Bone Marrow sat in the Pegasus' washroom staring with wide eyed wonder at the tub in front of him. His fur was a matted mess of dirt, pitch and dried blood that made movement awkward and disgusting. He had agreed to the suggestion of getting cleaned up, but he hadn't pictured the tub of slowly filling hot water that simply existed in the room.
In the town of Scoria, water was a rare enough commodity that a bath would consist of a damp rag and some soap until whatever was unacceptably dirty had been cleaned, leaving a single spot of cleanliness for as long as the dusty town would allow to remain undirtied. The tub now represented the largest body of water his eyes had physically seen in his life and his excitement only grew as the water rose.
The Pegasus mother, now dressed in an apron, looked at Bone with some concern, "Are you okay? You seem awfully excited to take a bath for somepony your age."
The young necromancer's eyes shifted away from the tub to the Pegasus before flicking quickly to the floor. "It's just a lot of water, I guess. I'm not really used to that much just existing in one place."
"You're a pretty weird pony." The Pegasus filly from earlier pointed out. She had been carrying the next tub of water by the handle, gripped in her mouth. "Do they not have lakes where you're from?"
Bone vaguely recalled what a lake was from his teacher in school mentioning it a few times, but shook his head anyway. "I've only heard about them before. What are they, exactly? Are lakes like a tub but bigger?"
The filly dumped her bucket of hot water into the tub, watching the water swish around inside before being satisfied. "I think we have one near the town, but I'm not taking you anywhere when you look like that."
Bone approached the side of the tub with curiosity, his hooves dangling over the edge. "So, what do we do? Is there a rag nearby?"
The mother lifted Bone into the air with her hooves before slowly lowering the unicorn into the bath. A visible wave of filth emanated from contact with the hot water causing the two Pegasus to second guess their choice of cleaning when Bone was already nasty.
Bone Marrow, however, was enjoying himself far too much to be concerned about a bit of muddy water. He rocked back and forth with the moving water before his body settled at the bottom, his muzzle above the waterline while the rest of him was submerged in comfort. A contented sigh escaped from the young necromancer as his eyes closed.
"This is the best thing I've ever done," Bone sincerely stated, swishing his muzzle and head in the now murky water as drops escaped the tub from his activity.
The mother pulled a curtain to the side of the tub to shield herself from the splashing. "Easy with your movements dear, we don't want to have to take a bath as well after you're done."
He complied, happy to sink lower into the hot water until it was up to his eyes. Opening them, he witnessed the miniature waves of water flowing over his muzzle with ease, creating small wisps of dirt that joined the rest of the muck he was sitting in.
The filly reached for a bar of soap and a scrubbing brush, offering it to her mother. "You can do the cleaning; I'm not getting anywhere near that much dirt."
Bone dunked his head under the water, shaking loose anything he could before resurfacing. The mother then went to work, covering the foal with soap and set towards a pattern of scrubbing his body and rinsing the brush somewhat pointlessly in the muddy water.
Deciding to counter the awkwardness of washing somepony she hardly knew, she struck up a conversation. "So, what were you doing out there in the forest all by yourself?"
"Uh..." Bone Marrow blurted, "Exploring?"
Bone Marrow's relaxation had been abruptly halted by the question, his anxiety rising by the moment now that any wrongly answered question might lead to him being captured for a bounty or reported to the Royal Guard. He couldn't help anypony in captivity, and he really didn't want to be hurt by a bunch of angry ponies either.
"You were exploring the Everfree, at night, all by yourself?" The Pegasus questioned. "Where are your parents? Do they know where you are?"
He bit his lip with indecision. If he told the truth he would have to answer an entire load of questions he really hadn't considered lying about. He didn't like lying, but the truth would also get him into trouble.
"They're... on vacation." Bone replied after a pause, his ears folding down from the brush scrubbing between them. His eyes closed as soap suds descended onto them. "They went to the capitol to... join the Royal guard."
The Pegasus was suspicious now. "And they just left you behind, all alone?"
"I had a foal sitter!" Bone countered a bit too hastily, "He's the baker, name of Sour Dough."
Sour Dough of course had been murdered some time ago in the mines of Scoria, but he doubted that this Pegasus would know about that. The brush had moved to Bone's neck now, scrubbing the sides as more suds joined the water's surface.
"What happened here?" The pony asked, brushing the scar along Bone's neck where the first crossbow bolt from the bandit had grazed. "Looks like a nasty cut you had some time ago."
"Uh, tree branch." Bone threw in as a reply, hoping she would buy the explanation. "Can we talk about something else?"
The Pegasus mother had a very serious look on her face, lifting Bone's head with a hoof. "Have your parents been hurting you? Did you run away?"
From Bone's perspective the question had come so far out of left field that he could only sputter in confusion. The mother took it as confirmation of her suspicions and set back to scrubbing the young unicorn with a lighter touch.
"Terrible thing to do to a foal..." The Pegasus tutted with anger in her voice that soon calmed after a deep breath, "But you're right," she sighed, "Let's talk about other things. Are you doing alright since last night? There looked like something was sticking out of your chest when I first found you, but when I came back it had vanished."
Bone realized that she had seen the crossbow bolt embedded in his heart as he had been pulling it out, and that was why she had run off soon after seeing him. The bolt must have been turned to ash like everything else when he died the second time, now that it wasn't technically a part of his body.
"I think it was a branch or something that looked bad," Bone replied carefully, "I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be around if a tree had gone inside of me, right?"
The mother took a moment to consider this as the brush moved to his shoulders. "I suppose you're right. Must've been a trick of the light." The scrubbing continued for a full minute of silence before she spoke again. "I've never seen that part of the forest before, and I fly over it every day when I'm working on the weather. Do you know what happened there? I found you at the center of it..."
Bone turned his head away as his eyes went wide with worry. How was he going to explain that? Brush it off as coincidence? Then how would he have been injured if he was innocently strolling through at the time? Perhaps a magical storm would explain what had been going on? He decided to go with that idea, seeing as his time to reply was getting suspicious now.
"I think I touched something bad and it caused a storm?" Bone replied with uncertainty and doubt in his voice, no small portion of that devoted to his own doubt that his ruse would work. "I don't remember much."
The Pegasus took a deep breath before a long sigh, now halfway done with Bone's torso and sides. "I suppose that some things are better left to mystery."
That reply worried Bone. Did it mean she didn't believe him? Did she already know that he was a necromancer, and that she was testing him?
She decided to switch topics, "Did you get anything to eat before your bath, dear? You're looking a bit thin under all this muck."
Bone examined himself, realizing that his rib-cage was visible beneath the fur of his coat. He hadn't absorbed any meat since his double-death incident, and it was probably taxing his body. How to explain his need for meat? He might be able to get away with it being a cultural thing if he included more regular foods with the lie, though he felt he was treading on quicksand at the moment with all the fabrications he was having to make.
"Ah... I'm just not used to the food here, I guess. I never left home before...um..." Bone trailed off, hoping that the mother would assume he was referring to his alleged 'abuse' than the true reason. Bone guessed that sometimes it was better to let other ponies come up with the lie so he didn't have to say it himself. Besides, if she wanted to believe that his parents had been horrible and that was his reason for being out in the forest, what would he gain by correcting her?
Her face scrunched with anger again at Bone's reply, huffing a breath through her muzzle before calming down again. "What did they feed you, before you left?"
Bone Marrow mumbled his reply. "Mm...meat?"
The Pegasus fully stopped everything she was doing to reel back a bit, the scrubber falling into the murky depths of the tub to accompany her gasp of shock and horror. "Meat?!" She didn't even care that her own hooves were covered in filth from washing Bone at this point, covering her mouth with disbelief. "They fed you meat!?"
The young necromancer submerged himself lower in the water, the rim of the tub hiding his anxiety as his ears folded downward and he became very worried. This was it. She would either freak out and reject him completely, or sympathize with the false history he had presented her. He felt a bit sick from lying to her, but the truth would be a worse alternative.
"I..." The Pegasus stammered, "I just can't believe they would do something like that!"
Bone thought he should reply to what she had said, but his heart was hammering in his chest far too quickly for him to think of a proper answer. He didn't trust that he would say anything that might be useful, but he also doubted he would be getting meat anytime soon from the Pegasus either. Only his eyes peeked from the side of the tub, the small skulls that sat in place of his pupils shining with a soft blue glow.
"Is..." she continued, "Is that why your eyes are like that? Did they cast some spell on you to force you to eat meat?"
He had forgotten about his eyes, shutting them immediately to retreat further from her sight.
"By Celestia..." The mother sighed, pulling herself together and adjusting the apron she wore that had become spattered with dirt and muck. "Such a terrible foalhood..."
The truth is harder to accept, Bone thought with sympathy, better that you don't know, I guess.
The cleaning of Bone Marrow continued with strained silence after the mother's revelation at Bone's assumed past. She was far too worked up from the thoughts galloping through her mind to comment on the bit of scarring she found or the oddities she discovered here and there on Bone's body. She assumed that most of the damage was due to Bone's terrible parents, of which she was convinced they had been monstrous for him to risk going into the Everfree to escape.
Some time after Bone dried himself from the tense bath he had taken, he looked into the bathroom mirror at his reflection. The same skulls sat in his eyes. His fur was white and pristine as ever, almost perfect. He looked a bit starved, seeing as his frame was so skinny and the bumps from his rib-cage were visible to the eye. He knew that some meat would fix that, though getting it would be a different matter.
"Are you..." The mother asked from behind Bone, causing him to flinch with surprise "Oh, sorry! I was just wondering if you... needed meat, or if you could eat other things, still."
He looked at his reflection, staring into his own eyes before seeing the mare behind him. "I don't get full from normal food, I think." Turning around and looking up he asked, "I don't think you'd have any meat laying around, would you?"
She shook her head with a mixture of sorrow and pity. "None, I'm afraid. I know of a pet store, though. I suppose I could say I picked up a stray that needs some meat..." She then realized that her comment wasn't too far off from reality. "I suppose that makes you a lost puppy for all intents and purposes, doesn't it?" She added with a sympathetic smile.
Bone returned the awkward gesture with a weak smile.
The sound of hooves grew from around the corner, the filly from earlier holding Bone's cloak across her back. "I washed this for you while you were getting cleaned. Figured you'd want it."
Bone's horn lit with his blue magic, moving the cloak from her back and fastening it to himself. He pulled the hood over his head enough to conceal his eyes, and gave a genuine smile. "Thanks!"
"You should show him around the town, dear. I have to run a few errands." The mother suggested, patting Bone on the head before leaving for the door. "Be careful, you two!"
The filly waved to her mother as she left. When the door shut, she immediately turned to Bone Marrow. "So, whats with those cool eyes you have? Are you a wizard in disguise?"
Oh no, thought Bone, more questions!
"Ah... birth defect." Bone blurted, pointing a hoof towards the door. "Should we go places?"
"That's a pretty cool birth defect," The filly countered with a sly smirk across her face, "I thought it had something to do with your fancy cutie mark being a skull too."
Bone was glad he had decided to pull the hood over his head now as his eyes shot wide open. How had the mother not seen his cutie mark? She had cleaned it herself with a brush and hadn't said a word! Bone's breathing began to hasten as panic set in. Was she really going to get him food, or was she going to report him to the guard? He had been told his face was everywhere, but did it have his cutie mark? He hadn't seen a poster, so he couldn't be sure. It would be the one way to identify him easily aside from his eyes, and nopony else would have the same mark as he did.
"Are you okay? Did I say something wrong?" The filly wondered aloud, trying to look underneath Bone's hood to see what was going on with him. "It's just a cutie mark."
"Ah.." Bone replied unsteadily, his voice shaking, "I don't like talking about it. Can you show me the lake you talked about instead?"
The filly was excited now, her smile wide. "The lake! I totally forgot you've never seen one before; you have to see it with me, come on!"
Bone was being pushed along the floor by the filly at this point, headed for the door. All he could hope for now was a chance to slip away in the town before anypony noticed him, or things might get very bad in a short amount of time. He couldn't risk the possibility that the mother was genuine in her wish to help him. Never trust strangers was one of his rules now, and he definitely didn't want to die a third time to learn that lesson again.