• Published 11th Apr 2016
  • 385 Views, 17 Comments

Drastic Measures - Nimnul

Berry Punch leads a great life. But her daughter's sire suddenly takes an interest after never before seeing the filly. Berry knows he must have an ulterior motive, so she plans to confront him and, if necessary, make sure the past stays the past.

  • ...

Settling Things

Ditzy hadn't really been sure it had been a good idea to visit Berry's mother again. She'd never seen her friend so angry before. Berry could be a bit of a sad sack when she'd been too drunk, and she could get frustrated and annoyed about problems in daily life just like anypony else, but Ditzy had never thought of her friend as somepony who was constantly mad at the world and other ponies. Even when provoked into a bar fight, she'd never held a grudge. Ponies were sturdy, a little tussle among drinking buddies rarely escalated, especially not in a town as nice as Ponyville.

But now? Ditzy was glad she'd been asked to come along. Berry had appeared to calm down, but the pegasus wasn't fooled. That fury hadn't gone anywhere, the earth pony had just sort of balled it up and sat on it.

The guards were along, too, and Ditzy had a very real suspicion that Princess Luna wanted to hear their impression of the mare that raised Berry without coloring the meeting with her own presence.

Berry had knocked, and her mother had opened up. The older mare had seemed a little timid at first, but seeing Berry accompanied by guards appeared to please her.

In fact, the older mare was acting downright pleasant. "Oh my, how unexpected. I hope my daughter isn't in too much trouble. Anypony care for something to drink? Tea, perhaps?" She bustled ahead into a tiny living room. It seemed tidy enough, and not altogether unpleasant. Ditzy herself didn't have a whole lot of bits to go around, and she saw the signs of a household led with little money but a reasonable amount of care.

The guards merely shook their heads. Ditzy followed suit. It was strange, though, how pleasant this first impression seemed. If she hadn't known Berry for years and listened to some of her gripes, she'd never suspect that this other earth pony might have a really nasty side to her.

Well, the attempt wasn't strange, she was dealing with guards, after all, she should be polite. But she was really pretty convincing.

"We've got to talk, Holly," Berry spoke up, her tone measured and polite. It was the first time Ditzy had heard her friend use her mother's actual name, or part of it. "I hear you've been hassling my ex. I'd like you to stop that."

"Oh yeah?" The older mare sneered. It was as sudden as it was jarring after the pleasant greeting. "He can't just leave you with a foal and then get a new mare. He's got to take some responsibility." Well, that would seem like a reasonable concern to a pony who didn't know the whole story. "Besides, somepony's got to do something before you drag Pinchy down with you." That was a lot less reasonable, and it hurt Ditzy to hear it.

"Holly, listen to me. I left him, years and years ago. I don't care what he's doing with his life now. At least, I shouldn't. But I got so worked up about the letter you had him send, I nearly put him in the hospital." Berry lowered her head. Some regret crept into her voice. "He didn't deserve that. I think he's a better type of pony than he was."

She seemed to ignore, momentarily, the insult regarding her parenting performance regarding Pinchy, but Ditzy could tell by the way her friend tensed further and perhaps slightly flinched that it had hurt.

"Tch, I shoulda known you'd be a psycho about it. Threats and violence, is that all you know?" Holly actually affected a disappointed tone. A parent scolding a misbehaving daughter. "I thought I raised you better than that."

Again, Berry ignored her mother's claim that Holly might have raised her right. She shot Ditzy a brief look, and the pegasus could tell it was costing her friend dearly not to lash out.

"Yes," Berry agreed, voice strained. "That's all I know. I don't know what I'm doing, half the time. I grew up here, and I used to love fightin' and breaking stuff. It got me respect, you know? Nothin' made me happier than beating down ponies that get under my skin. It's killing me how useless that is anywhere but here." She grimaced. "At least I know I can't teach that to Pinchy. I mostly behave myself in Ponyville."

"Well, I hope the poor filly has a better life once you're behind bars." Holly nodded towards the guards. "I suppose I could look after her."

That idea really seemed to strain Berry's self-control. After all, the fear that her daughter might get dragged off to Las Pegasus was what started her whole chain of stupid behavior. The earth pony stared at the ground and took a deep breath before responding. "Listen good, Holly. I been sober for a year now. My daughter is a very nice pony, and pretty smart, too. Maybe she doesn't trust me with real difficult stuff yet, but she at least trusts me to keep her safe, and to be safe. Our life is good. We have wonderful friends." Maybe she was saying that more for her own sake. "If something happens to me, she'll be taken care of."

"Hard to believe you could find any sort of respectable friends. Who's this, then?" Holly glowered at Ditzy. "Don't tell me you're a fillyfooler now, too?"

Ditzy shook her head. "Just friends."

"Don't change the topic, please," Berry asked softly. Her mother seemed to finally notice that it was unusual for her daughter to appear so even-tempered and restrained. "You're just as much to blame for how I turned out as I am. You beat me, and you bullied me, and I was never good enough. Whatever. I don't care anymore."

"She's lying," Holly stated flatly, apparently addressing the guards. "I've never done anything to you! Where'd you pick up this dishonesty? This is the thanks I get for sacrificing the best years of my life to you?"

The guards said nothing. They stood as frozen as any Canterlot guard might.

Ditzy wasn't buying it, of course, and she was sure Wrench and Ebonclad would take her opinion over that of this mare any day. Berry wasn't cunning enough to try and get her mother in trouble with such a lie. If she were capable of that, she probably would have had a cleverer reaction to Pan's letter than traveling all the way to Las Pegasus just to hit him in the face. And 'sacrificing'? It left a bad taste in her mouth. Raising a foal was by no means easy, but Ditzy couldn't imagine herself, or for that matter Berry, thinking in those terms. She didn't much care for it, but she was beginning to feel real disgust for another pony.

Berry reached out gently to close her mother's mouth with her hoof. "Shh. Doesn't matter. But you crossed a line. You meddled, and it nearly got between me and my daughter. We're done. You'll never see Pinchy again, and I never want to see you again."

"Miss Punch." Wrench didn't say more than that before Berry took a step back again. It might not be their main reason for being here, but they'd prefer if Berry didn't suddenly lose it and start beating on the older mare.

Berry nodded slightly and said nothing.

"You can't do that! I got a right to see my granddaughter."

"It was a privilege. You lost it," Ditzy couldn't help but comment, earning herself a scowl.

"You stay out of this!"

"Now, Holly. Don't take that tone with my friend. You're really testing my composure here. She's a hundred times the mother you ever were. She picked up and moved – for the good of her filly."

Wasn't much of an achievement, of course. It wasn't like Ditzy could have raised her unicorn daughter in Cloudsdale. She also honestly hadn't had much of a plan for her life at the time. Maybe Holly had been ambitious once, and resented having had to raise a foal. Even if that was so, she'd apparently been a terrible pony about it.

"You kept us here," Berry continued. "Poorest part of town, no perspective, no future. And honestly, it's a bit hard to forgive that, seeing how easy it was for me to move away just by asking Granny, your mother, for help. Doesn't matter anymore, I guess. I made it."

"That's the rub, isn't it?" Berry smiled, an ugly one full of contempt. "I made it. I'm better than you, and you just can't stand it, huh? That's why you've been on my case about screwing up my daughter from day one. That's why you still won't believe I'll stay sober. That's why you lost it when you heard I'd gone begging, begging, no shame at all, to Granny, to help me get away from here. Maybe if you hadn't taught me I wasn't worth anything, I mighta had some pride to keep me from doing that, funny how that works." Berry shrugged. "You can't admit to yourself that I got away from you, and that I'm better, and my daughter is better still."

"Get over yourself, Berry." Holly scoffed. "I just know you better than anypony else does. You're nothing. You got no brains, no pride, nothing. You're a disgrace. You'll crawl back into your bottle in no time at all."

Ditzy started fidgeting in place. She so badly wanted to tell this pony to shut up, to stop being so petty and cruel to her own daughter, to Ditzy's friend. But Berry had insisted that she didn't need any help beyond company. She'd promised that she'd stay calm, and she was making good on that, even though it probably took a lot of effort.

"Nonsense. Ditzy knows me better than anypony else. You don't know me. Perfect strangers know me better than you do, 'cause most of them expect other ponies to be more or less decent sorts. You probably suspect everypony else is as spiteful as you. And I'm really not. Despite your best efforts."

"I tried my best to raise you right," Holly claimed, indignant. "I don't have to listen to this! Get out of my house!"

"Did you really make yourself believe that?" Berry sounded almost worried for a moment that her mother might really be that delusional, or that her best might really have meant so little. She seemed to recover quickly, however. "Anyway, you're wrong, you gotta listen to this. I don't ever wanna see you again, not without ample warning. I'm being serious. I'll never be back, and I better never see you in Ponyville unannounced."

"Or what?" The older mare looked at Berry with disdain. Still, Ditzy thought she could tell that the older pony wasn't quite used to being spoken to in that manner.

Berry barred her teeth. Venom laced her voice. "Use your imagination. You know me so well, right?" She narrowed her eyes. "But you need to remember, you nearly took something from me that I could never get back. Something that means so much more to me than you can imagine. You're worth nothin' to me. Nothing. Don't test my patience."

"You were my mother," Berry continued with a sigh. "I didn't have a choice in that. I needed you. Little foals need help finding their way in the world, 'cause it's hard and confusing to try and be a good pony. You did nothing like that. You took a foal's trust, smashed it, and then kept grinding up the pieces, telling me it's my own fault."

"I don't know what's wrong with you," she concluded. "Don't care, either. Gotta focus on myself and my daughter, not your baggage. I'm going home to ponies who treat me like I matter."

That seemed to confuse the older pony, probably because she had assumed Berry was in the kind of trouble that wouldn't just let her go home. Before she could demand clarification or any such thing, her guests left at a brisk pace.

Once they'd left, Berry expelled a heavy sigh and simply leaned against Ditzy. Fortunately, the mailmare had very steady footing. "That sucked. Don't think I ever wanted to hurt another pony so badly. Just break her legs and leave her." Having had the impulse seemed to cause her new grief.

"But you didn't. I'm proud of you."

"Easy to be nice with guards lookin' over your shoulder." Berry remarked, but she shot the stallions a quick smile. "No offense. You guys seem pretty alright."

"No worries, ma'am."

"Yeah. If I wasn't a guard, I might have cheered you on," Ebonclad commented.

"Guess it was nice to just put it all on the table for once," Berry muttered. "Y'know, I just wanna feel normal, some day."

Ditzy liked that Berry hadn't said she wanted to be a good pony. After all, the earth pony was just fine, she just needed to change some of her behavior and the way she felt about herself. That could be learned. Perhaps Berry's self-esteem was on an updraft, for now.

And yet Ditzy just didn't feel all that happy. She couldn't understand what had to happen to a pony for her to turn out as mean as Berry's mother had. She felt like she might cry. "How c-can she t-t-talk to you like that? It's ho-horrible."

"Aww, Ditzy, you know I dunno what to do with cryin' ponies." She was quiet for a moment. "Thanks for comin' after me. You know," Berry mused, "the rest of the gang, they're just fine with the way I am. That's good!"

"I'm n-not crying. Just sad," Ditzy corrected her friend. Nothing wrong with a few tears, of course. Ditzy wasn't ashamed of her feelings, although it was a little harder to wrangle her verbal tics when she got too emotional. Right now it was more important to remain steady for her friend. "Most ponies are f-fine with you. Just another pony. Who cares?"

"Yeah, probably right," Berry conceded. "You make me wanna feel good about myself, not just sort of put up with myself for the sake of my friends and my daughter," Berry concluded. "That make any sense?"

"That'll be hard. But you know I'll help, if I can. Or just be there. You can do it." And she'd have to keep an eye on Berry so she didn't do something too silly in the future. Pretty sure it was going to gnaw at her that she had been able to think it would be a reasonable outcome to lose custody of her daughter as long as other 'good' ponies would finish raising her. Stupid, but she figured Berry hadn't been taught real confidence while growing up, or how to trust other ponies.

Ditzy was sure she'd risk her own life to protect ponies close to her, but she valued herself enough to explore other options when possible, she thought.

"Hard? Pff." Berry ground her teeth. "Hard's not goin' back and layin' out the old nag for makin' you feel so bad. I figure what I really need is bein' stubborn and lots of time, and that's not so hard so long as I got you and the other two for support."

"I guess that'll work." Ditzy figured that even learning some proper self-worth wouldn't make her friend be anypony other than Berry Punch. She just made threats the way other ponies gave dirty looks. As with other ponies, most of the time, nothing came of it. "You have to start sending the right signals. Don't let failure defeat you. Never, ever. It's alright to cry, b-but cry while standing up and moving forward."

Ditzy couldn't actually recall a time when Berry had cried while sober. Not in her presence, anyway, but that didn't have to mean much. "Might be Pinchy thinks you c-can't, can't hold up under p-pressure. Prove her wrong. And maybe it's, maybe it's t-time to tell her a little more about, a-about her grandmother. For context."

There was a real possibility that Berry's frequent drunkenness and low self-worth had had negative effects on Pinchy, even though the filly seemed usually cheerful. That would be a topic to broach at home, though.

"Anything to report?" Princess Luna addressed her guards after they'd all reunited.

Both shook their heads. "No, Highness. No incident."

"Delightful. It seems we are ready to return you all to Ponyville." The princess nodded towards Berry. "We may discuss the consequences for your foolishness en route."

"Of course, Princess." Berry lowered her head and didn't meet anyone's eyes, although she suddenly ground her teeth and stamped a hoof. "Aww, no, I forgot to ask my mother where my dad moved." She shook her head. "Well, her ex, anyway." She sounded defeated.

It didn't seem likely to Bon Bon that Berry wanted to immediately turn around and talk to her mother again. "We could just hit up Chook before we leave, I'm sure he could track down this stallion for a sensible fee."

Ditzy leveled a glare at her. "She said he moved," the pegasus enunciated very carefully. "Not foalnapped. Now we go to the next post office. Then, we check if he left ... if he left a forwarding request. Probably doesn't want Berry's mother to ... doesn't want her getting his mail. We can do this like normal ponies. No need to play secret agents."

"That does sound like the more sensible plan," Luna agreed. "The Night Guard is aware of 'Baron' Chook, there is really no need to throw bits at him, as they say." She smirked at the title. "Will they just give us the new address, should this forwarding request exist? We are not, after all, sending a letter."

Ditzy modded with a smile that seemed almost smug. "I'm sure they'll help a fellow ... fellow mailmare. I know the secret hoof shake."

"Alright, fair enough." Bon Bon shrugged. She wasn't hugely invested in meeting Chook again, but she might send him another letter, for old times' sake. "Shouldn't it be enough if a Princess showed up and asked for the info, though?"

One of the guards grinned. "No way. The mail service never parts with information without making you jump through a million hoops. They practically resent being a government agency, you'd think."

His partner snickered. "Every post office comes standard with the kind of soulless bureaucrat who'd throw the book at Celestia herself without blinking."

"Ponies are entitled to ... to privacy for their mail," Ditzy patiently explained, seemingly unfazed by the attitude of the two guards. "If the Guard needs our help, they need ... they'll need a real good reason." She stuck out her tongue briefly, obviously not taking the guard's opinion hard. "I'm a mailmare in good standing. I'll just ask for an address. Won't be a problem."

Luna shot her guards a quick look, apparently to quiet them. "The Royal Equestrian Mail Service has always believed that reliable, trustworthy communication was key to the lasting nature of the unification. Their internal culture reflects this. They'll bend the rules for a mailmare, but any cooperation with other parts of the government requires that all the forms be filed, all the Ts be crossed and all the Is be dotted. That is what they say these days, is it not?" She smiled. "As the guardian of dreams, I understand the position."

"Well, it's nice to hear you think you need a good excuse to poke about in our affairs instead of us having to think of reasons why you should leave us alone." Bon Bon snorted, but Lyra gave her a brief, scolding look. Probably didn't think it was a good idea to act too surly.

"Your endorsement is appreciated, however unnecessary," Luna deadpanned.

"Tch, well, let's go, then," Berry snorted. "Never woulda thought of that without you, Ditzy. Bloody obvious."

"My other suggestions would have been to ask Luna for help," Ditzy nudged Berry gently. "Or just go home and ... and assume he'll eventually write. This is faster, if it works."

"Yeah, dad wouldn't just forget about me," Berry allowed. "Still, I ... I could really stand to see him again." She sounded a little choked up on the last part.

As the group set out to locate the nearest post office, Bon Bon mused that it was, at least, a good sign for Berry to concede that her father figure would eventually get around to contacting her, regarding his relocation. Even if a lot of other things had gone badly wrong, she seemed to be able to trust in that much.

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