• Published 11th Apr 2016
  • 386 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.

  • ...

To Canterlot!

Berry Punch honestly couldn't claim to have much of an opinion about trains either way. Just another way to travel quickly for ponies without wings. And even pegasi probably appreciated the convenience.

Ruby Pinch loved trains. She and Bon Bon were currently hanging out near the locomotive and chatting up the engineers preparing the train for departure. Berry wasn't sure the stallions would have been particularly forthcoming when faced with just Bon Bon, but it was much more difficult to resist when an eager young filly or colt showed an interest.

Bon Bon probably didn't really care about steam engines, of course, but Pinchy was interested in all sorts of mechanisms. She could strip down and reassemble a pocket watch swiftly and with precision. Wind-up toys, both mundane and slightly magical. Berry Punch was sure her daughter would soon discover her cutie mark – something indicating a technical inclination instead of anything related to, despite occasional tutoring by Twilight Sparkle, magic.

She was sure it would make for a nicer story than Berry's. Some ponies ended up uncomfortable whenever she shared the story of discovering her cutie mark after being taught how to ferment fruit under her bed in juvenile detention.

A lot of ponies didn't do all that well if they didn't at least find some use for their cutie mark in their life. Berry felt fortunate that her talent also appeared to cover turning fruit into non-alcoholic drinks. In any case, other ponies appreciated her fruit drinks. Going sober would have been even harder if her cutie mark had only been good for fermented fruits.

Shaking her head, Berry returned her attention to Lyra.

"We gotta remind my mom that they wanted to come visit Ponyville now that dad's finally retired. We've got a guest room, and I'd love for her to see our little shop." Lyra grinned and nodded with considerable enthusiasm. "You'll love mom. I love my dad, you know, but he can be a bit of a background pony compared to my mother. She tends to capture attention. He's cool, though. Besides, you're bringing a pretty adorable filly, which is always a plus."

"Sure," Berry agreed evenly before sparing another glance for her daughter. "Not sure how much longer until Pinchy starts resentin' being called adorable." She was surprised that wasn't already the case, although Pinchy still called her 'mommy' without embarrassment when most fillies her age had moved beyond that, so maybe Pinchy was just different. Berry leaned forward. "I'm still waiting for the bit to drop about how much of a waste of space I've been until recently."

Lyra's grin only wavered slightly. The unicorn gave Berry a playful shove. "Aw, c'mon. Maybe she'll take a cheap shot at you when she's all hormonal, but she won't really mean it. Can't be that long now, can it?"

"I guess not."

Before Berry could say anything more, they were interrupted by Ditzy, arriving with her daughter in tow. Or rather, on her back. The mailmare was used to heavier loads than a single pre-teen unicorn.

"Hey! Just wanted to s-see you off." The mailmare wrapped both forelegs around Berry's neck while Dinky hurried over to her friend.

"Thanks, Ditzy." Berry couldn't actively return the hug considering Ditzy was leaning so heavily on her, so she just lowered her head into a cursory nuzzle of the other mare's neck.

Ditzy was frequently underestimated by other ponies. She was an at times overworked single mother, slow of speech, which lead to the assumption that she might be slow of thought also, and generally not fond of being the center of attention. It was also true that she could be a little clumsy at times.

It did Berry good to see the pegasus. She'd known her for nearly as long as she had lived in Ponyville, although their friendship was more recent than the one she shared with Bon Bon and Lyra. She hadn't told Ditzy of her plan to head to Las Pegasus in the near future. That would only upset the pegasus. Nonetheless, Ditzy could seemingly tell that something was bothering Berry. She tightened her hug. Ditzy had described herself once as not very good at solving problems, but being very good at moral support, making her friends stronger.

Berry judged the current hug as sufficient proof of the claim. "I know you got my back, Ditzy, but this is just a trip to Canterlot. Don't worry."

"Oh, I know." The pegasus released the hug and stepped back. "I was wondering if ... if maybe you could take Dinky along?" Everypony present knew that the mailmare couldn't often fit something so frivolous as a weekend in Canterlot into her budget. Ditzy turned to Lyra. "If that's no t-trouble for your mother?"

"Aww, you know I'm a lunkhead. I shoulda asked you two if she'd like to tag along much earlier." Berry shook her head with a smile. "Well, Lyra, would your mom mind?"

"You kidding? Two cute little fillies are better than one." Lyra's grin, impossibly, widened. "But she'll probably insist we stay the whole weekend, not just tomorrow."

That hadn't really been part of Berry's plan. She'd meant to hit Canterlot, introduce her daughter, explain the situation, then bum some money off Lyra's mother to cover expenses in Las Pegasus.

But maybe it would be best to spend a really nice weekend with her filly and some friends before setting off to settle her accounts. Couldn't know how things would go, after all. "No problem for me. Shouldn't hurt."

There'd been a time where going to Canterlot would have made her very uncomfortable. She just didn't fit that fancy place. Getting invited to attend the royal wedding had to have been some kind of mistake. But at least after the changeling scare, there hadn't been a bartender to be found who'd cut a pony off early.

"No problem," Ditzy agreed also. Knowing her, the pegasus would probably try to get a weekend shift at the post office to make a few extra bits. She normally took great care to spend time with her daughter, but the extra money would never go amiss.

"Don't just slave away the weekend on work and chores, Ditzy." Lyra seemed to have been thinking along similar lines. "Have a drink for us at the Copperhead or something." The Copperhead was a bit of an old pony bar, in Berry's estimation, it was slow paced and somewhat respectable. In any case it wasn't frequented by any of Berry's old drinking companions, who hadn't been very supportive when she'd quit. Hopefully for good, this time. And the owner was a respectful stallion

Ditzy nodded seriously. "S-sure, don't worry. I'll tell ol' Roy you said hi."

There was a degree of mystery to the owner's name. One syllable, three letters, pony names weren't usually this short, but the stallion appeared to enjoy acting mysterious. Just another Ponyville goofball. Asking Pinkie Pie about it would have been cheating.

"Hey Dinky!" Berry took the opportunity to call out to the other unicorn filly. "You wanna tag along for the weekend? Your mom's idea." Assuming Dinky would agree, she proceeded to buy another ticket.

The idea was, as Berry expected, received well, although Dinky had apparently been worried more about having to spend the weekend without Pinchy than about not getting to see Canterlot. The filly was, Berry knew, deeply distrustful of the sort of pony who might look down on her mother. To an extend, Berry's own daughter shared such worries, but Pinchy seemed to enjoy the fact that her mother was confident enough not to care what other ponies thought.

Dinky generally thought her mother shouldn't have to put up with other ponies looking down on the mailmare, no matter how much Ditzy insisted that she didn't care what strangers thought.

Berry completely understood. Fortunately, it was in fact rare that any of the locals gave Ditzy a hard time, these days. The pegasus was just too likeable, in Berry's estimation. Still, there were always going to be a few ponies who would think that Ditzy was too slow-witted to be a primary caregiver, and who'd never believe that Berry could stay sober.

Both Pinchy and Dinky were too perceptive not to know that.

"Look, Dinky," she'd once said, "I know it hurts when ponies make fun of your mom. Always some bad apples in the bunch. Can't change that, ponies are just thoughtless." She'd huffed. "But trust me, anypony comes after Ditzy real persistently to ruin her day? I'll rip an ear off 'em, teach 'em manners."

It hadn't seemed to comfort Dinky much at the time. Berry had insight enough to know that it was a good thing that neither Dinky nor Pinchy gained particular satisfaction from the thought of causing pain to another pony, even a mean one. Not wholly surprising in Dinky's case, but apparently at least something had been done right when raising Ruby Pinch. She was growing up to be a better pony than Berry, who could absolutely take some satisfaction from making another pony swallow their teeth, when it came down to it. Only if they had had it coming, naturally.

She had more self control than that, of course. Her alcohol abuse had been harder to get a grip on than her somewhat morally unburdened approach to disagreements. Besides, forcing her body to wrestle nutrition from wine and grain alcohol for a decade hadn't exactly left her in fighting form. It was taking time to get back in shape.

If she'd had fewer doubts about her own physical condition, she probably would have argued harder against Bon Bon's plan to accompany her.

On the other hoof, Pan Flash was a unicorn, and it was always better to have a partner when dealing with a caster.

The train ride and walk through Canterlot had been uneventful. It warmed Berry's heart that the young fillies did in fact enjoy Canterlot, whatever worries they might have had about the fancy ponies there. It just was a very pretty city, and although Berry still wasn't in the habit of caring too much about her appearance, she'd brushed her own coat and mane with Pinchy's help in the morning.

That had been Rarity's suggestion, a few weeks ago. A little care for appearance was supposed to fortify her confidence, and doing it together with Pinchy was meant to improve the mother-daughter relationship. It had worked, and Berry was still grateful to Rarity for the idea.

Talking to Rarity about maybe taking a little better care of herself had been enlightening. The fashionista might be awfully fancy, but she was also so ... encouraging, Berry supposed. Another pony might have turned up her nose at the small-town earth pony asking for advice, especially a known alcoholic. Former alcoholic, of course. Rarity hadn't even looked like she doubted that Berry would stick it out, this time!

Lyra led them into a respectable neighborhood. Berry might have expected a mansion or at least a large, one-family house, but apparently they were heading into a neighborhood of old, stately apartment buildings. There were doorstallions at every building, so the residents clearly had an expectation as to who should and shouldn't be allowed entry. Lawns between the buildings and the street were well-kept. Clearly a wealthy neighborhood, but not the sort of exaggerated ostentation Berry had assumed she'd see. Maybe that was reserved for nobles.

Although Berry no longer felt like she had to care what a better class of pony might think of her, she still felt acutely that she didn't belong here, but made an effort not to be obvious about it as they passed the into one of the buildings and ascended the stairs.

"Enny's a hugger," Bon Bon spoke up. "That's Lyra's mother. Anyway, fair warning."

Lyra just nodded while knocking on the apartment's door. Since there was only one door on this level of the stairwell, Berry assumed the apartment wrapped around it to take up the whole floor they were on.

The door was opened by an enormous unicorn. Lyra's mother might be wealthy, but to Berry, she was intimidating on a physical level more than a social one.

Berry knew big ponies. Big MacIntosh was a large, powerful stallion. Easy on the eyes, too, although the monosyllabic charm didn't quite work for her. Then there was ... she couldn't recall the name. The bulky white pegasus stallion with the chin. Very memorable build, that one. And of course Celestia and Luna were very tall.

Lyra's mother wasn't quite that tall. The large unicorn had proportionally short legs, but was wide in the barrel, so despite being considerably taller than Berry, she had a low-slung, stout appearance with a wide stance and a broad, powerful back. Berry wondered if the other mare just happened to have an unusual legs to barrel ratio, or if it was normal to have more pony per pony wherever she was from. In any case she couldn't recall seeing a mare quite so stout before.

She couldn't imagine a mare like this would have ever needed to learn to step aside for anypony else, but she did have a slightly longer coat that made her look very soft and approachable.

"Come in, come in!" Enny had greeted them with barely restrained joy, despite the unannounced visit. "So good to see you two! And friends from Ponyville, I assume?"

Berry watched with amusement as the larger mare hugged Lyra and Bon Bon at the same time. She couldn't place the mare's faint accent. The shaggy looking fur suggested a northern climate, but they didn't grow them that big even in Stalliongrad, and the accent didn't fit anyway. "Uh, yeah. I'm Berry Punch. Nice to meet you."

"Likewise! Any friend of little Lyra is welcome under my roof and by my fire!" Enny grinned. There was some resemblance to her daughter in that, at least, because otherwise, Lyra hardly looked like her mother at all. The larger unicorn was extremely imposing, but the brown coat and tan mane were nothing memorable.

The great unicorn eventually released her daughter and Bon Bon to take a step towards Berry, presumably for a similar greeting. Berry tried hard to suppress a flinch as the larger pony invaded her personal space, but Enny must have noticed. Smoothly, she instead leaned down to address the fillies. "Why don't you introduce yourselves, little ones?"

"I'm Ruby Pinch, ma'am, but you can just call me Pinchy, if you want." Pinchy offered a friendly smile.

"I shall!" Enny winked. "I can see the family resemblance." She turned her head slightly to face Dinky. "But who might you be?"

"Dinky Do. My mom's friends with Lyra, too." She paused, frowning briefly. "You don't have to talk to us like we're six, y'know."

"Hahah! Of course, of course." Enny nodded firmly. "No offense was intended, my friends. Come, let's settle in. Lyra, set out some drinks? Just for us, your father is out."

"Sure thing."

Lyra went on ahead, and Enny herded everypony else after her. They settled into the kitchen with drinks and some baked goods. Berry found it to be a very nice apartment, from what she had seen on the way to the kitchen. If she had carpeting that thick and cushy anywhere in her house she'd probably just pawn her bed and her couch.

Again, Berry laid out the details. The letter from Pinchy's sire. Designating Lyra and Bon Bon as fall-back legal guardians. Her desire to speak personally with Pan Flash at the earliest opportunity. She held back on her worries that things might take regrettable turns in Las Pegasus, for the sake of the fillies. Besides, she didn't know Lyra's mother that well.

After listening to Berry, Enny appeared thoughtful. "I'll make no secret of it: I would be very happy indeed if Bonny and Lyra adopted a colt or filly. But it would be a very sad way to gain a granddaughter if anything happened to you, Berry." She tapped her chin with one of her great hooves. "I'll accept your judgement of this stallion, but a lot can happen to a pony in such a span of years. And besides, you are holding all the cards, it seems to me. I do not share your fears."

Of course she wouldn't. Enny probably had the money and the contacts to make the dice roll the way she needed. Berry didn't have that sort of luxury. She wasn't hurting for money the way Ditzy was, but she'd struggle to afford a decent lawyer all the same, if it came down to it. And there were enough details about her life that would easily serve to tie her a noose in court, she was sure of that. It wasn't something a pony of means would understand.

"I don't know what to think." Ruby Pinch spoke up. "Mom said she used to be a pretty bad sort, but ... y'know Dinky's mom said you shouldn't just see the most stupid thing a pony did when looking at them."

"Yep," Dinky agreed. "Ponies can turn themselves around."

Berry was immensely happy that Pinchy knew to listen to Dinky's mother in matters like this. She hadn't been a particularly great role model at any time in Pinchy's life. Of course, even at her worst, keeping a roof over their head and Pinchy fed properly always kept her motivated, although sometimes she probably only made it through thanks to the charity of others.

"I guess that is a pretty long time," she conceded. "But even if I'd try not to hold the past against him, then he's just a perfect stranger to both of us, Pinchy. I'm just scared," Berry finally admitted. "I can't help it."

Berry had been a delinquent long before meeting Pinchy's sire, she wasn't going to blame that on him, but with the benefit of hindsight, she had absolutely no idea what she had seen in the stallion. Of course, nopony she'd grown up with had bothered to actually plan for the future, so maybe her standards had just been low. She hadn't exactly been a pillar of self-esteem, after all.

"Can I point and say 'this is what I think is going to happen'? No. Everypony's right. I am holding all the cards. That's why I wanna know what his deal is."

"I understand." Enny smiled, still, but she seemed less joyful now. "I can see you have little faith in, let me say, the legal facts of it, whatever they may be. I am not the expert. But," she gestured with a hoof around the room, "I do have faith in Equestrian justice. I've come here as a young mare and I've raised my daughter, mostly, in the Equestrian fashion. My husband, he has a good nose for trade and we made a very good living."

Enny got up to look out of a window. "You come here and you tell me that my family should protect your filly in your stead, in case some misfortune should catch up to you. This, I understand. But you've been a friend to my daughter for a few years now and this is the first time I am even speaking to you."

Berry sighed. "Well, you gotta understand. Canterlot's no place for somepony like me. Not this end of it anyway."

"Mom didn't always look this good," Pinchy explained.

"It's not like Canterlot would be happy to see ponies like Berry or my mom." Dinky glowered at the older unicorn. "Are you going to help Berry? She was really upset about the letter and that got Pinchy upset and I don't care for that at all!"

"Let's keep it together, Dinky, okay?" It was a gentle reprimand, especially by Bon Bon's standards. But then, she'd probably had a lot of experience gently keeping children in line in her candy store. "No need to get pushy."

"So young and already so fierce, I see! Do not worry, Dinky. I will do my part." Enny turned to Berry and Pinchy with a solemn expression. "If you insist on this trip to Las Pegasus, I will give you money. I am told the city is expensive, I would not know, I try to avoid hotter climates. I know you have not come here offering friendship, but for the sake of my daughter and yours, if per chance an honest mare like you were to find an enemy, they would be my enemy, also." There was an unexpected edge of steel in the large mare's tone that got Berry's attention. Clearly, Enny considered herself a pony it would be unwise to cross.

"I could use the bits," Berry muttered, "I didn't pick Lyra and Bon to get you involved in my mess, though, honest. Was Lyra's idea to come ask for help."

"Mine, actually" Bon Bon corrected. "Enny, I don't know much about the law in this case, or if after all this time this guy could make a claim for visitation rights that had any legs. I mean, that's not like asking for actual custody, right? That's a bit more harmless."

"I haven't had occasion to educate myself on the matter, but that would be my guess as well," Enny readily agreed. "You are going somewhere with this?"

"Let's say, for the sake of the argument, that Berry was absent, or otherwise couldn't keep raising Pinchy. Could our ... what do they call that, guardianship? Our custody over Pinchy be contested, realistically? Supposed to need court approval."

The big unicorn raised an eyebrow, appearing honestly surprised and upset about the suggestion. "I am not happy to be thinking about such ideas! Again, I do not know these things. But I have the will and the means to hire ponies who know such things." She pointed a hoof at Berry. "She has chosen my daughter, my family to protect her filly. It is a good, a respectable family! And if her sire were such scum as to contest this and try to take her away from Ponyville, her home, I will see him humiliated in court and beaten like an animal in the street!"

Enny paced in agitation. "Again, I say: I have faith in Equestria. I do not think there is reason to fear." She snorted. "I wish to give everypony a chance. If Pinchy's sire turns out to be a decent stallion after all this time, good! Accept it, I say. But you say worrying things about this stallion and about that city, and I am a superstitious mare. If some unlucky accident were to occur, if you were struck by lightning or declared unfit to care for your daughter through some corruption in the system, I would not forgive it."

The statement chilled Berry for some reason, and yet she felt like a considerable weight had been lifted off her heart. She'd been told to expect something of the sort, but listening to Enny directly was different. Yes, maybe the great unicorn had a great deal more faith in the system than Berry, but she could also tell that Enny wasn't just blowing hot air. She'd known more than her share of punks who talked a good game but weren't willing to throw a punch. Berry had little difficulty believing that, if Pinchy were to become part of her family, Enny would go after anyone who objected without hesitation, fear, or pity. Just probably in a more elaborate manner than with a length of lead pipe and a bad attitude. The older Heartstrings could likely afford some pretty good lawyers.

"But now it is high time to stop upsetting the fillies!" Enny smiled again and tussled Dinky's mane. "Was that what you wanted to hear, Miss Do?"

Dinky tried to look grim, with only moderate success. "Yes, ma'am. Thank you. I wouldn't know what to do without Pinchy. We're a team." The filly sounded choked up, probably trying not to cry after declaring that she wasn't a little foal earlier.

Berry realized that her own fears hadn't just affected her daughter, but Dinky as well. Considering some of the things she'd heard other ponies whisper about Ditzy's ability to care for her daughter, this shouldn't have come as a surprise.

A small part of Berry figured this was mostly her fault for over-reacting to being contacted by Pan Flash, but mostly she was just getting angry at him again for sending the letter in the first place and kicking off this whole mess. Even if he he actually was just curious about his daughter, she'd still hit him in the jaw for this.

"Aw, don't worry Dinky, I'm sure it's going to work out. I'd never leave you hanging. You gotta trust mommy and our friends. And if you trust our friends you can trust Lyra's mother." It was a solid try, Berry thought with more than a little pride for her daughter. She herself always felt awkward when trying to comfort somepony.

Enny approached Dinky slowly and wrapped a foreleg around her. Ever so gently, she pressed the filly's head against her broad chest. "Shhh, it's alright, little one. It is permitted for strong ponies to be sad here."

That sort of hug between younger ponies and adults could be very calming, Berry knew, as long as the older pony's heartbeat was calm and their breathing even. That way it was very soothing.

Dinky pressed her face into the bigger pony's fuzzy coat for a while before turning her head slightly to speak. "Ponies always used to say my mom was too stupid to raise a foal, and or that they ought to take Pinchy away because her mom used to drink too much. I just want everyone to leave us alone! It hurts." Her voice caught. "Even some ponies who're nice to mom look real surprised when they hear I'm doin' well in school, or like to read. So they think she's slow, too! And they'll still think Berry's not right for Pinchy either."

Enny just held onto Dinky as the younger pony let go of her frustrations. "I'm not as good at ignorin' it as Berry or Pinchy, or my mom, and, and that's my fault, okay. But now they can't ignore it either, can they? It's going to be a whole official thing."

"Just because he wants to see Pinchy doesn't mean he wants to take her away, Dinky. Different things," Bon Bon pointed out. Berry was glad for that, because she'd tried to say something also, but hadn't found herself able to clarify Pan Flash's intentions while thinking that it would only go to court if she didn't manage to beat some sense into him first.

Bon Bon gave Berry a hard stare. Berry assumed the other mare knew her well enough to know that seeing Dinky so upset was mainly giving the earth pony the urge to lash out instead of offering comfort.

Chastened by her friend, Berry enveloped her daughter in a hug while addressing Dinky. "Pinchy's got it right. We're going to sort it out, you two won't get split up, no way."

She wondered how upset Ditzy was going to be that Berry had managed to make Dinky cry by getting so freaked out over the issue as to make Dinky expect the worst. Or perhaps the mailmare would understand Berry's fear?

Enny stood and used her magic to gently move Dinky onto her back. "Your concern does you credit, little Miss Do. It would be a great wrong to split up two friends such as you! Two in harmony surpass one in perfection, after all! But let us stop worrying for today." She tilted her head and addressed Berry. "Shall we go out for a bite to eat? I admit I am feeling a little too lazy to cook, just now. Let me just write a note to my husband."

"I'm hungry, yeah," Berry agreed. "I'll follow your lead, you know the local eateries."

"How's retirement treating dad anyway?"

"Oh, he is rather restless! We shall have to find something for him to do with himself, it seems. He has traveled much, so perhaps he has not had occasion to make some good local friends with which to share a drink, a smoke, and grumble about the state of the world, as old stallions should, hahah!"

The day slowly wound down as Enny led them to an uncomplicated restaurant. Berry had feared tiny portions and menus in foreign languages, but she was getting used to the idea that Enny wasn't one for the overly fancy things her money could buy. Or maybe her great physical size had caused her to favor restaurants that actually served real meals.

Said size was also useful in offering Pinchy space on Enny's back as well. While Dinky's concerns may have been overblown, and Berry could think this with barely a hint of introspection, proximity to her friend was still bound to comfort her.

Author's Note:

Lyra's mother is something like an Icelandic horse. She takes after her father.


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