!" She was almost screaming by the time she finished.
"No, we don't. What we want you to do is take time to get your thoughts in order so you can do a good job of getting your little brother away from Jade. And your birth mother." Lightning said. "We all know how bad you want them away from Jade, and we want to help you get them out of there. But right now if you were to make an attempt to help them all you'd do is find a way to get yourself in jail." Scootaloo lowered her head and sighed. She knew her friends were right. She leaned against Lightning again.
"How long should I take?" She asked.
"As long as you need. But if I find out you're getting involved with this at any time within the next two weeks, I will personally tell your parents you disobeyed their request to stay out of it." Scootaloo gave Lightning a wide eyed stare.
"TWO WEEKS?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!"
"No. You haven't been thinking rationally since you found out Jade was back in town. You're taking at least two weeks to collect yourself and make a plan."
"Don't you dare try to tell me what to do." Scootaloo stood and stepped away from Lightning.
"Scootaloo, you need time to think this through. You can't just rush into this like you do with everything else." Sweetie Belle added. "I'm siding with Lightning on this one. Two weeks." Scootaloo looked at Applebloom.
"Sorry Scoot, but Ah gotta agree with Lightnin' mahself. He's right, ya need time away from them." Scootaloo desperately looked at her friends for some help, but then she sighed and accepted her defeat.
"Fine. Two weeks." She dropped to her haunches on the sand next to the lake and let Lightning wrap his wing around her. She leaned against him. "If I didn't need somepony to lean on right now you'd be so far in the doghouse there'd be no getting out." Lightning chuckled and pulled her closer. She rested her head on his shoulder.
"I say we give them a 'lover moment'." Sweetie Belle suggested to Applebloom.
"Sounds good ta me." Applebloom replied. The two mares said their goodbyes and headed back to town. Scootaloo relaxed in the presence of the colt she found herself quickly moving from a mad crush to her first love.