Some readers were interested in the Bruce/Spring conversation that I had written before trashing it and starting over. Well, I trashed it. I can't remake what is now effectively gone but I can re-do it, so to speak. So here's the latest Bruce/Spring interaction for your reading ... uhm, I'd say pleasure but that might not be the case. Perusal? Review? Whatever.
"Well think of it as a refresher course then." She clopped her hoof rather ineffectively against the carpeting, 'pomf'ing a small cloud of dust up. I take it she put her hoof down. I still had time between now and when school starts, right?
"Or a waste of time." With a nod at my tacit acceptance of my school-fate, she rubbed her mane slightly and twisted her smile into that fake-grimace thing she loved so much. My face hurt just looking at her.
"So, Bruce, tell me about your feelings." And there it is. Was she reading from some sort of script in her head? Actually, I expected it earlier in the conversation but that it came at all was really no surprise. I tilted my head at her, weighing my options. Since I usually went with what my gut told me to do - regardless of if it was sensible or not - I did the same here.
"Um no." Her blinking look of surprise was precious in a way. But she didn't yell or cajole me to tell her. No, her way was far more insidious.
"Why?" Spring asked, tilting her head back at me. My own blinking look of confusion mirrored her earlier one. She had asked me a question that was very, very, very hard for me to resist. And I couldn't resist. Such a wonderful and yet basic question. The root of all questions, really.
"Because ... well, aside from me just wanting to be contrary, I really don't think that would do anypony a bit of good." She smirked at my admission of being contrary. I have many flaws but most of them I know. Some of them. Well, the odd one or two.
"What do you mean?"
"Look. You think I'm a confused and possibly deluded colt. That bit of, uh, assumption is sabotaging our relationship from the start. And-" She cut me off with a shake of her head and a warmer smile.
"Bruce this isn't about me. This isn't about what I think or feel. This is about you. This is about what you feel. Whether you're a 'hu-man' in a colt body or not, your feelings are real," Spring said.
"But the history and situations behind them are different depending on whether I'm a pony or not. And I'm not. So-"
"What does it matter?" That question caught me off guard.
"Uhhhhh, I think the species of the creature feeling the emotions would have a great deal of affect in regards to those emotions." I waved a hoof, trying to get my thoughts together. I mean, the various species here must have different brain structures and those would influence thought processes - much less the differing biological necessities feeding into culture, feeding into society, reinforcing the differences and heightening their effect. I was about to expand on the thought when Spring spoke.
"No. No Bruce, it doesn't. Gryphons, ponies, donkeys, minotuars ... 'hu-mans.' They all have the same basic needs and they all feel the same basic things. Are ponies very different from 'hu-mans?'" She looked at me with that semi-fake smile and bright shining eyes. Yeah.
"Yes. Yes you are. You're a bit more naive. A bit more open, trusting, willing to help." I shuddered at the thought of one of these ponies appearing in Compton or Lower East Side. Or even Southside Nashville. Hello slavery!
"I am, Bruce. Mrs. and Mr. Cake are. The doctors here are. If you woke up on the piers of Manehatten, I think you'd have a rougher time of things." That got a blank look from me. Spring sighed at my apparent lack of 'modern Equestrian Geographical' knowledge. "Regardless of the species you were, I think that deep down you still have the same needs as others. You want to be loved. You want to be accepted. You want to be somepony that is important to somepony else. Maybe just one, maybe everypony."
"I don't need anyone."
"Bruce, that's not true."
"I am an island unto myself." I am! I swear, I can do anything! I don't need anyone to back me up, I'm a badass. I can ... manage. Look, this is me managing, see how well I'm doing?!
"No mare's an island."
"I am a rock. I am a stone. I am -"
"Burying your feelings under this false stoicism now. Come on, Bruce." Spring's smile came back, the real one. She looked at me with a bit of concern in her eyes though and I found my gaze unable to meet hers. "You've throw how many tantrums in the past two days?"
"I am under a lot of stress." I could feel the dam holding back my emotions crumbling. Maybe she was right, maybe I wasn't doing myself any favors by pretending to be tough. And yes, it is pretending because - let's face it - I'm not the most stable of people. Ponies. Whatever.
"I know. And I'm sorry for that. It's ok to be afraid."
"I'm not afraid!" My face was pulled into an almost sneer as I shot back at her still-smiling face. The concern was still there, the pity. I hate being pitied. I hate being pitied and made to feel small and thought of as incapable. I hate it.
"I'm ... I'm terrified." Oh boy. My face and head both fell as words came out unbidden. I could feel tears spring to my eyes though they never fell themselves. "I'm terrified of being stuck here. I'm terrified of never seeing my wife again. I'm terrified of having to fight through childhood again!"
"What?" My head snapped up at her question. She noticed but did not comment on my damp eyes. Stupid emotions. Stupid tears. Stupid body. Stupid stupid stupid.
"What happened to make childhood so bad?" She regarded me with that real smile and grasped my hoof in hers, squeezing it gently. "It's supposed to be a happy time. It's supposed to be a time of learning and growing. What made it so bad for you?"
I considered that for a moment. What was so bad about being a child? It's not like I really had control over my life back on Earth. I was a slave to my addictions, tied to a house and a job and a car. But it was stable. It was mine. It was what I built - figuratively speaking. What was I so afraid of? After a few moments of silence between the two of us, I began to speak. My voice was very low and I saw Spring's ears flick forward to catch every word.
"... we moved. A lot. I never was in one place for that long. I've been in foster care, homeless, living in roach-infested hovels. Until I was sixteen, I had never lived in one place for more than a year or two. That was also the year I first started living in a real house. Trailers, apartments, projects - these were where I had lived. A real house. How stupid is that?" I chuckled. So proud of something many take for granted and many more never get to experience. I kept my head low. I felt worse about feeling deprived than the small amount of deprivation I had to deal with. It wasn't right to feel like that, my life wasn't bad.
"It's not stupid, Bruce."
"Yes it is! My life wasn't even that bad." See? I gave Spring a bit of a glare which she took completely in stride. Raging emotional colts must be the norm I guess. "Sure it was dirty and unstable, but I wasn't starving. I wasn't cold - often. We had help, such as it was. I had clothes, I had ... garbage."
"Toys, crap like that." I waved it off and looked away. "Hell, I had a Genesis the year it came out. Expensive as hell and the only gift that Christmas but still. I had things, I had chances."
"So why are you afraid of being a kid again, if it wasn't that bad?" I heaved a sigh at Spring's question.
"I don't like change. I don't like moving all the time. I don't like never having friends, always losing people. I don't like always being the 'new kid' that's scrutinized and judged. I don't like doing that."
"That's not going to happen." Spring's reassurance caused me to snort. I've seen what foster care can end up doing to a person. Of course the kids are usually more messed up than I am so that doesn't help.
"Sure it's not," I replied. From the tone of my voice, I think Spring knew to drop that subject. Again, we were left in silence as we both worked through our thoughts. Spring was the pony to break it this time.
"You were homeless?"
"Homeless shelter for six weeks." I think it was six weeks. Could have been a bit more or less, I can't remember.
"How did that happen?"
"I can't remember." I gave it the old college try though. With hoof to chin and eyes raised to the ceiling, I struggled to recall exactly why we were all there. "It was pretty close to my parent's break-up. I - I can't remember exactly when. I do remember that they wanted to put me in the 'Male Room' with the drunks but she convinced the ... administers that I had medical issues."
"'Male Room?' Hmmm, and that was something you didn't want?" Oh, right. Semi-inverted gender roles or something. Cultural preconceptions aside, I fought down a sudden ill feeling.
"I remember screaming. I don't like to remember the screaming."
"Oh. OH. Oh my." I looked at Spring as she squirmed on her pillow. She looked a bit green herself. I remained quiet. I had nothing I wanted to say. "Bruce, I'm sorry. Despite what you say, I think it was a hard life. It was a tough childhood."
"Better than being a child soldier." Yeah, see? No matter how bad it is, someone somewhere has it worse. So stop complaining and suck it up. So why were my ears flipped down and my head hung low? Stupid emotions boiling away inside. I felt sick. I hated that feeling.
"... we need to talk more about this. I'd like to revisit the foster care you told me about. Was this after or before the homeless shelter?"
"I don't remember. I think it was after? It doesn't matter." I was done. Too much to think about, too much to feel.
"Bruce, of -"
"IT DOESN'T MATTER!" My shout caused my lungs to burst ... figuratively speaking. My small form was wracked with coughs as I tried to gain my air back. Spring - once seated sedately across from me - was at my side in a flash, rubbing my back in circles and making worried noises. After a time, I managed to gasp enough air to refill myself.
"That doesn't sound good."
"It's fine. Smokers cough." I collapsed onto my hooves and rubbed my eyes free of tears. And again. Stupid tears. Between the emotional pendulum that is my brain and the coughing fit that'd make my human body try to shut down, I was physically and emotionally drained. Why does that happen, anyway? Spring stood next to me as we passed the time in silence - again - and I tried to gather the shattered remains of my emotions. I think she looked sad but she was a bit too blurry to make out.
"Bruce, can I hug you?" Spring asked. I blinked away what was left of my little emotional outburst and regarded her warily. Ponies love their hugs but I was not ... ok, I was beginning to like them myself. But I was not yet ready to embrace my pony-self. Besides, hugs are awkward as hell with hooves.
"I'd prefer it if you didn't."
"Ok. I'm here if you need anything." She returned to her seat slowly. As if she was afraid I'd start up again - either coughing or crying. Stupid tears.
Guess what? If you guessed 'more silence' then you're right! I was still panting a bit from my exertion and Spring seemed very intent on the carpeting for some reason. You never realize how often conversations pause, stutter or end up dying until you try to communicate one of them with one hundred percent accuracy. Spring's head shot up - her smile bright - startling me slightly. Luckily, I didn't start coughing again.
"A good memory."
"A good memory." She emphasized her statement. "Tell me something good that you remember from your childhood."
"... I don't remember."
"There must be something."
"It was a long time ago, Spring." Wow, over twenty years ago. Where'd the time go?
"You remember the bad memories." Her smirk told me that was meant half in jest. She waved my growing frown away. She did raise a valid point. My life was not that bad, there was some good memories there. I just had to remember them. "Think about it. There's no rush here. Whenever you're ready."
"I'm sorry, Spring. I can't think of anything specific. Christmas morning, I guess. It really wasn't that important." I mumbled to myself a side note, just low enough she couldn't catch it. "Only reason I remember it is because I was recorded." Why was it that I couldn't remember the good things? Was I so caught up in the negative that I couldn't see the positive side of things? Was I that obsessed with the bad?
"Hmmm. When was this?"
"I must've been twelve? Thirteen? Something like that."
"Mmm." I could hear the math beads in her head, trying to place that bit of information into her personal timeline of 'my' life that she was trying to build. She frowned - well, her smile fell slightly - as things failed to add up very well. Even with me being a bit older than she first thought, things weren't adding up to her. At least, that's what it looked like from the way her brow furrowed. She changed topic for her own sanity. "I heard you got lost yesterday."
"Oh. Right. Yeah." I had the good graces to blush and look ashamed at least. She sighed at me.
"Why do you feel the need to run away, Bruce?" My head swiveled to stare at her accusation.
"I was not running away. I - I did walk off in a huff but I had a purpose!" She waved a hoof, inviting me to continue. With a roll of my eyes, I obliged. "I was going to the Library."
"The Library? Where Ms. Sparkle lives?" A tone of concern tinged her voice. Why would she - oh, right! The argument at the party. Water under the bridge, Ms. Meadows.
"Yeah." I punctuated that with a hoof jab. I was already limited in my interaction with one of the main characters from the show - best pony at that! - so I didn't want to loose access to any more. And my only source of contact with the Princess at that. "Spike can send letters to the Princess so I figured that I could get him to send a 'Help me!' letter and this would be over with."
"You want to contact the Princess?" The counselor blinked in surprise. Why is this surprising? I'm an adult human stuck in a foal's body! Why would this be surprising?!
"Ah, yeah? I figured that she's thousands of years old, she might have some idea of what's going on." You could slice my sarcasm and sell it as a food additive. Spring bit her lip in consternation.
"Well, instead of trying to get Spike in trouble, I'll put in a Petition and we ca-" What? What? What? Petition? You can do that? Why was I not told? This is important!
"Wait. Wait, hold up." My blush - recently gone from embarrassment - came back. Only this time, it was from a growing sense of anger and indignant rage. Spring glanced around nervously at the signs of 'colt breaking point.' Hell, I was sure I felt the signs. When you're that angry, though, it's hard to hold back. "You mean you can contact the Princess?"
"Well, not directly. But anypony - anyone, actually - that wants to can Petition the Crown for redress of an issue. Usually, the Princess only answers a select few but she does tend to favor foals. She cares about all her little ponies." Little ponies my whi-blue ass!
"This. Is. BULLSHIT!" I leapt to my hooves, seething with anger. Looking back at things, it was probably one of those 'common knowledge' things that nopony thought to mention because of how ubiquitous that knowledge was. One of those 'cultural knowledge' things the show writers never touched on or that just didn't exist in the rose-tinted version that was produced for tiny children. Still, I had a right to be at least a bit miffed. But not this miffed.
"No-no-no-no-no-no-no, fuck you!" And that, my friends, was all it took. Spring's smile fell into a rather angry frown but I was too into my own (irrational) anger to notice. "All I had to do was ASK?! And no one thought to tell me this fact?"
"Bruce, you need to calm down right now!" She sounded serious and her glower was serious as well. I glared back, gritting my teeth.
"I am calm, considering the circumstances," I snarled, hissing through my bared teeth. Say whatever you want about pony/human divergent evolution, I think snarling was sort of universal in that respect. Our raised voices must have carried through the door because Mr. Cake - having waited patiently through a few of my outbursts already - peeked his head in, his face lined with worry.
"Is, is everything alright in here," he asked, oblivious to the pot of boiling anger that was 'Bruce.' I rounded on him, completely and totally out of control.
"No it is not! This bitch-" At my shout, a few things happened. Mr. Cake folded his ears back against his skull, his eyes shooting open at both my volume and my words. My own eyes popped open wide as well. Those words were not exactly the ones I meant to utter. Most importantly, Spring - her face flushed and her mouth pulled into a tight grimace - jumped to her hooves.
"That's it! Corner, NOW!" I found her breaking point, it seemed. I began to stutter out something that might have resembled an apology but she cut me off before I could get even an 'I' out. "Corner! You are in time out! We do not use that language and we do not insult other ponies when they are trying to help."
And she was so right. I didn't want to admit that to myself or her right then, though. I was still a bit upset at being 'left in the dark,' I was reeling from the feelings, I was irritated and I was in a very bad mood. I shouldn't have let that color my words but 'should have could have' never solved things. I tried one more time.
And that's as far as I got. She stomped her hoof and snorted, her head lowered in what I guess was a slightly aggressive manner. It looked aggressive and I think it was the same thing as a human leaning forward and pointing. Whatever the equivalent, it got the message across fine.
"Now, mister." Looking at Mr. Cake for back-up (and him frowning at me in return), I gave a defeated sigh.
DIRECTOR'S COMMENTARY! With Genjen catching my stupid mistakes.
This did not come out exactly as it had before. When I was doing my editing, I cut out a huge chunk of conversation but had wanted to get some things settled so I had to go back and edit what I had saved. I forgot to keep in the Princess Petition thing so we'll get to that in the next 'real' chapter in the story (I'll fit it into this conversation as well because it's not 'non-canon' or anything either). This is more a look at what 'could/should have been.' This also suffers from a case of WUI (Writing Under the Influence). Completely legal, let me tell you.
The original had the feelings/history come first with the Princess argument later and then the Assessment test conversation. Putting Bruce in the corner after this felt 'off.' In my experience, punishments tend to follow immediately the behavior that needs correcting. I couldn't - at the time - see any way of rearranging things to make it work better so I cut out the feelings chunk and retyped it into a more compact format. That and the conversation-heavy nature of this made it difficult to interject actions leaving me something akin to 'he said' 'she said' 'he said' 'she said' which I've always hated. I still felt that taking it out served a better purpose and made the previous chapter more focused (and funny) but I may be wrong (what with the breakfast scene acting only as a continuation-joining of the two previous chapters and the assessment test more of a teaser for what will occur next chapter).
No promises about going back and adding any particular part that I may skip over in the future, by the way even if there is a clamor for it. Also, if you get the title reference, kudos! Mel Brooks is a genius.