On his way back from work Filthy Rich finds an abandoned child and decides to take him. One odd thing is the child doesn't have a pony name, Bruce Wayne, the other thing is he says he's not even a pony at all.
Bruce Wayne, billionaire philanthropist and businessman by day, by night he is the caped crusader, the dark knight of Gotham, the Batman. So why is it Bruce has woken up in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by talking horses? Why has he regressed back to being a child? Why is he now a talking horse himself? Will you ever get any answers? Find out in the next exciting chapter, same bat site, same bat story. (Story proofread by King Murdock) Read the sequel here - Bruce Wayne, dark knight of Ponyville
A sickening musk seemed to permeate the air, grey smoke swirled in the dark alleyway. On the ground was a spilled bag of popcorn, soaking up the water in the puddles. Bruce was on his hands and knees, right next to the bullet ridden corpses of Thomas and Martha Wayne, his parents. The tears rolled down endlessly, Bruce was all alone.
Or so he thought, behind him lurked a shadowy figure, cloaked in dark blue, the top half of its face obscured by a mask. Then the sirens came, their blaring horns announcing the police, the firemen and the medics. As he heard these sounds he turned to face them, catching sight of the apparition, only for it to fade into nothing as the beat cops and detectives marched on through. When Bruce turned back his parents were gone, now he was alone in the world.
Then he woke up, "Mother! Father!" Bruce Wayne bolted upright, a hot sweat covered his being. He found himself unable to breathe normally, he was stuck with quick, shallow breaths as he tried to calm down. Bruce was hoping against all that it was just a nightmare, but he knew, that it was a memory. How long ago had it happened? He couldn't say, much as he tried, his mind was a jumble.
What he wasn't sure of was where he was. From the looks of it he was in a large social room, laying on a couch near an enormous fireplace. The entire room was basked in shadow, the only source of light was the roaring fire which cast dancing shadows across the walls. He was starting to feel a bit warm, from what he could feel his was wrapped in some kind of fur shawl. As he moved to take it off, he found that he couldn't, and that he couldn't even feel his hands. 'Did I fall asleep on them?'Bruce thought to himself.
He went to get off the couch but fell off instead, something about his balance was very off. As he inched closer and closer to the fire, the truth of his situation became clearer to him. In the flickering firelight he saw not hands, but roundish nubs. Bruce thought about screaming, he thought about crying, but in the end he decided he was a bit too traumatized for either of those.
As Bruce sat by the fire and pondered just what was going on, the door to an adjoining room creaked open. Bright artificial light poured in the room, behind it was silhouette that looked like a hunched over man. The silhouette turned to face Bruce and spoke, "Ah you’re awake, glad to see your already up and about m'boy." The voice was distinctly male, refined and confident.
Having verbal contact with someone else was enough to shock Bruce out of his stupor, "Who are you? Where am I? Why don't I have hands?!" Bruce asked in quick succession.
The voice chuckled, "Calm down sport, your safe. I found you sleeping outside in the rain while I was coming home from work. I can't stand the sight of ponies living in such conditions, so I brought you inside my home to dry out."
Bruce hadn't even noticed that he was soaking wet, but just as his mystery benefactor had said he was dripping water, it was even drenching the fur he was wearing. But something about what the voice had said struck Bruce as odd, he decided to press it. "What do you mean... 'Ponies'?"
"Well I suppose that's more of a generalization than anything else, ponies, cows, and sheep. Nopony deserves to be left out in the rain." The silhouetted figure stepped out of the doorway and into clear view. To his disbelief his benefactor was not a man, at least not like any he'd met before. Standing before him was a small cream colored horse with a jet black mane. Around his neck was the collar of a blue pinstripe suit and a long red necktie with a comically large dollar sign.
Not wanting to seem rude to his host, or tip off that this whole situation was beyond strange, Bruce suppressed the urge to stammer like a moron. "Um, thank you, for bringing me inside sir."
"What's this sir nonsense? My name's Filthy Rich, but you can just call me Mr. Rich," Filthy said with a warm smile.
"Alright, Mr. Rich. Could I ask you some questions?" Bruce meekly inquired.
"I have some for you as well m'boy, but I’ll let you get yours out of the way first." Filthy took a seat in a tall armchair across from the fireplace.
"Well first off, where am I?" asked Bruce.
"You happen to be sitting in the living room of the finest home in Ponyville, the nicest town in Equestria. Answer your question?" replied Filthy.
"Yeah, it did." To be honest it didn't, "Um, this might sound weird but do you know what happened to my hands?"
"Hands? What do you mean by that m'boy? You've got two pairs of good hooves just like me and every other pony." Filthy stared at the child with bemusement.
'Like every other ... pony... he couldn't mean...' "Do you have a mirror I could use?"
"Why of course, there's one on the wall over there," Filthy Rich pointed to a wall covered in portraits of other ponies, in the middle of the wall was a tall hanging mirror. Bruce ran, or as close as he could run as he tripped over his extra set of legs. When he came to the looking glass he was shocked to find not his normal human form looking back but that of an even tinier pony.
He turned and moved around but it was no trick, this was what he looked like. Bruce observed intently his new form, he had very large blue eyes a ratty black mane and grey blue fur. He was also finding it strange, the sensation of having a tail, he gave it a few swishes just to prove to himself it was real.
While Bruce was busy exploring the ins and outs of his new body Filthy came up and stood behind him. When they were side by side Bruce could fully see their size difference, Mr. Rich stood a good head or two above Bruce. "You seem shaken about something m'boy, care for a sip of brandy to steady your nerves?"
"Ya-yes Mr, Rich." said Bruce, he'd never had brandy before but his father would always offer it when they had guests over. They made their way back to the seating and the table with a decanter of the spiced wine. Filthy expertly poured a small amount into a glass and passed it to Bruce, who in turn nearly let it fall onto the carpet as he fumbled with the glass. "Sorry!" Bruce said as he gripped the glass with his teeth, he tilted his head back and drank the liquid.
All the way down the alcohol burned his throat, "*Cough Cough* Hack * Weaze *" With great drama, the foal Bruce Wayne made a show of his struggle.
This only made Filthy laugh, "Poor boy, can't handle his liquor yet. Hehe." Filthy took back the glass and poured him some soda water. "Here this might be more to your liking."
Bruce eyed the glass with suspicion, he'd already been burnt once. But he took it anyway, once again gripping it with his teeth and knocking it back. "Better?" asked Filthy.
"Ahh, much better *Burp*" let out Bruce.
Filthy smiled, "Well now that's all taken care of, do you think you could answer some of my questions now?"
Bruce couldn't think of any reason not to, after all Mr. Rich had been so hospitable. "Okay, I'll try and answer what I can."
"First off I’d like to know your name m'boy. Can't keep calling you m'boy now can I?" asked Filthy.
"My name is Bruce Wayne."
"Bruce Wayne, what an odd name. Not that that's bad mind you, it's just I've never heard of a pony with a name like that before." He sat back in the armchair, stroking the fur under his chin. "Bruce why were you sleeping outside? Aren't your parents worried about you?"
These words brought a horrid flash of memory to Bruce's mind, a mental picture of both mother and father lying in that alley behind the movie theater. "I-I don't have parents anymore. They're both gone..."
"Another abandoned child, left to fend for himself, this is shameful," Filthy said with disdain. "Tell me Bruce, how long have you been on your own?"
Bruce went to answer but stopped, try as he might he couldn't remember. It was as if everything past that traumatic incident was a blur, he knew things had happened but he could tell what they were. "I don't know, I think it's been too long to remember."
Filthy closed his eyes and took a deep breath in through his nostrils, when he opened his eyes he put on the most optimistic and warm face he could manage. "Bruce how would you like to live here in my house? Now I know this is rather sudden but I can't have a good colt like you left at the mercy of the streets. If you choose to stay I promise you, I'll try and be the father you need. But if you don't want to I'll still help you find a good home."
Bruce was stunned, this pony he'd barely known for half an hour had already taken him in and given him shelter, now he was offering to fill part of the void left by his parents’ death. "Yes, yes I want to live here!"
His reply seemed to relieve Filthy, "Good, I’m very glad to hear that Bruce. I'm afraid we don't have a room open at the moment so you'll have to share one with Randolph till we get one set up."
"Who's Randolph?" asked Bruce.
"Randolph is the family butler, oh that reminds me I need him for something right away." Filthy made his way over to the service bell and gave it a ring. Within a few minutes an aging stallion with curly white hair shuffled into the room. "Ah Randolph, sorry to wake you so late."
"You did not wake me sir, I was occupying myself with the written works of Trotstoy." He assured his master.
"Randolph I’d like you to meet Bruce Wayne, he'll be living in our home from now on." Filthy said introducing his newly adopted son.
"Good evening master Wayne, I take it the night is treating you well?" asked Randolph, his voice even more refined than that of Filthy.
"Y-yes it has." said Bruce.
With introductions out of the way Filthy turned the conversation to his intended purpose, "Randolph I know it's still raining out but could you possibly head down to the end of our street and collect Bruce's possessions? I couldn't carry him and them both, and i'd hate for him to lose what little he has to the rain."
"It will be done right away master Rich, will either of you be requiring my services before I depart?" asked the butler with perfect tact.
"No that should be all, thank you Randolph." said Filthy.
"It is my pleasure sir." said Randolph, he made his way to the front door and put on a rain jacket before disappearing into the night.
"You'll get along nicely with Randolph, he's served the family for decades, since before I was born in fact." said Filthy.
"Is there anybody else here? This place seems really large for just to people- er, ponies." asked Bruce.
Filthy grinned widely, "Yes there is, you have a sister as well. As a matter of fact she should be getting home pretty soon." Almost on cue the front door opened, standing behind it was a little pink pony wearing a braided silver crown. "Welcome home Diamond Tiara! I've got somepony I’d like you to meet."
"Coming daddy!" Diamond Tiara said as she ran inside, shaking off the rain water. She came to a stop in front of her father and the stranger beside him.
"Well go on, introduce yourself." Filthy said, giving Bruce a little nudge.
"Um, hi, my name is Bruce. I'm your new brother." Bruce said meekly.
Diamond Tiara's jaw hit the floor, "You're what!?"
The first meeting was awkward to say the least, not that there is a preferred way to introduce yourself to a pony you've never met and tell them you’re their sibling. Still Diamond Tiara was taking the news well... repetitively speaking. "What do you mean he's going to live with us?!"
"I mean just that princess," Filthy was trying to remain calm as he defended his impulsive decision. "Bruce has no home or family to go back to, it's only right that we do all we can to help him."
"Then send him to an orphanage! That's what there for!" Diamond Tiara was getting more and more worked up.
"Now Diamond, sweetie, I was hoping you'd be a little bit more accepting than that. He is going to be your brother after all," said Filthy.
"Like Tartarus he is! I'm not going to be related to some street rat blank flank!" With her ultimatum stated Diamond Tiara ran upstairs to her room, the sound of her door violently slamming could be heard even from the living room.
Feeling awkward and a little bit hurt Bruce decided to break the silence, "What did she mean by 'blank flank'?"
Filthy knelt down and gave Bruce a hug, "Don't get hung up on what she's saying. Diamond's just upset, and that's mostly my fault. And don't worry Bruce you'll get your cutie mark someday."
Once again Bruce was left more confused by the answers to his questions, rather than ask again he decided to let the matter slide. After all you don't learn every detail about a new culture in one night. Thankfully the reinstated silence didn't last much longer, Randolph returned with prized possessions in tow.
"I believe these are the objects you were speaking of Master Rich." Balanced deftly on his back was a soggy cardboard box.
"Yes that's the one Randolph, thank you very much for retrieving it. Tell me are the contents damaged greatly?" asked Filthy.
Randolph set the box on the ground and peered inside, "One would not presume to comment on the quality of the young master's possessions. But it wouldn't be out of turn for me to say they greatly resemble the refuse filling the cans I found them by."
Taking his snide remark in stride Filthy dismissed Randolph and instructed him to make up a bed in the servant's quarters for Bruce. "Well m'boy I think we ought to go through these and see what can be salvaged." Bruce only nodded in agreement, he hadn't any idea of what could be in that box.
As the two opened it up and poured out it's contents Filthy was confused by the alien nature of them, Bruce at least recognized one of the objects. "What's all this green stuff? Looks like you were practically swimming in it Bruce." Filthy was referring to the hundreds of small rectangular slips of green paper, all bearing denominations and pictures.
"It's money, allot of money!" Bruce said in awe, he was hoofing through the pile trying to estimate just how much there was. He couldn't tell for sure but there must have been at least five thousand dollars in there! "Where did all this come from? You could live like a king off this much money."
"Where did you say you were from Bruce? We don't have any money like this in Equestria." He was eyeing one of the bills, staring at the portrait of Benjamin Franklin, confused by the shape of his head.
"I'm from Gotham, it's a city in America." Bruce replied, he didn't expect Filthy to know where that was, after all he had never heard of Equestria before tonight.
"Hrmm, I doubt anypony would accept this as legal currency. Here in Ponyville we use the Bit almost exclusively, occasionally we might use gems in trades but they are so hard to regulate it's almost not worth it." Filthy turned over the bill again, something about it was intriguing to him. "Odd, it is paper but it's not falling apart even though it's soaking wet. I wonder how they managed that?"
Bruce tried to think back to what his teacher had said about what money is made of. He thought it might have been denim, but he wasn't sure so he stayed quiet.
"Eh, it's no matter. But if it's worth as much as you say it is we can hold on to them, we've got plenty of room up in the attic. Let's see what else is in here." Father and adopted son began sifting through the mass of worthless money, looking for other treasures. Filthy came across a bright yellow belt, covered in cylinders and little compartments. He tried in vain to open them up, it seemed they were made for something more nimble than hooves.
Near the bottom of the pile Bruce unearthed something which struck at the very core of his being, and he didn't know why. Clutched in his little hooves was a mask, clearly made for an adult. It was dark blue and was made to conceal the top half of the face. Around the eyes was a solid plate of a black material, harder than the rest of the mask.
At the top of the mask protruded two long spikes, horns maybe, or ears. Bruce became lost in its image, staring at the mask seemed to stir up emotion and a sense that he was supposed to do something with the mask. He went to put it on but found his new head shape would not allow it.
"It looks like something you'd find in the Nightmare Nights aisle of my store. But-" Filthy took the mask and examined it himself, "-see look here Bruce, they must not have had much quality control, the darn thing collapsed during the molding process. Well that's a shame, it's a nice design. But there's no point in holding on to a mask you can't even wear-"
"No! Please can we keep it? It's important..." Bruce was unsure why he was being so protective, but it was something he needed to do.
"Well I don't see why not, we're storing this 'Money' of yours, might as well keep everything else. It has some sentimental value doesn't it Bruce?" asked Filthy. Bruce nodded yes, "Alright then, I’ll have Randolph move it into the attic in the morning. *Yawn* My I forgot how late it was getting, I’ll lead you to the servant's quarters. Randolph should have a bed set up for you already."
The two walked through the darkened hallways of Rich manor, turning corners and past oak doors till they reached the rear of the house. Just past the kitchen was the quarters, a small room with several beds close together. The room was devoid of decoration except for a small bookcase beside where Randolph slept. Randolph was just finishing putting on a set of plain white sheets on the bed across from his.
"Ah Master Rich, Master Bruce, will these accommodations be satisfactory for the night?" Randolph waved a hoof extenuating the expertly made bed. Bruce trotted over to the bedside, his diminished stature only allowed his eyes to peek over the covers. With a little boost up from Filthy, Bruce got on top and stretched out. His body ached from having slept on uneven surfaces and the bed was beyond plush.
"It's perfect! Thank you Randolph!" Bruce said as he tested out the springs.
"It brings me pleasure to hear you say that Master Bruce. Will you require anything else before I retire for the night Master Rich?" asked Randolph.
"Nothing else tonight, I’ll let you get back to your Trotstoy." said Filthy. The Butler settled into his own bed, donned an old pair of reading glasses and cracked open the enormous novel once more. Leaning over to the young foal, Filthy tucked him in and straightened out some wayward hairs in Bruce's mane. "Goodnight son," said Filthy.
"Goodnight dad," replied Bruce. When he heard this Filthy smiled, he then softly closed the door behind him and went upstairs to his bedroom.
The overhead was off but the room was still illuminated by Randolph's reading light. Not feeling like going to sleep yet Bruce decided to get to know Randolph some more. "Um Randolph, is it all right if I ask you some questions?"
"Not to belay your inquiry but you did just that." said Randolph.
"Oh..." Bruce was unsure if that was a yes or no, but he went on ahead anyway. "So how old are you?" His manner was blunt, but innocent.
Randolph took the prying question in stride, "Let me see, if we just had the Summer Sun Celebration then that would put me at... seventy three."
"Whoa you’re really old! *Ahem* I mean you must be really good to be still working after all these years." Bruce fumbled, he knew it was impolite to make fun of old people, and ponies for that matter.
"Indeed I am Master Bruce, not to be a braggart, but I have been refining my skills for the majority of my adult life." Randolph said with notable pride. "There is much involved in being a gentleman's gentleman. Somethings that only experience can give."
"Huh, so what can you tell me about Mr. Rich- er dad?" Bruce corrected himself.
"What do you wish to know?" asked Randolph.
"Well, everything! What does he do for fun? What food does he like? Why did he ... take me in?" His last question was half tinged with sorrow.
Randolph set down the book and turned to Bruce, "If I may make a suggestion, why not ask your father if you may spend the day with him tomorrow. I'd wager you'll learn more about him that way, than from listening to the ramblings of an old pony like me."
"That's a great idea, thank you Randolph!" Bruce said with glee, the butler smiled but was inwardly cringing at the pitch and volume of his young ward.
"I am glad to be of service, do you need anything before you go to sleep? A glass of water perhaps?" Bruce nodded no, he was quite comfortable. So comfortable he was getting quite drowsy. "Then I bid you a good nights rest Master Wayne." With his duty fulfilled Randolph settled in and turned out the light.
As the claws of night latched on to Bruce and he drifted off into sleep he let slip out, "Good night *Yawn* Alfred."
It was the same dream, once again Bruce Wayne was human. Once again he was in the alley with his recently murdered parents. Only this time the vague figure that stood behind him was clearer, more defined. Bruce could tell he was a man, and a very tall one. Still clad in dark blue, but now he also had the yellow belt on that they found before.
When Bruce tried to see the specter's face, he couldn't. The figure was wearing the same mask, but his eyes were obscured, hiding behind bright white. Then the sirens came again, everything proceeded the same way. As the dream came to it's end Bruce was left alone in the darkness of Gotham, waiting for the night to end.
From above, another figure watched, silently observing everything. This one was not a part of Bruce, it was an invader with unknown agenda. It stayed in Bruce's dream throughout the night, disappearing with the advent of the sun.
Sunlight flitted in through the window, shining a shaft of golden light on Bruce's face. When he woke it was surprising to him. Not that he had never seen the sun before, but it had always been behind a smog made by the coal burning factories and the dirty automobile engines. This sun, this Equestrian sun was different, somehow purer. It seemed to carry with it a sense of emotional warmth, like someone was smiling down on Bruce and everyone else.
No one was there to greet him, so he made his way to the kitchen, there he found Randolph already hard at work. "Good morning Master Bruce, did the night treat you well?"
"Yes I slept fine," Bruce lied.
"I am most pleased to hear that young master. Will you be taking breakfast this morning?" Randolph asked as he procured an apron. "I can say with certainty we have most anything your heart could desire."
Bruce trusted the comment , but he felt like something simple, something salty. Maybe it was a side effect of being a horse now but he felt like finding the nearest salt lick and going to town on it. "Could you make some sausages? Maybe some bacon too!"
Randolph turned to the child in front of him and gave a puzzled look, "Sausage? Bacon? Shameful as it may seem, I do not think we have those. I cannot say I've ever heard of them for that matter."
The cogs in Bruce's brain started turning, and he quickly realized the faux pas he had just committed. "N-never mind that, I’m just being silly. I'll take some pancakes... you do have pancakes right?!"
Randolph chuckled, "Do we have pancakes? Young master, not a day goes by without a syrup drenched golden cake passing the lips of your father!"
"So you have pancakes then?" asked Bruce.
"Yes we have pancakes," Randolph said with a noticeable sigh.
"Then I’ll take seven!" said Bruce, after placing his order he stumbled out of the kitchen and into the dining room. There he found both Filthy Rich and Diamond Tiara already sitting down and enjoying their breakfasts. Diamond had a bowl of oatmeal with what looked like cranberries on top. On Filthy's plate were the remnants of three pancakes drowning in maple, a generous serving of hash browns, buttered toast and most surprising of all scrambled eggs.
Instead of pondering the meaning behind herbivorous creatures eating eggs, Bruce decided to greet his family. "Good morning father."
"Good morning Bruce, did you sleep well?" asked Filthy.
"Yeah I slept fine," Bruce lied again.
"Well that's good to hear m'boy, I was afraid those old mattresses would put a kink in your back. We'll have Randolph set you up a room of your own today." Filthy said as he stuffed his face with the remaining pancake.
Bruce thanked him again, he wasn't expecting anything. With that good morning taken care of he turned his attention to Diamond Tiara, "Good morning sister." Bruce said, forcing as much cheer into his words as he could.
Diamond ignored his greeting and ignored Bruce completely, refusing to even look in his direction. "I'll see you after school daddy." With incredible speed Diamond Tiara wolfed down the last of her oatmeal, she then made her way out the door.
"Love you princess!" Filthy managed to get out before the door closed.
Bruce waited for Filthy to finish off his breakfast before asking about his plans for the day. As he scraped the plate clean Filthy noted, "What's wrong Bruce you’re being awfully quiet this morning?"
"Nothing’s wrong, but I was wondering if I could spend the day with you, if you don't mind.” Bruce added shyly.
"I won't be doing anything terribly interesting today, I have to stop by 'Barnyard Bargains' and check on stock. I also need to go to the courthouse and start filling out your adoption forms. Are you sure you don't wan't to go out and meet some other foals your age?" asked Filthy.
"No I wan't to spend time with you dad, I wanna see what you do for a living." Bruce said, he also wanted to learn more about Filthy, but he felt like saying that aloud would be rude.
"Well alright then Bruce you can tag along, but don't get your hopes up too much. Like I said we'll only be doing the basic routine, you'd better eat up before we go, where's your breakfast?" asked Filthy.
Just on cue the kitchen doors opened revealing Randolph and a platter with seven dinner plate sized pancakes covered in melted butter. "Your breakfast Master Bruce." The butler and cook deftly set the pile down in front of Bruce, he was dwarfed in comparison to their size.
"Even by my standards that's a bit excessive m'boy, you sure you can eat all that?" Filthy said eyeing his son.
Bruce was being brought to tears, he wasn't expecting they would be this big. "I-I-I can't, it's too much!"
"Bruce consider this your lesson one, know what it is you’re getting into before you dive head first into it. This applies to pancakes and businesses dealings. If you don't do research you might end up with thousands of worthless 'Peelcore 8000s' that nopony in their right mind would buy." Filthy gave a little shudder, "Or in your case, seven pancakes."
"Sorry dad," Bruce said, he hung his head in shame.
"Chin up Bruce, just eat what you can, I’ll finish what you can't." Using his fork Filthy stabbed three pancakes off the top and moved them over to his plate, round two of breakfast had begun.
Feeling bloated and not at all prepared for a long day of businesses dealings, Filthy and Bruce left the manor and down the street. It's an odd sensation having never seen the outside of the place you came out of, Bruce was just getting his first view of his new home. The building itself wasn't anything too spectacular, at least not compared to Wayne Manor. But it still was plenty big, two floors with high vaulted ceilings and an attic to top it off.
On the perimeter of the grounds was a stone wall, the surrounding homes just peeked over the top to let it be known they existed as well. There was a small garden with topiary's and rose bushes. Near the front door was a swimming pool, vaguely in the shape of a kidney bean. Bruce had the feeling that he'd be using that quite allot once the summer heat came.
Following close behind Filthy, Bruce soon found himself outside the family store, 'Rich's Barnyard Bargains' the sign proudly proclaimed. True to its namesake the storefront was built to look like a red barn, only instead of white trim doors that swung out, this had electric sliders and an air conditioning unit above. "Well don't stand there gawking Bruce, head on in!"
The inside of the store was something to behold, aisles stretching thousands of feet all stuffed to the brim with a little bit of everything for day to day existence. Even this early in the morning there were dozens of mares moving about with shopping carts full of various amenities. But what Bruce was truly fixated on was the different types of ponies.
There were winged ponies, flying up to the top shelf to get out of reach items. There were ponies with a solitary horn on their forehead, this apparently granted them power since they were lifting objects with nothing more than there mind. Seeing Bruce's wide eyed amazement Filthy leaned in, "I know it's great isn't it? We just mailed out a new coupon book, gets em every time."
Filthy beckoned his son to the back office, inside they met with the general manager, a Mr. Breezy as Bruce would later find out. He was a somewhat rotund pony with a chubby face, he wore a green vest and hat to off put his bright orange hair. "Good morning Mr. Rich, what can I help you with?"
"Just checking in, any purchases that need to be made?" asked Filthy.
Mr. Breezy sifted through the clutter on his desk to find the inventory sheet, "Let's see... Yes, we're running short on apples. I'll see about getting those after we close today."
"No no, we don't want to run out, especially since we put them on sale. I'll stop by Sweet Apple Acres and buy a bushel." Filthy said, he then turned to Bruce. "Looks like you'll get a sneak peak of the buying process m'boy." Filthy gave Mr. Breezy some other instructions about the employees before leaving the store in his care.
Slowly Ponyville turned from an urban town full of business to an agricultural paradise. Both sides of the dirt road were surrounded by uniform rows of apple trees. With wide eyes Bruce followed Filthy all the way to a humble farmhouse, it had the look of decades worth of loving maintenance. Sitting on the porch was a very elderly mare with her mane tied up in a bun, despite how weak her knees seemed she still got up out of her rocker to greet the two.
"Well pluck my apples, it's Filthy! And who's the little whipper snapper apper you got with y'all?" said the elderly pony.
"Please Granny, call me Rich," Filthy said as he gave her hoof a gentlemanly kiss. "Granny Smith I’d like you to meet my son Bruce. Bruce introduce yourself,"
Bruce shyly said, "Hello my name's Bruce Wayne." He copied his daddy's gesture.
"Daw ain't he a little gentlecolt like his pappy." Granny Smith patted Bruce on the head, she then got up close to Filthy and whispered, "Say how is it he's your boy if your wife.... well you know."
Filthy whispered back, "Bruce isn't my blood kin as you would put it, I've adopted him as my son."
Satisfied with the explanation and more than pleased with the good deed Granny let the matter drop. "So what brings y'all here today?"
"Well Granny it seems we might have been a tad bit overzealous with our sale prices and were running out of apples at the store. I was hoping you might have a bushel I could buy off your hooves?" asked Filthy.
"Well certainly Filthy, I’ll go fetch Applejack to wrassle you up a fresh basket, just you wait here." Granny slowly hobbled into their family home, she could be heard barking an order even from outside.
"You want to know something interesting Bruce?" asked Filthy, he nodded yes. "That mare has been doing business with our family for decades. She sold her apples to my grandfather, my father, me and I wouldn't be surprised if she lives long enough to sell apples to you. Something about living off the land like the Apple family does breeds longevity." Filthy said musing to himself.
Before too long another pony came outside carrying on her back a basket of the most delicious looking apples Bruce had ever seen. "Here ya go Mr. Rich, one basket full of our best apples, you want me ta gift wrap em for ya?" Applejack said with a chuckle.
Filthy appreciated the joke and laughed, "No that won't be necessary, but I will need somepony to deliver them to Barnyard Bargains for me. We won't be heading back there anytime today."
Applejack took off her stetson and scratched her mane, "Well I reckon we're not too busy today, I could take them in myself."
"Anytime before noon should be fine, just give the bill to Mr. Breezy he'll pay you there." said Filthy.
As she set down the basket she noticed Bruce was eyeing the apples with hungry eyes. "You must be the new Rich boy Granny was telling me about, you want to try the produce?"
"Yes please!" said Bruce.
While Applejack looked through the basket for the nicest one she started chatting Bruce up, "You look about, seven am I right?"
"I'm eight... I think," it was quickly becoming apparent to Bruce that his unclear memory would be a problem, so he decided to fudge it. "Yeah I'm eight!"
"Then you’re just about the same age as my little sis Apple Bloom. Won't she be exited to hear there's a new blank flank in town." She had succeeded in her quest and found the perfect apple for Bruce to try.
As Bruce took his first bite his taste buds exploded with flavor, this apple was like nothing he'd ever had back in Gotham. It was perfectly ripe and wonderfully crisp. Still with his mouth full he decided to get an answer to a lingering question, "So what’s a blank flank?"
"You are silly, you ain't got your cutie mark yet. You know, the symbol on everypony's flank that shows your destiny." Applejack motioned to the three red apples on her flank and the money bags on Filthy's.
He didn't fully comprehend what this all meant, but it at least made more sense than Bruce's working theory that everypony got drunk and decided to get tattoos. "Oh that makes sense," Bruce lied.
"So when's he starting school? I'm sure Apple Bloom would love to meet him." asked Applejack.
"Well soon as we get to the court house I'll enroll Bruce, if I grease some hooves he should be in Ms. Cheerilee's class tomorrow morning. Won't that be fun m'boy?" Filthy asked expectantly.
Bruce would be lying if he said he was, "Sure am dad!" said Bruce.
The next stop was the courthouse, which in itself was not a particularly inspired building, dull gray with a flat roof and an Equestrian flag on the pole outside. Inside was at least a little bit cheerier, caused by the pastel ponies submitting an array of permits and tax forms. Bruce and Filthy circumvented the lines and made their way to an office labeled 'Child Services'.
A knock on the door and they were invited in, behind the desk was a mare who's youth had fled from her, she tried unsuccessfully to mask that fact with an over abundance of makeup. "Hello, may I help you?"
"Good morning, I'd like to speak to the head of Child Services please." said Filthy.
"You are already speaking with her sir," replied the mare.
Filthy faked a little start, "My, here I was thinking you must be her secretary, you've definitely got the good looks for the job." He gave a coy little wink.
The mare behind the desk's cheeks turned so red it could be seen through the caked on blush, "Oh my, you really think so?"
"Oh without a doubt, and I was hoping a beautiful mare like you could help me with a small favor." Filthy said, continuing his flirting.
The mare giggled, "Oh, and what might that favor be?"
"It's nothing huge, I just need to expedite the adoption forms for my son here. Then I need to enroll him in school here in Ponyville, nothing huge." said Filthy.
"No no, I cannot do that. It's unethical, every adoption needs to reviewed and approved by the city council." she said resolutely.
"Are you quite certain? Cause I’m on the city council, and I see that check stamp and green ink there on your desk. How about we say the vote was unanimously yes. For little old me?" Filthy said placing her hoof on the stamp.
"Mr. Rich what your suggesting is very illegal, I would expect more from such an upstanding member of our-" Filthy stared her dead strait in the eyes.
"I implore you to reconsider," he said as he slipped a small pouch into her hooves, never once breaking eye contact. She looked down and opened the pouch, the light above played upon the facets of the assorted jewels inside.
The mare hid the pouch inside her desk and got the needed forms from the filing cabinet. "Upon second thought I believe you are right, after all there's no point in keeping a child away from somepony who can provide for their every need. Simply sign your names here, here, here, here, here-" She was highlighting all the sign here sections, giving them the fast track.
Filthy turned to Bruce and said, "You remember last night when I said gems are almost impossible to regulate? This is one instance where they are quite useful."
Bruce didn't say anything, mostly because he was too stunned from seeing this different side to Filthy. But he complied, signing his almost illegible signature on each of the dotted lines. Nothing had changed, he wanted desperately to have the love of a family.
With the numerous sheets signed the mare looked over them for anything wrong, satisfied with her own corruption she inked the stamp and gave the forms the pass. "Congratulations Mr. Rich, Bruce is now legally a Rich as well."
Filthy thanked her as if none of the underhanded activities had ever taken place, then they exited the office. They were almost out the front door when they got stopped by a secretary. "Mr. Rich? Mayor Mare would like a word with you in her office."
"Tell her i'll be be in tomorrow, she can talk with me then." Filthy said, opening the door to exit.
"She was very insistent, you need to speak with her, now" the secretary pointed to the rear of the courthouse and to the plywood door labeled Mayor.
"Sorry Bruce, looks like we'll be here a bit longer than it should have taken." Filthy apologized to his son.
"No it's fine dad, i don't mind." said Bruce.
Filthy then turned to the secretary, got down on his knees and put his hooves together as if they were in chains. "Lead on," The secretary mumbled something about him being a privileged A hole and led them to the office.
Behind the large oak desk sat the Mayor, despite her gray mane and large spectacles she had quite the youthful appearance. She was busy looking through a file folder when they all entered.
Filthy was quick to demand a reason for being dragged in here, "Despite what you may think to the contrary Mare, my time is quite valuable. I'd much rather be spending it with my son than wasting it here."
"Fine then i'll make it quick, you need to tell your construction crew to keep it down. Your building at all hours and I've gotten dozens of noise complaints from every pony living near there." Her tone was concrete, not willing to budge an inch on this issue.
Already feeling strapped for time and still high off his minor victory from the adoption bribery, Filthy decided to comply. "Alright i'll go tell them to keep it down during the night. Now as I said I have other things to spend my time on today." Without another word Filthy left the office and courthouse, Bruce followed closely.
The construction site seemed out of place for Ponyville. A five story wooden frame was already assembled, around two dozen ponies garbed in orange vests were hard at work, and true to the complaints it was very noisy. Filthy approached the site foreman and relayed the orders but also asked a question. When he got his answer he returned to Bruce, "Come with me son I have something i'd like you to see."
The two walked to the construction elevator and boarded, Filthy threw the switch and the began rising to the top. Once they hit the fifth floor Filthy stepped out onto the scaffolding, he was shaky on his hooves but he steadied himself on the railing. Bruce stepped out himself but he had no trouble at all, in fact he seemed to be better off in the air than he did on the ground.
Once they made their way to the center of the scaffold, Filthy sat down like a dog, his rear legs out and front legs down, Bruce followed his example. "Bruce look out and tell me what you see."
"There's the city hall and the store and I think those are business?" asked Bruce.
"Your right, and over there?" he said pointing to their left.
"Um houses?" said Bruce.
Filthy nodded, "Would you believe me if I said none of this would be here without our family? It's true, there would be no Ponyville if it hadn't been for my Grandfather's businesses savvy. And there would be no hydro dam up on that hill if not for my father's foresight. And you wouldn't be seeing half the stores in this town if not for me generously loaning them money to start up."
"What i'm trying to say m'boy, is your now part of a proud family line that's been shaping the future of this town for the past hundred years, and it's not going to stop anytime soon. Close your eyes son-" He waited for Bruce to do so then he continued, "-Imagine if you will Ponyville but a much different Ponyville than you see today. There are huge skyscrapers higher than Cloudsdale, factories were everypony has a job, fancy restaurants where the highest class gather." Bruce was imagining everything his father was saying, but in his mind it was just a picture of Gotham.
"This is the future i'm building towards, and I wan't you to help me do that Bruce. When the time comes and i'm too old and senile, your going to take over Rich enterprises, your going to have the reigns of the future in your hooves."
"But isn't that something you should give to Diamond Tiara? I'm not even your biological son."
"I could, and until you came along I was reserved to that idea. But I can already tell, you have what it takes Bruce. When the time comes, can I count on you to realize my vision?"
Bruce leaned back, the sun was just starting to go down on Ponyville and in the dusk he could imagine it, the skyscrapers, the factories all of it. But he also saw what came with the urban cityscape. The hatred, the crime, the theft, the drugs, the violence, the murder. "I-I don't think I can dad, I don't think I should."
Filthy heaved a heavy sigh, he wasn't angry, but he was a little bit disappointed. "I suppose that is a hefty thing to ask of an eight year old. Maybe you'll think differently about it when you’re older." Using the railing he pulled himself up and stretched his back. "You curious at all what it is were standing on now?"
Bruce too pulled himself up, "Sure."
"This is the future sight of the first five star hotel in Ponyville, I’m thinking of calling it the 'Tiara' what do you think." asked Filthy,
Bruce's comment about Rich manor also applied to this hotel, "It's a bit big for a town this small don't you think?"
Filthy smiled and laughed, "My boy mark my words, in fifteen years’ time this hotel will seem small in comparison to what’s going to be around it!"
"But in the meantime who's going to fill all the rooms?" said Bruce, asking a very legitimate question.
"You see that library over there Bruce?" Filthy said pointing to the Golden Oaks.
"That tree is a library?" asked Bruce.
"That's the one, there's a narrative being crafted by the mare who lives in that library. A story about a girl coming to live in a small town and through the power of friendship ascends to a new state of being, becoming a princess. It's that narrative that will bring ponies here, I just know it." Filthy was starring off at the library, imagining huge crowds of ponies visiting from far off to meet with the princess, and his hotel being the choice place to stay.
"Hey dad, sorry to bug you but could we go home? Its getting dark and it's cold up here." Bruce said in a whiny voice.
Filthy turned his attention back to his son, "Your right m'boy, Randolph's probably wondering where we are, wouldn't want to keep his dinner waiting." The two boarded the elevator once more and made their way back down, and back home.
After an enjoyable meal from Randolph, Bruce was led upstairs to his new room. There wasn't too much in the way of decoration, but there was a toy box filled with trucks and trains and airplanes. More importantly there was a brand new king sized bed with baby blue sheets, "This is for me?" Bruce asked in disbelief.
"Indeed it is Master Bruce, I took the liberty of estimating how firm you wanted the mattress. If it is not to your liking I can exchange it in the morning." Bruce crawled up and spread out, this time he very nearly sank into the mattress it was so soft.
"I love it!" Bruce said while he was being eaten by his bed.
"It overjoys me to hear that Master Bruce." said Randolph. They repeated the bedtime ritual from the night before, only this time when it was over Bruce was left alone in his large room. He slowly drifted off into sleep.
Loud sounds of crying pervaded the air, 'Of course Randolph had to have put the street rat's room right next to mine.' Thought Diamond Tiara. She had been trying to get back to sleep for an hour now, but every time she got close another bout of sobbing started and all progress was lost. Well she had had it, 'No more putting up with this bull, i'm going to make him wish he'd never even stepped hoof in this house.'
Diamond threw on a night robe and fuzzy slippers and walked down the hall to the next door down. She callously threw Bruce's door open, but the carpet prevented it from slamming and making noise. Instead she would make the noise, "Wake up you sad sack! Some of us are trying to get some Celestia dammed sleep!"
But Bruce didn't wake up, he didn't stir. He just kept on crying, the water works were on full force it seemed. Beneath the sobbing he was saying something, from his dream maybe. "No *sob* you can't *sob* leave me. Wake up, Mother *sob*, father. Wake up *sob*"
As Diamond watched this truly pathetic sight, and the context of his dream speak hit her, she felt the anger fade away. Like a bucket of ice water had been thrown on a campfire, she felt ... defeated. Diamond stood over him watching for a while until she lost interest. She then went into her room, tore off the top sheet and marched downstairs and went to sleep on the couch. "Finally I don't have to hear whiny pants anymore." she told herself.
Soon enough Diamond went to sleep, the whole time trying to repress the empathy she was feeling for Bruce.
Morning in Ponyville was quickly losing the charm that Bruce had experienced the day before. Maybe he was just seeing things without rose tinted glasses. Maybe it was learning that his new father is slightly more corrupt than Bruce had ever expected. Maybe it was waking up a third time without getting any solid rest. But whatever the cause, none of that changed the fact that Bruce had school today.
Wanting to put his best hoof forward, Bruce decided to see if his new sister needed help getting ready. Bruce dragged his tired hide out of the bed and onto the ground. Out the door and to the next, then he knocked to wake her from sweet rest. "Diamond, are you up yet? I was hoping we could walk together to school today, cause I don't know how to get there." Bruce said as he softly clopped his hoof on the door.
He kept on doing so, despite not getting a reply, "Come on... sister." Bruce didn't notice that Diamond was standing behind him, wrapped up in her bed sheet.
"What are doing trying to get into my room? Were you planning on stealing my jewelry when I was gone?" Diamond said, pushing Bruce aside.
"No I wasn't doing anything, I just wanted to see if you would walk me to school today!" Bruce hurriedly defended himself.
Diamond rolled her eyes, "I know what you were doing, I need to brush my mane then I’ll walk you to school. But only this once!" She quickly opened her door ducked inside and then slammed it behind her. The sheet she had wrapped around her got caught and Bruce could hear her get tripped. After some muffled Cloudsdale curses and several minutes of intense mane brushing Diamond emerged once more, she also had on her namesake piece of jewelry.
"Wow Diamond, you look great!" Bruce said with all sincerity, his sister truly was pretty, it's a shame she didn't have a personality to match.
"As if I need a street rat like you to tell me I’m pretty." She walked past Bruce and gave him a rude flick of the tail, Diamond wasn't sure why she did this. 'It must be force of habit,' she thought to herself. "Well come on, we gotta get going. Ms. Cheerilee doesn't like it when were late."
Down the stairs they went and almost out the door before Randolph stopped them, "Young master, mistress I insist you eat something before you leave."
Both siblings shared the same verbal sentiment, "Aww, but we gotta go!" When Diamond saw how almost twin like they were acting she sidestepped away from Bruce.
"I was expecting such a response, so I took the liberty of crafting you a 'bag lunch', I believe that is what they are called." He held out two brown paper sacks, full of sustenance.
"Thank you Randolph!" said Bruce, grabbing the bag with his teeth.
"Thanks," Diamond said under her breath, also grabbing her bag.
The two hurriedly ran out the door and into the street, off to the school house. All the way, any time Bruce would start drifting closer to Diamond she would move farther away, and after a while of this Bruce finally brought it up. "What gives? Why can't I walk next to you?"
"I don't want anypony thinking I’m with a loser like you! And for that matter once we get to the school make sure you sit as far away from me as you can. I have a reputation there I’d like to uphold." said Diamond, her tone beyond insulting.
"Fine! I don't want to sit next to a stuck up mule like you anyway!" Bruce replied angrily.
Bruce had been blissfully unaware of just what a big insult he had just given. Again, being from another world, how could he know that was akin to insinuating somepony was the worst kind of ugly? Diamond rightly gave him a kick to the ribs, "Jackass!" She felt a bit of catharsis from that. She then turned and said, "No offence," to a donkey who happened to be standing on the road side.
"None taken," said the mellow donkey.
Bruce rubbed his sore ribs all the way to the school, making sure to give Diamond her space. And soon enough they were there, the Ponyville Schoolhouse. It seemed the town really loved the red barn motif since the building greatly resembled one, but with some additions. There was the obvious school bell on top, as well as a nice covered porch.
"I'll go in first, I don't want to be seen entering with you." said Diamond.
Bruce was about to say something similar to his earlier remark, but his aching side warned him against it. He waited a few seconds after Diamond entered before he did so himself. Once he did so however he instantly regretted it, it was one thing meeting one or two well-adjusted adults, but this was a different beast all together. In neat rows were sitting roughly two dozen unruly foals all noisily chatting with each other.
At the front of the class was the teacher, she was writing out something on the chalkboard. Once she noticed Bruce she happily knelt down to him and said, "Hello there, you must be my new student. We just added a new desk just for you, so sit anywhere you like." Looking around he saw that Diamond had taken her seat in the front rows, right next to another filly she was talking to.
Heeding her command, Bruce searched for a seat in the rear of the classroom and he even found two open, that way he could be in the corner and not surrounded. The bell rang and every student stopped their incessant chattering, the teacher moved behind her desk and opened up her planner.
"Good morning my little ponies!" said the Teacher.
"Good morning Ms. Cheerilee!" Chimed back all her students, 'My little ponies?' thought Bruce, even in a land populated by talking horses that seemed forced. 'Well at least they don't do that annoying thing with new students where they make you-'
"We have a new student Today class, I'd like you all to meet Bruce Wayne! Bruce please stand up and introduce yourself," said Ms. Cheerilee.
Bruce's almost incognito entrance was ruined, now all eyes were on Bruce in his lonely corner. "Um, hello. It's good to meet you all." With that said Bruce sank back into his chair and all the students turned their attention back to their teacher. All except for the fillies sitting next to each other in the next row, in an undertone they were all excitedly talking with each other.
"Should we ask him?" "He is a blank flank." "But we've never had any colt members in the club before." "How do you talk to colts?" "My sister knows how to, she can get them to do pretty much anything." "Maybe we could get Rarity to teach us after school." "No after school is too late, we don't even know where he lives." "You're right, lets just wing it, after all what could go wrong?" "Right? The worst he could do is say no."
Bruce was desperately trying to pay attention to what Ms. Cheerilee was saying, which was already hard since his small size made it hard to see over the heads of his class mates. This problem was compounded by the jabbering of the three fillies in front of him. He could just make out what the lesson was, Cutie Mark 101, 'Finally I can get some real answers!' Bruce thought.
One of the fillies, the unicorn in their little group, turned around to face Bruce, "*Psst* Hey, *Psssst* Um, we were wondering if you wanted to join the Cutie Mark Crusaders?"
Then the Pegasus turned around, "You know, since you're a blank flank." she put bluntly.
Lastly the earth pony turned around, "That's what the Crusaders are all about."
With the three right in his face he could no longer see the chalk board and the sought after knowledge. The minor commotion caught the attention of Diamond's companion, "Hey look Diamond, the cutie mark 'lamesaders' are so desperate they'll take the first blank flank they find. You gonna join their stupid club, you wanna wear a stupid cape like them?"
While the idea of a cape sounded nice, right now Bruce just wanted to focus on learning. But it was quickly becoming apparent that would not be happening anytime soon. "Don't worry Bruce we've been dealing with these bullies for a long time." said the Pegasus, "Yeah well once Bruce joins were all going to get supper awesome cutie marks together!"
"Yeah! And there gonna be ten times better than your stupid spoon, what kind of destiny is a spoon anyway?" jeered the unicorn.
Ms. Cheerilee was trying unsuccessfully to regain her class' attention, "Students eyes on me please. Little ponies?" None of them paid attention. Both sides, the Crusaders and Silver Spoon kept on shouting at each other, Bruce was getting overwhelmed laying his head on his desk waiting for this to end.
Salvation came for Bruce in an unexpected form, "Would you all just shut the B*#@ up and leave my brother alone!?!" Everypony in the small schoolhouse went silent, most from the foul language but the Crusaders, Silver Spoon and Bruce from the revelation.
"Diamond Tiara! I don't know what your father lets you get away with at home. But in my school house Nopony uses that kind of sailor talk. Take your chair outside and sit where I can see you." Ms. Cheerilee was dead serious, Diamond was about to raise an objection to the effect of 'But I was only-' Ms. Cheerilee wouldn't hear any of it and sent her outside.
As Diamond carried her chair outside, Silver Spoon asked,"Ms. Cheerilee can I go and sit with-"
"No, it's not punishment if your off talking with your friends, now I want everypony to get back to work and stay focused this time. The next pony I see with their back turned is staying after class." Ms. Cheerilee then went back to the lesson.
The Crusaders went back to their hushed meeting between themselves. "Diamond Tiara has a brother?" "Well that rules him out as a crusader." "Why's that?" "He's on the dark side." "Well cousin Babs was on the dark side too." "Yeah but she was just doing that cause she was tired of getting bullied. He's like, a dark side master." "Come on girls aren't you prejudging him? He hasn't even said or done anything to us." "I don't care, I don't want anypony related to Diamond Tiara in our clubhouse. Remember how long it took to undo all the changes the 'Sugar Lump Rumps' made?" They all shuddered simultaneously, "Right then he's out."
With that the Crusaders all got back to their own work, and in a stunning turn of events Bruce could actually see and pay attention to the chalk board. The information he was learning was thrilling. The current scientific understanding of cutie marks was, when a foal comes to an understanding of what their place in life is, a mark either literally or figuratively representing that destiny appears on the ponies flank. The prospect was interesting to say the least.
Bruce was left wondering what his mark would be, something businesses related? Something meaning his loss of his family and gaining his new one. His mind buzzed with cutie mark designs as he completed the work sheet, finishing his before any of the class. "Ms. Cheerilee, I finished my work. What should I do?"
Cheerilee was surprised, "Really? Bring it up so I can see it." Bruce did so, and Cheerilee looked it over. "Well now, you did a very good job, and on your first day too! Since your all done I'll let you take your recess and eat your lunch early." Ms. Cheerilee patted Bruce on the head and sent him off.
With the paper sack in mouth Bruce left the school house and out into the playground. He was about to dig in when he caught sight of Diamond, sitting grumpily on her chair. It was because of her Bruce's day hadn't turned out completely miserable so it was only right to thank her. "Hi Diamond, I just wanted to say-"
"Shut up, just shut up. be Because of you I got in trouble, everypony thinks I’m a dweeb and I can't even eat my lunch cause it's in my desk." Diamond said, she then slumped down in the chair. "You need to grow a backbone Bruce, don't make me have to stand up for you, I don't like it."
Fine then backbone time, "I wanted to say thank you Diamond, for standing up for me. Thank you for calling me your brother, you don't know what that means to me." Bruce's eyes were starting to water, "I'm sorry you got in trouble because of me."
Now Diamond's eyes were starting to moisten as well, "I'm sorry I've been a huge jerk to you, it's just everything happened so fast. I came home one day and suddenly daddy's brought in some stranger and treating him like family. I think I felt like I was going to be replaced."
Bruce didn't dare bring up the conversation he and his father had on the scaffolding last night, but he totally understood what she meant. "Do you think we should start over?"
"Okay, then." Diamond said as she wiped a tear from her eye. "Well you gotta start, I'm not the one introducing myself."
"Oh right, hello my name's Bruce Wayne. I'm your brother."
"That still sounds stupid," Diamond said as she pulled Bruce into a hug. Their moment of sibling affection was interrupted by Diamonds rumbling stomach. "Urgh, too bad I can't just walk inside and grab my lunch real quick. I'm starving!"
"How about you take mine?" suggested Bruce.
"You'd really do that?" asked Diamond.
Bruce opened up the sack searching its contents, "Sure why not, and if I get hungry I can always raid your desk for yours." Bruce found a tasty looking peanut butter sandwich and gave it to his sister.
She immediately devoured it, "*OOgh* Scho ghood!" Diamond said with her mouth full. Just then the bell rang and class was dismissed, all the foals poured out onto the playground taking the equipment by storm. The Cutie Mark Crusaders had the swing sets watching their foes with caution.
Silver Spoon came out as well and sat down next to Diamond and Bruce, "Sorry I was making fun of you Bruce, It's kind of our thing. But I totally wouldn't have done that if I knew Diamond Tiara was your sister!" Silver assured him. "So like, when did you get a brother Di? And why didn't you tell me he was so cute."
Diamond gave a violent spit-take of the milk she was using to wash down the sandwich, "You think he's cute!?"
"Yeah, he's got a certain air of mystery about him." She blew a little kiss at Bruce and winked.
Bruce didn't know how to feel, he'd never been called cute before by anyone other than his mother. He felt his cheeks turning red, "Well-I-I-I-I-"
"Got ya didn't I!" Silver Spoon said with a laugh.
"Yeah you got me, pretty good there." He started laughing too, which in turn started the whole group laughing. They all ended up spending the rest of their recess together. And when Diamond and Bruce were walking home side by side, the teacher's note describing Diamond's bad behavior didn't bother them at all. It was more like a testament of their coming together as siblings than anything else.
It had been about a week since Bruce's first day of school, and so far he was really liking it. He got to sit with his sister and Silver Spoon in the front of the class, and with that came a sense of fearful respect from the other students. As they all poured in the classroom that morning they were hoofed over their report cards by Ms. Cheerilee. "How did you girls do?" asked Bruce.
"Urgh, B's and C's in everything." said Silver Spoon.
"How about you sis?" asked Bruce.
"I'm not telling!" Diamond replied, clutching the tiny card to her chest.
"I almost got straight A's!" said Bruce with pride, holding out his card for them all to see. He had a nice row of little A pluses and A minuses, the row was only marred by a solitary B+ under social studies. Bruce was still trying to figure out all the intricacies of pony life, slowly but surely he was mastering it. Everything else, science, mathematics, Equestrian (which he was quickly learning was just the English language with horse puns thrown in everywhere) it all was coming naturally to Bruce.
Diamond was shocked by his success, "How the hay do you have that many A's? The best I have is a D+" Both of her companions went silent. "What? The lessons are really boring."
"Sis that's really bad." said Bruce.
"Well so what? All I have to do is tell daddy and he'll fix it." said Diamond, her tone was innocent, naive to what 'Fixing her grade' meant.
Bruce cringed at the idea, he knew that was the kind of stallion his father was, but he would never be that kind of pony. And he didn't want his sister to be that kind of pony either, "Well what are you going to do when you actually have to use those skills?"
"Bruce when in life would you ever need to use hypothetical numbers?" Bruce had to admit she had a point, it was hard to imagine how 'A - C / Z = ?' could ever be of any real life benefit.
"Well that's not the point, even if you have the grades saying so, it doesn't mean a thing if you don't have the knowledge to back them up." said Bruce.
"Maybe it's easy for you 'Mr. Straight A's' But It's not for me." Diamond said while crossing her forelegs grumpily.
"I'm not perfect either Diamond, you just need to apply yourself and focus. I know you can do it if you try." said Bruce.
Before they could continue their discussion further Ms. Cheerilee entered the room. "Good morning class, today you'll all be working in pairs for an upcoming project. While normally I would allow you all to pick your groups yourselves, today I’ll be assigning them myself. I'd like you all to use this as an opportunity to get to know your fellow students outside your circle of friends." said Ms. Cheerilee.
There was shared groaning from all the foals in the class, "Now don't be that way, it's not like you’re never going to see your friends again. This project will only last today and over the weekend and you can still hang out together on the playground." Cheerilee moved over to the chalk board and started pairing students.
The pairings she wrote down went as such, Berry Pinch - Scootaloo. Snips - Dinky Doo. Diamond Tiara - Apple Bloom. This pairing in particular caused much grief. Both parties tried unsuccessfully to get a different partner.
Sweetie Belle - Snails. Silver Spoon - Pipsqueak. Bruce Wayne - H.D. There were many more but Bruce stopped paying attention after his pair was written down. "Who's H.D.?"
Bruce's answer came when a Pegasus colt stood up. He looked to be about a year younger than Bruce, he had a pristine white coat and a slick red mane. "I'm H.D." He said as he trotted over to Bruce, "Looks like we'll be partners."
"Well it's nice to meet you, um can I ask-" H.D. stopped Bruce right there.
"What H.D. means? Sorry it's top secret, it's a code name. Only a select few can know." He put on a pair of shades to extenuate the secret agent act he was putting on.
"I know what it is." Silver Spoon said leaning in. "You want me to tell him?"
Panic took hold of H.D. "No please anything but that!"
"Aw but it's such an adorable dorky name." retorted Silver Spoon.
"I'm begging you please!" said H.D.
"-dnose Dimple." with the truly awful name out in the open Silver Spoon started laughing, she then got Diamond Tiara's attention. " Di, Di guess what, I got to do another H.D. reveal!"
She pulled away from Apple Bloom to join the fray, "Wait he's still trying to get away with calling himself that?"
"I know right?" Silver Spoon said in bemusement.
Now Apple Bloom came in, "You’re making fun of that poor colt again! Why don't you bullies just leave him alone?"
"What, all were doing is telling the truth when he's lying. Isn't your sister the 'Element of Honesty' or something like that? I would think you'd be the first to appreciate the truth." said Silver Spoon.
"Wha-huh? That's not being honest it's just being plain mean!" Apple Bloom said hastily.
Bruce had been so wrapped up in the argument that he hadn't noticed his partner was no longer there. He wasn't in the school house anymore, so Bruce started searching outside. It didn't take long to find him, Dimple was sulking up on top of the play set, his spy glasses thrown away.
"Are you okay H.D.?" asked Bruce.
"Don't call me that, I thought if I introduced myself as that to somepony new, then they might think I was cool. But it never works, I’m stuck with this stupid name and nopony wants to hang out with someone called Hardnose." He started kicking the playground equipment and banging his head on it.
Bruce couldn't help but sympathize, he was stuck with a name unlike any other's he had encountered in this world. "I don't think it's bad, it kind of sounds like a detective name."
"You think so?" asked H.D. who paused his head banging.
"Yeah, it's much better than Bruce, that's for sure."
H.D. shook his head, "No you have a great name, it just..."
"It just doesn't fit here, right?" asked Bruce.
"Yeah that's it," said H.D. "How did you get a name like that anyway?"
Bruce paused, he wasn't sure if he should try explaining he's not even a pony and he comes from a world of tall fleshy people who walk on two legs. Instead he went with, "I'm not from Equestria."
"Oh, I guess were sort of similar then. My dad hadn't been in Equestria very long before I was born. And instead of picking out a naming book he just picked the first random thing in the dictionary." said H.D. "And my mom gave me the name Dimple cause of my, well you know dimples."
"See at least your name means something, Bruce Wayne doesn't have any meaning. At least not in this world," as the two conversed about the meaning and nature of names they were still outside when the first bell rang. "Come on let's go!"
The two managed to find seats next to each other in the back row, just in time for the assignment. "Alright class, now that you've had a chance to talk with your partners I'm going to give you all your assignments. For the rest of today, and during your weekend you'll all be creating a profile of each other, what your partner likes, dislikes, everything about them."
Cheerilee wrote down all the criteria on the board, "There is no minimum length but I want to see at least five likes and dislikes. Once we're all back at the start of the school week, everypony will put on a presentation of what they learned about their partner."
Some of the foals in the class were getting pretty excited, after all how often do you get an assignment where you get to talk about how much you like Power Ponies? Others like Diamond Tiara and Apple Bloom were loathing the prospect of spending any amount of time together. Bruce was feeling good, H.D. was a pony he wanted to know more about.
"So how should we start out?" Bruce asked.
"We could do likes first, I’ll give one and then you can give one." said H.D.
Bruce thought that sounded fair so they got to it, sliding their desks so they were facing each other, they began. "Okay, um I like spy stuff. That's why I gave myself a code name." said H.D.
Bruce wrote down 'Spy stuff' in his note book, "I like, I really like having a family." said Bruce.
"Really? Okay, but that sounds all mushy." said H.D. "I like Canterlot, have you ever been there? It's awesome!"
Bruce shook his head no, "Ponyville's the only town I've been to."
H.D. wrote down 'Only Ponyville?'
"I really like Zorro! I got to go see a Zorro film with ... never mind." The memories were starting to flood back in, instead of letting them take over Bruce focused on the project. "Okay your next."
"Wait what's Zorro? Is that like Zecorro the masked hero?" asked H.D.
"Yeah that's it, I guess I got the name wrong haha." Bruce was not so subtly trying to brush it under the rug.
H.D. wrote down, 'Knock off Zecorro' "Anyway, I like going camping with my parents."
"I like jazz music, it seems to sooth my soul." said Bruce.
"I like flying, it's really fun!" said H.D.
"One thing I really like, is being a pony." said Bruce, H.D. wrote down 'Being a pony, as opposed to what?'
"Last one... Ooh I know! I really like love!" said H.D.
Bruce was flabbergasted, "Love? I thought you said me liking my family was mushy?"
"I don't mean being in love, I just really like being around ponies who are in love. It feels nice," said H.D. his cheeks turning red.
Bruce wrote down, 'Really likes love.' Now it was time for Bruce's last like, "I like the color black, sorry probably should have put that somewhere before family, right?"
"Naw its fine." said H.D. "Well we breezed through the likes do you want to try and get through dislikes too?"
"Sure, let's do it! Um, I don't like some of the dishonest things my father does." Much as he tried to overcome it, that indecent in the courthouse was really weighing on his mind.
"I don't like my name, obviously." said H.D.
"I don't like only having plants and hay to eat." said Bruce. This one really turned H.T.'s head, he wrote down 'Wants to eat ???'
"I don't like ponies who already judge you before you've ever met them." said H.D. Bruce wrote down 'Is there a prejudice against pegasi?'
"I hate rock and roll, because punk is nothing more than death and crime and the rage of a beast!" Bruce was unsure why he said that, the words seemed forced.
"I hate having to move all the time!" said H.T.
"I hate being alone!" said Bruce, his tone was getting more and more upset.
"I hate Princess Cadence!" H.D.'s loud declaration turned a few heads in the room.
"I HATE CRIMINALS!" Bruce shouted, he was getting so worked up the veins on his neck were visible. His little outburst caught the attention of the entire class, "Sorry everypony, I got too excited." H.D. wrote down in his note book 'Has a history with crime.'
Each one took several deep breaths, it felt good to vent. "Uh I guess I've got the last one then." H.D. struggled to find one more thing, "Dang now I feel like you did with the likes Bruce. I dislike mashed potatoes, sorry it's all I got."
Bruce finished taking his notes and H.D finished taking his. "Wow, that was ... intense. So do you want to hang out tomorrow and work on writing these together?" asked Bruce.
"Sure, you can come over to my place! Let me write down my address," H.D. filled it out on a scrap of paper and gave it to Bruce. "I'll tell my mom you'll be there at noon. Anytime we have company she feels the need to clean the whole house top to bottom. It's like a nervous habit or something."
Both shook hooves and left school, parting ways at the fork in the road. As Bruce walked home with Diamond Tiara he opened up his notebook once more and added one more note bellow the others. It read, 'H.D. hiding something, need to investigate.
And at the same time H.D. was flying home, he opened up his book and scrawled 'Bruce Wayne obviously hiding secret. Further investigation needed.' Both colts’ investigations would have to wait for the next day, for now it was time for dinner.
It had been a long night, Bruce had spent nearly all of it putting together the information he had gathered on the floor. Sorting together the useful stuff like a hatred of bigotry and having to move constantly, and setting aside what he deemed less important like H.D.'s like of love. As near as he could tell H.D. and his family must be some kind of fugitives or get run out of the places they live. But without any further information Bruce's theory would remain just that.
Before leaving the manor and going to H.D.'s house Bruce stopped by Diamond's room to check on how she was doing. "Hey sis, how's your project going?"
"Urgh don't ask." Diamond too had a collection of likes and dislikes arranged on the floor. "How are you supposed to make a report interesting when everything the pony likes is apple related?"
"Well what did she have to say about dislikes?" asked Bruce.
"Take a wild guess." Diamond said pointing at herself.
"Oh, that must be awkward." said Bruce.
Diamond rolled her eyes, "That's an understatement! Monday morning I have to come in to class and give a presentation about how much 'Apple Bumbkin' loves apples and hates my guts. And to pour salt in the wound I’m going to get an F for it."
Bruce didn't envy her situation, "Um Diamond, can I ask you something?"
"Sure," Diamond said dismissively.
"Why do you hate Apple Bloom? What happened to cause that much bad blood?" Bruce felt like he was treading on eggshells, true he had only been going to the school for a week. But it seemed every interaction his sister had with Apple Bloom or her friends ended in some kind of altercation.
"I don't know, it started out when she ruined my cute-ceanera." Diamond could tell by his expression that Bruce was confused. "It's like a coming of age party, only it's for when you get your cutie mark. It was supposed to be a really special day for me, and she knew it too. After that, she and her club kept on doing stuff to piss me and Silver Spoon off."
"Stuff like what?" asked Bruce.
"Like last year, I got to be in charge of the school newspaper. And I was good, I mean really good. Under my leadership the group was working efficiently, we had enough articles to run a daily paper and once things took off we were even selling papers at newsstands in town!" Diamond's eyes lit up as she remembered her success.
"Then all of a sudden the Cutie Mark Crusaders decided that they didn't like being the star reporters of my newspaper and they wanted to quit. So I did what daddy said to do with an unruly employee, I persuaded them to stay with sensitive materials." Bruce cringed at the matter of fact way his sister had just admitted to blackmail.
"The next day they trick me into publishing a story that wrecks the whole paper and gets me demoted to the ink press, The Ink Press!" Diamond could still imagine that nasty black sludge, and how long it took to wash it out. "You want to know the worst part Bruce? Have you seen a copy of the Foal Free Press since you started school?"
Bruce had to admit he hadn't, "I didn't even know we had a school paper."
"That's because there is no Foal Free Press anymore. When Ms. Cheerilee demoted me she put Featherweight in charge, he was a good photographer but he knew diddly squat about running a business. They put out two maybe three more issues before the paper closed down, I think the last issue's cover story was about a nest with new baby birds. They took something that I had made great and ran it into the ground." Diamond said with seething anger.
Bruce felt rather stupid for asking but he decided to anyway, "Did you ever talk to Apple Bloom or the others?"
"What's there to talk about, they hate me and Silver Spoon and we hate them back. There's nothing else to it." said Diamond, ending the discussion. "Now if you'll excuse me I need to figure out how I can make this interesting."
"Alright I've got to go, I’m supposed to be at H.D.'s house at noon." said Bruce, before he left the room an idea struck him. "How about we get Silver Spoon to come over this afternoon. We can all work on our projects together."
"Hey that sounds good, but won't Ms. Cheerilee get upset if she finds out were doing each other’s work?" asked Diamond.
Bruce tapped his noggin, "Dear sister, you weren't paying attention in class. She never said we couldn't help our fellow students on their projects. Only that we couldn't pick our groups." Bruce was feeling quite sly, and also happy that he might be able to help Diamond get a decent grade.
"Alright, see you when you get home Bruce." said Diamond.
With that taken care of Bruce left the manor, following the directions crudely written on the scrap of paper he made his way to H.D.'s house. It wasn't anything impressive, a single story building with a patched roof. What caught Bruce's attention was every window with shutters had them closed and those that didn't had heavy blinds.
About the only peek you could get from the outside was from the small crack underneath the door. Just as Bruce knocked he saw a distinctive flash of green light coming from inside, "Coming!" said a male voice. When the door opened Bruce was greeted by a shortish adult Pegasus, he had the same coloration of H.D. "Hello, you must be Hardnose's friend from school. He said you'd be here at noon, it's eleven fifty five."
"Oh is that a problem? I don't have a watch," said Bruce.
"It's... no problem. We just really appreciate punctuality, that's all." The father of H.D. was craning his neck, looking at Bruce from all angles. "Well you should head inside, Hardnose is waiting for you." The inside of their home was barely furnished, there was a dining table with three chairs, all looking like stuff you could find in a thrift store for free.
As they passed by the kitchen Bruce caught sight of a pony he assumed was H.D.'s mother. She too was a Pegasus and she too had the same exact coloration as H.D. and his father. She smiled at Bruce as he walked past, then she returned to scrubbing the linoleum floor. There was a strange green stain she was working hard to get out.
A few steps past the kitchen was H.D.'s door, his dad knocked on it and H.D. answered. "Hey Bruce, glad you could make it!"
"Sure thing, but why'd we meet here? I've got allot more stuff at my place." Bruce said as he looked around the room. There was barely anything inside, just a bed and a shelf with a row of snow globes. There were ones from all over, Manehatten, Fillydalphia, Cloudsdale, Canterlot, and The Crystal Empire. "Are these all the places you've lived?"
"Yeah, but Canterlot's my favorite one." said H.D.
"Why's that?" asked Bruce.
"Because we almost got to stay," said H.D.
Bruce felt a twinge of sadness, he wasn't sure just how to respond. "That must be awful H.D."
"Look you really don't have to keep calling me H.D. Just call me Dimple, it still sounds dumb, but it is my real name." said Dimple.
"Alright then Dimple, what are we going to do first?" Bruce asked.
Dimple put a hoof to his chin, "Well yesterday we just did the lists, how about today we get into making the profiles." He pulled out a sheet of foam board with all of Bruce's likes and dislikes on it. "I've been trying to piece them together to get a picture of what kind of pony you are."
Bruce was interested, Dimple had the same idea as he did. "So what do you think?"
Dimple arranged the facts in his mind, "First of all, from your comments about family and your aggressive statement about criminals. Logic dictates that both were involved in some kind of traumatic incident. I'm not privy to your home life, but I know your sister goes to the same school and I've seen your father. That narrows it down to either your mother or a sibling lost to criminal actions. How close am I?"
Bruce was shocked, had he been that obvious? Dimple's hypothesis also raised a question in Bruce's mind, where is Diamond's mother? "You were really close, I watched both my parents get murdered right in front of me. Mr. Rich and Diamond are my adopted family."
Dimple was stunned, "Sweet Chrys- I mean Celestia! Why didn't you tell me to bugger off? I never would have brought it up if I'd known that."
"I don't talk about it with many ponies, I don't even think my dad- Mr. Rich fully understands. I think you’re the first pony to come close." said Bruce.
The room fell silent, Bruce was remembering his fallen family and Dimple was feeling very uncomfortable for bringing the subject up. Thankfully the silence was broken when Dimple's mom opened the door. "Are either of you colts hungry? I wasn't sure if you'd eaten lunch before coming here Bruce."
"Sure, I'm feeling a little bit hungry." said Bruce.
Dimple's mom smiled, "I just pulled some cookies out of the oven, there snickerdoodles, made with love."
"Really? Thanks mom!" Dimple said as he ran out of his room and into the kitchen, his mother followed him out the door.
Bruce was about to follow when he caught a glimpse of Dimple's list, "Well I'll be." said Bruce when he saw the reminder Dimple set for himself. It seemed he and Bruce were allot alike, and he was doing his own investigation as well. "Wait up Dimple!"
With the information gathering mostly a failure, Bruce returned home to the manor. It wasn't that he didn't have any fun, in fact he quite enjoyed Dimple's company. But he was still no closer to answers then when he had left that morning. As near as Bruce could tell Dimple's family was perfectly normal, they were poor as dirt but that was no reason to move constantly.
When Bruce entered the home Randolph informed him "Mistress Spoon is already in Mistress Tiara's chambers." So he headed up to help them out as he had promised. Upstairs in Diamond's room Silver Spoon and her were sprawled out on the carpet, their loose assortment of likes and dislikes was strewn across the floor. "Hi ya girls, how are things going?"
Silver Spoon was first to answer, "I'm all done actually, turns out Pipsqueak is really easy to write about. The kids like five years old and never shuts up about the things he likes. I had to sit through an entire school day of, 'I think Luna's the best princess, I really like lemonade, I want to be a pirate when I grow up.'" Silver Spoon said mocking Pipsqueak's Trottingham accent.
"Well that's... good to hear," Bruce said as he too laid down, "How about you sis? Made any progress?"
Diamond lay her head down in shame, "No. It's the same problem, as before. I just can't make anything she gave me interesting."
"Well to be fair they are pretty uninteresting ponies." said Silver Spoon.
Bruce had an idea, "Can you tell me about them? Ever since my first day at school, they all refuse to talk to me."
"Why do you want to know about the 'Lamesaders'? All they ever do is prattle on and on about getting their cutie marks." said Silver Spoon.
"She is right, the only fun you can get out of them is from teasing them." said Diamond.
This isn't quite what he wanted but Bruce knew he could use this turn to his advantage. "So what ticks them off?"
"Oh we've worked down to a science! Of course there's the classic blank flank taunt, you can make fun of their sisters. Well Scootaloo doesn't have any sisters so that doesn't work with her." said Silver.
Diamond wagged a hoof at Silver, "Not true, Rainbow Dash is her adopted sister."
"Wait, she's an orphan too?" asked Bruce.
Diamond and Silver shared a confused look, "Yes, well maybe? I don't know it's weird, she has a house and she lives here in Ponyville. But nopony has ever seen her with her parents." said Diamond.
"It's like a taboo subject or something." said Silver.
"But Apple Bloom is totally an orphan." said Diamond.
Silver nodded in agreement, "But we don't make fun of her for that, even by our standards that would be a pretty awful thing to do."
"So sis, you both seem to know allot about the crusaders, and you know what ticks them off. Isn't that what you need for the report, Apple Bloom's dislikes?" Her brother's remark was profound, and it opened up so many possibilities.
"Bruce you’re a genius, who's more equipped to know Apple Bloom's dislikes than me? And I bet I could come up with a list of her likes too!" Diamond was getting really excited. "Silver Spoon! Remember when we took over their stupid clubhouse?"
"As if I could forget, that was a really posh tree house!" raved Silver.
"Exactly! They built that thing themselves, so obviously she must enjoy construction." said Diamond, she immediately started writing down every little detail she could think of. "Thank you, thank you, thank you! I might actually have a chance now."
Bruce smiled a broad smile, he had succeeded in his goal. With one worry out of the way he turned his attention back to his own mystery in progress. There was one piece of information that didn't seem to fit in with the others in any way he could tell. An odd little outlier that he just couldn't place, Dimple's hatred of Princess Cadence. From social studies he had learned that Equestria was governed by two princesses Celestia and Luna. But there were several other princesses, Cadence, Erroria and Ponyville's own Twilight Sparkle.
Up until recently these princesses held nothing more than a title, but Cadence broke the mold by becoming the ruler of a newly re-discovered empire. And that's all Bruce knew, there certainly wasn't anything there that would be hate worthy. Somehow he felt if he could figure that part out everything else would fall into place.
When Bruce looked back up from his notes he was surprised to find Silver Spoon was no longer next to Diamond, now she was only a few inches from his body. "Uhhhh, S-silver Sp-poon? Why are you so c-close to me?" Bruce said nervously.
"You seemed to be paying more attention to your notes than either of us, I only wanted to see what was so interesting." Silver Spoon said sweetly.
"Oh, is that all." Bruce subtly started inching away from her. "I'm trying to figure out why anypony would hate Princess Cadence."
"Hate Cadence? But she's an alicorn! And she's a princess!" said Silver.
"Alicorns are super awesome! Plus Cadence has a castle made out of crystals, and like a bazillion servants!" said Diamond, her inner fangirl was starting to show. "Plus she's done so much awesome stuff! Even when she'd been creating a force field the size of an entire city-"
"For several days!" Silver interjected.
"-She managed to swoop in with the Crystal heart and destroyed King Sombra!" Diamond was mimicking the heroic action, her face beaming as she talked. "I even have all the Princess Cadence action figures, let me show you!" Diamond ran over to her play chest and retrieved the glorified dolls. "I've got the Crystal Empire Cadence, the wedding Cadence, I've even got the fantastic flutters Cadence, but I don't really like this one because it looks like she's got the cutie pox."
Bruce couldn't help but giggle, he hadn't expected his sister to be into dolls. But out of the corner of his eye he spotted something very interesting, another one of Diamond's dolls. But this one was different, it was tall, black, and had distinctly insect like wings. "What's this?"
"Ooh he's never seen the Queen Chrysalis figure!" said Silver Spoon, the same amount of enthusiasm was in her voice as well. "She's only the coolest villain ever!"
"Why does she have all these holes in her body? Is it a bootleg figure?" asked Bruce.
"No, that's what she looks like, she's the queen of the changelings. Okay get this, Princess Cadence was getting married to the biggest hunk in Equestria, then she gets kidnapped by the queen and her minions. Meanwhile Chrysalis disguises herself as Cadence, uses her mind control powers on Shining Armour and defeated Princess Celestia. It was only at the last minute that Cadence came in and saved all of Equestria from being taken over by changelings." said Diamond.
"You said she disguised herself, how? I could hardly imagine something like that fooling anypony with a wig and some make up." puzzled Bruce.
"Well that's the scary thing about changelings, they all have the power to shape shift. They could make themselves look like anypony, anywhere." said Silver Spoon.
Finally all the pieces of the puzzle made sense to Bruce, and he didn't like the solution. He got up from where he was laying down and stretched, "Thank you sister, and you too Silver Spoon. You've given me all I need to finish my profile." He didn't want to say it outright, in case he was wrong. But he really couldn't see any alternative, Dimple and his family were changelings. Now all he had to do was prove it.
Bruce had been thinking hard on how he should proceed. He heavily suspected his hypothesis about Dimple and his family was correct, all that was left was to confirm it. He could try taking it to the police, but if he was wrong it would mean he had harassed his family for nothing. His current plan involved revealing his knowledge to Dimple and seeing how he reacted, the only problem was location. If he did so inside their house he would be deep in enemy territory.
Thankfully he didn't have to think on it too long, a knock on the door proved to be opportunity in the form of a bouncy pink pony. "Hey there little guy! I'm Pinkie Pie, and I'm here to personally invite you to an impromptu town wide carnival I'm throwing celebrating the last day before school gets back in session!"
"But it's not summer vacation, it's just the weekend." said Bruce.
"Exactly! That's why we need to make it so special!" Pinkie Pie's logic escaped Bruce. "Anyway it's gonna be super duper funerific! So bring you family, bring your friends, you can even bring your enemies and we'll make them your friends!" Pinkie gave Bruce a flier with all the attractions listed.
"How did you put all this together in one day?" Bruce asked, only to find the pink one was no longer there. "How can a pony that outlandish sneak away?" Bruce asked to nopony in particular.
"Like this silly!" Pinkie Pie shouted from behind Bruce.
"GAH! What are you doing in my house? How did you get in my house?" Bruce was still getting over the shock.
"It's easy, your attic window was open a smidge! I had to come back cause I totally forgot to mention everything there is free!" Pinkie said, bouncing so high she nearly hit the ceiling.
Bruce looked down at the flyer, "It says so right here."
"*Giggle Snort* Oopsie, guess I didn't have to come back anyhow. Anyway I hope to see everypony at the carnival!" Pinkie Pie left the house in a way only she could, she ran back upstairs, out the attic window and onto the ground thirty feet below.
'Why didn't she just use the door?' Bruce asked in his mind, afraid that if he said it aloud she would return. But he couldn't deny the fortuitous nature of her appearance. This carnival was just the location he needed, a public space but still with isolated locations for Bruce's plan. "Hey dad! Can we go to the carnival?"
Things had gone off without a hitch, Filthy had thought the idea was wonderful and made it a family outing, even Randolph got to come along. Dimple and his family were there too, his parents were off enjoying the tunnel of love ride which left Bruce alone with Dimple. If worse came to worse Bruce felt he could handle himself, and if it turned out he couldn't, he had a special surprise tucked away in his saddle bag.
Still, Bruce was determined to keep an open mind up until the end. "Say Dimple, do you want to ride the Ferris wheel?" suggested Bruce.
"Yeah why not? I still can't believe Pinkie Pie got all this organized overnight!" said Dimple. The carnival truly was a sight to behold, tents everywhere, food stands and clowns. For some reason Bruce really didn't want to be around the clowns. The two boarded the shaky ride, and soon enough they were up top looking over all of Ponyville.
From this scenic spot Bruce prepared himself for his stunning reveal, "Dimple, there's something I've been wanting to-"
"Before you go on Bruce, I have something important I need to talk to you about." Dimple interrupted him, it was a bit like letting the air out of a balloon. "I fully trust you were being truthful with me yesterday, but dead parents still doesn't explain the other oddities in your story. So I've been doing some digging myself, should I tell you what I found?"
"Go ahead, I have nothing to hide." Bruce said smugly.
"Hmm, I seriously doubt that. Because I got curious about your story, about not being from Equestria. So I took a little trip to the courthouse yesterday. You know what I found there?" Dimple asked rhetorically. Panic struck at Bruce, had he found his adoption papers? "I didn't find anything."
"Well yeah I said I wasn't hiding anything." said Bruce.
"I don't think you quite understand, I found nothing. No emigration papers, no proof of citizenship, not a single shred of paper saying Bruce Wayne exists. Nothing, except for a very sketchy adoption form without the approving signatures of the city council. Now this leads me to conclude that you Bruce Wayne aren't quite the pony I thought you were." Now it was Dimple's turn to be smug.
"So I wracked my brain over this and it just couldn't make sense. It's impossible to move about Equestria without generating some paper trail, believe me I know. Compounding this is your behavior which is, odd to say the least. You want to eat food that isn't plants, but that means you'd be a carnivore. And you've also talked about liking being a pony, an innocent if not weird statement on its own. But if I view that in context with everything else I've learned, then I’m led to the conclusion that you are not even a pony at all!"
Bruce was stunned, he hadn't exactly been secretive, but he wasn't being overt about his origins either. "At first I thought perhaps you might have just been some poor Griffon or other carnivorous creature who got turned into a pony using dark magic. But even that wouldn't explain your unexplainable appearance. That is, until I found this!" Dimple pulled out a book from his saddle bag, the title on the cover read, 'An Exploration of Earth.' Behind the text was a tall standing mirror, reflecting in it was what looked like the outside of a high school.
"Wait you know what Earth is?!" asked Bruce, the thought had never occurred to him that these pastel colored horses could have any knowledge of them.
"It's a recounting of Princess Twilight's journey into an alternate universe. During her transit her body shifted into a form more suited for that universe, she describes them as being called 'Humans'. Omnivorous, bipedal and having the same level of intelligence as us. Maybe I’m the craziest pony in the world, but I think that's what you are Bruce. You're no pony at all, you’re a human or at least something like one." Dimple took a deep breath.
Again Bruce was stunned, how on earth had Dimple managed to figure all this out? "I'm very impressed, while the circumstances that brought me here are a mystery even to myself. I cannot deny that all you said was the truth. My name is Bruce Wayne, and I'm a native of Gotham City. And I am not a pony."
Dimple reveled in the confirmation of his crackpot theory, but Bruce didn't let his reveling last. "I have a sneaking suspicion that you aren't a pony either Dimple. I've been doing my own investigation of you and your family, and I’m quite convinced that your none other than a change-" Dimple didn't even wait for Bruce to finish his sentence, he had jumped off the edge of the seat even before his wings were spread.
"DAAAAAAAD!!!" Screamed Dimple, the child desperately searching for his father.
'Well that's about as good as a confession.' Bruce thought to himself. Now he only needed to get off the wheel and alert the authorities. Only he was on the top, and the ride wasn't moving, it seemed the bucktoothed operator was busy hitting on some mares down below. "Damn it! If I don't get off this thing soon then they'll get away!"
Bruce peered over to the nearest car, it was pretty far, "Oh I'm going to regret this!" said Bruce. He then did something incredibly stupid and jumped, five feet, ten feet, fifteen feet, *Thud* Bruce landed on top of the next car, it shook wildly on its hinges. Bruce was now at two o'clock, he steadied himself and jumped again. The wind rushed through Bruce's mane, this whole experience was exhilarating, this time his landing was even smoother.
That didn't mean much to the ponies who were inhabiting the car, "What's happening?" asked a frightened aquamarine unicorn.
"I don't know! Maybe it's an earthquake!" replied the crème colored earth pony mare next to her.
"Hold me!" demanded the unicorn. By now Bruce was ready to make his next jump, instead of heading inward to the next cart he dismounted onto the nearest tent. From the high vantage point Bruce could follow Dimple's movements and evade the crowd bellow. At a high gallop he stalked Dimple all the way to the bathrooms, he carefully remained out of sight waiting to make his move.
"Dad! Dad! We need to go! We need to go right now!" said Dimple, his voice was pure panic.
This immediately set off his father’s danger sense, "Hardnose, what did you do?"
"I didn't do anything, but he knows! I don't know how he knows, but he knows!" Dimple started hyperventilating.
"Alright calm down son, we'll find your mother and then we'll slip through the cracks like we've done before. It'll be fine," Dimple's father said in a soothing voice.
Dimple shook his head, "I'm tired of running every time somepony figure out what we are!"
This seemed like a perfectly dramatic time for Bruce to make his entrance, he dove off the tent and landed on all fours. As he looked up at them he said, "Then stop running!"
Dimple was terrified of the mad look in Bruce's eyes, his father leaned down and asked, "He's the one?" Dimple nodded yes and hid behind his father. Dimple's father craned his neck around to make sure nopony else was around, when he saw they were alone in their little corner he dropped his disguise.
Bruce had to admit, it was terrifying, the pony skin he wore burned away revealing the hard black exoskeleton underneath. The changeling had large razor like teeth, underneath the faux feathers were translucent blue insect wings. With all pretense gone he prepared to strike, his wings were flapping at a high frequency, making an intimidating buzzing noise.
Bruce nimbly dodged the first strike, ducking under as the changeling pounced at him. Bruce pulled out his special surprise from his saddle bag, "I thought something like this might happen, that's why I came equipped with my changeling repellent spray!" Bruce was brandishing an aerosol spray can.
"You expect me to believe that could stop me?" said Dimple's father, his voice had changed considerably. Now it was hallow, with little chirps mixed in. Not at all threatened by Bruce's secret weapon he got ready for another attack.
"Bad choice," said Bruce as he let loose the can, its vaporized contents filling the air. He couldn't place what it was but it was, but it was foul smelling and sticky.
"Gargh! Huegh! Uggh!" Were the vomitus sounds the changeling made any time he neared Bruce and his cloud of spray. "Hardnose go kick his flank!" demanded his father.
"Nopony's kicking anypony's flank!" said an authoritative voice. Dimple's mother rounded the corner, Bruce hadn't really noticed before but she was tall, really tall. She strode up to Bruce yanked the can from his grasp and threw it in the trash. "How dare you spray my husband with mosquito repellent! Don't you know that stuff is toxic?"
Bruce looked down at the ground, he hadn't heard a mother's scolding for so long, he didn't know how to respond. She then turned to her weakened husband, "And you, put your disguise back on! We're in public for ponies sake!" The changeling meekly obeyed the order, in a flash he was once again a Pegasus. "Did either of you even try talking to him before you started fighting?"
Dimple raised an, "But he knew what we are mom! And he-"
"So that's a no then?" Dimple's mother shook her head in shame, "I'm sorry young colt, my family- No we all are very protective of each other. If my husband hurt you in any way, I apologize."
"Wait you’re not going to kill me or stuff me in a cocoon and feed off me?" Bruce asked, genuinely surprised.
Dimple's mother chuckled, "Well I would be lying if I said I've never met a changeling willing to do that. But you’re in little danger of that from me, I'm a pegasus through and through.
"Wait, wha?" was Bruce's justified reaction. Before she could explain further, they all heard a terrifying sound. *Flush* A white unicorn wearing goggles and headphones stepped out of the bathroom.
She looked around and saw the gathering outside, "Whoa, was I holding up the line? Sorry everypony." after apologizing she put back on her headphones and walked away, bobbing her head to the beat.
"Why don't we find a more private spot where we can explain?" suggested Dimple's mother. Bruce wasn't sure why, but he decided to go along and hear their story.
The way in which the family secured a private space was brilliant. Dimple's father manipulated his disguise to make it appear he head a huge gash down one of his legs, both mother and son carried him into the first aid tent. They were weeping and wailing about a criminally unsafe carnival ride that caught him in its machinery. The nurse on hand immediately cleaned and dressed the false wound, and put him on a bed to rest.
As soon as she left he unraveled the bandage, "Praise Celestia, that nurse is a miracle worker. I'm cured!" Dimple's father said jokingly. The whole family shared a laugh at the unsuspecting medic’s expense. Bruce however remained silent, "Right, we were going to explain weren't we?"
"Yes, yes you are." said Bruce.
"My name is Shifty Eyes, and as you already know I'm a changeling. My lovely wife here is Crimson Rain," said Shifty.
"As I said before I'm a Pegasus." said Crimson.
"How do I know you really are a Pegasus? How do I know you're not just lying to me?" asked Bruce.
Crimson rolled her eyes, "Well you could draw some blood and do tests on it. Or you could just take my word, I don't exactly gain anything by lying about my race."
"Oh, I guess you're right. So wait, what does that make Dimple?" asked Bruce.
"Hardnose here doesn't have any shape shifting powers, he's more like his mother than me." said Shifty.
"Well I got the changeling's unbeatable will to survive, right dad?" Dimple asked.
"That you do son, that you do." Shifty said while patting him on the head. "I suppose you'll be wanting to know how this all happened, right?" Bruce nodded yes, "Well it all started when I was sent out by the hive as an advanced scout to Cloudsdale. It was my job to analyze the city for weaknesses, figure out ways in which we could undermine their defenses and overall prepare the city for an invasion."
"So you're a spy then." said Bruce.
"Was a spy, as part of my cover I started dating the most beautiful mare in Cloudsdale I could find." Shifty was making googly eyes at Crimson, Dimple was mock puking. "One day she caught me without my disguise, normally that's when I'd cut and run. But to my surprise she begged me to stay."
"I had been afraid to admit it, but I couldn't stand to live without my Shifty. It didn't matter what he looked like, to me he was handsome." said Crimson.
"I soon found that I couldn't live without her in my life either, so we were married. The hive was all for it, after all it's rare that somepony wants to give a changeling their love willingly. A year later and Hardnose was born, we were content, our growing little family in Cloudsdale. It didn't last though, to this day we don't know who tipped off the authorities but somehow they figured out what I was." said Shifty.
"What happened?" asked Bruce.
"We just barely escaped with our lives, they tore down our home and put up signs saying 'Bug Lover' and other slurs." Crimson said with spite. Bruce was sickened, he knew things like this happened in the world he came from. But it was almost unthinkable that it could happen in this world.
"Cloudsdale is a small city so we knew we couldn't hide there forever. So we fled, and it's been this way for eight long years. We move in, start fresh, then somepony catches on and we narrowly escape."
"That's awful!" sympathized Bruce.
"Last year things changed, I got a new mission from Queen Chrysalis no less. She was planning the largest takeover in changeling history, Canterlot, the seat of power for all Equestria. I was to take my family and move into Canterlot, and look for an opportunity to kidnap Princess Cadence." explained Shifty.
"Dad didn't kidnap her, he only told the other agents when to grab her." Dimple said, trying to justify his father's actions.
"Queen Chrysalis promised us we would have a home in Canterlot that nopony would ever be able to take away from us. She promised allot of things." The Shifty said with anger.
Crimson took her stand beside her husband, "The plan was a colossal failure. The wave of magic that Princess Cadence and Prince Shining Armour created sent my Shifty, Chrysalis and every changeling in the city flying off into the badlands."
"It took seven whole days of searching that desert to find him, daddy's exoskeleton was cracked and he was too weak to carry himself." His eyes were filling with tears just remembering it, "That B*#@% almost killed my daddy! I'll never forgive her!" Dimple said with fury.
Crimson looked at Dimple sternly, "Dimple watch your profanity."
"Your right I'm sorry." said Dimple.
"After I was recovered I cut all ties with the hive. Now even among changelings were outcasts." said Shifty.
"Since then we've been hiding out here in Ponyville, trying to keep as low a profile as we can. I hope you can understand Bruce, but we don't mean anypony any harm. We only want to be a family, nothing more." said Crimson.
Wild thoughts raced through Bruce's mind, thoughts on justice, what true justice meant. These ponies were admitted spies and traitors, but they had been through so much injustice. Did they deserve what they got? Did they deserve the full punishment of the law? 'They are criminals, they should be arrested!' screamed a voice in Bruce's head.
But Bruce defied that voice, it would be anything but justice to bring more hardship to a family that had already faced so much. "Alright, you have my word that this will never reach the authorities." All three of them gave a relieved sigh, "But there is somepony I do need to tell."
Shifty cautiously asked, "Who?"
"Father, can I ask you a question?" asked Bruce.
"Go on ahead m'boy!" said Filthy, he was busy enjoying some cotton candy from one of the vendors.
"Well it's about my friend Dimple and his family. They have a... delicate situation, and they need help." Bruce said, not sure how to bridge the issue.
"Aw, you’re wondering if we can lend some charitable assistance? You don't know how proud that makes me son! Are they here at the carnival? I'd like to meet them if I could." said Filthy.
"They are hanging out in the first aid tent, but there's something I should tell you first. Dimple's father he's-" Bruce motioned for Filthy to come in close, "-"-He's a changeling."" Bruce whispered.
"Oh is that all?" asked Filthy, not acting surprised in the slightest.
"Wait, your not surprised or angry?" asked Bruce.
Filthy chuckled, "Bruce m'boy have you ever looked out in a crowd of ponies, only to see five or six of the same pony? Changelings are very talented, but they’re not exactly the smartest. It truly is a shame, their situation now. There has always been bigots and ponies afraid of changelings, but they royally screwed themselves with that botched invasion."
"Is there a war going on?" asked Bruce.
Filthy looked around at the town he so dearly loved, "On paper Equestria isn't at war, but after what they did to the captain of the guard, if a lone guardsman came across a changeling. I reckon they'd kill them sooner than talk with them. It's trying times we live in son."
Bruce was shocked to hear this. Was his father exaggerating, or was that truly the state Equestria was in? "So are we going to help them?"
"Like I said, I would like to meet them first." Filthy saw the anxiety on Bruce's face. "But as long as there not plotting the downfall of Ponyville, it would be wrong not to help them. Why don't we head over there and you can introduce me, eh?" This seemed to put Bruce at ease.
The son led his father to the tent, Dimple and his family were still there, waiting patiently for him to return. "Shifty, Crimson, Dimple, I'd like you to meet my father."
"The names Mr. Rich, charmed to meet you all." Filthy said with genteel manor. "My son says you're a family in need of our aide, is that true?"
Shifty was unsure how much Filthy knew already, so he played it close to his chest. "Yes, because of our... circumstances, we live in poverty."
"Dimple, I believe your name was. Would you mind sitting outside with Bruce for a few minutes? Your daddy and mommy need to have some grown up talk with me." asked Filthy.
The two foals exited the tent and waited on a bench nearby, there was an awkward silence between the two of them. Both had done things to the other they now regretted. Dimple was the first to break the speech embargo, "Bruce, I want to apologize for digging into your personal business. It was wrong of me, especially since you had been a friend."
"I'm sorry I forced you into the situation that I did, I never even considered what kinds of trials you and your family had faced. I just blindly pushed ahead, not thinking about the consequences." said Bruce.
"Do you want to try being friends again? I'll understand if you don't." said Dimple.
"No I do, I like being around you Dimple, your clever and you understand me." Bruce said with a warm smile.
"Same here, except your like ten times smarter than I ever was!" Dimple said with enthusiasm, "So I guess that leaves us with our profile projects. What are we going to put down, obviously we can't be truthful."
"Yeah even if we weren't arrested immediately, I doubt we'd even get a good grade. I guess I should come up with a cover story for where I come from, where's a city full of crime?" asked Bruce.
"Fillydalphia has some really nasty neighborhoods, believe me I had to live there." Dimple suggested.
"Alright so you put down it happened in the mean streets of Fillydalphia. What about your back story?" asked Bruce.
Dimple raised a hoof to his chin, "Well everypony already knows I've lived in tons of different places. How about, we had to move for my dad's work? That's a plausible story."
Both colts memorized each other's covers for use in their projects, "Bruce?"
"Do you mind if I ask about where you actually come from?"
"No I don't mind, there's not that much I remember though. Gotham was huge, no matter what time of day it always seemed dark. Evil seemed to thrive in that darkness, it was choking the city."
"Huh, sure sounds like Fillydalphia to me."
"Jeez you really hate that city don't you?"
"Yes I do, that place was a S@*# hole."
From inside the first aid tent Crimson's voice was heard, "Dimple! What did I say about profanity?"
That interjection put a bit of a damper on the conversation, so they just went back to sitting in silence. After a few more minutes of waiting the three adults emerged, all wearing happy smiles. "Are we going to help them dad?" asked Bruce.
"Why don't you tell him Shifty?" said Filthy.
"Mr. Rich has kindly offered me a job at Barnyard Bargains. Starting tomorrow I'll be working as a bag colt." said Shifty, he wasn't ungrateful, but it was a bit of a waste of his skills.
"Hey, if you do a good job, I'll see to it you get promoted to bag stallion." said Filthy with a prance accent. "But more importantly, should it come to pass that their cover gets blown, I can use my influence in the city council to make any documentation get misfiled into the shredder."
It was an odd feeling, this was the same kind of edge of the line behavior as before. But Bruce's conscience wasn't bothered this time, but he wondered if it was because it was being done on the behalf of ponies in unfortunate circumstances or if it was because his morals were being dulled from being around his new family. He had a feeling these thoughts would be occupying his mind tonight, either way right now he was happy.
The next day at school was a glad one. Bruce and Dimple gave their presentations to the class, both of them receiving praise for a well put together and well delivered report. And to their surprise they also enjoyed listening to the other student's reports as well, it was like a little snapshot of everypony's hopes and dreams.
Dinky wanted to become a mailmare, Snips wanted to be a puppeteer, Berry ... well she had some interesting goals to say the least. Finally it came time for Diamond, she took center stage if front of the class and spoke up. "Today I'll be telling you all about our fellow student Apple Bloom, a pony who I have not seen eye to eye with in the past. But that doesn't mean she has nothing interesting about her."
Diamond pulled out her notes and began reading from them, "Apple Bloom is quite lucky to have a large extended family all over Equestria. You could travel to any farming town in Equestria and find an Apple Family member. She has a talent for construction and engineering, and even rebuilt the abandoned tree house on their property."
"She also enjoys trying out new activities with her friends, searching for her cutie mark, caring for farm animals, learning about her family history and meeting new ponies." Diamond finished that page and looked out to see how she was doing.
Apple Bloom's jaw was on the floor, The other crusaders were stunned as well. "This can't be Diamond Tiara, right? Some really nice body snatcher crawled inside her skin to give her school report. It's the only way this makes sense!" said Scootaloo.
Diamond turned over to the dislike page, "While Apple Bloom neglected to give me a full list of her dislikes, I feel I know her well enough to list them for her." Diamond turned to Ms. Cheerilee, "I hope that's alright?"
"By all means, it was on Apple Bloom to give you what she wanted in the report." Ms. Cheerilee turned to Apple Bloom, "Please follow the instructions next time."
"Thank you Ms. Cheerilee, Anyway Apple Bloom dislikes being called a blank flank, she's very impatient and thus hates having to wait, she is more than fond of her sister and does not appreciate ponies making fun of them, and the same goes for her club. Most of all Apple Bloom hates me and Silver Spoon, perhaps it's justified hatred but I'm willing to be the bigger pony and offer my sincerest apologies. I'm holding out the olive branch, will you accept?" Diamond smiled a cunning smile, even in making peace she would have the upper hoof.
If Apple Bloom accepted her offer then Diamond would be praised for her selfless behavior. If she refused then it would only reflect badly on Apple Bloom. The crusaders all looked to one another for answers, "Well, what do we do girls?" "I don't know, how am I supposed to know?" "Diamond's our mortal enemy, why is she doing this?" "Ah don't like it, it smells rotten." "Yeah more rotten than... what's something that's really rotten?" "The breakfast I tried making for Rarity!" "Yeah it's more rotten than your cooking Sweetie Belle!" "Hay! I've gotten better." "But if we take her up on her offer, then maybe she'll stop bullying us!" "That would be nice!" "Alright let's try it, Cutie Mark Crusaders Peace Makers YAY!!!"
"*Ahem* Ah accept your apology." Apple Bloom said with tact.
The whole class erupted into applause, even Ms. Cheerilee could be seen wiping a tear from her eye. "Very good Diamond Tiara, very very good! I'm so proud of you!"
"Why thank you, and I hope in time me and the Cutie Mark Crusader can become the best of friends." Diamond had to turn away and gag out of reflex, "Sorry, frog in my throat."
After class Bruce, Silver Spoon Dimple and Diamond Tiara were all walking to the crossroad together. Bruce couldn't help but contain the joy he was feeling. "I just gotta say that was great sis! And I'm so glad you’re putting the past behind you."
"It was a calculated move, after you went to bed last night Silver Spoon and I kept working on the project. We realized if my report was going to work we needed something huge to end on." said Diamond.
"Wait that was just a con?" asked Dimple.
"What can I say, these ponies are suckers for a happy ending. As long as it's sunshine and roses at the end you can get away with pretty much anything before then." said Diamond, she saw how shook Bruce was by her callus statement. "But I did mean what I said, we'll leave the 'Lamesader's be as long as they don't piss us off."
This put Bruce's mind somewhat at ease, "So what did everypony get for a grade? I got a B-, needed more detail."
"A+, like I said brother, sunshine and roses." Diamond said while waving her paper around, the big red A and gold star stickers were glistening in the sunset. "I gotta say though, that was really fun. You think if I try harder in everything else I could get grades like yours Bruce?"
"I know you can! Anytime you need help with your homework just let me know." said Bruce.
Silver Spoon added, "Me too, were like besties so I'll be there."
"Yeah just give me a call and I'll be there to help." said Dimple.
"I don't even know you!" said Diamond, "But thanks anyway."
Pretty soon they all hit the fork in the road, Dimple walked off to his family, Silver Spoon to hers. In the fading light Bruce Wayne and his beloved sister walked home to Rich Manor. It had been a long day.
Filthy Rich hadn't been home that night to see the accomplishments of his children. Neither of them were even awake when he finally came home at four in the morning. It had been a terrible night, first he had to stay late to do a complete inventory of the store. And just when it seemed they were done and Filthy could go home, there was an emergency phone call.
It was one of those phone calls you know is inevitable, but regardless you are never prepared for when they happen. Filthy's father had experienced a second heart attack, he was dying. It had been many years since he had spoken with Dirty Rich, their last conversation had been... unsavory. Since then Dirty had refused to even see with his son, turning him away every time.
Filthy was somewhat thankful that his father was still unconscious when he arrived at the retirement home. It made signing the release forms and other papers to get him into the hospital that much easier. There he waited by his bedside through the night, eventually he had to go. "I'm sorry but I have to leave, I have children waiting at home. Can you please notify me immediately if anything changes?" Filthy asked the late night nurse.
"Of course Mr. Rich, you'll know the second he wakes up or his condition worsens." replied the nurse.
"Thank you," replied Filthy, his voice was weary and dark bags were under his eyes. On his way out he looked back at the white building, its stuko siding reflecting the moonlight. 'It's almost pretty for such a morbid place.' Filthy thought.
He silently entered the house and made his way to the kitchen, he didn't feel like eating at all but he knew he would regret it if he went to bed on an empty stomach. Filthy opened up the refrigerator looking for some sustenance, what he did find was a large half eaten chocolate cake. 'Oh no, I didn't miss one of the kids birthdays did I?' worried Filthy.
It seems he hadn't quite as silent as he had hoped, a light in the adjoining room flicked on and Randolph appeared. "Ah, Master Rich I was waiting for your return."
"You didn't need to do that Randolph," said Filthy.
"Nonsense sir, it is my duty after all." Randolph said with a little bow. "If I may be so bold as to ask, why is sir so late on arrival?"
Filthy sighed heavily, "Dad's dying Randolph, he had another heart attack."
"It pains me greatly to hear that sir," the Butler said, his face was emotionless and unchanging.
"Yeah, me too Randolph. I need to know, did I miss something important? There's a cake in the fridge." said Filthy.
Randolph was quick to reassure him, "The cake was in celebration of mistress Tiara's exemplary grade she received on her school assignment. The young lady was very pleased that she accomplished this without your, *Hrmpf* assistance." Randolph was not so subtly referencing his employers under the table activities.
"Really? My princess got a good grade on her own?" Filthy asked in amazement.
"An A+, as it were." said Randolph.
"Well I'll be, I wish I could have been here." said Filthy.
"Mistress Tiara wished the same as well, is there anything I can get for you Master Rich?" asked Randolph.
Filthy thought it over, "A slice of that cake if you please, and a scotch on the rocks. Hold the ice though," He made his way into the dark living room, it looked like there had been a fire earlier but all the coals had died down. Filthy took his seat in the ancient armchair that once belonged to his father and his father before him.
"The items you requested sir," balanced on one hoof was a silver tray, on it was a plate with a generous slice of cake and a stout glass of well-aged whiskey.
"Thank you Randolph, just leave them on the side table. You can go on back to sleep, I'll be up for a while." Filthy said, he then unceremoniously took the cake in hoof and took a huge bite. "This is quite good, you make it yourself?"
"Naturally sir," Randolph was eyeing the little crumbs of cake that were falling onto the rug, he had great distain for those crumbs. "Very well sir, I shall retire for the night. I suggest you do so as well at some point." The butler then exited the room and turned out the light.
In his loneliness Filthy found himself in he began reflecting on the long relationship he had with his father. It had never been a happy one, Dirty Rich was never a pony to show kindness. One long forgotten memory flooded back, it was hazy and Filthy couldn't remember the context but the memory itself was clear.
'How old was I? I had just proposed to her, and she said yes. Then I went to go tell dad, what did he say?' thought Filthy.
His father's harsh words echoed in his mind, "Filthy m'boy, you can't trust hussies like her! All she wants is to get at your money, MY MONEY!"
"Here's to your money dad." said Filthy, he then took a swig of the scotch. He downed the entire glass in one go, and angrily slammed it down. 'That was a big fight, I remember how he threatened to disown me if I married her. But I showed him, we went and eloped!' Filthy remembered his rebellious youth. But even that wasn't enough to sever their relationship. No, it had been years later, on the day Diamond had been born.
"So you're not even stallion enough to make a son! And look at that she doesn't even look like a Rich, she looks more like that screwball than you!" Dirty's voice echoed.
'You don't know how much I wanted to throttle you right there dad. On the day of my little girl's birth you insinuated she was anything but perfect.' Filthy started crying, his father's inexcusably rude behavior wasn't the only bad thing he associated with Diamond's birth. Turmoil seemed to take hold of his life for a few months, it was only Randolph constantly at his side and the new foal to take care of that kept him centered.
Through the tears and effects of the alcohol filthy said, "Just wake up you old jack ass, I want you to meet your grandchildren once before you go." It was in that state that Filthy went to sleep, curled up in the armchair, his emotions like a turbid sea.
"Good morning daddy!" said a particularly chipper voice.
Filthy stirred from his sleep, "Morning already? What time is it?"
"It's eight o'clock, shouldn't you be getting ready for work?" asked Diamond.
"Daddy's got to take the day off today. It probably doesn't mean much to you since you've never met him, but your grandfather is in the hospital. I have to be able to get there at a moment’s notice." said Filthy.
Diamond carefully navigated the issue, "So it's grandpa Dirty? Should I go with you?"
"I'd really appreciate that princess, I want Bruce to come along too. Right now we’re just waiting on the call," Filthy got up out of the chair and wiped the sleep from his eyes. "So Randolph said you got an A+ yesterday. I got to know, how'd you do it?"
"A little bit of audience manipulation. You should have seen it daddy, I had the class applauding and Ms. Cheerilee in tears, it was so good." Diamond said with pride.
"That's my girl, using what you've got to get what you want." Filthy said while patting her on the head, "Where's your brother at?"
"I'm in the kitchen father!" Bruce announced, "Randolph is cooking my breakfast. Do you need something?"
Just then the unnerving sound of the telephone ringing interrupted the family. Before Filthy could get to it Randolph picked up the receiver. "Hello? --- This is the Rich residence yes. --- Yes, -- I see. --- Oh dear, I shall inform Master Rich immediately. --- Yes thank you for calling. Goodbye." He hung up the phone and walked up to his master.
"Well Randolph spit it out!" Filthy demanded.
"That was the hospital, they wanted to inform you that your father has regained conciseness. Also that he assaulted one of the doctors." Randolph said in his usual dry tone.
"He did what?!" asked Filthy.
"The pony on the phone recounted that upon waking up and finding a doctor standing above him, your father mistook him for a 'No good mule out to steal his money.' He then proceeded to bite the doctor on the leg." said Randolph.
"Sweet Celestia! I hope the doctor is fine." said Filthy.
"It appears no real damage was done, but I would advise having your legal team settle the affair before it becomes an issue." Randolph suggested.
"Of course, that poor fellow. Well I suppose this puts the kibosh on taking the kids to meet him. I can't have that old loon hurting my children." said Filthy.
"Hmm, the mare on the phone notified me that your father will remain under mild sedation for the remainder of his stay. I doubt in his state he could do any harm to the young master and mistress." said Randolph.
Filthy thought hard on the subject, "Bruce can you please come in here?" Bruce complied, he took his spot next to his sister. "Now you've all heard what Randolph just said, but in spite of that my father still is not a very nice pony. I'd like for you both to have a chance to meet him at least once, but I won't force either of you into doing that."
Bruce turned to Diamond, "I want to meet him, what about you sis?"
"I guess I should, he is my only grandparent still alive." Diamond said with a sigh.
"Alright then, just keep in mind I wan't you two to be on your best behavior's. Just because he's going to be rude doesn't mean we have to be." Filthy instructed his children. "Randolph I'll be taking the kids with me, can you head down to the school house and let their teacher know they're taking the day off?"
"Of course Master Rich." Randolph said with a bow.
"Alright kids, let's head out."
Filthy and his children walked silently to the hospital grounds, he had them looking their Sunday best. Bruce was wearing an one of Filthy's old suits and Diamond wasn't wearing her tiara, instead she had her hair brushed strait. Filthy for his part had his usual brown vest, he also had a bouquet of roses from the garden.
Bruce marveled as they passed through the double doors, this hospital was so unlike the one he had to go to when his parents died. That place had been chaotic, there were people running and screaming down the halls, all the walls were tinted yellow from the decades of cigarette smoke. The Ponyville hospital was a calm place, there were friendly doctor and nurse ponies checking up on all their patients, and most of all it seemed to be, sterile.
Soon enough the family found themselves outside the door labeled 'Rich, Dirty'. Inside the room, lying on the adjustable bed was Dirty. Bruce wasn't sure how old this pony was, but he certainly looked far worse off than Granny Smith. Each breath he took was labored and he had to wear an oxygen mask. It looked like he had lost most of his muscle mass and there were large patches of fur that had fallen off, exposing unhealthy looking skin.
The pony on death's door didn't even turn to face them, "Took you long enough."
"We came as soon as we heard you woke up dad." Filthy said, neglecting to mention the assault.
"You have to get me out of this rat hole hospital son. These quacks refuse to fix me up! All their doing is doping me!" Dirty screamed, he then fell into a coughing fit.
"Face it dad, that's all they can do for you at this point." said Filthy.
"BULL S*#@! You’re going to take me down to Panamare and get me one of those black market tickers." Dirty's vital signs started going wild on the monitor.
"Dad, I didn't come here to take you to Panamare. I came here to give you the chance to meet your grandchildren, nothing more." said Filthy.
"Ungrateful whelp!" snapped Dirty.
Filthy was already hating being here, "Kids why don't you introduce yourselves."
"My name is Diamond Tiara, I'm your granddaughter." she said in an uncharacteristically polite manner.
Dirty looked her over, "So you’re his crotch spawn first born. I don't blame you for being a female, that's your daddy's fault."
"What?!" was Diamonds justified reaction.
"And who are you? Are you my boy's bastard?" He said to Bruce, but Filthy stepped in for Bruce's defense.
"Bruce is not an illegitimate child, he was orphaned and I adopted him." Filthy said as he stood beside his son.
This brought on another violent coughing fit in the dying pony, "You *Cough* idiot! *Hack* You can't Bring a *Wheeze* Street Rat into our house!"
Diamond was feeling skeevy for ever using that phrase, now that it had been associated with this cretin. "Don't you talk about my brother like that!"
"And how dare you talk to my sister and father like that!" said Bruce.
"Filthy, get your little punks in line! Don't let them disrespect me that way!" Dirty spat as he shouted, the spittle stuck to the inside of his mask.
Filthy reasoned on it, "I think they are behaving perfectly fine. You have to do something to earn a pony's respect before you can be disrespected." With his witty retort Filthy ushered his children out of the room, "I can't say I expected anything different from you dad. But regardless of how awful you've been, I will mourn for you." Filthy set down the bouquet on the table next to Dirty's bed, "Goodbye, father."
As Filthy shut the door behind him he could hear his father screaming more obscenities and hateful words his way. He didn't say anything till they were far away, into the hospital waiting room. "Kids I'm very proud of you both."
"But we broke your rule about being on our best behavior." said Bruce.
"True you did do that, but you stuck up for one another and for me. That's part of why my father has never been truly happy. All throughout his life he's never had a pony willing to stick up for him that didn't want something in return." Filthy knelt down and hugged both Bruce and Diamond, "That's why I want you both to know how much you mean to me."
"I love you too daddy!" Diamond said with tears in her eyes.
Bruce couldn't help but think what his life would be like without the Rich's. Would he have become like Dirty? Would there have been anyone back in Gotham that would have been a friend? He hoped there would have been, "I love you father." All three of them shared the familial embrace, when they broke Diamond had something to ask.
"Daddy, since were already here, can we visit mommy?"
"Of course princess. It's just about time for out monthly visit anyway." Filthy said, he then walked over to the receptionist and asked, "Would you please notify the mental ward that Mr. Rich and his children would like to visit his wife?"
The pony behind the counter picked up the phone and relayed his message, "You can go on ahead Mr. Rich, and have a pleasant visit."
Bruce's mind was racing, so many new pieces of information. Diamond’s mother is around but she's in the mad house. "Come on Bruce, what are you standing around for? I want you to meet mom, I think she'll like you." Diamond said as she gripped Bruce's hoof and led him into the elevator. Its copper plated doors closed in front of them, when they opened once more and all three stepped out, they were in a very different place than the general hospital. They were in the mental ward, the asylum.
Bruce had already formed an impression of the Ponyville mental ward within a few moments of leaving the elevator. It was quite possibly the worst place he had ever been. They were assaulted by a harmony of agonizing moans and mad screams. In an attempt to drown it out or possibly bring order, classical music was blaring out of the P.A. speaker. Before they could get into the ward proper there was a security check.
Two walls with safety glass created a buffer in between the asylum and the outside world. When they passed the check they entered into a very sad place. Broken ponies littered the halls, shambling aimlessly, muttering to nopony, fervently scribbling things on paper that mean nothing except to their own warped minds. Bruce stuck as close to his father and sister as he could, they for their part didn't seem too bothered by the patients.
Filthy noticed his son's nervousness, so he stopped midway down the hall to speak with an elderly mare, she was engrossed with a novel. "Hello Book Smarts, how are you doing today?"
"Why Filthy Rich, I didn't know you were here! I'm doing very good thank you." said Book Smarts.
"Are the nurses keeping you busy?" asked Filthy.
She smiled warmly, "Do you even need to ask? They’re always coming up with something new for us to do. I can hardly keep up sometimes."
"Well that's good to hear, I'd like you to meet my boy Bruce." said Filthy.
"Spruce? That's a lovely name." Book Smarts smiled again and picked up her novel once more, then she put it down again. "Why Filthy Rich, I didn't know you were here!"
This time Filthy didn't attempt to engage her in conversation, he only acknowledged her and led them away. "Poor Book Smarts has short term memory loss. It's truly sad but she can’t retain anything for more than a couple of minutes, you'll find most ponies here have similar problems. There's really nothing to be afraid of Bruce, these are just good ponies whose senses took leave of them."
Filthy's assurance was enough to set Bruce's mind at ease, if they could be calm around them then so could he. "Is that what happened to your wife?" asked Bruce.
Filthy and Diamond shared a glance, "Mommy's, well her case is different." Diamond said apprehensively.
"Perhaps it would be best if her doctor explained it, I've never quite fully understood it myself." said Filthy.
They continued on through the halls, passing by the locked quarters, therapy rooms, research labs, the dispensary, all the way down to the end room. A giant metal bar stretched across the door, from inside a unicorn doctor levitated the bar up and let them inside, quickly replacing it.
The inside of the cell was something to behold, it was painted like some deranged fever dream. All across the walls were upside down houses and polka dot trees. The ceiling was covered in something pink and fuzzy, like cotton candy, and the floor was a horrendous blue checkerboard print. Sitting in the center of the room, idly playing with a doll house, there she was.
Right away Bruce could see the resemblance, the mare had nearly identical coloration to Diamond Tiara. From what he could tell, she seemed to be around thirty five or somewhere around that. On top she wore a green propeller beanie, not unlike the one worn by one of Bruce's classmates. Perhaps her most striking feature was her eyes, even by pony standards they were quite unnatural. It was if her iris' had swallowed her pupils, it was just a mass of white and purple with a spiral pattern on top.
When the mare looked up from her toys and she noticed the visitors to her domain a giant toothy grin spread across her muzzle, "Die Tie!" Shouted the mare, on instinct Filthy took a few steps away from his daughter, Bruce regretted his lack of foreknowledge. At Mach speed the mare barreled into Diamond and knocked Bruce to the ground. "I didn't know you were coming!"
"We decided to surprise you Screwball." Diamond said as she wriggled out from underneath her. "We had such an awful day that we just had to come see you, you always cheer us up."
"Daw your just saying that," Screwball was fidgeting with her mane, "Hey you even brought Mr. Suit with you!"
"Screwball you shouldn't be surprised by that. I come here every time, and please try to remember, my name is Filthy." he said with masked sadness in his voice.
"Wait, Die Tie, where's your princess crown?" Screwball asked frantically.
"Oh sorry, daddy said not to wear it today." said Diamond, Screwball turned to Filthy and stuck her tongue out at him. "It's alright we can play something else." This seemed to satisfy her Screwball then dragged Diamond over to her toy box and started pulling things out at random.
Filthy helped pick Bruce up off the padded floor, "Sorry about that m'boy. Screwball has a bit more energy than she knows what to do with."
"So that's your wife?" Bruce asked in disbelief.
Filthy nodded, "I know what your probably thinking, but she hasn't always been that way. She used to be the cleverest pony I'd ever known, she was also my closest companion. Then almost overnight something changed in her. Why don't you ask her doctor, he knows more than I do."
The same unicorn who had lifted the door bar before looked up from his clipboard, "I wouldn't say that Mr. Rich, the truth is we don't understand her condition in the slightest." He sighed and pushed his glasses back up to his eyes, "Outside of this controlled environment we've created for her, Screwball's symptoms seem to come and go at random. We've documented everything from precognition, schizophrenic hallucinations, obsessive behavior and even violent tenancies."
"But she seems fine in here." commented Bruce.
"Yes, within the confines of this room she's somewhat stable, she's not herself but she is passive. This is the result of our one and only breakthrough we've had on this case. You no doubt remember when Discord instigated his rule over Equestria." Bruce had no idea what the doctor was talking about, but he decided to keep listening. "During his brief rule before being returned to stone, Discord used his powers to reshape Ponyville to his liking. Gravity held no meaning, the sky rained chocolate milk and the terrain looked something like this."
"It was during this brief time period that we saw all of Screwball's symptoms disappear, it seemed like her mind was perfectly suited to living in Discord's chaotic world. Since that day we've redecorated her room to reflect those surroundings. We obviously cant remove gravity, but we occasionally have a troupe of ballet performing bison dance through, that seems to improve her mood quite considerably." the doctor said with total professionalism.
"More importantly this change has allowed the Rich's the ability to connect with her. We hope that they might be able to bring her back to sanity where our modern medicine cannot." Bruce looked over at the patient and daughter, Screwball was laying on her back and balancing Diamond Tiara on her hooves. They both looked like they were having a blast.
"So why doesn't she know your name dad?" asked Bruce. He regretted asking that question when he saw how pained Filthy was.
The doctor stepped in and answered for him, "In the state she's in now Screwball seems to have the mind of a child. As such she doesn't remember being a wife or a mother. Right now the Rich's are nothing more than her playmates."
"Oh father, that's so awful." said Bruce.
"I know son, but I keep hopeful, one day I'll have my Screwball back." Filthy said with tears in his eyes.
The doctor quickly added, "It's not as if the situation is hopeless, the research Mr. Rich has funded has already led to new treatments for ponies with Lycanthropy."
"You mean werewolves?" Bruce asked in disbelief.
"No no, in medical terms Lycanthropy means a pony has deluded themselves into thinking that they are a wolf. One of our long term patients suffered from that condition for quite some time, but after her treatment now she's living a normal life in the outside world." The doctor said with pride, "It of course isn't limited to ponies thinking their wolves, we've had ponies thinking they are bulls, refrigerators. Even one time we had one thinking she was a human, can you believe that?"
A chill ran down Bruce's spine, "What kind of treatment do you use?"
"I'm glad you asked, I use a concoction of drugs to trigger the primal fear centers of the brain. Once they wear off it tricks the mind back into it's proper state. In the meantime though, it's quite the show." The doctor smiled a twisted smile, almost as if he enjoyed what he was describing.
A sickening thought entered Bruce's mind, if other ponies found out he was human, would he get shipped off to the mental ward too? Before he could continue this train of thought, a voice crackled over the speaker. "*Doctor Crane, you are needed in the dispensary.*"
"Sorry I have to leave you, no rest for the wicked they say." On his way out he turned back, "Eh, just knock on the door when you’re ready to leave, one of the nurses will let you out."
Once the door shut and was barred once more Screwball stopped her playtime. "Finally the scary crow man is gone."
"You mean Doctor Crane?" asked Filthy.
"If I misbehave he gives me nightmares." said Screwball.
"Dear- Screwball, I believe that's just the treatment, he's only trying to make you get better, just like all of us." Filthy assured her.
Diamond wrapped her hooves around her, as if to say its all fine. "You should talk to my brother, he gets nightmares too." She motioned for Bruce to come over. "Screwball I want you to meet my little brother."
With Diamond still attached, Screwball ran up to Bruce. "Howdy doody, Brucey Wucie!"
"Um hello, Screwy Wewwy." Bruce said with uncertainty.
"Oh please, there's no need to be formal, just call me Screwball." she said without batting an eye.
Something clicked inside Bruce, "How did you know my name is Bruce?"
"I dunno, I just know." Screwball said with a shrug.
"It's one of the odd things about her condition, she knows things she can't possibly know. Try not to be too freaked out by it," said Filthy.
"Anyway it's nice to meet you Screwball." Bruce said while extending a hoof for a shake. She took it without thought, but the moment they touched something snapped.
"Aaaaugh! Get it away! Get it away!" screamed Screwball as she backed away from Bruce.
"What's wrong?!" asked Diamond.
"Can't you see? Inside him! A giant bat!" Screwball shook Diamond off of her, and went for the toy chest. "Fine then I'll crush it myself!" she said, responding to a voice in her head.
"Bruce... get the nurse to open the door." said Filthy, as he placed himself in between his son and wife.
As if it weighed nothing at all Screwball lifted the oak chest over her head. Bruce saw this and started pounding on the door, "Could someone open the door? Please!"
Outside the hospital the family was walking home silently. Bruce and Diamond were unharmed, Filthy was sporting a new stitched up gash across his forehead. He hadn't heeded Screwball's command to get out of the way, so she brandished the chest against him. Thankfully the nurses came to their rescue just in time, restraining her and locking her in a straitjacket.
'One day my love, one day.' Filthy thought. "I'm sorry you had to go through that m'boy. I haven't the foggiest why she went off like that."
"Why are you apologizing? You’re the one who got hit." said Bruce.
"That's what a dad's supposed to do, take the hits for his kids." He ruffled Bruce's mane, then he turned to Diamond. "I think you'll understand princess, but her doctors are restricting visits, at least until they're certain she's not a threat."
"But she's going to completely lose it if nopony visits her." said Diamond.
"I know princess, I know." Filthy said with marked sadness.
It was another week before Dirty Rich finally met his maker, Filthy didn't waste any time, the next day he had the funeral arranged. It was a somber occasion, most of Ponyville's old guard were arranged graveside in the small cemetery behind the hospital. Granny Smith and the Apple family were there to pay their respects, Mayor Mare as well, and some other ponies Bruce didn't recognize.
One such stallion was dressed in uniform blue, and had hat that almost looked like a pith helmet. He looked to be on the cusp of middle age, his burly mustache was just starting to show signs of graying. The police pony walked up to Filthy and the others, "Terribly sorry for your loss Mr. Rich."
"Thank you for the sentiment Constable Oats. Though I'm surprised you showed up, Dirty never once attended the Policeman's Ball." said Filthy.
Oats took off his helmet, "True, but you've been a friend to the police since you took over your father's properties. And you're always the highest bidder at the benefit auctions. It was only right that I attended."
Filthy thanked him once more, "Speaking about the police, don't you feel Ponyville needs a larger presence? Right now it's just you and your second, what's his name, Bollocks?"
Oats snorted, "It's Bulrush. And I think were fine as is, Ponyville's fairly crime free."
"But think about it Oats, it seems each year were hit with some new cataclysmic threat. And if Ponyville is ever going to grow, we're definitely going to need a strong backbone of the law." said Filthy, he then wrapped a hoof around his shoulder. "This probably isn't the best place to talk, why don't you come by the house tonight and I'll show you what I'm thinking about."
Bruce lost interest in the conversation so he wandered off by himself. At least the graveyard seemed to be a more interesting place, it was like getting a snapshot of Ponyville history. There were clusters of graves sorted by families, Turnips, Riches, Apples had the oldest, these were the homesteaders. One tombstone in particular caught Bruce's eye, standing alone on the top of the hill was a tall monument.
It truly was something to behold, the tombstone stood ten feet tall, and as Bruce neared it the engraving became clearer. Etched into the stone in huge letters was the name Wayne. "What the hell!?" said Bruce, he looked it over again. below the name was 'In loving memory.' and two headstones labeled 'Thomas' and 'Martha.'
Bruce fell to his knees, tears began welling up inside, "Why are you here? Why are you following me?" He asked the monument, but it had no answer. "Is it because I'm happy here? Is it because I'm not alone?"
'It's because you've forgotten.' said a voice in Bruce's head.
"What did I forget?" asked Bruce.
'You forgot the oath you swore.' said the voice. Fog started to pour into the graveyard, in the swirling mists Bruce could swear he saw a figure, the same one from his nightmares.
"Who are you? Can't you leave me alone? I just want to be happy!" Bruce screamed at the apparition.
Thankfully this caught the attention of a pony from the funeral, out from the fog came a welcome figure, "Bruce? What are you screaming at?" asked Diamond.
He turned to his sister tears streaming down his face, "It's my parents."
"Oh," she hadn't even thought about how being in a cemetery might affect her brother. "If you need an ear to listen, your sister is always here."
Bruce shook his head, "No you don't understand! It's my parents, they’re here. They can't be here!" he said while pointing to the tombstone.
"Bro you're kind of being a weirdo, that's just a boulder." When Bruce looked back, where once stood the memorial to the Wayne family, now only lay an unshaped rock.
"But I saw them, I-I-" Bruce stammered.
"Look Bruce, you probably just need some sleep. That or you’re going nuts like my mom," Diamond said in jest, then a worried look spread across her face. "You are fine, right?"
To be brutally honest with himself, Bruce didn't feel fine. He felt like he still had a firm grasp on what was real, but even so, that whole ordeal had been unsettling. "I'll be fine, you're right I just need some sleep." He hoped that was true, as he walked away with his sister he turned around one last time. It still was just a rock, 'I only want to be happy.'
Halfway through the semester, Diamond Tiara was already doing much better in school. Thanks in no small part to the help Bruce and Silver Spoon were providing, much to her surprise Randolph also had quite allot to add. Every day the butler would have a new way of explaining the lessons Diamond had struggled with in class. Using the language she understood most fluently, business jargon.
With Randolph's lessons and Bruce and Silver's help and encouragement, slowly but surely she was pulling her grades out of the mire. Now she was averaging B's instead of F's, needless to say it was doing wonders for her superiority complex. "Well everypony already knew I was the best. It just makes sense that I'll be the best at school." Diamond said smugly, as she kicked back in her school desk.
Bruce rolled his eyes, but he couldn't be mad. "So you want to be the best huh?"
"Bruce I already am the best! I'm the class alpha, I have no more enemies and I've got good grades." said Diamond.
Silver Spoon added, "Yeah Bruce, face it. Diamond's sitting on top of the world." Bruce facehoofed at this, Silver couldn't help but laugh.
Before too long Ms. Cheerilee came in and sat at her desk. She had an apprehensive look on her muzzle as she started writing on the chalkboard. When the screeching chalk stopped she stepped aside to reveal it said, 'Hearts and Hooves Day.' "Well class, I'm sure you were already looking forward to today. But before we start, we need to set some ground rules."
Bruce leaned over to Silver Spoon, "What's Hearts and Hooves Day?"
"It's a holiday where you ask somepony to be your special somepony." she whispered back.
'Oh so it's a Valentines Day rip off.' Bruce thought to himself.
"First rule, No love potions!" Cheerilee said while shooting daggers at Apple Bloom and her cohorts. "Second rule, be respectful of your fellow student's choices. If they like a colt or filly that isn't you, then be mature about it." After writing these down Cheerilee turned to her students, "And remember, to have fun!"
All the foals started running wild, scrounging up any construction paper, glitter and glue sticks they could find. Silver Spoon was carefully crafting her own heart, Bruce and Diamond seemed to be the only foals who weren't. "Hey Di, don't you have somepony you want?" asked Silver.
"As if, I'm sitting back and letting them come to me." Diamond said while tossing her mane.
"What about you Bruce?" asked Silver.
He looked up from his schoolwork, "Hmm, not really no. I don't really know any foals here except for you two and Dimple."
"Well in that case, I have something I'd like to-" Silver Spoon didn't get to finish her thought, a little filly wearing purple horn rimmed glasses was standing behind them, breathing heavily.
Bruce asked, "Can we help you?"
"*Egsh* I wa'th hoping you'd be my spe'thal sthom'pony" As Twist spat out each syllable, the filly hoofed over a lovingly crated macaroni art heart to Bruce.
"Oh, this is... nice." Bruce said, not wanting to hurt her feelings.
Just then another filly showed up, a pretty grey unicorn with blond hair, she was carrying a basket of baked goods. "My mommy always says muffins are the way to a stallion's heart. Will you be my special somepony?" Dinky asked sweetly.
'Would you just leave, I was going to ask him you doofuses!' Silver Spoon angrily thought.
Soon another unicorn filly joined in, "Say handsome, whatdya say? You, me, my mom's bottle of Applejack Daniels in the back of a stagecoach. We can make some 'Magic' if you know what I mean." Berry Pinch said while winking suggestively.
"Ms. Cheerilee I need an adult!" Bruce called for help.
Being at the front of the class had its advantages, Ms. Cheerilee quickly put an end to the harassment. "Really girls, didn't you listen at all? You need to respect your fellow students." After putting them in their place it was time to dismiss class, it was a half day holiday after all.
"Whew, that was awkward," said Bruce.
"Yeah, you think they could take a hint or something!" said Silver, she then noticed that Diamond Tiara was fuming. "You okay Di?"
"No! Where were the colts lining up wanting to be my special somepony?" asked Diamond.
"It really wasn't that fun sis, trust me." Bruce assured her.
That wasn't enough though, "How can I possibly be on top of the school if I don't even have anypony clamoring after me? Just you watch Bruce, I'll have more dates than you before the days through!" vowed Diamond, she then walked off with purpose leaving Bruce and Silver alone.
'Finally my chance!' "Um, I-" Silver got cut off again.
"Can you hold that thought? I'm supposed to go meet Dimple at Sugar Cube Corner." said Bruce.
"Oh, alright." Silver said with notable disappointment in her voice, in sadness she rested her head on the desk. She let the ornately detailed heart drift to the floor, the words of love she had spent hours thinking of were addressing only the ground.
Bruce met up with Dimple at the bakery as planned, he didn't run into any more admirers, but all the way he had the most uncanny feeling he was being followed. He took a seat next to his pegasus friend and started to unwind with a milkshake, "How're you doing Dimple?"
"Not good," Dimple looked like he was going to throw up. "My dad just gave me 'The talk."
"And that's making you sick?" asked Bruce.
"No, I'm lovesick Bruce, it's awful." Dimple gagged as he spoke, "Just put me out of my misery buddy."
"It can't be that bad." said Bruce.
Dimple shook his head, "You don't understand. For us 'you know whats' lovesickness is a real condition. My dad had to explain all this to me yesterday. He said when we get old enough we start craving love, and if we can't get what we need we get sick."
This shocked Bruce, he made sure to look all around to make sure nopony was listening in. "But I thought you couldn't shape shift, why would you be affected?"
"I don't know, luck of the draw when it comes to my genes I guess. B*#@ing Chrysalis I hate genetics!" exclaimed Dimple.
Trying to lighten the mood Bruce masked his voice to sound like Crimson Rain's, "Dimple what did I say about profanity?"
"Wow, that was amazing! I swear if I wasn't looking straight at you I would have thought that was my mom's voice." this seemed to perk Dimple up a bit. "I still feel like crud though."
"Well can't you just get love from your parents?" asked Bruce.
Dimple's eyes went wide, "Whoa whoa whoa, don't go talking about this like you know everything. Romantic love and the love you get from your family are very different things."
"Sorry, forgive me for not being a love guru." Bruce said sarcastically, "Isn't there anypony you like? You could ask them to be your special somepony."
"This is the longest I've ever gotten to stay in one place, it's kind of hard to get a filly friend when you might be running for your lives the next day." Dimple shuddered as he thought about the years past. "I suppose there is one filly I've had my eyes on."
"Go on," urged Bruce.
"Don't laugh, but I think Apple Bloom is cute." said Dimple. "Plus she's got that drawl she speaks with, I don't know, I could see myself liking her."
"Then why don't you go ask her?" asked Bruce.
"Eh, we've never even hung out outside of class. It would be weird if I just came out and asked to be her special somepony." said Dimple.
"Hey, a little weirdness is better than you getting sick." Bruce reminded him. "You could try joining their club, that would be a great way to get to know Apple Bloom."
Dimple thought it over, "Alright I'll give it a shot, I don't expect much though. Say, we've done nothing but talk about my lack of a love life. Wow's yours going my friend?"
"I'm not really looking for anypony right now," Bruce stated, he then added, "That doesn't mean they aren't looking for me."
"They?" asked Dimple.
"I had three different fillies all come up to me this morning, all wanting to be my special somepony. I mean, what am I supposed to do? I don't want to hurt their feelings, but I hardly even know them." said Bruce.
"Tell me Bruce, it wouldn't happen to be Twist, Dinky and Berry would it?" asked Dimple.
"Yeah it is, but how'd you guess?" asked Bruce.
Dimple pointed behind Bruce, when he turned around Bruce was horrified to find the three were right behind him. Only a pane of glass separated Bruce from the unwanted affection. "GAH! Why are you here?!"
Dinky lifted up a huge basket of muffins, Berry pulled out a bottle of liqueur from a paper bag, Twist fogged up the window with her breath and wrote 'love you' in a big heart. Then all three started making their way to the door, Bruce panicked. "Dimple you’ve got to stall them!"
"You can count on me buddy!" said Dimple, Bruce then bolted from his seat and over the counter, through the kitchen and out the back door. Dimple ran up to meet the fillies, "Hello ladies." he said in the lamest suave voice you could imagine.
"*Egth* Wher'th Bru'th?" asked Twist.
"Bruce? He's ah, in the bathroom. Yeah in the bathroom!" said Dimple.
"Liar! I see him running away outside!" yelled Berry, the three turned and started giving chase. Dimple stopped them grabbing hold of their hooves.
"Wait don't go! I need to ... pledge my undying love to you!" He really didn't know what he was saying, it was all just on the fly.
"Undying love? But for which one of us?" asked Dinky.
"Uhh, all of you!" Dimple soon learned the hard way that was the wrong answer. After a brutal smack down he was left dazed and confused on the floor, all the fillies had left to pursue Bruce. "Sorry buddy."
For her first attempt at finding a date Diamond went after a colt she knew she could get easily. That one twerp who was always playing video games, "All I have to do is wave around the new model of Joyboy and he'll be putty in my hooves." she said to herself.
He was sitting down, his eyes glued to the black and white screen, happy electronic beeping noises came from the device. He didn't even notice when she walked up right in front of him and said, "Hey there, I noticed you playing with that old thing." He didn't look up or even acknowledge Diamond's existence. "I was wondering if you wouldn't want to try out this."
She slid the new model joyboy into his hooves, when it finally registered what he was looking at Button Mash gasped. "This is the 'New Joyboy XL' It's even the limited edition bundle that came with 'Monster Hunting five penultimate'. How did you get one of these?!"
"Oh that doesn't matter, what does matter is I wanted to give it to you Button." said Diamond.
"Really?! Oh thank you! You’re the best Diamond." Button said excitedly.
"I am aren't I? There is one little thing you could do to repay me." said Diamond, he had taken the bait, now it was time to set the hook.
"Would you be my very, special, somepony?" she drew closer and closer with each word until they were mere inches apart.
"Uh, uh, uh, uh, uh SWEETIE!" Button shrieked.
'Oh don't tell me-' At a high gallop Sweetie Belle came running to Button Mash's side.
"What the hay Diamond Tiara! Hooves off my coltfriend!" said Sweetie Belle, she then proceeded to tightly hug the socially inept gamer.
Diamond was about to yell back at her but she had to stop herself, 'Remember Diamond, peace treaty.' "Hi Sweetie, I didn't know you two were dating." she said forcing saccharin sweetness into her words.
"We have been for months, I find it kind of hard to believe you couldn't know." said Sweetie.
Diamond almost replied with, 'How can I be expected to keep up with everything you blank flanks do?' but she stopped herself. "I guess I've just been oblivious to the whole thing. You two being a couple is just one big happy surprise." Diamond said through gritted teeth.
"Oh, well in that case I can let it go. After all I can't blame you for liking my Button too. He is like the hunkiest colt in school." Sweetie Bell planted a little kiss on his cheek, a wobbly smile crept across his face.
Diamond felt like gagging, "Well I'll see you love birds some other time, I have to find a coltfriend." She then darted away.
"Gosh, I really like the new Diamond Tiara. I think she's really changed for the better." commented Sweetie.
"Yeah she's great, she even gave me this new Joyboy!" Button proudly showed off his prize to his fillyfriend. A few seconds later Diamond came back.
"Sorry forgot this." she swiped the game system from Button and walked away again.
The brown colt burst into tears, "Nooooooo!"
Sweetie was trying to calm him down, "There there, we'll stop by the game store and buy you a new one."
"But it was the limited edition!" Button cried out.
Peace treaty or no, Diamond still enjoyed that. "Okay 'Button Dweeb' was a bust. Who else could I go for?" Diamond said as she looked over the playground. Her focus rested on one pony in particular, "Alright Featherweight, today's your lucky day."
Silver Spoon was sitting alone in a corner of the playground, lonely, listless and lovelorn. She was prodding the ground with a hoof, over all looking pathetic. Most of the foals kept their distance, after all this was Silver Spoon, one of the bullies that had made their lives a living Tartarus. But three kind souls were brave enough to venture out and talk with her.
"Hiya Silver Spoon, you doing okay?" asked Scootaloo.
"No," Silver said grumpily.
"What's the matter, can’t find a coltfriend?" said Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle gave her a little punch on the shoulder. "Sorry ah mean you having colt trouble?"
"*Sniff* Yeah." Was all Silver said.
"You wanna talk about it?" asked Scootaloo.
Silver nodded yes, "I can't stop thinking about him, he's so clever and caring and cute."
"Why don't you ask him to be your special somepony then?" asked Sweetie Belle.
"It'll never work," Silver said in a defeatist tone.
"Ya never know if you don't try," said Apple Bloom
"He doesn't even like me! The only reason he even hangs out with me is because of his sister." said Silver.
Sweetie Belle tried comforting her, "There there, I'm sure he likes you."
"No, he hates me. Every time I try to get close to him he freaks out or runs away." Silver said in despair. "I only want to be with Bruce, I just want to be happy." Tears started covering the lenses of her glasses.
Apple Bloom turned to her friends, "What d'ya say girls, want ta give Cutie Mark Crusaders: Matchmakers a second go?"
"Why not, maybe we missed some cutie mark possibilities last time." said Scootaloo.
"Yeah, and it's not like we were bad at the actual matchmaking part. Your big brother's still dating Ms. Cheerilee." said Sweetie Belle.
"Alright Cutie Mark Crusaders, let’s go!" Shouted Apple Bloom, she was then followed by a resounding "YAY!" from the others. Silver Spoon was less than impressed.
"Uh do I get a say in any of this?" asked Silver.
"Well of course ya do, Sweetie Belle's gonna help you set up the romantic setting." said Apple Bloom.
Scootaloo pulled out her stunt helmet and strapped it on, "And Apple Bloom and I are going to get your suitor and bring him to the date." She then hoofed over a helmet to Apple Bloom.
"Kicking and screaming if we have to," Apple Bloom joked.
Silver Spoon had a pressing question, "How did you already know what you were going to do? You didn't stop to talk or anything."
"We spend hours each day coming up with action plans for every contingency." said Scootaloo.
"Even me wanting to-" Scootaloo put a hoof to Silver's lips.
It wasn't easy, running from a pack of love mad fillies that is. It seemed every corner he rounded Bruce was met with one of his pursuers, they had the speed and determination of hungry wolves, he only hoped they didn't have the appetites to match. For a moment it seemed he had escaped them, to be sure he was looking behind him as he ran, this led to an unfortunate collision with a pony.
"Ouch, watch where you're going ya mook." said the filly.
"You're totally right, I wasn't looking where I was walking. I'm sorry." Bruce apologized.
"Eh I'll let it slide, say you wouldn't happen to know where I can find my cousin Apple Bloom?" asked Babs Seed.
"Uh Apple Bloom-" Bruce nervously looked over his shoulder, ever vigilant for his admirers. "-Sorry don't know."
She blew the stray hairs out from in front of her eyes, "We're supposed to be hanging out today, but I don't want it to look like I can't get a date for Hearts and Hooves Day. Say, you look mighty fine, wanna come with?"
'Not another one!' Bruce thought, the sentiment that escaped his lips wasn't quite as wordy, but it still had the same jist. "AAAAHHHHGH!!!" He screamed, running away as fast as his hooves could carry him.
"Yeah well screw you too bozo!" Babs yelled, she backed it up with a rather vulgar hoof gesture that I dare not describe here.
Soon after the fillies caught back up with him, he had exhausted every hiding place he could think of, he had very nearly exhausted himself as well. From a distance two foals clad in helmets watched the ongoings with binoculars. "Well Scoots, looks like this just became a rescue mission."
Scootaloo replied, "We going Red Rider?"
"Red Rider." said Apple Bloom.
"I've always wanted to try that one out!" She then started beating her tiny wings, propelling the scooter, wagon and best friend off to Bruce. At top speed it didn't take long to catch up with the out of breath colt, Scootaloo pulled up beside him and said, "Need a lift stranger?"
"Bless you!" Bruce exclaimed as he jumped in the back. "You don't know how long I've been running from those crazy girls. Oh hey Apple Bloom, I met your cousin, she's looking for you." He neglected to mention the way in which he met her.
"Babs is already here? Ah'll have ta go find her after we get ya'll to your date." Apple Blooms words sunk into Bruce like a lead brick into pudding.
He looked over the side of the wagon, it looked to be moving about twenty or twenty five miles an hour. 'Maybe I won't die if I jump out.' He started inching to the back, his eyes darting back and forth.
"Look alive Apple Bloom he's gonna try and get away!" shouted Scootaloo.
Apple Bloom dove onto Bruce, pinning him to the metal floor. "Even if he's kicking and screaming." In her hooves she had a length of rope, she quickly had him hog tied. "There ya go you sneaky varmint. Hey Scoots, did I sound like Apple Jack or what?"
"Sure did Apple Bloom!" said Scootaloo.
From his helpless state on the floor of the wagon Bruce had plenty of time to contemplate the insanity that was quickly becoming his life. 'Am I really that attractive? Maybe I should have just said yes to one of them and none of this would have happened. *OOF*' His head banged against the metal as the cart bounced over a bump in the road.
"Sorry bout that! Were almost to the top of 'The Death Hill!" shouted Scootaloo.
A pit formed in Bruce's stomach, "Death Hill?"
"You know the one, there's a runaway taxi cab or baby carriage flying off it almost every week." said Apple Bloom, in a blasé fashion.
"If we get going fast enough, our momentum plus my wing power will carry us all the way to the Cutie Mark Crusader Clubhouse!" Scootaloo said enthusiastically.
"You mean you've done this before!?" asked Bruce.
"Tartarus no! This is the first time we're trying out Red Rider." said Scootaloo.
'So this is it, I'm really going to die. Goodbye world, I can’t say it's been nice living in you, but it's been real.' The wagon stopped at the peak of the hill.
"Wat'ya waiting for Scootaloo let's go!" said Apple Bloom.
"Just a sec, I want to make sure they can see us make this sick jump." Sure enough the three fillies were still chasing them, even to the top of the hill. "That should be far enough." With that the cart started rolling down, assisting gravity was the constant buzzing of Scootaloo's little wings.
Down the hill they went, faster than ever before. All the way to the horizontal ramp extending off the cliff face, bellow them was a fifty foot drop. Not that Bruce saw any of this, he was too busy tightly closing his eyes praying that the end would be quick and painless.
Scootaloo hadn't been spot on with her prediction of making it all the way to the clubhouse. As a matter of fact they barely made it farther than they would have had they been just riding the wagon. But in the very least her flapping saved them from meeting a squishy and messy demise. "Oh the pain, pain in my everything!" moaned Bruce.
"Quit you're groaning, you're alive aren't you?" said Scootaloo.
"Yeah, now let's get ya'll to your date!" said Apple Bloom. Bruce let out an anguished groan.
The rest of the ride was miserable, all the way he couldn't help but feel like his life was spiraling out of control. As he was let up the ramp into the Cutie Mark Crusader clubhouse he thought, 'Why is this happening to me? I've never even thought about liking a pony that way. The only one I've ever come close to liking is...' There standing center stage in the candle lit tree house, there she was. "Silver Spoon."
"Hi Bruce, I'm sorry about them tying you up, I thought they were joking about that." Silver shot the crusaders a glare.
"Oh yeah, sorry bout that. Let me get you out of those." said Apple Bloom.
Sweetie Belle whispered something in Silver's ear and then joined her friends, "We'll give you two some privacy." she said as they bowed out.
Silver cautiously removed her glasses setting them on the table, she looked at him with her pretty purple eyes. "I needed you to be here, I've got something I've been wanting to say for a long time. Will you listen?"
Bruce nodded yes, "Bruce I know you don't like me but I like you, I like you like you."
"But I don't not like you." Bruce assured her.
"Then why do you freak out every time I try to get close to you?" she asked.
Try as he might Bruce couldn't find a reason. "I don't know, but I do like it whenever you come over. It's fun hanging out with you and my sis."
"Bruce can I ask you another question?" asked Silver.
Borrowing a line from his father Bruce said, "You already are."
"Oh, *Giggle.* What I wanted to know is, will you be my special somepony?" There was no falsity in her voice like from the other fillies, only an expectant sadness. As if she were afraid to hear him say no.
It was a hefty decision, as he deliberated Bruce took a good long look at Silver Spoon. He had never really noticed before, but she was quite pretty. Something about the way she tied up her grey and white mane into a ponytail was undeniably cute. Bruce felt like the world was slipping out from underneath his hooves, but he didn't mind. Right now he couldn't be happier, "Silver Spoon I have a question for you too."
He took her hooves in his, "Will you be my special somepony?"
"Well duh, I'm the one who asked you first." she said sarcastically, but the sentiment wasn't lost on her. Her lips found his and she kissed him fondly thus. It was awkward and he ended up bumping her nose, but to the both of them in that moment, it was something magical.
"Yes!" Sweetie Belle shouted from outside the window.
Bruce and Silver interrupted their first kiss to yell at them, "Go away!"
Scootaloo angrily said, "Sweetie, you were supposed to stay quiet this time!"
"Sorry girls, I couldn't help it."
"Leave!" demanded Silver Spoon. "Sweet Celestia, what are we going to tell Di?"
"Sis? I don't know, I think she'll be happy for us. I wonder if she ever got a date herself?" Bruce pondered.
Diamond Tiara was sitting alone at a restaurant table, she had ordered the Hearts and Hooves Day special for one. Across from her was a cardboard cut out of a colt, the only date she had been able to get. "B*#@ this holiday." she said to herself.
After some more inexperienced kisses the new couple emerged from the tree house, huge grins gracing their faces. "Sooooo, I take things a good?" asked Sweetie Belle.
"There more than good, you might say there- *Gasp* Are those Cutie marks on your flanks?" Silver Spoon exclaimed.
"Really!?!" said the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who then checked their flanks saddened to discover them still blank.
"Sorry, I thought it would be nice to get your hopes up. Thanks for helping," said Silver Spoon.
They all grumbled a little at her good natured teasing, but the crusaders over all were very happy. Even if they hadn't gotten their cutie marks, they had accomplished their mission. "It was our pleasure, now if ya'll excuse me ah have to go find mah cousin." said Apple Bloom as she walked away.
"I gotta go too, don't wanna be late for my date with Button!" said Sweetie.
Bruce and Silver turned to Scootaloo expectantly, "What? I don't have anywhere to be."
"Leave!" Silver said while pointing.
"Hey it's my clubhouse, why don't you go to your place." Scootaloo said defiantly.
Bruce whispered in Silver's ear, "She has a good point."
"Alright fine, you can stay." They started walking off to Rich manor but she stopped midturn, "Thank you again, for all that you and your friends did."
"Thank you Scootaloo, Even if your driving is atrocious." Bruce said under his breath.
"Your welcome, it's just what us Cutie Mark Crusaders do. I'll see you at school tomorrow right?" asked Scootaloo.
Time was rolling by faster and faster it seemed, Bruce felt like he had only just started school the other day, but now they were nearing the end of semester. Perhaps time was flying by faster now that he was in a fledgling relationship, not a day went by where he wasn't spending time with Silver Spoon. He was still learning the ropes about being a boyfriend, or coltfriend as it were, either way he couldn't be happier.
Dimple had taken Bruce's advice and joined the Cutie Mark Crusaders, the things they were trying made Bruce's wild ride with them seem tame in comparison. But it was just what he wanted, Dimple was getting close to Apple Bloom and the little bit of affection that was growing seemed to be the tonic he needed.
There were other events going on too, a representative of the Equestria Games came to school. She was scouting talent for the flag carriers during the opening ceremonies, the auditions were a blast. The crusaders had their act, showing off what made Ponyville special, the collaboration and friendly spirit from all the pony races.
Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had an act as well, though theirs was more talent based than the crusader's. With some help from Randolph, the girls had assembled a two pony gymnastics routine. They didn't win the tryouts, Diamond hypothesized it was a biased judge clear and simple. The pony in charge just so happened to be Scootaloo's mentor, guardian and sister, Rainbow Dash.
Regardless of that, the Equestria Games representative Ms. Harshwhinny did see their act and was quite impressed. "If there were a junior league for the games I would have you competing," a high compliment to be sure.
Bruce also got the opportunity to meet Ponyville's resident princess, Twilight Sparkle. She was holding some kind of skill training sessions at her home and everypony willing to learn was invited. Needless to say his sister and fillyfriend were more than exited, the whole time they kept asking questions about being an alicorn and what it's like being a princess. Twilight seemed to take it all in stride, humbly replying, "Really, I'm no different than anypony else."
Bruce used his time there to try and learn about her excursion to the human world, to find out what she knew. But whenever the subject got brought up it would immediately turn to the subject of some doofy sounding guy named Flash. So that line of questioning turned out to be a bust, at least Bruce got some pretty good nachos out of it.
After that it was crunch time, Ms. Cheerilee gave out the final exams to all the students. A test to see how much you have retained over the past half year. All the pointless factoids about which Wonderbolt captain introduced bellbottoms to their uniforms, in what year did Starswirl the bearded create the amniomorphic spell? All somewhat useless trivia, yet their retention of it would mean the difference between passing on to the next grade or being held back.
Everypony offered to help Diamond prepare, but to their surprise she refused them all. "If I'm going to pass I need to know it was me, not any of you interfering." Diamond had said with pride. With some hesitation Bruce let her go it on her own, the entire time he worked on his finals he couldn't help but feel nervous. But to everyponies surprise Diamond Tiara aced her finals. It truly was a testament to how far she had come in those few months.
As a reward for all the hard work, Filthy arranged a treat for his children. "You don't know how proud you've made me today. Seeing you put so much effort into your education, it helps put my mind at ease."
"Well I'm just glad it's over, it's no fun having to cram tests all week." said Bruce.
Filthy nodded in agreement, "I can appreciate that, in a way that's my job. Constantly having to learn about new products that vendors want to sell in our store. Well, you'll learn about that the hard way once you’re old enough Bruce." He chuckled as he pictured Bruce sitting behind a desk doing paperwork, somehow that didn't seem right. "Anyways, as a reward for all of your hard work, I've got a little surprise for you."
"Ooh is it a kitty?" Diamond asked hopefully.
"Ah, no kitty I'm afraid," her face went all pouty. "I talked with the manager of the theater and we're all going to a private screening of the new Zecoro film before it even gets released."
Diamond perked up a little bit, "Can we sit anywhere we want?"
"Anywhere you want princess." said Filthy.
"Yes! Royal box here I come!" Diamond said with a hoof pump.
Bruce had a request too, "Dad, could I bring Silver Spoon with me?" He was a little shy about it, seeing as he hadn't exactly told Filthy they were dating.
"Hmm, yes I don't see why not. Bring your fillyfriend, make a date out of it." said Filthy.
Bruce was stunned, "Y-you mean you already know."
"M'boy, it's rather hard not to notice when a pony is in love. As a matter of fact, looking at you reminds me of when I first started courting my Screwball." Filthy ruffled his son's mane, "Enjoy your youth son."
Bruce emphatically thanked him and ran off to the telephone, a few rings later she picked up. "Silver guess what!"
The Ponyville movie theater was a relatively new establishment, it even still had carpets that weren't sticky. When the four of them arrived the manager was already waiting outside for them, "The theater is empty as you requested Mr. Rich, and I've also turned all the arcade machines onto freeplay mode in case the kiddies want to play." The manager was dressed in a something resembling a bellhop outfit, he wore a little red fez to match.
"Good job Reel Deal, is the film all ready?" asked Filthy.
"It's all set, I can start it up anytime you like." said Reel.
The foals knew what’s what, Diamond went straight for the claw machine. No longer would that plush kitty evade her, this time she had unlimited tries. Bruce and Silver took to the concessions counter, greedily eyeing the sweets behind the glass. Reel Deal took his place behind the register, "Anything I can get for you two?"
"I want a box of jelly foals, a large bag of popcorn and a cherry cola. What about you Bruce?" Silver asked.
Bruce couldn't help but drool a bit, "Can I have some of those salted caramels?"
"Certainly," Reel got the candies, poured the soda and filled up the largest popcorn bag he had. "Here you go."
"So how much do I owe you?" asked Bruce.
Reel shook his head, "No charge, everything's free tonight."
"Really? Why's that?" asked Bruce.
"Don't you know? Your father financed the construction of my theater. If not for him I'd never have been able to raise the funds." said Reel.
Filthy stepped up behind Bruce, "Nonsense Reel, I'm the lucky one for stumbling on you before anypony else. The tidy profit you’re turning in is proof enough of that."
"He is exaggerating, without your father's assistance my dream would never have become a reality. I am eternally grateful, so anytime you kids want, talk with me and I'll get you in for free." Reel gave a little bow.
"Thank you Mr. Deal! Come on Silver lets go find our seats." Bruce was tugging her hoof, pulling her into the theater.
"Sorry princess, looks like your game will have to wait." said Filthy.
Diamond didn't seem to notice, her attention was solely on the wobbly claw and the plush black kitty. 'You've slipped out of my claw too many times. But you've met your match!' With a press of the button the claw descended, its three teeth wrapped around the torso of the stuffed animal and it rose. At a snail’s pace it rode it's rail till it was over the chute, Diamond's heart nearly stopped when the toy landed on the glass wall, halfway to freedom.
"Your mine!" she shouted punching the machine until the kitty fell into the prize shoot. Will glee and pride Diamond paraded around her bounty.
"Good show princess, can we get to watching the movie now?" asked Filthy.
"Fine," said Diamond.
Reel escorted everypony into the screening room, and Diamond into the elevated box seats that were normally reserved for royalty or V.I.P.'s. "Hey Silver, let's sit up front so we can see all the action." said Bruce.
"Actually I need to sit towards the back, everything gets blurry if I'm too close to the screen." Silver said apologetically.
Bruce gave a little peck on her cheek, "I don't care where I sit, as long as it's next to you." Her cheeks went beet red, Bruce, Silver and Filthy all took seats a few rows from the back, Bruce was sitting in between them.
After a minute the projector flickered on and musical fanfare emanated from the speakers. Galloping across the screen in glorious black and white came the masked vigilante Zecoro. He was deft with a sword and cunning in the way he moved, fighting to protect the oppressed from their oppressors. It was clear Filthy was enjoying himself, "Bruce did you see that? He just cut a Z into the villain’s shirt!"
"Uh huh," replied Bruce.
"This is so much fun, you know I used to read the Zecoro comics back when I was your age. I think I still have them all locked away somewhere. Maybe we could look for them after-" He stopped himself as he saw Bruce was too busy necking with Silver Spoon to pay attention. "*Hmm* I guess I'll just watch the movie then."
After the movie all in attendance were feeling worn out, watching two hours of fantastic stunt work was quite exhausting. Now it was time to head on home, "Can we walk you home Silver Spoon?" asked Filthy.
"Thank you Mr. Rich, I had such a wonderful evening," Silver said while nuzzling Bruce. "I think if we cut through this alleyway we'll be on my street." The alleyway she was pointing to seemed to be right, indeed Banks street could be seen on the other side
The four trotted through the alley, careful not to step in the dirty puddles. It was pretty dark, the only streetlight was on the other side thus the entire causeway was filled with shadow. Halfway down a clinking sound was heard, a glass bottle slid across the cement, hobbling out after it was a dirty looking tramp. "Hey mister, can I trouble you for a drink?" he said in a slurred voice.
"Sorry chap, I can't help you with that. I can point you to the nearest rehab center though," said Filthy.
"No drink? That's a shame, I think I'll help myself to your jewelry instead." This time when he spoke his words were clear, and icy. A metallic click was heard, backed up by a glint of light reflecting off the distant streetlight. This pony had a knife.
"Girls stand back!" Filthy ordered as he took up a defensive stance.
This amused the criminal, "Oooh real threatening, a middle aged businesses pony." He jeered, and in one swift motion he swung his hoof striking Filthy in the gut. He reeled and stumbled and spattered. The thief turned his attention to the foals. "You two, not a sound or I'll actually use this bad boy."
"Daddy," Diamond cried out.
He walked up to her, tore off her tiara and sloppily placed it on his own head. "What, you don't like the look?" Diamond didn't reply, she only whimpered in fear. "How about you sister, maybe I need some pearls to complete the look." Next he walked up to Silver Spoon, she could feel the cold steel on her fur as it sliced her necklace. Several pearls dropped to the ground, he didn't even bother picking them up.
"Thanks again for these generous gifts, but I'm afraid I'll have to be leaving now." Slowly he started backing up, not at all noticing the colt that was standing behind him. That proved to be his undoing, Bruce used the brick wall to plant off of and did a leap onto the robber's back, knocking him off balance and slamming his face into the ground. "Mother B#@*er!"
Quickly Bruce stole the switch blade from him and threw it away, it danced across the cement like the bottle until it slid under a dumpster. "Dad can you help me hold him down?" With some effort Filthy pulled himself up, and walked over to his son and the thief.
"We're not going to hold him down Bruce, we're going to lift him up." Filthy slipped his hoof under the thief's shoulder and hoisted him back onto his hooves.
"What are you doing?!" Bruce demanded.
The thief was still wobbly on and could barely stand, "That's a pretty dumb mistake you just made. I could kill you right where you stand."
"But I don't think you would, even if you still had that knife of yours. You could have just as easily stabbed me but instead you punched me. And you didn't lay a hoof on the children. I'd wager it's because you still have a conscience." said Filthy.
"Shows what you know, I just don't like having to wash blood off my clothes." the thief jeered back.
"Is that so? Though I doubt you've washed those clothes of yours in some time." Filthy commented, indeed the thief's garments were grungy and ill smelling.
Bruce was busy returning his sister's tiara and what remained of Silver Spoon's necklace. "Dad shouldn't we be getting the police to arrest this guy?"
"Constable Oats lives his life by the law Bruce, and the law can be a harsh mistress. What is your name?" Filthy asked.
The mugger squirmed, as if a simple question like that was making him uncomfortable. "My name's ... Chill."
Something changed in Bruce, it was like he could suddenly feel his arms and hands once more, and they were balled into fists. "Bruce are you alright?" Silver Spoon asked, she gently caressed his cheek.
"Chill I'm going to give you a chance to pick your life out of the gutter, a chance to make yourself a better pony."
"Why?" Chill asked.
"Because we all need to grow together, nothing is gained by keeping ponies at the bottom of the ladder. In my opinion it's detrimental to the growth I want for Ponyville." said Filthy.
Bruce was getting more and more disturbed, flashes of his parent's murder filled his mind. "Bro what's wrong, you’re getting all weird again." said Diamond.
"What can I do? With my history nopony in their right mind would hire me." said Chill.
"I own several business here in town, if you give me your word I'd give you that chance you need." said Filthy.
Strong emotion was clearly evident on Chill's face, "Alright you have my-" His deceleration was interrupted by a brutal punch strait to his right eye. Once again Chill found himself kissing the canvas, standing above him was Bruce, his nostrils flaring with rage.
"Bruce! Why did you do that? He was starting to turn around." Filthy said, noticeably perturbed. But Bruce didn't respond, in fact he didn't seem to notice his father's words.
"Bruce?" asked a worried Silver Spoon. With heavy stomping hoofsteps Bruce went to Chill and punched him again. This time it drew blood, a small trickle of red came out from his nose. In a span of a few seconds Bruce sent blow after blow, with what strength he had left Chill tried blocking the onslaught but he couldn't stop them all.
"Daddy stop him!" Diamond pleaded.
"Bruce why are you doing this?" Silver cried.
Filthy stepped in to stop the brutality, gently wrapping a hoof around Bruce's neck and pulling him off. He still seemed to be in a crazed state, breathing heavily. Chill however was much worse for wear, one look at his muzzle was enough. Everything on his face was turning blue and purple, and quantities of blood were seeping out of multiple lacerations. No longer attacking Bruce gave way to tears, he was muttering something but it was barely intelligible.
To the side Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon were huddled together, shocked and appalled by the sight of what Bruce had done. Filthy was brushing his sons mane saying, "There there." Anything to calm him down. "Princess I think now we should call the police. Can you get Reel to do that?"
Diamond ran off back into the theater, Silver stayed behind, opting to try and comfort Bruce. "Bruce why did you do that? That isn't you."
Through the labored breathing and tears he replied, "Why did I do that? Why did he kill my parents? Why did you kill my parents!?" Bruce got up again ready to go to town on Chill's face once more. Filthy and Silver Spoon quickly held him back, even if what he said was true they weren't going to let him act out this brutality.
"Let me go! Let me go!" Bruce demanded.
"Bruce how do you know he killed your family?" Silver Spoon asked.
Writhing in her grasp he replied, "His name is Chill, a man named Joe Chill shot my parents right in front of me in Gotham."
A bit of coughing signaled that Chill was still in the land of the living, and apparently he was conscience enough to hear what was going on. "Sorry kid, I never killed nopony. And my name ain't Joe." He was still too weak to rise but he still spat out a mouthful of bloody saliva.
Wailing through the air came the sound of sirens, the police were nearby. Filthy had to think fast, his son had just committed a grievous crime, he was going to have to use every last favor Oats owed him. Soon enough Constable Oats, Deputy Bulrush and Diamond Tiara all crammed their way into the narrow alley.
Bulrush was a squat unicorn, slightly obese and dressed in a less formal version of the uniform Oats was in during the funeral. In his mouth he chewed on a toothpick, "Sweet Celestia, look at this chump. He looks like he got hit by a stampede." commented the gruff police pony.
"Your son did this?" Oats asked in disbelief.
"My son was under the impression this was the pony who killed his parents," replied Filthy.
"*Phfowa* Damn, he sure knows how to dish it out. But even if it is true, this is some vicious assault and battery. I'm going to have to bring him in as well as your mugger here." said Oats.
Now came the hard part, Filthy had never tried anything underhooved with Oats, he respected his character too much for that. Well there's a first time for everything. "Oats you know what goes on in Equestria's prisons, you know what they'd do to a kid like him. Can't we just bury this?"
"Filthy, I'm not a fan of how our correctional system works either, but the law is the law. Besides... your thug over there has rights as well." said Oats.
"Eh boss, I think the only right this guy has now, is the right to a proper burial." Bulrush was pointing to Chill, who now was eerily still.
"What do you mean? He was just talking before you got here." said Silver Spoon.
Using his horn Bulrush lifted Chill's head, revealing a nasty wound on the back of his skull. "I'd wager pugilist boy did this one of the times he knocked him to the ground."
The severity of what he had done struck Bruce like the underground train in Gotham city. 'I k-killed someone? God have mercy on me, what have I done?'
"There's nothing for it Filthy, I'm going to have to bring him in." Oats said as he readied the cuffs.
In his panic ridden state Filthy's own words echoed back to him, 'Chin up Bruce --- I'll finish what you can't.' This sin't how he pictured this family outing ending, not in the slightest. "Oats you can't arrest him, I'm the one who beat Chill. He came at my family with a knife, I stopped him the only way I know how."
Constable Oats looked at Filthy's perfectly clean hooves, he looked at Bruce's bruised and bloodied hooves. "I see. You do realize what your getting into? Depending on what the D.A. chooses you could get charged with murder in the first degree. Even if he pursues ponyslaughter, you'd still be going to prison."
"Daddy no! Don't do this!" Diamond pleaded.
"Hush princess, It'll all be fine." Filthy assured her, he then held out his hooves in surrender. "Please Oats, if our friendship means anything, arrest me for murder."
A a pained look spread across Oats' brow, "Bulrush?"
"Please note in the report that we were misinformed by dispatch. Upon arriving at the scene the true perpetrator confessed. You got all that?" asked Oats.
Bulrush nodded yes, "You want me to cuff him for you?"
"Yes, yes please." Oats hooved off the cuffs with tears in his eyes.
"Oats can I trust that you'll get my children home safe?" asked Filthy.
"Yes Mr. Rich, you have my word." He took a big gulp, "Bulrush take him into the station, and into a holding cell."
In his gruff yet polite manner Bulrush ushered Filthy into the back of the police stagecoach. Once he was securely locked inside the only view Filthy had was through a small reinforced glass window. Burring his feelings Oats took hold of the foals and started ushering them out of the alley. "Come along kids, let's get you home."
Diamond would budge, she broke free and ran to the coach. She banged on the walls and shouted after her daddy. Filthy heard her and his heart broke, he tried to reach out to her but he couldn't. He tried to tell her, "I love you," but the walls muffled his words. The stagecoach pulled away with no lights, no sirens, it was a sleepy night in Ponyville.
Diamond Tiara sat alone under the street light weeping profusely. Bruce as well broke off from Oats' grasp to comfort her, he placed a hoof on her shoulder, "It's-"
"DON'T TOUCH ME!" She screamed, throwing him off. "Don't touch me, don't speak to me, don't you ever get near me ever again! I hate you! You took my daddy away from me!" With that Diamond Tiara ran away, too fast for Oats to follow.
Bruce felt his heart sink even farther, the pony who had been his closest companion his entire life in Ponyville now hated him. 'Oh god what have I done?'
The rest of the way home was horrid, a crack of lightning signaled the oncoming of a late night storm, courtesy of the Cloudsdale weather factory. Silver Spoon was keeping her distance from Bruce as the walked, she was full of conflicting emotions. Soon enough they were in front of Rich manor, Oats knocked on the door and Randolph appeared in his usual nightgown. "Master Wayne, Mistress Spoon, where is Master Rich and Mistress Tiara?"
Bruce didn't answer, he only trudged inside, dragging his soaking wet pelt across the carpet. Silver Spoon tried to say something, "Bruce I-" but the words failed her. Oats began explaining the night's events, much to the shock of Randolph.
Bruce made his way up to his room, not even bothering to get dry before curling up into a ball inside his sheets. He felt somthing pulling on the strings of his soul, dragging him off to sleep, or the depths of hell.
A sickening musk seemed to permeate the air, grey smoke swirled in the dark alleyway. On the ground was a spilled bag of popcorn, soaking up the water in the puddles. Bruce was on his hands and knees, right next to the bullet ridden corpses of Thomas and Martha Wayne, his parents. The tears rolled down endlessly, Bruce was all alone.
This was the same dream Bruce had experienced time and time again. It's contents had haunted him those first two nights in Equestria, and once again Bruce was reliving that awful night. "Is this my punishment? I only wanted to be happy." Bruce cried out, repeating the tired phrase.
"No child, neither God nor man nor pony is punishing you. This is the creation of your own heart." said a booming voice.
Bruce looked around to find it's source, the only thing left in the dream was the specter, the man in the mask. "Who are you?"
The mouth didn't move yet words came out, "I am one whose been watching you ever since you've arrived in my land. And it is time that we talked." Like a man would step through a door, a tall pony stepped through the chest of the specter. She was magnificent, an alicorn with fur of dark blue and a mane of swirling stardust. "I am Princess Luna of Equestria, and we have much to discuss."
The princess of the night loomed above Bruce, compared to other ponies she was a giant. Using her dominion over the dream world she conjured up several objects, an armchair identical to the one in Rich manor, a recliner like you would see in a therapist's office and a box of tissues.
"Sit down please," Luna commanded, Bruce complied and lay down on the recliner. "First of all we need to know what it is you have done child."
"You're in my head, don't you already know?" asked Bruce.
"Our realm is that of dreams, we can only know what our subjects leave scattered about in their subconscious mind." Bruce squirmed in his seat, unwilling to share his activities that night. "We can always travel to Ponyville in person and find out that way. No matter what you say child, I will not judge you."
With some hesitation Bruce replied, "I killed a pony, I knocked him to the ground and beat him till his skull broke." the foal trembled as he spoke, his lip quivered as he recounted his crime. "Is that what you wanted to know?"
Luna couldn't believe it, "If only I had acted sooner. For a time it seemed you had overcome your inner demons on your own, but now they have driven you to this." The temptation was there to yell at him, to deride him for this cruelty. But Luna's own history reminded her that even good ponies are capable of atrocities. "Bruce I know how you must be feeling right now."
"How could you possibly know?"
"Because in a fit of rage I became Nightmare Moon, nearly murdered my sister and almost doomed everypony in Equestria." Bruce's jaw was on the floor, "Child where are you now? In the real world I mean."
"I'm in my bed at home." he replied with shame.
"Then when you wake, you must confess your actions. You can never hope to return to a happy life with such a heavy crime hanging over you." Luna got up from her chair and to the side of Bruce, "I will of course preside over your case myself."
Bruce was adamant, "No I can't, it wouldn't make any difference anyway."
"It will make all the difference child, you can start living with a clean conscience and open up the avenue for forgiveness with the family of the one you wronged." said Luna, her tone was firm but supportive.
"You don't understand, my father did this for me. He took my place and arranged it with the police. Even if I walked into the courthouse and confessed, it wouldn't make a difference." Bruce hung his head.
"Your father, Filthy Rich correct?" asked Luna, Bruce nodded yes. "I have seen his dreams many times, a Ponyville so unlike it is now. Both beautiful and frightening at the same time. Your father is a very idealistic stallion, I suppose he would fight tooth and nail to claim he was the one who did it."
"I think he would, dad cares too much about me." said Bruce.
Luna contemplated what to do, if he could not find redemption outwardly then Bruce would have to find it from within. "Take my hoof Bruce Wayne, together we are going to face your demons that brought you to this action." A hole opened up in the floor beneath them and the two descended farther into his mind.
Diamond awoke with a fright, looking around she saw she was in the public park. 'Did I fall asleep on a bench like a hobo?' She felt wet, dirty and alone. Memories of the night before flooded back, it had all started so nice. 'Daddy took us to the movies, I got my kitty toy I wanted. And then...' The mental picture formed, that awful stallion with his mangled face. The pony who she once was glad to call her brother, senselessly beating him. And her daddy being carted away like a common criminal.
"Daddy, why did you do that? Why did you stick up for him? Why did you choose him over me?" Diamond Tiara was wrought with grief. "I'm going to get my answers, you better be ready daddy." Still looking like Tartarus warmed over Diamond made her way to the police station, and without hesitation she entered the building. Nopony was behind the counter so she helped herself inside, looking for the constable.
When she found his door it was already open, a conversation could be heard leaving the room. "So I ran this guy Chill's cutie mark through our records, he's never been picked up here."
"That makes sense, from his clothes he looked like a drifter. He probably blew in from Manehatten or Fillydelphia."
"That's what I thought too, so I sent his info to them both and they came up with nothing. So I asked Canterlot, Trottingham, Baltimare, heck I even asked Cloudsdale! Every precinct I asked came back with the same answer, Nopony has ever heard of the stiff in our morgue."
A sound like a rotary telephone being dialed could be heard. "Right I'm calling Doctor Hayward, I want to know everything about this perp we can." There was silence for a few seconds, "Hello Doc? It's Oats ... It's about that stiff we dropped off last night. ... Doc calm down, we just need his autopsy report." There was silence for about a minute more, "*Phfow* Alright just give us a ring if anything happens." Oats hung up the receiver.
"Well what was up?"
"Doctor Hayward says he didn't do the autopsy last night, he was going to wait for the morning."
"When he unlocked the surgery this morning there was no body. No corpse, none of his effects and all of Doc's preliminary notes were gone."
"You don't think Mr. Rich did it?"
"I don't see how, He hasn't talked to anypony since we locked him up, not even his lawyers."
"I don't like this boss, this is rotten to high heaven!"
"Right, I want you to look everywhere, bodies don't just walk away. I'm going to investigate Filthy, maybe he did have something to do with all this."
Diamond had heard enough and made her presence known, "*Ahem* I'd like to see my father now."
"Oh, little Tiara, how long have you been there?" asked Oats.
"Long enough. He is able to receive visitors?" asked Diamond.
"Visitors... Oh yes! Yes you can go see him. I'll lead you to the holding cells," Oats gave Bulrush a nod and took the filly one room over into the Ponyville jailhouse. It consisted of one small cell with rod iron bars, the kind you'd expect to find in a western town like Appleloosa or Dodge Junction. Ponyville being a relatively crime free town had only one repeat customer, the town drunk Berry Punch. She had to give up her second home when Bulrush brought Filthy in the night before.
"Good morning princess." Filthy greeted her with his usual cheer, despite that he looked raged and sleep deprived.
"Morning daddy," Diamond turned to Oats and asked, "Can we have some privacy?"
"Of course, I'll be in my office if you need me." With that he bowed out.
Filthy got close to the bars and whispered, "Did I hear right? That mugger's body disappeared."
"That's what they said, but how did you know? You didn't have anything to do with it did you?" asked Diamond.
"Nothing of the sort, the police department just needs to invest in some soundproof walls that's all." Filthy said merrily, "So they lost the body eh. I might be getting out of here sooner than I thought. In fact, tell Randolph to prepare a welcome home party for tonight!"
"Sure daddy, but I have some questions that I want answers too." Diamond said sternly.
"Fire away princess I have all the time in the world."
"Why did you lie for him? Why did you put yourself in so much danger? Why do you love him more than me?" with her last question Diamond started giving way to tears.
"Oh Princess, come here," Filthy was holding his hooves through the bars, Diamond came near and sat on the stone floor. "You know there's nopony in this world I love more than my own daughter." Filthy was gently brushing a hoof through her mane, "I just have to show it more with your brother."
"Don't call him that, He's no brother of mine. All he is, is a monster!" Diamond was livid.
"Bruce isn't a monster, but he is troubled. For a youth to have gone through all the things he has and not be scarred, well that would be a miracle. Put yourself in his horseshoes for a moment, imagine that if last night me and your mother were walking down that alley and we were slaughtered right in front of your eyes. What would you do if you ever found the pony who did that?" Filthy asked.
Diamond could barely fathom what it would be like, "I ... I don't know. But I wouldn't beat him till he died!"
"And that's something I'm proud of you for. You think with your brain not your heart." He looked at her with such pride and fatherly love. "But your brother, right now he's nothing but heart. I can only imagine how his conscience must be tearing him apart. Princess can I trust you with something important?"
"Your brother is going to need somepony he can trust to talk to, to work through what he's feeling. Can you be that pony for him? At least until I get released." Filthy requested.
Diamond was hesitant but she still wanted to please her father, "Alright I'll go home and talk to him."
"There's my girl, but uh, you may want to take a shower first. You kind of smell like a homeless person, no offence."
She felt like a donkey, "None taken." Diamond replied in a drab monotone.
Further inside Bruce's mind, into the depths of his subconscious they went. They seemed to be in a hall of memories, everything in Bruce's life going in reverse order. Starting with the scarred image of Chill, his mangled face an eternal haunting reminder. Luna stopped there and stared at it for some time, out of respect Bruce stood still. "Do you know why you did this child?"
"I thought he was the man who killed my parents, but I was wrong." he hung his head in shame.
Still staring at the static memory Luna asked, "Was it your intention to kill? Did blood run hot through your veins as you snuffed out his life?"
"I ... No, I only wanted to know why he would take my family away from me... Then a rage like I've never felt before took over. I just started hitting him and hitting him! Until ... they pulled me off." Bruce felt an inward shame, like a thousand eyes were all looking at him, accusing him.
"Child take what I am about to say to heart. An equine life has been stolen, perhaps Chill would have wasted that life drinking or even committing more crimes. Yet perhaps he may have turned around and become a better pony, a boon to society. That chance was robbed from him like he tried to rob your sister's jewelry. All life is sacred, and all deserve the chance at life." Luna's voice was booming.
"I understand Princess, I'm nothing more than a monster for what I've done." said Bruce, his voice was choking up.
Placing a hoof on his shoulder she assured him, "You are no monster child, and there are memories here that can prove that." She guided him down the path to a scene playing out, only a few months ago at the carnival. "Once it became apparent to you that Dimple and his family meant no harm you selflessly offered to help and protect them from their harassers."
"Well yeah but-" A sickening thought entered his mind, "Wait you don't know about-!"
"That his father is a changeling? I watch over the dreams of all my subjects regardless of their race." Luna smiled, showing off her pearly teeth. "Do you know what Dimple dreams of Bruce?"
He shook his head, "I don't think he's ever told me."
"Some nights he's grown up and married to young Apple Bloom, other nights he's an adventurer. But most every night, Dimple dreams he's changing the world, removing ponies who hate and are intolerant from power. Taking down those who prey upon the weak and defenseless like his family. That is your friend's innermost wish, I wonder what yours is child." Luna was peering into his eyes, as if to see into his soul.
"Don't you already know?" asked Bruce.
"There is much of your mind I have never been able to see. Perhaps you can let me in and we'll find out together." Luna pointed down the corridor, at the far end was a door with an ornate red lock binding it shut with chains.
Down the hall they went, passing by more memories of life in Ponyville. Reflecting on them Bruce realized, most of them were undeniably happy. He focused in on one in particular, that blessed evening in the Cutie Mark Crusader's clubhouse. The day Bruce and Silver Spoon admitted their feelings for each other. "Oh Silver, I must have hurt you so much." Weakly Bruce continued on the trek, his mind occupied with thoughts of his love.
Silver Spoon was trying her darnedest to keep up appearances, she hadn't said anything about what really happened to her parents. Only repeating the lie Constable Oats spread, it was what was expected of her. 'If I just keep doing this then I can keep Bruce with me.' she thought, trying to convince herself.
But deep inside she knew it was wrong, Silver couldn't stop reliving that night in her mind. The horrific look in the eyes of the pony she loved, it was if another pony entirely had crawled inside his fur to do such awful things. It was in this time that she decided to examine if she truly still loved Bruce.
She took out a piece of paper and a pen and set them on the table, dividing the sheet in two pieces she wrote 'Things I love' and 'Things I loath.' Rolling over her thoughts Silver started out with the obvious one, 'Is violent.' With that out of the way now she had to actually think hard on what she disliked, 'He can get whiny sometimes.'
To balance that out she started working on the things that brought her to him, 'He can be so terribly shy.' Just remembering every time she would get close how he would clam up or freak out. 'He's practically a genius.' Since they all started working on their homework together Bruce had saved their hides more times than she could count.
She almost felt a bit shallow for putting this on the list, but decided it was a valid point and nopony was going to read it anyway. 'He's really handsome.' Bruce's good looks were what had attracted her to him in the first place, and even now she'd yet to find a colt who came close to rivaling him. 'At first he was stepping in to protect us.' Thinking back once more to last night, before things went south. He did act gallantly, singlehoofedly taking down an armed mugger and returning what was stolen.
Silver Spoon clutched at the string of pearls around her neck, a few were still missing and the strand was tied together in a crude knot where it had been sliced. Still Bruce had put his life at risk to bring it back. Probably the greatest of all the things she had come to love about him was this, 'He brings out the better side of ponies, myself included.'
She had been noticing it, slowly but surely, ever since Bruce had come into their lives. Day by day Diamond and Silver were becoming, less irritable, happier and more agreeable. Before then making peace with Apple Bloom and her friends seemed like an impossibility and something they would never pursue. Now the three of them were on decent terms with Silver, even if they didn't deserve to win that flag carrying competition.
So she reviewed the sheet, one huge thing that was utterly abhorrent and five things that she loved dearly. Silver flung herself onto her bed and burred her face in a pillow, she let out a long, "ARGHUGH!" Silver had come to the conclusion that she was still madly in love with Bruce.
Feeling overwhelmed by emotion Silver took off her glasses and stared at the faux finish on her ceiling. "Okay Silver, you still love him. But he's got some very undesirable tendencies. So what do I do?" she asked the ceiling. Being a ceiling it did not reply, "Well your no help. I suppose it's my responsibility as his fillyfriend to help him become a better pony. Just like what he did for me."
This brought conviction and renewed faith in their relationship, "Then that's what I'll do, I'm going to head over there right now and be as supportive as I can be." Silver Spoon grabbed her glasses and burst out the front door and onto the street. With determination she ran towards Rich manor. Along the way she bumped into the crusaders, out and about doing their usual out there shenanigans.
"Heya Silver Spoon, whatcha up to?" asked Scootaloo.
"Sorry I don't have time to talk, Bruce needs me." replied Silver.
"What's wrong, is he sick or something?" Dimple asked, he was garbed in his own little cape.
"You could say that," Silver said, careful not to say too much.
Apple Bloom quickly responded, "Well that's no way to be startin' his vacation. You give us a holler if he needs anything."
"Yeah, and let him know we're all thinking about him and wishing he gets better soon!" added Sweetie Belle
Silver Spoon smiled, friends like these were proof of what she felt. "Thank you everypony, I'll let him know what you said." She bowed out and continued on down the road. 'I'm coming my love.'
Luna and Bruce stood at the lock, it was as if it were begging to be opened. "I've never been able to see into this part of your mind. And I was unwilling to pry into your secrets without your consent."
"Do you know how to?" asked Bruce.
"With this yes, but I alone cannot. There is at least one thing from behind here that you are aware of that will unlock everything inside. Is there an object, a memory, a person that doesn't fit with your life here?" Luna asked.
"Well ... there's the man in the mask, I keep seeing him in real life but he's not real." said Bruce.
Luna thought on it, "Describe him."
"Well he's tall and wears a cape and mask." Luna motioned for him to go on. "He's got a really defined chin and is clean shaven." Bruce cringed, he'd momentarily forgotten ponies don't shave.
"So he's a human being then?" asked Luna.
"You know what humans are?" Bruce was shocked.
"I've never traversed through the mirror into the human realm, but our sister's student Twilight Sparkle has gone on in great detail about your kind." Luna stated flatly, "That and we have a niece who lives there as well. One of my sister's follies that occurred whilst I was imprisoned on the moon. But we shall not speak of it any more."
‘I'm not the one who brought it up.' Bruce thought.
"Now I want you to focus your mind on the man in the mask, make every facet of him a reality. Visualize him until you can describe his every detail to me." Bruce did as she asked, recalling everything he knew. "If there is anything, an image or iconography that is associated with him focus on that."
That was a problem, every time he'd seen the figure he had been vague and featureless. 'So what are you? Your mask has horns, or are they ears? Long and pointed ears like ... like a bat.' Just then an image sprung into his mind, a bright yellow silhouette of a bat. The red lock shattered and the chains withdrew, leaving the door free to open.
"Are you prepared to see what's on the other side?" asked Luna.
"I want to know as well." said Bruce, he opened the door and out from it flooded thousands upon thousands of memories. An entire lifetime worth of memories, spanning the decades and the era's. Most interesting of all they all had to do with the man in the mask. As Bruce took it all in the man's name dawned on him and one other revelation. "I'm this ... Batman?"
"It would seem you once were him." said Luna.
It was strange, the memories were his own yet they felt like they belonged to another person entirely. The whole ordeal was giving Bruce a splitting headache, he could feel something warm dripping down his muzzle and when he checked he discovered a nosebleed was in progress.
"It must have been powerful magic indeed to have both torn you from your realm and reduce you to the state you are now in. Although, looking at this memory it seems returning to childhood has happened to you before." The memory in question was somewhat disturbing if not goofy, a toddler dressed in overalls and a cape.
"Pa-prin-Princess Luna, I don't feel too good." Bruce was hardly able to stand steady.
"Child?" Luna looked at him and was shocked at what she saw, in a few relatively short minutes Bruce had deteriorated greatly. "Hold steady, we have you."
"What's going on?" Bruce asked from within her magical grasp.
"These bodies we walk in are mere representations of our psyches, your mind is unable to justify them both." Luna hypothesized.
An exasperated Bruce asked, "What the hay does that mean?"
"To put it bluntly, your brain cannot handle two different personalities. One or the other has to go, I fear what would happen otherwise." said Luna.
A sense of dread overcame Bruce, "What could happen?"
"You would become a fractured soul, like the poor ponies who live in the asylum. Trapped forever between these two lives." Luna shuddered at the thought. "I suggest you learn as much as you can before making your decision."
The thought was frightening to Bruce, the brief visit to the asylum was unpleasant to say the least. Would he end up at the mercy of Dr. Crane and his treatments? Inwardly he vowed that he would not let that happen to himself, no matter the cost.
It was already past visiting hours at the hospital and most of the doctors and nurses had left for home. All except one, far up on the top floor of the mental ward at the very end of the hall. A solitary unicorn doctor was practicing his trade, a vial in one hoof and a syringe in the other he stood before his patient. Although the term 'victim' would be more apt.
Screwball was tightly restrained with a straitjacket and her jaw bound shut with a dog muzzle. This is how it went every night, it wasn't always Screwball, sometimes Crane would do his experimentation on the other residents. But whoever it was he chose everypony knew they didn't want to be on the receiving end of that foul needle.
As he readied the injection Screwball tried squirming away unsuccessfully, "Please cooperate, this is to make you feel better after all." As the glowing needle pierced her pelt she was trying to say something but it was muffled. "I'm afraid I can't hear you dear, you'll have to speak up a bit!" Crane said as he tore the muzzle off her face.
"I said don't lie to me scary crow." she was staring at him with those unnatural eyes of hers.
Crane paid it no mind, but one thing was bugging him. "I'd say you have about a minute before the serum takes effect. Would you mind explaining why you call me that?"
Screwball let out a sickening cackle, "The scary crow wants to know why he's a scary crow! Then the scary crow should go, ask another scary crow what makes a scary crow a scary crow!"
Crane pushed his glasses back up, he hadn't been expecting any profound answer. Besides it was what was coming up that he really wanted to see. He leaned in close to her ear and whispered, "You know, you are right. I don't give a rat's ass if you get better or stay mad as a hatter. I just want to see you scared." A perverse smile was on the doctor's mouth and when Screwball started writhing and screaming it only grew wider.
Using his magic he brought over a clipboard and pen, "Tell me, what do you see?"
Screwball broke down into laughter once more, this time it was pained and weak. "Hehehehahahooho! Scary crow!"
"Yes?" Crane asked impatiently.
"ScarycrowScarycrowScarycrowScarycrowScarycrow. Crane!" Doctor Crane jolted back, hearing Screwball use his real name was shocking beyond compare. "You want to know what I see Crane?"
Hesitantly he nodded yes, "I see so many things Crane, you have such a bright future ahead of you Crane. But it will be such a shame, all the little mares will weep for you Crane. All the other doctors and scientists will mourn the loss of poor Doctor Paper Crane. Everypony will be shocked and appalled, they will say 'Dear Celestia what is that thing?' When they see what I do to your face!" she went back to laughing madly, at this point Crane had enough and prepared the sedative.
"Scary crow, how do you feel about body piercings?" Screwball asked innocently.
Crane just wanted it to be over and done with, "It's a disgusting defilement of the equine body."
"Ohh, that's a shame scary crow. I think you would look great with a piercing. In fact I can do it myself, that needle right in your eye!" Crane jabbed the sedative and soon enough it was taking effect. As she drifted into her drug induced slumber Screwball kept on laughing. On his clipboard Crane wrote out, 'Experiment #219 ... abject failure.'
As he replaced the heavy steel bar on the outside of her door he stopped and added to his notes, 'Try doubling the dose tomorrow.'
"What do you mean you're leaving?" Bruce asked in disbelief.
Luna was preparing to exit Bruce's dream, "I mean just that child. Normally I would stay with a ponies dream until they wake, but it has been nearly twenty four hours since I made contact with you. No doubt my sister needs rest from her royal duties."
"It's been a whole day?" Bruce asked.
"Time is an illusion, dream time doubly so." Luna replied. "Besides there is nothing more we could do for you child, we can neither make the choice for you nor tell you which is the correct one. Only you are in that position."
"But how will I know what to-" Luna placed a hoof to his lips and wrapped him in a motherly embrace.
"Do not fear change child, trust in your own decision and act upon it." on that note Luna exited the dream, leaving Bruce alone with his thoughts and the thoughts of another.
The decades old clock ticked on and on, Filthy had been watching it for hours on end. It had been twenty four hours since he had been locked up in this cell, and twenty four hours without being charged. He supposed he had his long standing friendship with Oats to thank for that. Well that and the body disappearing, even still that puzzled him but he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
What was important was Filthy was only a few minutes away from being released. It was a centuries old policy that Princess Celestia created, to protect the rights of lawful citizens nopony can be held for more than one full day without charges placed against them that they can dispute in a court of law. And Filthy seriously doubted that Oats would risk charging him with murder when they no longer had a body or any evidence that one ever existed.
Really the only thing they could use would be his own false confession, 'I suppose if he really wanted to press it I could claim a brief lapse in sanity.' Just as he had been waiting for, Bulrush walked into the jailhouse with keys in hoof. "Deputy Bulrush, how goes the search for the missing body?"
The overweight police pony grumbled, "No such luck, not a single hoof print that didn't belong there and nothing showed up on any of the security cameras. I guess you must be celebrating pretty hard right now."
"Oh Bulrush, of course I am, and you should be as well. After all what's that oath you police ponies swear? 'To protect and serve.' Think of it as the law working in the favor of an innocent stallion." said Filthy.
"Yeah well what if we just held onto you until our body shows up?" Bulrush asked in a somewhat threatening hypothetical manner.
"Deputy even I don't need my team of lawyers to tell me that you cannot do that. You can either produce our deceased friend Mr. Chill and I will happily uphold my end of the bargain. Anything short of that I'm afraid you don't have a leg to stand on." Filthy said smugly.
Bulrush knew he was right, even still he felt like he was letting a slimy worm wriggle out from his grasp. Reluctantly he opened the cell door and let Filthy Rich out. "I'll take you to the locker and you can collect your belongings." said Bulrush, gritting his teeth the whole time.
"Are you afraid you won’t get to see me again deputy?" Filthy asked jokingly. "You know I'll be at the next ball."
Just then the door swung open, behind it was Oats wearing a stern look on his face. "Bulrush, what are you doing?"
"Letin' Mr. Rich out, his twenty four hours are up." said Bulrush.
He didn't blink, "Good, It's about time."
Filthy was relived, he had his doubts at first but he knew they would prove to be unfounded, Oats was a pony of reason. "Say Oats, my family has a bit of a celebration waiting for me back home. How would you like to come along?"
Oats didn't blink, "I'm afraid that would be in poor taste."
"Ah, perhaps you're right. Still mustn't keep the children waiting." Filthy said, Oats didn't blink.
"Your children will be waiting for some time I think Filthy. It is my great displeasure to place you under arrest for obstruction of justice, falsifying legal documents and bribery of city officials. Deputy Bulrush please read him his rights." Oats said flatly.
Bulrush complied and started reciting the rights by rote, Filthy pushed him aside and ran up to the police constable. "What the hay is your game Oats? You're just as guilty as me, is our little midnight deal really worth bringing down your own career?"
Oats let out a hearty snort, "It's not our deal that's in question Filthy, I did some digging when Chill's body disappeared. I didn't find anything that could link you to that, but do you know what I did find?"
Filthy started sweating, "N-no."
"An adoption form, missing the required signatures, approved without any of the city council members ever having laid eyes on it. Do I need to tell you whose it was?" Oats asked, Filthy shook his head. "I didn't think so. After questioning the clerk in charge she confessed to accepting a hefty bribe from you."
"But it was just so we could skip all the pointless red tape, you of all ponies should understand!" said Filthy, desperation filled his voice.
Oats ignored his plea and continued, "I spent the rest of today pouring through any forms that had to do with you or your projects. It turns out there's quite allot you evaded the red tape on." Oats turned his back to Filthy, "Out of respect for the friendship we once shared I will not tell your children what kind of pony you are."
Sadness struck at Filthy's heart, deep down he knew it had been risky, but he'd never hurt anypony with his actions. Mournfully he replied, "No they already know, my son he- He hated it."
"As I stated before, what kind of sentence will be pursued is up to the district attorney." said Oats.
Bulrush placed him back inside the cell, he had been only minutes away from freedom. 'I'm sorry princess, daddy's made a huge mistake. I hope you can forgive him, but you’re going to have to help your brother out a bit longer than I was expecting.'
"It's going to be a long night again, do you need anything until tomorrow?" asked Oats.
Filthy looked around his dismal surroundings that were going to be a second home. "Get me my lawyers."
As he wandered the halls of his memories Bruce couldn't help but marvel at its contents. It seemed each experience was worse than the last, a lifetime surrounded by madmen. But memories alone couldn't tell him what he needed to know, nothing about what kind of man he was.
There were daring feats and takedowns of thugs and psychopaths alike. He had gadgets and gizmos that made Bruce's mind spin and quite possibly the most amazing automobile he could ever imagine. Yet with every memory came a twinge of sadness, as if they carried with them the sense that he never was truly happy.
What Bruce truly needed was a way to talk with the Batman himself, "If only..." Then it struck him like lightning, the man who was always in his dreams he is him. "Great now I have to walk all the way back." Bruce grumbled, only to discover that right behind him was the set he had left so long ago. Now illuminated in a spotlight casting a shadow the same as his insignia was the bat.
This time he was anything but vague, Bruce could tell every last detail of this figure. He could also tell he was just as worse for wear as he was. "You've made quite the mess for us." said the Batman, his voice like liquid gravel.
"I was fine until you started peeking through, why did I have to know who killed mom and dad? Why did you make my do that to that mugger?" asked Bruce.
"I didn't make you do anything, it's just what we are, seekers of vengeance. As for me breaking free, I swore an oath, you swore an oath to fight crime, but you forgot. You were too busy frolicking with a bunch of rainbow horses to remember." said Batman.
"You mean I was too busy having a family that loved and cared for me, too busy spending time with my fillyfriend who made the pain seem bearable." said Bruce.
Batman grunted, "You think I never wanted to those things? I almost gave it all up to be with Andrea, I almost gave up the plan. But they wouldn't let me," he hung his head.
"Who wouldn't let you?" Bruce asked.
"Mother and father, no matter how hard I tried I just kept on getting pulled back, until I gave up on being happy. So let me be the one to continue on, I'll bring justice to this world and fulfill our oath." Batman said as he stood at his full height.
Now came the choice, Bruce could take the easy way out, fade away into nothing and let him take over. But that didn't sit right with him, Bruce had too many ponies who's lives he had touched and been touched by. A father who despite his faults loved and cared for his children immensely. A big sister who had overcome so much of her bad disposition and become Bruce's closest companion.
A fillyfriend who Bruce couldn't help but miss, even in this dream world. A best friend that was just as clever as Bruce and more than willing to stick up for him. And a butler who though mild mannered, always knew just what to say to make things better. All of them meant so much to Bruce, he couldn't place a value on it.
So it was decided, "What if ... What if I fulfilled our oath, what if I became the Batman?"
He didn't act surprised or reel back in shock, Batman just stood there. "I know you can do it, I did it myself. But it wasn't easy, you would be training your body, mind and spirit for years. Training in every form of martial arts you can, learning so many different fields of science and criminology. In a sense being Batman will become your life."
"I will do it, for the ponies I love and for the life I extinguished. I have lived the majority of the life I can remember in Ponyville, I wish to protect it, like you protected Gotham." Bruce said in all earnest.
Batman gave a long exhale from his nostrils, it seems he too had decided. "Alright, I'll leave it all to you, or me to be precise." In a gesture akin to passing the torch, Batman removed his mask and handed it to Bruce. Beneath it was the face of Bruce Wayne, billionaire, playboy philanthropist. To Bruce the younger it was like a glimpse of what he might have grown up to become, and what he never will be.
He started to fade away and as he did normalcy seemed to return to the abstract plane of Bruce's dream world. Before he was completely gone Batman had one last thing to ask, "When you wake up, make your oath. You will won't you?"
"I swear." The word of his younger self was enough and Batman let himself go. With him went the hallway of his own memories, one by one fading away until once again Bruce had solitude in his own mind.
It was a familiar group gathered around Bruce's oversized bed, Randolph was using all his knowledge of home medicine to try and rouse the young master from his day long slumber. To his left was Silver Spoon, she hadn't been expecting to find her coltfriend near comatose upon arrival and thus was quite distraught. Near the back of the room, just about as far away from the bead as possible was Diamond Tiara. She didn't want to admit it, even to herself, but she did have a twinge of worry for him as he lay there unmoving.
"Come on Randolph just poke him with a stick or something, he doesn’t deserve to be in that bed." said Diamond, forcing bile into her voice.
Silver Spoon glared at her, "How can you say that? He's your brother for ponies sake!" Diamond refused to answer, instead crossing her forelegs grumpily.
"Young mistresses, as much as I am sure Master Wayne would love to see you upon his waking, I doubt waking to see you two arguing would be pleasing in the slightest." Randolph said tactfully.
"Sorry Randolph," said Silver, Diamond still refused to talk.
"There is no need for apologies. Now I'm going to try using some smelling salts, they always brought your grandmother round during her fainting spells Mistress Tiara." Randolph procured an ornate glass bottle, opened it and wafted it around underneath Bruce's nose. Almost immediately he sprung upright.
"I'm ... still me. Thank you." Bruce said.
"You are welcome Master Wayne, and I must say it is good to see you awake once more." said Randolph.
Silver hopped on the bed and pounced him, "Bruce you're awake!"
From within her sweet embrace Bruce said, "Sweetie I'm so sorry for hurting you like I did. I missed you allot."
"I know, I missed you too, and I want you to know that I'm not going to give up on you Bruce. We're going to get over your problems together." Silver tightly held onto his hoof with hers.
Bruce let out a smile, Silver Spoon truly was a special pony. "You're here too sis, er, I mean Diamond. How is dad doing?" he asked trying to be diplomatic.
"He's his usual cheery self, no thanks to you." Diamond snidely replied.
"You know I never meant for any of that to happen, you know that right?" asked Bruce.
"Well it doesn't matter if you meant it or not, you can accidentally knock over a vase without meaning to but you still broke it. You killed a pony and daddy's still in prison for what you did." There wasn't hate in her voice, only disappointment.
Bruce knew it to be true, but he knew that wasn't all. "Diamond, Silver and Randolph can you come with me? I need you all to witness something important." All three in attendance were puzzled, what could he have to show them when he just woke up? He hopped out of bed and out of his room, with some effort he grabbed the dangling chord that was bound to the attic ladder.
"I wouldn't go up there Master Wayne, there's a bit of a pest problem. Somepony left the window open and the bats have taken to roosting in there." said Randolph.
'Is this providence or what?' Bruce thought. "Actually that's even better, come on."
Every pony followed him, albeit reluctantly into the attic space. It was very dimly let by the moon, after rummaging around Bruce found what he was looking for, the box he had been found with. Sitting neatly at the top of the pile, right where he had left it was the mask. "Do you know what this is?" Bruce asked.
"It looks like some cheap Nightmare Nights costume you'd find in daddy's store." Diamond commented.
Bruce ignored her remark, "It's a symbol, an image designed to strike fear into the superstitious and cowardly criminal lot. It belonged to a dark knight who fought those who preyed upon the weak and spread crime to his city. One day I wish to be counted worthy of this mask."
"What the hay are you even talking about?" asked Diamond.
Silver had to agree, "I'm confused Bruce, what's going on?"
"In front of you all I'm going to swear an oath, one that I shall never break. I've done a terrible thing last night, maybe it's something I can never fully be forgiven for. But I promise that I'll spend the rest of my days trying." Bruce took a deep breath and turned to face the moon above, he got down on his knees and placed his hooves together as if in prayer.
He wondered if Princess Luna was watching, he wondered if his parents were watching. In a calm steady voice he spoke the solemn words. "I, Bruce Wayne, child of Thomas and Martha Wayne and son of Filthy Rich do swear, to dedicate my life to fighting crime in all its forms. Yet I vow never to become blinded to the possibility of somepony turning around from a wrong course, just as I have."
He paused momentarily to steady his resolve, "I will be vengeance, I will be justice and I will be forgiveness."
"Bruce that's, that's beautiful." Silver said, wiping a tear from her eye.
"Master Wayne if you are to undertake such an operation you will no doubt need assistance. May I be so bold as to offer my own?" inquired Randolph.
"Thank you, I would greatly appreciate it." Bruce replied, even in his old age Randolph was always eager to assist.
Diamond Tiara was still silent on the matter, even still she doubted him. Just then there was a strange glow filling the room, a sensation a pony only experiences once in their lives. A cutie mark had formed on Bruce's flank, and what a mark it was. Perhaps to a pony who hadn't been in Rich manor's attic during his speech it may not have stood out. But to those in attendance it held great significance.
On either side, resting just above his rear legs was a pair of scales not unlike those held by the statue of blind justice in Gotham City. Everypony marveled at it, a mark of one’s destiny realized. "You really are serious about this brother?" Diamond asked, dropping the hostility.
"I am sister," said Bruce. She didn't have anything to say, Diamond just ran up and hugged him. Not a congratulatory hug or a hug you give a friend you haven't seen in forever. This was a hug filled with relief that she could once again call him 'brother' without reservation.
When Diamond released him from her deathgrip Silver Spoon was up next on the hug list, but hers came with smooches as well. "I can't wait to see what everypony thinks of your cutie mark Bruce." She could just picture it now, all the crusaders staring at it with furious jealously it made her laugh on the inside. "So when are you going to start this crime fighting thing?"
"Whenever I'm ready, I'll have to start training my mind and body immediately if I'm going to be at my peak. That's what he told me anyway." said Bruce.
"Who told you?" asked Silver.
"Er, well, I did. It's a weird story, I'll tell you later."
And so it came about that on that night those four lives were changed forever. All of them moving down a different course than they once were. It would be fifteen long years before Bruce Wayne would don the mask and become the Batman, in that time much of Ponyville changed greatly.
In a formless void two figures watched the proceedings taking place in Rich Manor. One of the figures was slightly upset, the other filled with satisfaction. "What did I tell you? No matter what Batman chooses to be the hero." said the happy one.
"Well how do you know it wasn't our interference that caused him to decide as he did?" asked the perturbed one.
"I'm sure he would have chosen to fight crime once it actually started becoming a problem. I just felt we needed to get things moving along. By the way, nice work with that puppet, you had everypony convinced."
The grumpy one conjured up said puppet, an all too familiar mugger, now known as the late Winter Chill. "Why thank you, you know I used to use puppets like these all the time a thousand years ago. It's so fun getting ponies to do the most awful things to them and then seeing them become horrified at what they did." He cackled and chortled with glee remembering those heady days, then he paused. "Did you just say 'everypony?'"
The giddy one quickly denied it, "What? No, your just hearing things!"
"You did! You said everypony, not everybody." It dawned on him what was going on, "You're not one of those bronies aren't you."
The other's checks went hot with embarrassment, "Well, well so what if I am? I can like more than just Batman."
"I was wondering why you wanted to bring him to my little corner of the multiverse, but now it makes sense. You're just acting out your own little fan fictions."
"Your not going to stop it are you?"
"Stop it? Tartarus no! I haven't gotten to cause this much chaos since I was released, I love it. But if this is going to continue there is a rule I'm setting."
"Keep Fluttershy out of what you have planned, she's such a delicate little flower."
The smaller one swore to this condition, his fingers crossed behind his back. "Oh I almost forgot, Bruce Wayne chose to become a hero so I won the bet. Pay up hodgepodge!"
The taller one fished out a wallet from the nothingness and pulled out a fresh twenty dollar bill, "Were both interdimensional beings of near infinite power, what do you need with money you little imp?"
"I could ask you the same, but to answer your question It'll make a great souvenir!" He stuffed the bill in his own yellow belt covered in pockets and compartments. "So what'ya say, wanna skip all the boring stuff and get to the action?"
"Sounds like a plan." The being conjured up a comically large television remote and started mashing the skip scene button. When they resumed something seemed different.
"You know I can't quite put my finger on it, but... Did Ponyville always have hundreds of skyscrapers?"
"Oh for ponies sake, we've gone too far forward!"
The rotund one was about to hit the rewind button when it caught his eye, "Not too far, just right, look!" Shining brightly across the sky was a high powered searchlight. Illuminating the black clouds was the silhouette of a bat. "Grab a seat the show's about to start."