A Mother's 'Love'

by deadpansnarker

Part 16: The Search

The visibly distressed Diamond Tiara galloped away in tears, leaving in her wake three fillies who had varying reactions to what had just transpired.

Scootaloo hovered over her prized vehicle, obviously upset by what she'd heard from the pink filly, but too shocked to really unleash the waterworks.

Sweetie Belle too was still trying to process everything, but the moment she saw that single tear drift down her pegasus friend's cheek, her nurturing instincts kicked in and she wrapped her fellow Crusader in a warm hug.

As for Apple Bloom, she was torn. Part of her wanted to run after Tiara, to try and calm her down and to apologise for not being forthright enough in explaining the delicacy of the situation to her other friends.

The other half was tempted to console Scootaloo, as the farm filly knew how devastated the pegasus had been the last time Tiara had insinuated such remarks. It had almost led the stuntmeister to give up her lifelong dreams.

What to do... What to do...

"Er... That was the real Diamond Tiara wasn't it?!" Scootaloo's voice came out loud and clear, interrupting Bloom's deliberations.

The farm filly looked up and saw the two other Crusaders separated, having disentangled themselves from each other.

Sweetie now stood a few inches apart from the orange pegasus, with an inquisitive look on her face.

Scootaloo, on the other hoof, was done with being upset, and was now just plain cross, with her forehooves folded in front.

"Yeah... I'm inclined to agree. No imitation of DT could capture the unbridled rage of the genuine article like that..." Sweetie put her hoof to her chin." Which kind of begs the question, why was she looking so unlike her usual self?"

"Who cares?!" Huffed Scootaloo, her wings spread in anger. "Did you hear what she just said? She as good as called me a cripple, again. I really thought she'd changed for the better... Obviously, I was wrong."

"It just goes to show..." Sweetie added. "Not everypony can be redeemed. Queen Chrysalis, Tirek, and now add to that list, Diamond Tiara. After all the trouble we went to, this is how she repays us. I don't know who I'm sadder for, her or us."

"Well, us of course." Scootaloo frowned. "We made all the effort. We followed her around town to understand her. We invited her back to our clubhouse. We explained to her how she could use her power and influence for good. We even sung for her! While running backwards! And this is the thanks we get! I don't know why we even bothered. Still, at least we got these cool cutie marks out of it, so it wasn't a total loss!" The orange pegasus pointed to the freshly appeared symbol on her flank.

"It does beg the question, though..." Commented Sweetie thoughtfully. "Why did she go to all that trouble to falsely argue with her mother in public, and set up that giant playground for us to play on? It might be part of a bigger plan. I bet the play equipment is rigged to collapse when we're all on it! She might be trying to frame Pipsqueak!" The white unicorn turned to Apple Bloom. " Hey, you've been hanging around her since this morning. Did you see anything suspicious..."

"Be quiet! The pair of you!" Came the raucous reply from the farm filly.

Apple Bloom had been listening to her two friends talk complete nonsense for a good few minutes. She had been getting more and more agitated, waiting for a chance to break in on the conversation, and now she'd finally got their attention, she intended to make the most of it.

All at once Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle jumped a few feet in the air, as if they'd been stung. Being yelled at by Diamond Tiara was one thing, but Apple Bloom doing it? One of the nicest fillies around, who had only knowingly lost her temper in front of them that one time Scootaloo ran over her favourite apple-bucking hoof?

It was most unusual, to say the least.

"Now, you two are going to stand right there, while I explain everything that's happened. I don't want anypony to interrupt me. I don't want anypony to look away. I need your complete undivided attention, because this is very important! The well-being of one of our friends might be at stake, because of your weird conspiracy theories and the fact you never listen! So, get comfortable, because this might take a while..." Bloom's voice was not hostile, but very firm.

The farm filly began to explain everything. How Tiara's mother had been deemed an unfit parent. How her father had been practically a bystander, while Spoiled had got away with her mistreatment. The trip to Rich Mansion last night for four of the Elements Of Harmony. The signing of the custody papers, which meant Diamond no longer lived there.

Applejack's kind offer to adopt the pink filly. Their arrival at Sweet Acres that evening last, when Tiara had collapsed like a sack of apples right in front of Bloom. The fact they were now sharing a room. Diamond's fit caused by all of her pent-up anguish, which had led to the destruction of her new roommate's entire wardrobe. Applejack's mothering of Tiara after she got injured, which the foster child seemed to respond to with great enthusiasm.

The family meal, where Diamond seemed to be completely nonplussed, as if such she'd never been part of such a thing before. Her besotted reaction to trying out zap apple jam for the first time. The completely unexpected apology to Granny Smith. The promise Bloom had made to Applejack to watch out for Tiara, which she would have done anyway.

After all, to the farm filly at least, she was part of the family now.

And finally, the events of the present, when poor old Diamond Tiara, who'd been through more than enough the past day, had almost been run over by Scootaloo's careless driving, unwittingly called all kinds of names to her face and been accused of being a love sucking parasite bent on taking over Equestria. As Apple Bloom explained, considering her tempestuous personality and fragile state of mind, it would have been unbelievable if she hadn't lost her rag at that point.

Even if she did take it over the top by targeting Scootaloo's most sensitive area yet again.

As the orange pegasus and Sweetie Belle heard more and more details on how the pink filly had suffered under the iron hoof of her own mother, her enforced acclimatisation to a completely unfamiliar way of life and the way she'd already blown a fuse in front of a terrified Apple Bloom due to her built-up trauma, their faces visibly dropped more and more. Now the pair understood why the newly fostered child had, despite her best efforts, snapped at them as a result of their tragic misconception, and the regret was etched all over their features.

"Oh, no, what have we done?" Sweetie Belle exclaimed to Scootaloo, with droplets of water visible in her eyes. "Thanks to you being obsessed with that stupid gossip magazine, we may have lost Diamond Tiara to the dark side again for good! I never should have listened to you. She wasn't a changeling, that scooter wasn't safe, and I even suspect that chocolate you gave me this morning wasn't chocolate at all! You're a bad influence on my innocent brain, that's what you are!"

"Hey, wait just a second!" Scootaloo snarled back, her wings spread out full. "You're the one who convinced me there was a new breed of those creatures living in the Everfree forest. 'Changelings who can hypnotise you' indeed! What a load of rubbish, and as I recall, I told you that the stuff I found might not be edible, but you went ahead and ate it anyway! That's probably what made you ill, not my peerless driving! In the future, you can get your own food! And your own lift to school!"

"Will you two stop squabbling!!" Apple Bloom was determined to reign in her fellow crusaders. "You're missing the bigger picture here. It's not about who did what in this situation, it's all about a new friend going through a very tough time, that we've just made even worse! And yes, I include myself in that. If I'd just made more of an effort to say something while you both were jumping to your own weird conclusions, we might not even be having this discussion now." She stared down mournfully at the ground.

"Well, come to think of it... My sister did say something about keeping a closer eye on Diamond today. I guess, this is what she meant." Sweetie remarked, annoyed that Rarity hadn't been more specific in her order.

"And, I can kinda relate to what she's going through. I mean, I hardly see my parents at all, but to suddenly find yourself living in a house with strangers, and with everything else going on in her head..." Scootaloo didn't say anything else, but the orange pegasus was sure that in a similar scenario, she'd be very highly strung too.

"Good, so we're all agreed then. We find Diamond Tiara, apologise for the mess we caused this morning, and hope we can still be friends at the end of it. Now, did any of you see which direction she ran off in?" Bloom pondered their next move.

"Uumm"... Sweetie Belle tried to jog her memory, because staring at the path covered in almost identical hoofprints wasn't proving to be much help. "I think, this way..." She stated confidently, sure of her hunch.

"Hang on, how would you know? You were hugging me at the time..." Scootaloo disagreed, with the hint of a blush. "I was watching her every move, and I say we go this way." She pointed with her wing in the opposite direction as her unicorn friend.

Apple Bloom facehoofed. These two were worse than Film and Flam when they got going. "Okay, look, here's what we'll do. I'll try this way, you go your way, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, you give your way a try. If we don't find her in ten minutes, we'll meet back here. If we are late for school, we'll just tell Miss Cheerilee we were on official Crusaders business. I'm sure she'll understand! Okay, then girls... Let's head out!"

Without waiting for the other members to move, the farm filly walked off, determined to keep her vow to Applejack by assuring Tiara's safe return, even if it did result in a tardy slip.

Scootaloo took a minute to glance back at her unicorn friend. "Do you actually think our teacher will buy that excuse?"

Sweetie thought hard for a second. "...Probably not" came the frank reply.

Scootaloo sighed. "Didn't think so. Oh well, I guess it can't be helped. We should really make up for what we did. You go off first, I have to make sure this baby is secure against thieves before I start searching." She pointed to her scooter.

"I suppose there might be some kamikaze pony crooks out there..." Sweetie muttered to herself as she trotted away, very grateful to be back on terra firma.


"DIAMOND!!" Came the shrill call from one direction.

"DIAMOND!!" Another shout, this one hoarser, from the opposite side.

"DDIIAAMMOONNDD!!" That was the loudest yell of all, central to the other two.

The winner, by volume at least, was Apple Bloom by a country mile. She did have a personal interest in things, after all, being the main instigator of the pink filly's reformation, and that meant taking responsibility for what happened afterwards.

Which included: Making sure Tiara didn't return to who she was, encouraging her to be helpful and kind to further her personal transformation and most importantly of all, being there whenever she needed a shoulder to cry on, or just moral support.

Especially as now she was a member of the family.

Alas, despite her best efforts, all the farm filly had managed to do was attract the attention of miscellaneous passers-by, all of whom seemed to doing their best to ignore the three loud, obnoxious youngsters with very similar cutie marks.

Out of pure embarrassment, most likely.

The time limit Bloom had sanctioned was almost over. It was getting to the point where she was due to meet up with her friends, and she had no idea what she was going to tell Miss Cheerilee. Or Applejack.

Diamond didn't deserve to get in trouble for her remarks or for running away. It was Apple Bloom's personal opinion that it was amazing the former spoiled brat hadn't had a nervous breakdown by now, with all she'd had to deal with.

The farm filly just wished, she'd known sooner about her new roommate's stressful background. Then, they could have been friends sooner. After all, even bullies have probable reasons for behaving the way they do...

Bloom dropped her head in resignation. It couldn't be helped, and she was no closer to finding her target. Time to trot back to the meeting place, in defeat. She just hoped her fellow Crusaders had had better luck...

"Hey you!!" Came a random voice from nowhere.

Bloom's ears flicked up. "Huh?" she said, looking around her for the source.

"Over here!" The farm filly's eyes locked onto a yellow stallion, who was pulling a cart of apples. "My name is Green Grapes. Pleased to meetcha. What's this I hear about a missing Diamond? Is there a big reward? Cos if there is, I'll help ya look for it. We can share it. I've been looking for a way to get out of this fruit transporting business for ages..." He gestured at his produce.

Bloom rolled her eyes at the stallion's misunderstanding "It's no precious stone me and my friends are looking for, but a pony. I mean, she is precious, but that's because she's our friend. Her full name is Diamond Tiara, and we're trying to figure out where she ran off to. Now, if you don't mind, I have to..."

"Wait a darn minute..." Green Grapes had gotten a closer look at the farm filly now, and his mouth sprung open. "I do know you. You're Apple Bloom, right? Sometimes I do a bit of delivery work for your family. I must say, the Apples have always given me good tips, and asked after my health. Which is more than I can say for some of my other clients now..."

Bloom was glad to hear this praise about her clan, but there was something going on that was far more crucial than taking testimonials from happy workers. "That's great, and I'll be sure to pass your message on to my sister. But, I don't mean to be rude, I have to find a friend..."

"Okay, thank you! Give my best wishes to everypony!" Green Grapes was about to head off to another day of manual drudgery, when he remembered something else. "Oh, one last thing. Do you recall the other day, when I was taking my wares through town, and that wealthy-looking pink filly tipped over my cart of apples? I'm sure I just spotted her a few minutes ago, rushing past. I called out to her, but she didn't stop. I was wondering if I should try to claim damages from her family, for ruining my stock for the day. You were there, you saw it happen. You could be my witness..."

All at once, Apple Blooms complete disregard for the seller's problems had turned into rapt attention. She ran over to the side of the stallion's vehicle. "What?" She exclaimed. "Are you sure it was her? Where did she go?!"

Green Grapes stepped away nervously at this sudden reaction, but nevertheless responded. "E-er, well she did look a bit disheveled now that you mention it, but trust me, when somepony wrecks your business for the day like that little pony did, you sure don't forget their face. She ran right into Sugarcube Corner as far as I know, and she hasn't come out since. What's a nice filly like you doing being friends with somepony like that anyway..."

But Bloom wasn't listening to the rest. "Thanks, Mister! And sorry about your apples. I'll try and get my friend back to apologise later for that. She's not as bad as you think she is, you'll see!" At this juncture, the farm filly rushed off, to round up her fellow Crusaders and confront her new roommate head on.

Green Grapes stood where he was for a moment, taking everything in from this bizarre encounter. "Oh well, that was a change to the usual routine, I suppose." The yellow stallion merrily whistled, as he carried on to his destination.

And so, it all led to this. Gathering a relieved Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle from their wild goose chases, Apple Bloom and her friends found themselves at the entrance of the tooth-rotting hotspot of Ponyville, glancing nervously at each other.

"What do I say to her?" Gulped Sweetie Belle, sweat apparent on her brow. "I called her a fake! A changeling! What'll happen if she just wants to be left alone? I know I would if my 'friends' had treated me so badly. Especially if I'd just gone through all that she has..."

"I don't see what you've got to complain about." Scootaloo replied, tension evident in her voice. "I said she was dirty and smelly! And all that was my fault in the first place! I know she lost her temper, and said some pretty nasty things, especially to me. But, honestly, with everything else going on in her life, who can blame her?"

"Now, listen girls..." Apple Bloom tried to reassure them. "I know we seriously messed up back there, and we all wish it had never happened. But, the point to this is to make sure Diamond knows she has friends who care about her, and will be with her every step of the way. I'm sure we can put this behind us, all we need to do is apologise and move forward together. Now, are you in?"

Initially hesitant, Scootaloo and Sweetie, both looked at each other and gave little nods, then repeated the gesture to Bloom. A bit apprehensive herself, the farm filly approached the front door with trepidation, which might explain why she put too much effort into the kick that opened it up...

Almost hitting the pink filly inside the building on the other side in the process, square on the jaw.

Oops, that could have gone better thought Bloom with annoyance, as the trio of Crusaders eyed Diamond from just outside Sugarcube Corner.

Deciding to speak first, the farm filly made her opening move. "Diamond Tiara, we have to talk..." Sweetie and Scootaloo cowered slightly behind her.

Tiara glanced at Bloom for a minute, before focusing her attention elsewhere. Namely, at a certain orange pegasus she seemed desperate to talk to.

Without warning, Tiara dashed over to the perplexed Scootaloo, kneeled in front of her, and sobbed in as civil a tone as she'd ever used "Oh, Scootaloo. I'm so, so sorry for what I said to you. I'm in a very bad place at the moment, and you upset me back there, but that's no excuse for me losing my temper and being so rude. I want to tell you, I'm not that filly anymore. I'm not my mother. Please believe me, and forgive me. I'll do anything, be your slave for a week, go on long, dangerous scooter rides with you, pay for you to have flying lessons...OH NO, Was that last sentence offensive?! Aargh... I don't know what I'm saying!!" She was so bent on making up for her transgressions, her mouth was in overdrive.

And all this time, the orange pegasus just stood where she was, eyeing the apologetic filly in front of her thoughtfully, not saying a word in return, an unreadable expression on her face...

Before, out of nowhere, and in a completely un-Scooterloo like moment...

She gave Diamond Tiara, her former worst enemy, a hug.

Oh, it wasn't the strongest of hugs, as the hooves didn't even connect at the back...

But, undeniably, it was still a hug, and it was enough to halt Tiara's blithering once and for all.

This caused a gasp of surprise from the pegasus's fellow Crusaders, who usually had to almost threaten her to do anything 'sappy' like that.

All at once, Sweetie Belle decided she wanted a piece of the action. "Hey, me too!" She announced, as she literally dived into Diamond and Scooterloo's clutches.

The hug became a huddle, and became a little tighter.

Thirty seconds later, in the middle of the group, Tiara realised that all was well. "Alright, girls." She announced with a slight smile. "I understand. We all behaved a bit irrationally back there. We can talk about it more on the way to school. You can let me go now, I get it!" She expected to be released from her furry coils any minute, so they could go on their merry way together.

No response. The huddle became even tighter.

Diamond Tiara was confused. "Huh? Didn't you hear me? I s-said, t-that's e-enough. Apple Bloom, can you t-tell these w-weird friends of y-yours we don't w-want to be late for s-school, and t-they're holding us u-up?"

She glanced through the fog of orange and white fur at the farm filly, trying to blink away the unwelcome tears that had suddenly made an appearance.

Bloom didn't adhere to her request. In fact, quite the opposite.

Giving the pink filly a sympathetic look which seemed to say 'You need this...'

She ran over to the huddle, and joined it herself...

Until all of Diamond Tiara's frame was being smothered by a new friend.

"S-stop... I-I'm f-fine, r-really..." she tried to interject.

But nopony was listening.

'Well, at least I can maintain my dignity by holding in my tears...' She thought.

Until she realised, such measures were unnecessary.

Her three friends had no such qualms in wetting her fur with their eye moisture.

Yes, even Scootaloo.

So, eventually, unable to escape her warm, fuzzy prison, and realising she was the odd one out...

The proud, reserved filly gave in, and began to cry, too.


"Hey, Gummy." Said Pinkie Pie, her ears twitching as she pored over her old ancestral records. "Did you hear something from outside? Maybe the sound of four good friends reconnecting with a monster hug, after a massive falling out?"

The small alligator next to her blinked in response, for the first time that day.

"Nah, you're right. Just my imagination. Now, where were we..." The party pony returned to her work, none the wiser.