Three Gems and a Scooter

by RaylanKrios

Common Knowledge

A few days later Rarity found herself in a psychiatrist office while Scootaloo waited outside. Dr. Sunshine had come recommended by Cheerliee, and seeing no reason to doubt the school teachers expertise Rarity booked the first available appointment. Despite Scootaloo's turbulent history, Autumn had done an admirable job maintaining the integrity of her medical records. Between Rarity's answering her questions and the medical records in front of her Dr. Sunshine was able to get a clear picture of the challenge she was being presented with.

"Do you think you can help?" Rarity asked after the doctor had finished asking her questions.

"That depends entirely on her," the doctor said looking up from her notes that had begun accumulating on a yellow legal pad.

"How so?"

"Therapy is a process, but it's also about learning a skill, in this case how to manage your feelings. From what you've told me Scootaloo has trouble controlling her negative thoughts. I can teach her control, but if she's unwilling to put in the effort then nothing I do will matter."

"I see." Rarity paused, considering whether what she was about to say next was really the best idea. "I love her but I am forced to concede she can be quite stubborn, I fear she might not be so eager to commit so readily. "

The doctor smiled, one borne of years of treating stubborn children. "She wouldn't be the first. Why don't I go get her?"

Scootaloo hated waiting rooms and she had frequented them enough to form, what Twilight would call, a representative sample size. It wasn’t the old magazines or uncomfortable chairs, or even the terrible artwork that bothered her, it was the selection of toys available. She understood that waiting rooms weren’t toy stores, or even supposed to be fun, but it wouldn’t kill them to put in a little effort she often mused as she tried to find something to do during the intolerable periods she was forced to spend waiting for her turn to see whatever professional she was here to see. This waiting room had the usual selection of toys for babies, those beads that followed a curly wire path and stuffed bears. For older kids there was a lone Power Ponies action figure, a monster whose origins Scootaloo couldn’t place, and some coloring books with a bucket of broken crayons.

If anything, Scootaloo was surprised that it had taken this long; usually new parents took her to the doctor much sooner. And when she learned that it was a psychiatrist, it still didn’t faze her either; so when Rarity had carefully mentioned that she wanted to take Scootaloo to a doctor a few days ago it wasn’t a big deal.

As she sat in the waiting room she reflected on how she knew the next hour of her life would play out. She’d answer some stupid questions about how she was feeling and then she’d be sent out back into the waiting room while the doctor told Rarity, “She’s processing a traumatic experience and she’s understandably still wrestling with her emotions. Just give her time,” while Scootaloo listened at the door.  Since time was a nebulous word it would be a few months before Rarity brought up the subject again, but when she did it would inevitably be “Why are you still not happy here?”

But there was nothing to be done about that now, so while Rarity went to talk with the doctor, Scootaloo busied herself with one of the less colored-in pictures of the coloring book. She wasn’t really mad at Rarity, even though she spent a good portion of the morning brooding. She was just about to put the finishing touches on a picture of Daring Do escaping a collapsing temple when she heard a voice.


Scootaloo looked up to see a bright yellow pegasus with a fiery, orange mane standing in the center of the room. At first glance Scootaloo thought she looked like Spitfire, but a closer inspection revealed some key differences. Even under normal circumstances, Spitfire wore a determined sort of expression, signaling to all that she was a mare to be taken seriously. In contrast, the doctor's expression seemed to be perpetually quizzical, as though she was always pondering something of great importance. She wore a pair of rosegold wire-rimmed glasses and a silver necklace with a small crescent moon. Based on looks Scootaloo placed her age at older than Rarity but only by a few years.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Sunshine,” the mare said with a smile.

Scootaloo studied the smile for any sign of deception, but found it genuine. Rather than make any movements she just stood there, waiting to see how Dr. Sunshine would respond.

“Why don’t you come in?” The doctor said gesturing toward an office abutting the waiting room. The first thing Scootaloo noticed was that the office was lined with bookcases. That wasn’t unusual, lots of doctors had bookcases in their office, but these bookcases held an assortment of toys and puppets.  In particular, Scootaloo’s gaze settled on a transparent box filled with blockos. She looked around expecting to see Rarity but her caregiver was nowhere to be found. Scootaloo assumed she left through the door on the other side of the office.

Dr. Sunshine waited until Scootaloo became acclimated before speaking again. “Therapy is about helping us understand our thoughts and feelings. I find it useful if a patient has a specific goal in mind, so what are you hoping to get out of this?” she said falling back to her introductory speech she gave all new patients.  But rather than respond Scootaloo opted to just stare at her. The silence was mildly unnerving, even for a trained psychologist, most patients at least waited until after introductions before they shut down. “It doesn’t have to be something hard, it can be as simple as just wanting to sleep better at night.”

Finally Scootaloo spoke, but when she did her tone was colored with anger.  “You’re one of those feelings doctors who want me to talk about why I’m sad. Well, I don’t want to talk about it and I don’t need anyone pretending to be my friend,” Scootaloo said figuring that would pre-empt whatever else the doctor was planning on saying. Just because she wasn't mad at Rarity for bringing her didn't mean she welcomed the experience.

If there was one thing Dr. Sunshine disagreed with her colleagues about, it was the use of terms like “typical” and “textbook.”  Ponies react to trauma in a myriad of different ways and all of them were detailed in one textbook or another.  Some ponies who had been through similar experiences as Scootaloo reacted in much the way she did, becoming wary of trusting anypony; others had the opposite problem, becoming overly attached to their new caregivers to the point where even going to school was cause for separation anxiety.  Still others reacted by becoming fixated on objects, or pulling at their manes, or developing eating disorders; so every time Dr. Sunshine heard a patient  described as having a typical case of anything, she cringed.

Other colleagues might have diagnosed Scootaloo as having attachment disorder “typical” in fillies who were abandoned around her age, or a textbook case of rebelling against authority in order to regain a semblance of control over their own life, Dr. Sunshine did her best to reserve her judgement until she got to know the filly standing in front of her better.  And now that Scootaloo had responded, the doctor had something she could react to. “I’m not trying to be your friend, I’d like to be your doctor. Why don’t you want to talk about being sad?” The doctor said, quickly brushing off Scootaloo’s mild hostility.

“Because it’s not like talking is going to make me less sad. Why can’t we be friends?” Scootaloo answered.  It wasn’t that Scootaloo was looking for an adult friend who wanted to talk about feelings all the time, but having been told that she wasn’t getting one made her a little curious.  The other doctors she had met with usually said something along the lines of “I hope we become friends,” or some other useless platitude, so if nothing else this was something different.

Dr. Sunshine continued the verbal volleying, keeping her tone even and free of judgement. “Because as your doctor I need you to tell me what’s bothering you. You don’t always tell your friends everything do you?”

“No,” Scootaloo admitted.

“Why not?”

“Sometimes we’re having fun and I don’t want to ruin it, so what?”

“That’s good, that’s very healthy behavior. You consider other ponies feelings before speaking, that’s something friends do,” Dr. Sunshine said, making a note on her legal pad.

“Yeah, because I want them to like me,” Scootaloo said, the first cracks of frustration beginning to show on her facade.

Dr. Sunshine looked up and smiled, albeit only slightly. “That’s the other reason we can’t be friends. If I’m going to help you, I can’t worry about wanting you to like me, and you shouldn’t worry about wanting me to like you.”

Thwarted in her attempt to set her own terms, Scootaloo tried a different approach. “I don’t even know why I’m here. You’re just going to tell what I say to Rarity anyway, so shouldn’t I just talk to her if talking is supposed to help,” Scootaloo replied, continuing to challenge the boundaries of this new relationship.

Dr. Sunshine let out a long drawn out breath, she really hadn’t expected to confront this issue so early, but just because it was an unexpected turn of events didn’t mean she was unprepared for it. Scootaloo clearly had very little tolerance for equivocating so the doctor spoke plainly. “You’ve touched upon a delicate issue. If you were a grown up, you could tell me anything and I wouldn’t be allowed to to tell anyone, no matter what. In fact I couldn’t even tell anyone that you are a patient.” That statement wasn’t strictly true, but it was close enough.

“Why?” Scootaloo asked, her genuine curiosity pushing past her standoffish instincts  for a moment.

“Because patients need to be able to trust their doctors, so doctors take an oath never to tell their patients secrets. It’s called confidentiality and it’s very important.”

Scootaloo nodded slowly. “Okay.”

“But you’re not a grown up, and not all doctors agree about whether it’s okay to tell your parents what we talk about.”

 “So you are going to tell?” Scootaloo said, bristling at being called a child and at Rarity being considered her parent, even if both were true.

The doctor shook her head. “No. I want to help you, and you need to trust me for that to happen. So, I give you my word, as a psychiatrist, that I will treat you as I would any other grown up patient.”

Scootaloo’s habit of pushing ponies away again reared its head. “What if Rarity says she won’t pay you anymore? I know you’re not doing this for free,” she shot back.

“Then you won’t be my patient anymore and I still won’t tell her. Do you think she would do that?”

Rarity’s words echoed in her head, You owe me the benefit of the doubt.  “No. I think she’d rather I get better,” Scootaloo said softly, looking at the ground.

From their introduction and brief interaction, Dr. Sunshine began to form a preliminary assessment of her new patient. It was becoming clear that Scootaloo’s response to her past was to try and understand the motivations of other ponies. It was an understandable reaction; subconsciously if she could figure out why ponies did what they did, she could one day figure out why two sets of parents had abandoned her. “Good. The other thing you need to know is that I will never lie to you. Not because I’m some kind of wonderful pony, but because I need you to trust me if I’m going to be able to do my job,” she said, careful to put her promise in terms Scootaloo could relate to.

Her phrasing worked and Scootaloo noded slowly again, her tail swishing back and forth. “Okay,” Scootaloo replied cautiously.

“You also need to know that I will believe anything you tell me. You never have to worry about me thinking you’re being silly or lying. If I expect you to trust me then I need to trust you too. No matter what you say,  I will assume you are telling me the truth, always,” Dr. Sunshine said, continuing to set the terms of her practice.  

“The sky is purple,” Scootaloo said looking directly at the doctor for the first time.

Scootaloo wasn’t the first patient who responded to a declaration of trust with an obvious lie. Dr. Sunshine turned to look out the window and studied the sky. “It looks blue to me, does it matter to you what color the sky is?”

“No, it’s blue,” Scootaloo said, again averting her gaze.

There were generally two goals Dr. Sunshine had for a first meeting with a patient, the first was to interact enough to begin forming a preliminary diagnosis, the second was to establish the parameters of the doctor-patient relationship.  It wasn’t uncommon for patients, especially children to push back against that second part and Scootaloo was proving to be no exception.

Years of practice helped the doctor refine her tone for what she said next.  It was firm, but free of hostility or judgement. “I’ve worked with a lot of children, Scootaloo.  I’ve helped them cope with many of the same feelings you’re feeling. I believe I can help you, but you have to let me or else we’re both just wasting our time here. Do you understand?” Implicit in the question was the ultimatum that the doctor wasn’t one who spent her time frivolously.

Scootaloo felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up and she dug her hooves into the ground. Before she moved in with Rarity she might have snapped at the doctor, something about how she didn’t need anypony’s help, but ever since this chapter of her life had begun she couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe there were ponies out there, like Rarity and Sweetie Belle, who maybe could help her not be so broken.  And would it really be the worst thing in the world to give the doctor a chance? If nothing else, it would make Rarity happy and Scootaloo was already racking up a debt in that department. “Yeah, I get it,” she said softly.

“Good.” The doctor softened her tone and made sure to look Scootaloo directly in the eyes.  “Therapy takes time, there isn’t going to be some magical moment where everything makes sense.  It’s a bit like, well it’s a bit like running a race.  You keep taking one step after the other and then you look back and you realize how far you’ve come.  You mentioned that you were sad a lot, I thought maybe we could start by talking about that?”

“I already told you, it’s not like talking about it is going to make me feel better.”

“So you want to be happier?” the doctor said, continuing to gently pry into Scootaloo’s psyche.

“Well sure, doesn’t everypony?”

“Most do. But like I said it’s important to have goals for what you hope to get out of this. So what if, instead of talking about what makes you sad, we try to explore what might make you happier?”

“I don’t know, it sounds like they're the same thing.”

“They certainly are similar, but I think fundamentally they are two different things. That’s another thing we can talk about,” the doctor said making another notation on her legal pad. Scootaloo didn’t say anything and sensing that she was on the verge of damaging what little rapport she had built up, Dr. Sunshine pulled back. “But we can talk about that next time. Would you like to play with some toys? I saw you looking at that box of blockos earlier.”

Not that Scootaloo would have minded being finished with all of these stupid questions, but it felt strange that she would be able to finish her appointment by just playing with some toys. “How’s that supposed to help me?”

“Other than playing with blockos is fun and it’s important to have fun? It probably won’t. I think we’ve done enough of the hard stuff for today. We’ve met each other and talked about what you’re hoping to get out of this, that’s a good start. We still have some time left, so we can either sit here and do nothing or you can help me build something? It can be whatever you like, I’m not picky.”

Scootaloo studied the doctor for a second time and decided that she wasn’t objectively terrible. “This isn’t a trick? We can just play with the blockos?”

“Like I said, I will never trick you. Here, I’m even putting away my notes,” Dr. Sunshine said, placing her pad and pen on the desk behind her as Scootaloo watched intently.  She then reached up on the shelf, grabbed the box of blockos and proceeded to dump its contents on the floor in the middle of her office.  

Scootaloo took a small step forward and  gently rummaged through the pile of toy bricks on the floor.  It didn’t take long for her to  noticed an arch shaped door piece. “That looks like it could be a draw bridge, we could build a castle?”

“A castle sounds like fun. Where should we start?”

Scootaloo picked up the drawbridge piece and placed in the middle of a large flat base, she then looked at the doctor expectantly but was met with a similar expression.

“What do you need me to do?”

Still skeptical that she was actually going to get to play without undergoing  some sort of examination Scootaloo poked at the mound of blockos. “Well I guess we need some long black pieces for the walls and some square ones for the things on top.”

Dr. Sunshine began picking through the pile, selecting the pieces that met Scootaloo’s criteria. “They’re called ramparts,” she said offhoofedly.

“The ramparts then. I think they should be grey.”

The rest of the hour proceeded similarly, with Scootaloo calling out exactly what types of pieces she would need and Dr. Sunshine dutifully finding them from the pile on the floor.  There was a shortage of black pieces so Scootaloo decided to make the walls both black and grey, and the pair also added some windows that hadn't been in Scootaloo's original plan.  At the end of the hour the pair had constructed a perfectly respectable castle complete with a small guardhouse outside the main structure.

“Well it looks like that’s all the time we have today,” Dr. Sunshine called out before the pair could begin construction of a small town outside the main walls.

Scootaloo set down a grey piece that was to emulate a stony barrier, wearing a mixed expression on her face. Relief,  gladdened the visit with the therapist was done, but traced with flecks of disappointment that her fluid castle building came to a sudden, jarring, halt.

"Okay," Scootaloo said blankly, "Looks like we didn't finish."

Dr. Sunshine rose from the floor taking the castle with her, and circled around  behind her neatly organized desk.  "It takes time to build a proper castle," she replied. "Even if we didn't completely finish it, I hope you enjoyed making progress on it."

"It was fun, I guess," Scootaloo shrugged her shoulders. "Though I still don't understand why we did it. I don't think this is what Rarity had in mind when she brought me here," she added.

"If that’s really important, I can ask her for you," Dr. Sunshine offered as she opened a small, brown booklet with the word ‘Appointments’ imprinted on the front in gold lettering. "I'd like to speak with her for a moment, actually. Could you ask her to come see me, please?"

"Going to tell her what I told you?" Scootaloo demanded, her posture stiffening just slightly.

"I made you a promise that I wouldn't do that, Scootaloo,"  Dr. Sunshine said with a profound calmness that irked Scootaloo something fierce. "I'm simply going to offer my advice, and, if you and Rarity decide to continue, schedule our next appointment."

Scootaloo muttered something incomprehensible under her breath and traipsed to the main door of the doctor's office. She vanished into the waiting room, the door silently creeping to a close behind her. Roughly a minute later, it opened just as noiselessly, handle awash in a blue glow at the behest of the white unicorn mare that entered the office afterwards.

"You wanted to see me?" Rarity asked politely, approaching the desk with trepidation.

"I did," Dr. Sunshine gestured to the generously padded chair immediately to Rarity's right. "Would you like to take a seat?"

"Oh dear," Rarity balked.

"Oh no, it's not like that!" Dr. Sunshine laughed aloud. "Just trying to be polite. This won't take long."

Rarity sat down opposite the doctor and absentmindedly wrung her forehooves together.. "So, how did everything go today?" she asked, bracing herself for the news that she had somehow irrevocably damaged the filly she was charged with caring for.

"It went well. We’ve begun to establish a relationship and we worked together to build this,” Dr. Sunshine said gesturing to the castle that now rested on the edge of her desk.  

Rarity tried to suppress the look of surprise, but she was only moderately successful. “A castle? You played with toys?

The doctor nodded. “As I'm sure you know, Scootaloo seems to take a long while to open up. Rather than waste everypony’s time asking questions that she didn't want to answer, I thought our time would be better served giving her a chance to get comfortable.”

“I suppose that makes sense. Did it, um, did it take?”

“Common knowledge to you, again, she was rather guarded.”

Rarity sighed, it was unreasonable of her to expect that one visit would somehow cause Scootaloo to suddenly open up.  “I see,” she said, her lips pursed.

“Sometimes a pony's artistic creations can help shed some light on what matters to them, especially if they aren't comfortable saying it aloud.”

Rarity immediately thought of Scootaloo’s drawings of Rainbow Dash, but she couldn’t see a connection between a blocko castle and what she knew of Scootaloo, if nothing else Scootaloo had never expressed any interest in old stone buildings.”What do you mean?”

“Notice what she built.”

“It's a castle,” Rarity guessed, stating the obvious conclusion.

“Yes, it’s a  castle. A fortress surrounded by stone walls to keep its inhabitants safe from any danger that may exist outside.” It didn’t take a psychology degree to realize what the doctor was implying. “But a castle is also a home. A place of comfort and security,” the doctor finished. Rarity murmured a note of approval which the doctor took as her cue to continue. “Now, should you choose to continue with our visits, you should know that I can’t tell you what we discuss. I believe that doctor-patient confidentiality applies to children too. But I believe that, with time, I can help Scootaloo. To carry on with our metaphor, perhaps break down the castle walls.”

“What times do you have next week?”