After Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash had sent everypony else home, I was marched straight into the bathroom by Mr. Cake and given a thorough scrubbing. Despite my vocal protests, getting that nasty off my hooves was an extremely welcome relief. I wasn't too keen on having any pony handle my junk (much less another guy) but I must admit he was more gentle than I would have thought. He was 'tsk'ing at every small scratch and scrape. Such a strange maaa-stallion.
"So, what was that all about," he asked as he tried to get soap in my eyes. He hid it as 'washing my mane' but I knew his plan. I guess since they weren't allowed to put it in my mouth now, they'd have to find a new orifice to stick it in.
Oh god, that sounded wrong.
"Ptew, what was what about?" Soap still tastes nasty even if it is accidental. I looked around the Cake's bathing area, trying to forestall the inevitable questions. Like 'where are your parents' and 'why did you flee in terror.' Penis-shaped toilet? Check. Dragonclaw bathtub? Check. Mirror? Mirror! "Hey, does that mirror work?" That was undoubtedly one of the more idiotic things I had said that day. I blame lack of food, sleep and sensible reality. Before I could correct myself, Mr. Cake gave me what looked to be a reassuring smile. His overbite did not make smiles any less bizarre. And where his hooves were didn't make me feel any more comfortable.
"Sure does sport! You wanna handsome up before going downstairs?" Handsome what? Without waiting for my answer, he hefted me out of the tub and onto a fresh towel. I probably looked like a drown rat. I felt like one. Suddenly, the lights went out and there was a piercing scream in the night that sent chills down my spine. A scream of anguish and deathly fright. A scream of murder.
Actually, Mr. Cake had dropped a towel on my head and I shrieked like a little girl.
"Woah, easy there son, just a towel." I gasped, breathing hard as he rubbed me of-DRY! Rubbed me DRY! Gah, what is wrong with me?
"Geez, I am jumpy for some reaso-AH, watch the goods!" I wonder why. After a few more minutes of him ... well, touching me all over my body and me being completely weirded out by it, I wiggled free and hefted my forehooves up onto the edge of the sink to get a good look at myself. Finally, I could see what the world saw. I could see what fate had stuck me with. I could see ...
A really crappy OC pony.
I kid thee not. A dark blue tousled mane on lighter blue pelt with a few patches of pinkish skin showing where I had fallen in my mad dash to escape. My face ... that's not me. I reached out and touched the surface of the mirror, my hoof feeling the cold glass. My hoof? I-I have hands, not hooves. But this, this stump is ... it's 'my' hoof but it's not. I looked back at the mirror and wiggled my eyebrows. The mirror wiggled back. Stuck out my tongue, squinted, crossed my eyes and each motion was matched by my doppelganger. It was not me but it was me. A thin-ish nose - no, muzzle atop an ever growing frown. And my eyes. I was half expecting my eyes to be blue - making me the Most Boring Pony in Equestria - but thankfully someone had some sense and instead I saw two golden orbs staring back at me.
It was too much. I sat down with a loud 'thump,' my image disappearing over the rim of the old-style sink.
"I desperately need a smoke now. Yes, yes Mr. Cake, I know, I'm not going to go out smoking. But I really want to."
After I had been scrubbed nine ways till Sunday I was led out into a private dining area. It was a small alcove set back from the bakery counter area hidden by a half-wall separator and obviously designed to allow the Cakes a private dining area without taking them away from their work. Small and cramped, it could probably fit maybe four ponies. Five if two of them were children. It really wasn't meant to fit three foals, a stallion and four full-grown mares - two of whom were in Guard Armor. With Mr. and Mrs. Cake holding a twin each, we managed. But just barely.
The few questions about my girlish shriek were waved away by Mr. Cake as 'nerves' - earning me an understanding and sympathetic glance from Ms. Meadows - and I was ushered into the small space. Since I seemed to be the center of attention, I got one of the few seats available. In the back, hemmed in by Spring on one side and Mrs. Cake on the other. With everypony else blocking the only way out.
I looked around. The twins were having a quiet argument about who 'scared him away' with the occasional whispered 'shh' as if we couldn't hear them. The adults of my audience were looking at me with expressions ranging from confused concern on Fluttershy to irritation from Mrs. Cake. Spring was the first to speak up as soon as I had settled in.
"Bruce, we know you're scared and that things have been, well, hectic," Spring smiled gently at me and reached a hoof over, placing it on my own, "but we don't run away, ok?"
"Duh?" I grimaced up at her as soon as the word left my mouth. Shocked faces replaced the few that weren't scowling and turned the scowling ones deeper. "I mean, yeah, uh, yeah. I know. I panicked. Uh, sorry. I, uh, I heard the word 'adoption' and kinda freaked."
"Yeah, you can say that again." Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes, getting a hoof in her side and a slight ... well, from anyone else I'd call it a 'hard glance' but this was Fluttershy so I guess it was her version of a 'glare,' in response. "What, he totally did!"
"Yes, well, we don't 'freak out' over things like that here, ok?" Spring's hoof squeezed mine.
"I figured that, thanks." Gingerly, I lifted Spring's hoof and gently placed it back on the table. She didn't even bat an eyelash.
"I'd like you to apologize to Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash here. They were hustled away from their homes to look for you." Guilt trip, nice. I gave the two Guardmares a way-too-wide grin.
"Uh, sorry about that. It's, uh, been one of those days, ya know?" I laughed nervously. I have never felt so awkward in my life. Except one time but when you pee yourself in school, that makes everyone feel awkward. Rainbow Dash face-hoofed and grumbled under her breath.
"Interrupt my na-" Another hoof from Fluttershy stopped her from continuing.
"Oh, that's ok sweetie." The yellow pegasus smiled at me. I almost 'd'awww'd out loud, she looked so precious. "Just remember that adults are here to help, ok?" Spring cleared her throat.
"Yes, well, most adults, isn't that right Ms. Fluttershy?" The way Spring said most seemed to click in Fluttershy's head and she glanced at me with large eyes before nodding, a sudden sadness sweeping away her confusion. Mr. Cake gasped and covered his mouth with a hoof while Rainbow looked up from her own and made a sick face.
"Aww, man." Rainbow got up from the table and, with a shake of her shoulders that sent her armor clanking, stepped into the main area of Sugarcube Corner. I could hear harsh mumbling but all I caught were 'sick freaks,' 'no lube,' and 'till a cart can fit.' Yeah, mental images abounded. Fluttershy 'eep'ed what I can only think was some excuse and trotted out after her.
"Is it ... is it ... ?" Mr. Cake struggled to form words, shooting glances at me and his own foals. Pinkie reached across the table and gripped her employer's hoof.
"It's ok, Mr. Cake. He's safe now." Pinkie's smile was really, really, really sad for some reason and it just looked off as the dickens.
"...what," I managed to croak around the well spring of confusion and worry. I was not at all following where any of this was going. Why the weird looks? Why was Mr. Cake tearing up? What was making everypony so horrified? And why am I getting this weird Jerry Springer vibe from all of this?
"Cup, Carrot? I think it's time we had a talk about the ... challenges this placement will have and how me, the Ministry, and the Guard can help you and Bruce overcome these challenges. But I think we need to have a very frank discussion and just for the three of us." Spring had switch Modes again. From dopey-smile Mode to 'srs bzns' Mode. Pinkie got the hint though.
"Hey guys, who wants some dinner?"
My stomach growled in response. Yeah, dinner would be nice. All I had that day were three cupcakes and five glasses of water.
Pinkie led the three of us through the common area where Fluttershy was talking softly to a very angry looking Rainbow Dash. I heard 'not cool' about ten times as we walked past and Fluttershy gave me the saddest look I have ever seen before going back to her whisper-quiet conversation with Rainbow. The tension in the air was even affecting me.
"Something is fishy in here and it's not just because I'm following Pinkie closely." I grumbled just low enough not to be understood. Pinkie glanced back but I gave her the fakest smile ever.
The kitchen for Sugarcube Corner seemed to be the family kitchen as well as the business kitchen. The foals, out of the oppressively heavy air of the 'adult' room, began to perk up and started their argument again. Pinkie left us to our devices as she rummaged in the refrigerator.
"Why do you make my daddy sad?" The three of us sat at an even smaller table conveniently placed behind yet another half-sized wall. I raised an eyebrow at Pound's question as well as it's suddenness.
"Ya know what, half-size? I have no idea." Leaving me with children, a bad idea in normal circumstances.
"Why'd you run away?" Now it was Pumpkin's turn.
"Cause I'm a glutton for punishment and I love to make my life more complex than it needs to be." The twins shared a look.
"You're weird," they said in unison. Ah, kids! I so love kids that it makes me want to slit my wrists.
"Yeah, it's been a weird day."
"Dinner time!" Saved by the Pinkie. Trotting over to the table while balancing four trays took an immense amount of co-ordination and skill. Carrying four glasses filled with what I guessed to be milk was a feat unseen by mortal eyes. Pity there was only salad on the trays or I would have clapped. Argh, I want a steak! Bacon, oh bacon ...
"Cheer up, Brucey-wucey!" Pinkie Pie dug into her own tray, leaves of some plant spilling to the table top. As she ate, she tried to speak around her mouthfuls of food. Nice, she's a keeper fellas. Each mouthful made my face twist ever so slightly into a grimace of disgust. "We'll play some games -munch- and then maybe tell -munch- stories and then we'll -munch- get you tucked in nice and cozy into bed and -munch- tomorrow will be super-duper fun!" -munch munch-
"Pinkie, if I wasn't so hungry, that little display would have put me right off this - ergh - salad." I poked at the tray. Lettuce, carrots, cucumbers. Even a few flowers. I hoped that it would be a flavor explosion, that this new pony body would enable me to taste things as I had never tasted them before.
But nope, it was a salad.
"You don't like salad?" Not only did Pinkie eat a ton of sugar, she ate it fast it seems. Lucky girl, I wish I had your metabolism. The twins were still munching on theirs, though that was interrupted by an impromptu carrot-sword fight. Pinkie ignored their antics and, taking my cue from her, I did so as well.
"Yeah, I don't usually eat things that lack meat." MOUTH! MOUTH, WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME! I looked up in surprise at Pinkie, her face suddenly chalky white. "Uhm, that is to say, uh ..."
"Uhm, P&P? Uh, you guys stay right here with Bruce-I-have-to-go-tell-Spring-something-super-important-be-right-back." Shooting to her hooves, Pinkie dashed out the saloon-style doors that separated the kitchen from the common area, leaving a pink blur in her wake. The twins and I stared after her, their faces filled with confusion and mine with sheer terror.
"Uhm, Bruce? I thought meat was bad for ponies." Pound looked at me, his head cocked to one side. Corrupting the youth of tomorrow, today!