"What is the problem, dearie?" Mrs. Cake ambled across the spacious and well stocked kitchen. By necessity, it was very modern with the newest in chromed ovens, refrigerators and work surfaces. Electricity was becoming more and more a fact of life for Equestria and Cupcake was very glad Ponyville had voted yes to the new hydro-electric dam. Otherwise, Sugarcube Corner would still be using the old fire-stoked ovens and hoof-powered utensils. True, it had taken some work to get herself, Carrot and Pinkie up to speed on the new technology but it was worth it for the increase in production.
With a shake of her head to clear her thoughts, Cup turned and regarded the strangely nervous green pegasus. Something seemed amiss. She always liked Spring Meadows. Such a helpful young mare even if she tended to worry. Still, that's what it took to be a Counselor in Her Majesties service and Ponyville couldn't ask for a better mare for the job.
"Well, the foal that came in with us, uhm, his name is Bruce and he needs a place to stay while we look for his parents." Cup raised an eyebrow as Spring scratched the back of her head. It was almost unheard of for a lost foal to need help. To be lost without knowing where the parents were, that was even more rare. A stallion that let his foals out of his sight was hardly a stallion in her opinion. "And, uh, maybe beyond that even if what I'm thinking is true."
"Oh my, is the poor dear alright?" Cup had finally settled into an over-sized chair at her family's private dinner area, tucked away behind a half-sized wall. Spring sat across from her, rubbing her forehooves together nervously. The weathered old chairs were carefully obscured from public view. In a shop/home like most Ponyville businesses were, the owners and families needed private spaces that could be reached yet were not clearly in the public eye.
"Well, no." Spring sighed, leaning back in her bench. It creaked under her weight. "He, eugh ... he's a complicated case. He shows signs of abuse, neglect, possible sexual abuse, behavioral problems ... he's, he needs a stable environment."
"Oh the poor dear. And a colt, no less." Cup shook her head, a frown gracing her usually joyful face. This was unheard of, abusing a poor little thing like that! Cup felt a twinge of anger begin to rise but fought it down as quickly. She wasn't that mare anymore. She blew out a long breath to calm herself and focused on the questions at hoof. "Do you know where his parents are?"
"That's another thing," Spring said, grimacing. "He seems delusional, probably retreated to his fantasy to escape from the bad things that happened to him. He, he thinks he's in his thirties and a human." Cup's jaw dropped and it was a few moments before she could respond.
"...oh. Oh my."
"Yeah. I wanted to talk to you about potentially fostering him and, if I have my way, adopting him." Spring looked into Cup's eyes sadly and a little hopefully.
"Oh, I don't know." Cup scratched her head, almost dislodging her careful styled mane. "We have our hooves full with Pound and Pumpkin. Pinkie's a help but she can't be around all the time."
"Yes, about that ... Bruce's language is coarse. Very, very - well, just foul." Spring sighed again, putting her head into her hooves and giving it a little shake. Cup had seen the poor mare nervous before and even a little panicky but this was something entirely different. "He's hard to get along with, he can be very irritating and with all the other complications it'll be very hard to retrain him to be a proper young colt. Uhm, soap was used. At the hospital. And his reaction was not normal in any way. Pinkie was one of the ones to use it and I don't know if they should be left completely unsupervised."
"Pinkie would never hurt a fly," Cup gasped, her eyes wide with shock and surprise.
"...he was sobbing into her arms on the bathroom floor."
The steady look Spring gave her was enough to assure her of the truth of that statement. Cup's mind reeled. The fact that Pinkie - Pinkie of all ponies - might have hurt that poor, damaged little colt went against everything Cup knew of the mare. But, but maybe it was just inexperience. It had to be that. Times changed and the ways of redirecting foals that age changed with them. Cup herself remembered the way her mother would try to discipline her whenever she was bad. Spring continued unabated, reacting to Cup's expression if not her thoughts.
"Yes. I've always thought of Pinkie as ... strange but harmless. And - as a friend - I'd love to say I trust her completely but I have to think of Bruce in this situation and with all his other trauma, I just can't be certain there wouldn't be issues." Spring sighed a third time, letting it draw itself into a groan. With a loud thump, Spring's head hit the table. "This case is just a damn mess."
Suddenly, there was a shout from the other room and both mares jumped. They shared a slightly terrified glance with each other before bolting out of their chairs and trotting quickly for the door. Spring reached the archway first and stuck her head around the corner.
"Is everything alright right in here, Pinkie?" Cup winced at the tone. Spring and Pinkie were friends - everypony was friends with Pinkie Pie - but in this case, work had to come first. Cup herself still couldn't imagine Pinkie ever doing anything harmful to any little foal but ... she was still a bit young. It had to be that, it just had to be.
Cup heard Pinkie respond, muddled through the door. A high-pitched colt's voice followed and, after a second or two, Spring pulled herself back into the kitchen. Spring leaned against the wall next to the door and lowered her voice until Cup could barely understand her words.
"Cup, I can't tell you to take him." Spring purposefully did not look at her as she spoke but Cup could see tears forming in her eyes. "But please. Please, he needs normality. He needs to be cared for and about and the only other choices are, well, they're not the best." Spring looked at Cup's face, her eyes pleading. "He needs a solid, loving Earth Pony family."
Cup felt as if the weight of all of Equus rested on her shoulders. Spring's eyes began to quiver and a tear fell from one.
With a sigh, Cup sat down on the cold tile floor. This was not how it was supposed to be. A sad orphan with nothing left, a filly runaway that thought she was more mare than she was, a little colt so full of life whose parents were still fighting it out. These were the children Equestria produced. Not that ... that poor hurt dear probably not even in his double digits sitting there trying to speak over her twins far-too-energetic voices.
"Spring, we'll foster the dearie. I'll, I'll talk to Carrot about maybe adoption." Cup looked away from Spring's bright and happy eyes, her own closing in sadness. "But I can't promise that. We'll need help regardless. Our bakery is successful but if he's as hurt as you say he is ..." She left the sentence unfinished. As she finished, Cup felt herself grabbed and her eyes popped open in shock.
"Yes, yes, yes!" Spring hugged her firmly but gently, her voice returning to normal. "Anything you need, the Ministry is here for you. Bits, supplies, training if you need it." Cup looked at her friend with a gentle smile. Spring looked back, her own eyes now wet with tears of happiness. "Even if adoption isn't right for you, the fact you'll help is enough."
"Oh you have got to be fucking kidding me!" The two mares spun their heads to the doorway to see a surprised and rather aghast Bruce staring at them in absolute horror.