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Chapter 7: Teatime
A wolf and a pony squared off on an almost barren, dusty hilltop. The stallion stood there, AK-74 at the ready with the bayonet mounted. His eyes were dull and his uniform was in disarray. The name tape read “Sunny Breeze”. The wolf’s fur gleamed and its eyes shone. The wolf soldier charged the stallion. The paws kicked up red dust as they dashed across the nearly barren hilltop outpost. Sunny crouched low, looking into the hungering eyes of death. Within seconds, the wolf closed the meters between them and leapt right for the throat! The stallion swung his weapon and ducked as he sidestepped his foe. THWUNK! Whimper. The corner of the rifle’s stock hit home just behind the eye, sending the wolf tumbling into the dust. It snapped back onto all fours, only to be flipped onto its back as Sunny rushed and caught it on the throat with his rifle’s magazine. Again it fell to the ground, but this time, the stallion lunged with his bayonet, piercing through the ribs. It howled as the blade twisted and jerked, shredding its vitals, releasing its life’s blood. Sunny stamped on the thrashing neck and silenced the snapping maw forever with a crunch. The stallion removed his blade and slumped forwards to pant with lidded eyes. Fresh bloods stained Sunny’s hooves, but he didn’t care; he alone still lived on the hilltop strewn with the bodies of griffons, ponies, zebras, and wolves. Suddenly, he heard movement! Sunny snapped to attention and saw a pack of six huge wolves easily double his size dashing right at him! Sunny raised his Kalashnikov to fire. CLICK. No more cartridges. He charged at the nearest wolf, determined not to be torn under the fangs of the pack. Suddenly, something heavy collided with his right side and teeth closed around his neck!
Sunny Breeze awoke drenched in sweat and panting hard. The light coming in from the windows meant that the day had already begun some hours ago. It took a great effort to calm his racing mind and stop the tremors in his muscles. Today was Sunday, so he didn’t have work. If only he could have a drink to soothe himself! He slid into the same uniform he’d worn yesterday and then stepped out of his bedroom only to find his mother waiting for him in the living room with two cups of tea. Her expression was unreadable. “We need to talk.”
Sunny and his mother sat across from each other in a pair of wicker arm chairs in his apartment. The mood was artificially amicable, as if a particularly loud noise might collapse it like a soufflé. Each of them politely sipped at their tea and smiled, but never took a big gulp or raised the corners of their mouth, nor did they recline or take their eyes off each other. Golden sunlight filtered in through the windows on that pleasant Sunday. They chatted about this and that noncommittally. Sunny was pleased to know that the cats were still alright. Ginny was pleased to know that Sunny was still employed. However, so soon as he had finished telling her about this, he noticed a wicked glint in her eye. That never preceded anything good. The stallion took a sudden interest in the weave of the furniture for several minutes until the mare forced the issue.
“When are you going to settle down?”
Sunny jolted. “What?” He leaned forward with raised ears.
His mother repeated loudly, “You heard me. When are you going to get a respectable career, find a mare, and settle down?”
“I don’t know. I’m not even thinking about marriage.”
Eve looked him in the eye. “Why not? You’re a stallion and you’ve had plenty of time to have your fun and sow your wild oats.” Sunny knew that his mother always talked about seeing him married off for one reason or another. It was her pet project. Unfortunately, it was getting harder and harder to worm out of courtship. He had, after been around for roughly two decades. It wasn’t uncommon for ponies to wed at about his age. It was actually embarrassing for a stallion to remain unattached as he grew older, for it indicated a lack of ability to find a mare or another stallion willing to put up with him.
He gave her a look. “I’m not that old, mom.”
“Nonsense! It’s been several years since you graduated school.”
“Yeah, when I was thirteen. I haven’t had all that much time because I’ve been busy. Hell, for the first four years, it was easier to count the days when I didn’t hear gunfire.” Bitterness came through. His mother’s eyes narrowed.
“Nobody forced you do go through that. You didn’t have to sign on with the company.”
He snorted disdainfully. “You know full well that I didn’t have a choice at the time. I was fresh out of school, didn’t have a cutie mark, and couldn’t find work.”
“Yes you could’ve; you just didn’t try hard enough.”
“What else was there, mom,” growled Sunny. “You know that I applied for every job I could, and they all turned me down.”
“You could have tried again.”
“What difference would that have made? They rejected me for lack of experience. I couldn’t get experience because I couldn’t get a job because I couldn’t get experience. Out of all the employers I tried, only the Grollen company accepted me. I had no choice.”
Ginny glared at Sunny and used an excessively patient tone, as if this was not the first time they had had this conversation. “Nopony forced you to take up that line of work.” She spat out the word “that” like it was a slimy parasite. He moved to open his mouth, but she cut him off. “You could have gone to college, volunteered for something, or helped your father’s bricklaying business. Don’t act like you’re a victim of circumstance.”
Sunny was forced to admit that she might have a valid argument, but why couldn’t she be less of a mule about it? “You and dad both told me to seek my fortune. Dad didn’t want me to spend my days doing manual labor; he wants me to go on to bigger and better things. And how would I have done college? You know that we just didn’t have the money, because you spent all of it my big brother. And what did he get? A mathematics degree!” His muscles clenched and his eyes narrowed.
“And look where he is now!” She puffed her chest with pride as she declared, “He’s successful. He’s a multimillionaire, has a ton of mares, and is living the Equestrian dream!”
“Yeah,” snarked Sunny. “Amazing what a difference being a lucky polymath can make. And I’m sure that him always being the favorite had absolutely nothing to do with it.”
Ginny brought down her teacup harder than intended, spilling some and clinking noisily against the porcelain saucer. “Don’t you disrespect Regent! He worked hard for everything he has. If you’d just apply yourself more, like him, who knows how far you could go?” He needed a drink. Sunny stood up. He couldn’t take any more of this; he felt trapped. He was sweating and shaking. He wanted to scream at her. Ginny was his mother – his own mother! And couldn’t she have some sympathy for him? He turned to walk away just as her expression softened. “Wait – Sunny, I’m sorry.” He froze and looked at her. She looked him in the eyes again and stated very simply, “I love you, Sunny. It’s just that I don’t know what to do with you. You’re this nice smart kid, but you’re also in a bad place. I want better for you. I know you can do better. You’ve suffered a lot, and deserve a lot more than what you’re getting. I want to help you, but I just don’t know what to do!” Her eyes became moist. “I know that I’m partially responsible for it, but I want to fix it. I just wish I knew how.”
He faced her and then sat back down. “So do I,” he agreed, shaking his head, taking care to avoid meeting her gaze. “I certainly understand. But out of all the ways to help me, why is getting me hitched number one?”
It was Ginny’s turn to scratch at her head uncomfortably. “I was… kinda hoping that maybe you’d sort yourself out if you got yourself a bride, or at least a mare.”
“And how is that supposed to make me any better?”
She laughed. “For one thing, sex.” He stared at her. “You need to get laid. You’d probably be a lot more relaxed if you got some every once in a while. You know I’m right.”
He laughed and shrugged. “Crazy conversations we have. I guess so; funny how it’s always about sex with you. Anyway, do you have any ideas or plans, or did you just come here to berate me endlessly?”
“I was thinking that I’d just give you some bits and send you down to Lotus and Aloe at the spa for a special massage.” Her son regarded her with a flat stare. “Alright, tell me what you think of the mares you had over yesterday.”
Sunny gathered himself as he considered them. He began with saying, “Faraday is a nice mare. She’s not too bad looking, either.” Ginny nodded. “Rainbow Dash is a wild one and rough around the edges, but I guess she means well.” He paused. “And Pinkie Pie’s a close friend of mine. I’ve known her since I first arrived here.”
“What about the others?” He cocked an eyebrow, unsure. “Zecora and Flutttershy – what do you make of them?”
He sipped thoughtfully on his tea. “Well, uh, I don’t really know. Zecora seems kinda interesting, I guess. But she’s also kinda scary and really perceptive. Not too bad looking; I could get used to her. However, she has a Chechneyan tattoo.” He stuck out his tongue and put his cup down. “Fluttershy… hmmm, I don’t really know what to think about her. She seems really nice, but something’s off about her…”
His mother facehoofed. “You’re not getting it, Sunny! I’m asking about how compatible you find them. How do you think you’d get along with each of them in a serious relationship?” His ears flattened again.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “Do you have any input on the matter? What do you think about them? It’s not like it’s easy for me to connect with other ponies, especially after all that’s happened to me.”
“I know what happened to you, Sunny. You broadcasted your nightmare again last night.” Broadcast wasn’t the perfect word, but it was the term vernacular for how unicorns could project experiences and sensations into the minds of others.
Sunny slouched over with a moan, rubbing his face. “Sorry. It wouldn’t be so bad if you just let me drink.” His jaw clenched suddenly. Ginny gripped the chair leg, bracing for what they both knew was to come. “It’s my place, my money, and my life! And here you are trying to get me to deal with complexities of running five relationships at once, as if you know what’s best for me! I’m sorry, mom, but did you ever think of things from my perspective?” He looked Ginny in the eyes. He yelled at her, even though he really didn’t want to and knew that it was hurting her. He just couldn’t stop himself! On the inside, he was screaming at himself to stop and beg her forgiveness. “I spend my childhood being kicked around by everypony bigger than me! Nothing I did mattered! When I left school, I couldn’t get any work, so I had to sign up for the company! I went to war, saw and did a lot of twisted stuff, and when I came home, nopony gave a damn! Not only that, I was now apparently a monster and an embarrassment, so you decided to kick me out before anypony got wind to any of Regent’s fans that his brother was a mercenary! You abandon me to my fate, except for whenever you come around trying to get me hitched because it’ll make Regent, or you, or dad, look good!” Just like that, Sunny’s anger cooled. Tears welled up in his eyes. “I’m sorry, mom. I’ll do it for you. I’m so sorry that I keep snapping at you, but... I just, I just can’t control it sometimes!” He prostrated himself before her. “I don’t meant to hurt you, I really don't. I-" Pausing, he shook his head, blinking back tears. "I'm sorry, Prosti menya…"
Ginny let him cry. She started to stand and timidly extend a hoof, but drew back to just sit and stare at the bawling colt. After a long while, she told him very calmly, “Go take a walk. Not for me, but for yourself.” He didn’t say anything back to her. He just got up and left.
Birdsong greeted him. His gaze remained downcast, although as he rambled into town, he began to sing. It wasn’t a happy song, and it certainly wasn’t in Equestrian. “Da, ya pomnu. Yes I remember the warmth of my home, and the poignant goodbyes. How we all said we’d be back before long.” His mind’s eye went wild, mixing images of present and past, real and imaginary, current and memory. He saw a cart drive up the long hill. Those colts, will they be ambushed? He saw the soldiers passing cigarettes and jokes. “But it’s been a long time, so here stops our column.” The cart halted. The sergeant leapt down to investigate something and rounds impacted him. “You won’t ever see the real war,” he sang, glancing into Sugarcube Coner to see gingerbread ponies being slid into an oven. Just like bodies at the crematorium. “How guys burn alive in APC’s” Pinkie Pie lit the gas. The gumdrop mouths screamed. “How ponies fall over, go quiet, and move no more.” A foal tripped. Bullets found a mare running for cover.
He crossed the street, hugging himself against a sudden cold gust. Projectiles pierced his body. “Do you see the holes in my armoured vest? How many foals are lying here; how many wasted years? Mama, mamochka, forgive me -- I couldn’t save myself! Bullets hitting me… there was no hope.” He passed the park, where Cheerilee was lecturing a class in front of a statue. Just like good recruits listening to the gospel of the instructors. “Look here, listen up, you fillies and you colts. These heroes stand here, their faces all in a row. And so we remember those who will be forever twenty, who last moments were in that horrible chaos.” Tears stained the sidewalk.
Sunny spotted Scootaloo In the distance, flying slowly with a large package directly underneath her body. She looks just like a Hind traversing the horizon… For whom is her payload intended? He looked up to see pegasi parting the clouds, letting sunlight flood into the park. It was like blood when they just didn’t stop bleeding... “My friend fell – moj drug upal. He did not survive; killed in the hour just before dawn. He fell onto the snow and stained it red. He died so far from home. Harsh land – blue sky, our beautiful, hated, Afghneighnistan.” He saw a foreman directing some workers. Yes, komandir. “Orders were simple: get up, go, and die.” He leaned against a lamp post and dried his eyes before continuing.
As he walked back down the street to go home, Sunny saw a mare holler something inside at his approach. Just like it was in Chechneya. “But why remember we these things?” He looked around and saw that he was alone, sending spikes of terror and paranoia jangling up and down his spine. First comes the quiet, then the ambush. “Because only we can.” He walked home while he cried quietly, no longer caring who saw him or what anypony thought.
When he returned, he was thinking clearly and feeling much better. He passed the bottle of whiskey on the way in and stretched out a hoof to take it. He thought better of it and withdrew the limb. To his immense relief, Ginny was still sitting in her chair, waiting for him. He sat down and said, “Let’s resume from where I interrupted you. What were you going to say about the mares?” The tension was gone. He sat impassively and awaited her guidance.
She smiled and answered, “I trust Rainbow Dash the least. She’s not a bad pony; she’s just thoughtless. She looks at you like a cut of meat. If you just want sex, then approach her or just don’t refuse her. Just don’t get hurt if she doesn’t attach any feelings to it.”
“I see. I didn’t believe it myself, but that sounds like her. She’s still a good piece of ass. I still think that Regent’d get her.” Ginny nodded.
“Pinkie Pie is your friend, and a true blue one at that. She’d probably be willing to sleep with you if you just asked. Good for friends with benefits. She loves you as a friend, but let’s face it, there’s no way you two are ending up filing a joint tax return.”
“Pinkie Pie really… I never knew…” Sunny took a small sip of the fresh, hot, tea that had been prepared while he was out. It was a delicate sencha green variety brewed just the way he liked it. He smiled. “Thank you, mom.”
“You’re welcome. Now Faraday is the filly next door. She’s sweet and nice, but honestly boring. She’d be a good wife but a bad lover.”
“Is that projection?”
“Take it from a psych major, no.”
“Pity. So, Fluttershy?”
Ginny Breeze shook her head. “I really don’t know what to tell you, kid. She’s easily the nicest mare I’ve ever met, but I can’t say much else. She holds her wing funny. She’s real timid. My advice: be careful.” She almost spoke again, but stopped herself.
Sunny Breeze looked at her curiously. “And Zecora?”
Ginny lit up immediately. “I’d go for her. She’s a Zebra and has some years on you, but it’s nothing too big. You need a soothing influence like her. Plus, she’s very pretty and definitely loves her body; you could learn a lot from her. She also has the most to gain from you. Trust me on this one: you and her really should get together.”
“Got it. So, what’s the plan? I already have lunch with Faraday on Wednesday. I suppose that I could see Zecora that evening. After work on Thursday, I could easily make time for Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy.”
“That’s good. Don’t worry about the meetings; I’ll take care of them. You just need to show up sober.”
He scowled. “Can’t I get at least a little bracer for these?”
She folded her legs. “Not if you want my help. You won’t heal until you stop using alcohol as a crutch.” She sharply inhaled, seeing the snarl form on his lips. But it was a phantom and he swallowed it.
“I’ll try, Mom” said he, finishing his tea. He didn’t sound at all thrilled or happy about the prospect of enforced sobriety.
“Good, Sunny. Now, let’s get this show on the road.” And with that, the mare magicked over some stationery and a quill.