• Published 25th May 2021
  • 1,531 Views, 127 Comments

Through Despair and Hope - Blue Writer



How does one help a grieving child? How does one heal from losing everything?

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Chapter 13

Ben was still asleep when Applejack walked into his undecorated room. She carefully approached the bed and nudged him gently. “Ben,” she said, “Time ta wake up.”

The colt moaned in response, as foals often did when refusing to wake. Applejack nudged him again and repeated herself. He stirred and blearily opened his eyes. Disappointment crossed his face the second he noticed Applejack. He sighed. “How long have I been out?”

“Ah don’t know fer sure,” Applejack answered, as she did not know when Ben had fallen asleep. “Probably not too long. Day ain’t over yet.”

Ben looked out the nearby window and saw that the sun was still out. “Okay, I can get in a few more hours of study. Thanks for the wake-up.”

“How long have ya been doin’ that?” she asked. She knew the answer, but wanted it straight from the colt.

“Basically until I conked out,” he answered. “Apparently, magic practice is basically a workout but without the rapid heartbeat and the urge to lie down is on steroids.”

Applejack did not know what a steroid was, but decided she was better off not knowing. It was likely more of Ben’s imagination at work, anyway. “Why don’t ya take a little break?” she suggested, “Come on outside and romp around a bit.”

“I just had a break. You woke me up from it.”

“Readin’s good fer ya and all that, but so’s being outside. The sun’s still shinin’ and Applebloom’s comin’ home from school. Why don’t y’all head out and play a bit?”

Ben sighed and moved a hoof toward his face. It was about to touch his nose, a terrible reminder for Applejack, but he stopped. He briefly stared at his hoof, then lowered it with a grimace. “I don’t have time to play. I wouldn’t get along with the kids, anyway.”

“Whaddaya mean?” Applejack asked, hoping to get Ben to open up about his past. If he could remember something, it would help his true self come out.

“Kids are loud, annoying, and stupid.”

“That ain’t very nice, Ben.”

“It’s true. All they ever think about is play time and meal time and they don’t give a crap about anyone but themselves. I know I look the part for some stupid reason, but I am the exact opposite of a child. There’s no way I’d get along with any of them. Now, if you don’t mind, I have work to do.”

Applejack felt confused by Ben’s strong dislike of ponies his own age. Had he been bullied? Did he just hate foals because he thought that was how an adult would think about them? Given how much Ben tried to present himself as older, that did not paint a good picture of the adults in his life. He definitely needed to socialize, however. Even the farm mare knew it was unhealthy for somepony, especially a foal, to be that introverted. She had to get him to the party for his own good, but she didn’t want to force him. It was time to change tactics.

“Do ya like cake?” she asked.

Ben, who had resumed reading, lifted his head. “Cake?” Applejack nodded. “Uh, yeah, who doesn’t?”

She smiled. “Well, a friend o’ mine made ya one. Why don’t ya come down and try some?”

Ben opened his mouth, but his stomach answered before he could. “I guess I’d better eat something,” he said, slightly embarrassed. “Maybe some legit food to go with the cake.”

Success! “Just come on down, then.” With any luck, Ben would enjoy himself with other foals and worry about his obsession later. Applejack would likely need to report what he had said about children to Doctor Light and see what she would make of it.

Applejack patiently led Ben downstairs. The colt was very hesitant and moved slowly, being very careful where he set each hoof. He was tense the entire time, but Applejack stayed at his side, ready to catch him if he fell. Eventually, they reached the bottom. Ben followed Applejack to the front door. “Where are you taking me?” He asked warily. “The kitchen’s that way.”

“The cake’s outside,” Applejack explained.

Ben blinked. “As in it hasn’t arrived yet and you want to stand outside and wait for your friend to get here?”

“Nope, she’s here already. She’s waitin’ fer ya.”

“Oooookay. You know what? Let’s just hurry this up.”

Applejack opened the door and the two were greeted by a small crowd of ponies. “SURPRISE!” they all shouted. Tables had been set up, boasting snacks and refreshments. On the center table was a large chocolate cake with Ben’s name on it. Above the crowd hung a banner that read “Welcome to Ponyville, Ben!”

Ben’s jaw dropped, completely taken aback by the site. Had nopony ever thrown a party for him? “Uhhh…” was all he could say. Pinkie zipped up beside him. “Hi!” she said, “You must be Ben! I’m Pinkie Pie! Were you surprised by my party? Were you? Were you?” She started bouncing up and down. Standard Pinkie fare for Applejack, but she wondered if her pink friend’s antics were overwhelming the poor colt.

Ben started gesturing everywhere with his hoof. “Uh, what’s… all this about?”

“It’s a party, silly!” Pinkie answered. “It’s a party for you!”

“Well, I got that, but it’s not my birthday or anything.”

“But you’re new!”

“Huh?”

“Everypony new in Ponyville gets their very own ‘Welcome to Ponyville’ Party! You’re new, so you get a party! Do you like chocolate?”

“Uh, sure. Everyone likes chocolate.”

“Yay!” Pinkie vanished for a split second, only to come back with a big slice of cake and a fork on a paper plate. “Look!” She rotated the plate to display the frosted top of the piece. “It’s a ‘B’ for Ben!”

The colt blinked, looking a little lost. “Thanks.” He looked around. “Could you bring it to that table over there? I’d rather not eat on the ground.”

“Yuppers!” Pinkie affirmed. She and Applejack accompanied Ben to the table. Pinkie waited until Ben had sat down before holding out the piece of cake once more. “Eat up!”

Ben narrowed his eyes in focus and his magical aura surrounded the plate. Slowly and shakily, the plate moved out of Pinkie’s hooves and hovered over to Ben. He let the plate carefully descend to the table. Letting out a breath and briefly rubbing his forehead, he took the fork in his hoof and started eating.

“Do you like it?” asked Pinkie, moving right next to Ben’s face.

“GAH!” Ben leaped backwards and fell on the ground. “What have you got against personal space, huh?”

“Nothing, what’d it ever do to me?”

Ben got up and returned to his cake, mumbling all the while in a tone that Applejack could only call murderous. The mare wisely decided to pull Pinkie away from Ben. “Where are we going?” asked the party pony.

Applejack dragged Pinkie over to where the rest of her friends had gathered. Doctor Light was there, too.

“Is Ben alright?” asked Fluttershy.

“Ah dunno,” said Applejack. “Ah had ta coax ‘im out here by mentionin’ food and even then, he only came out of his room ‘cause he was hungry. He didn’t want ta quit studyin’. Ah talked to ‘im about playin’ with other colts and fillies his age, but he said he don’t like young’uns.”

“Maybe he’s shy because other foals bullied him,” Fluttershy suggested meekly.

“I kinda had trouble socializing at that age, too,” said Twilight. “He’s definitely the studious type.”

“It could be a combination of those,” said Doctor Light. “Did he explain why he dislikes other foals?”

“He thinks they’re stupid,” Applejack replied.

“Harsh,” said Rainbow.

“Why would he say something like that?” asked Rarity. “He doesn’t think he’s better than other foals, does he?”

“No,” said Doctor Light. “Quite the opposite, actually. He has a very low opinion of himself, most likely an inferiority complex.”

“What’s that?” asked Applejack.

“It means he constantly feels weak and/or inadequate compared to everypony else. We know that he only recently began to learn magic when he should have started much younger. Combine that with an abusive past and his observed behavior so far, it makes perfect sense.”

Applejack thought back to Ben’s every action that she could remember. She recalled how he deliberately hurt himself over such a simple mistake as falling down the stairs. How sullen he was, to the point of not wanting to live anymore. He had no idea how to even hold something in his hoof. She remembered how he had brightened up once he learned about magic. He had clearly been treated horribly, which was why he had made up a family that he was now desperate to “go home” to.

“So, he’s insulting other foals to feel better about himself?” Twilight asked.

“Not necessarily,” said Doctor Light. “Applejack, did you ask Ben why he thinks foals are dumb?”

“He said they were selfish and don’t think about nothin’ but eatin’ and playin’. Ya think he might’a been bullied?”

“Maybe. Most foals care about those things because they aren’t given much else to care about. They aren’t given big responsibilities and they just assume their parents will be there to take care of them until they grow up. It’s possible that Ben was bullied and nopony in his age group helped him out of fear, which he took to be selfishness. However, it’s also possible that he was saddled with too much responsibility for his age and is now taking out his resentment onto others. Either way, it’s clear that he wants to be seen as an adult. The very idea of acting his age is unbearable to him, but the best way for him to heal is to be given a normal childhood. He’ll resist every step of the way, but he needs to be loved. He needs to be shown how much you care about him. Slowly, he’ll open to you, giving you more trust. Eventually, he’ll be able to accept himself and live his life like any colt should.”

Applejack would not deny that she felt overwhelmed by the monumental task set before her, but her resolve would not waver. She was most dependable pony in Equestria and she was not about to fail this colt. Not again. “Ah’ll do mah best,” she declared.

“And we’ll be there to help all the way,” said Twilight, standing by her friend. The remaining four Elements of Harmony moved closer to Applejack, showing their support.

Doctor Light smiled. “I think it’s safe to say that Ben is in good hoofs.”

Shouting could suddenly be heard from nearby. The mares snapped their heads in the direction the commotion was coming from. That’s was Ben’s voice and he was cursing up a storm. Applejack’s hooves moved automatically as she silently cursed herself for leaving Ben alone.

Author's Note:

And the misunderstandings just keep on coming. Yes, I technically ended this on a cliffhanger, but that was because I want to cover the upcoming incident from another character’s perspective. I figured that switching POVs mid-chapter broke the flow.

Classes start tomorrow and this quarter is looking to be a doozy.