• Published 2nd Nov 2015
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A Mother's 'Love' - deadpansnarker



Diamond Tiara finds out the consequences of her actions against Spoiled Rich after she stood up to her in front of the entire school. Disgraced, her precious tiara taken away...Then, somepony knocks on her door late at night, and everything changes.

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Part 44: That Night. Section 1.

"What exactly are we supposed to be doing?" An elegantly dressed grey stallion following the trio of Apple family members inquired, as they made their way back to Sweet Apple Acres, while he hid in the shadows. " I don't think I'm cut out for this sort of thing..."

"Relax, dear." His wife, a similarly attired yellow mare remarked, as she followed closely behind. "Spoiled asked us to trace the movements of Diamond, so I'm afraid we'll have to follow those ruffians to that grotty little farm they live in. Honestly, forcing a child of that importance to live in such miserable conditions. Why, if she were my daughter..."

"Well, she's not, is she?" Jet Set wiped the expiration off his brow, as another stallion with an egg timer cutie mark trotted past, accompanied by a mare sporting a red rose symbol. "I don't know why you're taking such an interest in her. It's true, she has a great ability, but the way you're obsessing over that filly, you'd think she was our own flesh and blood..."

At this point, Upper Crust spun around, teeth clenched, to put her face directly against her 'naive' husband's. "Didn't you hear what that big-nosed freak said?" She seethed. "That child over there has the power to make anypony do anything. In the right hooves, she could change lives. That dirty farmer doesn't deserve her. She should be with the mare who fully knows how to unlock her full potential, and utilises it for maximum gains..."

Jet Set raised an eyebrow, as his partner seemed to go into a dream-like state. "By that..." He commented. "I'm guessing you mean her natural mother. Didn't you always say you hated children?"

"We'll see, we'll see..." Upper Crust sighed, caught in her trance, before snapping out of it with a start. "O-of c-course, o-of c-course, d-darling." She stammered. "Just having one of my flights of fancy, that's all. We're here to catalogue and observe, nothing more. Now, you go on ahead. Your duller fur seems to blend in better with these surroundings..."

With an audible groan, the long-suffering Jet Set once again heed his wife's call, and ventured ahead. As for his spouse, she paused for a moment, to stare at the pink filly in the distance she'd so brazenly violated earlier on.

In a twisted way, her actions with Diamond had somewhat, in her mind, formed a close bond between her and the youngster, and now she felt she should have a direct contribution to the filly's future. In what capacity, she didn't know. But to go to all this trouble, when she could've been relaxing in a first class seat back to Canterlot instead...

She better have more of a reward than the comfort of knowing she'd saved Diamond from the clutches of those toerags, and stopping the speculative war Spoiled had predicted between the slobs and the snobs, based on the child's talent for leadership. Upper Crust wanted a real piece of the pie, a genuine taste of what could be accomplished with this divine skill the youngster possessed.

"Hey, are you coming, or what?" Jet Set loudly whispered, trying to wave away a weird colt with a tractor cutie mark, who was regarding him with interest.

"Yes, darling. Just getting my bearings..." Upper Crust smiled sweetly at her husband, even as the gears in her head begun to spin.
.....................................................................................................

Applejack was tired. All the events of the day had knocked the stuffing out of her, and the orange mare was more than happy to walk home in silence. All the necessary talking could be done during the family meeting, after tea.

Diamond Apple was also in a non-communicative mood. She just wanted to marinade in her thoughts. So much had happened, she couldn't even begin to put it all into context. And just what was she going to say later on, surrounded by her new family, being urged to tell the truth...?

As for Apple Bloom, the contrast couldn't have been starker. She was constantly in her new sister's face, seemingly getting a kick out of saying 'Diamond Apple' as many times as possible as if she still couldn't believe it was actually true, and giving the pink filly a complete verbal layout of the operation of the farm and it's inhabitants.

Having neither the stamina to take everything Bloom said on board, nor the strength to tell her to be quiet, Diamond just continued to march on, nodding her head politely at various intervals, catching a reference to homemade cider here, an anecdote about Granny Smith there, until finally somepony decided to put a stop to it.

"Now, just hold on there..." Applejack frowned, looking back at her younger sister. "Don't you think Diamond has had enough stress for one day, without adding to it with your jabbering? I know you want to tell her all about her new life, but can't you save that until later? I mean, you're not exactly going to be short of time together, are ya? You're even gonna be sharing a room..."

Diamond smiled with gratitude at her foster mother, while Apple Bloom pouted a little. "Aw!" She moaned. " And I was just getting to the best part, too. About Babs Seed coming to visit next week. It'll be the first time we've seen her, since the last reunion..."

"What?!" Diamond Apple's inattention was completely shattered, as she literally grabbed her new sister to exclaim in her face. "W-why is she coming down here? W-when is this going to happen? W-what am I going to say?" She began to gasp for air.

Momentarily confused by the pink filly's behaviour, Bloom soon figured out what the problem was. "Oh, I see!" She giggled. "You're worried that once she finds out you manipulated her with your cutie mark to bully us, you're gonna get it. Well, don't worry about my cuz. Once we explain everything to her, and let her know that you're a member of the family now, everything'll be as right as rain, I promise. She might even give ya a nice mane cut, if you're lucky..."

Diamond released her new sister, to take a horrified step back,, while ruffling her hair self-consciously. "And what exactly is wrong with my mane?!" She roared.

"N-nothing. N-nothing at all..." Apple Bloom sheepishly reassured her, with her hooves in the air. "It's a great style, for a posh pony. If you're going to be living on a farm though, you may want to think about trying something different. After all, it's not like you're going to be washing it four times a day, is it?!"

Diamond was about to respond with a comment along the lines of we'll see about that before, once again, Applejack stepped in. "Alright, you two, break it up. I told you both, we can get into this later. For now though, you have more important things to consider. Like, washing up for tea. Go upstairs, and make yourselves presentable. I'll go and tell the others that we're back..."

Apple Bloom and Diamond Apple were surprised to say the least, that during their animated conversation they'd walked up the path all the way to their front door, without even noticing.

As Applejack went inside to inform her grandma and brother of their long-awaited return, Diamond found herself being grabbed by the hoof, and led upstairs. Apple Bloom took her to the bathroom, before shutting the door and running the hot water.

"Hey, wait a minute. Can't we take it in turns?" The pink filly muttered, wondering if Bloom had gotten amnesia about their earlier chat regarding 'personal space'.

"Don't be silly, Di." her new sister smiled, as she begun to scrub her hooves with soap while the sink filled up. "We're only washing up together. It doesn't exactly require that much privacy, does it?"

"No... I guess not. " Diamond sighed, willing to cut Bloom some slack just this once. " Just give me the soap when you're finished with it, okay?"

"Not necessary..." Was Bloom's only remark, before the pink filly felt her own hooves pushed into the water, as a determined sister began to clean them herself, with much more care than she had her own.

"Wait a second..." Diamond snapped, about to withdraw them from the sink. "This is going too far. Do you honestly think, that somepony like you, who's spent all of her life on a farm, could possibly have better hygiene standards than..."

"...I'm sorry, Di. What was that you just said?" Apple Bloom asked, too busy trying to build up a lather to listen.

Seeing Bloom's enthusiasm with the task at hoof changed Diamond's expression. "I-it's nothing..." the pink filly remarked, looking away with a slight blush, as her new sister continued her rigorous job.

I'll overlook it this once. Just this once...

..............................................................................................................................

"... And that's how I won the heart of Filthy, and became the luckiest mare this side of Equestra!" Spoiled had proven to be just as chatty as Apple Bloom during her jaunt across Ponyville with the princess to her new holding place, only about a thousand times more boastful. "What would you like to hear about next, our glorious honeymoon, or how I beat that miserable pretender Silver Sterling to the coveted position of head of the school board? Your choice, darling..."

Twilight who had secretly stuffed some of her wing feathers in her ears for the majority of the journey so far, looked up in surprise at her companion's sudden turn of the head. "Er... Sorry? What was the question again?"

Spoiled had just seen what the alicorn had been doing, but oddly enough didn't seem bothered by it. "My dear, you should have told me you were so jealous of my life, that just hearing about it was making you upset." She smirked. "At least now you can see there's so much more to the day than being stuck in a room, with a pet lizard and heaps of fusty old books..."

Twilight would almost have laughed at the older mare's misinterpretation of the alicorn's boredom, if she hadn't just gravely insulted a certain baby dragon. "Now, look here." She growled. "That 'pet lizard', as you so rudely describe him, is my lifelong friend and valued assistant. Spike also managed to save the entire Crystal Empire. So, for you to refer to him as that is nothing short of an insult, and if he heard you right now..."

"Why, what would he do. Blow smoke rings at me?" Spoiled tittered at her joke. "Let's be frank, dear. That creature is almost as much as a liability as you are. I was there, when he tried to destroy half of Ponyville because of his greed, and he couldn't even get that right! You expect me to believe he saved an entire country? Very funny, darling. That sounds like another set-up to me, to boost one of your worthless friend's reputations. And, that statue of him in the square is one of the most ugly things I've ever seen. Put me right off going there, for my next vacation. In my opinion, he's a failure as a dragon and a failure as a servant. He only just passes muster as a pet, too, so be thankful I didn't call him anything worse. Go ahead and tell him, I'd love to see his little face when he's angry. I bet he's kind of cute."

"Okay, I might just do that..." Twilight was not one for telling tales, but the pompous mare in front of her was really asking for it. "I think you may be shocked to discover Spike's secret powers..."

"Oh, you mean like sending letters and pictures to the Princesses, through the 'magic' of breathing, like your 'magic' of friendship?" Spoiled huffed, unimpressed. "Yes, I know all about that, dear. One such image that will live on in infamy is that of my Diamond posing outside that clubhouse belonging to those three miscreants, after they got their meaningless cutie marks. Filthy had a copy of it framed on his desk at home, needless to say, as soon as I saw my daughter posing with her inferior classmates, and that ditzy teacher, it went straight in the bin. Of course, you know what I'm talking about, don't you? You were part of that disgraceful photograph, as well. So tell me, how did you manage to cajole her to stand there and smile, ignoring my specific instructions that she should only do that for the society pages?"

Twilight was so annoyed at this point she stopped midstep, and turned around to berate the older mare. "You might not believe this... Oh, what am I saying, of course you won't." Twilight admitted. "But your daughter begged to be a part of that picture, to show her new kinship with her school friends, and they were more than happy to accept. She wanted to demonstrate that she thought of them as equals, after spending so long looking down her nose at them. She's a changed filly, Mrs Rich, and I'm not sure what your expectations of her were, but I don't think she's ever going to return to the child you were raising before. Which, may I just say, everypony is much happier about, especially her..."

"...And after everything I did for that ungrateful child, including having that stain-glass window installed at the school, a special statue commissioned of her likeness, and all those party supplies I ordered for her non-existent election victory..." Spoiled lamented, with a shake of the head. "Sometimes, darling I think you're right to remain barren and childless. They can be more trouble than they're worth, and so, so unappreciative..."

I'm pretty sure you did those things for your benefit, not hers', Twilight thought, but chose to keep to herself."Now, to completely change the subject, I'm about to explain the arrangements for your incarceration until the trial..."

"Dear, you needn't say another word..." Spoiled put a hoof up, almost as if she knew what was coming next. "Despite our many differences, I would be honoured to be a guest in your castle. As I said previously, the requirements for my room are not especially grandiose. All I require is a double bed, a large wardrobe, a professionally cooked meal three times a day, a decent view... Why are you laughing, darling?"

The older mare had been distracted by Twilight's response, which wasn't really a laugh, more like a amazed expression of bewilderment at Spoiled's vision and the reality. "Er..." The alicorn tried to find the right words of diplomacy, before deciding that bluntness was the way to go. "You're not welcome in my castle. My home is for guests, not prisoners. So, you can forget that idea. Instead, I've got an alternative location lined up for you. I believe you may be quite familiar with it. It's out at... Rich Mansion."

"What, you mean house arrest?!" Spoiled was most disappointed she wasn't going to be see the interior of the newly appeared palace she'd secretly envied from afar, but did her best to hide it. "Oh well, dear. Your loss. I just thought I'd be doing you a favour, by giving you intelligent, sophisticated, non-reptilian company for a while. Never mind. At least I'll be comfortable in my own room..."

Twilight's deadpan expression continued. "You're not going to be allowed to go to your room, apart from to maybe collect some clothes in the morning. I have another place in the mansion being prepared for you to stay in, even as we speak. Large enough for you to stretch your legs, but small enough that the ten guards assigned to you will be able to keep you securely locked up. You see, Mrs Rich, prisoners don't get to choose where they stay."

Spoiled grimaced at the thought of where she might end up, and decided this would be yet another topic to raise at the upcoming trial, that a lady of her standing should be expected to tolerate such shabby treatment. "You can't possibly mean... The lounge?"

"Guess again."

"The drawing room?"

"Nope."

"The study?"

"I'll be staying there, during your transition. You have quite a good selection of books, if I may say..."

"You wouldn't dare put me in the servants quarters, surely?"

"Nice try, but those are for decent, law-abiding staff, not potential criminals up against some very serious allegations."

"... I give up." Spoiled eventually conceded. "You must be imagining things, dear, if you think there's any other room in the mansion suitable for my detention. I designed the refurnishing of the building myself, by hoof. If that soft-hearted fool Filthy had his way, the hired help would've had their own kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area, and I wouldn't have the extra large swimming pool and jacuzzi we eventually got. So, you've made a mistake. There's nowhere else..."

"Actually, I do have another place in mind..." Frowned Twilight. "And I have to admit, I did have second thoughts over putting you there, but after what you've just told me, there are no doubts in my mind whatsoever it's where you belong. Seeing as you seem to know the mansion so well, let me ask you: What do you do during the winter, when the weather gets especially chilly?"

Spoiled laughed derisively, at this simple question. "Why, we send Randolph to get some coal, of course! We have this lovely, authentic fire you see, that warms up the entire..."

Waving her hoof to stop more tedious bragging, Twilight got straight to the point. "And, where exactly does all this fuel come from?"

Spoiled looked at the alicorn as if she was mentally deficient. "The coal cellar, obviously. It's the furthest down place in the whole mansion, with a hundred stairs between it and the floor above. I should know, because it takes that useless butler of ours one minute per step just to climb back up during the cold season, leaving me to freeze my tail off while he drags his useless carcass with the filled bucket from the depths. Really, that ancient stallion should have been put out to pasture..."

A sudden horrible thought occurred to the mare, which stopped her tirade in it's tracks and nearly turned her pale. "Y-you c-can't m-mean..."

Twilight, without a shred of humour, nodded firmly. "I do. You seem to forget, Mrs Rich, that in Equestria, when you're accused of committing a serious offense, you get treated the same way, whoever you might be. And that such ponies usually end up in a cell. You're lucky, in a way, that Ponyville doesn't have it's own jail, but not so lucky that your home contains the perfect substitute for one. Don't worry, as soon as your staff have cleared out all the coal and dust, you'll barely recognise it! I intend to explain the situation to Filthy the first chance I get. As long as you're not in any danger, I don't see how he could have any objections..."

"Y-you m-mean t-to s-say..." Spoiled's words were beginning to slur a little, as her head dramatically sagged. "T-that my servants, w-who have the honour of working for the most illustrious family in this town, k-know about this? A-and they're actually helping perpetuate this outrage? W-why, I'll sack them all the first chance I get! S-starting with that worthless fossil. M-my husband will back me up..."

"You'll do no such thing!" Twilight warned, scowling. "Or you'll have another charge pending, one of unfair dismissal. It's true that the request to empty out the cellar came from me, but once they heard the circumstances behind the situation, they were more than happy to help out. In fact, the most enthusiastic volunteer of all was that 'old fossil', or Randolph, as is his name. I must say, I don't recognise your description of him as a weakling either, as when I informed him of my plans earlier, he turned somersaults in the air! And, my contacts at the mansion assured me, he is by far the most productive worker in that mansion today, running up and down those steps, clearing away all that coal, as if he were Bulk Biceps himself! In fact, I'm thinking of temporarily giving him your room, as a reward for his endeavours, seeing as how it's going to be empty. We're already picking out new rooms for the rest of your staff, because their old tiny living space clearly goes against every regulation Ponyville has for their health and safety. As for Filthy, from what I know about him, I'm sure he'll follow the letter of the law, and back my judgement." It might even give him some peace...

"No, you can't do this to me!" Spoiled screamed, slowly backing away. "Those... Traitors! I refuse to live in such insanitary, cramped conditions! First of all, you deign to tell me how to raise my daughter, now, you dare to try and run my household, too? And this, coming from a charade of a princess? Congratulations, dear. You've made me reach my limit. I was perfectly willing to let the process reach it's predictable climax, with me getting back possession of My Diamond, and suing the Crown afterwards for infringing my rights. But this, this is just too much. We'll just see what my lawyer has to say about it..."

And with that, the older mare took off, running as fast as she ever did, for the first time ever being grateful that she was a 'dumpy' earth pony instead of those regal unicorns, so she could escape from the clutches of that fake royal all the more quicker on the ground.

Spoiled checked behind her, pleased to see the purple alicorn figure fading into the distance, not even trying to chase her. Yes, she thought, with a grin on her face at what a brilliant maneuver she just pulled. I really pulled the wool over her eyes. Now, if I could only get to Legal Eagle, maybe we could...

Unfortunately, her no doubt brilliant scheme was destined never to even reach the planning stage. For, as Spoiled was about to discover, the reason Twilight wasn't hot in pursuit had nothing to do with 'surprise' or 'speed'. It was because the princess didn't have to go to all that trouble. After all, she had alicorn magic.

Deciding that she'd let the taunting older mare get far enough after around twenty metres or so, Twilight looked distinctly uninterested as she flared her horn up. Spoiled, initially finding it laughable that anypony could cast a spell on her from so far away, was absolutely astonished to find herself covered in a lavender sheen of magic, which lifted her up into the air against her will, and floated her back to the princess, at a much faster rate than the pace at which she'd retreated.

"H-how did you... W-what was... T-that is to say..." Spoiled was caught between being impressed by the alicorn's amazing powers, and yelling obscenities at her.

"Did you forget what I said earlier?" Twilight put to her prisoner, who now was suspended helplessly next to the alicorn, as the pair began again their inexorable journey to Rich Mansion. "I thought that wasn't going to be the last time I used magic on you, and it looks like I was proven right. Remember, I'm in charge of your case, and if you try to escape I will use every resource available to stop you fleeing justice."

"But, that's not fair!" The mare in the purple bubble cried, for once not entirely happy at being given a free ride.

"I'll tell you 'what isn't fair'..." Twilight finally snapped, and decided to regale some home truths. "Having a wonderful daughter like Diamond Apple, and abusing her emotionally and verbally every day so she grows up to be selfish and cruel, something which hopefully, under the influence of her new family, will be a thing of the past. Having a generous, loving husband like Filthy Rich, who's done so much for the community here, and proceeding to treat him like dirt under your hooves. It makes me wonder what he'll do next, once everything comes out in court. Having loyal servants who follow your every command, no matter how trivial, and taking every chance to snipe or insult them, as well as giving them the smallest two rooms in the mansion to live and sleep in together. As I said, I intend to correct this travesty today. I also think they'll enjoy the use of your 'extra large swimming pool' and 'jacuzzi'. And no, I'm not asking permission."

"You... You... You..." Spoiled was as angry as she'd ever been in her life, to the extent she was unable to enunciate her words. But no matter how much she tried, she still couldn't break free of her magical prison, and so was powerless to stop Twilight from continuing to speak, while the alicorn guided her along.

"I'll tell you who I am, seeing as how you seem a little confused..." the alicorn stated, looking directly at Spoiled in a far more conciliatory tone. "I'm the Princess Of Friendship. That isn't a boast... It's a title given to me by Celestia herself. My job is to look for the good in everyone, and encourage them to befriend each other, no matter their background, species or creed. But I must say Spoiled, you represent one of the toughest challenges I've faced so far. Nothing you've said or done since we've met has showed me you have any intention of changing your ways, in fact you seem to be getting worse with every passing minute. But, you know what? I won't give up on you. I never give up on anypony... Even if sometimes, I'm sorely tempted. I'll tell you what I told Starlight Glimmer as she ran into those caves. I hope your time alone gives you chance to think about your life, and where you want it to go. Because as of right now, it's only heading in one direction. Downhill."

That terse speech there even had the effect of silencing the harsh Spoiled, who, against her distinct wishes, found herself thinking back over her actions since leaving boarding school, as a proud mare with a dream that was now near completion. What she's saying can't be right. I'm the wealthiest, most important, most envied mare in all of Ponyville. I've never put a hoof wrong, in my quest to be the best. I followed the blueprints given to me at Whinneans precisely, and they haven't led me astray yet. It's the rest of the fools, like this incompetent 'princess' lecturing me on matters she knows nothing about, that are the enemy. My job is to siphon out the white noise, and concentrate on what's really important, like raising our family's profile, at any cost, no matter what the consequences... Right?

Alas, the last part of her soliloquy was about to be in jeopardy, for guess which bunch of ponies were making a late journey home from the garden charity auction and party held the other day, waiting at the railway station Twilight and Spoiled were just passing?

That's right, most of the VIPs, including quite a few who were even richer and more influential than Spoiled could ever hope to be. These were the kind of ponies she wanted to impress...

And what do you think their reaction was, when they spotted the local princess trotting along, as casual as you like, with her extravagantly dressed prisoner in tow, being dragged through the air like a flying dog in a lavender prism?

Uproarious laughter, that's what. Especially considering the butt of the joke: A stuck-up, prissy, annoying mare who wouldn't leave any of them alone at the social gathering they'd all attended together, as she made up endless stories about her close affinity with Celestia, and how her and Luna were bosom buddies. It couldn't have happened to a nicer pony, in their minds.

Spoiled's out of character moment of soul-searching came to a screeching halt. She was humiliated. Embarrassed beyond words. Utterly ashamed. She'd never be able to show her face at Blueblood's party now, all of her plans for social acceptance among the elite were in tatters. And was that just her imagination, or was Twilight actually moving slower now, to prolong her ordeal, in front of all the gentry? That vindictive little...

That did it. She completely lost her cool. Swore for the first time in her life. Amongst other such unladylike expressions, such as how much she wanted to burn this stinking town to the ground, as well as unveiled threats against Twilight and Apple Bloom as soon as she got the chance, how pathetic those present finding her current predicament hilarious, were...

The posh crowd nearby stopped laughing, and gasped at the sheer effrontery of Spoiled. At last she thought, as they covered the ears of their children I'm getting noticed. Not quite in the way I wanted, but it's better than nothing. I don't care if I'm offending everypony, this is something I've been waiting to do for a long time. I've already burned my bridges with these particular upper class ponies, so it won't matter anyway. She prepared to launch into a fresh batch of profanity laden abuse...

Only to be abruptly stopped in her prime, by Twilight sealing up her mouth by magic. "I didn't want to have to resort to this..." The princess bemoaned. "But your shocking language in front of our distinguished guests has forced me to take drastic measures. It's a little tip I got from Trixie the last time she was in town, who may I just say behaved with far more decorum under the spell of an evil amulet, than you do without one. Think yourself lucky I didn't go as far as to remove your entire mouth. Now, let's get moving to Rich Mansion, and no more disturbances, please."

As if Twilight wasn't popular enough in Ponyville, now apparently her fame had spread worldwide, for at that moment a large ripple of applause could be heard coming from those assembled by the tracks, just as the train came in. To show how hospitable Ponyville residents truly were, the princess decided to stop for a moment to shake the hoof of each passenger as they boarded, assuring them that Spoiled's disgraceful behaviour was just an aberration, and the vast majority of the town was a warm and friendly place. They all seemed to agree, and waved to the alicorn as the locomotive pulled out, as well as shooting looks of utter disgust at the now quiet (but not by choice) magically imprisoned mare.

As if she wasn't mortified enough already, now she hadn't even had the chance to speak her mind, and only succeeded in degrading herself further. Spoiled felt truly broken, and a single anguished tear fell down her cheek.

Twilight was uncharacteristically unsympathetic, though. "You've got nopony to blame but yourself for the mess you find yourself in." She lectured. "And just to let you know, those threats against me and my friend's sister will be recorded for future reference. I also know that you did something to Diamond Apple back at the hospital, that was so bad she refuses to talk about it. Something else I'll be getting to the bottom of. Why do you do this to others, and yourself, Mrs Rich? I don't know if you're a lost cause, or there was ever any good in you, but..."

"There was, and I can prove it..." A panting Miss Cheerilee suddenly appeared, having snuck up on the travelling pair through the hiss of the departing train. "Take a look at this photograph, princess, then read the inscription on the back. I think you can draw your own conclusions..."

Before the alicorn could object, she found a picture being shoved into her hoof. She looked at the front. Then, at the back. Then at the front, then the back again. Front, back, front back... With a growing sense of incredulity, between glances at her prisoner, as if she couldn't quite believe the sour-faced mare in front of her was the same sweet, smiling, little...

Spoiled also spotted the image that she'd kept hidden away for so long from her prone position, and her eyes widened in horror. She would have done anything to escape at that moment in time. From her past, the two ponies in front of her, and herself.

But despite proportioning considerable resources to the effort, the purple barrier around her remained as strong as ever. Unable to take much more of this, she was on the verge of collapsing...

Until she felt a strong hoof lift up her chin, and the dreaded picture foisted in front of her eyes.

"Is it true...?" Twilight asked her, her tone sounding urgent. "Are you, Or were you, Spoiled Sweet? And, what exactly goes on at this 'St Whinneans'?!"
..................................................................................................................

"... And this is your new bed!" Apple Bloom proclaimed, as she gallivanted into the room her and Diamond now shared on a permanent basis.

The pink filly walked in, fearing the worst. She wasn't exactly expecting a luxurious affair, with a featherdown mattress like her last sleeping quarters, but she wanted at least something approaching comfort.

Her hopes were dashed the minute she got in there. For, Applejack hadn't just bought her a new bed, she'd also moved Bloom's old one out. To replace it with...

"Bunkbeds!" Bloom smiled, as she examined the construction closely. "D'ya know, my brother's a dab hand with a hammer and nails. He whipped this together in the time it took us to get back from the school and hospital! Don't you think he's done a great job? He even had time to clear away all the material and broken glass from the floor, with the help of Applejack too, of course."

As loathe as she was to admit it, under close inspection, Diamond had to say that yes, indeed, her 'uncle' had done a fine day's work, as she never would have been able to tell the difference between this impressive structure, and a store purchased one. Of course, the proof of the pudding was how soft it was...

"So, which end d'ya want? Top or bottom?" Apple Bloom remained as bouncy as ever, waiting for an answer from her new sister.

"Er..." Diamond Apple hesitated, being put on the spot a little. "Top, I think." She said in a monotone voice, not really caring either way.

"Okey dokey!" Spoke Bloom in a Pinkie Pie voice, as Diamond found herself unceremoniously hauled up there. About to protest once again, at her new sister's unrequested physical approach to everything, the pink filly was sidetracked by the feel of the bed on which she now sat.

Straw. No mattress. That was it. Besides, the pillow.

It was coarse. Rough. Hard to accept. A bit like the old her...

But she'd get used to it, eventually. Just like she wanted ponies to get used to the new her...

Her deliberations was cut short by Bloom popping her head up from the lower bunk. "BOO!" She shouted, making the pink filly, despite her best efforts, flinch a little.

"Ha ha, and there was me thinking Diamonds were unbreakable!" Bloom grinned, while Diamond got into a huff at being caught out so easily.

"Not funny..." She huffed, with her hooves crossed and her face creased up in a way reminiscent of when she was invited to the Crusaders clubhouse for the first time.

All of a sudden, the moody youngster found a conciliatory hoof on her back, as Bloom seeked to make amends. "I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to upset you. I was just trying to get your mind off..." She struggled to finish that sentence, before attempting to sound cheerful again. "Isn't it going to be great though? We can talk all night, have pillow fights, sneak downstairs for midnight snacks... You're going to love it here, Di. I just know it."

"If you say so..." Diamond was non-committal in her reply, but secretly she was somewhat liking the thought of having somepony friendly to be with into the wee small hours, other than an faceless servant she could pull a rope to summon.

Climbing up onto the top bunk, Apple Bloom began to get serious again. "Di, I think I know... Heck, I know what's bothering you. After all, I was there, and believe it or not, it affected me too..."

Diamond spun around upon hearing this outrageous claim, the shock clear in her eyes. "How, how did it affect you?" She hissed. "I'm the one she touched. I'm the one who has to live with the memory. You were safe in the corner, out of danger. How could you possibly feel as horrible as me..."

"BECAUSE I COULDN'T STOP HER!!" Bloom's cry of remorse brought her new sister's angry reply to an abrupt end. "I-I could see it happening. I-I could hear you screaming. I-I could see that awful look on Spoiled's face, as she watched you suffer. It was pure evil, Di. I was only a few feet away. But, despite trying with every bit of might I had, I couldn't budge an inch. And all the time, Seeing you in pain like that... Hearing you cry for help... Looking at the face of that awful mare, who I still can't believe is your birth mother. A-and knowing... I-if I'd just tried a little more... M-maybe I could have broken free of the spell... A-and saved you... I-it kills me. I-it eats me up inside. I-I can't get these thoughts out of my head, Di. I-I... C-can't..."

Then, it happened. Apple Bloom, the bravest, hardiest, most downright stubborn filly Diamond had ever met, began to cry. In great, big, extended sobs, too.

The pink filly stared at her new sister in amazement. There she was, annoyed at Bloom for being too in-her-face. Too clingy, Not leaving her alone...

And, now she knew why. Because, Bloom had been as affected by the 'incident' almost as much as she had. Only her trauma was caused by guilt. Which she was trying to salve by overcompensating with affection for her new family member...

Diamond felt awful. All this stuff Bloom had going through in her head, and the pink filly hadn't even noticed. She'd only thought of herself, and how irritated she was at Bloom's mollycoddling, not the reasons for it. Some great sister she'd turned out to be.

Well, maybe it was time to step up to the plate.

"Listen, Apple Bloom..." She said, taking on the unfamiliar role for a change of counselor. "There was nothing you could have done, believe me. Once a unicorn catches you in it's spell, unless you're a serious magician, you have no chance of breaking out. Didn't you see my struggles with Sweetie Belle's power, earlier? And she's hardly a top tier magic user. As for what you saw and heard, I don't know how to help you with that, other than to say I'm so, so sorry. I didn't realise how you might have suffered being there too, as selfish as I am. When I do eventually come around to telling everypony about what happened, maybe we can talk about it as one, and get help together afterwards, too. For now, do you think you can be strong? For me? For yourself? For both of us?"

"I-I'll t-try..." Sniffled Bloom, as she huddled up close to her new sister, and wiped her tears away. "B-but D-Di, when do you think you'll get to the point of letting everypony else know what you...W-what we went through? I-I m-mean, if you can tell Fluttershy, s-surely informing my big sis isn't that much of a stretch. I-I know you probably think that she's got enough on her mind at the moment, b-but I-I really don't think she'd care, a-and in the meantime both of us are d-dying i-inside..."


RING A DING DING!! "GRUBS UP! GET 'ER WHILE IT'S ON THE TABLE"

There came the call for tea from a raucous Granny Smith, along with the sound of the dinner bell, a noise that Diamond Apple reasoned she was going to have to get used to,. and pretty darn quickly.

Turning to her new sister apologetically, Bloom removed the last of the moisture from around her eyes. " Sorry for making you worry 'bout me like that. How does my face look? Red? Applejack will wanna know what's up, if she sees I've been cryin'..."

"No, you're fine..." Diamond assured her, feeling miserable herself that the farm filly need even ask that question, along with the unnecessary apology.

"Okay, then. Put on your happy face like I am, and we'll go downstairs together." She took Diamond by the hoof once more. "I appreciate that I might have been a little over-familiar with you since your arrival, but that's because I'm just so excited you're here! And I'm not about to stop spoiling you rotten now. Get ready for a large helping of Zap Apple jam, and an extra big serving of good old-fashioned Apple family hospitality!"

Diamond Apple knew perfectly well now this wasn't the whole reason for Bloom's cosseting of her, but nevertheless copied Bloom's example and pasted on a largely false smile as they jumped off the bunk as one, before making for the stairs.

Her mind was churning like a milkshake. And no amount of happy chatter from the other Apples downstairs waiting at the table, or the prospect of trying some more of that delicious Zap Apple jam, could remove the uncomfortable feeling from the pit of her stomach...

She still had the family meeting afterwards to 'look forward' to, later on, as well...

In her distress, she failed to spot two vague silhouettes peering into the room from a nearby window.

There was nothing unusual about their shape, really.

But their deeds, well...

They were the stuff of nightmares.






"

Author's Note:

Yup. Despite the length of this chapter, the amount of stuff I want to squeeze in will encompass it into two parts, possibly three.

Keep on reading. Lots more to come, mark my words :moustache:

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