• Published 16th Nov 2013
  • 3,328 Views, 211 Comments

Perception - Valen



Scootaloo is alone. She's failed her family, her friends, her destiny - everything. Running away from her problems, Scootaloo lost herself in the sprawling city of Las Pegasus. Now, her life is meaningless... until a letter arrives from Ponyvill

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Chapter 2: Better

Perception

~~~

“We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it.”

~~~

Chapter 2: Better

I groaned as a shaft of light struck my face. I pathetically tried to block it with my hooves, but soon enough I realised that I would have to get up. Muttering a curse towards the sun, I shakily stood up. A quick glance around me told me that I was in the living area of my apartment.

How did I get here? I thought, my mind still foggy. I wracked my brain for the events of the previous day; I had woken up, gone to work, grabbed a hay sandwich on the way, helped some griffons move a crate into the building, then spent the rest of the day throwing my ball at the wall. I frowned. None of that seemed particularly out of the ordinary. After that I had just gone home… and then there was a letter.

Oh Celestia, the letter.

All the memories of the previous night hit me like a runaway train: the crying, the anger. I fell back, feeling physically hurt.

Dear Scootaloo,

I’m so sorry for not writing to you for such a long time. Things in Ponyville have been hectic,

I tried to stand up, only succeeding in slipping on something and falling back over.

but especially now. It’s Apple Bloom. She’s... she’s dying, Scoots.

“No, no…” I said in a whisper, my voice cracking.

We need you here in Ponyville as soon as possible. Please come home, we miss you.

Love, Sweetie Belle.

Apple Bloom was dying. She was dying and I wasn’t even there! I hadn’t talked to either of my friends in years. I had abandoned them. What kind of friend was I? I wasn’t Loyal, I wasn’t Kind or Generous. I wasn’t Honest and I certainly wasn’t positive enough to be Laughter. I had no virtue. Just add that to the growing list of things I fail at, I thought with a snort of frustration.

Then, just as I was about to go back to crying pathetically, I heard a faint voice in my mind. A scratchy, somewhat arrogant, yet caring voice. The voice of a mare who really did want you to be happy, who really did like you, but didn’t quite know how to express it.

“Be strong, Scoots. Remember: yeah, you may have messed up now, but we all do. We’re ponies, we aren’t perfect! Sure, things may be kinda bad right now, but that’s okay. All that matters is that you try to make it better, even if you don’t think you can. I remember last year, I was really angry at Twilight for somethingcan’t remember what anymorebut after the argument I ran out, bought her some chocolates and a book and apologised. That was it. She smiled, hugged me and said it was okay. I’m not saying that buying stuff is gonna fix everything with Sweetie, but you’ve gotta show her that no matter what, you still care. You’ve got to try and do better. Now go get her, squirt!”

It was a memory from years ago. Sweetie and I had gotten into an argument about something. I had been hanging out with her at the cafe, when Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had come by. They stopped and started calling us filly-foolers. I’d said something like ‘I wouldn’t be caught dead like that with Sweetie, we’re just friends! Right?’ Sweetie had ran off at that, crying. I still don’t really get why she was so upset.

Either way, I was really worried about her, so I’d gone to see Rainbow Dash for some advice. That’s what a kid’s supposed to do isn’t it? They’re supposed to find the one being they believe in the most and ask them how to fix whatever they did, so obviously I turned to my big sister. She’d told me to go and apologise, so I did. Some ponies might say such blind faith in a mare as reckless as Rainbow was stupid, but I trusted my big sister and knew that she just wanted to help me. After that, Sweetie said she felt better and that was that. Of course, this situation was different, but it had the same core features.

I had messed up. Big time. So now I had to do my best to fix it.

With that thought in mind, I stood up. This time I had no difficulty in getting to my hooves. It was time to finally get the hell out of here. I was tired, and Las Pegasus was killing me, bit by bit. Well no more, I thought. It’s time for me to finally break out of this.

I trotted over to my purple saddlebags in the corner of the room, using my wings to pick them up and put them on. Satisfied that the bags were secure, I proceeded to pack anything I’d want to take with me: My two photos, my red ball, the letter (I winced a little as I picked it up) my collection of adventure books and…

And nothing. I had never truly realised how little I owned. Or, at least, how much of that stuff seemed important enough to take with me. I finished off by putting on my goggles and scarf, and grabbing my rifle from next to the door, hooking it onto my side. I briefly considered leaving the gun behind. I didn’t really need it, but I figured that leaving it behind was probably a lot worse. I didn’t want some random pony getting hold of an actual firearm—they could cause some serious damage.

I turned back towards the room, taking in all of its details. I looked at the old, torn-apart couch with its coffee stains. The empty bottles of cider and Wild Pegasus whiskey scattered all over the room. The now-empty bookshelf, the small kitchenette with dirty plates piled in the sink. I looked at my bed, the midnight-blue sheets having enclosed me in warmth when there was nothing but cold. I looked at the dresser, an orange pegasus mare staring back at me from its cracked mirror.

This was it. I always thought that leaving would be a blessing, but now that I was finally following through, I realised just how much I would miss this place. Yes, my life here had been dark, but it had been my life. This had been my home. Just as I was about to leave, I remembered something.

Quickly trotting towards the mirror, I moved it aside to reveal a wall of names: Moonshine, Silk Stream, Pencil Craft, Mimic Shift… every pony to have ever lived here had carved their name into the wall. Picking up a knife from the table, I carved my own to join the others. When I was done, I put the mirror back and walked out the door, closing it behind me. I didn’t bother taking the keys—I wasn’t coming back.

* * *

“What the hell do you mean, I can’t go home!?” I yelled angrily at Slate, who stared back with infuriating calmness. Celestia, I could have killed him.

“I mean exactly what I said, kid. We’re gettin’ a lot of shipments comin’ in right now, and I can’t spare anypony. So how ‘bout you just get on back to your section and toss that ball, eh?” he replied, grinning. I could tell he thought he’d won. He knew I needed the money to live: this was my only source of income, so I couldn’t logically walk out, nopony with any iota of intelligence would.

Unfortunately for Slate, I am not a smart pony.

“I quit then,” I said, relishing in the look of pure confusion on Slate’s face. That expression swiftly turned into one of rage.

“What do you mean, you quit!? You can’t fucking quit!” he shouted, stomping his hoof. Yesterday I would have been utterly terrified right now, but not today. I would not back down from this oaf of a buck. Around us, I could see a crowd of my ex-coworkers forming, I spotted Daisy among them. We had shared a few shifts during my first year, and had been fast friends. We hadn’t talked as much recently, but as I stood before Slate she gave me a small smile as if to say ‘Good one.’

“I mean exactly what I said,” I replied, glaring into Slate’s eyes—well, his shades, but still. “I. Quit.” Each word was said as slowly and deliberately as possible. Slate would not stop me from getting back home. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle needed me right now, and there was nothing which was going to stop me getting to them, Las Pegasus be damned.

Slate stared at me, his expression caught between one of insane rage and utter astonishment, as if he had never expected someone to talk to him this way. From what I knew of him, he probably hadn’t.

After a few moments of staring, he turned away. He glanced back at me, opening his mouth, then closing it. He did this a couple more times, before finally responding, “Fine. Get the fuck out of here.” I nodded, turning and walking away. Daisy stopped me as I walked by, giving me a quick hug.

“You remember to write, okay?” she said. “It’s been too long since we properly talked, and we probably won’t see each other again for a while.”

I smiled at the yellow earth pony. “Yeah, I will. Promise. Maybe you’ll be able to stop by Ponyville after I’ve settled in?”

“You bet. Seeya Scoots, I’ll miss ya.” We hugged once more, and then I left. I had to admit, I was a little surprised that Slate hadn’t told me to ‘hurry the fuck up’ or anything. It didn’t make him any less of a bastard, but at least he had the decency to let me say goodbye. After ten long minutes of walking through well-memorised rows of crates, I found myself at the enormous gate once again.

This was it. As soon as I stepped through that doorway, I’d be leaving my life in Las Pegasus behind me. I gulped, and took a step forward. I was about to take another when I heard a voice call out from behind me. “Oh and Scootaloo?” I turned back around to see Slate. He tossed a revolver to me, which I caught deftly in my mouth. I looked between it and him questioningly. He merely flashed a grin, before saying “Good luck” and strolling away.

* * *

I walked through the streets of Las Pegasus with my head held high. I had done it. I was free. The rain—my constant companion since moving here—seemed to lessen up a bit, and the sun seemed to shine a little brighter. I could have sworn I could see a rainbow, but I wasn’t sure.

The tall buildings of Las Pegasus towered above me, but for once they did not loom. As I walked, I spotted a florist nearby. Without thinking too much about it, I trotted over and bought a bouquet of dark, crimson roses. Carefully, I placed the lower end of the bouquet in my saddlebags, so the flowers would not be crushed.

I didn’t run, for I had no need. The train station was a good twenty or so minutes away, and It wouldn’t leave until eleven, so I still had about an hour to get there. I took my time, occasionally waving at any random pony. Most of them simply looked at me in confusion before continuing on their way. Some even muttered insults at me. But a few, that oh-so-special few actually smiled and waved back.

Not everypony is like Slate, I thought with a small smile. I was still unsure as to why he had given me that revolver, but I’d think about that later. Maybe on the train.

As I walked, I was forced to remember that the city itself wasn’t really any better than it was yesterday, I could still see the darkness under its facade of shining lights. I could see a pony in a back-alley, injecting his body with some form of chem or stim or something. There was a unicorn retching his insides onto the streets outside a bar, and two pegasi were brawling along the sidewalk.

This city was poison. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking that. Yes, there were a few ponies who made this place better, but the majority still seemed bad. This was where you went to hide your shame. It was a hive of one-night-stands and drug abuse, a place people of all races went to drown their grief and emerge anew.

I supposed that wasn’t really any different from what I had done. I had come here for that express purpose, to destroy what had happened, to reform. I was reminded of the time Princess Celestia had left her phoenix in Ponyville, how it had burst into flame, a beautiful bird rising from its ashes. In a way, I was just like that phoenix.

My eyes caught sight of a club—‘Stable’ it was called—and I thought back to the many nights I had spent there, getting as drunk as possible, smashing my mind against that wall of booze so that I could be born anew in the morning. This was where my mind had died, over and over again in an effort to finally be free of my past. It wasn’t a bad bar by any means, but it was not a place I would want to go again. I shook my head, turning my eyes back to the path ahead of me.

As I continued on my way, I noticed that across the street stood a grey-coated stallion, with an even darker grey mane. He was eyeing me strangely, so I cocked my head and walked over. He immediately looked awkward, as if he were trying to find a way to escape. Well, that’s not suspicious at all!

“Hey there pal, anything wrong?” I asked him as I approached. He turned towards me, and looked me up and down, as if he were trying to figure something out.

“‘Name’s Baritone, miss. I was just wonderin’ if you were okay?” he said at length. I immediately recognised his voice. This was the stallion from yesterday. The stallion who I had shouted at for no reason.

Do better. The words echoed in my mind. With some effort I smiled at the buck, nodding my head.

“Yeah. Yeah I am. Sorry about yesterday, Baritone. I’ve been kinda messy recently and I shouldn’t have taken it out on you,” I replied. Baritone smiled back at me and I felt my spirits lift. I was improving.

“Not a problem, miss. Life can be tough, but we all gotta keep soldiering on, right?” he said, standing a little straighter.

“Yeah, no kidding. Well, sorry to leave so soon, but I’ve got to go. It was nice talkin’ to ya Baritone.”

“Nice to talk to you as well. If you don’t mind me asking,” he persisted, “where are you goin’, miss?”

“Back home,” I replied, beginning to trot away. After a moment, I paused. “Oh and Baritone?”

“Yes, miss?”

“The name’s Scootaloo.”

* * *

My eyes scanned the darkened countryside as the train chugged along its path. I watched the trees and bushes passing me by. An hour earlier, I would have loved this—finally seeing the countryside again, even if it were only through a window. Hell, earlier I had been finally pulling myself out of the funk I’d been in for the past few months, funny how things change. As of right now I simply couldn’t feel happy. I still had that Celestia damned letter to remind me that hope is not a comfort I deserve. I stared, blank-faced, as that simple sentence kept replaying in my mind.

Apple Bloom was dying.

My mind kept repeating that sentence, all thoughts of anything else blocked out by that one notion. Apple Bloom, my friend, was dying. I didn’t know what to do, how to react. I mean, how could you? What was the appropriate response to finding out that somebody you had spent your entire childhood with was dying? Might already be dead? It was stupid!

I pushed the darker thoughts aside. I’d have to cross that bridge when I came to it, but I’d hold on to hope. Apple Bloom couldn’t be dead, could she? No, as soon as I got back we’d go to Berry Punch’s and have some Wild Pegasus. We’d sit back and talk about our latest adventures, just like in the good old days.

Only… we wouldn’t, would we?

“Stupid damn letter…” I muttered angrily. After getting a ticket and sitting down, I had reached into my saddlebags to look at that revolver Slate had given me. Of course, as I took it out, I had caught sight of the letter again.

It was all I could do not to cry. Celestia damn it, I hate this! I have to be strong, I can’t let this beat me. And I wouldn’t; I was going to fix my mistakes and nothing was going to damn stop me! Sucking in a deep breath, I cleared my head. After a few moments of deep breathing, I looked back at the revolver laying on my table. I had paid for a private cart, so I didn’t have to worry about some mare or stallion screaming about a mad gunmare on the train.

The weapon was long, the barrel extending out for at least three inches. The handle was set into its side, giving the gun an impressive looking mouth-grip. It looked as though it could fold and twist into various positions for different grips. In the centre of this sat the trigger, which appeared to be designed to be pulled via the tongue. I admit, I found this very strange. Wouldn’t it be really hard to pull a trigger with your tongue? Not to mention tiring.

I shrugged and went back to examining the gun, accepting that I knew next to nothing about how guns worked anyway, so how could I judge? The revolver itself was black with a gold trim, and sported intricate carvings all over it. On the side of it was a black crescent moon, on top of a golden, eight-pointed sun. Further up the handle was the name ‘Little Nightingale’ which had been engraved in gold.

On closer inspection, I could see lines of purple etched all over the weapon, forming a plethora of entwined symbols. It was beautiful. Despite myself, I felt a small smile work its way across my face. I felt an affinity with the gun; I had no idea why, but it just felt right in my hooves. Like it belonged there. Carefully, almost reverently, I folded up the handle and placed the gun back in my saddlebags. Immediately, my mind turned to the obvious question.

Why did Slate give me this? I asked myself in confusion. From the looks of things, he’d have been more likely to kill me then give me something. I thought back to our argument. How he had shouted at me, how I had stood my ground before the enormous earth pony. How he had been so taken aback by the fact that I wasn’t cowering. Maybe… maybe I had earned his respect?

Yes. That was it. Slate had been so used to everyone doing exactly what he said, backing down when he so much as glanced at them, that he had never really thought of anyone as an equal. To him, everyone was weak and cowardly. But when somepony finally stood up to him, he was able to speak to someone as something of an equal.

Maybe… maybe all this time the reason he’s been so annoying was to try and get me angry. To make me stand up to him so that he wouldn’t be so alone. My mind went back to something Rainbow Dash had once told me.

“Y’know squirt, it gets lonely at the top. Yeah, I’m an awesome flyer, and lots of people love me for it. But there's nobody there to really speak to as an equal. Everyone’s just falling head-over-hooves to get in your good books, without really looking at you as a pony. That’s why I always wanted to join the Wonderbolts, so that there’d be others who could fly with me.”

I was certain that Slate had felt the same thing. Suddenly, I didn’t hate him as much. Yeah he’d been a pain, there was no doubt about that. But at heart, I bet he was an alright guy, a guy who just wanted a friend or two.

Sweet breath of Luna, I missed my friends. My mind shot back to them. What would I say when I finally saw them again? Would they recognise me? Would I recognise them? Would they still like me?

I began to conjure more and more questions, without having answered a single one. Soon enough, I was panicking, interrupted only by a jolt as the train stopped moving. I was thrown forward by the sudden stop, landing headfirst on the chair opposite me.

I stood up with a groan, punctuated by a high-pitched whistle.

“Yeah, I get it!” I yelled at nopony in particular. I was here. I was home. With a gulp, I put my saddlebags back on and trotted to the door of my train-cart. The wooden plank stood before me, silently judging me. Are you strong enough? Are you brave enough? I could just turn back and nobody would judge me. Sweetie didn’t even know if I had received the letter.

Do better.

You’ve got to try and do better.

I gritted my teeth. I would do better. I would not fail. I owed them as much as I owed myself. My friends deserved better than a coward who couldn’t even face them anymore. I had to be strong, just like Rainbow was. I took a deep breath, calming my nerves. I put one hoof forward, opened the door and stepped into Ponyville.

Author's Note:

Welp, and here we go. Proof that I have not given up on this. There was a semi-subtle reference to a well-known fanfic in this chapter, first person to get it recieves a virtual muffin! Also, Thanks to Cerulean Voice for his stellar help with editing. Anyways, check it out! Plot exposition, character developement and PLOT DEVICES! Stuff is happening, and I kinda like it.

~DeepShift