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Trust Once Lost

By Greenhorne
Created: 2nd January 2021 11:07:50 AM

  1. > Trust Once Lost
  2. >  by Greenhorne
  3. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  4.  
  5. > Self-Reliance
  6. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  7.  
  8. When someone threatened to turn me into a mare, I didn’t think they were actually serious. Mostly because, based on everything I knew about the world, everything I had experienced in my life up to that point, such a thing was impossible. Being in a different body, with no apparent gap in consciousness, was utterly outside the context of what I was able to understand. 
  9.  
  10. One thing I’m proud of is that I’m calm in a crisis, a skill set I spent many years honing as a nurse. The first thing I noticed was that my body was the wrong shape. I tried to take a moment to ground myself, but as I took a breath, my lungs felt wrong; as I tensed and relaxed my muscles and tried to roll my shoulders, all of that was completely wrong too.
  11.  
  12. Panic gripped my chest, and I resisted the urge to breathe faster. I held the breath in my too-small lungs and counted to three, then exhaled with deliberate slowness, feeling the air pass over a painful lump in my too-long throat and leave my mouth that was the wrong shape. I kept my eyes open and focused on a nearby tree. I felt the soft earth beneath my too-many feet. So many parts of my mind screamed that something was very, very wrong.
  13.  
  14. I didn’t fight those thoughts. I accepted them, and then focused on my breathing, which I kept slow and even, and the ground, which was firm beneath me, and the tree, which was still just a tree.
  15.  
  16. “Okay,” I whispered with the breath I was slowly exhaling, my voice too small, too high-pitched.
  17.  
  18. I felt my wrongly placed heart beating too fast in my chest, maybe a hundred sixty beats per minute. I could feel my muscles tremble and relaxed as much as possible while standing on my too-many legs.
  19.  
  20. With my panic response under control, I could think.
  21.  
  22. “Okay, focus,” I muttered under my breath in my too-high voice.
  23.  
  24. Check for danger. I looked around, noting that with my much-wider field of vision I barely had to turn my head at all to see three-hundred-sixty degrees. I was in some type of forest; I didn’t see any movement from animals, or anything else immediately dangerous. I took a tentative step forward. I could move; I had no trouble breathing; I didn’t feel any injuries or pain.
  25.  
  26.  
  27.  
  28. Okay. I wasn’t going to die. I didn’t need to take any immediate action. I could take some time to think. I lay down on the ground, resting my head on my forelegs, a position that felt comfortable in my new form.
  29.  
  30. When you work with people suffering hallucinations and delusions, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll think about what it must be like to be -if we’re dispensing with tact- crazy. A common mistake some people make is thinking you can’t be crazy if you know you’re crazy. Someone can know full well that their hallucinations aren’t real and still see them just as vividly. Delusions and psychosis are different things entirely. It was scary to think you might one day be in such a vulnerable state, unable to perceive the world around you for what it was.
  31.  
  32. My mind felt clear. I could follow a train of thought, and nothing in my mind felt jumbled, but then again I had no idea what having a psychotic break felt like. What I’d decided on in the past was that if things just stopped making sense, I would try to remain calm, not do anything rash or violent, and listen carefully to what people around me were saying. Realistically there was no way that could have worked. Psychosis doesn’t work that way, but I did always like to have a plan. The applicability of that plan to the current situation seemed to confirm that it was indeed a silly plan.
  33.  
  34. If I was crazy, there wasn’t much I could do about it. There was no-one around to take directions from. I could lay here and do nothing to wait and see what happened, but eventually, I would get thirsty, and hungry, and need to use the bathroom... I shuddered to think where I might actually be when that happened if this forest was all in my head.
  35.  
  36. As a matter of practicality, I had to assume I wasn’t crazy. Whether this was a dream didn’t matter either. Either I was right about it not being a dream, or else it didn’t matter. 
  37.  
  38. Alright. If I'm not crazy and I'm not dreaming, what do I know? I'm thinking, so I exist. I remember living as a human, and I also remember being a pony for the last couple of minutes. At least, I assume I'm a pony.
  39.  
  40. I looked down at my green, furry hooves, and then turned my head to look at my own back, something I hadn't been flexible enough to accomplish as a human. Yup. Definitely a pony. No cutie mark, but from the proportions and pastel green coat it was clear that I was not a regular pony, but a fictional, magical pony.
  41.  
  42. I felt my forehead and found a horn. I tried focusing on it, but nothing happened. Tapping on it with a hoof wasn't painful exactly, but intensely uncomfortable, like a funny bone attached to my skull. Which I guess it kinda was, unless it was all keratin like my hooves.
  43.  
  44. He threatened to turn me into a “mare.” Bracing myself for the inevitable, I stood up on all fours and took at look between my legs. Sure enough, my lower horn was gone.
  45.  
  46. Alright. Well, I could place that in the increasing list of things that I would worry about later. Right now, I was in an unfamiliar place, in an unfamiliar body, lost in the wilderness with no equipment and, presumably, no one looking for me.
  47.  
  48. Fortunately, I'd been a boy scout back in the day, so I knew, at least vaguely, how to find and purify drinking water, start a fire, hunt, fish, forage, and navigate.
  49.  
  50. Unfortunately, I didn't have any containers to boil water, or any water filters, or any chlorine. I didn't know how to start a fire with hooves; I didn't think this new body would appreciate me eating meat; I knew nothing about what local plants were edible, and I didn't have a map or compass. If my assumption about being in Equestria was right, then I wouldn't even be able to find North with the stars. I could die out here and no-one would ever know what happened to me. 
  51.  
  52. I felt sick to my stomach and deliberately slowed my breathing again.
  53.  
  54. "Alright, alright," I muttered to myself in my too-high voice. "What's the plan?"
  55.  
  56. First step was communication. I didn't have any tech or reflective surfaces I could use to signal with, but I could maybe start a fire, and, in the unlikely event that someone actually was looking for me, I would leave markers to indicate where I'd gone.
  57.  
  58. Next was figuring out where I was. I would feel pretty silly building a survival shelter if it turned out there was a town within sight of here. I considered climbing a tree, but with hooves that was out of the question. I looked at my back and noted the lack of wings.
  59.  
  60. "From all of us together, together we're friends. With the marks of our destinies made one, there is magic without end," I intoned.
  61.  
  62. I looked back and determined I had not sprouted wings.
  63.  
  64. "Meh," I chuckled. "It was worth a shot."
  65.  
  66. I had two real options; I could either try for higher ground and look for somewhere I could get a view of the surrounding area, or I could look for lower ground and hope to find a river I could follow.
  67.  
  68. I decided to aim for the river. Hopefully, I could find some fast-flowing water that would be safe enough to drink. Taking time to arrange rocks into a crude arrow to show where I had gone, I started walking downhill.
  69.  
  70.  
  71.  
  72.  
  73.  
  74.  
  75. When the threat of turning me into a mare had been made, I played along.
  76.  
  77. "So if I become a pony does that fix any medical conditions I have?" I had asked.
  78.  
  79. “Of course,” Came the reply. “You get a whole new body.”
  80.  
  81. "Well, sign me up then," I joked. "I've only got a couple years left before I have to worry about my meds damaging my liver."
  82.  
  83. As a human I suffered from chronic itch. That doesn't sound like the end of the world, right? Well, imagine an itch triggered by nothing at all, so powerful that you would continue to tear at your skin after it was already bleeding, across large areas of your body, keeping you from sleep for days at a time; and completely unresponsive to standard treatments.
  84.  
  85. Needless to say, without the more powerful drugs, my life was misery. The drugs are not kind to the body though. We use one of them in chemotherapy, albeit at higher dosages. The higher the dosages I took, the more the symptoms receded; and the faster I would damage my body. When my specialist informed me that my test results indicated I had maybe two years left until I would be forced to stop taking it? It was a blow. 
  86.  
  87. I had reduced the medication as much as I could bear, trading discomfort for longevity, hoping desperately that the drug trials I was waiting for would come through in time.
  88.  
  89. If I'd known that becoming a pony was an actual option, I might still have said yes.
  90.  
  91.  
  92.  
  93.  
  94.  
  95. Having all my skin intact and free from discomfort was an amazing thing. I couldn't remember a time when I'd had that, even as a child and, according to my mother, even as an infant I had suffered.
  96.  
  97. Now I could feel a breeze across my skin and not have to ignore the itch it created; I could sweat and not have to ignore the burning tingle as it dripped across broken, irritated skin;  I kept expecting to feel an itch from where dirt was sticking to my coat, and yet there was nothing.
  98.  
  99. Which left me to focus on this body's atrocious lack of physical conditioning.
  100.  
  101. I didn't have a watch, but I'd estimate I'd only been walking for a couple of hours and already my muscles were aching and my lungs were burning. I was glad I had chosen to walk downhill because in this body I didn't think I'd have the endurance for any type of climb.
  102.  
  103. Ignoring my aching muscles, thirst, and burning lungs I kept moving, if I went down far enough I knew that eventually, I would find water.
  104.  
  105.  
  106.  
  107.  
  108.  
  109. When I heard flowing water ahead of me I forgot my tiredness and broke into a run. Or I would have if I was still human, as a pony I promptly tripped over my own hooves, fell on my face and learned a couple of things.
  110.  
  111. The first was that while walking as an equine was fairly straightforward, it turned out that moving faster required moving into a trot, canter, or gallop, the rhythms of which were decidedly more complicated. 
  112.  
  113. The second was that this body's pain tolerance was much lower than what I'd enjoyed as a human. A small graze on my cheek left me fighting back tears.
  114.  
  115. I took a breath into my aching, too-small lungs and exhaled it slowly, getting back to my hooves.
  116.  
  117. "I don't got time to bleed!" I joked to myself, laughing at the way it sounded with my small, high-pitched voice.
  118.  
  119. When I finally got to the river I didn't bother doing a full set of tests for drinkability, I just noted that it was flowing fast enough and put my mouth into it, gulping the cool water down greedily.
  120.  
  121. After drinking my fill I sat back on the river bank and finally relaxed for a bit. The graze on my cheek stung a bit, but I could ignore it easily enough. Despite still being lost I felt much better about my situation now that I'd found the river. Not only did I now have a source of drinking water, but, with any luck, I could follow this river downstream and find civilization. 
  122.  
  123. Or maybe the population density in Equestria was much lower, and I was several months trek from anything. Heck, maybe I wasn't even in Equestria and when I found civilization I’d be abducted and experimented on as an alien.
  124.  
  125. I sighed and shook my head. No use dwelling on those thoughts when I had more immediate concerns.
  126.  
  127. One of them being that I was feeling a gnawing hunger in my stomach and I still had no idea what plants were safe for this body to eat. In my human body I knew I could easily go a day or two without food, but with this newer, seemingly more fragile body? I could only guess. 
  128.  
  129. I couldn't remember the exact procedure for testing edibility, but I did the best I could with decade-old knowledge.
  130.  
  131. Ponies could eat grass right? I couldn't remember seeing any ponies eating straight grass in the show, but hay was apparently a staple for them. The reason humans can't digest grass and hay is that they can’t break down cellulose, so it stood to reason that, if ponies ate hay, they could at least theoretically eat grass.
  132.  
  133. I put my head down and smelled the grass. It smelled like grass, which was unfortunate, since that meant it probably also tasted like grass. If I still had my human sense of taste and smell the grass wouldn't be palatable. Or maybe magical ponies didn't like to eat grass either?
  134.  
  135. Regretting that I didn't have hands to break some grass off, I licked my lips and rubbed some grass between my lips, without taking any into my mouth. I didn't feel any immediate irritation on my lips. Now I needed to wait for... five minutes? Something like that. I didn't have a watch anyway.
  136.  
  137. "One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand," I counted, trying and failing to get used to the odd shape of my new mouth, "Four one thousand, five one thousand."
  138.  
  139. "Eh stuff it." I muttered under my breath.
  140.  
  141. Counting it out exactly was a waste of daylight. I should be working on fire or shelter. Neither of which I was looking forward to without hands. I started collecting any deadwood that looked dry enough in a pile. I had to carry them in my mouth, much like a dog playing fetch, and the mental image helped raise my spirits.
  142.  
  143. When I felt like enough time had passed and I still had no reaction to the grass on my lips, I returned to the patch of grass and carefully bit off a small amount. It tasted like grass, but it was actually pretty bland, neither the flavor nor the mouth feel was overly objectionable as I chewed on it (I couldn't remember whether there was supposed to be an extra step where I touched it to my tongue without chewing). My stomach grumbled in protest as I resisted the urge to swallow and instead spat out the glob of green goo. 
  144.  
  145. I spent another few minutes gather firewood. The real problem with fire was that I didn't have any matches or even flint. I didn't have any bootlaces to make a bow drill, or tinder to catch a spark, or a knife to feather the kindling. If I'd had fists, they would have been clenched in sheer frustration. A part of me wanted to give up on the idea of fire altogether. I took as much of a breath as those pathetic, irritating lungs would allow and after a moment, vented it out my nose with an equine snort.
  146.  
  147. Deciding that enough time had passed without any negative reaction to the grass I stomped back over to the grass I was testing and bit off a few blades, chewed, and swallowed them. My stomach ached with hunger after being teased with such a small amount of food, but I resisted the urge to grab a mouthful. Now I'd have to wait for at least half an hour to see if it made me sick.
  148.  
  149. I was tired, and my muscles ached, and my hooves hurt, and I was hungry and the food was right there! I could see that it was grass and, instead of eating it, here I was treating it like I was being tested for some stupid survival merit badge!
  150.  
  151. It didn't even taste bad anymore. In fact, it didn't taste like anything... oh. I ran my tongue over the inside of my mouth and it confirmed my fears; whatever this 'grass' was, it had made my whole mouth numb. 
  152.  
  153. I shrieked.
  154.  
  155. I frantically rinsed my mouth with river water, but the numbness wouldn't go away. I had no idea how poisonous the grass might be. A lump formed in my throat... or was that my throat swelling shut? Was this new body allergic to this grass? No no no, if I went into anaphylactic shock out here I was dead! 
  156.  
  157. Waves of nausea wracked my body but I couldn't tell if they were a reaction to poison or just anxiety over being poisoned. My coat had a sheen of cold sweat as I shivered and retched and sobbed, sitting back on my haunches. Everything felt so heavy, like I was fighting a weight pressing down as much on my consciousness as my corporeal body.
  158.  
  159. I tried to fight the shaking, but It just got worse. My lungs burned, I wasn't getting enough air. I focused on my breathing, sucking in a shuddering breath past the painful lump in my throat, and then out again. Pain lanced through my chest as my heart thundered away.
  160.  
  161. Think goddammit! You're going into shock.
  162. What would you tell a patient in this situation?
  163.  
  164. I rolled onto my back, putting my legs above my heart.
  165.  
  166. Relax, breathe. You're going to get through this.
  167.  
  168. I breathed in and relaxing and allowing myself to shiver as I pulled air past the painful lump in my throat.
  169.  
  170. Now, what are your symptoms
  171.  
  172. Chest pain, cold, clammy skin, shivering, tightness in the throat, nausea, feeling faint, numbness in the mouth. You are in shock; blood pressure is too low; chest pain possible heart attack; more likely panic attack; numbness in the mouth likely exposure to unknown plant; tightness in throat unlikely to be anaphylaxis: lack of other symptoms (no heat, no itch, no rash or hives, no facial swelling during or after edibility tests).
  173.  
  174. I had no way to test for a heart attack, or to treat one, and the presentation was much more consistent with a panic attack. The next step would have been comforting the patient and assuring them that a panic attack was nothing to be ashamed of. I knew this. I knew this and yet all I felt was a terrible, bitter self-loathing.
  175.  
  176. I was weak. I was pitiful, worthless. I lay there and breathed, and shook, and waited for the symptoms to subside.
  177. > Self-Doubt
  178. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  179.  
  180. My anger didn't feel right. In my old body, when I was angry, I felt powerful. I would have been able to feel the coiled strength of my muscles, and the heady sense of invulnerability that went along with a sudden adrenaline hit. I would have felt like I was holding myself back from doing damage to something. Now it felt like all I was holding back was a temper tantrum.
  181.  
  182. Weakness and vulnerability were things I'd never been willing to accept in myself, and I'd been fortunate that I'd never had to. Growing up, I was always taller and stronger than average, something I had my dad to thank for, both with his genetics and his efforts to keep me involved in some kind of sport even when I'd have preferred to be reading or playing video games. From age thirteen I chose martial arts.
  183.  
  184. On the rare occasions I was forced into a fight at school I ended it swiftly and decisively, without injuring anyone. I was miserable at school, and looking back I can admit I was lonely, but I never feared for my physical safety, and that was something I took great comfort in.
  185.  
  186. This new body was weak. The years of training I had put into training my balance, reflexes and movement counted for nothing. All I had left was my mind, and now my mental toughness had failed me too.
  187.  
  188. I was weak, lost, and scared but, rather than wish someone was here to comfort me, I was relieved that no-one else was around to see my moment of weakness.
  189.  
  190. As I lay there on the river bank, watching the sky turn orange, I sighed. My adrenaline had ebbed, my fatigue and the dull ache of my muscles returning.
  191.  
  192. You're such an idiot, I said in my head. I didn't want to hear my new voice.
  193.  
  194. I tried to tell myself that I didn't care what anyone else thought of me, but here I was, in a life and death situation, terrified of anyone seeing me look weak. I realised in that moment that, while I didn't care about people underestimating me, the thought of people seeing me when I was actually helpless was terrifying.
  195.  
  196.  
  197.  
  198.  
  199.  
  200. I glared at the pile of sticks as if trying to set them alight with sheer force of will. Which given I was a magical unicorn should have been entirely possible. I went cross-eyed looking at my horn, but there wasn't so much as a glow.
  201.  
  202. I'd done my best without any hands or tools. Under the pile of sticks was a pyramid of small twigs for kindling painstakingly arranged by mouth, and inside that was some dried out moss which I hoped would work as tinder.
  203.  
  204. I understood the theory of starting a fire by rubbing sticks together, but I'd only ever done it once, almost two decades ago, and at that time I had made a bow drill using my bootlaces.
  205.  
  206. The concept of a bow drill is pretty straightforward if you've ever seen one; you wrap your string around a stick and then you pull the string side to side to make it rotate rapidly, rubbing the end against a piece of wood until the friction created an ember which you could use to light your tinder.
  207.  
  208. I didn't have any string, and even if I'd wanted to make some string by braiding together plant fibers, I didn't know how to do that without hands. I also knew you could start a fire by spinning a stick between your palms, though it was much more difficult, especially for a child or someone with small hands.
  209.  
  210. So I sat in the dark, trying not to shiver while I twirled a stick I had pressed between my two front hooves. A few times I got a good rhythm going for a couple minutes, but inevitably the stick would slip from between my hooves which led to cursing as I frantically tried to get the stick back into position before the tip cooled off too much.
  211.  
  212. I was so tired. With my old body I knew I could go a night without sleep, and then even most of the next day before I truly crashed. Right now I felt like I'd been up two straight days. I was biting my tongue to try to stay awake, but my mouth still felt a bit numb. I smashed my hoof down on a rock, and it hurt, I couldn't stop the hot tears running down my face, but it didn't reduce my fatigue any.
  213.  
  214. When my eyes closed for a couple moments, I saw flashes of a dream, people's voices, the sounds of them moving around, and it took a second to reorient myself as I wrestled my consciousness back from the brink. I thought I saw smoke coming from the stick at one point, but it might have been a dream, or my eyes playing tricks in the dark; In any case, it wasn't the ember I needed to light the fire.
  215.  
  216. I don't know how much of my attempt to start the fire I dreamed, and how much was real, but at some point I fell asleep.
  217.  
  218.  
  219.  
  220.  
  221.  
  222. Contrary to the common trope, someone who's severely sleep deprived doesn't fall into a dreamless sleep. Quite the opposite; the more sleep deprived you are, the faster you will progress into REM sleep.
  223.  
  224. I knew I was dreaming, but I couldn't wake up. Having lucid dreams wasn't uncommon for me, but rarely did I have omnipotence in them. I could change the dream a bit, like making myself invulnerable, or erasing parts of the dream I didn't like, but I couldn't fully choose what I wanted to dream about.
  225.  
  226. I was dreaming about myself, in my present situation, and I was being attacked by timberwolves. It terrified me.
  227.  
  228. I knew they couldn't actually harm me in my dream, but at the same moment I was sleeping out in the open, too exhausted to even put up a fight. I'd made a terrible mistake and there was nothing I could do but hope and pray that nothing bad would happen to my body while I was unconscious.
  229.  
  230. In Equestria, it turned out, the local deities responded to prayers in a much more immediate and unambiguous way than they did back home.
  231.  
  232. In a flash of magic, a midnight blue alicorn appeared, standing over top of me protectively. Her size was on a scale such that I could have hidden myself behind one of her legs as an anxious foal might behind the foreleg of its mother. The timber wolves froze in place.
  233.  
  234. "Fear not, my little pony!" she exclaimed, heroically, "I have heard your call. Nothing shall harm you in my domain!"
  235.  
  236. I knew why she chose this protective posture, yet my human mind immediately jumped to the lewder implication of being underneath her. Blushing, I scrambled out from the compromising position, moving into a bow.
  237.  
  238. "P-princess Luna! You're, uh." don't say bigger, don't say bigger, don't say bigger, "Taller than I expected."
  239.  
  240. Smooth.
  241.  
  242. Luna looked at me with a raised eyebrow.
  243.  
  244. "Rise, my little pony." She instructed, "You are dreaming. What you see before you cannot harm you."
  245.  
  246. "I know."
  247.  
  248. "You know this is a dream?" She questioned, "Then why does it frighten you so? I felt your waves of terror all the way from Canterlot."
  249.  
  250. "Afraid of these?" I asked, reducing the timberwolves to ash and cinders with a wave of my tiny hoof. "No. I haven't feared my dreams since I was twelve."
  251.  
  252. Luna gave me an appraising look.
  253.  
  254. "While I'm here, my body is in danger, in the real world." I explained, "I'm not sure exactly how much danger but, based on how badly I screwed everything else up today, I'll probably die of hypothermia or something."
  255.  
  256. Luna's serene expression morphed into one of shocked outrage.
  257.  
  258. "You're out in the cold? Who has done this?" She demanded, "No pony should be forced out into the cold simply for making mistakes!"
  259.  
  260. This was the critical point, I could either pretend to be a lost pony and be assured of her aid, or I could tell the truth and risk whatever came along with that. She might have thought that I was crazy, or dangerous, or perhaps that it was some kind of joke.
  261.  
  262. I could tell an easy lie, or I could trust another person. So obviously I chose the lie.
  263.  
  264. "What?" I exclaimed, "No, nopony did this to me, I'm just lost, and I can't remember how I got here, or much of anything really."
  265.  
  266. The trick to telling a convincing lie is to believe it while you're saying it.
  267.  
  268. I was lost, I didn’t know how I got here, and while someone might think I meant no-one had transported me here what I really meant in my head was that it was my own fault for getting myself into the present situation. There was no way for me to know if I was missing any memories, or even if my human memories were real. I didn't really have any doubt, but I could entertain that idea easily enough. After all, there was no evidence they were real, apart from their internal consistency. If someone could change my location and body on a whim, why would it be unbelievable for them to fabricate a lifetime of human memories and inserting them into my pony brain?
  269.  
  270. I was lying by telling the truth. Just to smooth over any misunderstandings. That wasn't taking advantage of anyone, it was just being pragmatic. I'm not a bad person.
  271.  
  272. "I know it's asking a lot, but could you send somepony to come save me?" I asked, rubbing the back of my head in embarrassment, "I'm not really as much of a survivalist as I thought I was. I don't have any food, and I couldn't get a fire started."
  273.  
  274. And I'm so terrified of screwing up and dying that gave myself a full-blown panic attack. I didn't feel comfortable saying that last part out loud; it was bad enough she could sense my fear, I couldn't stand the thought of actually admitting it.
  275.  
  276. Even now I was trying to convince myself that I didn’t need her help, that when I woke up, I could keep working the problem; just because I’d failed the first day didn’t mean I was helpless now. I could figure out how to start a fire, I could try other foods. I could follow the river to the sea if I had to, and then I’d work my way along the coast.
  277.  
  278. Luna’s expression changed to one of worry and my hope for the rescue I was pretending not to need was abruptly yanked away.
  279.  
  280. “I’m afraid my magic won’t be able to find you that precisely,” she explained, “I can feel you are far away, but directions in the dream realm cannot be translated into real coordinates. You truly have no idea of your location?”
  281.  
  282. “Ah well, it was worth a shot,” I sighed, “thanks for trying anyway.”
  283.  
  284. “Fear not, young one,” Luna encouraged, “we have the power of crown and country behind us, you shall not be abandoned!”
  285.  
  286. “No!” I said hurriedly, “You don’t have to do that, I’ll be fine, really! I can find my own way, I don’t want the whole country searching for me like I’m some helpless foal!”
  287.  
  288. What are you saying, you lunatic?! You’re willing to risk death out in the wilderness just so people won’t be inconvenienced by searching for you?
  289.  
  290. The rational part of my mind was screaming at me, but my emotional side was much less encouraging.
  291.  
  292. You’re lying to them, they shouldn’t have to waste their effort on someone who’s just taking advantage of their trust and goodwill.
  293.  
  294. Luna looked at me sadly.
  295.  
  296. Idiot! You’re making her feel sorry for you! Now she’s going to worry about your mental wellbeing too and she’s definitely going to start a search. They’re all going to be worried sick trying to find their lost pony and when the truth comes out, they’ll hate you forever!
  297.  
  298. In a sudden shift in the dreamscape Luna was behind me, a wing wrapped around me protectively.
  299.  
  300. “Oh little one, I know you're no foal,” She tried to comfort me, “You're a brave little filly, but there is no shame in needing help. Everypony needs help sometimes, even princesses.”
  301.  
  302. Oh.
  303.  
  304. I was a child.
  305.  
  306. That put things a few things in a different context.
  307.  
  308. I was lost, hungry, scared, and I was a child. Of course she would be so intent on finding me. The pony equivalent of an AMBER alert was probably spreading across all of Equestria by now.
  309.  
  310. Well now I had to get myself rescued as quickly as possible, to stop ponies from worrying about me, if nothing else. I could still be proactive.
  311.  
  312. First things first, I allowed Luna to comfort me. She was trying to calm a frightened child so if I wasn't soothed it would only add to her worries.
  313.  
  314. I relaxed and slowed my breathing, feeling her warmth and her kind intentions as they radiated in the dreamscape. I managed to make myself believe at least for a while that I was actually just a lost filly.
  315.  
  316. "We know there is something you are not telling us." I felt Luna's voice rumble in her chest which I had pressed to my cheek in her hug. She felt me tense up in an involuntary response I couldn't suppress. "We shall not force thee to share, but heed our words for we know well the folly of hiding our burdens from those who would help us bear them."
  317.  
  318. She knows.
  319.  
  320. Dammit, I have to fix this. Okay, she knows I'm lying which means she thinks she knows when I'm lying. Which means whatever I say next she'll think is a lie because she's actively looking for signs I'm lying. So if I say something I want her to think I'm trying to lie about - damn, what does she know?
  321.  
  322. All right, I'm a lost child she found who is pretending not to remember anything - oh. Damn, that's dark. She thinks I'm a runaway; a potential abuse victim who doesn't trust anyone, doesn't want to talk about their family, doesn't want to make a fuss because they're afraid their abuser will find them again.
  323.  
  324. Looking at it from her perspective, if I'd been treating a child who raised half the red flags I had displayed in front of Luna I would have already summoned security and be halfway through dialing child services.
  325.  
  326. I couldn't tell her the truth even if I wanted to now, she just straight up wouldn't believe me. A child who was already lying to her, that she assumed was trying to hide their abuse, coming out with such an outlandish story? Even if I somehow convinced her I was being honest, she would just think I was delusional.
  327.  
  328. I couldn’t think of anything to say. Any specific denial would be taken as confirmation and I had already ruled out telling the truth. All right fine, dodge the question. It’s not really lying, even if it will give her the wrong impression.
  329.  
  330. “Princess, I don’t know how long I have here before I wake up,” I explained, channeling fear and urgency into my voice, hoping to give plausible deniability to why I was changing the subject, “I really need some advice on some more immediate problems - can you show me how to light a fire without matches? Or show me what food I can safely eat?”
  331.  
  332. Luna gave me a steady look. Clearly she knew exactly what I was doing but, after a moment of piercing eye contact, she took pity and decided not to call me out on it.
  333.  
  334. “Woodcraft is not one of our fields of expertize.” Luna explained, “If you wish we may invite another into this dream that can better assist you.”
  335.  
  336. I spotted the imprecise language she had used. The implication I was supposed to take was that she was inviting someone to assist me with woodcraft, but the two statements felt deliberately separated. If I was reading between the lines correctly, she wanted to invite some kind of child expert who would be better at talking to a child in my situation. I wasn’t sure, but if I just went along with it, I would find out if Luna was being dishonest. If she thought I was a dumb kid that wouldn’t pick up on that sort of thing, it was to my advantage not to dissuade her of the notion.
  337.  
  338. “Of course!” I said, focusing on the excitement of finding out whether I was right, rather than the disappointment that I wasn’t going to get what I was asking for, since it lined up with the expected response if I’d been ignorant.
  339.  
  340. “Excuse us for one moment.” Luna instructed, relieved I had accepted the offer of assistance, which gave more weight to the theory she was manipulating me into accepting help. “We shall return with another who can aid you.”
  341.  
  342. Luna was gone in a flash, and I was alone in the dreamscape again. One thing was for sure, I wasn’t lying about needing the advice. In practical terms, I’d checked off the first and most important item; I’d managed to get a call for help out and people were searching for me. The second and third items on the list were finding a way to signal my location to my rescuers and surviving until they found me.
  343. > Self-Examination
  344. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  345.  
  346. After a few minutes Luna returned and, to my shock, the pony she had brought along was Fluttershy. I hadn’t considered that she might bring one of the mane six, although in hindsight they were the ponies she had called on previously to help with problems in the dream realm.
  347.  
  348. Fluttershy was looking at me with sorrowful eyes and I had to suppress the sudden urge to freeze. The absolute last thing I wanted was to cause her distress, and if she got the impression I was afraid of her, it would be counterproductive. I fell back on my well-practiced skills for dealing with anxious people. I wasn’t sure if I was getting the body language right with this new body, but I relaxed into what I thought was a more open posture, subconsciously I was also trying to appear smaller and less imposing. I imagined a comforting warmth in my chest which I allowed to form a slight, understanding smile on my face. I moved neither closer, nor further away, allowing her to set the distance between us for her own comfort. I tried to keep enough eye contact to appear attentive, but not so much as to be intimidating or demanding.
  349.  
  350. I didn’t freeze, but I kept my movements slow and deliberate, consciously dulling my reflexes to avoid making any sudden movements in response to anything she did. I didn’t say anything, it would be better to allow her to speak first, but I started to mentally prepare what I would say and the tone and volume I would use if the silence stretched long enough to be awkward.
  351.  
  352. Those few seconds of preparation were wasted when Fluttershy rocketed forward, boosted by her wings, and swooped me into a fierce hug.
  353.  
  354. As it turns out, being unintimidating is very easy when you look like a young filly.
  355.  
  356. I wasn't normally one for hugging strangers. If I felt someone needed reassurance, it was much easier to justify a gentle squeeze of their hand or a comforting hand on the shoulder, and those were much less likely to be misinterpreted. Being hugged by Fluttershy was something else. I'm not sure if it was my new body, Fluttershy's empathic powers or a property of the dream realm, but in her embrace for the first time since my arrival in this world, I felt safe.
  357.  
  358.  
  359.  
  360. Paradoxically, this made me burst into tears. All the fears I'd been putting off until later slammed back into me and I lost any sense of calm rationality I'd been trying to embody.
  361.  
  362. I was afraid of dying out here, I was afraid of starting life as a child again, I was afraid of what ponies might think if they found out my secret, all of those had been gnawing at me for as long as I'd been here, but there was a fear that surprised me. I hadn't given even a moment's thought to how I was going to get back. I had just immediately considered my state of being in this new world to be an immutable fact. Why?
  363.  
  364. My tears had subsided as I curled up against her barrel. With Fluttershy’s calming energy radiating through me I could finally examine my situation beyond a surface level of ‘survive’ without my brain shutting down or redirecting my attention to less uncomfortable thoughts.
  365.  
  366. Starting from the most basic level, I know nothing. I assume I exist, because assuming I don’t exist while possible, isn’t useful. I have memories which I assume are true and correct representations of reality, or at least representations of things I thought and perceived in the past, because assuming I can’t trust my memories I also wouldn’t be able to reason making the exercise pointless. Assuming I exist, and my memories represent things I have experienced in the past, what am I?
  367.  
  368. I’m a human. Came the immediate response, but that wasn’t true anymore was it? Right now, if my senses and memories were to be believed, I was a pony. So if I could be a human, and then be a pony, ‘I’ wasn’t a human was I?
  369.  
  370. Consciousness. 'I' was a consciousness. A consciousness was the product of a brain. My consciousness was the product of a brain inside this body, so this was my body, this was 'me'. So if another body came into existence with my consciousness within it, it wouldn't be me, it would be a copy of me. So if I ceased existing in this body, and simultaneously another body came into existence with my consciousness within it, I would be dead and it would still only be a copy of me.
  371.  
  372. That meant that since I started existing in this body’s brain earlier today, I wasn’t the original. I couldn’t be the original because the memories I had would have required me to be a different brain in a different body. I was a copy. The original could be alive, or dead, but I was never the original, and I could never become the original again.
  373.  
  374. It was no longer a matter of just getting out of the present situation, this was my life now. I had a full life ahead of me, probably far more than that twenty or thirty years my human body had left. Sure, it would be annoying to have to live through childhood again, and this new body would take some getting used to, but focusing only on the negatives was a waste of time. This new life was an opportunity; the only opportunity I was going to get.
  375.  
  376. I sighed contentedly. This must be what it’s like to be one of Fluttershy’s critters. No wonder they loved her.
  377.  
  378. “You can put me down now,” I spoke gently, barely more than a whisper, but this was a dream; I knew she would hear me, since that’s what I intended, “I feel much better, really.”
  379.  
  380. As much as I wanted to stay in her comforting embrace, we were on a clock. At some point I would wake from this dream and be alone in the wilderness again. Before that happened I needed information, I needed a plan.
  381.  
  382. Fluttershy sat me down in front of her, laying on her belly so we were at the same eye level. She stayed silent, waiting for me to talk.
  383.  
  384. I wanted to start asking about useful, practical things, but I could feel what she wanted from me. I’m not sure if it was her expression, some quirk of the dream realm, her empathic powers, or just my own guilt but I felt compelled to tell her the truth.
  385.  
  386. “I-I’m not what I look like,” I rushed to explain, “Or, I suppose I kind of am, but well, I wasn’t always this way, I mean well I remember not being me -”
  387.  
  388. She mercifully cut me off by putting a hoof over my mouth.
  389.  
  390. “It's okay, I know you’re scared,” her voice sounded layered, angelic, and I was becoming increasingly convinced that her powers were messing with my perception of her somehow, “Just try and start from the beginning. Luna said she could extend the dream as long as we need.”
  391.  
  392. The beginning? Well, I suppose I could actually start from the beginning of my existence, since it was a few scant hours ago.
  393.  
  394. I took a breath, held it, and blew it out slowly. My thoughts started to clear and - wait, what was I doing? I could feel Fluttershy's intent radiating from her and flowing through me and I had to separate it from my own. I didn't want to tell her everything, she wanted me to.
  395.  
  396. I felt bad about resisting her will, she had no ulterior motive, she just wanted to help me. I wasn't sure how much of that feeling was genuine guilt and how much, if any, was being imposed by her empathic power. Before it could erode my self control entirely I had to change what I believed to fit what I wanted to tell ponies.
  397.  
  398. Okay. If this was a different universe to the one my human memories came from, then those memories weren't real. They didn't happen to me. They weren't relevant if someone asked me about myself or things that happened to me. My human name wasn't my name, it was the name of the person who experienced those memories, if they existed at all. Ponies were born, they didn't pop into existence fully formed in the middle of nowhere so I must have a past here that I couldn't remember.
  399.  
  400. This was my truth now. Any doubts I had were just doubts. This was the truth. It was logical, it fit all the facts, I wanted it to be true, it was true.
  401.  
  402. "I can't remember anything," I explained, "I know a bunch of stuff, but I think most of it is just imaginary. Some of it is real, I know who you are, Fluttershy, element of Kindness, and who Princess Luna is, but when I try to remember my real life there's nothing. It's like I just popped into existence yesterday. That's not something that can happen, right?"
  403.  
  404. Fluttershy leaned forward and nuzzled me. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief as the pressure of her will lifted.
  405.  
  406. "Oh you poor thing," she soothed, "You're being very brave."
  407.  
  408. A sense of elation ran through my body as her praise washed over me and I wanted to curl up in her embrace again and have her stay with me forever. Was that an instinct of this body, or more evidence of her power?
  409.  
  410. I sighed. It couldn't last. This was a dream. My real body wasn't curled up in Fluttershy's motherly embrace, it was laying on the cold ground, alone and vulnerable.
  411.  
  412. I turned back to Luna who was watching us with an unreadable expression. I couldn't sense any emotion from her.
  413.  
  414. "What's the plan?" I asked.
  415.  
  416. ”This river looks to be about one stride across in the dream. Is that correct in reality?” Luna queried.
  417.  
  418. ”One of your strides maybe.” I tried to remember how the river looked in the waking world, “It looks a lot bigger to me.”
  419.  
  420. "When you wake, you will stay where you are," she instructed, "We will begin a search of the forests surrounding towns and villages with a focus on those with rivers within a day's travel for a filly. To narrow the search further we will investigate reports of recent missing fillies which match your description."
  421.  
  422. That made sense. It made a lot of sense actually. Assuming I was a filly who wandered into the forest with no supplies I couldn't have gone far. Unless of course I had spontaneously popped into existence in a random place.
  423.  
  424. I couldn't bring up that fear though. Not without sounding crazy.
  425.  
  426. "Alright,” I agreed, "How long can I survive without food before I suffer permanent injury?"
  427.  
  428. Luna looked somewhat taken aback at the bluntness, or perhaps the wording of my question.
  429.  
  430. "What time of year is it?" I continued, "How cold will it get at night, how likely is a storm? I have no shelter or cold weather gear. What about monsters?"
  431.  
  432. Luna held up a hoof to silence me.
  433.  
  434. "Those are all excellent reasons why a filly should not wander into the forest alone," she replied, "but there is little that can be done now save for a swift rescue. Stay where you are. Wave if you see somepony flying overhead.”
  435.  
  436. “You can see my dreams, right?" I countered, "If I can show you some landmarks you could use them to narrow the search area."
  437.  
  438. "Do you recall any landmarks?" She asked.
  439.  
  440. From her tone it was clear that she still didn't fully believe my amnesia story. On this point however I was being completely honest.
  441.  
  442. "No," I sighed, "the forest is too dense to see anything large enough to appear on a map, but if I can get to higher ground-"
  443.  
  444. "Nay, your wandering has caused enough trouble." She chided, "You will stay where you are, next to the river and await your rescuers. Moving further will only hinder their efforts."
  445.  
  446. Her plan was probably the best idea. Assuming I was actually near a town and was going to be located in the next twenty four hours. I wasn't so sure, but I didn't want to argue with Luna. Aggravating my only lifeline didn't seem like a great idea.
  447.  
  448. "Okay," I conceded, "I'll stay put."
  449.  
  450. Luna visibly relaxed at that.
  451.  
  452. "Alright, secondary issue," I continued, "I can't remember how to use magic, can you, I dunno, explain it, or unlock my hidden potential or something?"
  453.  
  454. "Magic is not something you can forget young one." Luna explained, "Spells can be learned, but magic must be trained. You could no more forget your magic than you could forget to breathe."
  455.  
  456. I tried to make sense of what was obviously an oversimplified explanation meant for a child. Was magic like a muscle? Or a reflex that could be trained but not learned?
  457.  
  458. "Alright, bad assumption," I admitted, "Here's the situation. I can't remember anything before today, so I don't know if I've ever been able to do magic, or what using magic feels like, but currently I am either physically or psychologically unable to even get my horn to glow."
  459.  
  460. "If you are unable to express your magic you may simply be too young." Luna explained, "There are no shortcuts, gaining control of your magic will take patience and practice."
  461.  
  462. Well, there went my plan to start a fire magically.
  463.  
  464. "Understood." I stepped away from Fluttershy and bowed to the Princess again, "Thank you for your time."
  465.  
  466. Standing between the larger pegasus and the much larger alicorn I felt very small and vulnerable. I didn't like it. Fluttershy was still looking at me with great pity but I wasn't sure why.
  467.  
  468. I had been tall as a human. Tall enough that it was unusual to meet someone significantly taller. Having to look up to someone, aside from my giant of a father, always gave me an irrational sense of unease.
  469.  
  470.  
  471.  
  472.  
  473.  
  474. When I awoke I felt far better than I had any right to. I most likely had Luna's dream magic to thank for feeling refreshed and well rested. For the lack of aches and pains from sleeping on the cold hard ground I suppose I could thank the magic of youth. Or perhaps just the magic of being a magical talking pony.
  475.  
  476. One thing was for sure though, I wasn’t going to sit back and wait for rescue. If I really was in the middle of nowhere I would need to find a way to prove it to Luna without sounding crazy. Grumbling again at my new lack of physical fitness I looked upstream. Climbing was not going to be fun.
  477. > Self-Incrimination
  478. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  479.  
  480. I woke with a full bladder and I took care of it. Having different plumbing was a bit odd to be sure, but taking a piss in the forest isn’t exactly rocket science so I managed just fine, thank you very much.
  481.  
  482. The other ache in my abdomen was the emptiness of hunger, but the sensation had lessened somewhat since yesterday. Fasting for twenty-four hours was something I expected my patients to manage without complaint, it would be hypocritical of me to whine about it so soon.
  483.  
  484. Rationalizations were fine, but I was still really hungry.
  485.  
  486.  
  487.  
  488.  
  489.  
  490. All right, so hear me out. Luna told me to stay by the river and wait for rescue, but that didn’t mean I had to stay put. If I followed the river upstream, I could find higher ground to figure out where I was and still be by the river if anypony actually did find me. It wasn’t lying; it was just creative interpretation.
  491.  
  492. My lungs burned and my legs ached at the strain of trekking uphill across rocky ground. My endurance still sucked, but accounting for the fact that I was a child that made perfect sense. I brought back my pace a little so I could stay below the aerobic threshold, breathing as deeply as I could with my smaller lungs. As a human adult this level of exertion would have been a steady jog, but as a filly, and traveling uphill, all I could manage was a walk.
  493.  
  494. The boulders up ahead looked promising. More rocky terrain meant fewer trees. With any luck, I could get a better view. They also presented a problem. Boulder hopping was difficult enough as a human. As a pony I wasn’t sure I’d have the strength and stamina for it. The alternative was to wander away from the river and look for an easier way up. The obvious downside to this was that it would take longer and I wouldn’t be near the river if anypony came looking for me. The third option was to stay put and wait for rescue, but I’d already decided against that this morning so it didn’t require too much thought.
  495.  
  496. I took a break and drank some more cool water from the river. My coat was... er, coated in a sheen of sweat and I took some time to enjoy my intact, healthy skin that I didn’t have an irresistible urge to tear off with my fingernails. It was a good thing too since I’m not sure how I’d manage that without fingers. I examined one of my hooves. It did have a layer of skin and fur on the underside, but underneath that thin layer was a solid hoof a softer frog on the inside. I wasn’t sure how the skin on the underside of the hoof wasn’t destroyed when it got crushed between the hoof and the ground, all I could say for sure was that it was a lot tougher than human skin. The hoof wasn’t as hard as that of a horse on Earth; it felt more like some kind of cartilage which I could flex slightly with effort, certainly not enough to grab anything though. I knew ponies could grasp things with their hooves so that must be another kind of magic I had yet to learn.
  497.  
  498. I could remember that mountain goats on Earth had flexible ‘rubber like’ hooves which enabled them to climb rocky terrain, even near vertical slopes. I looked up at the boulders ahead of me. I guess it was time to find out if I was part mountain goat.
  499.  
  500.  
  501.  
  502.  
  503.  
  504. I wasn’t.
  505.  
  506. From my bouldering ability I had determined that even if there had been any mountain goats in my lineage they’d have disowned me out of shame.
  507.  
  508. As I leaped from one boulder to the next, I’d more than once had my hooves slip on the occasional patch of moss. I’d have some bruises on my chest and sides, but nothing serious. That is until one boulder moved.
  509.  
  510. I was dripping with sweat, my oversized eyes burned as I struggled to wipe sweat out of them with an even sweatier foreleg. I jumped, and landed. Then the world shifted.
  511.  
  512. I tried to keep my balance, but I fell. The wind was knocked out of me distracting me just long enough that I didn’t notice until too late that the stone was tipping towards me. I barely had time to flinch, instinctively raising my foreleg in a futile attempt to hold back the massive rock. I squeezed my eyes shut.
  513.  
  514. Crunch!
  515.  
  516. The pain hit me like nothing I’d felt before. The spike of pain was so intense that my vision flashed and I may have passed out for a moment. I don’t know how long I was in that state, but after some amount of time the pain reduced to a sharp throb as every part of my body vibrated with energy. My heart was beating so fast it felt like it would explode; my skin felt cold as ice.
  517.  
  518. At this point I could tell the pain was coming from my right foreleg. I finally opened my eyes, but I couldn’t see my foreleg. It was under the boulder.
  519.  
  520. If there was ever a time to panic, it would have been then, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. My body was as keyed up as it was possible to be and had no level of panic above this to go to. Instead, all emotions and irrelevant thoughts had disappeared from my mind.
  521.  
  522. Leg is trapped under rock.
  523.  
  524. Lift rock?
  525.  
  526. No, rock too heavy.
  527.  
  528. Try to move leg, feel it moving. Ouch. Pain.
  529.  
  530. Not crushed flat? Why?
  531.  
  532. Oh, can see ground is soft.
  533.  
  534. Try to pull out leg. Ouch. Leg won’t move.
  535.  
  536. Not supposed to bend there, bone is broken, sharp inside leg. Ow.
  537.  
  538. The spike of pain was enough to slow my thoughts somewhat and allowed me to remember my training.
  539.  
  540. First Aid.
  541.  
  542. DRSABCDD-BBB
  543.  
  544. Unable to move from danger, responsive; skip resus, assess blood, burns, breaks.
  545.  
  546. Am I bleeding? Can’t see.
  547.  
  548. Removal of crushing object may cause fatal hemorrhage.
  549.  
  550. Do not remove crushing object, wait for medics.
  551.  
  552. Don’t trust medics to find me in time, must self-rescue.
  553.  
  554. Apply tourniquet.
  555.  
  556. Don’t have one.
  557.  
  558. Improvise tourniquet.
  559.  
  560. Unable.
  561.  
  562. Hitting that dead-end slowed my thoughts even further. Even if I could have made a tourniquet, I didn’t have a way to lift the rock and, even if I wanted to, I had no means of amputating my leg; but maybe I didn’t have to. If I could dig out the dirt underneath my foreleg that should allow me to pull it free. That still left the problem of potential hemorrhage though. I wasn’t sure if I was bleeding at all, but with rescue so far away any serious blood loss would likely be a death sentence. I only had two choices at this point. Lay under this rock and trust they would find me before I died or risk a much faster death by digging myself out.
  563.  
  564. If I stayed, the shock was going to wear off, the pain would return, and there would be absolutely nothing I could do about it. Call me a coward, but I was afraid and willing to face death.
  565.  
  566.  
  567.  
  568.  
  569.  
  570. I dug the hole deeper. It was agonizing work. Touching my leg sent a wave of pain that made the muscles tense, which was even more painful as they pulled on broken bones. When I made progress, it meant the leg was no longer supported by the earth underneath it, which caused it to bend, because I couldn’t hold it up under its own power.
  571.  
  572. It was with one of these painful spasms that my foreleg finally came free. My vision flashed again as the indescribable pain returned. The next thing I remember is laying on my back, cradling my injured leg against my chest. There were tears streaming down my face as the leg throbbed, but I managed to hold it up long enough to inspect the damage.
  573.  
  574. The lower leg was bruised and bent out of shape. I could see one fragment of what would have been my radius, if I were human, causing the skin to bulge outwards but thankfully not piercing it. There was some blood but only from superficial cuts and scrapes. It was swollen, but hopefully not swollen enough to restrict blood flow. With no fingers I couldn’t take my radial pulse, but the throbbing in my hoof was a good indication that there was still blood flow.
  575.  
  576. I cradled the hoof against my chest and found the position that caused the least pain. Then I passed out.
  577.  
  578.  
  579.  
  580.  
  581.  
  582. Luna was standing in front of me the moment my dream began; she must have some way to tell when I’m sleeping.
  583.  
  584. “Princess Luna,” I bowed awkwardly, in the dream realm my body was whole again, but I still felt a phantom pain in my broken leg, “Uh, hi.”
  585.  
  586.  
  587.  
  588. Luna gave me the same neutral expression she had at the end of our last conversation. Clearly she was hiding how she felt about this situation, but beyond that I couldn’t see anything. Her poker face was too good.
  589.  
  590. “Young filly, we shall give you a chance to be honest with us.” Luna said flatly, “If thou art truthful in thy words we will not be mad with thee.”
  591.  
  592. If her increasing use of muddled middle English was any indication on how strongly she felt about the situation, she either really pissed or... something else.
  593.  
  594. I still had no idea what secret she thought she knew about me, but with my new outlook on the situation I didn’t have to lie. This was my body, this had always been my body, my human memories happened to the original, not to me. I wasn’t sure if the original was real, so describing it as imaginary wouldn’t be a lie.
  595.  
  596. Perhaps this was about a more recent lie though. I knew she could vaguely track my distance from her in the dream realm. So maybe she just knew that I hadn’t stayed in one spot like I promised.
  597.  
  598. “So, uh,” I began sheepishly, “Remember how you told me to stay by the river?”
  599.  
  600. Luna kept her face neutral while she expertly raised one eyebrow.
  601.  
  602. “We hath told thee to cease thy wandering.” She corrected.
  603.  
  604. “Er, yeah,” I conceded, “So that may not have gone entirely as we planned.”
  605.  
  606. Luna opened her mouth to speak, and I flinched at what I expected to be the Royal Canterlot Voice.
  607.  
  608. Seeing this Luna sighed, her blank expression dropped and - was that guilt? She walked towards me and I reflexively stepped back to keep a comfortable distance. Internally I kicked myself, the look of hurt that briefly flashed across her face confirmed she had taken it the wrong way.
  609.  
  610. “I’m sorry!” I squeaked (seriously, even in the dream realm my voice squeaks?), “I didn’t mean to upset you, I’m just not comfortable around pe-ponies that are taller than me.”
  611.  
  612. Hopefully tha- OH GOD WHAT DID I JUST SAY! Crap crap crap crap.
  613.  
  614. Seeing my look of panic, Luna’s horn glowed. She was getting ready to leave.
  615.  
  616. “Wait, don’t go!” I called out urgently, “I need -”
  617.  
  618. While I was talking Luna’s form had shifted to that of a blue alicorn filly no taller than I was. She cut me off by pressing a hoof to my mouth, smiling sadly at me.
  619.  
  620. “Please, be at ease,” She reassured, “I will not abandon thee. I’m sorry to have scared you.”
  621.  
  622. She sat down on her haunches in front of me. My god she was so adorable I just wanted to hug her. You know, she would probably let me - No, focus. Important stuff first, once in a lifetime chance to hug Woona later.
  623.  
  624. “Look, I’m sorry,” I tried to put on a more serious tone with my tiny, high-pitched voice, “I didn’t mean to cause you so much trouble, but, well, I made a mistake.”
  625.  
  626. “It’s okay,” she reassured, “I’m not angry with you, just tell me what happened.”
  627.  
  628. “I was worried you wouldn’t be able to find me,” I explained, “So I was trying to get to higher ground to find a view where I could see some landmarks - I stayed by the river in case you did find me - but I kinda, broke my leg.”
  629.  
  630. The expression of shocked concern on Woona’s face was absolutely devastating.
  631.  
  632. “No, wait, don’t worry!” I rushed out, “It’s not life threatening or anything, it’s a simple fracture, nothing broke the skin, feels like both bones in the foreleg fractured transversely? Could be wrong though. It’s really lucky actually, with a crush injury like that I was expecting multiple fractures. I’ll be fine, just uh... try to get here soon ok?”
  633.  
  634. I gave a pained smile and tactfully didn’t mention the part where I had thought I would bleed out. My reassurances seemed to have the opposite of the intended effect.
  635.  
  636. “Thou hast received injuries like these before?” she asked in shock.
  637.  
  638. “Well, once-” I started, “uh, well I mean I can’t remember if it’s happened to me -”
  639.  
  640. Woona leaned forward and hugged me, and I hugged her back. Her grip trembled with emotion.
  641.  
  642. “Please,” she implored, “Please trust us, we know not who has caused you such fear, but you must believe us when we say there is nothing you could tell us that would make us abandon thee.”
  643.  
  644. I sighed, “Look, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad I -”
  645.  
  646. There was an earthquake in the dream realm.
  647.  
  648. “What’s going on?” I asked urgently.
  649.  
  650. Luna’s mask of non-expression had returned, and it looked adorably out of place on little Woona’s body.
  651.  
  652. “Something is happening in the real world, you’re waking up.” She informed, “Have faith my little pony, we will find you.”
  653.  
  654.  
  655.  
  656.  
  657.  
  658. As I was dragged helplessly from the soothing land of dreams to the pain-addled semi-lucid hell-scape that was the closest approximation of awake I could manage at the moment, I just wanted to cry at the unfairness of it all. So I did.
  659.  
  660. Three timberwolves were circling around me. You know what? I give up. If the world wanted me to die that badly, so be it. I was too tired to fight, too tired to even open my eyes fully. Death would be a relief at this point.
  661.  
  662. “I-is she dead?” Squeaked one of the timberwolves.
  663.  
  664. “O’ ‘course not!” replied another, “She’s still breathin’, but she’s hurt bad!”
  665.  
  666. If timberwolves could talk, maybe they could be reasoned with.
  667.  
  668. “Please!” I sobbed, “Please don’t hurt me! I don’t wanna die. I-”
  669.  
  670. My thoughts were muddled, and I hissed in pain as my leg throbbed. The swelling had increased; it hurt to move the joint; it hurt when air blew over it the swollen mass.
  671.  
  672. The timberwolves had backed off for the moment and were whispering amongst themselves. All right, while there were distracted, now was my chance. I had to escape. I tried to crawl but gave up almost immediately when my injured leg dragged along the ground. It was all I could do to stifle the scream of agony. Taking a couple deep breaths I managed to stand on three hooves, my injured leg curled against my barrel. I had barely started hobbling away when the strangely colorful timberwolves were upon me again.
  673.  
  674. “Hey, wait!” The blurry orange timberwolf called out to me in a raspy voice, “We’re not gonna hurt you! We came to rescue you!”
  675.  
  676. “It’s true,” The blurry white timberwolf added, “We snuck out to join the search so we could get our cuite marks in search and rescue!”
  677.  
  678. “Impossible!” I spat, “Timberwolves don’t get cutie marks!”
  679.  
  680. The timberwolves froze in place, stunned by my flawless logic.
  681.  
  682. I kept hobbling away from them, but it wasn’t long before they had me surrounded again. They were just too fast for me.
  683.  
  684. “Hey, uh, lost filly, whatever yer’ name is,” The yellow one spoke now, “No offense, but ‘yer not blind or nuthin’ are ya?”
  685.  
  686. It took me a moment to process that.
  687.  
  688. “What?” I answered, “No. Why?”
  689.  
  690. The orange one did some kind of acrobatic flip and landed in front of me, grabbing my muzzle between her strangely hard paws.
  691.  
  692. “Then open up your eyes!” She exclaimed, “We’re not timberwolves!”
  693.  
  694. I cracked my eyes open and now it was my turn to freeze in shock. Scootaloo was working with the timberwolves!
  695.  
  696. Wait.
  697.  
  698. Oh.
  699.  
  700. Ohhhhhh.
  701.  
  702. I would have facehoofed if my only working foreleg wasn’t required for me to stand. I felt faint and sat back on my haunches. I took more deep breaths and tried to clear my mind a bit. The pain in my leg was impossible to ignore.
  703.  
  704. “I’m sorry I thought y’all were timberwolves,” I was so tired my words were coming out slurred, “‘am ‘jus, not ‘sactly thinkin’ straight, y’know? I din’ mean ta’ say y’weren’t gonna get ‘yer cutiemarks, thas’ just mean.”
  705.  
  706. “Uh, that’s okay,” Sweetie Belle said uncertainly, glancing at the other two Crusaders.
  707.  
  708. “In fact, I know y’all’ll get yer marks,” I slurred, everything was kinda spinny and dizzying, “What season are we in now?”
  709.  
  710. “Spring?” Applebloom offered, “How long have ya been out here ta’ ferget what season it is?”
  711.  
  712. “Nah, not that kind of season. Look season five you all get your cuite marks,” I winked conspiratorially, “but keep that a secret okay, I’ve already said too much.”
  713.  
  714. I didn’t have the coordination with this body’s facial muscles to wink so it was more of a conspiratorial blink.
  715.  
  716. “Ooookay then!” Scootaloo snarked, circling a hoof around her ear in the universal ‘this pony is crazy’ gesture.
  717.  
  718. “Hey, that’s not nice!” Applebloom clipped her in the back of the head with a hoof.
  719.  
  720. Scootaloo turned on her angrily.
  721.  
  722. “Hey!”
  723.  
  724. “Girls!” Sweetie yelled, drawing their attention away from their spat. “We need to get back, it’s going to get dark soon!”
  725.  
  726. “All right Crusaders,” Apple Bloom called out, “In tha’ filly guides they told us if somepony gets injured that one pony stays with them and the other two go to get help.”
  727.  
  728. “Hey, I’m not crippled you know!” I interjected.
  729.  
  730. They all looked at my broken leg.
  731.  
  732. “That doesn’t count, I still have three perfectly good legs,” I argued, “Now which way is Ponyville?”
  733.  
  734. The Crusaders looked at me uncertainly.
  735.  
  736. “What?” I asked, offended.
  737.  
  738.  
  739.  
  740.  
  741.  
  742. Once I had my mind set on a goal, it was as simple as putting one hoof ahead of the other. I could ignore pain, I could ignore everything and just focus on the task. I couldn’t give up, not when I told them I could do it, otherwise I’d be weak and pathetic.
  743.  
  744. It became a kind of trance. I honestly don’t remember much of it. I think they were talking about me, but I didn’t have the energy to listen. I stumbled a few times, but managed to get back up. At one point they might have tried carrying me, but if they did, I managed to push them off.
  745.  
  746. It wasn’t until we broke the treeline that I stumbled and fell, and couldn’t make myself get up again. I tried, but I was dizzy and my muscles were so weak.
  747.  
  748. “You kids go on ahead,” I instructed, “I’ll catch up, I just need to catch my breath.”
  749.  
  750. I closed my eyes for a moment and when I opened them the Crusaders had a cart and I was in no fit state to argue when they forcibly loaded me into it.
  751.  
  752. I regained conciousness breifly when someone twisted my broken leg, but I couldn’t manage more than a whimper; The pony responsible was wearing surgical scrubs and looked appropriately apologetic.
  753.  
  754. I can’t remember anything after that, probably from the anesthetic side effects.
  755.  
  756.  
  757.  
  758.  
  759.  
  760. When I awoke, I was in a bed and there were technicolor ponies surrounding me. I felt disconnected, like I was viewing things from behind my own eyes. I was shivering, but I didn't feel cold, I just felt numb, and floaty.
  761.  
  762. "Are you all right?" asked one of the ponies, "Do you have any pain?"
  763.  
  764. I heard the question, but it didn't really sink in. Instead, I just said what was on my mind.
  765.  
  766. "H-how d-did I g-get he-re?" I managed to ask through chattering teeth. The shivers in my body were getting worse.
  767.  
  768. I drifted off for a second and suddenly ponies were packing heated blankets around my body. The warmth felt amazing, and I started to drift off again when one of the ponies spoke.
  769.  
  770. "Don't worry, you're safe here," he said in a practiced, reassuring tone, "What you're feeling is a normal reaction to the anesthetic. Just rest now, let us know if you're in pain or you feel like you're going to throw up."
  771.  
  772. I smiled dopily. It was funny to be on the other side of this for once.
  773.  
  774. Wait. No. There was something important I was forgetting.
  775.  
  776. "I know where I am, it's just, how did I get here, ya know?" I asked again, "It doesn't make any sense."
  777.  
  778. "You were in the forest, you broke your foreleg and were brought here to Ponyville General so we could fix it." The pony explained.
  779.  
  780. "No!" I was exasperated now, "Not like, here, like here, ya know? One moment this guy tells me he's going to 'make me a mare' and the next I'm in the forest. Do I look like a mare to you? Nah, I'm just a little filly so what's he playing at?"
  781.  
  782. The horrified expressions of the ponies were confusing to me.
  783.  
  784. "Did I say something wrong?" I asked groggily.
  785.  
  786. Nah, it probably wasn't important. I slipped back into the tempting embrace of sleep.
  787. > Supplemental: Patient Notes 1
  788. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  789.  
  790. *GREEN* (F)
  791. MRN: 132719
  792. Admitted: 12/5/04
  793. Red Cross, M.D.
  794.  
  795. 12/5/04 19:52
  796. Unicorn Filly, name ukn, age ukn, assumed 8-10y/o, presenting to emergency with reduced LOC (GCS:9), lower RFL hematoma; gross deformity ?#, superficial cuts and bruises.
  797.  
  798. V:
  799. Febrile 100.7F
  800. HR 102
  801. BP 97/42
  802. sats 98% on RA
  803. BGL: 4.3
  804. Ht: 2’3”
  805. Wt: 52lb
  806.  
  807. N:
  808. Rousable to pain
  809. Speech slurred and incoherent
  810. Pupils 30mm, equal and reactive
  811. Non-compliant with hoof grip assessment
  812. Nil facial droop, good strength in all limbs
  813.  
  814. C:
  815. EKG no anomalies
  816. Peripheral pulses strong
  817. Severe hematoma lower RFL
  818. Capillary refill <1s
  819. IVC in situ lower LFL; 80mL/hr NS; patent and secure
  820.  
  821. R:
  822. RR 22
  823. 98% on RA
  824. Regular and unlaboured
  825. Lung sounds clear
  826.  
  827. GI:
  828. All teeth intact
  829. Bowel sounds normal
  830. Nil distension or masses on abdo palpation
  831. BNO
  832. NBM
  833.  
  834. GU:
  835. Has not voided
  836. Bladder not distended on palpation
  837. Nil external signs of sexual trauma
  838.  
  839. M:
  840. Gross deformity ?# lower RFL
  841. Muscle strength normal
  842.  
  843. I:
  844. Multiple superficial lesions (see body chart)
  845. Coat appears healthy
  846. Nil signs of healed injuries
  847. Skin hot and sweaty
  848.  
  849. P:
  850. Ukn
  851.  
  852. Hx: witnesses report Green was found injured and unconscious in the Everfree Forest. Witnesses report Green became confused and disoriented upon waking. Witness states “she thought we were timberwolves” and reports that Green was initially resistant until she could be reoriented. Witness states that Green “limped about ten miles” before collapsing. Nil Medical Hx as patient is unidentified.
  853.  
  854.  
  855.  
  856. CTB for urgent review
  857.  
  858. CXR, RFLXR, Dental XR for age estimation
  859.  
  860. CRP, CBC, EUC, LFT, Tox Screen, INR, XM
  861.  
  862. Cath for Urine Sample, UA, UDS, UCx
  863.  
  864. Place tracking spell for absconsion risk
  865.  
  866. NBM for surgery
  867.  
  868. For Ortho review
  869.  
  870. For Neuro review
  871.  
  872. For Social Worker review
  873.  
  874.  
  875. Dr Red Cross, M.D.
  876. > Delirium
  877. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  878.  
  879. I woke to a beeping sound. Oh right, I was in the hospital. I climbed out of bed, looking at my leg cast with disdain. Ugh, that was just great. I felt nauseated and had to stand still for a few seconds to settle my stomach. I couldn’t even remember which hospital I was in.
  880.  
  881. I smoothed out the patient's bed I had been napping on as best I could with one hoof. Wait, hoof? Oh right, I was a pony now. My name was Green - that’s what they’ve been calling me. I looked around for my clipboard, which would have the handover sheet with my notes so I could remember what the heck was going on, but gave up when I heard another beep. I sighed. Why can’t they just answer patient calls, they must know I’m on my break. I walked out into the hall, squinting as my eyes struggled to adjust to the brighter lights, my eyes hurt.
  882.  
  883. I saw the call light above a patient room and knocked softly before entering. I grumbled for a moment about not knowing how to answer the call light in this facility, but such was life when you were working for an agency.
  884.  
  885. "Hi," I greeted, "My name is Green, I'm one of the nurses looking after you tonight, did you need some help?"
  886.  
  887. A red stallion with both his forelegs in plaster looked at me and smiled.
  888.  
  889. "I think you're a little young to be a nurse sweetie." The stallion condescended.
  890.  
  891. I gave him a stern expression.
  892.  
  893. "Aren't you the cutest lil' thing!" He exclaimed, "Are you lost?"
  894.  
  895. Ugh, I was too tired for this crap.
  896.  
  897. "Sir, please don't refer to me or my colleagues with that type of language, it's disrespectful." I explained curtly, "We are professionals. We treat you with respect and we would ask that you give us the same courtesy."
  898.  
  899. The patient looked appropriately contrite, but also very confused. Maybe I should check his mental state?
  900.  
  901. "Green!" There was a stern voice from behind me, "What are you doing?"
  902.  
  903. I cocked my head to the side in confusion and followed the other nurse out into the hallway.
  904.  
  905. "Green," The blue nurse scolded, "I know you're trying to help, but you can't go in other patient's rooms, okay?"
  906.  
  907. "Geeze, all right," I rolled my eyes, "It's not like I'm trying to steal your patients. Have you seen my handover sheet? I can't find it anywhere."
  908.  
  909. The pink Pegasus at the nurses' station covered her mouth with a wing before bursting into a fit of giggles.
  910.  
  911. "Oh Celestia!" She exclaimed, "That's so adorable!"
  912.  
  913. "Please don't encourage her." The blue Unicorn had broken eye contact and was clearly suppressing the urge to smile.
  914.  
  915. "All right Greenie," The pink Pegasus said in a bubbly voice, "Let's get you back to bed and you can worry about all that in the morning, okay?"
  916.  
  917. The pink Pegasus burst forward with a small flap of her wings and I had the sudden fear that she would crash into me, she was so much bigger than me, I’d be crushed. I leaped away - and smacked my cast into the wall.
  918.  
  919. Pain erupted from my leg. I let out a short scream of pain before I managed to force my mouth closed. I squeezed tight my eyes and I could feel tears forming.
  920.  
  921. It will pass. Focus. Breathe.
  922.  
  923. "Oh my gosh," The nurse exclaimed, "Are you okay?"
  924.  
  925. "I'll live." I tried to keep my voice even. I failed and had to choke back a sob.
  926.  
  927. It took three long, shuddering breath cycles before the pain reduced to a level where I could relax enough to open my eyes.
  928.  
  929. Two enormous eyes filled my vision, staring at me. I jerked my head back, quickly getting to my hooves - and smashing my head into the handrail on the wall. There was an audible thunk, but it didn't really hurt at all, at least not compared to my leg. I heard a gasp of shocked concern from the nurse.
  930.  
  931. "I'm okay!" I said automatically, "Sorry, I'm just a bit clumsy tonight. Ugh, so tired. Can you watch my patients for a moment while I get some coffee?"
  932.  
  933. The world was tinted blue, and she gently lifted me into the air. It didn't feel like I was falling, or being lifted by anything. I was more like floating in pleasantly warm, but fizzy water. I could feel the concern and reassurance of the Unicorn flowing through the magic she was using to lift me.
  934.  
  935. When she tucked me into bed, I could barely keep my eyes open.
  936.  
  937. "I'm jus' gonna res' my eyes for a momen'." I mumbled, "Wake me if anything happens, okay?"
  938.  
  939. I yawned.
  940.  
  941. "Just get some rest." She said in a soothing tone, "We'll take care of everything."
  942.  
  943. "You guys are awesome..." I drifted off before I even finished the sentence.
  944. > Supplemental: Patient Notes 2
  945. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  946.  
  947. *GREEN* (F)
  948. MRN: 132719
  949. Admitted: 12/5/04
  950. Red Cross, M.D.
  951.  
  952.  
  953. 12/5/04 23:45
  954. Patient received in post op recovery at 2330 following Managuided Closed-Field Relocation and Internal Fixation of RFL #.
  955.  
  956. All obs in normal range.
  957. Shivering ++ but normothermic.
  958. RFL plaster cast in situ.
  959.  
  960. Patient rousable by voice, confusion and disorientation apparent. Patient reoriented.
  961.  
  962. Patient states that she remembers a "guy" telling her that he was going to "make me a mare" before being left alone in the forest. See hospital internal incident report #1357032 and interagency mandatory reporting tool report #F3479-432 for followup.
  963.  
  964. Nil pain or distress noted. Patient is resting comfortably ATOR.
  965. Goodcheer, RN PACU
  966.  
  967. 13/5/04 00:30
  968. Patient transferred to ward.
  969. Patient rousable to voice, remains confused and disoriented.
  970. Non-compliant with hoof grip assessment, all other RFL vas obs normal.
  971. IDC in situ and draining well, for removal mane as per Dr Stone
  972. Cloudy Skies, RN
  973.  
  974. 13/5/04 06:42
  975. Post op obs completed, nil abnormalities.
  976.  
  977. Patient slept soundly overnight and was cooperative with care. Patient alert and pleasantly confused this morning, somewhat oriented but remains vague.
  978.  
  979. Patient aware of her disorientation and responded to queries by reading her ID bracelet. Green is very impressionable and when introduced to nursing staff claimed she was also a nurse.
  980.  
  981. IDC removed, tip sighted; awaiting void post removal.
  982.  
  983. Patient denies pain ATOR.
  984. Cloudy Skies, RN
  985.  
  986. 13/5/04 08:37
  987. Patient appears anxious and requests assistance will all ADLs. Assisted patient with toileting (PUIT) and shower. Patient cries and states “I’m sorry for being so useless, I’m wasting all your time.”
  988.  
  989. Reassured patient and returned patient to bed.
  990.  
  991. Patient ate all breakfast items, requested assistance claiming she didn’t know how to use cutlery. Patient returned to sleep after breakfast.
  992. Redheart, RN
  993.  
  994. 13/5/04 11:25
  995. Woke patient for interview with Lunar guards, Social Worker and myself in attendance.
  996.  
  997. Green reports that her name is Green (read from her ID bracelet) and answers all other questions about her life and family with “I can’t remember”, additionally stating “Maybe I wasn’t even alive then”.
  998.  
  999. When questioned about being touched inappropriately Green became distressed and denied emphatically that such a thing could ever happen. Patient was asked why she was crying and stated “You all have the wrong idea and I can’t fix it.”, “If I tell the truth you’ll all think I’m crazy.”, and “None of this is real anyway.”
  1000.  
  1001. Further questioning is to be postponed until Green’s mental state improves as per social worker.
  1002. Redheart, RN
  1003.  
  1004. 13/5/04 11:32
  1005. Attended interview of Patient by Lunar guard. Interview was terminated by myself after it became apparent that Green could not answer questions in her current mental state and was becoming distressed by the subject matter.
  1006.  
  1007. Full report: #548596
  1008.  
  1009. Not to have visitors without prior approval.
  1010. Dayglow, Social Worker
  1011.  
  1012. 13/5/04 12:14
  1013. Miss Green referred to me by Dr Red Cross.
  1014.  
  1015. CTB results noted and concur with report findings, nil abnormalities. 
  1016.  
  1017. Continue with neurological observations qShift
  1018. Monitor any behavioral changes
  1019. Withhold regular Morphine, to be given PRN only.
  1020. Will review patient tomorrow
  1021. Dr Azure Light, Neurologist
  1022.  
  1023. 13/5/04 15:48
  1024. Regular morphine withheld as per Dr Azure Light, patient denies pain ATOR.
  1025.  
  1026. Green seems hesitant to speak and STML is apparent; green claims she cannot remember speaking with Lunar guards when queried. Patient claims to have seen me “years ago” but I have not met Green before today; indicates disorientation to time and pony.
  1027.  
  1028. Patient resting in bed ATOR.
  1029. Redheart, RN
  1030.  
  1031. 13/5/04 23:35
  1032. Observed patient to be resting in bed throughout shift.
  1033.  
  1034. Care provided as per care plan.
  1035.  
  1036. Patient complained of pain and PRN morphine given.
  1037.  
  1038. Patient asleep ATOR.
  1039. Tenderheart, RN
  1040.  
  1041. 14/5/04 06:32
  1042. Patient observed to be sleeping for long periods overnight.
  1043.  
  1044. Care provided as per care plan, obs stable.
  1045.  
  1046. At about 0330 Green was found to have wandered into another patient’s room and introduced herself as the patient’s nurse. Green appears to have imprinted on nurses as her herd and is imitating things she has heard nursing staff say and do in an attempt to integrate herself with the group.
  1047.  
  1048. Green startles easily to unexpected physical contact and struck her RFL against the wall when approached by RN to return her to bed. Patient denies pain/injury but appears teary. Patient states “I’m so tired”.
  1049.  
  1050. Returned patient to bed by levitation, patient remains asleep ATOR.
  1051. Cloudy Skies, RN
  1052. > The Hoof that Feeds You
  1053. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1054.  
  1055. I could hear a commotion the moment I came onto the ward. I dropped my bag against the wall and walked straight towards it. There was an elderly man in a patient gown brandishing a fork and yelling obscenities while a nurse attempted to talk him down. A couple more nurses were watching in case they needed to intervene and I approached one of them.
  1056.  
  1057. "Has the duress call gone out?" I asked.
  1058.  
  1059. "Yep," she responded. "Security is on their way."
  1060.  
  1061. "What's his name?" I asked.
  1062.  
  1063. "Winters."
  1064.  
  1065. We both winced as Mr. Winters lunged forward and nearly lost his balance when the nurse stepped out of his reach. The last thing we wanted was for him to fall and break his hip.
  1066.  
  1067. "Mr. Winters!" I called out in a friendly tone. "What's going on mate?"
  1068.  
  1069. I kept my body language open and carefree, as I walked towards him. He was confused and thought everyone was against him, so I had to change his mind by acting completely different to how he was expecting. He likely had dementia so if I could just distract him for long enough he would forget that he was angry. Hopefully. Otherwise, he was going to end up being tackled by five people and injected with sedatives.
  1070.  
  1071. "Are ya feeling a bit hungry, mate?" I asked with a smile, walking closer but staying aware of his reach.
  1072.  
  1073. "No!" He yelled.
  1074.  
  1075. "Well then, what's the fork for?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
  1076.  
  1077. "I'm leaving!" He yelled, waving the fork.
  1078.  
  1079. "Were you planning on making off with the silverware then?" I continued, still smiling broadly.
  1080.  
  1081. He mumbled something unintelligible.
  1082.  
  1083. "Look mate I don't know what's happened before, I just heard yelling and I've come to help you," I explained, more seriously. "Why don't you tell me what's going on and I'll help you out, hmm?"
  1084.  
  1085. "These people are trying to kill me!" He said urgently.
  1086.  
  1087. "Mmm, that sounds serious," I responded, grabbing his wrist where he was holding the fork. "Let's go somewhere we can talk. Hey, can I borrow this?"
  1088.  
  1089. I eased the fork out of his hand and put it in my pocket. Mr. Winters sized me up for a moment before deciding either that he could trust me, or that I was big enough that he had no chance of overpowering me, and he allowed me to lead him back to his room.
  1090.  
  1091. I looked over at one of the other nurses and gave a questioning look. She tried to hold up fingers to indicate what room the patient was in, but was confused when she realized that she had hooves.
  1092.  
  1093. The patient knocked me to the floor and with my foreleg in a cast I was having trouble getting up again. He ran towards the pink pegasus nurse and jumped on top of her, forcing her to the ground. She was calling out for me to help her, but she was so far away, and I was so small and slow. I yelled at him, tried to get his attention, but my voice, which had been deep and commanding, was now weak and scratchy.
  1094.  
  1095. "You leave her alone!" I squeaked. "Get back here and face me!"
  1096.  
  1097. It was all my fault! I should have just waited for security.
  1098.  
  1099. "Please stop!" I sobbed. "You're hurting her!"
  1100.  
  1101. There was a flash of blue and Luna appeared, but the moment I saw her I realized I was dreaming. The dreamscape promptly collapsed, leaving me laying in a soft bed, the familiar sounds of a hospital ward softly but insistently intruding on my consciousness.
  1102.  
  1103. I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank god none of that was real. I brought up one of my hooves and inspected it in the dim light. Well, almost none of it. I was still a pony.
  1104.  
  1105.  
  1106.  
  1107.  
  1108.  
  1109. There was a glass of water on the table at my bedside. I stared at it intently, willing it to levitate into the air, but nothing happened. Sighing, I moved to pick it up. Ah, right. No hands.
  1110.  
  1111. I'd managed well enough up to that point by either picking things up in my mouth or by grasping them between my forehooves. With my right foreleg in a cast that wasn't going to work.
  1112.  
  1113. I'd seen ponies pick things up with one hoof, probably using some kind of magic. Even a foal could do that, right? I pressed my hoof to the glass and only succeeded in nudging it along the table.
  1114.  
  1115. I briefly considered trying to grab it in my teeth and rest it on the flat of my hoof, but my coordination with this body wasn't the best so I'd probably just end up spilling water all over myself.
  1116.  
  1117. I threw my head back into the pillow in frustration, glaring up at the ceiling. I was so pathetic and helpless. Eventually, my thirst won out over my embarrassment and I pressed the nurse call button.
  1118.  
  1119. About five minutes later a white earth pony mare pulled back the curtain. She had a practiced smile on her face, but everything else about her body language indicated she was stressed and in a hurry.
  1120.  
  1121. "Hi, my name is Nurse Redheart," She said in the slightly sing-song voice used for talking to young children. "Did you need some help?"
  1122.  
  1123. "Sorry to bother you, but I'm having trouble holding the glass," I explained. "Could you hold it for me?"
  1124.  
  1125. Redheart poorly suppressed an eye roll and her smile faltered almost imperceptibly as she moved to pick up the glass.
  1126.  
  1127. "Thank you," I squeaked, too embarrassed to make eye contact.
  1128.  
  1129. Despite her earlier annoyance at being asked to help with something I should obviously have been able to do myself, she was very gentle, carefully sitting me up with a fetlock around my shoulders before bringing the glass to my mouth and tilting it just enough that I could sip from it without pouring it into my mouth.
  1130.  
  1131. She must have thought I was looking for attention by pretending to be helpless. Little did she know I actually was completely helpless, otherwise I'd rather saw my own arm off than ask for help. Unfortunately, I didn't have an arm or a saw, and even if I did, I wouldn't have been able to hold the saw due to the aforementioned helplessness.
  1132.  
  1133. "All right, while I'm here I'm going to check on your leg," She instructed. "Lift your right foreleg."
  1134.  
  1135. I did as instructed, raising up my cast.
  1136.  
  1137. "Do you feel any pain, numbness or pins and needles in your hoof?" She asked. "Can you feel me touching your frog?"
  1138.  
  1139. "Sensation is normal," I replied. "I can feel you touching just fine."
  1140.  
  1141. I tactfully avoided pointing out that she should have asked me to look away during the sensation test so I couldn't see when she was touching my hoof.
  1142.  
  1143. "All right," she said. "Now I want you to hold my hoof as hard as you can."
  1144.  
  1145. She pressed her hoof against my much smaller hoof and then pulled it away.
  1146.  
  1147. "All right, let's try this again," she said. "When I pull my hoof away from yours I want you to hold on to it as hard as you can."
  1148.  
  1149. She placed her hoof against mine and pulled it away. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to use the hoof magic that allowed ponies to pick things up with their otherwise flat hooves.
  1150.  
  1151. "I can't do it," I admitted. "I don't know how."
  1152.  
  1153. She couldn't suppress a sigh. She took my other forehoof and pressed it against hers.
  1154.  
  1155. "All right, same deal," she explained. "hold on as hard as you can."
  1156.  
  1157. She pulled her hoof away with no effort.
  1158.  
  1159. "I told you I don't know how," I tried to explain.
  1160.  
  1161. "Look, please don't joke about this, it's very serious," She frowned. "If you lose grip in your injured leg, it could mean that your thaumic pathways are damaged. If they are, you'll need more emergency surgery right away or you might never be able to use that hoof again, understand?"
  1162.  
  1163. "I'm telling the truth, all right?" I was getting exasperated too by this point, "I don't know how to grip things with my hooves, I can't remember anything since -"
  1164.  
  1165. I trailed off when I realized that I couldn't remember how long it had been since I was in the forest. I could remember I got hurt, and then the Crusaders found me and we went back to Ponyville. Something about a hospital where they wanted me to work as a nurse for some reason, even though I was a pony. Probably dreamed that part though.
  1166.  
  1167. Well if this world was at all sane that part couldn't have been real could it?
  1168.  
  1169. Since I had stopped talking, Redheart had been looking at me with pity, but not surprise. Which meant - no, it wasn't a logical deduction, it was more of a feeling.
  1170.  
  1171. "We've had this conversation before," I sighed. "Haven't we?"
  1172.  
  1173. She smiled. I had guessed right.
  1174.  
  1175. "Yes," she replied, a slight undertone of excitement in her voice, "We didn't get far though since you were having trouble remembering things. Can you tell me your name and date of birth?"
  1176.  
  1177. I had my human memories of course, but that wasn't what she was asking. In this new world, in this new body, I didn't really have either. Well in my dream they called me 'Green', which I guess is a fine pony name, or at least half of one.
  1178.  
  1179. "My name is Green and, uh," I looked for an ID band only to find Redheart was covering it with her hoof.
  1180.  
  1181. "Ah," she said playfully, "No cheating."
  1182.  
  1183. I sighed again. "I can't remember, everything before I was in the forest is just blank."
  1184.  
  1185. The nurse's excitement deflated somewhat.
  1186.  
  1187. "Can you tell me where we are right now?" she asked.
  1188.  
  1189. "In Ponyville," I responded immediately. "In a hospital."
  1190.  
  1191. "Which hospital?" she prompted.
  1192.  
  1193. "I can't remember, but it says Ponyville General on your hat so that would be my first guess," I snarked.
  1194.  
  1195. She blushed slightly and glanced around the room.
  1196.  
  1197. "To save you the trouble, there aren't any clocks on the wall, you are wearing a fob watch but I can't read it from this distance unless you stand very still." I cut in before she could ask the next question. "I don't know what time it is specifically, but it looks like it's early morning. I don't know the date or year, but from how clean and white my cast looks it can't have been more than a few days since I got here."
  1198.  
  1199. Redheart blinked. "Ooookay then," she said, rolling her eyes.
  1200.  
  1201. The sense of giddy excitement I had was sucked away like a riptide.
  1202.  
  1203. Idiot! You're acting like an arrogant prick, trying to 'score points' by proving how smart you are. She's been nothing but kind and you're treating her like she's an idiot!
  1204.  
  1205. I felt tears welling in my eyes. Ugh, stupid oversize child tear ducts.
  1206.  
  1207. She's going to hate me now, and I'll never fit in and I'll be all alone and - and -
  1208.  
  1209. "Green!" I heard a voice calling my name, but it was far away.
  1210.  
  1211. They were all going to hate me!
  1212.  
  1213. Somepony was touching my withers, but my skin felt cold and numb. I noticed my breaths were coming in short gasps.
  1214.  
  1215. "Pl-ease d-on't h-ate me!" I gasped out.
  1216.  
  1217. "Green," her voice was commanding, but not aggressive, I felt as she gave my withers a sharp squeeze, "Hey, Green, stay with me, breathe. You're going to get through this."
  1218.  
  1219. It all came together at that moment, but the realization didn't help at all. I was having another panic attack. I was so weak, so useless. This body, my body, ugh!
  1220.  
  1221. "I-I'm s-sorry," I managed to say. "It's just- just a panic attack. You can go help someone else, I'll be fine."
  1222.  
  1223. Please leave. Please let me have a chance to get my emotions back under control. I don't want anyone to see me like this. It hurts. It hurts in my chest.
  1224.  
  1225. "Shhhh," she whispered kindly. "Everything is going to be all right. I don't hate you. You're safe here. Nopony is going to hurt you again."
  1226.  
  1227.  
  1228.  
  1229. At some point, Redheart had picked up a brush, and she started brushing my coat while I lay prone on the bed. And I cried. I'm not sure why, but having my coat brushed was really calming. Must be a horse thing. Or maybe another hoof magic thing since she was an earth pony. While my body was getting more relaxed now, my mind kept right on hammering me.
  1230.  
  1231. I wanted to just dissolve into the mattress, anything to hide my shame. Not only did I cry at the drop of a hat, but my emotional control was also completely shot. I was stuck in this broken, useless body and everything and everyone I knew was just gone! It wasn't even that they were taken from me, they were never even mine in the first place. I had no control over anything, even my own body betrayed me. It wasn't fair!
  1232.  
  1233. Oh great, and now I sound like a whiney foal in my own head too.
  1234.  
  1235. Of course life wasn't fair. I fell back on familiar reasoning to calm myself. Fairness was just an abstract concept invented by people. Life wasn't inherently fair, it wasn't kind, nor was it malicious, it just was. The only fairness in life came from people exerting their will to make it so. The only kindness to be found was that which was in your power to grant to others, and that which others could grant to you. Life doesn't have meaning, people give life meaning.
  1236.  
  1237. I tried to focus on the words Redheart had spoken to me. Everything was going to be all right. Nopony hated me. I was safe here. Nopony would hurt me again... wait again?
  1238.  
  1239. I felt my stomach drop. Nurse Redheart had noticed my sudden tension and hesitated for a moment.
  1240.  
  1241. "I, uh," I swallowed. "I didn't say anything weird while I was out of it, did I?"
  1242.  
  1243. Patients had told me some truly bizarre and sometimes worrying things while recovering from anesthetic.
  1244.  
  1245. "Why do you ask?" Redheart was poorly faking a casual tone, which all but confirmed by fears.
  1246.  
  1247. "You said nopony will hurt me again," I echoed. "But this was all my fault. My leg was crushed by a big rock falling on it. I don't want anypony to get the wrong idea."
  1248.  
  1249. Redheart's shoulders slumped, and she looked defeated. I could tell from the way her foreleg twitched that she wanted to hug me, but wasn't sure if it would be appropriate.
  1250.  
  1251. "Green, you know you can tell us anything, right?" Redheart encouraged. "Even things that other ponies might have told you to keep secret? I promise, whatever you tell us, you won't get in trouble."
  1252.  
  1253. Oh god, is that what they thought about me? What on Earth did I say?
  1254.  
  1255. "What did I say?" I asked.
  1256.  
  1257. "Green, I'm not sure if -" She began.
  1258.  
  1259. "Just tell me what I said to make you think I'm a- to make you think somepony hurt me and I'll explain what I actually meant."
  1260.  
  1261. Redheart put the brush down and looked me in the eye seriously.
  1262.  
  1263. "I know you're very smart, Green," Nurse Redheart said carefully. "You soak up information like a sponge. Two days you've been here and you've already picked up enough medical words to sound like a little nurse."
  1264.  
  1265. I facehoofed at that. Ow. Hooves are hard.
  1266.  
  1267. For a second the nurse looked horrified, her muscles tensed. I realized that she was preparing to grab me and stop me from self-harming. I sighed and would have pinched the bridge of my nose if I'd had fingers. I put my hoof back on the bed and after a moment she continued speaking.
  1268.  
  1269. "When I tell you what you said, you'll be able to come up with a clever little story to explain it away, but it wouldn't be the truth, would it?"
  1270.  
  1271. I was taken aback by that.
  1272.  
  1273. "You're a clever little filly, but I'm not as dumb as you seem to think," Redheart said. "You've told me you can't remember anything at all, if that were true, you wouldn't be able to tell me what happened one way or the other."
  1274.  
  1275. I was trapped. I was starting to feel tightness in my chest again.
  1276.  
  1277. Nurse Redheart had taken up the brush and continued with her ministrations. She was just about finished with my coat, or at least as much of it as she could see with me laying prone.
  1278.  
  1279. "It's all right, Green," she soothed, "I'm not here to interrogate you. You don't need to make up excuses. You don't have to say anything right now, but whenever you're ready to talk about it, I promise, nopony will judge you."
  1280.  
  1281. I lay there in silence as she finished up and walked out of the room.
  1282.  
  1283. "Was there anything else you needed before I go?" She asked with her hoof on the doorframe.
  1284.  
  1285. "No, thank you," I said, embarrassed. "I'm sorry to cause you so much trouble."
  1286.  
  1287. The nurse sighed. "You're not causing trouble, Green. You just needed some help, and that's what we're here for."
  1288.  
  1289. "Wait, actually-" I called out as she turned to leave.
  1290.  
  1291. "Yes?" She asked.
  1292.  
  1293. "A straw."
  1294.  
  1295. She gave a slight head tilt.
  1296.  
  1297. "So you don't have to hold the glass for me," I explained.
  1298. > Bonus Content 2
  1299. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1300.  
  1301. First Scene written by Blaflaix
  1302.  
  1303.  
  1304. Search and Rescue​
  1305.  
  1306.  
  1307. Scootaloo wasn't having fun anymore.
  1308.  
  1309. The plan had started out the same way all their plans did, with high hopes.
  1310. Venture into the forest.
  1311. Be awesome.
  1312. Gain cutie marks.
  1313. Profit!
  1314.  
  1315. Once they got into the forest, it was more daunting.
  1316. They could look for years, go right past her, and never notice.
  1317.  
  1318. Actually finding the lost filly had been doused their spirits thoroughly.
  1319. Seeing her limp and broken on the rocks like a busted doll... Scootaloo had been very relieved when she woke up.
  1320. Seeing her lurching around and, well, delusional, had removed a lot of that relief and shifted right back to worried.
  1321.  
  1322. All in all, it had driven home that the "rescue" in "search and rescue" implied that someone was having an absolutely horrible day.
  1323. Scootaloo didn't want a search and rescue cutie mark anymore.
  1324. She didn't want her special talent to center around other ponies misfortune.
  1325.  
  1326. The journey back was grueling.
  1327. Scootaloo wished they had gone with the original idea, she could've run back at top speed and for once she would've been delighted to have the adults take over.
  1328.  
  1329. Instead they ended trying to both navigate the way back, and also watch her stumble over every root.
  1330. Really, who'd decided to put so many roots in a forest?
  1331. None of them were quite strong enough to catch her, but they couldn't let her just fall...
  1332. The absolute worst part were the whimpers, Scootaloo didn't think she even realized she was making them, but every one made them all cringe, like they were the ones in pain.
  1333. They were worn to an absolute frazzle by the time they made it out of the forest.
  1334.  
  1335. It was a huge relief to see the adults rushing off with her to the hospital.
  1336. Like a huge burden, much heavier than a filly, had be taken off their backs.
  1337.  
  1338. It was only then that Scootaloo realized they had succeeded.
  1339. There was somebody in trouble, they had gone out to help, and they had.
  1340. As miserable as it was that she needed help, it was much better that they had been there to help than not.
  1341. She didn't even care if they got grounded.
  1342. Maybe being search and rescue wasn't so bad?
  1343.  
  1344. Second Scene, written by Chancellor
  1345.  
  1346.  
  1347. Imitation​
  1348.  
  1349.  
  1350. "It doesn't surprise me she's imitating us," Tenderheart said quietly as she munched on her daffodil sandwich. Both she and Redheart were in the staff room eating lunch.
  1351.  
  1352. "How so?" Redheart asked, curious.
  1353.  
  1354. "We're probably the only ponies who've been kind to her, so she's probably trying to... mimic us, in order to fit in."
  1355.  
  1356. Her colleague fell silent at that, slowly chewing at her food.
  1357.  
  1358. It broke the nurse's heart to know that there were creatures, or maybe even ponies, cruel enough to take advantage of such a young filly. It repulsed, to think they went against the nature of Harmony like that.
  1359.  
  1360. If she had her way, those responsible would be locked up in Tartarus with the key thrown out, but that was a matter for the Royal Guard. All Ponyville Clinic could do currently was make sure Green felt at ease and comfortable until proper, true healing could begin.
  1361.  
  1362. "Well, let's get done with it," Redheart said, finished with her meal. It was time to do her rounds.
  1363. > Activities of Daily Living
  1364. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1365.  
  1366. Nurse Redheart returned after a while. Maybe half an hour? I still didn't have a clock. She had a drinking straw in her mouth, thankfully it was in a wrapper. She deftly unwrapped it with her hooves, and it finally sank in for me just how crippling my lack of magic was. Losing hoof magic for a pony was the human equivalent of being a double amputee-
  1367.  
  1368. Relax, breathe. This is temporary. I'll figure out how to use my hooves eventually.
  1369.  
  1370. I opened my eyes and Redheart was waiting silently for me to finish my breathing exercise. No doubt she knew what I was doing.
  1371.  
  1372. "Are you feeling better, Green?" She asked after a moment.
  1373.  
  1374. I nodded.
  1375.  
  1376. "Do you have any pain in your leg this morning?" She had returned to the script.
  1377.  
  1378. There was an ache in my leg, and when I moved it, a bit of pain.
  1379.  
  1380. "No," I responded, shaking my head. "No pain."
  1381.  
  1382. The last thing I wanted was to take more painkillers, my mind was just starting to clear up.
  1383.  
  1384. "Did you need to go to the bathroom before breakfast?" The Nurse asked.
  1385.  
  1386. For a moment I was surprised by the question, just how young was I supposed to be? Then it hit me; with no hoof magic, I wouldn't even be able to clean myself after using the bathroom.
  1387.  
  1388. My hind legs twitched as I realized I was going to need help with that quite urgently.
  1389.  
  1390. I nodded again.
  1391.  
  1392. "Did you need some help?" She asked.
  1393.  
  1394. "Uh," I squeaked. "Yes, thank you."
  1395.  
  1396. It wasn't as embarrassing for me as you might imagine, after all, I'd helped hundreds of patients with this sort of thing.
  1397.  
  1398. I hobbled as quickly as I could without risking tripping over my cast. Which wasn't very fast. I'd have preferred to walk at a more dignified pace, but I wasn't keen on testing the limits of this new body's continence.
  1399.  
  1400. The bathroom differed from a human bathroom but pretty much in line with what I was expecting. The toilet was a 'squat' style toilet, basically, a trough in the middle of the floor with a raised half dome covering the end which the Nurse had indicated was the front as she guided me to stand over the trough. I had to spread my legs almost uncomfortably wide and Redheart kept a hoof under my barrel for a moment just to make sure I didn't slip and have my hooves go out from under me. Clearly, the toilet was sized for an adult pony rather than a filly my size.
  1401.  
  1402. I was meaning to wait until she left the room, but when she half turned her back and made a show of pretending not to be watching me I knew she was going to stay. I mentally shrugged. If she was comfortable with that, so was I. I was only holding it out of courtesy at this point, and other concerns were quickly overriding that.
  1403.  
  1404.  
  1405.  
  1406.  
  1407.  
  1408. After the nurse cleaned me and helped me to wash my hooves (even though I hadn't touched anything) I was feeling much relieved as she walked me back to bed. I made a mental note to keep better track of this body's needs lest there be an embarrassing situation in my future.
  1409.  
  1410. "You really had to go," She commented, "I bet you feel much better now!"
  1411.  
  1412. I couldn't help but blush, which was a novel experience for me. I couldn't remember the last time I'd blushed as a human.
  1413.  
  1414. "Yeah, well, I can't even remember the last time I used the toilet." I snarked.
  1415.  
  1416. "Oh?" She questioned seriously.
  1417.  
  1418. "That was a joke." I deadpanned.
  1419.  
  1420. She cracked a smile, and it was clear her serious expression had been in jest.
  1421.  
  1422. "All right, hop in bed and I'll give you your morning medications."
  1423.  
  1424. As I lay back in the bed, grateful that I was off my now throbbing foreleg, the nurse unlocked a drawer and started popping pills out of their packaging into a small paper cup.
  1425.  
  1426. "What am I taking this morning?" I asked.
  1427.  
  1428. "You've got three tablets and then I'll give you antibiotics through the IV on your foreleg."
  1429.  
  1430. "All right, what are the tablets for?" I clarified. Oh to be old again when people would treat me like I could understand what was going on.
  1431.  
  1432. "Well these two white ones are to help with your pain," She explained, "And this red one is to help you go to the bathroom."
  1433.  
  1434. They were giving me laxatives? Hmm, that meant I'd probably been on a lot of opiates.
  1435.  
  1436. "What kind of pain tablets are they?" I asked, suspicious. "Are they opiates?"
  1437.  
  1438. Opiates were good for what they were designed for, but I needed to keep a clear head and the pain really wasn't that bad. They probably weren't opiates, unless Equestria was a lot more lax with their controlled substances than Earth.
  1439.  
  1440. "No, they're just Intosolamol."
  1441.  
  1442. "Never heard of it," I responded. "Are they anti-inflammatories?"
  1443.  
  1444. Redheart nodded and checked my line of sight to the medication boxes, noting that I might just have been able to make out the writing on them, upside down and laying on a table across the room. She nodded again, to herself this time.
  1445.  
  1446. I took the pills and lay back in the bed. I felt the chill run up my foreleg as Redheart pushed the room temperature dose of antibiotics into my vein with a syringe.
  1447.  
  1448. "What are the antibiotics for?" I questioned. "Post-Op prophylaxis?"
  1449.  
  1450. "You had a urinary tract infection, but we cleared it magically," The nurse answered. "The antibiotics are to make sure it doesn't grow back. The infection is probably why you were delirious when you came in."
  1451.  
  1452. Oh great, if I was delirious there was no telling what I might have said or done. Literally no telling, since they wouldn't tell me.
  1453.  
  1454.  
  1455.  
  1456.  
  1457.  
  1458. Redheart had to spoon-feed me my breakfast. Until I managed to get control of my hoof magic, I had about as much bodily autonomy as an infant. Being able to live as a regular whatever-age-I-was filly would be amazing compared to what I had now. That was a good question, actually.
  1459.  
  1460. "How old am I?" I asked suddenly after finishing the meal.
  1461.  
  1462. "You couldn't tell us your name, so we don't know."
  1463.  
  1464. "Roughly though, how old do I look to you?"
  1465.  
  1466. "We had someone take a look at your teeth and you're most likely eight or nine years old, though you're a bit small for your age."
  1467.  
  1468. "Thanks."
  1469.  
  1470. "Are we still pretending that you don't remember anything?"
  1471.  
  1472. I went to facehoof but Redheart caught my hoof midway.
  1473.  
  1474. "Please don't hit yourself." She pleaded.
  1475.  
  1476. "But I wasn't-" I protested, but she cut me off.
  1477.  
  1478. "You don't have to lie anymore Green, you can trust me," She cut in. "When you think about what happened, does it make you want to hurt yourself?"
  1479.  
  1480. At that moment the utter stupidity of the situation forced the worst possible involuntary response. I facehoofed, yelped in pain, and had tears spring into my eyes.
  1481.  
  1482. Curse you body, you've failed me again.
  1483.  
  1484.  
  1485. > I'm Not Locked in Here With You...
  1486. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1487.  
  1488. With a straw in the glass of water, I no longer had to pick it up to drink from it. Unfortunately, the glass was empty. Fortunately, I had a jug of water to fill the glass with. Unfortunately, I couldn't pick up the jug to pour it into the glass.
  1489.  
  1490. I had a plan though. If I put the straw into the jug, I could just drink straight from it and not have to worry about calling the nurse to fill the glass. Clever, right?
  1491.  
  1492. I had neglected to check the length of the straw. When I placed the straw in the jug, it fell completely inside. I didn't have any hands to fish it out with so I had to use my mouth. Being new to this body I wasn't used to its proportions. As it turned out, my muzzle just happened to be the same width as the jug, so, of course, it got stuck.
  1493.  
  1494.  
  1495.  
  1496. This didn't worry me too much until I noticed that my nose was in the jug. And my mouth.
  1497.  
  1498. I can't breathe! I realized. Okay, don't panic. Remember SCUBA training. Relax. Don't inhale water. You have time. Work the problem.
  1499.  
  1500. I was standing on the bed, leaning over the bedside table to drink from the jug. I shifted my weight onto my injured leg and tried to pull the jug off my face, but my hoof couldn't get a grip on the smooth surface. I had already lifted my face up so the jug was just hanging there in defiance of gravity. My lungs were starting to burn. How was it so stuck? Oh, right. Suction. Trying to remove my muzzle was creating a partial vacuum in the jug so all I had to do was introduce more air... all I had to do was exhale and-
  1501.  
  1502. There was a knock at the door and I quickly turned to face them, embarrassed that they had caught me in such a compromising position. With this sudden motion the jug flew off my face sailing across the room and towards the purple pony who had just walked into the room. The jug didn't shatter, thankfully, but when it hit the floor, it splashed water all over my new guest. My face burned red.
  1503.  
  1504. "Sorry," I managed to force out as I panted for breath. "I, uh... sorry."
  1505.  
  1506. They make guys wear the nurse hat.
  1507.  
  1508. The era of nurses wearing hats and skirts on Earth was well before my time, and if I had to guess, also before the time they allowed men to be nurses. It had never occurred to me that in Equestria they might have stallions wearing the same uniform. I'd never tell him this, but to me, it looked rather silly, and he looked rather out of place.
  1509.  
  1510. Of course, his looking out of place may also have had to do with the trainee badge on his hat and his body language, which screamed: "I AM NEW HERE AND TERRIFIED OF GETTING IN ANYPONY'S WAY!" Perhaps with a tinge of "Please stop throwing things at me."
  1511.  
  1512. The nurse hats here were multifunctional. Since it was the only item of clothing they wore it held their ID badge, a fob watch, and if Redheart's ability to pull whatever item she needed out from under it was anything to go by, the inside was a bag of holding.
  1513.  
  1514. Either that or she was just really good at predicting what she might need and keeping it under her hat. Misunderstandings aside I could tell Redheart really knew what she was doing.
  1515.  
  1516. This trainee nurse though? My human mind identified him as a frightened puppy and I had the urge to scoop him up off the floor and give him a big hug while I scratched him behind his nervously flicking ears. The inappropriateness of treating another sapient being like a dog aside it would never have worked for the simple reason that he was at least twice my height; that and I didn't have any fingers to scratch his ears so really the whole thing was a wash.
  1517.  
  1518. The young stallion looked at me and straightened up.
  1519.  
  1520. "Good morning," He said. "I'm Amethyst Swirl and I'll be helping the nurses look after you today."
  1521.  
  1522. "Good morning," I replied.
  1523.  
  1524. He stood there awkwardly.
  1525.  
  1526. "Did you forget what you were supposed to be doing?" I asked gently. "Or were you just introducing yourself?"
  1527.  
  1528. "Oh," He said. "No, I'm going to be staying with you today."
  1529.  
  1530. All right, that didn't track. You don't give patients personal nurses without a good reason.
  1531.  
  1532. "Why's that?" I asked suspiciously.
  1533.  
  1534. "You're a special little filly and they want me to keep an eye on you to make sure you're safe," He responded.
  1535.  
  1536. "Special, as in you think I'm dying?" I queried. "Or special that you think I'm going to jump out the window?"
  1537.  
  1538. He took a nervous step forward, "You were going to jump out the window?"
  1539.  
  1540. "No Amy," I sighed. "I'm not going to jump out the window. I'm not suicidal and, even if I was, a first-floor window isn't high enough. Do you mind if I call you Amy?"
  1541.  
  1542. "No," He replied. "I mean, that's good, I mean-"
  1543.  
  1544. "Just put your saddlebags down and pull up a chair," I cut him off. "I hope you brought a book, otherwise this will be very boring."
  1545.  
  1546. "Oh, did you want me to read you a story?" He asked. "Sorry, I didn't know I would be looking after you today so all I have is my nursing textbooks."
  1547.  
  1548. "Oh, that's right," He brightened up. "They told me you wanted to be a nurse too."
  1549.  
  1550. "I don't remember saying that, so I guess I'll take your word for it," I replied.
  1551.  
  1552. Should I just tell them the truth? The longer I spend hiding it the harder it was going to be.
  1553.  
  1554. Yeah, tell the nurse who's looking for signs you're crazy that you're actually a different age, gender, and species, I'm sure that will go great!
  1555.  
  1556. Well, a different strategy then. Maybe I could get more information about what they really thought of me.
  1557.  
  1558. I was well trained to develop a rapport with new people. For most people all it takes is to have a reason to speak to them and then treat them like you're already good friends; keep your body language open and genuine, listen reflectively so they feel heard and remember little things they tell you, like how they take their coffee, what they/their children do for work. If the patient is hesitant and unsure, take charge of the situation so they know they can depend on you to have things under control. If the patient is confident and wants to take control, make sure they know that they are ultimately in charge of their care and you're just there to assist them.
  1559.  
  1560. It sounds manipulative when you break it down like that, but it works much better than just winging it and hoping your personalities are compatible. Amy had clearly been trained in a similar way, but didn't yet have the experience to make it feel natural. Which meant if I acted confident and like I knew what I was talking about, he would go along with it.
  1561.  
  1562. He tried to make conversation for a while, but when the majority of my answers were 'I can't remember' it kinda killed the conversation. We talked for a while about what it was like for him to work at the hospital. In Equestria, it seemed, Nursing was still more of a vocation than a profession. The training did not require a university degree and instead relied on hospital based trainee programs more similar to an apprenticeship.
  1563.  
  1564. I didn't get much gossip out of him about his colleagues (and fair enough since I was a patient), but I did learn that Redheart was one of the more senior nurses and some of the other trainees were afraid to have her as a mentor (Amy insists that he's not). Redheart had a reputation for always knowing exactly what to do, insisting on high standards and for seeing through any BS her trainees tried to tell her. If you didn't know something upside down and back to front, she could tell immediately, and she'd make you admit it, and then help you practice it. He was careful to throw in a few "But she's really nice though," and "She's just really good at everything and wants to help us be our best," whenever he was skirting too close to speaking ill of her.
  1565.  
  1566. That was all interesting, but it wasn't the information I really needed.
  1567.  
  1568. "I actually have a lot of trouble remembering what happened in the last couple of days," I said dejectedly. "Can you tell me what happened?"
  1569.  
  1570. Redheart seemed to see right through me, but this guy seemed a lot less sure of himself. If I acted confident, like I knew what was going on it should be easy enough to convince him to go along with me.
  1571.  
  1572. "Well, you were found in the forest sick and with a broken leg," He explained. "But they fixed you up and now here you are."
  1573.  
  1574. "I mean more specifically," I clarified. "Like things I might have said or done while I was in hospital."
  1575.  
  1576. "Oh, well I'm not sure about that." He said.
  1577.  
  1578. "It must be written down, right?" I pushed him, "In my patient notes?"
  1579.  
  1580. "I haven't had a chance to read them yet." He admitted.
  1581.  
  1582. "Oh," I said, pouting slightly as I looked down at the floor. This was the critical point in the conversation. I considered my next line.
  1583.  
  1584. 'Can I look at them?' No, that implied that maybe I wasn't supposed to look at them (which as a patient I totally wasn't), I had to phrase it in a way that made it seem like a totally normal thing, something which he should know.
  1585.  
  1586. After giving him a moment to feel sorry for me I brightened up.
  1587.  
  1588. "We should read them together," I smiled. "It might help jog my memory."
  1589.  
  1590. He looked uncertain. "I'm not sure if I'm supposed to show them to you."
  1591.  
  1592. "Why not?" I asked. "The only patient information in them is mine, right? So it's fine for me to read it, you just can't show it to anypony else."
  1593.  
  1594. That was a bald-faced lie. Just because it wasn't technically illegal to show patients their own notes didn't mean he was allowed to show them to me.
  1595.  
  1596. "You might not understand all the words," He warned. "They use a lot of medical words and acronyms."
  1597.  
  1598. "Well, it's a good thing you're here then," I smiled again. "You can help me with the big words."
  1599.  
  1600. I tried really, really hard to keep a condescending tone out of my voice, and failed utterly. He didn't seem to have picked up on it though.
  1601.  
  1602. He smiled and did as I asked, bringing my patient notes into the room.
  1603.  
  1604. When he opened the folder to the current page, I quickly scanned what was written there. It looked like I really had been delirious if I was going around pretending to be a nurse. Unfortunately, that would make it much more difficult for them to believe the truth when I told them. Without hard physical proof, it was going to be very difficult, if not impossible to convince them that I was actually an alien without ending up in a psych ward.
  1605.  
  1606. I still needed to read the first page.
  1607.  
  1608. "Let's start from the beginning," I prompted, as far as he knew I had just been staring uncomprehendingly at the page.
  1609.  
  1610. He turned back to the first page of the notes and what I saw made my face pale; I don't think he noticed under my green coat though.
  1611.  
  1612. 12/5/04 23:45
  1613.  
  1614. Patient received in post op recovery at 2330 following Managuided Closed-Field Relocation and Internal Fixation of RFL #.
  1615.  
  1616. All obs in normal range.
  1617.  
  1618. Shivering ++ but normothermic.
  1619.  
  1620. RFL plaster cast in situ.
  1621.  
  1622. Patient rousable by voice, confusion and disorientation apparent. Patient reoriented.
  1623.  
  1624. Patient states that she remembers a "guy" telling her that he was going to "make me a mare" before being left alone in the forest. See hospital internal incident report #1357032 and interagency mandatory reporting tool report #F3479-432 for followup.
  1625.  
  1626. Nil pain or distress noted. Patient is resting comfortably ATOR.
  1627.  
  1628. Goodcheer, RN PACU
  1629.  
  1630. Now it all made sense why Redheart had been so certain that I was covering up some kind of trauma, I'd as much as straight-up told them!
  1631.  
  1632. Dammit!
  1633.  
  1634. "Okay, so this first part is talking about your condition when you first came into emergency," Amy explained, "I might have to look up some of these abbreviations but-"
  1635.  
  1636. "Amethyst," Nurse Redheart called from the doorway, her face set in stone. "I need to speak with you for a moment, and bring the notes."
  1637.  
  1638. Her tone was friendly enough, but I winced, knowing she was about to chew him out for showing me the notes. I felt bad about taking advantage of him, hopefully he wouldn't get in too much trouble.
  1639.  
  1640. They spoke outside my door, whispering as if I wouldn't be able to hear them.
  1641.  
  1642. "Amethyst, you know you can't show the patient notes to other ponies-"
  1643.  
  1644. "But they're her patient notes, so there's no breach of confidentiality, it's just other ponies who can't look at them."
  1645.  
  1646. "What? Who told you that?"
  1647.  
  1648. "Uh... well, she did actually."
  1649.  
  1650. "And you listened to her?" Redheart gave a frustrated huff. "Even if she wasn't just trying to trick you, and she was, what made you think she had any idea what she's talking about? She's a nine-year-old filly!"
  1651.  
  1652. I couldn't see Amy's face but I knew he'd be hurt.
  1653.  
  1654. "This is my fault, I should have prepared you better," Redheart sighed. "When I said Green was special I didn't mean she was slow, or that she was crazy. She's actually rather clever, she picks things up very quickly and her vocabulary is way above her apparent age. Somepony really hurt her; and I don't mean her leg."
  1655.  
  1656. "The reason foals are so vulnerable and need our protection isn't just because they're weak, it's because they're trusting," Redheart explained, I could tell she'd given this speech before. "They can't always understand why you might want them to do something, and they can't critically evaluate whether what an adult tells them is true. They just take it on faith because they trust that you know and want what's best for them. Somepony has taken advantage of this foal's trust, and whatever she's been through has completely destroyed her trust in other ponies."
  1657.  
  1658. "I don't understand," said Amethyst. "Why would she be trying to trick me?"
  1659.  
  1660. "She wanted to know what she told us while she was delirious so she can keep up a consistent narrative," Redheart explained. "She probably thinks that if we can identify her we'll send her back, or maybe that she'll be punished for telling us what happened."
  1661.  
  1662. "Oh Celestia," Amethyst gasped. "She thinks we'd do that?"
  1663.  
  1664. All right, this had gone far enough. I stepped down off the bed intending to walk up to them, but the sound of my cast striking the floor was enough to get their attention. They both looked into the room and Amethyst made quick strides to stand next to me ready to catch me if I fell.
  1665.  
  1666. "Don't be mad at Amy," I begged. "It was my fault. I saw that he was new, and I took advantage of him. Sorry about that by the way, I was hoping we'd get away with it."
  1667.  
  1668. "How much did you hear?"
  1669.  
  1670. "Everything, and you're wrong," I stated. "I trust that both of you will do exactly what you think is best for me."
  1671.  
  1672. "That's great!"
  1673.  
  1674. "What if you don't see things the same way I do?" I questioned. "What if you decide something for me and I disagree?"
  1675.  
  1676. "We're not going to force you to do anything Green."
  1677.  
  1678. "That's crap and you know it," I retorted. "I'm a child, you have a duty of care. If I was going to do something dangerous you'd have to stop me, and if you thought I needed to do something for my own good, you'd force me to do it."
  1679.  
  1680. "Yes Green, if you were running around with scissors I'd have to stop you, I hardly think that makes me Sombra."
  1681.  
  1682. "What if I wanted to discharge myself against medical advice, could I do that?"
  1683.  
  1684. "Your guardian would-"
  1685.  
  1686. "I don't have a guardian and if I did, then it would be their decision, not mine."
  1687.  
  1688. "Is it really so terrible here Green? Is it so bad to have other ponies care for you? Or is there somewhere else you need to be?"
  1689.  
  1690. "No, no, it's fine, you guys are great, really. It's just, I don't want to be stuck here forever."
  1691.  
  1692. "Is that what you're afraid of? This isn't a prison Green, we just have to get you well so you can go h-" She faltered. "So you can get on with your life."
  1693.  
  1694. "What if when I tell you the truth you think I'm crazy and you never let me go?"
  1695.  
  1696. "Have you been in a mental hospital before? Did somepony you know, have to stay there?"
  1697.  
  1698. "No."
  1699.  
  1700. "You mean you don't remember."
  1701.  
  1702. I groaned. "You know what I mean."
  1703.  
  1704. "Green..."
  1705.  
  1706. "If I tell you the truth, you'll either think I'm lying or that I'm crazy. Neither of those are great outcomes for me."
  1707.  
  1708. "Or maybe we believe you and can help you. If you always expect the worst possible outcome, you're going to be miserable. I promise no matter what you tell me I'll keep an open mind."
  1709.  
  1710. "So if I started telling you about how I wasn't a pony, I was actually an alien from another dimension, you'd stand there and think 'Oh gee maybe he really is an interdimensional alien' and you wouldn't just be smiling and nodding while you thought about what part of that you wanted to quote when you were referring me for a psych evaluation?"
  1711.  
  1712. "Green, please take this seriously. You don't really think you're an alien, do you?"
  1713.  
  1714. "Of course not, that would be crazy," I sighed. "I was just trying to prove a point."
  1715.  
  1716. "What are you trying to prove?"
  1717.  
  1718. "That there are limits to your credulity, you will do whatever you think is right, regardless of what I want, and the only way I can keep ponies from making decisions for me is to not give them the information they need to make those decisions."
  1719.  
  1720. "All right, fine," Redheart nodded. "I already told you you don't have to tell me anything until you're ready, just please don't lie to me, if you don't want to tell me something just say so."
  1721.  
  1722. "I think I can do that."
  1723.  
  1724. "Ok, so why are you so afraid that you're going to be put in a psych ward?"
  1725.  
  1726. "You've already assigned someone to sit with me all day like I'm on suicide watch or something."
  1727.  
  1728. "W-what?" Stammered Amy.
  1729.  
  1730. "Oh sweetie, Amethyst is only here because you need a lot of help and I have other patients to take care of," Redheart explained. "You're not thinking about hurting yourself are you?"
  1731.  
  1732. "No."
  1733.  
  1734. "Then why would we put you on 'suicide watch'?"
  1735.  
  1736. She was testing me. Trying to get me to trap myself with my own words.
  1737.  
  1738. Either that or I was overreacting and assuming the worst about her intentions.
  1739.  
  1740. "Well, uh, remember earlier when I put my hoof to my face, and you thought I was trying to hurt myself?" I said carefully.
  1741.  
  1742. "You hit yourself in the face so hard it made you cry."
  1743.  
  1744. "Well, I didn't mean to do it that hard."
  1745.  
  1746. "Obviously."
  1747.  
  1748. "Huh?"
  1749.  
  1750. "I believe you. I don't think you were consciously trying to injure yourself, I think you have an involuntary tic. Each time you did it, it was the exact same motion, triggered by you feeling embarrassed about something, and you didn't even seem to realize you were doing it."
  1751.  
  1752. That was... actually closer to the truth than I expected.
  1753.  
  1754. "Then why did you ask me all those questions about if I wanted to hurt myself?"
  1755.  
  1756. "Because it's my job, Green."
  1757.  
  1758. "Actually, when I came in, Green was talking about jumping out the window," Amethyst chipped in. "She said it wasn't high enough for her to commit suicide.”
  1759.  
  1760. "That was a joke, Amy," I glared
  1761.  
  1762.  
  1763.  
  1764. "Well, it wasn't funny."
  1765.  
  1766. "All I said was that even if I was suicidal you didn't have to worry about me jumping out the window because the first floor isn't high enough."
  1767.  
  1768. Redheart had to quickly suppress a smile, clearly her sense of humor was darker than Amethyst's.
  1769.  
  1770. "I'm not going to scold you for telling a joke, but please try not to traumatize my trainees." Redheart pleaded. "I know that adults sometimes use that kind of humor, but part of being an adult is learning when a joke is appropriate to tell."
  1771.  
  1772. I had a snarky comeback but Redheart had practically teleported out of the room, which was doubly impressive since she was an earth pony. Clearly we had taken up too much of her time.
  1773.  
  1774. "You two try not to kill each other, okay?" She called out before disappearing into the chaotic maelstrom that was a hospital corridor in the early morning.
  1775.  
  1776. I looked at Amy.
  1777.  
  1778. "All right, so since you don't understand sarcasm." I spoke slowly, as if explaining something to a particularly slow child. "When she told us not to kill each other, she was joking. It's funny because the idea that we would murder one another is unexpected enough to be comically absurd."
  1779.  
  1780. "Celestia grant me patience." Amethyst groaned and put a fetlock over his eyes.
  1781.  
  1782.  
  1783. > Sufficiently Indistinguishable
  1784. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1785.  
  1786. Aside from my hands, the thing I was missing most of all was my emotional control. I always imagined that if I could go back and retry parts of my life knowing what I know now I’d be more reasonable, not act out of emotion. My new body had other ideas. Assuming ponies aged like humans I shouldn’t have teenage hormones yet, but even so, I felt like someone had cranked all my emotions up to eleven and I couldn’t turn them back.
  1787.  
  1788. Which is a long way of saying I regretted what I’d just said. It had felt great to ‘get one over’ on the inexperienced nurse, but shortly afterwards I realized what I’d done and it made me want to cry. Then I felt embarrassed that I was about to cry and guilty that I’d taken advantage of his trust and angry that I couldn’t control myself; I just felt completely rotten in general and I wanted to curl up in my bed and hide under the covers until it all went away. So I did.
  1789.  
  1790. It didn’t go away though, and eventually my moping was interrupted by the arrival of lunch.
  1791.  
  1792. “Green, are you awake?”
  1793.  
  1794. “No.”
  1795.  
  1796. “I’m sorry about earlier, I didn’t mean to upset you.” Amy was walking on eggshells now, even less sure of himself. I’d done that. Ugh. Me and my big mouth.
  1797.  
  1798. “No, I’m sorry, I was being mean to you just for doing your job. You felt like you had to report what I’d said and that’s fair enough.” I said. “Just, promise you don’t hate me?”
  1799.  
  1800. “It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” I could tell he was still annoyed.
  1801.  
  1802. I pushed the covers off me and Amy could tell from my puffy eyes that I’d been crying. I hated it. I hated that he could see how weak I was, that I couldn’t even control my own body. His heart melted instantly, and I felt like such a manipulative little shit. His foreleg lifted off the floor a little and I could tell he wanted to comfort me but wasn’t sure if he was allowed to touch me, his mouth slightly open, but he didn’t know what to say.
  1803.  
  1804. I sniffled and wiped my eyes.
  1805.  
  1806. “It’s all right, Amy,” I comforted. “I’ll be fine. I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed.”
  1807.  
  1808. “Do you want to talk about it?” He asked. “It can be our secret.”
  1809.  
  1810. I lay back on the bed and sighed deeply.
  1811.  
  1812. “Don’t promise to keep secrets for patients, Amy,” I instructed. “It never ends well. Either you’ll keep the secret and feel responsible when something goes wrong, or you’ll betray the patient’s trust by revealing the secret to ponies who need to know about it to keep them safe.”
  1813.  
  1814. “How would you know?” Asked Amy.
  1815.  
  1816. “...” Damit!
  1817.  
  1818. “It sounds like something Redheart would say,” Amy continued. “Did you hear it from one of the nurses?”
  1819.  
  1820. “I can’t remember.”
  1821.  
  1822. “Oh, right, sorry,” Amy winced. “Anyway, your lunch is here.”
  1823.  
  1824. Lunch didn’t look particularly appetizing, but I was hungry enough that I could just ignore that and eat it anyway. It was food someone else had prepared and none of it would kill me so whatever.
  1825.  
  1826. I managed to eat the daffodil sandwiches by nudging them to the edge of the plate so I could grab the corner with my teeth and then balance the sandwich on the flat of my hoof. The apple juice came in a little bottle and, mercifully, already had a straw in it. The juice was sweet and fresh, but I’d never really liked the taste of apples, and it seemed that it carried over to this body. I drank it without complaining since I didn’t want to make a fuss.
  1827.  
  1828. The cup of jelly was a lost cause. Even if I found a way to pick it up, there was no way for me to peel the plastic film off the top; if I grasped it in my teeth, I would have no way to hold down the cup while I pulled on it.
  1829.  
  1830. Amy observed my eating habits with some confusion.
  1831.  
  1832. “You don’t like jelly?” Amy questioned the ignored dessert.
  1833.  
  1834. “Let me guess,” I stated. “Redheart didn’t tell you about my hooves.”
  1835.  
  1836. Redheart was testing me again, seeing if I’d stay consistent with my lack of hoof grip. I wasn’t faking dammit! I fumed.
  1837.  
  1838. Or she’s just in a hurry and didn’t give Amy a proper handover. Or she did tell Amy, but he didn’t understand what she meant.
  1839.  
  1840. “She said you needed help holding things.” Said Amy.
  1841.  
  1842. I looked at the cup of jelly and then back to Amy.
  1843.  
  1844. “Oh! Right, I’m so sorry.” Amy apologized. “You can’t peel the lid with one hoof can you?”
  1845.  
  1846. “I have no hoof grip.” I explained, “I can’t hold things with any of my hooves.”
  1847.  
  1848. Amy froze, clearly I’d hit on one of the red flags that had been drilled into him.
  1849.  
  1850. “How long since you lost grip in your hooves?” Amy questioned urgently, pressing his hoof against my left forehoof. “Do you have any pain, numbness or tingling in your hooves? I want you to try and grip my hoof as hard as you can.”
  1851.  
  1852. Amy asked all these questions without giving me time to respond and then pulled his hoof away from mine with no effort. His pupils had shrunk and he was breathing more quickly.
  1853.  
  1854. “Relax Amy,” I instructed, “It’s been like this since before I came in, Redheart is already aware.”
  1855.  
  1856. “Oh.”
  1857.  
  1858. Amy was silent for a moment.
  1859.  
  1860. “So did you want me to open that for you?” He asked.
  1861.  
  1862. “If you like,” I replied. “But you’ll have to hold the spoon for me.”
  1863.  
  1864. “Oh, that’s fine,” Amy reassured. “I have a baby sister so I do that all the time.”
  1865.  
  1866. I sighed. “I don’t really mind, but you should probably avoid telling patients they remind you of a baby.” I rolled my eyes. “They might take offense.”
  1867.  
  1868. “I didn’t mean-”
  1869.  
  1870. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
  1871.  
  1872. “So...”
  1873.  
  1874. “Yes, I want some jelly. I’m sorry for giving you a hard time.”
  1875.  
  1876. True to his word Amy was adept in the art of spoon-feeding an infant and the jelly was finished off in short order. Then came the point I was dreading.
  1877.  
  1878. I spoke clearly so I wouldn’t have to repeat myself, but I was unable to make eye contact. “I have to use the bathroom.”
  1879.  
  1880. Amy walked with me to the door of the bathroom, but then he stopped. After I’d emptied my bladder, I called out to Amy.
  1881.  
  1882. “I need some help.”
  1883.  
  1884. “What with?” Amy called back from behind the door.
  1885.  
  1886. “I can’t grip anything with my hooves.”
  1887.  
  1888. “So?”
  1889.  
  1890. Jesus Christ, how fucking new was this guy?
  1891.  
  1892. “Amy, I don’t have a penis.” I explained, “When a mare uses the restroom she needs to dry her mare parts.”
  1893.  
  1894. “...”
  1895.  
  1896. “Look, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it you can go get Redheart, but you’re going to need to learn this eventually.”
  1897.  
  1898.  
  1899.  
  1900.  
  1901.  
  1902. After a bit of awkwardness, Amy managed to do what was necessary and got me back to bed.
  1903.  
  1904. “So you really can’t grip anything with your hooves, huh?” Asked Amy.
  1905.  
  1906. It took all my child-level self-control to avoid a facehoof that would have driven my hoof through to the opposite side of my skull. As it was I just groaned, squeezed my eyes shut, and slammed my head back into the pillow.
  1907.  
  1908. FOR FUCK’S SAKE AMY CAN YOU JUST NOT FOR TWO FUCKING MINUTES?!
  1909.  
  1910. “Are you all right, Green?” Amy asked with concern.
  1911.  
  1912. “No,” I was resisting the urge to thrash around and throw a tantrum.
  1913.  
  1914. “What’s wrong?”
  1915.  
  1916. “Leave me alone.”
  1917.  
  1918. “But I’m not supposed to lea-”
  1919.  
  1920. “THEN JUST SIT THERE AND BE QUIET!”
  1921.  
  1922. Before I say something I regret.
  1923.  
  1924. Amy’s mouth closed with an audible click.
  1925.  
  1926. Relax. Breathe. Don’t strangle Amy.
  1927.  
  1928. After a couple minutes of breathing my anger had subsided and I was left with a sickening feeling of shame. Oh god, I was going to cry again wasn’t I? I swear to Christ I’m going to cauterize my god damn tear ducts.
  1929.  
  1930. I managed not to full-on cry, but my eyes were watery and my vision blurry. I could see Amy sitting on the floor exactly where I’d left him with his ears drooped. He didn’t even know what he’d done wrong.
  1931.  
  1932. “I’m sorry, Amy,” I consoled. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I’m just having trouble controlling my emotions, but that’s no excuse. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”
  1933.  
  1934. Amy hesitated and then opened his mouth to speak before thinking better of it.
  1935.  
  1936. “You can speak now,” I snarked
  1937.  
  1938. “Uh, well, er...” Amy was flustered. “I know you said not to compare you to my baby sister, but I was thinking about your problem with your hooves, and my sister had the same problem and the doctor gave us this exercise we could do to help her learn to grasp things.”
  1939.  
  1940. I sat up in the bed, suddenly alert.
  1941.  
  1942. “Yes?”
  1943.  
  1944. “I mean, I’m not sure if-”
  1945.  
  1946. “Show me!” I said excitedly.
  1947.  
  1948. “Ok,” Amy put his hoof against mine again, “So I’m going to push a bit of my magic into your hoof and then I quickly pull it out again. It might feel a bit weird, but your magic field should reflexively try to compensate for the change in thaumic pressure.”
  1949.  
  1950. “Do it.”
  1951.  
  1952. There was a warm fizzy sensation as the invisible magic field pressed into my hoof. The pressure in my hoof was uncomfortable, but not exactly painful. There was a sudden feeling of coldness and my hoof went slightly numb as the pressure disappeared. There was an indescribable sensation in the middle of my chest, utterly alien to anything I’d felt before, and yet it felt - right. Like it was always supposed to be there. The feeling pulsed outwards to the extremities of my body, returning sensation to my hoof and briefly giving a sensation of pressure before it faded back to normal. Every hair on my coat and mane stood on end for a moment and a shower of sparks shot out of my horn.
  1953.  
  1954. I felt absolutely ecstatic, euphoric, invulnerable! Amy had taken a shocked step back from my bedside but I leaped for joy, grabbing him around the neck in a fierce hug with tears of joy in my eyes.
  1955.  
  1956. “Ow,” Amy exclaimed.
  1957.  
  1958. In my excitement I may have forgotten that I had a cast and clobbered Amy with it... and my newfound hoof grip may have ripped a few hairs from his coat, but after a moment of shock Amy returned the hug.
  1959.  
  1960. Redheart picked that exact moment to walk into the room. Her look of concern quickly dissolved when she realized the crashing sounds hadn’t been me falling on the floor.
  1961.  
  1962. “I can do magic!” I exclaimed proudly.
  1963. > Ain’t that a Thaum in the Hoof
  1964. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1965.  
  1966. A wave of fatigue hit me and I yawned. Amy’s coat was so soft and warm against my face I closed my eyes.
  1967.  
  1968. I woke with a start when somepony nudged my shoulder.
  1969.  
  1970. “Huh?” I must have fallen asleep, how embarrassing.
  1971.  
  1972. “Green, are you all right?” Asked Redheart.
  1973.  
  1974. “Uh,” I tried to fight through the fatigue. “Er, yeah, just... tired.”
  1975.  
  1976. I rested my cheek back on Amy’s neck, but with a warm, fizzy sensation I found myself floating away from him.
  1977.  
  1978. “Green,” Amy’s voice woke me again and I could feel the bed under me. “Green, you have to let go.”
  1979.  
  1980. “What?”
  1981.  
  1982. “Your hoof,” He explained. “You need to let go of me.”
  1983.  
  1984. “Oh,” I was still holding onto his neck with him awkwardly bending down over the bed. “... Uh, how do I do that?”
  1985.  
  1986. Amy seemed stumped by the question. I guess that made sense since I was asking something he’d probably never thought about. My fatigue was already starting to recede; at a guess, magic must be physically tiring. I focused on my hoof and I could feel a slightly higher pressure of magic, so I tried pulling it back into my hoof. This only seemed to grip on tighter, so instead, I tried the opposite and pushed it out of my hoof. Amy looked startled, I guess I was pushing on his magic field? After a couple seconds of this, I felt tired again and my hoof grip released on its own. I was cold and burrowed into the blankets for warmth.
  1987.  
  1988. “-don’t know what I saw then,” said Amy, I must have dozed off for a moment. “But I’ve seen a magic surge before and it looked like a magic surge.”
  1989.  
  1990. “It’s not that I don’t believe you Amethyst,” Redheart sighed. “I just - you can’t fake a magic surge, can you?”
  1991.  
  1992. I was confused for a moment as to why Redheart was deferring to her trainee until I remembered that she was an earth pony, and he was a unicorn.
  1993.  
  1994.  
  1995.  
  1996. Amethyst thought about it for a moment.
  1997.  
  1998. “Not... really?” He answered unsurely but gradually became more confident. “I mean if you knew enough illusion magic you could fake the visual and auditory parts, but I could feel the magic coming off her and it didn’t feel structured at all; and the amount of magic? Well, look at her, she exhausted her whole mana pool in one shot. That’s not something you can do on purpose; not without years of high yield casting exercises anyway.”
  1999.  
  2000. “She’s too old.” Redheart countered. “Is it even possible for an eight-year-old to have a magic surge?”
  2001.  
  2002. “I mean, I’d say I’d never heard of such a thing, but...”
  2003.  
  2004. “But what?”
  2005.  
  2006. “Princess Twilight.”
  2007.  
  2008. “What are you saying?” Asked Redheart, incredulously. “That Green could be the next Twilight Sparkle? Is her magic that strong?”
  2009.  
  2010. “Oh no,” Amy waved his hooves placatingly. “Nothing like that. Princess Twilight’s magic surge lasted more than eight minutes, hatched a dragon egg, blew the roof off an auditorium and transfigured ponies into plants. They say she levitated herself off the floor and her eyes glowed as bright as the sun itself.”
  2011.  
  2012. “And Green?”
  2013.  
  2014. “About ten seconds,” Amy explained, “Her eyes glowed and the magic flow was strong enough to float her mane and tail with pure unstructured magic; and as you can see, it didn’t give her a cutie mark for magic.”
  2015.  
  2016. “Well, there are no guidelines for this, so I guess just do a set of obs and keep a close eye on her,” Redheart instructed, massaging one of her temples with a hoof, “I’ll figure out how to report this to the CMO without him thinking I’m crazy.”
  2017.  
  2018. I yawned again, and they finally realized I was awake. Nurse Redheart turned to face me and put a hoof on my shoulder.
  2019.  
  2020. “How are you feeling?” She asked with a sing-song voice.
  2021.  
  2022. “Tired. Cold. Hungry.” I fought through the fatigue to answer. “My skin feels prickly and I’m all... dizzy. I think... I think my blood sugar is low...”
  2023.  
  2024. “It’s all right sweetie, you just used a bit too much magic,” Redheart comforted, “It’s perfectly normal.”
  2025.  
  2026. “Normal?” asked Amy, “But-”
  2027.  
  2028. Redheart’s head turned so fast I’m surprised her nose didn’t break the sound barrier, and she fixed Amethyst with a steely glare.
  2029.  
  2030. “Amethyst, you’re a unicorn,” Redheart cut him off, “It’s normal to feel fatigued when you use too much magic, isn’t it.”
  2031.  
  2032. It was not a question.
  2033.  
  2034. “Why don’t you take a set of obs, and then we can let Green have a little nap?” She continued.
  2035.  
  2036. Amy swallowed nervously and nodded before walking out of the room, returning moments later with an obs trolley. He and Redheart had a whispered conversation as they passed each other in the doorway, but this time I couldn’t make out what they were saying.
  2037.  
  2038. I still felt cold, so I cocooned myself in the blankets, leaving one foreleg exposed so Amy could take my blood pressure. He clipped an oxygen saturation sensor on one of my ears and set about checking my blood pressure.
  2039.  
  2040. I wanted to ask Amy some questions about my ‘magic surge’ but my eyelids felt so heavy.
  2041.  
  2042.  
  2043.  
  2044.  
  2045.  
  2046. I felt like I was drifting away until a sudden jolt woke me. I was still moving, I was falling! I flailed in a panic and only managed to get tangled in the bedsheets, but with my head now uncovered I could see that it wasn’t me that had moved, it was the bed. I was being rolled down a corridor.
  2047.  
  2048. Relax, breathe, everything is fine.
  2049.  
  2050. I felt wet and sticky and I definitely didn’t check to see if I’d wet the bed; and even if I did check, it was unnecessary because I hadn’t. I’m not a baby.
  2051.  
  2052. My sheets were damp though, from a cold sweat. By the miracle of this new body’s healthy skin, it didn’t itch. It was still uncomfortable though.
  2053.  
  2054. Amy was keeping pace next to the bed as it was being rolled down the corridor.
  2055.  
  2056. “What’s going on?” I asked.
  2057.  
  2058. “We’re going for a ride.” Said Amy.
  2059.  
  2060. “I can see that,” I deadpanned. “Where are we going?”
  2061.  
  2062. “Thaumatology,” The word was unfamiliar, but it was clear enough what it was by context. “The doctor just wants to run a few tests to make sure you’re okay.”
  2063.  
  2064. “Great.”
  2065.  
  2066. My horn was starting to hurt like it was clamped in a vise that was slowly being tightened, and I wanted to be asleep, and these ponies had no idea what was wrong with me and even if they did they wouldn’t tell me because I’m just a child. Ugh, my head.
  2067.  
  2068. “Hey Green, are you all right?” Amy asked with concern.
  2069.  
  2070. “Fine,” I snapped.
  2071.  
  2072. “Are you in pain?”
  2073.  
  2074. “Yes.”
  2075.  
  2076. “Did you need som-”
  2077.  
  2078. “I’ll live,” I pulled the blankets over my head again and curled up to face away from him.
  2079.  
  2080. I didn’t see much of Thaumatology because the lights were too bright, making my eyes sting and my head throb. Stupid lights. Stupid ponies with their poking and prodding and their clippity-clopping hooves on the hard floor. Stupid machines with their beeping and clacking and whirring.
  2081.  
  2082. I groaned and ponies looked at me with concern. Probably. Or maybe they didn’t. I don’t know, my eyes were closed, and I was ignoring them.
  2083.  
  2084.  
  2085.  
  2086.  
  2087.  
  2088. I fell asleep on the way back to my room, and when I woke again Amy was gone. In his place was a pink unicorn mare with a similar trainee badge on her hat. That meant the shift had changed so Redheart had probably left as well. I’d only known them for a few hours, but I felt their absence keenly. They were, after all, the only people I knew in the entire world, and I didn’t even get to say goodbye to them.
  2089.  
  2090. I felt much better after my nap. All that remained was a dull ache at the base of my horn, and a feeling of emptiness in my chest where my magic had seemed to originate from.
  2091.  
  2092. My new minder looked bored. She idly flipped through a magazine she had levitated in her magic. Watching a patient sleep wasn’t the most fascinating of assignments, so I didn’t blame her at all. The unicorn had a straw yellow mane put up into a bun like Redheart’s had been.
  2093.  
  2094. “Hi.” I squeaked. Stupid squeaky voice.
  2095.  
  2096. The unicorn mare sighed and looked up. “Oh, you’re awake?”
  2097.  
  2098. Her voice had no enthusiasm, as if looking after me was a major imposition on her time.
  2099.  
  2100. “Really?” My voice dripped with sarcasm, “I hadn’t noticed.”
  2101.  
  2102. The unicorn knew better than to rise to the bait and instead she slid herself off the chair and stretched.
  2103.  
  2104. “They wanted me to let them know when you woke up,” She explained as she walked over to the door. “Don’t do anything crazy while I’m gone.”
  2105.  
  2106. I almost wanted to do something crazy just to spite her, but that would just be immature. I understood where she was coming from; it was boring. I was basically wasting her time, but this was part of the job, and she’d just have to suck it up and get used to it. I’d never had much sympathy for people that couldn’t keep themselves entertained for a few hours, especially if they were being paid for it. It’s like, you’re being paid by the hour to sit around and read a book, and you’re complaining about it? You’re complaining that the patient isn’t awake and trying to rip their catheter out or punch you in the face? What are you, five? Do you need me to dangle my car keys in front of you to keep your attention?
  2107.  
  2108. After a few minutes, the trainee returned with a fluorescent orange pegasus. I tactfully decided not to ask if that was her natural coat color since I didn’t want to remind her of the traumatic experience she must have endured as a filly when she fell into a vat of ink on a field trip to the highlighter factory.
  2109.  
  2110. She wasn’t wearing a nurse hat, so maybe she wasn’t a nurse?
  2111.  
  2112. “Good afternoon,” She greeted, “My name is Day Glow, do you remember me from yesterday?”
  2113.  
  2114. I almost smirked at her name, but I managed to keep it contained. At the same time a spike of fear hit me. Yet another pony had me at a disadvantage by knowing what I’d said while I was delirious, I couldn’t remember a thing. I thought back to the notes I’d skimmed with Amy earlier; I hadn’t paid any attention to the names, but if she wasn’t a nurse, and she wasn’t in Lunar guard armor, and she hadn’t introduced herself as ‘Dr.’... Right, the social worker.
  2115.  
  2116. “Sorry, I don’t remember anything from yesterday.”
  2117.  
  2118. “That’s all right.” She consoled, “We didn’t make much progress yesterday, but I’m told you’re feeling better today?”
  2119.  
  2120. “I don’t know.”
  2121.  
  2122. “Oh?”
  2123.  
  2124. “To know if I was feeling better today, I would have to compare it to yesterday,” I deadpanned, “If I can’t remember yesterday, how would I know if I’m feeling better today?”
  2125.  
  2126. She laughed at my joke, but it felt more like politeness than actual mirth. At least she could tell when I was joking.
  2127.  
  2128. “I’ll take that as a yes.” She noted something on a clipboard. “My job here is to represent the Ministry of Families, Foals and Mental Health.”
  2129.  
  2130. That was a mouthful. Hopefully she was here for the first two and not the third.
  2131.  
  2132. “It’s good timing that you woke up actually,” Dayglow continued, “There’s somepony I was just with that I wanted you to meet.”
  2133.  
  2134. I don’t like surprises. My job is to make sure that everything goes according to plan. To be prepared for anything that might happen. Day Glow had caught me completely off guard and nervousness twisted my stomach.
  2135.  
  2136. “You can come in now, Applejack.” She called out.
  2137.  
  2138. Damit. They brought the lie detector. I couldn’t run. My leg was broken, and even if it wasn’t, I had nowhere to go, no one to turn to. I was frozen on the spot, my skin was cold.
  2139.  
  2140. Relax, breathe, don’t have another panic attack.
  2141.  
  2142. I closed my eyes, and I took some deep breaths. I managed to stop shivering as I got the panic under control. I still had a knot of nervousness in my stomach though.
  2143.  
  2144. All right, she’s probably right in front of you, so don’t get startled.
  2145.  
  2146. I cracked open my eyes and saw that Applejack was actually standing a respectful distance away. When she noticed I was looking at her, she approached and introduced herself.
  2147.  
  2148. “Well hello there little one, my name’s Applejack.”
  2149.  
  2150. The knot in my stomach twisted tighter. Oh god, what if she knew I was lying when I told her my name? Ugh.
  2151.  
  2152. Okay, your name is Green. That’s what ponies call you, that’s what you refer to yourself as, so it’s not a lie. Just tell the truth. Your name is ‘Green’. You’re a pony, you were never a human.
  2153.  
  2154. I felt bile in my throat.
  2155.  
  2156. “Hi my name is-” I closed my mouth again when I realized I was speaking far too quietly for her to hear me.
  2157.  
  2158. Applejack moved closer “Pardon?”
  2159.  
  2160. Her moving closer made me even more nervous, if such a thing was possible. My stomach hurt. I took a breath.
  2161.  
  2162. “H- *hurrgh*” My stomach rebelled against me. I threw up on her hooves.
  2163.  
  2164. So much for first impressions.
  2165. > Best Policy
  2166. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2167.  
  2168. “Ahm not angry sugarcube,” Applejack’s muffled voice tried to comfort me through the bedclothes I’d wrapped myself in, “It wasn’t yer fault, there’s no need ta be scared.”
  2169.  
  2170. Just kill me now, save me from this embarrassment.
  2171.  
  2172. I could hear the hurt in Applejack’s voice and I knew that she’d feel just terrible if she thought she’d frightened me. No matter how much my embarrassment wanted me to scream at everypony to leave me alone, I knew I had to pretend to let Applejack comfort me, so she could ‘make up’ for what she saw as her mistake.
  2173.  
  2174. I poked my muzzle out of the blankets. The cooler air was refreshing, but I could still smell the cloying odor of my sick hanging in the room. I could smell Applejack too, and no, she didn’t smell like apples. She smelled of rich earth with a hint of healthy sweat, scents that were quite distinct from what I was used to in the hospital.
  2175.  
  2176. I slipped my head out of the blankets, my pony ears springing up to attention as they were freed from the blankets.
  2177.  
  2178. “It’s all right, Applejack,” I said.  “Don’t worry about me, I was just being stupid. I’m not scared.”
  2179.  
  2180. “Oh darlin’ I know yer jus’ tryin’ ta be brave, but there ain’t no need ta candy-coat the truth.” The coat on Applejack’s forelegs was damp, no doubt from washing off my puke.
  2181.  
  2182. Right, she could tell when I was lying. I swallowed nervously.
  2183.  
  2184. “I’m not afraid of you,” I clarified. “I’m just a very anxious pony.”
  2185.  
  2186. Applejack raised a hoof to her chest and a distraught expression crossed her face.
  2187.  
  2188. Dammit, why can’t I stop lying?
  2189.  
  2190. “Yer afraid of me?” The hurt in her voice cut me deep.
  2191.  
  2192. “Not because I think you’ll hurt me!” I blurted out, “I just- I’m scared because you- because you’re the element of honesty and you can tell when something is the truth and I don’t want ponies to know w- to know things.”
  2193.  
  2194. I probably shouldn’t have said that.
  2195.  
  2196. “Ah know tellin’ tha’ truth can hurt sometimes, but you’ll feel much better if you just come out with it.” Applejack lectured, “Everypony here is trying to help you - they won’t think worse of ya, no matter what yer secret is, they’ll help ya.”
  2197.  
  2198. “It’s not something I need help with,” I explained. “It’s something- it’s- ugh!”
  2199.  
  2200. I huffed in frustration.
  2201.  
  2202. “Being the element of honesty doesn’t give me any special powers sugar cube, ya’ll just ain’t that good at fibbing.” Applejack said, “Besides which, we returned the elements to the Tree of Harmony. Ahm not here to interrogate ya.”
  2203.  
  2204. “You’re not?”
  2205.  
  2206. Applejack turned to Dayglow and the fluorescent mare sighed.
  2207.  
  2208. “I’m so sorry Green, I shouldn’t have sprung it on you like this.” Dayglow apologized. “I was talking with Applejack about potentially taking you in as a foster child and I thought I’d introduce you two to ease you into the idea.”
  2209.  
  2210. Dayglow looked miserable too. I just spread misery wherever I go, don’t I?
  2211.  
  2212. “I didn’t realize you would recognize her, or that you would react so... strongly,” Dayglow explained. “I want to get you placed in a stable environment as soon as possible, but I’d never place you with somepony you felt uncomfortable with.”
  2213.  
  2214. Foster care? I hadn’t considered that. I’d assumed I’d be going to an orphanage. I didn’t want to take up a foster care spot that was meant for some poor foal that actually needed it.
  2215.  
  2216. “I don’t want to go into foster care, I’ll be fine in an orphanage or whatever.”
  2217.  
  2218. “I know it can be scary going with somepony you don’t know-”
  2219.  
  2220. “-It’s not that!” I interrupted, “I just- I don’t need it. Isn’t there a waiting list? Isn’t there somepony else that needs it more?”
  2221.  
  2222. Dammit, I was screwing this up. I looked over at Applejack.
  2223.  
  2224. “Green, look at me.” Dayglow lifted my chin so I was looking into her eyes, “You’re just as important as anypony else. You deserve to be happy, you deserve to have a family that loves you and cares for you.”
  2225.  
  2226. “What if I don’t want a family?”
  2227.  
  2228. “What do you want?” Asked Dayglow, “If you could have anything, what would you ask for?”
  2229.  
  2230. “I just want a safe place to sleep, with food provided, and a small stipend to cover expenses until I’m old enough to get a job.” I chose my words carefully. “If I have to share a bunk room with a few other ponies that’s fine I suppose, but I’d prefer to be alone, and once I’m working, I can pay back the money.”
  2231.  
  2232. I sighed.
  2233.  
  2234. “Look, I get it,” I preempted the response, “You’re not going to give me what I want. You’re going to do whatever you think is best for me, but you asked.”
  2235.  
  2236. “Huh.” Said Dayglow. “That’s not what I expected you to say.”
  2237.  
  2238. “What was I supposed to say?”
  2239.  
  2240. “Well, most fillies your age would want to be a Princess, or to have a million bits.”
  2241.  
  2242. “Being a princess looks like a lot of work, and taking a million bits that’s going to help orphans seems kinda evil.”
  2243.  
  2244. “That’s a very practical way to look at things.” Said Dayglow, “It’s a bit bleak though, don’t you think?”
  2245.  
  2246. “Happiness isn’t achieved by having things handed to you.” I countered, quickly converting an Earth saying into pony speak, “A beggar could be the happiest pony in Equestria while a prince who has wanted for nothing may live in misery.”
  2247.  
  2248. “Are you happy, Green?”
  2249.  
  2250. “Yes.”
  2251.  
  2252. “You don’t seem happy, you seem miserable. You’re anxious around other ponies, you’re having panic attacks, you don’t trust anypony enough to speak with them honestly, and from what I’ve read, since you’ve come to us you’ve spent most of your time either sleeping or crying.”
  2253.  
  2254. “This situation is very stressful for me, but I’m generally a happy pony.”
  2255.  
  2256. “I’m no Pinkie Pie, but I know a thing or two about making ponies happy.” Dayglow said lightly, “For somepony to be happy, they need to feel safe. Not just physically safe, emotionally safe. Have you ever felt safe, Green? Have you had somepony you could trust with everything?”
  2257.  
  2258. I could feel my mother’s cold fingers, poor circulation from her weak heart. I grasped them tightly in my small hands.
  2259.  
  2260. “Stay with me, Mom, I’m right here with you. Breathe. You’re going to get through this.”
  2261. She shook and kept asking me if it was all right. I told her it was, and I kicked myself for even thinking about telling her the other kids were being mean to me at school. I could imagine what Dad would do if I told him. He’d march down to the school and ‘sort out’ the situation regardless of how I’d beg him not to.
  2262.  
  2263. I thought about all the ways I could answer the question with another question; what is 'trust'? Is it just being able to predict how someone will respond? With Applejack in the room I figured it was best just to get it over with.
  2264.  
  2265. “No,” I said truthfully. “I guess I never have.”
  2266. > Highly Illogical
  2267. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2268.  
  2269. “You remember your parents?”
  2270.  
  2271. “Well, they’re not my parents.” I explained, “They’re not ponies, and they’re not in Equestria.”
  2272.  
  2273. They were the human me’s parents, the pony me had no parents since I’d been brought into the world fully formed. Well, almost fully. The much taller, fully grown ponies gathered in the room looked at me expectantly, and I felt very small.
  2274.  
  2275. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
  2276.  
  2277. “That’s all right Green,” Dayglow noticed my discomfort and wrapped a wing around me, “You’re being very brave, you can tell us about that when you’re ready. You don’t have to talk about it in front of everypony.”
  2278.  
  2279.  
  2280.  
  2281.  
  2282.  
  2283. Having fur sucks. It turns out, not all of my vomit was on Applejack - I got some of it on myself, and it couldn’t just be wiped off. While I did have magic now, it still wasn’t up to the delicate task of cleaning myself. Soothing Melody - my trainee nurse minder - was tasked with giving me a shower.
  2284.  
  2285. I was worried that Melody would be cross with me for giving her more work, but she actually seemed to be enjoying herself. I got the sense that she was treating me like one of her dolls; she put so much care into styling my mane and tail - all without standing me in front of the mirror or asking what I’d like. I can’t really blame her for treating me like a doll when that’s how I was acting.
  2286.  
  2287. Melody helping me in the bathroom was uncomfortable. She was a female, close enough to my age as a human, and she didn’t have the sense of professional detachment that Redheart displayed. I knew, intellectually, that the looks she was giving me were just because I was a cute little filly that she got to play with, but my human mind was interpreting them in a very different, very creepy way. That type of female attention had always been frightening to me.
  2288.  
  2289. I guess I should explain. In my life as a human, I had good people skills... professionally. Personal relationships, however, ranged from exhausting to terrifying. I like things to be predictable, I enjoyed the fact that shifts had routines and a procedure manual that I could study so I would know exactly what to do at all times. People are unpredictable, but at work, there were very clear boundaries and expectations and, most importantly, I didn’t have to trust them. I always had it in the back of my mind that they could suddenly snap, spit in my face and cuss me out, make false complaints about me, or try to stab me with a pen; So, when they did, I wasn’t angry with them. Their irrationality was just another symptom that had to be managed. Most often this type of behavior was the result of dementia or mental illness; For the rest, while being a complete dickhead isn’t technically a mental illness, it might as well be.
  2290.  
  2291. I can’t turn it off. I don’t have another way to interact with people. Some of my earliest memories are helping my mother with her mental illness, I couldn’t blame her for being irrational; and caring for my baby brother, who was as irrational and impulsive as you would expect from a six-year-old. My dad really tried, but he never managed to understand how to deal with anxiety and panic attacks. I didn’t blame him for trying to be assertive and snap Mum out of having a panic attack by telling her forcefully that she was being irrational and spouting nonsense. He honestly thought that would help.
  2292.  
  2293. If you know anything at all about anxiety, you can probably imagine how well that went. For anyone left wondering, not well. It’s possibly the most counter-productive thing you could do short of actual violence. I didn’t have the words to explain it to him at the time, and to this day he doesn’t really understand, though he has at least stopped attempting it.
  2294.  
  2295. I know my family better than I know anyone else in the world, I love them, I would do anything for them - but I don’t trust them. I’ve never really trusted anyone.
  2296.  
  2297. They’re not even my family though, are they? Am I a terrible person if that’s a relief to me? If it feels like a burden lifted? It’s not like I was abandoning them. The original was still there, and, by virtue of us being essentially the same person, he was actually, for the first time ever, someone I could trust to see things my way. Too bad we’d never meet.
  2298.  
  2299. Not trusting anyone, being afraid of new social situations, being afraid of people being irrational... can you see where this is going? I was terrified of having a girlfriend. That didn’t stop me from having one. A girl asked me out. I wanted to say no, but I was too afraid to turn her down in case she and her friends retaliated against me. So I said yes. We dated for three months and the furthest we went was a kiss on the lips, which only happened because my Dad told me I should do it because it was cruel to string her along.
  2300.  
  2301. I felt nothing but fear; she was ecstatic and literally skipped back to her father’s waiting car. She broke up with me a couple of weeks later, said she would hate me forever and threatened to have her dad beat me up.
  2302.  
  2303. It was cruel of me to lead her on, but being honest and telling her I never felt anything for her seemed even crueler, so instead I pretended to be sad about it.
  2304.  
  2305. Since then I’ve made sure to be clear about rebuffing romantic or sexual advances towards me. Most of my colleagues have taken the hint and assume I’m gay. While this would be a handy excuse for why I’m terrified of female sexual interest, I don’t actually like men in that way either. It terrifies me because I have no idea how to respond. From my experience, rebuffing these types of advances is something that makes people completely irrational, and reciprocating is equally bad, if it’s not done correctly.
  2306.  
  2307. I knew, with reasonable certainty that Melody wasn’t going to try anything weird, so I just sucked it up and stood there with a blank expression, complying with her requests to raise each hoof, stand, or sit.
  2308.  
  2309. She was efficient with her work, and despite taking time to style my mane and tail we were finished up within ten minutes. Most of what she’d done for me had been accomplished with magic, so it was a shock when she touched my hind quarters with a hoof to direct me out of the bathroom. With the thoughts going through my head at the time, I about jumped out of my skin.
  2310.  
  2311. I squeaked and wrapped my tail around where she had touched. An involuntary shudder ran through my body, interrupting my breathing exercise. I took a new breath and controlled the exhalation over four seconds, waited another four seconds, then returned to breathing normally.
  2312.  
  2313.  
  2314.  
  2315. “I’m so sorry,” I apologized, my face flushed red with embarrassment. “I wasn’t paying attention and you startled me.”
  2316.  
  2317. Melody didn’t answer immediately, and when I gained the courage to face her, I could see why. She had recoiled away from me, holding the hoof she had used to touch me tight against her chest. Her coat was somehow three shades lighter, her pupils were pinpricks, and I wasn’t entirely sure she was breathing.
  2318.  
  2319. “Are you okay?” I asked with concern.
  2320.  
  2321. “I-I’m going to get the nurse.” She mumbled before beating a hasty retreat out into the hallway.
  2322.  
  2323. Looking at the bed I noted that it was raised up too high for me to safely climb into it without help; I just lay on the floor and waited for my caretakers to return. My broken leg was throbbing again, but I couldn’t tell them about it; I needed a clear head to deal with whatever nonsense I was wrapped up in now.
  2324.  
  2325. Why does this keep happening to me?
  2326.  
  2327.  
  2328.  
  2329.  
  2330. > Perspective
  2331. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2332.  
  2333. When Redheart saw Melody stumble out of Green’s room in a panic, she just sighed. On the second shift of her double, her patience was beginning to fray.
  2334.  
  2335. “Alright Melody, what’s Green done now?” Asked Redheart, “Did she sprout wings? I really shouldn’t be surprised at this point.”
  2336.  
  2337. Redheart felt a little bad when her light-hearted jab failed to penetrate Melody’s panic. The pink mare grasped Redheart’s hoof and tried to drag her towards the patient’s room. Redheart had a feeling that it would be better not to have this conversation in front of the patient.
  2338.  
  2339.  
  2340.  
  2341. “Is this a medical emergency?” Redheart asked
  2342.  
  2343. “No, but-”
  2344.  
  2345. “Is Green having a panic attack?”
  2346.  
  2347. “Well... no-”
  2348.  
  2349. “Okay then, tell me what happened.”
  2350.  
  2351. Melody swallowed nervously. “Well I was giving Green a shower and she - and I - and she - I mean I, I think I touched her somewhere I wasn’t supposed to!”
  2352.  
  2353. The mare shrunk in on herself covering her mouth with a hoof as if she’d admitted to something unforgivable. 
  2354.  
  2355. “So where did you touch her?” Redheart sighed again when she realised she wasn’t going to be leaving this shift on time.
  2356.  
  2357. “On the flank,” Melody explained, “I was showing her out of the bathroom, and - and she was so scared! She was shaking and then she apologised to me! Like she thought I would punish her for getting scared! It’s all my fault!”
  2358.  
  2359. “It’s all right Melody,” Redheart comforted, “You couldn’t have known she would react like this. You’re not the one who hurt her, you just found one of her triggers. Something about the situation must have made her relive a traumatic memory.”
  2360.  
  2361. Redheart walked towards Green’s room. “I need you to be calm, Melody, do you need a moment?”
  2362.  
  2363. “No.” Melody responded, “I’m fine.”
  2364.  
  2365. Green was lying on the floor next to a bed that had been raised so the linen could be easily changed. When she saw Redheart enter she rolled onto her back so she was looking at the nurse upside down.
  2366.  
  2367. “Whatever she told you is a lie, nothing happened.” The filly said in aggravation, “I was just shivering because I was cold after being in the shower.”
  2368.  
  2369. “Would it make you feel more comfortable if we pretended that’s what happened?” Redheart didn’t believe the filly for a second, “I know you feel embarrassed when you have reactions you can’t control.”
  2370.  
  2371. “Sure. Whatever.” The filly struggled to her hooves and Melody moved towards her but froze as she couldn’t decide whether she should lay hooves on her.
  2372.  
  2373. A look of agony crossed Green’s face as she tried to breathe through the pain in her broken foreleg, but she didn’t let out so much as a murmur as tears gathered in her eyes.
  2374.  
  2375. “How bad is the pain on a scale of one to ten.” Melody asked reflexively.
  2376.  
  2377. “I’m fine,” Green growled, “Don’t worry about it.”
  2378.  
  2379. “Green, please be honest,” Redheart pleaded, “We can help you with the pain, and we need to know if there’s something wrong with your leg.”
  2380.  
  2381. “I snapped my leg in two and now I’ve got metal screwed into my bones, it’s perfectly normal to feel some pain.” The filly said matter-of-factly, “What I need is for ponies to stop treating me like I’m crazy. I’m here because I broke my leg, my brain works just fine.”
  2382.  
  2383. “I don’t think you’re crazy Green,” Redheart said, “Something bad happened to you, and it wasn’t your fault, even if you feel like it is. You -”
  2384.  
  2385. “Nothing happened.” The filly insisted, “I’m fine. I just get anxious sometimes, and you ponies always assume it’s the worst possible thing. I can manage my anxiety just fine, I just need people to stop poking at it!”
  2386.  
  2387. “Are you ready for bed, Green?” Redheart asked, disengaging from the conversation that was distressing her patient.
  2388.  
  2389. Green looked back to the bathroom and the towels left on the floor.
  2390.  
  2391. “Yes.” The filly answered in a huff, but she couldn’t cross her forelegs due to the cast. She blinked adorably when she noticed this before returning to her scowl.
  2392.  
  2393. “You missed dinner,” Redheart explained, “Did you want some sandwiches from the fridge?”
  2394.  
  2395. “I’ll be fine.”
  2396.  
  2397. “Okay, if you change your mind, Melody will be right here. Is it alright if she stays?”
  2398.  
  2399. “Ugh, it’s fine! She didn’t even do anything, I just get scared for no reason sometimes. It’s not like I’m gonna die.”
  2400.  
  2401. “All right then, get some rest, Green.” Redheart instructed, “Melody, just keep an eye on her, and don’t forget to write in the notes.”
  2402.  
  2403.  
  2404.  
  2405.  
  2406. > Not a Kid
  2407. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2408.  
  2409. “Applejack, can ah sleep in your room tonight?” Applebloom whimpered.
  2410.  
  2411. “Are you having nightmares again?” Applejack asked, “I sent a letter to Princess Luna but I haven’t heard back yet. And o’ course you can darlin’ don’t sweat it.”
  2412.  
  2413. “It’s just - that filly we found in the forest,” Applebloom admitted, “Ah, know we weren’ supposed to go in the forest, but-”
  2414.  
  2415. Applejack sighed and hugged her sister close. “Oh Applebloom, yer heart was in the right place goin’ out tah save that filly, but you’ve got to think with your head sometimes,” Applejack lectured. “You saw what happened to that filly that got lost an’ hurt. What if that had been you? Ah’d never forgiven ma’self if somethin’ happened to you!”
  2416.  
  2417. Applebloom didn’t try to argue, she just hugged back and listened to the steady beat of her sister’s heart as tears welled in her eyes.
  2418.  
  2419. “She was so scared!” Applebloom sobbed, “Ah’ve never seen anypony that scared before. She was begging us not to hurt her, an’ then she tried to run away on a broken leg, an’ she started talkin’ all crazy, an’ then she tried to walk all the way back to Ponyville, and she collapsed an’ ah thought she was dead-”
  2420.  
  2421. “Hey, simmer down now,” Applejack comforted, “She’s fine, thanks to you. I went to see her at the hospital today.”
  2422.  
  2423. Applebloom pulled her face out of her sister’s coat to look her in the eye.
  2424.  
  2425. “Ya did?” Applebloom said with hopeful excitement, “Did she say anything about me?”
  2426.  
  2427. “Ahm sure she would thank ya if she could, but...” Applejack tried to think how to phrase it gently, “Well she weren’ up for sayin’ much of anything. She’s still a mite shook up.”
  2428.  
  2429. “Ah bet her parents were happy to see her at least.”
  2430.  
  2431. Applejack tensed up and didn’t answer.
  2432.  
  2433. “... Oh,” Applebloom could figure out what that meant.
  2434.  
  2435. “They haven’t been able to find her parents. She won’t even tell us her name, so she goes by ‘Green’ now.” Applejack explained, “How would ya feel if Green stayed here with us fer a while?”
  2436.  
  2437. Applebloom hesitated for a moment too long before answering.
  2438.  
  2439. “That would be fine, ah guess,” She mumbled. “She’s kinda... weird.”
  2440.  
  2441. “Really now?” Applejack raised an eyebrow, “Was she mean to you?”
  2442.  
  2443. “Well, no,” Applebloom said hesitantly. “Ah mean, she did say we weren’t never goin' ta get our cutie marks, but she apologized fer tha’.”
  2444.  
  2445. “Well, that wasn’t a very nice thing for her to say.”
  2446.  
  2447. “She did think we were timberwolves at the time.” Applebloom elaborated, “And she did apologize right after, but then she started talking all crazy and on the way back she kept calling us ‘kids’ and telling us to go on without her.”
  2448.  
  2449. “She must have been mighty confused,” Applejack said, “Ya’ll don’t look anything like timberwolves or goats.”
  2450.  
  2451. “She kept saying she was fine,” Applebloom was beginning to tear up, “But she wuz hurt real bad and she kept pushing us away when we tried ta help her walk, an’ she fell, an’ then she kicked Scootaloo in the face when she tried ta help her up. An’ she wuz wimperin’ the whole time and cryin’ but I don’t think she knew ‘cause she kept tryin’ ta tell us that she didn’t need help, an’ -”
  2452.  
  2453. “Shhh, it’s alright,” Applejack hugged her sister tight to her chest. “Ah know Green must have scared ‘ya somethin’ fierce, but Ah’m sure she didn’ mean to. She’s just... well she’s a very anxious pony and Ah guess that bein’ lost an’ injured must have frightened the wits out of her, poor thing.”
  2454.  
  2455. “Like Fluttershy?” Applebloom asked.
  2456.  
  2457. “Ah guess I bit like that, yeah,” Applejack responded. “She’s very frightened of other ponies right now, and she needs a safe place to live so she can learn to trust ponies to not hurt her. Ah was hoping tha-”
  2458.  
  2459. “Yes!” Applebloom said firmly, “Ah want to help her. If she needs to learn how to trust, she can learn from mah sister, the Element a’ Honesty!”
  2460.  
  2461. Applejack tousled her sister’s mane.
  2462.  
  2463. “Aww shoot, ah just remembered,” Applejack said sheepishly. “Ahm supposed to go to a meetin’ at the hospital tonight to see about helpin’ Green. Ya can sleep in Big Mac’s room if ya like, Ah’m sure he wouldn’ mind.”
  2464.  
  2465. “A meeting this late at night?” Applebloom questioned.
  2466.  
  2467. “Well, the Princess is going to be there,” Applejack explained. “Ah can try bringin’ up yer nightmares if I get a chance to speak with her alone.”
  2468.  
  2469. “Ya know what?” Applebloom said, “Ah think Ah’ll be fine.”
  2470.  
  2471.  
  2472.  
  2473.  
  2474. > The Royal We
  2475. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2476.  
  2477. “We did not call thee ‘small’,” Princess Luna argued, “We merely remarked that thy stature is perfect for this assignment.”
  2478.  
  2479. The air chariot was making a good pace towards Ponyville, the enchanted metal cut the night air like a knife and reduced the sound of the howling wind to a dull murmur.
  2480.  
  2481. “You want me to meet with a filly who is intimidated by ponies taller than herself,” Replied Corporal Mango of Her Highness’ Royal Night Guard, “What else could you have meant by that, Princess? At least allow me to wear my armor.”
  2482.  
  2483. “Dost thou pride thyself on thy ability to frighten young foals?” Questioned Luna, “If thou sayest neigh, thou hast no reason to take offense at this assignment.”
  2484.  
  2485. Mango straightened his posture to sit a little taller, but next to his Princess he could be mistaken for a colt.
  2486.  
  2487. “As you say, Princess,” Mango grumbled.
  2488.  
  2489.  
  2490.  
  2491.  
  2492.  
  2493. Redheart sighed as she made her way towards the exit. Her hooves ached and she could imagine crawling into bed.
  2494.  
  2495. “Redheart, a moment please.” A voice called from behind her.
  2496.  
  2497. “If it can’t wait until tomorrow, find somepony else,” Redheart replied without looking back.
  2498.  
  2499. “Wait,” Paper Stack, Assistant Director of Nursing, stepped into her path, “You looked after Green today and yesterday, right?”
  2500.  
  2501. Redheart sighed again. “Is there another problem with Green?”
  2502.  
  2503. If Green was asking for her she’d go back, she decided, even if it was technically illegal for her to work any more hours today.
  2504.  
  2505.  “You’d know better than I,” Paper Stack admitted, “To that end, I want you to attend Green’s progress review.”
  2506.  
  2507. If eyes could speak, Redheart’s would have been screaming ‘are you bucking serious’ as she pushed past Paper Stack to walk towards the door.
  2508.  
  2509. “Sure, fine, when is it?”
  2510.  
  2511. “Tonight.”
  2512.  
  2513. Redheart turned back and gave Paper Stack a suspicious glare.
  2514.  
  2515.  
  2516.  
  2517. “Tonight?”
  2518.  
  2519. Paper Stack nodded and tried to look apologetic. 
  2520.  
  2521. “You’re holding a progress review meeting in the middle of the night,” Redheart asked incredulously, “For a patient in stable condition who’s been with us less than three days?”
  2522.  
  2523. “The princess is coming to check on Green’s care,” Paperstack explained.
  2524.  
  2525. “Alright, good luck with that.” Redheart continued towards the door.
  2526.  
  2527. “You can’t leave,” Paper Stack instructed, or pleaded - Redheart was too tired to tell the difference. “The meeting is in less than an hour.”
  2528.  
  2529. “Do you have a royal decree ordering me to attend?” Redheart questioned, “If not, I need to leave now, I have a shift in the morning and it’s illegal for me to stay any longer tonight.”
  2530.  
  2531. “I’ll find somepony to cover your shift,” Paper Stack begged, “I’ll give you an extra day of paid leave at double-time rate.”
  2532.  
  2533. “Can you actually find somepony to cover my shift at this time of night?” Redheart asked. “I don’t want them working short-staffed.”
  2534.  
  2535. “If I can’t find somepony I’ll cover your shift myself.” Paper Stack promised, “I still keep my registration up to date.”
  2536.  
  2537. Redheart smirked at the idea of Paperstack being back on the floor after more than a decade of administration work.
  2538.  
  2539. “I’ll hold you to that.” Redheart quipped, “Now if you’ll excuse me I need to consume twice my body weight in coffee.”
  2540.  
  2541.  
  2542.  
  2543.  
  2544.  
  2545. “Are you sure we’re talking about the same filly?” Twilight asked, “Rainbow was ranting all of yesterday about how she was too dangerous to be around other fillies, and now you’re telling me she was so timid she could barely speak.”
  2546.  
  2547. Unlike her night-owl friend, Applejack was the kind of pony that went to bed early so she could rise before Celestia’s sun. The farm pony let out a yawn.
  2548.  
  2549. “Well, Green did leave a nasty bruise on Scootaloo’s face,” Applejack responded, “You know how protective Rainbow is of her little sister.”
  2550.  
  2551. “So it was an accident?” Twilight questioned.
  2552.  
  2553. “From what Apple Bloom told me, Green was so delirious she thought the crusaders were a pack of Timberwolves.” 
  2554.  
  2555. “Is she still-”
  2556.  
  2557. “No,” Applejack quickly clarified, “She knows what’s going on now, she’s just… terrified. She doesn’t have anypony to turn to.”
  2558.  
  2559. “She has you.” Twilight placed a hoof on her friend’s shoulder.
  2560.  
  2561. “Maybe not.”
  2562.  
  2563. “You’re having second thoughts?”
  2564.  
  2565. “Not at all, Ah just - Ah don’t think she likes me.” Applejack replied
  2566.  
  2567. “She barely knows you.”
  2568.  
  2569. “She knows of me,” Applejack explained, “And the thought of tha’ element of Honesty punishin’ her for lying scares tha’ piss outta her.”
  2570.  
  2571. “You mean literally, or...” Twilight trailed off.
  2572.  
  2573. It took the farm pony a moment to realise what Twilight was implying.
  2574.  
  2575. “This ain’t a joking matter, Twi.” Applejack chided.
  2576.  
  2577. “It was an honest question,” Twilight blushed, “Sometimes when a filly her age gets very scared or very excited, certain... things... can happen.”
  2578.  
  2579. Applejack raised an eyebrow. “Are ya speaking from experience?”
  2580.  
  2581. “What?” Twilight’s blush deepened, “No! Of course not!”
  2582.  
  2583. Applejack gave a knowing smile. “Whatever you say, Princess.”
  2584.  
  2585. “H-hey!” Twilight sputtered, “Don’t use your honesty powers on me!”
  2586.  
  2587. “Ah keep tellin’ y’all ah don’t have any freaky mind readin’ powers,” Applejack snorted. “Y’all just ain’t that good at fibbin’.”
  2588.  
  2589. Twilight huffed and tried to set her ruffled feathers straight.
  2590.  
  2591. “Yer secret is safe with me, Princess Sprinkle.” Applejack giggled.
  2592.  
  2593. “Hey- is that Princess Luna?” Twilight interrupted loudly.
  2594.  
  2595. “Where-” Applejack’s question was interrupted by a sudden flash of magenta as Twilight dragged her into a rougher-than-necessary teleport. The two popped into existence in front of the hospital just in time to see Luna’s air chariot coming in for a landing.
  2596.  
  2597. “Land sakes girl,” Applejack admonished, “Warn a pony before you go and do that.”
  2598.  
  2599. Twilight smiled sheepishly.
  2600.  
  2601. “Well met, Twilight Sparkle.” Luna greeted, stepping off of her chariot.
  2602.  
  2603. Applejack briefly bowed to Luna. Twilight twitched slightly as she almost bowed, but remembered she was a Princess too. 
  2604.  
  2605. “Rise, Applejack,” Luna commanded, “You need not be so formal whilst we are among friends.”
  2606.  
  2607. “We were hoping that after the meeting concludes we might engage in some stargazing.” Luna had a giddy sense of excitement as she suggested this. “We have made a few changes to the night sky and would be interested to hear your opinion.”
  2608.  
  2609. “Ugh,” Twilight huffed in frustration, “Can’t anypony take this seriously? We’re here to discuss serious matters.”
  2610.  
  2611. Luna’s good cheer seemed to evaporate, her face becoming an unreadable mask, the shadows around her seeming to darken slightly.
  2612.  
  2613. “Do not mistake our good cheer for a lack of resolve, young princess.” Luna spoke. “Those who would seek to harm the least of our subjects shall face our wrath. Every day, somewhere in Equestria, a pony is having the worst day of their life, yet for us it is merely Tuesday. It is noble to do what you can for your subjects, but you serve nopony by drowning yourself in their misery.”
  2614.  
  2615. Twilight swallowed nervously. Applejack, sensing her friend's discomfort, looked for a way to change the subject. She spotted the small thestral that Luna had brought with her and walked towards him.
  2616.  
  2617. “And who’s this little one?” Applejack moved to pet the young thestral’s mane, only to yelp in surprise as the pony nipped at her hoof with sharp teeth. Luna glared at him. 
  2618.  
  2619. Mango shrunk even lower than his usual, already-modest height.
  2620.  
  2621. “This is Corporal Mango,” Luna explained, “One of my guards, and he does not normally behave so childishly. Come, all of you, we shall speak more inside.”
  2622.  
  2623.  
  2624.  
  2625.  
  2626. > A Little Greenhorn
  2627. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2628.  
  2629. Paper Stack resisted the urge to trot in place like a filly who needed to use the restroom, instead taking a seat near the head of the long conference table. She couldn’t help but nervously tap her hoof as she fretted over the room’s lighting. At first, she had thought to leave all the lights on full brightness to show that the hospital was fully operational during Princess Luna’s night, but then she had wondered if having the lights so bright would be an insult to the night and the work that Princess did making the beautiful night sky.
  2630.  
  2631. In sharp contrast to Paper Stack’s excess energy, Redheart walked with the exaggerated deliberation of a pony that wasn’t entirely sure of their balance; her focus on ensuring the precious coffee cradled in her fetlock would not spill. The mare let out an explosive sigh as she took her seat next to Paperstack. Redheart’s eyes closed for a moment before she shook her head and took a sip of her coffee. The bitter triple-strength instant coffee was scalding hot and the nurse grumbled as it burned the top of her mouth slightly. 
  2632.  
  2633. The Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Stone sat across from the mares and his expression was true to his namesake. Beside him, Dr. Asure Light, Green’s Neurologist was arranging some notes in front of her, but it was clear from the small number of pages and her lack of focus that her fidgeting served no real purpose.
  2634.  
  2635. Dayglow sat down next to Redheart and the fluro pegasus gave her friend a comforting shoulder squeeze. The doors opened and everypony turned in unison, but rather than the Alicorn they were expecting they were met with an aggravated Dr. Red Cross. He made his way over to Paperstack and spoke to her in a slightly hushed tone as if everypony else in the room couldn’t hear him easily.
  2636.  
  2637. “Alright, I’m here,” He stated. “But I can’t stay long, I’ve had to leave an intern in charge of the ER.”
  2638.  
  2639. “Is Emergency busy tonight?” Paper Stack queried.
  2640.  
  2641. “Well, not yet.” The stallion admitted.
  2642.  
  2643. “Do you have any critical patients?” She pushed.
  2644.  
  2645. “No.” The stallion sighed, “But-”
  2646.  
  2647. “Then they’ll be fine.” Paper Stack cut him off, “If anything happens I’m sure they’ll come get you. This is no different from you taking lunch in the break room.”
  2648.  
  2649. Not wanting to press the administrator further, the doctor took a seat next to Dayglow so he was closest to the door.
  2650.  
  2651. “Did Princess Luna really ask for this meeting to be in the middle of the night?” Red Cross grumbled. “Doesn’t she have any consideration for other ponies’ sleep schedule?”
  2652.  
  2653. Paperstack shot him a glare.
  2654.  
  2655. “She didn’t have to ask!” She said curtly, “We work to the Princess’ schedule, not the other way around.”
  2656.  
  2657. Red Cross was about to respond when the doors opened, but nopony was there.
  2658.  
  2659. At the sound of somepony clearing their throat, they sat up in their seats so they could see over the table. A tiny Thestral flapped his wings once to spring up onto the table. He was well-muscled and his keen eyes swept across the room looking for anything out of place. After a moment of observation, he spoke.
  2660.  
  2661. “Announcing her majesty Princess Luna, her highness Princess Sparkle, and company.” The small bat spoke officiously.
  2662.  
  2663. The ponies at the table rose from their seats, turning their attention to the door. Paperstack had to nudge Redheart to break the trance-like stare she was giving her coffee cup.
  2664.  
  2665.  
  2666.  
  2667.  
  2668.  
  2669. Twilight had protested when Mango insisted on checking the room before they entered. She and Princess Luna were two of the most powerful beings in Equestria and they hardly needed bodyguards in Ponyville of all places. Luna merely smiled and told her to let Mango do his job, however unnecessary it might be.
  2670.  
  2671. For Twilight it was still profoundly awkward to see ponies bowing to her. Luna easily took it in stride, walking around to take her seat on the provided cushion at the head of the table; the hospital likely had no chairs to fit her frame. Despite this, she remained at eye level with the assembled ponies. Luna gave Mango a glance as if to question why he was standing on the table, but she remained silent. Mango leapt off the table and quickly replaced Princess Twilight’s pillow with a chair so that the smaller princess could see over the edge. Applejack grabbed a chair for herself and seated herself next to Twilight.
  2672.  
  2673. Mango gave AJ a harsh look but didn’t challenge the mare’s decision to seat herself at the head of the table with the princesses. The guard took up a position in a corner of the room where he could see the entrance and the windows.
  2674.  
  2675. “You may be seated,” Luna granted.
  2676.  
  2677. “Princess Luna, Princess Twilight,” Paper Stack greeted, “You honor us with your presence. I hope you were not inconvenienced.”
  2678.  
  2679. “The timing is most agreeable to us, but we grow concerned that our presence here has disrupted the work you do here,” Luna replied, “We would not wish to take your time away from caring for sick ponies.”
  2680.  
  2681. “Princess, I assure you that our quality of care will not be affected,” Paper Stack explained, “A progress review meeting is a normal part of our routine, to ensure patients are being treated in accordance with best practice.”
  2682.  
  2683. “Naturally. And are these meetings typically held so late at night?”
  2684.  
  2685. “With the twenty-four-hour nature of our work progress review meetings can be held at whatever time is necessary.”
  2686.  
  2687. “Verily,” Luna decided not to press the administrator on her obvious half-truth. “You may proceed.”
  2688.  
  2689. “Since there are some non-medical ponies present I will remind everypony that any specific information about the patient is considered confidential and should not be disclosed to anypony not involved in her treatment without the permission of the patient and her appointed guardian.” Paper Stack instructed.
  2690.  
  2691. After a moment of tense silence, Dr Stone was the first to speak.
  2692.  
  2693. “The patient suffered a simple transverse fracture of the cannon bone with displacement and a comminuted fracture to her long pastern.” The unicorn stallion spoke in a monotone, “Injuries were consistent with a high energy impact to her lower left foreleg. I performed a Coltfield-Cooper lateral comparative symmetry relocation. The long pastern needed additional stabilization so a tri-axial mana-guided closed-field internal fixation was executed with a standard pattern seven technique requiring six point three inches of Mythril bio-thaumatic wire and four anchor screws. The operation was successful and the probability of further complications is less than one percent.”
  2694.  
  2695. Paperstack managed to pre-empt the inevitable demand from the princess that he ‘speak Equish’ and quickly summarised.
  2696.  
  2697. “Her leg was badly broken, but she will make a full recovery,” Paperstack struggled not to roll her eyes in exasperation at the oblivious doctor. “Red Cross, you were the first to see Green, perhaps you can give us a better overview?”
  2698.  
  2699. Dr. Cross swallowed nervously and wished he had some papers in front of him to pretend to shuffle. 
  2700.  
  2701. “‘Green’ is a unicorn filly presenting to the emergency room with confusion, reduced level of consciousness, and a broken foreleg,” The earth pony stallion said, “Witnesses report she was found in the Everfree Forest injured and confused. When we were unable to determine her identity I ordered a muzzle to tail assessment, blood and urine tests, dental X-ray to determine her age, a head CT to rule out brain injury and X-rays to assess her injured leg. The on-call radiologist confirmed there was no brain injury so I referred Green to Dr. Stone in orthopedics.”
  2702.  
  2703. “We are unfamiliar with much of what you have described,” Luna queried, “Tell us truly, what was her condition when you first saw her?”
  2704.  
  2705. “She was barely conscious, feverish, too confused to answer questions. Her coat was dirty, covered in scrapes and bruises, and her foreleg was badly broken,” Dr. Cross described. “She seemed to be in a great deal of pain but we could not administer any pain relief for fear of masking her neurological symptoms.”
  2706.  
  2707. The words stung Luna more than she had expected. She couldn’t help but feel she was somehow responsible. After all, it was her failure to locate the filly that had led to the child’s injury. 
  2708.  
  2709. “In her dreams, the filly hath let slip to us that ‘twas not the first time she has been injured so.” Luna said bitterly, “What else dist thou find in your assessment?”
  2710.  
  2711. “My apologies, your majesty, I found no sign of past injuries,” Dr. Cross admitted, “I can’t say definitively without a skeletal survey, but if she did have a previous fracture it is well healed.”
  2712.  
  2713. The gathered ponies were somewhat surprised when Applejack spoke next.
  2714.  
  2715. “Beggin’ yer pardon Princess, but are ya sure she meant what she said?” Applejack questioned. “When mah sister an’ her friends found her Green was so out of sorts she couldn’t tell a pony from a Timberwolf.”
  2716.  
  2717. “Princess, if I may?” Dr. Azure Light interjected, receiving a nod from Luna before she continued. “I am Green’s Neurologist. On review, I believe that her delirium and short term memory loss were caused by a combination of factors. On admission, her pain, fever, and exhaustion were the proximate cause, but it’s likely that the medications we used to anesthetize her for surgery and later to relieve her pain exacerbated the problem. When we reduced her opiates she became lucid.”
  2718.  
  2719. “When the filly spoke with us she claimed to remember nothing of her life before the forest.” Luna questioned, “Surely this implies long term memory loss?”
  2720.  
  2721. “Based on what I’ve read from her notes-”
  2722.  
  2723. “Have you spoken with ‘Green’?” Luna interrupted.
  2724.  
  2725. “My apologies, your majesty,” Azure Light said, “I was due to meet with Green earlier today but she had some form of magical incident that required urgent testing and I was unable to do so.”
  2726.  
  2727. Twilight’s eyes lit up with intense curiosity but before she was able to formulate a good question Luna had pushed the conversation on.
  2728.  
  2729. The night princess sighed. “Please, continue.”
  2730.  
  2731. “From what the information I’ve been able to gather it seems unlikely that her retrograde amnesia has a neurological cause. She could have suffered a psychological trauma that is repressing those memories, but most likely she simply doesn’t want to tell us. This is pending a neurological assessment in pony, but if she’s not cooperative then it will be difficult to get a definitive answer.
  2732.  
  2733. “When we spoke she was lucid, though frightened and wary beyond her years,” Luna replied. “She did not mean to tell us about her previous injuries, so we can be sure she was not trying to deceive us. Her attempt to hide it, combined with her general demeanor paint a most troubling picture.
  2734.  
  2735. “Oh...” Applejack said, frowning. 
  2736.  
  2737. “Though she did claim that she did not remember if it was her or… Somepony else, ” The elder princess said. “But that does not leave out the option. Are you certain that you haven’t found any healed injuries?”
  2738.  
  2739. “We examined her quite thoroughly, though it wasn’t a forensic investigation,” Dr. Cross explained. “We were looking for anything that was immediately relevant. I haven’t met with her again since her admission,”
  2740.  
  2741. “You speak of investigation, but we have to wonder,” Luna asked, “What has been done to investigate her identity?”
  2742.  
  2743. “When she was not immediately identifiable I requested a social worker review, as is standard for unaccompanied minors.” Dr. Cross replied. “Dayglow is handling her case, so she would be better able to answer questions relating to that.”
  2744.  
  2745. “Understandable.”
  2746.  
  2747. “I’m afraid there’s little else I can be of use for,” Without waiting for the Princess to dismiss him, Dr. Cross rose from his seat, earning him a stern glare from Mango. “If there are no further questions I should be getting back to the Emergency department.”
  2748.  
  2749. “Very well,” Luna commanded, “We shall not keep you from your work longer than necessary. You may leave us.”
  2750.  
  2751. “Your Majesty,” The Earthpony bowed to Princess Luna before turning and bowing to Princess Twilight, “Your Highness.”
  2752.  
  2753.  
  2754.  
  2755.  
  2756.  
  2757. “Unfortunately there has been little progress on identifying the filly,” Dayglow lamented, “Initially she was too confused to know what was going on, and now that she’s recovered she’s refusing to answer any questions. She doesn’t match any missing ponies in our archives, and she’s never been admitted to a local hospital, or attended any of the nearby schools. I’ve sent letters to my colleagues in nearby towns and cities, but I haven’t had any positive responses yet.”
  2758.  
  2759. “Is this sort of situation common in modern Equestria?” Princess Luna asked
  2760.  
  2761. “It’s certainly very unusual in a small town like Ponyville,” Dayglow responded, “But larger cities like Baltimare and Manehattan have their share of runaways and it can take time to identify them if they are uncooperative. In most cases, it all ends up being an overreaction or misunderstanding, and they end up being returned to their parents. You hope for the best in these situations, but it’s our job to prepare for the worst.”
  2762.  
  2763. “What is the best hope for Green?” The princess inquired.
  2764.  
  2765. “Everything we’ve observed with Green seems to point in a certain direction,” Dayglow explained, “She’s touch-shy, but that could just be skittishness from stress; she is very mistrustful, but we’re all strangers to her so some hesitance is expected; she’s terrified of us finding out who she is, and our assumption is that it’s because she is afraid of being sent home, but we don’t know why she is afraid. Children have trouble evaluating how important something really is; They might break their mother’s fine porcelain and think it’s the worst crime imaginable, that they have to run away from home and keep it a secret from everypony.”
  2766.  
  2767. The fluorescent pegasus sighed and looked downcast.
  2768.  
  2769. “That’s what I hope is the case,” The mare swallowed, “But the more we learn, the less likely that seems. She’s determined to hide something from us, but when she was recovering from anesthesia she said-”
  2770.  
  2771. The mare looked down at Green’s patient notes to read verbatim.
  2772.  
  2773. “She remembers a ‘guy’ telling her that he was going to “make her a mare” before being left alone in the forest,” Dayglow looked up. “She didn’t seem to understand what that meant, but the implication is clear.”
  2774.  
  2775. The expressions in the room ranged from sickened to vengeful.
  2776.  
  2777. “Thankfully, when she was examined, we found no signs of sexual trauma,” She continued. “And at her age, they would not be subtle. So whatever he intended it seems she got away.”
  2778.  
  2779. “If this were the case, surely she would tell us.”
  2780.  
  2781. “I’m afraid it’s not so simple, your Majesty. In these cases, the perpetrator is usually somepony the victim trusts, and Green didn’t understand what was going on. She most likely feels like she has done something wrong.
  2782.  
  2783. When your guards came to interview her she was still delirious but she was cognizant enough to remember that she wasn’t ‘supposed’ to tell us about what happened. She denied that she had ever been touched inappropriately, but she became increasingly distressed and told us we had the wrong idea,” Dayglow growled. “Somepony groomed her. They convinced her that they were the only pony in the world she could trust; then they did something that made her feel so unsafe she had to run away.”
  2784.  
  2785. “If she will not tell us, there are other means by which we can extract their names from her mind,” Luna stated with an intense look in her eyes.
  2786.  
  2787. “Your Majesty, I urge you to reconsider,” Dr. Azure Light countered. “Using mind magic on children is unpredictable at the best of times, and in Green’s case, some amount of psychological harm is a near certainty. By my oath as a physician I cannot abide in any course of action that would harm my patient, not even to save other fillies from this monster.”
  2788.  
  2789. “While I didn’t swear an oath, it is my duty to be an advocate for my client.” Dayglow added, “Green is not a criminal and we must consider her best interests first with any decision we make here. We are trying to build up her trust; if we violate the privacy of her mind she may never feel safe around ponies of authority again.”
  2790.  
  2791. “We thank you for your wise counsel,” Luna replied. “It would not do to act rashly in such a delicate situation. With that in mind, I should inform you that I intend to take Green as my ward.”
  2792. > Musical Interlude
  2793. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2794.  
  2795. When I was not a filly, I found it rather silly
  2796. To think that I would be a pony here one day
  2797. I had fanfics to read, didn't know that I should even heed
  2798. Threats of Marehood that left me here to stay
  2799. You should be careful what you ask for, I don't know if this life's for meeee!
  2800.  
  2801. I'm a pony, trapped here forever!
  2802. Now my pe-nis is gone and my links to home are severed
  2803. And though I'm oh so far a way, I wish that I could saaay,
  2804. That I wasn't trapped here foreveeeeer
  2805. and now I see that I'm really not, so cleveeeeeer
  2806.  
  2807. > It's not RAD
  2808. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2809.  
  2810. An awkward silence filled the room and meaningful glances were exchanged. Nurse Redheart’s coffee seemed to have taken effect and she placed a hoof on Dayglow’s foreleg to give her the emotional support needed to press on.
  2811.  
  2812. “Your Majesty, I don’t question your motives, nor your ability to care for the child,” Dayglow swallowed dryly, “But I have concerns.”
  2813.  
  2814. “We shall hear them,” Said Luna. “Feel free to speak your mind.”
  2815.  
  2816. “Green is very anxious about other ponies finding things out about her. Being placed in a highly public position is going to be difficult for her to cope with,” Dayglow explained. “At the same time, she can’t be sequestered away to protect her from public scrutiny because she needs to be socialized; she’s already afraid of other ponies and the last thing we want is to legitimize that fear by telling her she needs to hide from the general public.”
  2817.  
  2818. “When she presented herself to us in her dreams she displayed a remarkable level of control for somepony so young,” Luna said, “If we do not take the filly under our wing I feel a great opportunity will have been missed. We will work with her to manage her anxiety - as the guardian of dreams we challenge thee to find somepony more experienced in dealing with such matters.”
  2819.  
  2820. “Green’s guardianship is still undecided,” Dayglow said. “I’ll take her majesty’s offer into consideration when I make my recommendation. I will, of course, bow to your absolute authority should you choose to exercise it.”
  2821.  
  2822. “Before we make any decision we should hear all the facts,” Paperstack said. “Redheart, you have been Green’s primary nurse for the last two days, what is your assessment?”
  2823.  
  2824. “On the first day I took care of Green she was still delirious and when I introduced myself as her nurse, she told me that she was a nurse too.” Redheart said, “She was very hesitant and asked for help with everything. At first, I thought she was just desperate for equine contact, but she also seemed ashamed for needing help and would cry and apologize for ‘wasting our time’.”
  2825.  
  2826. Redheart looked downcast.
  2827.  
  2828. “I tried to reassure her, but after a few minutes she couldn’t remember anything I’d said.” Redheart continued, “She had enough awareness to read the name off of her ID bracelet, but claimed she didn’t remember her own name. She kept telling me that she was a pony, but I’m not sure what exactly she meant by that.”
  2829.  
  2830. “Before you ask, yes, we did check if she was a Changeling,” Paperstack said.
  2831.  
  2832. “We would not have asked,” Luna said. “Her behavior is not at all consistent with a changeling infiltrator, but we suppose it is good to be certain.”
  2833.  
  2834. “Night Shift reported that during the night Green wandered into another patient’s room and introduced herself as the patient’s nurse.” Redheart continued, “Either she honestly believed herself to be a nurse, or she was just playing pretend. I noticed that Green was given morphine by evening shift before she went to bed, so it’s possible her increased confusion was a result of that.”
  2835.  
  2836. “When I cared for Green again the following morning Green was less confused, but still claimed to have no memory of what happened to her.” Redheart said, “She also claimed to have no grip in her hooves. Her lack of hoofgrip was reported to doctor Redcross who instructed us to record it as non-compliance pending a review.”
  2837.  
  2838. “Her lack of coordination makes her appear much younger than she is, watching her walk I was worried she was going to flop like a newborn.” Redheart said, “Listening to her speak you’d think she was a teenager. She’s clever and has a good vocabulary, but she’s still at the stage where she thinks that nopony else could understand what she’s going through. She lies constantly and thinks nopony will notice, so that does show a certain level of immaturity. She did manage to trick one of my trainees into letting her read her patient notes.”
  2839.  
  2840. “She’s having panic attacks, but she also has techniques to cope with them that were clearly trained.” Redheart said, “That along with her general familiarity with hospital procedures suggests that she’s spent some time in a hospital; if she told the princess she’s experienced this type of injury before I would be inclined to believe her.”
  2841.  
  2842. “Her sense of humor is dark, she’s making jokes about things somepony her age shouldn’t really be thinking about, but if it helps her cope I’m not about to scold her for it.” Redheart said.“I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was going on with Green - until she had a magic surge.”
  2843.  
  2844. “A magic surge?” Twilight asked, “You’re sure?”
  2845.  
  2846. “Well I’m no unicorn your highness,” Redheart explained, “But my trainee who witnessed it was and he assured me that it’s not something she could have faked. The burst of unstructured magic was felt by ponies several rooms away, and afterwards she fainted and had to be treated for magical exhaustion.”
  2847.  
  2848. “We thought you might be interested to see her thaumatology results, so here’s a copy.” Paperstack provided the younger princess with a stack of papers, “In summary; there’s nothing wrong with her magical pathways, certainly nothing to explain her magic surge, and as you’re no doubt aware a magic surge in a child her age is virtually unheard of.”
  2849.  
  2850. “That’s putting it mildly.” Dr. Azure Light said, “Until yesterday the only recorded case of a foal experiencing a magic surge this late was her Highness.”
  2851.  
  2852. It took Twilight a moment to realize what the doctor was saying. “Wait, you mean- oh Celestia,” Twilight grasped the edge of the table, “She didn’t hurt anypony did she?”
  2853.  
  2854. “No, your Highness,” Redheart reassured, “She used up her entire mana pool, but so far her magical potential is not in the same magnitude as yours.”
  2855.  
  2856. “Her mana pool is within the normal range for her age group.” Dr. Azure Light explained, “Most unicorns her age have difficulty expressing their magic though. Learning to keep their magic contained is something that happens naturally during infancy. When we teach older children to cast spells deliberately they have to work against their natural reflex to pull their mana back.”
  2857.  
  2858. “Have you read any of the studies about the effects of a low-magic environment on childhood development?” Twilight queried.
  2859.  
  2860. “Not that I recall, your highness,” Azure Light answered, “I assume it would in some way stunt the development of their thaumic system?”
  2861.  
  2862. “Actually it’s very much the opposite,” Twilight went into lecture mode, “Ponies that grow up in an environment with very little magic have overdeveloped thaumic pathways which allow them to use small amounts of magic more efficiently. Fine control is difficult for them however since -”
  2863.  
  2864. “Twilight, I’m sure this is fascinating, but what does it have to do with Green?” Luna cut in.
  2865.  
  2866. “Right, heh,” Twilight said, “Green’s thaumic pathways, you tested them?”
  2867.  
  2868. “We did, Your Highness,” Azure Light answered, “They were within normal variation; neither atrophied, nor overdeveloped, which is one of the reasons her claim to have no hoof grip doesn’t make sense. If she was unable to use her magic at all from age zero to eight then we would be able to tell.”
  2869.  
  2870. “Why would she lie about that?” Asked Applejack.
  2871.  
  2872. “I’m not an expert in foal psychology, but that type of behavior is typically associated with an attachment disorder.” Dayglow said, “When a foal is very young if they don’t develop a secure bond with their caregiver they resort to different behaviors to get their caregiver to give them attention. It may be a little premature before Green has seen a psychiatrist, but-”
  2873.  
  2874. The mare looked down and began searching through her bag. After an awkward silence, it became clear that she couldn’t find what she was looking for.
  2875.  
  2876. “Applejack,” Dayglow asked, “Do you still have that pamphlet I gave you earlier?”
  2877.  
  2878. Applejack pulled a pamphlet from under her hat.
  2879.  
  2880. “Reactive Attachment Disorder?” She read off the paper.
  2881.  
  2882. “It’s common among foals in the foster care system.” Dayglow explained, “Neglect or abuse in early development, or being separated from a caregiver they have bonded with, prevents the foal from forming a secure attachment. They have difficulty trusting others, poor self-worth, anger, and a need to feel in control. They’re willful and disobedient, sometimes they lie pathologically. They want to get attention and care, but they feel like they have to do something to get it. Some of them are very quiet and don’t show any emotion in case it makes you angry and you abandon them, others act out and scream and cry about minor things, acting like they’re helpless because they’re afraid they’ll be ignored otherwise.”
  2883.  
  2884. “It does seem to fit,” Redheart admitted. “Although Green seems more willing to use manipulation to get what she wants than outright disobedience.”
  2885.  
  2886. “She disobeyed our orders when we were searching for her in the forest,” Luna countered, “Even when it put her at great risk, she wanted to be in control of her rescue rather than leaving her fate in the hooves of others.”
  2887.  
  2888. “It’s too early to pathologize her behavior,” Azure Light argued, “We haven’t seen how she acts in a comfortable setting.”
  2889.  
  2890. “I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a comfortable setting for her at the moment.” Dayglow countered, “Attachment disorders are on a spectrum, you’d be hard-pressed to find any abused foal who didn’t have an attachment disorder to some degree. The ‘treatment’ is essentially just good parenting, though the trauma they’ve suffered makes that much more difficult. Fundamentally, it’s an inability to trust.”
  2891.  
  2892. “What exactly do you mean by ‘good parenting’?” Asked Applejack. “I’m not even a real parent, are you sure there’s not somepony more qualified?”
  2893.  
  2894. “She needs somepony to be dependable; firm, yet forgiving.” Dayglow explained, “Somepony to help her work through her anxiety, to cope with her stress, and to show her that she can trust them to always be there for her. I’m not going to sugar coat it; it’s going to be very frustrating, for you and for her, but if you stick to it then it will be very rewarding - and we’ll be here to give you whatever support you need.”
  2895.  
  2896. “I’m sure you can do it.” Said Twilight, “You’re the most dependable pony I know.”
  2897.  
  2898. “You were there Dayglow,” Applejack said, “She was so terrified of me that she threw up all over herself, are you sure it’s a good idea for me to be the one taking care of her? And I wouldn’t know the first thing about helping her with her magic problems.”
  2899.  
  2900. Applejack chewed her lip nervously.
  2901.  
  2902. “It’s not that I don’t want to help, it’s just...” Applejack said, “To be honest I didn’t know what I was signing up for and it frightens me a little. What if I get this wrong and I end up making things worse?”
  2903.  
  2904. “If you weren’t at least a little worried I’d be concerned you weren’t taking this seriously.” Dayglow consoled, “The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do this alone - I’ll be working to make sure that you have a strong support network to call on. I also have some parenting classes which I think would be helpful, as well as counseling, for you and for Green. At the moment this is just a foster placement, but from what little we know about her past it’s likely that she will need somepony to adopt her.”
  2905.  
  2906. “Our goal in taking Green as our ward is not merely to have her for ourselves, but to ensure she receives the best care possible.” Luna said, “While we are sure your facilities are adequate for caring for the ponies of Ponyville this is still a small facility, without a dedicated pediatric ward. In Canterlot Green would be able to receive more specialized care.”
  2907.  
  2908. “With respect, your majesty,” Azure Light responded before Paperstack could begin her defense of the hospital, “If Green had a safe home to return to she could be discharged tomor- today.”
  2909.  
  2910. The doctor corrected herself, seeing it was after midnight.
  2911.  
  2912. “She will need outpatient treatment and followup, but none of her injuries are serious enough to require hospitalization.” Azure Light said.
  2913.  
  2914. “I’ll need a repeat x-ray to ensure her foreleg is healing correctly, and she will need to come in next week to have her cast removed.” Dr. Stone explained in his monotone, “If she were one of my regular patients I would have discharged her yesterday morning. Extended hospital stays are statistically inadvisable.”
  2915.  
  2916. “We’re getting ahead of ourselves,” Paperstack said, “We should finish reviewing the case before we start talking about future plans. Redheart, you were telling us about Green’s magic surge?”
  2917.  
  2918. “Did anything happen that might have triggered the magic surge?” Twilight jumped back into the conversation, “My magic surge was triggered by a wave of magic that later turned out to be a Sonic Rainboom. I don’t think Rainbow was practicing her one yesterday, but I can definitely ask.”
  2919.  
  2920. Redheart looked uncomfortable at the question.
  2921.  
  2922. “Green’s magic surge actually seems to have been triggered by my trainee,” Redheart explained. “Apparently he had been helping his baby sister with thaumic field pressure sensitization exercises and decided to try them out on a patient without consulting anypony.”
  2923.  
  2924. Luna looked displeased at this revelation.
  2925.  
  2926. “I’ll want to speak with him tomorrow.” Said Twilight. “That type of exercise should be very safe so I don’t see the harm in him trying it, but I want to know exactly what he did.”
  2927.  
  2928. “I’m sure that can be arranged, your Highness,” Redheart said. “After Green’s tests in thaumatology she slept for a couple of hours and I placed her under the care of Soothing Melody, another of my trainees. When Green woke she met with Dayglow and Applejack, and you all heard how that went. When Melody was showering Green she described the filly as ‘submissive’ and emotionally flat, until she touched the filly’s flank. Green panicked and covered herself with her tail while she did breathing exercises - and then the filly apologized to Melody for getting scared. When I talked to Green she denied anything happened at all.”
  2929.  
  2930. “So she feels like she needs to cover for other ponies.” Dayglow commented, “That’s not a good sign.”
  2931.  
  2932. “If she’s trying to cover for Melody she’s not doing a very good job,” Twilight noted. “By saying nothing happened she’s making it seem like something much worse happened.”
  2933.  
  2934. “She was in a lot of pain.” Redheart explained, “And it was the end of a very stressful day, she probably wasn’t thinking clearly - she denied pain as well, even though I could see it on her face plain as day. It seems like she’s getting very frustrated.”
  2935. > Supplemental: Patient Notes 3
  2936. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2937.  
  2938. Top Five Care Tips!
  2939. Personalized Confused Patient Management Strategy Documentation
  2940. Form #73-219A
  2941.  
  2942. Please help the patient to fill in the spaces below. If the patient is unable or non-compliant, fill in the answers for them as best as you are able. Each point should be in the form of an 'I' statement.
  2943.  
  2944. Hi, my name is Patient Name, but I prefer to be called Green.
  2945.  
  2946.  
  2947.  
  2948. I have short term memory loss so I may forget where I am and what I’m doing, please reorient and give reassurance
  2949.  
  2950. I startle easily so be sure to introduce yourself and tell me what you’re doing before you touch me
  2951.  
  2952. I like to talk about nursing, sometimes I like to pretend I’m a nurse too!
  2953.  
  2954. I won’t tell you if I’m in pain so look for non-verbal signs of distress
  2955.  
  2956. I can mobilise independently but I require supervision and assistance with all ADLs
  2957.  
  2958. > To Greener Pastures
  2959. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2960.  
  2961. After hearing Green’s care plan, Applejack felt much better about taking her in. It didn’t hurt that the filly had taken a real shine to her when they met for a second time. All she really needed to do was be stable, dependable, and caring.
  2962.  
  2963. As they walked through the cool evening air the filly stuck close by her side. Applejack felt a little proud that the filly trusted her and felt a protective instinct overcome her. She was determined to live up to that trust. She knew Green wasn’t her filly, she was just taking care of her for a while; Dayglow had been clear with both of them that this wasn’t an adoption and that they shouldn’t think of it as such; It was important to manage expectations. Oddly this had seemed to make the filly feel more relieved than disappointed.
  2964.  
  2965.  
  2966.  
  2967.  
  2968.  
  2969. When I saw the lights were off and all of the curtains drawn I looked over to Applejack and noted the slight knowing smile on her face. I had a feeling I knew what was coming, but the thought filled me with dread. I tried not to show it.
  2970.  
  2971. Applejack opened the door and allowed me to enter first. She closed the door behind us without turning on the lights, and I steeled myself against what was to come. It didn’t help.
  2972.  
  2973. “SURPRISE!” A chorus of voices called out as the lights flashed on.
  2974.  
  2975. Every single eye was on me. Most of them from above my height. Anxiety twisted in my gut.
  2976.  
  2977. “Aww, she’s so surprised she’s speechless!” Pinkie Pie giggled.
  2978.  
  2979. I was struggling to keep a smile on my face, and I felt a warmth on my back as I realized that I was subconsciously trying to hide underneath Applejack. My face blushed red with embarrassment. I had to get out of here, but I couldn’t just run away or ponies would worry.
  2980.  
  2981. “I need to go to the bathroom real quick,” I said
  2982.  
  2983. “Down the hall and first door on the left.” Applejack instructed, “Did you, uh, need some hel-”
  2984.  
  2985. “I’ll be fine thanks,” I said quickly.
  2986.  
  2987. As soon as I had the door closed I let my smile drop and I heaved a breath. My heart was beating so hard I could feel it in my teeth. A panic attack. Great. Just what I needed. I had been nervous around social situations as a human, but nothing like this. I looked in the mirror and my reflection looked pitiful. Seeing a tiny creature so distressed made my heartache... for myself. I did some breathing exercises and made use of the facilities - it wouldn’t do to return to the bathroom too quickly and have someone wonder if I was hiding in the bathroom to avoid my own party.
  2988.  
  2989. Alright, alright. Pinkie probably went to a lot of trouble to organize this party and if she thinks you’re not enjoying it she’ll be crushed. So enjoy yourself dammit. Fun is mandatory. I managed to make myself giggle at my own stupid joke. Alright so you’re going to meet a lot of ponies, and you’re not going to remember their names but that’s okay, right? There’s so many, so that’s a good excuse. They’re all just going to be seeing you for the first time and getting first impressions that you can never take back and they’ll see right through you and know you’re faking it and they’ll take it as an insult like you’re saying that they’re not worth your time and then nopony will like yo-
  2990.  
  2991. “Stop,” I said under my breath. “Breathe.”
  2992.  
  2993. I took a deep breath, and prepared to walk out of the bathroom. I’d already taken too long and I didn’t want anypony to worry. Alright, you just need to keep this up for a couple of hours and then you can say you’re tired. That’s fine, you’re a child so ponies won’t think anything of it. Alright, deep breath.
  2994.  
  2995. I looked back in the mirror to confirm that I had a happy expression on my face, taking note of my ears which had betrayed me before. I still couldn’t control exactly what they did, but by focusing on listening for sounds in front of me I could keep them from folding flat against my head. Satisfied, I pushed the door open and winced at the volume of all the ponies chatting excitedly. I didn’t like being in a crowd at the best of times, and with my more sensitive hearing, it was that much worse.
  2996.  
  2997. Applejack and Pinkie were making a beeline for me and I mentally prepared what I was going to say, and tried to make sure my smile didn’t look forced.
  2998.  
  2999. “So, were you surprised Greenie? Were you, were you?” Pinkie asked excitedly.
  3000.  
  3001. “I was very surprised Pinkie,” I tried to giggle, but I was terrified that she wouldn’t buy it, “You nearly surprised the pee right out of me!”
  3002.  
  3003. “Oh no!” Pinkie said, “That would be TOO surprised and you would be SUPER embarrassed in front of everypony and they would all be staring at-”
  3004.  
  3005. AJ stuck a hoof in Pinkie’s mouth. “Yes Pinkie, we get the picture. Now if you’ll excuse us I need to show Green what room she’ll be staying in.”
  3006.  
  3007. As soon as we were upstairs, away from the party I sighed, tension leaving my body.
  3008.  
  3009. “Alright Green what’s wrong?” AJ asked. “Your tail’s wrapped around your leg so tight it’s like you’re afraid somepony’s going to bite it off.”
  3010.  
  3011. “What?” I lied poorly, “Nothing’s wrong I just want to get back to the party.”
  3012.  
  3013. I’d rather die.
  3014.  
  3015. AJ raised an eyebrow at me and I knew the jig was up. I crumpled to the floor, feeling sick.
  3016.  
  3017. “I’m not feeling well,” I explained, “But I don’t want to ruin the party for everypony. I’m too tired.”
  3018.  
  3019. “That’s not the whole truth,” Applejack stated, “Is it, Green? I won’t make you go back down there if you don’t want to, but you’ll feel better if you just let it out.”
  3020.  
  3021. I sighed.
  3022.  
  3023. “I’m scared of meeting other ponies, and I don’t like crowds, and I know I’m being stupid and irrational because all the ponies are probably really nice and they won’t judge me but it feels like they will and I’ll never be able to remember all of them but they’ll know me and now I’m too scared to go to the party but Pinkie worked so hard to make this party just for me and if I don’t like the party she’ll be sad and then she’ll cry and I’ll be the worst pony ever because I made Pinkie cry and then everpony will hate me, and I’ll hate me and it will all be ruined because I’m so pathetic that I can’t even, and then, but I-I can’t-”
  3024.  
  3025. Without even meaning to, I’d pressed my face into Applejack’s soft chest. Tears were streaming down my face and that just made me even more embarrassed. Applejack had put her foreleg around me and that actually did feel nice.
  3026.  
  3027. “Oh Green,” AJ squeezed me tighter, “I’m so sorry. I’m sure Pinkie wouldn’t want you to put yourself through this for her sake.”
  3028.  
  3029.  
  3030.  
  3031. “You can’t tell her!” I insisted, “If she knows she made me feel bad then she’ll feel bad too and it would be my fault!”
  3032.  
  3033. “It’s not yer fault Green,” AJ said, “You can’t help the way you feel, an’ torturin’ yourself tryin’ to convince Pinkie you’re having fun is only going to make her feel twice as bad when she realizes you were puttin’ yerself through that just to spare her feelings.”
  3034.  
  3035. “Can’t you just tell her I wasn’t feeling well?” I pleaded, “Her special talent is making ponies happy, so if she finds out, she’ll cry!”
  3036.  
  3037. “Pinkie knows all kinds of ponies, Green,” AJ consoled, “You’re not the first pony to walk out of your ‘Welcome’ party. Why, when Twilight first came to Ponyville she ditched her party to read books and Pinkie didn’t take it personal.”
  3038.  
  3039. Stupid, stupid. You’re catastrophizing everything. Everypony is just trying to help you and you’re screwing it all up. Stupid body. Stupid childish emotions.
  3040.  
  3041. “You have to give ponies a chance, Green,” AJ said, “If you’re twisting yourself into knots trying to say whatever you think they want you to say then you’re denying them the chance to actually do something nice for you.”
  3042.  
  3043. “I just don’t want ponies to be sad because of me.” I explained, “I know I’m being stupid and unreasonable, but I just can’t control my emotions.”
  3044.  
  3045. “Ponies will understand if you’re shy.” Applejack was stroking her hoof down my back. “I’m sure they can keep themselves entertained, so you’re not ruining the party at all. We’ll start small okay, how about you meet my little sister and her two friends to keep you company and I’ll go deal with the party downstairs?”
  3046.  
  3047. I was a bit nervous about meeting them after the impression I left on them in the forest. I glanced down at my bare flank. I guess it was inevitable that I was going to meet the Cutie Mark Crusaders so I may as well get it over with now.
  3048.  
  3049. Applejack misinterpreted my nervous glance.
  3050.  
  3051. “You don’t have to worry about them making fun of you, they don’t have their cutie marks either,” AJ explained, “They’ll probably ask you to join their little club.”
  3052.  
  3053. I nodded.
  3054.  
  3055. “Alright, Ah’ll send them up with some cake,” AJ promised. “Please don’t ever feel like you need to hide when you’re feeling sad, or scared. Ah promise Ah’ll never be mad at ya for being scared of somethin’”
  3056.  
  3057. “Okay,” I said in a small voice.
  3058.  
  3059.  
  3060.  
  3061.  
  3062. > The Blame Game
  3063. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  3064.  
  3065. When Applejack left the room I felt cold. I knew this was just part of my fear response, but I still felt uncomfortable. I walked over to the bed and pulled the blanket down with my teeth. I wanted to drape it around my shoulders, but I wasn’t coordinated enough with this new body. The blanket fell in a clump and I crawled underneath it until my head poked out the other side. I almost wished AJ would come back and hug me again just for the warmth. 
  3066.  
  3067. Stupid, stupid, acting like a baby. I shivered and tried to draw the blanket more tightly around myself. 
  3068.  
  3069. I heard the Crusaders before I saw them. In this world where everyone has both hooves and excellent hearing it must be nigh impossible for ponies to sneak up on each other. Or would that be neigh impossible?
  3070.  
  3071. They made a fair amount of noise coming up the stairs, but slowed their pace as they approached the door. Before they entered they stopped and had a whispered conversation but it was too faint of me to make out. 
  3072.  
  3073. They entered as a pack, none of them wanting to be the first into the room. They didn’t immediately see me hiding under the blanket, so I spoke first.
  3074.  
  3075. “Hi girls,” I said.
  3076.  
  3077.  
  3078.  
  3079. They turned as one to face me and the first thing I noticed was the bruise on Scootaloo’s face.
  3080.  
  3081. “Oh, hi,” Applebloom said, “Er, Green.” 
  3082.  
  3083. Clearly they were awkward and hesitant around me. 
  3084.  
  3085. “Thanks for bringing me some cake.” I said, “You can go back to the party if you like, I don’t want you to miss it on account of me.”
  3086.  
  3087. “That’s alright,” said Sweetie Belle, “The party wasn’t that fun anyway.”
  3088.  
  3089. “What are you talking about?” asked Scootaloo, “It’s a Pinkie party, it’s going to be awesome!”
  3090.  
  3091. Sweetie Belle put a fetlock over her face and sighed. “We’re supposed to be making her feel better about missing the party.”
  3092.  
  3093. “Oh,” Scootaloo looked flustered, “I mean, uh, it wasn’t that great.”
  3094.  
  3095. “I don’t really like parties anyway,” I said.
  3096.  
  3097. The three fillies glanced at each other uncertainly. God this was awkward. Right, change the subject. I wanted to ask about the bruise on Scootaloo’s face, but that might be a sore topic.
  3098.  
  3099. “Thanks for saving me when I was in the forest, I wasn’t in a good way.”
  3100.  
  3101. “Yer welcome.”
  3102.  
  3103. “I’m sorry if I said anything... weird.” I apologized. “I wasn’t really thinking clearly.”
  3104.  
  3105. “Ya,” Scootaloo rubbed at her face, “We noticed.”
  3106.  
  3107. Oh no. My mind made an uncomfortable connection.
  3108.  
  3109. “Did you get hurt while you were rescuing me?” I asked.
  3110.  
  3111. “You really don’t remember, huh?” Applebloom commented.
  3112.  
  3113. I shook my head.
  3114.  
  3115. “Look it’s not a big deal!” Scootaloo insisted.
  3116.  
  3117. Despite her orange coat, the bruising was clearly visible. It was purplish, probably a few days old. It was a little swollen, but she wasn’t having any trouble opening her eye; probably no facial fracture.
  3118.  
  3119. “It looks like you got hit pretty hard. Did you lose consciousness?” I asked.
  3120.  
  3121. Scootaloo shook her head.
  3122.  
  3123. “Did you have any blurred or double vision, headaches, nausea, vomiting?” I listed off.
  3124.  
  3125. “Look you didn’t hit me that hard, okay?” Scootaloo snapped, “It’s fine.”
  3126.  
  3127. My throat was tightening. I wanted to apologize, but my body just wanted to cry.
  3128.  
  3129. “Oh.” I managed to choke out.
  3130.  
  3131. I fought back tears. Stupid body. I tried to breathe, but the lump in my throat was painful and my breath turned into a shudder. I wanted to retreat further under the blanket, but I couldn’t. This wasn’t about me, this was about Scootaloo. I was just making myself the victim by being weak. I’d hurt her and now I was going to steal all the sympathy just because I couldn’t control my emotions.
  3132.  
  3133. “I- I’m sorry,” I whispered, trying not to whimper. I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me.
  3134.  
  3135. Keep yourself together dammit!
  3136.  
  3137. I wasn't sure if they heard me, so I repeated myself as I stood up and shook off the blanket, though I wasn’t able to make eye contact. 
  3138.  
  3139. “I’m sorry,” I said, my vision was blurry with tears as I hurried out of the room, “I have to go to the-”
  3140.  
  3141. As I turned the corner out of the room without looking I ran into a wall of blue fur. I looked up to see Rainbow Dash looking surprised and, for some reason, guilty? I resisted the urge to throw myself into her chest and cry; instead, I just took an awkward step back. 
  3142.  
  3143. “Oh,” I rasped, “Er, sorry, is there a bathroom on this floor?”
  3144.  
  3145. She hesitated and I looked away, too ashamed to make eye contact.
  3146.  
  3147. “Sure,” she said, concerned, “It’s just over here. Are you okay?”
  3148.  
  3149. She guided me with a wing to another door along the hallway. The wing on my back gave me strength and I remembered back to what Applejack had said earlier. Clearly just keeping my emotions bottled up and under control wasn’t going to work anymore. I had to tell somepony.
  3150.  
  3151. I sat down on the floor and looked up at Rainbow, my gaze not quite making it to her eyes, stopping mid-chest.
  3152.  
  3153. “No,” I said. “I’m not okay.”
  3154.  
  3155. “Oh,” Rainbow had a profound sense of awkwardness in her voice, “Uh, are you having... err... bathroom... problems?”
  3156.  
  3157. Now it was Rainbow’s turn to look away, as she desperately searched for somepony else to handle the delicate issue. I blushed at that, and it actually helped distract me from my impending breakdown.
  3158.  
  3159. “I don’t have to go.” I admitted, “I just didn’t want them to see me cry.”
  3160.  
  3161. We both froze as we heard hoofsteps coming up the stairs.
  3162.  
  3163. “Rainbow? What-” AJ’s voice turned from surprise to anger as she saw me, “Are you seriously-”
  3164.  
  3165. “It’s alright,” Rainbow tried to placate the fuming Earthpony, “We were just talking-”
  3166.  
  3167. “No, it ain’t alright,” AJ stood over top of me protectively, “I can understand wanting ta protect yer little sister, but coming up here so you could ambush a little filly and give her a talking to while she’s all alone? Ah thought you were better than this.”
  3168.  
  3169. I was frozen. This was all my fault and I couldn’t think of the right words to defuse the situation.
  3170.  
  3171. “I would never!” Rainbow had raised herself off the floor, flapping her wings indignantly. “I was just showing her where the bathroom is.”
  3172.  
  3173. “Uh-huh.” AJ was unconvinced, “And what were ya doing up here in the first place?”
  3174.  
  3175. “I was,” Rainbow’s eyes shifted side to side, as if looking for something, “I was going to use the bathroom up here because the other one had a line.”
  3176.  
  3177. Ok. If this was the standard of lying that existed in Equestria I could definitely see why AJ didn’t need psychic powers to be the element of honesty.
  3178.  
  3179. AJ shook with rage as she pulled me back behind her foreleg.
  3180.  
  3181. “Get out.”
  3182.  
  3183. “W-what?” Rainbow dropped out of the air in shock.
  3184.  
  3185. “Y’all think ya can lie ta muh face, ambush a little filly on her way ta the bathroom in her own home where she’s suppose’ ta feel safe?” AJ yelled, “Yer no longer welcome here. Get. Out.”
  3186.  
  3187.  
  3188.  
  3189.  
  3190.  
  3191. “Twilight,” Rainbow said in a panic, “We have a major friendship problem!”
  3192.  
  3193. The Princess immediately looked at Rainbow’s cutiemark, and then to her own to check if they were glowing.
  3194.  
  3195. “No, not like that,” Rainbow said in exasperation, “Ugh, look, I bucked up real bad and now AJ won’t speak to me.”
  3196.  
  3197. There was a flash of teleportation and the two of them were suddenly standing outside.
  3198.  
  3199. “Alright,” said Twilight, “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
  3200.  
  3201. “Well AJ saw me upstairs talking to Green,” Rainbow explained, “And she completely overreacted!”
  3202.  
  3203. “She was so frightened of other ponies she couldn’t even attend her own welcome party and then an adult she doesn’t know comes upstairs to confront her? How did you think she would react, Dash?” Twilight said.
  3204.  
  3205. “What?” Rainbow said, “That’s not what happened at all. Green was fine. AJ is the one that overreacted. She said I was trying to ambush a filly!”
  3206.  
  3207. “Rainbow, you’ve been ranting about how dangerous Green is and how she hurt Scootaloo, and then you go to confront her while she’s all alone?” Twilight asked, “Did you think for even one minute about how that might make her feel?”
  3208.  
  3209. “Green ran into me!” Rainbow responded, “And it looked like she was about to cry, so I asked if she was okay. That’s all that happened!”
  3210.  
  3211. “She just happened to bump into you.” Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Upstairs, away from the party, where you had no reason to be.”
  3212.  
  3213. “I was supervising!”
  3214.  
  3215. “You were eavesdropping.” Twilight surmised.
  3216.  
  3217. “Ugh, fine,” Rainbow admitted. “I just wanted to make sure they were safe, okay?”
  3218.  
  3219. “I believe you Rainbow, and I’ll talk to Applejack,” Twilight consoled, “But I think you should probably head home for the night. She’s going to need some time to cool off.”
  3220. > Calm Down Green
  3221. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  3222.  
  3223. My heart pounded in my chest and I squeezed my eyes shut. I was still frozen in place - I had to say something, but I couldn’t think of the words, and the breath I was holding came out as a moan. Applejack hugged me tighter. Ugh, why was I so cold?
  3224.  
  3225. Get it together! You’re acting like a baby! You’re just cold because you’re panicking.
  3226.  
  3227. I took some deep breaths and felt the wood floor beneath me, the warmth of Applejack’s body, the steady beat of her heart.
  3228.  
  3229. Focus! Breathe! Say something!
  3230.  
  3231. “I’m sorry,” I said automatically. Not the right thing to say.
  3232.  
  3233. “There ain’t nothing for you to be sorry for Green.” Applejack said. “Rainbow had no right to corner you like that.”
  3234.  
  3235. “She didn’t corner me!” I insisted, “And she wasn’t being mean to me, please don’t be mad at her because of me!”
  3236.  
  3237. “Yer shakin’ like a leaf sweetpea,” Applejack said gently, “Ah, know Rainbow can be a might thoughtless but ah promise she would never actually hurt you.”
  3238.  
  3239. “I know,” I said, “It’s not her I’m afraid of, it’s just that -”
  3240.  
  3241. I clamped my mouth shut when I realized I was about to put the blame for my panic attack on Applejack. I really didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
  3242.  
  3243. “I’m just having a panic attack for stupid reasons.”
  3244.  
  3245. “It’s not your fault Green.” Applejack said.
  3246.  
  3247. “It is my fault though.” I retorted. “I hurt Scootaloo, and that’s why Rainbow came to talk to me, and now you’re fighting with your friend because you’re worried about me. If I wasn’t here, none of this would have happened.”
  3248.  
  3249. “It’s not a bad thing to have ponies worry about you Green,” Applejack consoled, “It just means that they care about you.”
  3250.  
  3251. “Yes, it is!” I insisted, “If they’re worrying over me then they feel bad, and I don’t want them to feel bad because of me!”
  3252.  
  3253. “You can't stop somepony from caring about you,” Applejack said, “What you can do is let them help you.”
  3254.  
  3255. I rolled my eyes, but I don’t think she saw.
  3256.  
  3257. “If you let them help you then you’ll feel better, and they’ll feel better, an’ fore ya know it everypony will be happy again.”
  3258.  
  3259. I groaned at how sappy that was.
  3260.  
  3261. Or they’ll fail at helping me because I don’t have any willpower to change my life, and then they’ll be frustrated and I’ll feel bad for wasting their time. 
  3262.  
  3263. When I’d considered waiting out my second childhood I hadn’t realized it would feel this bad. What if this never went away? What if I felt this way for the rest of my life? My body felt so cold. Stupid body.
  3264.  
  3265.  
  3266.  
  3267.  
  3268.  
  3269. Applejack hugged the shivering filly. She had only meant to protect her, but yelling at Rainbow hadn’t been the right way to go about it, even if she did still feel completely justified.
  3270.  
  3271. “How are you feeling Green?” She asked.
  3272.  
  3273. “I’m fine.”
  3274.  
  3275. The filly continued to shiver, drooping her head before finally answering.
  3276.  
  3277. “C-cold.”
  3278.  
  3279. “It’s going to be alright Green.” Applejack assured. “How about I run you a nice warm bath and then you can get ready for bed. I promise nopony else will bother you.”
  3280.  
  3281. “O-ok.” The filly’s voice wavered like she was trying not to cry.
  3282.  
  3283.  
  3284.  
  3285.  
  3286.  
  3287. “That could have gone better.” Sweetie Belle said.
  3288.  
  3289. “Well don’t look at me,” Scootaloo responded, “I tried to tell her it was fine. Not my fault she’s such a cry baby.”
  3290.  
  3291. “Mah sister said that an adult treated her really badly and now she’s afraid of everypony.” Applebloom explained, “So she has to learn how to trust other ponies again, an’ mah sister is gonna help her ‘cause she’s the element of honesty.”
  3292.  
  3293. “Well, your sister’s doing a great job helping her trust Rainbow.” Scootaloo rolled her eyes
  3294.  
  3295. The crusaders stealthily made their way to the door and peeked out to see Applejack embracing Green as the filly shook. They all froze as Green spotted them and retreated further into the embrace.
  3296.  
  3297. “Is she still afraid of us?”
  3298.  
  3299.  
  3300.  
  3301.  
  3302.  
  3303. When the crusaders saw me being comforted by Applejack I was so embarrassed. Here I was acting more childish than the actual children; and my response was to shy away, like a child, which created an ever-tightening spiral of terribleness.
  3304.  
  3305.  
  3306.  
  3307.  
  3308.  
  3309. At my current size, the bathtub was enormous. As a human, a bathtub ended at my knees making it a cramped uncomfortable affair. I couldn’t quite swim laps in this tub, but you could easily fit three fillies my size end to end. 
  3310.  
  3311. My size also presented a problem; I had no idea how to climb in short of throwing myself over the side and splashing water everywhere. I was surprised when, after seeing my hesitation, Applejack picked me up by the scruff of my neck like I was a kitten. My pony body seemed to know not to flail when I was being carried like this. Rather than panicking, I went limp and actually giggled at how silly the situation must look.
  3312.  
  3313. The tub was only half full, so I could still touch the bottom. As I sank into the bath the water was perfectly warm and I immediately felt much more relaxed, and warm! 
  3314.  
  3315. “Will you be alright on your own?” Applejack asked.
  3316.  
  3317. I blushed at the question. I’m not sure why having help for a bath was so different from help in the shower. I guess having a shower is just for washing someone for practical reasons, a bath seemed much more awkward.
  3318.  
  3319. “I’ll be fine, thanks!” I said.
  3320.  
  3321. “Alright,” Applejack looked a bit uncertain, “Just give me a yell if you need help getting out of the tub okay?”
  3322.  
  3323. “Okay,” I promised.
  3324.  
  3325. Applejack left the room, closing the door to give me some privacy.
  3326.  
  3327. The feeling of being submerged with a coat of fur was indescribable. It created an odd sense of drag, like I was being pulled in a thousand directions at once. The buoyancy of my new body was about the same as a human. With some air in my lungs I could float. If I exhaled all the air from my lungs and took my hooves off the bottom I would slowly sink.
  3328.  
  3329. Water rushed into my nostrils. I coughed reflexively as I felt water dripping into the back of my throat, rearing my head back in a panic and shooting twin geysers of water as I breached the surface.
  3330.  
  3331. Note to self: Nostrils no longer face downwards.
  3332.  
  3333.  
  3334.  
  3335.  
  3336.  
  3337. I did manage to climb out of the bath without help, though the thumping sound made when I flopped onto the floor had Applejack knocking on the door to check if I was okay. I did need her help to dry me with a towel. I would have to find out how ponies managed that at some point; shaking like a dog seemed like it would be poor manners.
  3338.  
  3339. The crusaders had left the room by the time we got back, and the bed had been remade from when I’d pulled the blanket onto the floor.
  3340.  
  3341. Crawling under the covers I felt drained. The anxiety had finally left my body and been replaced with an all-consuming drowsiness.
  3342.  
  3343. “Goodnight Green,” Applejack ran a hoof through my still damp mane, “I’m sorry.”
  3344.  
  3345. The regret in her voice made me want to cry, she’d tried so hard for me and I’d made her feel like a failure. For once I managed to let it go.
  3346.  
  3347. “Goodnight Applejack,” I said.
  3348.  
  3349. When I thought she was out of earshot I added, “I’m sorry too.”
  3350. > I Do Not Like Them Here or There
  3351. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  3352.  
  3353. “Well, that could have gone better.” Applejack sighed.
  3354.  
  3355. “How is she doing?” Twilight inquired.
  3356.  
  3357. “Well, I got her to calm down, finally.” Applejack said. “It looks like seeing Scootaloo’s eye set her off again, and then there was Rainbow - ugh, ah really shouldn’ta yelled in front of Green, that was stupid.”
  3358.  
  3359. “I can certainly understand why you were mad at Rainbow,” Twilight consoled, “But she wasn’t entirely honest with you about why she was there.”
  3360.  
  3361. “Ah could figure that one out on my own thanks, Twi.” AJ fumed, “Dash had her all alone ‘an terrified, and then Green was trying to apologize for getting Dash in trouble.”
  3362.  
  3363. “What I mean is, she didn’t tell you the real reason she was up there.” Twilight explained, “Rainbow just wanted to keep an eye on them in case they started fighting. She wasn’t trying to ambush Green.”
  3364.  
  3365. “Well that’s still not a good enough-” Applejack stopped and sighed, “Ugh, fine. Maybe Ah did jump to conclusions, but Dash should be completely capable of explaining herself. Anyway Green's in bed now an' - aww shoot."
  3366.  
  3367. "What is it?"
  3368.  
  3369. "She hasn't eaten anythin'." Applejack said. "Ahm the worst foster parent ever, I've had her three hours and ah've already frightened her half to death and sent her to bed without dinner."
  3370.  
  3371.  
  3372.  
  3373.  
  3374.  
  3375. My stomach ached from hunger, and it was my own stupid fault for not eating that cake when I had the chance; Of course, the ache could also be the guilt I was feeling for screwing everything up. Not eating the cake was just one mistake on a list of many and at least hunger was a burden I could bear alone.
  3376.  
  3377. There was a soft knock at the door and my heart seized. What had I forgotten? Did I mess something else up without even realizing it? Maybe I had made someone feel so bad that they felt like they had to apologize to me.
  3378.  
  3379. My eyes widened. What if somepony told Pinkie that I didn’t like her party and it crushed her will to live because she wasn’t able to fulfill her cutiemark talent and-
  3380.  
  3381. I exhaled sharply and took a slow breath in. Now my chest hurt.
  3382.  
  3383. “Green, are you still awake?” Asked Applejack.
  3384.  
  3385. I breathed a sigh of relief that it was Applejack and not somepony else; and that her voice didn’t sound upset.
  3386.  
  3387. “Yeah,” I called back, “I’m awake.”
  3388.  
  3389. Applejack walked into the room and in the dim light I could make out that she had something balanced on her back.
  3390.  
  3391. “I noticed you didn’t  eat anythin’ so I brought ya somethin’”
  3392.  
  3393. “Thanks, Applejack,” I said
  3394.  
  3395. “Ain’t no trouble,” Applejack replied, “ can’t have ya goin’ ta bed hungry now can we?”
  3396.  
  3397. It smelled like... apples. Of course it was apples. I didn’t like apples, but I couldn’t very well tell Applejack that now could I? I’m pretty sure she was still in a feud with the last pony that had dared admit that in front of the apple farmer.
  3398.  
  3399. The apple fritter was no doubt leftovers from the party, but Applejack had gone to the trouble of reheating it and not just in a microwave (did ponies even have microwaves?). She was an excellent cook and the pastry was buttery and crispy - if it wasn’t for the filling it would have been a real treat. As it was, I was hungry enough to just eat it, so I did. I thought happy thoughts as I did so - Applejack would be able to tell if I wasn’t happy, and she would think she had done something wrong.
  3400.  
  3401. “Thanks Applejack,” I said, “It was really nice of you to be thinking of me.”
  3402.  
  3403. “Y’all were really hungry weren’t ya?” Applejack noted.
  3404.  
  3405. Oh no, had I eaten it too fast? I tried to feel around to see if I’d dropped any crumbs in the bed; it was too dark to see clearly.
  3406.  
  3407. “Ya know ya can tell me if yer hungry, right?” Applejack said, “I won’ get mad.”
  3408.  
  3409. Damnit, now she thinks I’m too shy to even ask for food. I mean, to be fair, I didn’t ask for food when I was hungry, but that was only because I’m tough and I didn’t want to bother anypony; and I didn’t tell her I don’t like it because disliking food which someone gives you is immature... right?
  3410.  
  3411. Oh god, I was shy wasn’t I? 
  3412.  
  3413. I managed to suppress my immediate urge to say I was sorry.
  3414.  
  3415. “Thanks,” I said levelly, “I’ll keep that in mind.”
  3416.  
  3417.  
  3418.  
  3419.  
  3420.  
  3421. A few years ago Fluttershy couldn’t have imagined herself willingly going to a party, but so long as her friends were there it really wasn’t so bad. She had hoped to see how the filly she’d met with Luna a few nights back was doing, but it seemed like the guest of honor was too shy to make much of an appearance. Fluttershy could certainly relate.
  3422.  
  3423. The party had ended a little while ago, but Fluttershy stayed behind to help tidy up a bit.
  3424.  
  3425. “Hey Fluttershy.” Applejack greeted.
  3426.  
  3427. “Oh,” said Fluttershy, “Hi Applejack.”
  3428.  
  3429. The farm pony looked more worn out than she expected at the relatively early hour.
  3430.  
  3431. “Ah was wondering if you could help me with somethin’” Applejack said, “When I’m dealin’ with Green Ah’m honestly a mite lost an - well I don’t mean any offense, but you have experience with this sort of thing, don’t you?”
  3432.  
  3433. “Oh the poor little thing.” Fluttershy responded, “I noticed she was looking very frightened, but I didn’t want to say anything in case it embarrassed her. I’m afraid I’m much better with animals than I am with children.”
  3434.  
  3435. “Ah’d ask you to talk with her tomorrow,” Applejack said, “But I’m not sure if introducing her to more ponies at the moment is the best idea. Ah know she’d agree to it, but Ah honestly don’t think she has it in her to say no.”
  3436.  
  3437. “Oh, we’ve actually met before.” Fluttershy admitted.
  3438.  
  3439. Applejack gave a confused look. “At the party?”
  3440.  
  3441. “Oh,” said Fluttershy, “No I saw her in a dream.”
  3442.  
  3443. “Princess Luna?” Applejack surmised.
  3444.  
  3445. “I was very surprised when Luna contacted me in my dream to ask for help, but when she told me there was a filly lost in the forest I just couldn’t say no.”
  3446.  
  3447. The pegasus shrunk in on herself.
  3448.  
  3449. “She knew who I was but she was still afraid, trying to make herself look smaller.” She explained, “I don’t want to be mean, but she was acting like a little bunny, I think just having us be so much larger than her made her freeze up. When I was down at her eye level she was much less afraid.”
  3450.  
  3451. The earth pony had a thoughtful expression.
  3452.  
  3453. “She knew who Ah was too,” Applejack explained, “An’ she thought I had magical honesty powers that would make her spill all her secrets. She was so frightened to speak with me that she threw up.”
  3454.  
  3455. “Oh!” Fluttershy gasped. “My.”
  3456.  
  3457. “We managed to get that misunderstanding cleared up,” Applejack explained, “But it makes me wonder what ponies have been saying about us. Are we really that famous?”
  3458.  
  3459. “I had no idea,” said Fluttershy, “We should probably ask Rarity about that I’m sure she would know.”
  3460.  
  3461. “Well that troubling revelation aside, what I wanted to ask you about was how I can help with her anxiety.” Applejack said, “What helps you when you’re feeling anxious?”
  3462.  
  3463. “Oh,” Fluttershy traced a circle on the floor with her hoof, “I mean, you know I like animals. Animals don’t frighten me like ponies do because they’re not cruel.”
  3464.  
  3465. She paused, realizing what she was saying, and started to backtrack. “I mean, not that all ponies are cruel, or even most ponies-”
  3466.  
  3467. “It’s alright Shy,” Applejack consoled, “Ah know what ya mean.”
  3468.  
  3469. “With animals I can understand what they want from me, and I know I won’t say the wrong thing and embarrass myself, or hurt somepony’s feelings, so I can just be myself.”
  3470.  
  3471. Fluttershy slumped a bit.
  3472.  
  3473. “I don’t know if Green likes animals though,” said Fluttershy, “I know some ponies can find them scary because they don’t understand.”
  3474.  
  3475. “Is there a way I should be speaking with Green when she’s anxious? Things Ah should be sayin’?” Applejack questioned. “Ah got a whole bunch o’ advice from Dayglow but Ah’m not sure Ah understood all of it.”
  3476.  
  3477. “Well when I’m feeling overwhelmed I like to wrap myself in a blanket and drink some tea. I like knitting too, it helps take my mind off things.” Fluttershy explained before looking down at the floor, “To be honest, when it used to get really bad there were weeks where I could barely make myself get out of bed. Rainbow came to check on me and bring me food - she was really worried about me. I’m really glad to have friends like you I can talk to now, when I was just relying on Dash I felt like such a burden sometimes.”
  3478.  
  3479. “So Ah need to find Green some friends?” Applejack asked.
  3480.  
  3481. “Oh, no!” exclaimed Fluttershy, “I mean, yes, but... I don’t know. I certainly know I wouldn’t have appreciated anypony trying to force me to socialize with other ponies, but... maybe if they had I would have been better off? The first time I was really forced to interact with other ponies my age was at flight camp, and I got bullied because I wasn’t a strong flier, and because my legs were too long, and -”
  3482.  
  3483.  
  3484. Applejack could see Fluttershy was starting to get distressed and placed a hoof on her friend’s shoulder.
  3485.  
  3486. “Ah get the picture.” Applejack said, “Children can be down right rotten to each other. Maybe if ah help Green with her coordination and strength it will help her feel more comfortable around ponies her age? An’ if she’s comfortable being around you maybe y’all could drink some tea together? She’s having trouble picking things up with her hooves so she’d prob’ly find knitting a mite frustrating.”
  3487.  
  3488.  
  3489.  
  3490.  
  3491.  
  3492. I had a much easier time falling asleep than I had expected. So much anxiety, so much uncertainty but, as soon as I had food in my belly, my body decided it was time to sleep and I had no desire to fight it. 
  3493.  
  3494. When I saw Luna, still in her filly form, waiting for me in the dream I just felt tired. I’m not sure how you can feel tired in a dream, but I did. I just wanted to be alone and here was another pony I had to interact with.
  3495.  
  3496. “Princess Luna.” I bowed. “I, er, good evening.”
  3497.  
  3498. “Rise, my little pony.” Luna commanded. “We have much to discuss.”
  3499. > That We Have But Slumbered Here
  3500. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  3501.  
  3502. The little princess looked happy to see me, which quelled my fears of an interrogation somewhat.
  3503.  
  3504. “What do you wish for us to discuss, your highness?” It was better to be too formal than not formal enough.
  3505.  
  3506. “Our title is ‘majesty’,” Luna corrected, “But your mistake is understandable. Sister certainly makes a show of her authority.”
  3507.  
  3508. Luna’s tone was neutral, but in the dream realm I could feel her dissatisfaction; there was an invisible aura that positively bristled.
  3509.  
  3510. On the filly princess this attitude was positively adorable, but it would likely not behoove me to mention that out loud.
  3511.  
  3512. Note to self; find a book on royal etiquette.
  3513.  
  3514. “We sense that you do not wish to speak with us.” Luna said.
  3515.  
  3516. “No!” I said quickly, “I mean, I’m not scared, I’m just tired.”
  3517.  
  3518. Luna remained silent.
  3519.  
  3520. “I mean, I guess I’m a bit scared, but not because I’m afraid of you, it’s only because I don’t know what you’re going to say.”
  3521.  
  3522. “My little pony, if you always knew what was going to happen life would be frightfully boring.” The little princess said. “All this standing and talking; this is a dream! Let’s have some fun.”
  3523.  
  3524. With her sudden change in mood the serious atmosphere of the dream had dropped away. The filly sized princess spread her wings and took off, hovering in anticipation. I mentally shrugged as I looked at my back and willed wings to appear. Since this was a dream, they did.
  3525.  
  3526. Luna giggled as she watched me.
  3527.  
  3528. “To think you hath told everypony you did not wish to be a princess.” She said.
  3529.  
  3530. I blanched as I realised how badly this could have gone - surely masquerading as a princess in front of an actual princess was a breach of etiquette? My wings evaporated.
  3531.  
  3532. “Relax, child, twas merely an observation, not admonishment.” Luna consoled. “There is no wrong way to fantasize.”
  3533.  
  3534.  
  3535.  
  3536.  
  3537.  
  3538. My fatigue was washed away by the cool night air as we flew above the clouds. The full moon was bright and cast the landscape of Equestria far below in silvery light. With Luna’s reassurance I regrew my wings and tried out some acrobatics, my wingtips creating contrails that traced my path with complete disregard for the laws of aerodynamics.
  3539.  
  3540. The filly sized princess was matching me to the wingbeat, flying in formation as if this was a well rehearsed routine.
  3541.  
  3542. After a time I grew tired of flying so we landed on a cloud and gazed up at the stars overhead. Despite the bright moonlight innumerable stars and even some nebulae were visible to the naked eye. I didn’t recognise any constellations.
  3543.  
  3544. “Are you feeling better, Green?” Asked Luna.
  3545.  
  3546. “Yeah,” I said, my mood dropping to a more neutral level, “I’m sorry for taking so much of your time, Princess. I’m sure there are other ponies whose dreams need your attention.”
  3547.  
  3548. “We have not forgotten why we came to you this night.” Luna said. “Didst thou?”
  3549.  
  3550. “No.” I sighed. “I just... I’m sorry.”
  3551.  
  3552. A mug of tea had appeared in my hooves and I took a sip from it just to have something to keep more words from spilling out.
  3553.  
  3554. “How was your first day with the Apple’s?” Luna asked.
  3555.  
  3556. “It was alright I guess.”
  3557.  
  3558. “You guess?”
  3559.  
  3560. “Applejack is going to tell Pinkie that I was frightened by her party.”
  3561.  
  3562. “Were you?”
  3563.  
  3564. “Well, yeah, but I don’t want her to know that!” I said. “She tried to do something nice and now she’s going to feel terrible because of me. I can’t even apologize because that will just make it worse!”
  3565.  
  3566. I huffed at the unfairness of it all.
  3567.  
  3568. “Why were you afraid of her party?”
  3569.  
  3570. “There were so many ponies I didn’t know and they were all looking at me and - I just panicked okay? And I didn’t want them to see me panicking.” I said “And apparently I kicked Scootaloo in the face back when they were rescuing me even though I can’t remember so Rainbow doesn’t trust me and now AJ is angry with her.”
  3571.  
  3572. I was hoping Luna would say something, but she remained silent. After a few moments I realised how I was coming across.
  3573.  
  3574. “But please don’t take me away!” I pleaded. “I know it sounds bad but really Applejack is doing a good job. It's just - I keep screwing things up.”
  3575.  
  3576. As the silence stretched on I stared into my tea, watching as the liquid flowed back and forth, keeping level with the ground below as I tilted the cup. In a dream there was no need for it to obey gravity, but it did so simply because I imagined it should. With a thought gravity ceased to exist and the surface of the liquid bulged outwards; naught but surface tension keeping it inside the cup. Moving the cup, a ball of brown liquid was left hanging in the air, undulating slightly in the air currents.
  3577.  
  3578. “Green.”
  3579.  
  3580. The tea and the teacup vanished as I lost focus on what I was doing. Right, Luna was still there.
  3581.  
  3582. “We won’t send you back.” Luna promised.
  3583.  
  3584. “Sorry, I-” I said, “I’m having trouble focusing, I don’t know why it’s harder this time.”
  3585.  
  3586. “When last we met I was stabilizing the dream for you.” Luna explained. “The sleeping mind is naturally very distractible, but through practice it is possible to exert control. It is a rare talent, but you have demonstrated at least some aptitude.”
  3587.  
  3588. I was caught off guard by the direction the conversation was turning.
  3589.  
  3590. “When first we met we had meant to make you as our apprentice.” Luna said. “It is an opportunity which few have been afforded; we do not seek to take you from a place you feel safe, but we hope that one day you will be ready to take our offer. It would be a great shame to see your talent go to waste.”
  3591.  
  3592. “Thank you, your Majesty.” I said. “I’m sorry.”
  3593.  
  3594. Dammit stop saying you’re sorry! Now she’s going to feel bad and tell me not to say sorry.
  3595.  
  3596. Luna paused for a moment, then said something I wasn’t expecting.
  3597.  
  3598. “The place you came from,” Luna said, “We won’t send you back.”
  3599.  
  3600. The white fluffy clouds formed jagged crystalline tendrils of ice reaching through my chest to tug at my heart. The stars winked out and the moon became an enormous all seeing eye.
  3601.  
  3602.  
  3603.  
  3604.  
  3605.  
  3606. Luna reasserted control of the dream to save the filly from the physical manifestation of her anxiety. Green’s control over her dream was impressive for one without training, but only for as long as she was able to keep her focus.
  3607.  
  3608. The scene shifted to Luna’s chambers in the castle. A fire crackled in the fireplace and the furniture looked comically oversized for their filly sized forms. They sat wrapped in a blanket with a tea set between them. Green had stopped shivering.
  3609.  
  3610. Her reaction to Luna’s guess added more weight to Twilight’s theory that the filly had escaped to Equestria from another reality. Green’s lack of coordination, her inexplicable magic problems, her claim that her parents weren’t ponies, the fact that there was no trace of her existence before last week; it all made sense if she was from a reality without magic, without ponies. It was unlikely that she was from the ‘human’ reality that Twilight had traveled to; the mirror portal was guarded.
  3611.  
  3612. She didn't want to be too specific with her questions since attacking the topic directly seemed to make the filly intense distress, to an almost unnatural degree.
  3613.  
  3614. If she did come from another reality there was no purpose in continuing the investigation. Great though Luna’s powers were, she could not police the entire multiverse. Yet some being had transported her here, given her at least a primer on important ponies in Equestria, and told her not to reveal her origins to anypony. Luna was unsure of his motivations. It would pay to keep a close eye on this filly. Complicating matters, the existence of other realities was a state secret so her suspicions of the filly's true origin could not be shared widely.
  3615.  
  3616. Wherever the child hailed from it would be a simple matter for the princess to grant her asylum. If she gained an apprentice out of it, all the better. Whatever she was fleeing from, whatever she had endured to make her the way she was now, no good would come from returning her.
  3617.  
  3618. Fate had conspired to give her sister a student and now it was her turn; it was only fair. The filly wasn’t ready yet, as she had been counseled by her subjects at the hospital, but she could begin to set things in motion.
  3619.  
  3620. “We do not wish to frighten thee.” Luna said. “Answer these three questions and we shall pry no further until you are ready.”
  3621.  
  3622. “Ok.”
  3623.  
  3624. “Art thou from another nation?”
  3625.  
  3626. “...yes.”
  3627.  
  3628. “Dost thou wish to live in Equestria?”
  3629.  
  3630. “...yes.”
  3631.  
  3632. “Wilt thou make an oath of fealty to the crown and country?”
  3633.  
  3634. “Do I have to?”
  3635.  
  3636. “If you wish to become our subject, then yes.” Luna explained. “Ordinarily the oath could wait until you come of age, but since you are a foreigner you must take the oath to be granted legal status.”
  3637.  
  3638. She did not mention that the oath superseded any other magical contract the filly may have entered into. If a geas was preventing her from speaking freely, or from recalling the one who sent her here, it would be broken.
  3639. > Musical Interlude II
  3640. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  3641.  
  3642. To explain your relocation
  3643. There's a simple explanation:
  3644. You're a toymaker's creation
  3645. Trapped inside a children's show!
  3646.  
  3647. And whichever way you wander
  3648. Ponyville is over yonder
  3649. This new chance you musn't squander
  3650. As we sing this silly song
  3651.  
  3652. When I wasn't yet a filly, I didn't know it would be so tricky
  3653. So I told a man you can do your worst,
  3654. If you can make me a mare then you'd be the first
  3655. I got myself in-to this mess, hope they-don't make me wear a dress.
  3656. Now my memories are absurd and I think they all misheard,
  3657. But I still know the words to this song.
  3658.  
  3659. When you're throat is feeling strangled
  3660. And your foreleg has been mangled
  3661. Don't you listen to the jangle
  3662. Of the bell that tolls for thee
  3663.  
  3664. Cause these chords are hypnotizing
  3665. And this whole world's harmonizing
  3666. So now Green please stop your crying
  3667. And Just sing along with me!
  3668.  
  3669.  
  3670. > Oh to be Old Again
  3671. > --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  3672.  
  3673. The strangest part about the dreams I had with Luna were that they did not fade. I was familiar with the sensation of recalling a dream when I woke, but unless I put conscious effort into anchoring the details of the dream into my mind it would quickly dissipate.
  3674.  
  3675. I was fully awake. Not the well rested type of awake but the special brand of insomnia that came from waking in an unfamiliar place. I couldn’t see a clock, but it was still dark outside. 
  3676.  
  3677. I felt nothing, and it took me a moment to realise what was missing; there was no itch. My skin hadn't dried out and cracked overnight.
  3678.  
  3679. When I was growing up I didn’t want to get out of bed too early, to avoid my mother worrying. At one point she found out that I was waking up really early because I was anxious about being bullied at school, so after that I had to pretend to be asleep until it was a reasonable time to get up, lest she suspect (correctly) that I was still being bullied at school.
  3680.  
  3681. I held my breath and focused on listening to sounds in the house. The Apple’s were farm ponies so they would be awake early to do farm work, right? Sure enough, I could hear hoofsteps and the faint clanging of pots and pans from downstairs. Maybe they were having an early breakfast and decided not to wake me?
  3682.  
  3683. I wriggled out the side of the bed to avoid having to remake it. Making a bed with my clumsy gripping ability would be a huge pain.
  3684.  
  3685. Walking down the stairs was a bit daunting; they were just tall enough that I couldn’t put one hoof on each step comfortably. Going up was fine. Going down, my legs bent the wrong way. My broken fetlock was still a bit tender so I wanted to avoid jarring it, otherwise I could have just jumped down each step. I grit my teeth in frustration. I wasn’t about to ask somepony to carry me downstairs so I just had to do this.
  3686.  
  3687. Drop my forelegs to the next step (ow!), followed by hind legs. Repeat. By the time I got to the bottom I was sweating and my leg was aching and I hated this stupid weak body! I took a minute to control my breathing; I didn’t want anyone to see me out of breath from such a short walk.
  3688.  
  3689. I didn’t have a sense for the layout of the house yet, having only seen it briefly at my surprise party last night, but I could follow the sounds of somepony in the kitchen.
  3690.  
  3691. “My,” Granny Smith addressed me without turning around, “Ain’t you an early riser?”
  3692.  
  3693. Hair bristled on the back of my neck; my stomach dropped.
  3694.  
  3695. Breathe. Think. You haven’t been ‘caught’. 
  3696.  
  3697. She must have heard my hoofsteps and... oh right, the window in front of her was reflective.
  3698.  
  3699. Breathe. Be calm. Don’t let her know you were panicking.
  3700.  
  3701. “Good morning.” I said.
  3702.  
  3703. “Good morning deary.” she replied, “Breakfast isn’t quite ready yet, but you can help by setting the table.”
  3704.  
  3705. “I, uh, don’t think that’s a good idea.”
  3706.  
  3707. I looked down at my hooves and cringed at the thought of trying to carry around fragile plates while walking with three legs.
  3708.  
  3709. “Why’s that?”
  3710.  
  3711. “I’m not good at holding things with my hooves,” I explained, “So I might drop them.”
  3712.  
  3713. “Alright then, up you come.”
  3714.  
  3715. I’m not sure how she managed to speak with the scruff of my neck clasped in her teeth, but she did. She lifted me onto the counter and I was put out for a moment at the fact I was standing on a surface for preparing food. I suppose that my rear hooves weren’t any dirtier than my front hooves but it still felt wrong.
  3716.  
  3717. Granny gave me a mixing bowl and a spoon which I managed to grasp with my hooves. It was more the letting go that I had trouble with.
  3718.  
  3719. When I was done mixing the pancake batter she put me back on the floor. The sun was just peaking over the horizon and the younger members of the Apple family still had yet to make an appearance.
  3720.  
  3721. “Do you always wake up this early?” I asked.
  3722.  
  3723. “Not much choice when you get to my age,” She replied, “This creaky old hip decides when it’s time to get up. Take my advice deary, don’t get old.”
  3724.  
  3725. “I don’t much like the alternative.” I quipped.
  3726.  
  3727. There was an uncomfortable silence.
  3728.  
  3729. “Because I don’t want to die?” I added
  3730.  
  3731. Stupid! Now she’s going to ask what you mean and then it won’t be funny, it will just be morbid and she’ll be worried about me... ugh. Quick, change the subject!
  3732.  
  3733. “Arthritis is a real bitch, huh.”
  3734.  
  3735. “Language!” Granny Smith admonished.
  3736.  
  3737. “Sorry!” I squeaked.
  3738.  
  3739. I squeezed my eyes shut.
  3740.  
  3741. Stupid squeaky voice.
  3742.  
  3743. “Open your mouth.” 
  3744.  
  3745. “Wha-”
  3746.  
  3747. Before I knew what was going on I felt something near my mouth and instinctively batted it away, raising my hooves to protect my face.
  3748.  
  3749. My heart pounded - Relax, breathe.
  3750.  
  3751. In.
  3752.  
  3753. Out.
  3754.  
  3755. “Don’t fuss now,” she ordered, “We need to wash those dirty words out of your mouth.”
  3756.  
  3757. Soap. Well that explained a lot.
  3758.  
  3759. “There’s no need for that,” I said, “It won’t happen again I promise.”
  3760.  
  3761. “Open.” She repeated.
  3762.  
  3763. Provided it wasn’t oldschool lye soap it should be safe, if unpleasant, to get some in my mouth. If this was the way things were done around here then it wasn’t worth making a scene over.
  3764.  
  3765. I sighed and opened my mouth.
  3766.  
  3767. The soap was apple scented, of course, but I could hardly taste that with the overwhelming bitter suds that were forming. I wanted to spit and scrape my tongue but I wasn’t about to spit on the floor so I focused on breathing through my nose and not swallowing. I was quite proud that I managed not to make a face.
  3768.  
  3769. Applejack came down the stairs a moment later and I saw Granny Smith quickly place the soap back next to the sink.
  3770.  
  3771. My eyes widened in realisation. Granny didn’t want AJ to know.
  3772.  
  3773. “Mornin’ Green,” Applejack greeted, “You’re up early. Did you sleep alright?”
  3774.  
  3775. I nodded, not trusting myself to speak with a mouthful of soap.
  3776.  
  3777. Applejack gave me a suspicious look and I almost swallowed nervously. 
  3778.  
  3779. I’d have to risk saying something - I couldn’t just stand here.
  3780.  
  3781. “May I be excused?”
  3782.  
  3783. I almost got away with it but, at the last moment, soap touched the back of my throat and I hiccuped. A soap bubble came out.
  3784.  
  3785.  
  3786.  
  3787.  
  3788.  
  3789. Applejack’s heart sank as she took in the situation. 
  3790.  
  3791. “It’s alright Green,” She said, “You don’t have to ask, just go.”
  3792.  
  3793. Applejack waited until she heard the filly shut the bathroom door before she turned to address her grandmother.
  3794.  
  3795. “What were you thinking?” AJ asked. “She’s having a hard enough time trustin’ ponies as it is.”
  3796.  
  3797. Applejack could hear Green spitting and gagging while she ran the water.
  3798.  
  3799. “Fillies need to be raised right,” Granny insisted, “Ah can’t have her using that kind of language around Apple Bloom.”
  3800.  
  3801. “There are other ways to do that.” Applejack stomped. “Ways that don’t involve forcing soap in her mouth.”
  3802.  
  3803. “It worked for you didn’t it?”
  3804.  
  3805. “This is different.” Applejack said, “Look, please just please leave her discipline up to me.”
  3806.  
  3807. “Since when are you the expert on raising foals?”
  3808.  
  3809. That was a shot to Applejack’s confidence, but she ploughed on.
  3810.  
  3811. “She’s a foster child.” AJ explained, “There are rules and one of the most important is no physical punishments.”
  3812.  
  3813. The two adults stopped talking as Green walked back into the kitchen.
  3814.  
  3815. “Don’t worry about it,” said Green, “We’ll just pretend this never happened.”
  3816.  
  3817. “Sweetpea, look,” AJ sat the filly down, “Ah know yer trying to protect us, but you have to promise me that you’re going to be honest. If somepony hurts you, or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable -”
  3818.  
  3819. “It’s not like that okay?” The filly interrupted. “I let her put the soap in my mouth, it’s not like she forced me.”
  3820.  
  3821. Applejack realised she may be walking on very shaky ground.
  3822.  
  3823. “Green,” AJ hesitated, “If somepony- Ah mean, just because you let somepony do something- it doesn’t mean you were okay with it.”
  3824.  
  3825. The filly was calming herself down with breathing exercises again.
  3826.  
  3827. “It was just soap.” Said Green, “It’s not like I’m going to die.”
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Trust Once Lost

by Greenhorne

Trust Once Lost

by Greenhorne