A Mother's 'Love'

by deadpansnarker

Part 26: Empathy

"W-what a-about 'p-personal b-boundaries', Di?" Apple Bloom asked her bedridden friend nervously. She had a feeling where this was going, and she didn't like it one bit.

Tiara looked for all of Equestria like she was about to give Bloom the third degree. The pink filly was poised to rip into her new roommate with heedless abandon, tell her off like there was no tomorrow. She opened her mouth, to begin the salvo...

Then, she saw Bloom's frightened posture, with a hint of quiver, and a not-so-far-off memory was bought to the forefront of her mind.
A petrified little pony, cowered in the corner of her plush bedroom, while her 'devoted' mother was screaming abuse at her. And, the cause of this extreme rage?

The fact that said pony had failed to win the contest to decide which youngsters got to represent Ponyville during the ceremonies for the Crystal Empire Games.

Apparently, this infraction made her a major disappointment and a disgrace to the family name, amongst other titles of a similarly gratifying nature. It was all that tiny, curled up figure could do to avoid bursting into tears as her own flesh and blood tore strip after strip off of her self-confidence. When a few droplets of water did somehow force their way to the surface, her female parent had something else to complain about there, too.

"A loser and a crybaby? Well, aren't I just the proudest mother in all of Equestria! Sometimes, I wonder what I did to get lumbered with a child as useless as you. First, you get beaten by misbegotten little blank-flanks in an easy field, then you have the audacity to get upset about it?! What were you expecting, my child? A kiss, and a cuddle? Well, not in my household! My parents never mollycoddled me, and look how I turned out! Married to the most successful stallion around these parts, a wardrobe positively dripping with the latest fashions, an auspicious position at the local educational establishment..." Spoiled's nose was pointed higher and higher in the air, as her self-congratulatory speech reached it's zenith.

Her grandstanding was cut short though, when, in her peripheral vision, she spotted her daughter trying to make a clean getaway. Mrs Rich responded to this rudeness the same way she had since her daughter was a mere filly. She yanked on Diamond's tail. Ignoring the howls of protest, she continued her speech anew.

"Anyway, as I was saying, it appears that our illustrious family name is fine for the present, in no small way thanks to me. It's the future generations I'm worried about, especially with you not pulling your weight, and leading us to one mortifying failure after another. Your grandparents must be turning in their graves! You need to buck up your ideas, Diamond Tiara. Get your head out of the clouds, and concentrate on what's really important. Money, influence and power. However you get it. Remember, Mama loves you very much, and only wants the best for her little filly. Now, you just stay up here and think about what you've cost us today, and when you think you're ready, Randolph will get you something to eat before bedtime." Spoiled leavened off her harsh tirade with a sweeter ending, to give her daughter the slightest hint of encouragement.

It always worked, too. Such moments of tenderness, whether manufactured or not, were such a rare anomaly from the stuck-up mare, that every time she heard one it caused Diamond to redouble her efforts to be just like her mother. Hoping that one day, she might actually get a pat on the head, or Celestia forbid, a hug.

No such luck. Her mother was never happy with her performance and consequently, Tiara hardly ever got the affection or support she craved. With her father being an unrepentant workaholic, she was starved of all the essential ingredients a child needed to grow up into a well-adjusted adult. It looked like the Rich family could expect another creature like Spoiled on the conveyor belt in a few years time...

Until now, that is.
I'll never be like her thought Diamond, realising that all those so-called 'motivational' speeches had actually accomplished the reverse effect, and caused her to live in abject fear.

So, maybe it was time to rethink her approach.

The pink filly reset her demeanor from one of irritation, to a considerably more mellow disposition. Bloom, still instinctively shielding her face from what was sure to follow, as if Tiara's words were solid and could cause actual harm, suddenly felt a little tap on her head. She peeled her protection back a tad, and was confronted by this new, far more affable facade.

"Look, you know I really appreciate everything you and your friends have done for me." A softly spoken Diamond began to tell a surprised Bloom. "Before you changed me, I was the worst pony ever. I bullied, teased and lied to others with complete impunity. I was out of control. I thought I was better than everypony else. I was in danger of becoming... My mother" She recited those last two words with bone-chilling dread, as if that was a fate more horrible than death itself.

Bloom, who had now lost all trace of unease in her thoughts on hearing these conciliatory words, moved closer to the pink filly. "Oh Di, you know it wasn't any trouble. We knew you wanted to change, and we just gave you a push in the right direction..."

"But..."Apple Bloom was cut off by Tiara, who began to speak in a firmer tone. "You have to understand something. Even though we're friends now, and we might live together for a while, I do have a personal life. And there are some things that I'd prefer to handle myself, without you or anypony else's input. Stuff that I'm still a bit hazy on, such as friendship lessons, chores or tying a bow in my hair, is fine. Getting involved in the relationship between two fillies who've been best pals since they were very little... Less so."

"Oh..." Bloom began to see Diamond's point, and looked down at the ground with guilt. "When you put it like that, I guess me and the girls really messed things up between you and Silver Spoon, huh?"

Tiara afforded the farm filly a light smile. She was finally getting it. "Nothing that a bit of one-on-one time, plenty of grovelling and an extra large helping of ice cream won't remedy, I'm sure. We've known each other for so long, we can practically finish each other's sentences. We even have our own special chant, as you've heard repeatedly. Relationships like that don't just crumble because of one bad argument. But, you have to promise me, just this once, that you'll keep away. I know you do have this wonderful quality where you and the other Crusaders want to 'fix' everything, but believe me, some things are better dealt with alone."

After delivering her message as even-handed as she could, Diamond studied Bloom's features. Not a bit of confusion or bewilderment about them. Just a look of genuine understanding, and total acceptance. Tiara's true Cutie Mark talent was really beginning to shine through. You really could catch more parasprites with honey.

And all this, from ditching yet another useless lesson her mother had taught her. She was beginning to wonder if Spoiled had given her any good advice at all, other than 'How To Be The School's Most Unpopular Filly.'

Bloom interrupted her thoughts. "I-I think I know what you mean. I-It's like if I was fighting with Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, on something to do with Crusaders protocol. You might want try to step in, and stop us from quarreling. Your intentions might be decent, but if you don't know what we're talking about, you might say or do something awkward which could make the situation worse. And, I guess that's what me and the others did when you were trying to make up with Silver Spoon on the playground. Listen, I know it might not mean much at this stage, but I'm sorry..."

"Stop." Diamond cut Bloom off with a light shake of the head. "You don't have to apologise. You only had my best interests at heart, and it was a completely honest mistake. Unlike my years of picking on you, which was all completely intentional. Come to think of it, I've never properly expressed my regret for the bad things I did back then. So, here goes. Apple Bloom, I'm sorry about all the times I picked on you in the past, even if you were a bit annoying with your earnest over-cheerfulness."

"Uh, thanks?" The farm filly realised this was as close as she was going to get in terms of genuine apologies from Tiara, so she took what she could get. "And you might not need my sorry, but it still stands anyway. I know I did wrong, and I hold my hooves up to that. But, listen, even after you've made up with Silver, can we still hang out together? I mean, I know we're totally different ponies, but..."

"Of course we can!" Diamond smiled sincerely at Bloom, and put a hoof on hers. "I told you already. We're friends now,and that won't change. I'd even say good friends, even if we've only properly known each other for a short time. We share a room together too, so it would be a bit silly not to get on. Though, I do draw the line at sharing a bed. I hope Applejack has got a new one sorted out for me by the time we get home..."

"Oh." Apple Bloom commented, hiding her pleasure that apparently now Tiara thought of her as a 'good friend' and her accidental admission that Sweet Apple Acres was 'home'. "I'm sure she has. When my big sis says she'll take care of something, she always does. If I've learnt anything in life, it's that you can always count on her."

" I don't doubt it..." Tiara thought back over all the interactions she'd had with the orange mare since arriving at the farm, and they'd been nothing but positive. "One more thing. When I talk with Silv later, if I can get her to see sense and hang out with us and your friends, do you think you could reign them in a bit? I know, like you, they mean well, but sometimes..."

"Yeah, I do." Bloom concurred with a knowing nod. She didn't need to hear any more, having experienced Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle's own endearing form of lunacy since that fateful day at Diamond's cute cenera. "Don't worry, I'll be having a little word with them later about their antics. On our side though, there's another thing I'd like to clarify. Is it okay if we all still call you 'Di'?"

Tiara closed her eyes in annoyance. Another thing she'd have to explain to Silv. " Yes, yes. Now it's out in the open, you might as well, I suppose. As long as I can refer to you as 'Bloomers', on occasion..."

" Bloomers?! What the..." The farm filly raised an eyebrow at this strange new nickname, before noticing her pink companion barely able to hold back a smirk. It wasn't too long before the former worst enemies were laughing uproariously together, and a friendship that looked about as likely as a monsoon at Dodge Junction seemed to be going from strength to strength.

Unfortunately, Bloom had to sour it with a final, ill-advised question. "So, Di..." she said, while wiping the tears of hilarity away. "Now that we seem to be getting along better than ever, and you say you're sure you'll be able to patch things up with Silver Spoon, does that mean you'll take us up on our offer to join the Crusaders on a more permanent basis?" This was said half-jokingly, but the question was still out there.

Tiara's merriment turned to an haughty snort upon hearing this, and she gave Bloom a light-hearted nudge. "Don't push your luck, 'Bloomers'. You'd have to put me in the mental section of this very hospital before I even considered such a thing. In a little padded room, right next to that goofy Screwball... "

The thought of that half-crazy mare bought a strange revelation to Apple Bloom. Come to think of it, Screwball and Di had very similar colouring. Quite a coincidence. You'd almost think at first glance, they were...

Both filly's attentions were suddenly diverted by the sound of the door opening, and possibly the most delayed glasses of water ever were deposited on a nearby table by a harassed looking Nurse Redheart. "Sorry to keep you waiting, girls. One of our patients has just emerged from unconsciousness, and is causing quite a ruckus. So, we're a bit short staffed at the moment, but at least you two seem to be getting along better!"

The two fillies responded to the healthcare worker's encouraging smile with grins of their own. Diamond looked directly at Apple Bloom, before replying optimistically. "Yeah, we are."