• Published 2nd Nov 2015
  • 9,567 Views, 2,420 Comments

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 2

Spoiled Rich couldn't believe how badly things were turning out. One minute, she was on top of the world, with a dream job that she'd harboured for many years, a subservient husband willing to acquiesce her every flimsy demand and an obedient daughter who she was molding into her perfect little protege.

Then, came a series of punishing blows, that were so devastating in their brutality that she might never recover. First, her hoof-picked successor that she'd trained from the womb, had been removed from her by force, supposedly because of 'concerns' over her treatment, when Spoiled knew the real reason was the outright jealousy other ponies had for the formidable powers her precious Diamond would wield one day. Not to mention, the despicable Apple Bloom's long-standing ambition to have a sister of a similar age, that now had been granted because of a mixture of brainwashing and the pull a certain Princess Of Friendship possessed. Now, the newly-titled 'Diamond Apple' didn't want anything to do with her old mother, thanks to their manipulation. It sickened her just to think how the pink filly would turn out now, under the tutelage of lower class ponies. It was essential Spoiled win her back. The sooner, the better. Before the damage was irreversible.

Next, she learned that her partner Filthy Rich, the stallion who was so useless in every department, apart from as a walking piggy bank, she'd been forced to take on the family lawyer as a lover, was starting to rebel from her control a little. That pathetic, loathesome little... After all she'd done for him. Gave birth to a beautiful daughter. Upheld the family name while he was away. Saving their money by driving away all the charity collectors. And yet, for a brief period that morning, he'd dared to accuse her of being partially to blame for the removal of their only child, because of her 'unreasonable expectations' of the youngster?! He'd even hinted, for the first time ever, that he felt their relationship was getting a little strained(!) Fortunately, she'd managed to set him straight with a long tirade about how insignificant he was, the consequences he would face for speaking out of turn so flagrantly and the fact that he could never do any better than the stunning mare in front of him. After that, he soon returned to the meek lickspittle she'd kind of grown attached to over the years, but that didn't mean the embers of rebellion still didn't burn somewhere in his system. She'd stamp them all out, eventually. After all, even the most loyal of dogs sometimes needs a kick.

The most present and clear danger though, and one she'd have to deal with right away, was Twilight and Cheerilee's unprecedented besmirching of that wonderful educational establishment known as St Whinneans. The strange looks the two ponies were giving her now were almost ones of pity, that she found very difficult to bear, considering the usual atmosphere of servility and compliance her presence conjured up. Somehow, they'd got the idea that her metamorphosis from feeble also-ran Spoiled Sweet to the strong, confidant mare Spoiled Rich was a bad thing, and now the pair felt sorry for her. Even though going there was the most rewarding experience of her life, to such an extent that she was planning on relocating her precious Diamond there for an extra long stay. It had taught her so many useful things, such as the benefit of intense pain when applied correctly, the humbling effects of extended isolation and oratory skills when you wanted to belittle and demoralise other ponies. Did they honestly think, the smiling filly in that picture would have grown up to be such a fine specimen, if she hadn't had the crash-course in reality that school had given her? Of course not. The way that disrespectful teacher must have gone through her personal things, to find that photo, it made her want to...

Say, now that's a good point. I'll make it right now. That'll wipe the look of compassion off of Cheerilee's smug little...

Sadly, the fact that Spoiled's mouth was still firmly shut off by magic had slipped her mind, so her words came out as little more than a gurgle. Eyes widening at what can only be described as baby talk, she frowned in annoyance, and rapidly jabbed at her lips to Twilight in particular in an attempt to get the spell lifted. Wasn't it enough humiliation she was floating around, like a glowing pinata?

Rolling her eyes at the 'delightful' prospect of having to tolerate Spoiled's dulcet tones again, but reasoning that now all the illustrious guests had left, she had less of an audience to harp on at, the princess reluctantly released the mystical bindings that tied her prisoner's jaw together.

Flexing her mouth muscles to make sure everything was intact and clearing her throat to recover her 'ambrosia' voice. she first made a pointed glare at her royal captor as if to say I'll get to you in a minute, before turning to the arrogant little upstart known as Miss Cheerilee.

"Nice to see you again, dear..." Spoiled narrowed her eyes at the hapless teacher. "Though, I wish I could say it was under better circumstances. Do you want to know something, darling? I've wanted to have you fired for quite some time, but was never able to think of a viable excuse to justify that decision in front of the governors. It was either oh, the children love Cheerilee or there's no better teacher in Ponyville, so despite the power I wielded, I was unable to reach a consensus with them for your dismissal. Well, thanks to your snooping, I now have the perfect piece of evidence to rationalise your long overdue termination. Trespassing into my office and going through my private things is a very serious offense indeed, and a very fatal one for your career. If I were you, I'd start packing my things as soon as I return to school, as well as study the unemployment ads in the local rag. May I suggest private investigator, seeing as you have such a knack for it..."

Spoiled finished off her outburst, expecting the timid educator in front of her to fall down on her knees in front of her. Beg for forgiveness. Assure the head of the school board it would never happen again, and that this one heinous act was unrepresentative of her general conduct. Of course, being the fine, upstanding mare she was, Spoiled would take the teacher's fervent apology in good grace, but tell her she was still getting the sack. Not just because of her blatant act of criminality, but down to the fact that she just didn't like Cheerilee all that much. She made the children too obstinately happy when they should be putting their muzzles to the grindstone, and she was planning to replace her with a firm disciplinarian to make the foals less recalcitrant towards authority. So... Bye bye, see you later, don't forget to pick up your severance cheque as the door hits you on the way out.

Shockingly though, whereas such dire consequences for her misdeeds would have left Cheerilee in floods of tears just the day before, now the biggest reaction they provoked was a look of confusion, and a raised eyebrow from the teacher. And instead of the educator responding, it was Twilight herself who provided the counterpoint, gently taking Spoiled's chin in hoof again and staring into her eyes..

"Don't you get it, Mrs Rich?" Twilight told the still levitating older mare. "All your power and influence is gone. At my behest, you were suspended from your current occupation, and after witnessing your behaviour today, I will do all I can to make that suspension permanent. As far as 'trespassing' is concerned I must say, you have a bit of a cheek to be lecturing anypony. After all, who was it that went to Diamond Apple's room, against her and my express wishes, in complete breach of a restraining order? If you were such a paragon of virtue, wouldn't you at least have respected that? And who knows what unspeakable things you did in there to make her cry so much? Frankly, this is an attitude unbefitting any pony, let alone one in such a position of trust! So, Cheerilee will continue broadening children's minds and making them smile, and your replacement, I assure you, will be cut from the same cloth. Now, going back to what I was discussing a minute ago..."

The lavender-tinted Spoiled visibly wilted under the gaze of the princess, but still remained defiant. It was an absolute disgrace that such an unworthy mare who spent most of her early life avoiding others should be elevated to the higher echelons in a role that was clearly way beyond her meager abilities. Add to that the fact that her long-time nemesis Cheerilee apparently no longer feared her, and instead seemed to empathise with the supposed ordeal she'd gone through at Whinneans, and you had a very sorry state of affairs indeed. She should be lording it over ineffectual ponies such as this, not taking orders or accepting their pity. This would require some very delicate thinking to get out of...

Then, it hit her. She'd use their own penchant for compassion against them. If she gave them the idea they could 'redeem' her, the way they 'redeemed' her daughter, then maybe they'd go easy on her. Show some weakness. Reveal a chink in the armour. Then, she'd strike...

"Oh, who am I kidding..." Spoiled sighed, putting on her most mournful face. " I'm just grandstanding. My life, as I know it, is over. I've lost my daughter. I've lost my job. Even my own husband won't want anything to do with me, when he finds out what I've done. I'm a hopeless case, and I have been for many years. I hide my insecurities behind my family name, and take my frustrations out on them, too. What else am I supposed to do, when I have no worth outside my income, and a cutie mark I've never understood? And that's not even getting into what happened to me at that... Place. Every time I think about it, the mere thought gives me chills, and sometimes I wake up in bed screaming. B-but you have to understand princess, that I'm a proud mare, and that's why I've never looked for help before to deal with my issues, b-because I know that everypony else will laugh if they hear the 'imperious' Spoiled Rich is a crybaby. T-they'll think it's what I deserved. T-they'll mock me in the street. I-I don't think I could take that kind of rejection. I-I'm not as self-assured as I appear to be, as hard as that is to believe. T-truth be told, I h-hate myself right now. A-and I d-don't k-know, w-what to d-do n-next..."

There then followed a long outpouring of largely crocodile tears. They were quite convincing ones too, not surprising if you consider the amount of practice she'd had with trying them out on Filthy whenever she desired a new bauble. Hopefully, the unsuspecting pair in front of her would be just as gullible...

To be frank, Twilight and Cheerilee didn't know what to believe. This unrelenting, unfeeling mare in front of them reduced to such a maudlin, quivering wreck in a matter of seconds barely seemed possible. This couldn't be the same Spoiled who'd ran the school with such a hardline fanaticism for years, routinely discriminating against children because of their backgrounds, blank flanks etc. while elevating Diamond to unprecedented heights and overlooking her worst excesses as 'part of her nature'. The same Spoiled who'd refused to accept the jurisdiction of the Princess Of Friendship, as well as insulting virtually every other pony around, even issuing threats against a harmless farm filly?

It was an impossible contrast to make. Yet, the sniveling, repentant figure floating around seemed a world away from the narcissistic monster the duo were more used to, and something twanged in the heart of both of them after witnessing Spoiled's brilliantly-conceived fake breakdown. Which of course, was exactly what she'd anticipated.

Hesitantly at first, Twilight wrapped her wings around Spoiled's despondent form, to softly whisper in her ear. "Shh. It's okay. I don't know what you've gone through in your life, or the extent to what it's affecting you now, but if you're really being honest about your feelings and want to talk, I'm always willing to listen. You're still going to be kept in confinement until your trial, and you'll have to pay for the misdemeanors you committed. If I feel that you're truly ready to begin the road to redemption though, and tell me in detail what made you the way you are now, I might start to think that you're not totally beyond saving. And believe me, I'd didn't think I'd be saying that a few minutes ago..."

"R-really?" Spoiled's red, tear stained eyes looked up from where they were pressed against the alicorn's fur. "Y-you'd do that, f-for me?.

"Really." Twilight confirmed. "You can start taking about it now, considering we have a ways to go before we reach the mansion. Cheerilee, you can go home, if you like. Thank you for coming down to deliver this photograph, and helping me to understand the situation better. I already knew you were a credit to your profession, but to go to these kind of lengths, to help somepony out you have every reason to dislike, shows true character."

"No problem. Although to be honest, I did it as much for Diamond Tiara...Or Apple, as you called her earlier, as much as anypony..." Cheerilee looked perplexed at the former bully's new surname, until a whisper in her ear from Twilight brought her up to date. "Aha, I see. Well, maybe it's for the best. Mrs Rich, I know we've had our differences, in fact most of the time together we've ending up bickering, or even worse. But, and I sincerely mean this, I hope you find whatever it is you're looking for. You have a true talent for organisation, and when you want to be, you can be quite the public speaker. I just hope you utilise those gifts for a better cause one day. I shall continue to teach the colts and fillies of Ponyville Elementary to the best of my skills, to stop them from ending up with the same mentality they must have pressed on you at St Whinneans. I'm sure Twilight here is planning on looking into that place at the earliest opportunity, and I suspect and hope it won't be around for much longer. Now, I'll be off. Good luck to both of you..."

With a slight nod, Cheerilee took her leave, trotting back to her sad existence as a lonely singleton, Spoiled noted. Still, a couple of things the foolish creature had said about the older mare held water. She would 'find what she was looking for', although what that was would certainly not be to the teacher's taste. As for utilising her talents at public speaking and organisation, she was doing that right now. Her charm and charisma were conning everypony into thinking she was remorseful over her actions and wanted to divulge her 'tragic' past, whereas the organisation part would be in full effect when she 'organised' her inevitable freedom from custody, with her daughter in tow. Even if it was the sympathy vote, she'd win whatever the cost. She'd play that jury like a fiddle...

Her private thoughts were cut short by the sensation of Twilight's wings being removed from her frame, as the alicorn looked at her in a softer way than before. "Are you okay to carry on, now? Sorry I have to keep you imprisoned with my magic, but I can't afford to take any chances. You can start to tell me about your life at boarding school though, if you're prepared. Cheerilee was correct, I intend to look into what goes on there very soon, but if I can get a few first-hoof experiences of ponies who've seen what it's like, it'll make it all the more easy for my inquiry. Plus, who knows. You may stop others from hurting the same way you've told me you did. This could be the start of a whole new life for you, Mrs Rich, if you let us in. Let's see if the old Spoiled Sweet is in there, somewhere. So, shall we begin?"

"Y-yes. I-I feel up to it. T-thank you, princess..." Spoiled started to remove the false tears from around her eyes, to smile at the naive alicorn in front of her as they resumed their journey together, even as she hid a metaphorical switchblade behind her back.

"Getcha bones down here, and let me take a good look atcha!" That was the clarion call of one Granny Smith, as Apple Bloom and Diamond Apple shyly descended the bottom step together.

The table had been set, with a plate full of the last of the Zap Apple jam for each pony, and a bowl crammed with large hunks of bread in the centre, perfect for smothering the delicious concoction onto.

In terms of the seating arrangement, Big Mac sat one side, with Applejack and Granny at opposite ends, leaving Bloom and Diamond one side of the table all to themselves.

All those present were smiling vigorously, perhaps a little too much so, Applejack having informed her older relations in advance about their new family member.

Bloom didn't need a second invitation. Leading her new sister to the chair next to hers', she plonked herself down in sync with Diamond, before grabbing two pieces of bread for them both (notably, giving the largest one to the pink filly) and beginning to smear her slice with jam.

"Er... Ain't you forgetting something, sugarcube?" Applejack's firm words took the farm filly out of her routine, while Diamond just looked confused at the pace at which everything was moving.

"What?" A baffled Bloom inquired, about to stuff her face. "Oh yeah, I know. Hi everypony! Thanks for waiting for us. Good enough, Applejack? Now, back to the business at hoof..."

Having said all that, Bloom took her first big bite from the bread. Diamond, who was still not feeling all that hungry despite her delicious first encounter with Zap Apples earlier, glanced around in consternation at the other residents of the table.

'Uncle' Big Mac looked cross. 'Mother' Applejack was upset. Even 'Granny' Granny Smith seemed a little peeved. What could the matter be...

Her question was about to be answered. "That's not what I meant sugarcube, and you know it. I thought you, more than anypony would understand the importance of this day, and help us welcome our newest Apple into the orchard. Before we started eatin'..."

"Yup." came an unmistakable voice.

"You're darn tootin', Missy." Another recognisable sound.

The noises of dissent of course, came from Applejack, Big Mac and Granny Smith, in that order, and led to Apple Bloom turning almost as red as her mane/ribbon.

"Oops. I'm sorry, everypony..." She admitted, somewhat shamefaced. "I guess I've been around Di so much today, it doesn't feel like she's the new filly on the block anymore. She deserves a proper greeting from the rest of ya, at least. Do you want me to start again?" At this point, she began to remove the already chewed food from her mouth.

"No, no, that's fine..." Applejack remonstrated, with her hooves up. "You can swallow that piece. I don't think the filly sitting next to ya would really appreciate that..." She referred to Diamond, who was even now backing her seat away from her ill-mannered new sister.

"Oh, okay." Bloom swallowed, before waiting for her next instructions. "Sorry to you as well, Di. I guess you're not used to seeing others eat like that..."

"I'm 'not used to seeing others eat like that' at the zoo..." Diamond chided, earning a grimace from Bloom, a wry grin from both Mac and Granny, and a shake of the head from Applejack.

"Come on now..." The orange mare rebuked. "We had enough of this on the way here. Settle down, and we'll be able to tuck in before you know it. Now, as is tradition, I'm sure each one of us has something to say to commemorate this special occasion. Who'll go first...?"

"Ooh, ooh!! Me, me!" Apple Bloom's rapid hoof up almost knocked Diamond off her seat. "I've got something I wanna say... In fact, I feel it bursting to come out. Can I start, Applejack?"

"I've think you've spoken enough today to last you for the entire week..." Applejack gave Bloom a weary smile. "But if it'll shut you up, then go ahead. With any luck, we'll get some peace later on now..."

"Thanks, big sis..." Bloom made a point of winking at an aggravated Diamond at this point, knowing full well that she was two months older than the pink filly. In any situation that would make the newest Apple the little sis, something which must annoy her plenty more than she cared to say.

"As you all may know..." Bloom impressively orated, without notes. "Me and Diamond here have had our ups and downs. Mostly downs, it has to be said. I won't go into details as to all the times she got up my nose, because that's all in the past now. What I do want to say, and what I didn't realise at the time, was what was going on in her old home, to make her act out the way she did. Now I've found out the truth, I feel nothing but sympathy for her. And who'd have thought, one day, my former worst enemy would be my cherished sister? We're already friends, but one day I hope I'll love her as if she were a family member. Welcome to the Apples, Di. I'm sure you'll enjoy it here, just as much as we'll love having ya."

At this point, Diamond found herself being pulled into a hug, and her old jadedness ebbed away to be replaced by warm emotion. It was all the pink filly could do to return it.

There wasn't a dry eye in the house at this stage, as everypony was moved at the maturity and depth of Bloom's carefully chosen words. It was going to take something truly exceptional to break this moment...

Like, for instance, Big Mac talking in whole sentences.

"When I first heard you were coming to stay here, I must say I was quite reluctant..." The red stallion articulating himself was such a shock, it separated Bloom and Diamond there and then, as well as earning looks of surprise from the others. "I heard about what went on with you and that grey friend of yours, and I was not best pleased. In fact, if you'd asked me what to do with you recently, I'd have said a good reform school was the answer. But then I heard from my sisters about what was going on at Rich mansion, and how you were trying to change your ways. My initial skepticism was proven wrong, as this morning you showed me you could be polite, courteous and even regretful, when you apologised to Granny Smith. So, after a little consideration, I'm happy to let you stay here. Under one condition..."

Diamond gulped at what Mac was about to say next. His greeting had been more tempered than Bloom's, so his caveat could be anything.

"... That you help me out with my singing. I hear you've got a pretty sweet voice, from multiple sources around Ponyville, who heard you in town the other day. But let's try something more upbeat this time. Something the Ponytones might enjoy..." Big Mac ended his final demand with a wink, and Diamond's sense of relief was palpable. As well as gratitude for having a male role model in her life who probably wasn't going to skip across Equestria at a moment's notice.

"Okay, young 'un. Here's what I have to say..." It was Granny Smith's turn to lay it on the line. "The Apple clan has a rich and diverse history, from beginning to end. Not all of us were born into it, so you get any fears you might have had about being any less a member than anypony else right out of your head now. All we ask is that you work hard, stay loyal and love your fellow Apples, until the end. Do all that, and you're halfway there already. The other half is being happy with yourself. So, if you ever need anything at all, come and talk to your Granny Smith. I'm not just some 'kooky old lady' who has a depository of stories about how I made some spoiled brat's family rich, you know..."

At this pointed reference to the incidence on Family Appreciation Day, there was much hilarity around the table. It wasn't malicious in intent whatsoever though, as anypony could tell by the friendly glint in Granny Smith's eye. Diamond for one wasn't upset at all. She finally got me back. Way to go, old timer...

When the chuckling had subsided a bit, Applejack began to talk. The first words out of her mouth were so profound, they quietened the room almost immediately. "I must admit, I always did want to become a mother one day..." She began.
"But I certainly didn't think it would be this soon, under these conditions. Obviously, nopony would have wanted anything like this to happen to such a little filly, but now that it has, I won't just 'make the best out of the situation'. Diamond Apple, my new daughter, I want you to have a good life here. I want you to feel loved. Cared for. Needed. I want you to walk through that front door every single day, in or out, and think to yourself: This is my home. I belong here. This is where my family live. For as long as you're with us, Diamond, this is my hope for you. And I, along with everypony else at this table, will be doing our best to make that dream a reality. Welcome to Sweet Apple Acres."

Everypony in that room fell silent upon hearing this, with their heads bowed. They had nothing more to add, as Applejack had spoke for all of them. After a few moments of contemplation, it would all be over. They'd all had their say, and it was nearly time to eat. At least, it would have all worked out that way..

If it hadn't been for Diamond leaping off her chair, to navigate around Bloom, and grasp Applejack in a strong, loving embrace.

The words she'd just heard from the orange mare. Those beautiful, tender words...

She'd waited all her life to hear those words. She just hadn't known it.

Now that she had, the slight stirrings of comfort and support she'd experienced earlier had reached a crescendo, to become genuine feelings of belonging.

Which, for all her gaudy trinkets, obscene wealth and huge living area at Rich Mansion, she never got there. Only the briefest of glimpses, on the rare occasions her father was home.

Now, those warm sensations of being loved and learning to love back looked like they were here to stay.

Diamond never wanted to lose touch with them again.

She hugged and she hugged Applejack, as if the orange mare could dispense more love if the pink filly squeezed tighter, until eventually the mare had to object at the sheer pressure of her affection.

"Darling, you're crushing my throat..." She half-laughed, half-gasped for breath, quite surprised that a child with such little physical training could be so deceptively powerful. "I'm happy you're here too, and they'll be lots more cuddles and fun times ahead, mark my words. But for now, you better get something down ya. After all, from this point on, they'll be nothing but Apple related dishes on the menu for us. No bread, no cereal, no eggs. Nothing else. We only got all that stuff today because we wanted to get you settled in, and now it seems you are, we can take it away. So, best to make the most of it, while you still can..."

Diamond peeled back her emotions for a moment, to lift her head from her foster mother's chest and let out a mistrustful snort. "Yeah, as if. Did you honestly expect me for fall for that? You've conned me twice today with your 'Apple family tricks', so if you think you can fool me again, you're got another thing coming. Now, tell me the truth."

If Diamond had been attempting to call Applejack's bluff, there was no sign that was going to happen, as the orange mare looked around anxiously at the others there.

"She doesn't like apples? I never knew that..." Apple Bloom was quite perturbed.

"Well, either she eats 'em, or she'll starve..." Granny Smith seemed less amiable than usual.

"Yup". Big Mac had returned to his monosyllabic best.

Diamond, who'd been waiting for a punchline like the last couple of occasions she'd been caught out, suddenly began to sweat a little, soaking Applejack's fur. "What? But, I don't... I mean, I like apples, but... Every single meal?"

The stony faces and silence around the table continued. Diamond gulped with anxiety.

"I mean... Ha ha ha ha!!" The pink filly nervously giggled. "The jokes on you! I was just kidding about what I said! Apples are like, my favourite food! I just can't get enough of them! In fact, there's not enough in this jam! I want more, more, more! And, right now!"

Having begun her performance, Diamond had little choice but to continue it. She hopped off Applejack's lap, and to the bemused looks of all those watching her, soon returned with an hoofful of Apples, which considering who's kitchen they were in, weren't that hard to find.

"See, look! Yummy! Apples!" She began to shove one into her mouth after another, with half of the fruit falling out of her mouth in the process.

She'd about reached the sixth apple, causing a great deal of mess on the floor while doing so, when the penny finally dropped.

There was laughter everywhere again. Not a single Apple there had a straight face, as they banged the table with unrestrained mirth. They didn't say anything, as caught up in their hysterics as they were. They didn't have to.

Diamond saw that they'd got her. Again. They'd tried for the hat-trick, and got it. With ease.

"We're sorry, sugarcube..." Applejack was the first to recover from her joviality. "I guess you could say us Apples love an easy target to play our pranks on. For example, as much as we try to get one over on Golden Delicious, he never falls for anything, so he's a dead loss. Braeburn on the other hand, would believe you if you said the moon's reflection in the water was the real thing. He spent all night at the bottom of the lake, looking for it once. Be careful around the rest of our clan, darlin'... Or you might just find that they've found themselves a new target."

Looking around at the rest of the happy faces gathered around at this juncture, Diamond nodded sagely. Although, she really didn't feel offended at all. It had been a great gag, and a huge change to the usual mean-spirited activities she'd been privy to before. In fact, she'd rather enjoyed it. She was about to tell her foster mother as such...

Before the sound of incessant barking could be heard coming into the room, as Winona made her appearance, wagging tail and all. Usually a friendly dog, something seemed to be agitating her, and she glanced around the area with uncertainty, before continuing to woof frequently.

"Oh, silly me!" Applejack grinned upon seeing the pet who'd missed out on all the fun. "I forgot all about her! Never mind, she never was much one for long-winded speeches. C'mere girl, and say hello proper to the newest Apple! You don't have to chat away like the rest of us, just a lick of the hoof and maybe a scratch behind the ear will do. Get on a move on now, because we're all about to eat..."

But Winona for once, wasn't very interested in socialising, and ran straight to the back door, her paws pressed against the wood. Initially wondering what all the fuss was about, Applejack soon thought she'd figured it out.

"Oh, I get it. You need to go, don't you?" She said, with a half smile. "Well, okay then. Just don't leave too much of a mess this time, It took me two trips to pick it all up yesterday. I've gotta start laying down the law about Apple Bloom feeding you at the table, especially now we have another potential culprit..."

Opening the door so the canine could gain access to the yard, Applejack wandered back to the family meal, where everypony was ready to dive in.

"So, what was all that about?" Bloom asked, eager for a second bite of that delicious homemade bread.

"Ah, nothing. Just Winona wanting to do a number two again, I guess..." Applejack began to settle into her seat.

Upon hearing this, it didn't escape the orange mare's attention that Big Mac glanced at Granny Smith in a thoughtful way, and the veteran returned the odd look.

"What?" Applejack was intrigued at what she was missing.

"It's just a bit weird, that's all." Granny Smith spoke for the pair of them. "Winona did her business just before you came back. I know because Big Mac went outside, to dispose of it himself. Gee, for such a big stallion, he sure kicks up a stink sometimes..."

Ignoring whether her grandma meant to make that pun, Applejack raised a confused eyebrow. "Boy, that is a bit strange. She doesn't normally go with such volume. I wonder then, why she was so intent on..."

Her train of thought was cut by the sound of something tearing outside, complete with a couple of loud shouts, which drove away all thoughts from Diamond of how inappropriate the current discussion was, especially when they were about to eat.

The other Apples looked up in surprise, and despite their growing hunger from their much delayed tea, all bustled together as one, to see what on Equestria was going on outdoors.

Winona reached the entrance first. She seemed much happier now, running and darting around her family members as if she'd achieved some great feat.

"What's going on inside that head of yours, girl?" Apple Bloom reached down to pat her canine companion...

Before noticing something in her mouth. It looked like two strips of expensive material. One green, one pink.

Applejack spotted them too, and took them out of the dog's jaws,

"Now where in tarnation did these come from?" She pondered, scratching her head while peering outside, but seeing nothing.

Bloom and Diamond had a pretty good idea, and turned to look at each other in abject horror.

They'd seen two ponies wearing similarly coloured outfits earlier on, ponies that they'd never forget, ever again.

And, not for the right reasons, either.

Rainbow Dash sped through the clouds towards Fluttershy's cottage at a rapid pace, even for her. She knew what a hoofful Angel Bunny could be, as result of their many, many run-ins together.

She also realised that rabbit genuinely loved his owner, but sometimes his attempts to build up Fluttershy's self-esteem went too far, and indeed achieved the reverse effect. At other times, he was just plain pernicious.

Put it this way: If Tank behaved as thoughtlessly as Angel did on occasion, Dash would have been tempted to kick him into the middle of next week.

Of course, the turtle was much more durable on account of his hard shell, and Dash in all likelihood would've just ended up with a bruised hoof. But even so...

The blue Pegasus cleared her thoughts as he approached the edge of the Everfree Forest. Looking down at Fluttershy's habitat, she was glad to see, from the sky at least, everything looked intact. That was a good start.

Landing near the front door, she knocked, and presently the yellow mare herself answered. Looking at her friend's expression, she could tell something was weighing heavily on her mind, but from glancing inside, Dash couldn't see any damage caused by a rampaging bunny. All the cages looked intact, and all the food was safely stored away.

"Er, how you doing, Shy?" Dash stepped inside as her friend made way for her, unsure why Fluttershy seemed so morose when apparently disaster had been averted.

"Sit down, Rainbow Dash..." The yellow mare simply put, as she closed the door before settling into an armchair herself.

This immediately set alarm bells ringing in the blue pegasus's head. She normally only calls me by my full name when something is wrong. I wonder what the matter could be?

Deciding to give her time and space to inform her what the problem was, and knowing how Fluttershy hated to be pushed, a few minutes elapsed.

Finally, from nowhere, the yellow mare piped up again. "Rainbow, can I ask you something?"

"Sure. Anytime, Flutters." Dash braced herself for the question.

"If I knew something serious about somepony else, and they didn't want anypony else to know, but you thought that it would be better for them if somepony else did know, but you'd be betraying their trust, what would you do..?" Fluttershy blurted her words out to such an extent, she was lucky that it was Rainbow Dash who was listening, as hardly anypony else would've been able to keep pace with her escalated words.

"Whoa there..." The blue pegasus got up to put her hooves on her friend's shoulders. "Let me see I can grasp what you're saying: This pony has told you something they don't want you to share, but you feel by sharing it it might help them out, even though it's against their wishes?"

Fluttershy was mildly surprised. That was quite an effective synopsis for Rainbow Dash, who wasn't known for her lateral thinking. "Yes. You see, I was told this thing in confidence, and made a vow to keep it to myself..."

"You didn't make a Pinkie Promise, did you?" Rainbow Dash asked out of concern, remembering how Applejack had broken one in Dodge Junction that one time, which had indirectly led to the party pony being stranded with Rarity in the middle of the desert on a hoofcart.

Sufficed to say the unicorn had not been best pleased on her return to Ponyville, and had given Dash the cold shoulder for a whole week in retribution for abandoning her there, as if she somehow blamed the blue pegasus for having the word 'chemichanga' imprinted in her consciousness.

"No, no. Nothing like that..." Fluttershy confirmed. "I'm just kind of weighing up the options of keeping somepony's trust, versus doing what I think is the right thing, and possibly losing their friendship forever..."

"Oh, I see. Well, that's a tricky one, for sure..." Rainbow sat back down again. "I don't envy your choices, Shy. It sort of sounds like you're screwed either way..."

Realising the error of such a stark answer as soon as the words left her lips, and seeing Fluttershy get more depressed as a result, Rainbow attempted to change the subject to get her mind off things. "Um... How's Angel? You were really worried about him smashing up the place when you left in a hurry, but everything looks fine. Could it be, that those relaxing yoga lessons are actually working?"

"No." Fluttershy replied, bluntly. "The poor dear strained his hind leg during the first session, and it took two weeks of constant meals and bed rest to restore him to health. By the end of it, I felt like the sick one. I must have gone up and down those stairs a hundred times. I should never have given him that bell..."

"Well, that sounds like him alright..." Dash replied with a sigh. "But tell me, if he's just as bad as ever, why didn't he break anything or steal any food while you were gone? By the sound of things,he was in a pretty awful mood when you left..."

"I believe I can answer that one..." An echoing voice sounded out from somewhere. "I decided to pay my good friend Fluttershy a visit earlier on, only to discover she was out. How inconsiderate of her, I'm sure you agree. But I did catch this little one in the middle of a rather unfortunate escapade involving a stick of dynamite and the food supply drawer, and just to show there were no hard feelings, I decided to put a stop to old fuzzy wuzzy's plan, as well as have some fun of my own..."

Rainbow rolled her eyes, while Fluttershy didn't seemed surprised at all. That arrogant tone. That mocking laugh. That weird plume of smoke that was starting to grow, and form into an amalgamated serpent-like figure. It could only be...

Discord appeared in front of them both, clutching a small bunny puppet on strings. "Don't give me that look, Angel. I promised your owner I'd have you back before sundown, and I was true to my word. Somepony needs to punish you, seeing as how your owner, as lovely as she is, is practically a doormat with wings. Besides, you've had a good time , haven't you? We've been for a nice walk in bracing Yakyakistan, performed in the park together in Fillydelphia and I've even introduced you to my good friend The Smooze. Sorry if he got you a teeny bit slimy. He does get kind of grabby, sometimes..."

Author's Note:

Yup, Section 2 of this weighty chapter is up. It might go on for another few parts, who knows? The only limit is my imagination, spare time, energy drinks and finger muscles.

As always, comments down below, PMs to my mailbox and bribes to the usual address. Make them out to 'Rusty Shackleford'. Thx!! :twilightsmile:

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