NewFagAlphaCentauri

Wine Father

Aug 26th, 2020
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  1. >Biggs Berry is your name.
  2. >Or Biggs ‘Bury’, as your friends call you.
  3. >Aristocrat, party animal, masterful wine taster, and a world class drunk.
  4. >The nickname came from you drinking any mare until they were nearly six feet under.
  5. >Burying them, as it were.
  6.  
  7. >But you’re hardly in the mood. Your wife died quite recently, and you’re fairly distraught.
  8. >You loved her your whole life, from the moment you met her to the moment she was gone.
  9. >You did everything together.
  10. >All the hiking, deep into unknown woods. Picnics atop mountains. Baths in waterfalls. Secret rendezvous to dark alleys. Ballroom parties in fancy wear.
  11. >A lifetime, spent well and with someone you love.
  12. >You really couldn’t ask for more.
  13. >But there was one thing you didn’t manage to do.
  14. >Your wife wanted to purchase this little bar, clean it up and make something respectable out of it. Enjoy a place to call your own. Hopefully to pass on to the kids.
  15. >But the damn place has been in a constant state of auction for the past year now!
  16. >The final bid must hold for a full month, as is the terms of the auction, to give the whole of Equestria a chance to own property is this mountainside village, Canterlot.
  17. >But the price has gone too high! The only ones bidding are you, and that damn scourge, Wheatley.
  18. >Just thinking about that middle-aged rat makes your blood boil.
  19. >He carries on some forgotten vengeance from who knows what, always acting like a pain to your family.
  20. >He intends to prolong the auction to your very death, and deny you the final thing your wife wished to have.
  21. >Just thinking about him makes your blood boil.
  22.  
  23. >The doorbell rings, and a servant swiftly moves to the front, peeking enough to recognize the guest.
  24. >”One moment please.”
  25. >He hops next to you.
  26. >”Sir, it is to your likely displeasure that ‘you-know-who’ has arrived. With a gift.”
  27. “What? A gift?”
  28. >”As he stated, sir. Shall I turn him away?”
  29. >What is he up to?
  30. “No. Thank you, Butters. I’ll take care of it myself.”
  31. >He nods and makes himself scarce, leaving you alone.
  32. >You tighten your robe and at least manage to grab a hat before you present yourself at the front door.
  33. >Wheatley and his third or fourth wife -you can’t remember the count- present themselves at the door, bearing a basket of fruit and bottle of wine.
  34. >You look down at the stallion, a full head shorter than you.
  35. “Speak of the rat and he’ll nip at your heels.”
  36. >”Biggs! Hardly a way to say hello to a friend. Especially in times like these.”
  37. >He magics over the basket, gently placing it on your back.
  38. >”We heard the bad news and wanted to get you something to help you out. Here! We found all your favorite fruits, and a bottle of wine that’s been passed down through my family for over three hundred years!”
  39. >You narrow your eyes.
  40. “I’m not in the mood for games today, Wheatley.”
  41. >”This is no game.” He holds up a hoof. “Well, more accurately, the winner’s about to be declared. In any case, I hope you enjoy yourself. Ta ta!”
  42. >He turns to leave, and his wife waves a nervous hoof before doing the same.
  43.  
  44. >You slam the door, signaling to the rest of the house exactly what kind of mood you’re in.
  45. >Back to the couch, you put the basket next to your pot of tea.
  46. >You look in. Some fruits line one side, a little slimy, avocado and mango soft in the wrong ways, some chocolates melted into the cloth at some point, but are otherwise fine.
  47. >You take the bottle out, probably the only salvageable thing. You can’t tell if it’s gone bad just by looking at it, but you have suspicions.
  48. >You recognize the name, however. It’s a very acidic wine, made for a refined palette.
  49. >He’d be a fool to drink it up and replace the contents for a vicious gift, conceited though he may be.
  50. >Maybe that’s his play. To keep you guessing until you die and never figure it out.
  51. >Just another spite.
  52.  
  53. >You set it down and grab a note originally hidden by the bottle.
  54. >You open it, reading through the contents.
  55. >’The wine is the real deal, Bury.’
  56. >’It’s quite a consolation prize.’
  57. >’Come by my new bar after we open, if you want to thank me for it.’
  58. >’Yours,
  59. >Wheatley’
  60.  
  61. >Why would he be so quick to think…
  62. >Wait!
  63. >Without your wife, you can’t purchase property anymore!
  64. >Celestia damn it all! Damn that stallion to the depths of Tartarus!
  65.  
  66. >Thoughts of murder cross your mind. Of torture. Of arson.
  67. >Of your wife.
  68. >Tears stream down your face. Anger, sorrow, the source didn’t matter.
  69. >”Need a shoulder to lean on, Biggs?”
  70. >Butters is suddenly next to you, and just as suddenly less the butler and more the close friend.
  71. >You nod, leaning over and laying your head on top of his.
  72. “She’s gone, Butters.”
  73. >”The staff miss her too, Biggs.”
  74. “She was my wife.”
  75. >”And an excellent mother, too. To us all, really.”
  76. “I can’t buy property without her.”
  77. >”She-…” He paused for a few seconds. “This didn’t go where I thought it was going.”
  78. “The last thing she wanted was to buy that bar and fix it up with me. Just us. And now, not only is she not here to do it, I can’t purchase the damn thing because I’m a single male!”
  79. >”OH, oh, right. Of course. Sorry, I’d forgotten that for the moment.”
  80. >You ignore the slip, leaning on the far younger stallion.
  81. >Damn property laws. Don’t trust a lone stallion to buy property and know what he’s doing.
  82. “What’s an old colt to do, Butters? I can’t possibly marry again. But if I let that place slip out of my hooves…”
  83. >”You’re still fit for marriage. With your looks you could still-”
  84. “I’m not doing that to the girl I love, or to some poor girl that thinks I’d love her.”
  85. >”Oh. I see.” He pauses. “Well, some of the others seem to treat marriage as a tool, more than anything. Like Whe- ‘you-know-who’.”
  86. >You look down at the basket, then to the damn bottle.
  87. “I’d rather not stoop to his level.”
  88. >”Your children could come bid. They are to inherit the estate, after all.”
  89. “I can’t do that to them. Their life shouldn’t be spent carrying on a grudge, or trying to win their dead father’s battles.”
  90. >”I’m sure you’ll think of something, sir. Shame your wife couldn’t last forever.”
  91. “Yeah. It is a shame.”
  92.  
  93. >You hold the poor stallion for a long moment, just holding onto anything you can.
  94. >”Would you like me to get us some drinks, Biggs?”
  95. “I’m not quite in the mood.”
  96. >”We’re starting with shots, then. You will be shortly.”
  97. >He hops off and goes to get the drinks.
  98. >You can’t even tell him ‘no’. You know your wife wouldn’t let you stay in a sour mood, and so does he.
  99. >But a drink doesn’t solve your problem.
  100. >You need a way to circumvent that damned property law. And you need it fast.
  101. >You don’t want to marry again, but even if you did, who?
  102. >You aren’t sure there’s a wife you could really trust to just let you do as you need.
  103. >It’d have to be a girl you could control easily.
  104. >But even then, you’d rather pass the estate on, than chance a new wife routing it to some other family.
  105. >How do you even begin to confront it? And solve it within the few weeks you have left to stay on that damn auction?
  106.  
  107. >You stare longingly at the bottle of wine.
  108. >You want to figure it out. Is it really real, or a fake? Wine, or poison?
  109. >This whole fight for the bar. Is it a blessing, or a curse?
  110. >You’ll die wondering.
  111. >Maybe you should drink the wine. Just to find an answer.
  112. >Funny. In that sense, alcohol really is the answer.
  113.  
  114. >”Cherry Springs Vodka, icy to the touch.”
  115. >Butters sets down a bucket and two shot glasses.
  116. “Drinking without permission, Butters?”
  117. >”Your wife set standing orders to never let you drink alone, Biggs.”
  118. “Well, orders are orders, I guess.”
  119. >You clink your glass to his, throwing back.
  120. >Right as you sit right again, something clicks in your mind.
  121. >You stare at the bottle of wine, a smile creeping across your face. A devious, evil smile.
  122. >”See sir? Just the one and it’s already working.”
  123. >All the final pieces click into place and you grab the bottle of wine, looking at Butters.
  124. “Do you know what this is, Butters?”
  125. >”Vintage?”
  126. “The answer!”
  127. >”I don’t follow.”
  128. “All of my life, ponies have offered me trite quotes about alcohol not being the answer, but they are most certainly wrong!”
  129. >You set the wine down, looking down at the butler.
  130. “Butters, by Celestia’s sun, can you do a dying stallion a favor or a few, and become my son?”
  131. >”I- but- what?” He stutters. “But, you have children? And grandchildren?”
  132. “All of whom are weeks away. They won’t be able to do anything at my most dire hour. Not at the time I need them.”
  133. >”Biggs. I don’t understand.”
  134. “I promise I’ll tell you absolutely everything if you agree, but it has to be a secret between us. Nopony can know.”
  135. >”I-…yes.”
  136. >You squeeze him in a tight hug.
  137. “Butters, I need you to contact the law office. Get me all the paperwork I need. I need a pre-written marriage certificate, the adoption papers, power of attorney papers, and enough legal paper to write my will twice over.”
  138. >You look around and find your purse, giving it to him.
  139. >”…now?”
  140. “Yes, now! Quick as you can, fast as sound! Don’t tell anypony- Actually. I’ll go with you. We’ll get the adoption done now and finish the rest later. I’ll explain everything on the way.”
  141. - - -
  142.  
  143. “Ladies, ladies! Thank you all for coming, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. Believe it or not, I’ve already got a lucky suitor.”
  144. >The judge, notary, and priest all drunkenly look around, seemingly trying to figure out for themselves who this lucky mare is.
  145. >”Don’t tell me; it’s the pool cleaner!” One says.
  146. >”Gotta be the lieutenant.”
  147. >”Can’t be the crier, she’d shout it from the rooftops!”
  148. >The three laugh. You carefully give a little more liquor to their drinks when they look away.
  149. “No, no. In fact, you met her on the way in!”
  150. >The three look perplexed. Butters realizes the show is about to start, and goes to grab the wine.
  151. >He comes around quickly and sets it down in the middle of the table.
  152. >You grab it, holding it to your chest.
  153. “Ladies, say hello to my suitor.”
  154. >You give the bottle a shake.
  155. >The three drunkards break into laughter.
  156. >”The purest form of love!”
  157. >”Mares never had a chance!”
  158. >You laugh along, goading them.
  159. “Yep! Syrah always said she was scared if she didn’t put a ring on me, I’d marry the wine instead! Today I want to make it official!”
  160. >”Oh no! He’s gone mad!”
  161. >”Madly in love!”
  162. >”Couldn’t pick a better wife, I’d say!”
  163. >Good. They’re in just the right mood.
  164. >You motion to Butters. He brings the papers, placing them to face you.
  165. >You giggle loudly, passing them around for the others to look at. Your new son gives each a feather in an inkwell.
  166. “Oh, thank you girls for helping me. It’s been terrible to my mind to think I’d be refused a second chance.”
  167. >”Not a problem.” One chortles. “Anything for a grieving widower!”
  168. “You have my thanks, ladies! Here’s to good tidings, now and forever!”
  169. >”Hooray!” They cheer together.
  170.  
  171. >Butters shakes his head in the back.
  172. >As the three finish signing the parts you need them to, he collects the papers, careful to not let the ink smudge before it dries.
  173. >You fill their glasses with a hard liquor, strong and smooth with a wonderful aftertaste.
  174. >The good stuff, if you will.
  175. >You throw back, and they do the same.
  176. >With the important work out of the way, you enjoy the rest of the night as an actual get-together.
  177. >Though, Butters and other staff stay out of this one.
  178. >He, the poor colt, has given you that worried eye of his more than once.
  179. >But as you continue on through the night, that worry goes away.
  180. >You’re the same stallion you always were to him.
  181. >A proper fucking drunk.
  182.  
  183. - - -
  184.  
  185. “Bidding again? It’s only been a week.”
  186. >Wheatley whips around, looking at you with a rare look of surprise. It dissipates quickly.
  187. >”Got an expedition to join down south! A cousin is annexing land for a new town. Lots of fun to be had, traveling virgin lands.”
  188. “Oh, well congratulations to her. Hope she enjoys the area. As for me, I prefer to stay local these days.”
  189. >You turn to Ms. Burns, the current owner of the establishment.
  190. “I bid two hundred higher.”
  191. >The younger duke narrows his eyes.
  192. >”An unmarried colt can’t even purchase property. Your bid is void, old coot.”
  193. >You snicker.
  194. “Absolutely true! Except, I’m not unmarried. Didn’t you hear?”
  195. >”Preposterous!”
  196. >You whip out the marriage certificate and present it to Burns. She reads it for a short moment before slamming her head on the desk.
  197. >”It’s valid.”
  198. >He narrows his eyes at you as you stuff the cert away.
  199. >”And who’s the bride, hmm?”
  200. >You giggle.
  201. “A wonderful Chardonnay. The very best in the world.”
  202. >He shakes his head.
  203. >”Marrying a bottle of wine. You really have lost it, you old crone.”
  204. “Oh, she may be a fine wine, but I assure you she’s full of spirit!”
  205. >You laugh. Neither laugh with you.
  206. >”You just can’t give it up, can you? When are you going to keel over, and let the next generation finally take what’s theirs?”
  207. “You say that like you’re supposed to inherit the town or something. You’re not.”
  208. >”You say that like you own it or something. You don’t.”
  209. “I know I don’t. That’s why I’m trying to purchase this place.”
  210. >”Let it go. You’ll drop from liver failure before you do anything worthwhile with it.”
  211. “Hardly. How much did you move the offer up, anyways? Ten bits? You shameless twit.”
  212. >”The money hardly means anything. In half a year, tops, you’ll be buried right next to your wife.”
  213. “At least I’m offering more than the minimum requirement, half-pint. That’s all you’ve ever been. The minimum. In the community. At work. At home.” You hold your head just over his, staring down. “In the sack.”
  214. >”You’re digging your grave, Biggs. And when the funeral comes, you’ll only have a glass bottle to cry for you.”
  215. “Oh, I don’t think so. The new wife is important, but she’s not here to cry over me, Wheatley.”
  216. >”What are you on about?”
  217. “Power of attorney. She’s got a living will, now. For as long as she ‘lives’, she’ll keep bidding. Every month. For the rest of her ‘life’. Which is a lot longer than your-”
  218. >”That’s IT!”
  219.  
  220. >You both freeze, turning to the mare at the counter.
  221. >She looks at you through teary eyes, with a face full of wrath.
  222. >”Both of you, OUT! I’m sick of listening to your garbage! Settle your crap and leave the rest of us out of it! For gods’ sakes!”
  223. >You give a good three seconds of silence.
  224. “But, I-”
  225. >”I don’t care!! The rest of us don’t care! Nopony cares! Go solve your problems somewhere else! Somewhere not here! Somewhere I’m not listening to thieves talk about taking my home!”
  226. >She charges you. Before you can even react, she picks up your massive frame and tosses you straight out the front door.
  227. >You land on your side, stunned from mild fear and moderate amazement. Mostly that she’d lift a hoof against a stallion-
  228. >Two stallions. Wheatley lands right on you, rolling you onto your back as he bounces off.
  229. >”Neither of you better come back for at least a week! I don’t care what the sheriff says!”
  230. >She slams the door, leaving you both lying in the street.
  231.  
  232. >Wheatley hurries to get up, rubbing sore parts.
  233. >”Thieves? What an accusation.”
  234. >You look up at the sky. You’re too busy thinking to really get up yet.
  235. “She’s being forced to sell her home, Wheatley. Her bankruptcy has taken over a year.”
  236. >He shakes his head.
  237. >”Just more proof of your evils. Wasting others’ best years while you stretch out your worst.”
  238. >You look over at him, narrowing your eyes.
  239. “We’re both to blame for this one.” You mutter.
  240. >”Hardly.”
  241. >He sneers, then walks away.
  242. >You sit there for a moment, though.
  243. >You had come up with that scheme, thinking it’d make an easy fight after you’re gone. Or intimidate Wheatley into giving up.
  244. >But you assumed this fight was only between you and him. It isn’t.
  245. >You... didn’t ponder the wider consequences of your actions.
  246.  
  247. >How long will the fight continue on, you wonder?
  248. >Would he actually hold out, keeping it up to ensure this place doesn’t fall into your estate? Is he that determined?
  249. >Would your children even get it? They’re hardly younger than he is.
  250. >Your grandchildren would get it at a ripe old age. Not young enough to go enjoy it for too long, really.
  251. >And what if he does the same thing? Would your estates be left to a coin toss of bankruptcy?
  252. >Would you really let that happen, after all the work you’ve done for this place? For your family?
  253.  
  254. >Would you?
  255.  
  256. >No. There’s a better way. There has to be.
  257. >You get up and dust yourself off, grabbing your things.
  258. >There’s a way to solve this. Maybe not the way you wanted, but...
  259. >Well. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
  260. >And you’ve got a mighty will.
  261.  
  262. - - -
  263.  
  264. “Scotch?”
  265. >You call out into the dark room.
  266. >You know she’s here. She’s always here.
  267. “Scotchie?”
  268. >Over the bar, you see a tail swishing along the floor.
  269. >You trot around and find her curled up against an empty bottle, swatting flies in her sleep.
  270. >Pressing your hoof against her shoulder, she wakes at the touch.
  271. >She looks at you, then the bottle.
  272. >She pushes it away and covers her head, sniffling.
  273. >”It’s okay to think less of me. This is all I’ll ever be, I guess.”
  274. “Are you okay, Scotch?”
  275. >Clearly not.
  276. >”No, Butters. I’m not okay.”
  277. >She tries to relax a bit, laying down her forelegs.
  278. >”It’s those damned stallions again. Neither one of them can just let go. I’m going to be stuck here for the rest of my life. Always waiting for the axe to fall. Always about to lose my home. I’ll never be allowed to leave this place.”
  279. >You aren’t quite sure what to say. Especially considering you work for one of them. And you know he didn’t ask for this to happen to her.
  280. “Do they know that?”
  281. >”How could they not? Would they really forget that? They just don’t care, Butters. Not one bit.”
  282. >You lay down next to her, holding her close.
  283. “I could try talking to Biggs about it. I’m sure he’ll consider your position and back off.”
  284. >She shakes her head.
  285. >”It’s no use. He married a bottle of wine, Butters. He’s going to use that damn thing to make sure this never ends for me!”
  286. >You sigh.
  287. “Yeah. I watched it get signed.”
  288. >”You knew?!”
  289. “He had me more convinced at the time. Either Wheatley would back off, or... something.”
  290. >A glimmer of hope in her eyes. No. Please don’t make you...
  291. >”Please! You have to help me! I can’t stand this any more!”
  292. “Scotch, I can talk to Biggs, but... it’s not that simple.”
  293. >”What do you mean?”
  294. “Biggs... he took me on. As his son.”
  295. >She jumps straight up, glaring down at you.
  296. >”Son?! So, what, you can’t do anything since you get a piece of the pie? Is that it?!”
  297. “No, Scotch. It’s not. I don’t want your place and I’d rather you keep it.”
  298. >You get up.
  299. “But Biggs has put an awful lot of trust in me, and I know he’s not the kind to share quite every detail. I’m going to talk to him. Try to get him to see reason.”
  300. >”Please do.” She begs. “I’m going nuts here. I can’t go anywhere until this place is sold and this ridiculous auction is sucking away all my life.”
  301. “Well, the bank could probably keep someone able to run it.”
  302. >”The rules of the bankruptcy is that I have to sell the property with their rules attached.”
  303. >You roll your eyes.
  304. “The judge could overrule it.”
  305. >”She won’t. ‘Contracts are contracts. Breaking them on a whim negates the point of having them.’” She mocks.
  306. >”I’ve done all I can. I’m not free and the bankruptcy doesn’t actually happen until one of those nitwits caves and the other pays up.”
  307.  
  308. - - -
  309.  
  310. >You walk into the mansion again, sporting your usual work suit.
  311. >The rest of the team don’t call you Butters anymore, even if you’re still an employee. It’s ‘Sir’ now, and it makes you a little uneasy.
  312. >And you know it won’t go away. With ‘Master’ and ‘Madam’ being the usual titles in other places, most can’t be more casual than ‘Sir’, no matter how much Biggs has drank with them.
  313. >So, you stumble through the mansion, giving confusing greetings before you stand at the master bedroom.
  314. >You extend a hoof to knock but freeze when the door cracks open.
  315. >Biggs stares down at you for a small moment. He seems troubled by something.
  316. >”Butters.”
  317. >Your mouth runs a little bit dry.
  318. “Biggs.” You pause. “I was just about to ask if we could talk about-”
  319. >”Come in.”
  320. >He moves back, far swifter than his size should allow, pulling the door open for you.
  321. >You follow through, closing the door behind you.
  322. >You look around the royally-styled room.
  323. >Oil paintings, perfect silk fixtures, and furnishings made from the most valuable woods.
  324. >Mostly heirlooms, but the piece depicting he and his REAL wife is clearly new, hanging just above the headboard of the bed.
  325. >You smell smoke, and as you get to Biggs on the balcony, you see he’s burning through a thick cigar rather quickly.
  326. “I thought you weren’t supposed to inhale them.”
  327. >He smirks.
  328. >”Doesn’t matter. This is my last one.”
  329. “Well, I can fetch you some more if we’re out.”
  330. >”Not like that.”
  331. >As you sit on your haunches next to him, he offers one, but you decline.
  332. >”So. I ran into Scotch today. And Wheatley.”
  333. >You nod.
  334. “Yes. I dropped by and... she seemed upset.”
  335. >”More than upset. She threw both of us out on our asses.”
  336. >No words for that. You just don’t know what to say.
  337. >”It gave me... a bit of time to reflect on what I’m doing here.”
  338. >He puts the cigar down.
  339. >”When we started this a year ago, I entirely expected I’d win and get to enjoy fixing up the place with my wife.”
  340. >”When she died, I thought I wanted to at least pass the place on to one of my kids. Something I know somepony would enjoy.”
  341. >”But I’m not sure now. Maybe I wanted a bit of revenge for Wheatley stalling it until my wife died of old age. Maybe it was just something to hold on to.”
  342. >”I was just thinking about our... spat. My mind wasn’t on anything else. It certainly hasn’t been on Scotch Pour this past year.”
  343. >He pauses.
  344. >”It couldn’t have been about winning the auction. The moment Syrah left us, I’d already lost. We wanted to make it something we could enjoy together. That can’t happen now.”
  345. >He takes a long drag.
  346. “So, you’re considering dropping from the auction?”
  347. >He nods.
  348. >”I am, but not quite yet.” A deep breath. “We’re going to bid one more time. If that doesn’t do it, we’ll drop out.”
  349. >We?
  350. >”How is she, by the way?”
  351. “She’s...” You sigh. “She’s not well. She’s been seized by this whole ordeal.”
  352. >He nods.
  353. >”Maybe give her the good news when I send you, then.” He pauses. “And, Butters?”
  354. “Yes, Biggs?”
  355. >”When I send you, could you tell the poor girl how sorry I am for doing this to her? I didn’t... I hadn’t meant to drag her out like this.”
  356. “I’ll make sure to do that. She’d appreciate it.”
  357. >He shifts to look at you.
  358. >”And, maybe help her out a bit, since I won’t be...I mean, just... take care of things as you see fit, when the time comes.”
  359. “Sir? What exactly are you on about?”
  360. >”Nothing, Butters.” He blows smoke. “Is there anypony else that I’ve treated callously this past year?”
  361. >You shake your head.
  362. “Just Wheatley, sir. And I’d say he earns it.”
  363. >”Okay. Thank you.” He puts down the cigar. ”And don’t call me sir. You’re my son now.”
  364. >You shrink a little. He leans over and wraps you in a hug.
  365. “Alright, Biggs. Alright.”
  366. >He holds you for a long time. You hug back, uncertain of what else to do.
  367. >A small while passes like this. He holds you tight, as if he doesn’t want to let go.
  368. >As he breaks it, you look up and see a different stallion than before.
  369. >He’s got a tear or two, hanging on his eyelashes. He looks tired, and has a small slouch you’ve never seen on him before.
  370. “Biggs? Are you feeling well?”
  371. >He shakes his head.
  372. >”Not well, no.”
  373. “Would you like me to stay a while? Keep you company?”
  374. >”No.” He rubs his head. “I mean, yes, but no. I just feel... lightheaded, is all. I’m going to go for a walk.”
  375. “Okay. I can come with you. Where are we going?”
  376. >”I’m going to see Syrah. I’d rather not drag you with me.”
  377. “Alright, Biggs. I’ll wait for you here then.”
  378. >He gets up, hugging you on last time before grabbing a bottle of wine and heading out the door.
  379.  
  380. >Something doesn’t feel right.
  381.  
  382. - - -
  383.  
  384. >”Butters-Berry?”
  385. “Present.”
  386. >The lawyer, representing the local civil judge, eyes you up and down.
  387. >”Then all the relevant parties are accounted for.”
  388. >You look around. It’s you, Wheatley, the local apothecary, two guards, and the lawyer.
  389. >There’s a certain twist in your heart. You’re certain this has to be part of Biggs’ grand plan, but you can’t see how it’s adding up.
  390. >But was dying seriously part of his plan?
  391. >”This is it? Doesn’t the Berry family span half of Equestria? A child in nearly every city?” Wheatley asks.
  392. >”This is all who is named in the first half of the will.”
  393. “Half?”
  394. >All but the lawyer look around.
  395. >”Yes, half. Along with advanced directives and a living will to exhibit the will of Biggs’ er... wife.”
  396. >He glaces at the half empty bottle of wine for a second.
  397. >”I had to go over this a couple times, but due to a couple of particularities of the will, I’m still going to have to walk through all of it with you. I actually don’t quite know everything contained.”
  398. >The others look as confused as you feel, but you quash the feeling for now.
  399. >Better not to waste time.
  400. “Very well.”
  401. >”Yes. Very. Is everypony ready to begin?”
  402. >”Yes.”
  403. >”Yes.”
  404.  
  405. >He unfolds the first letter on his desk.
  406. >”Ahem. In the even of my untimely demise, I must relinquish to Mrs. Hemmingway Lockheart the contents of the box marked with the rose-”
  407. >He pushes forward a small box, and the mare grabs it.
  408. >”-as special thanks for services rendered. While the medicine seems sour to most others, I know all you’ve given me was only a cure to a far greater ailment. Thank you, and may you live blessed with good health.”
  409. >She pulls out a bank note and quickly slips it into her satchel, then a severed chicken’s foot, set in glass and tied to string.
  410. >The rest of the room winces at the unnerving gift, but the apothecary is switching between tearful and delighted, putting it on immediately.
  411. >The lawyer continues.
  412. >”It then states you may stay or leave if you wish, as the rest of the will will not mention you.”
  413. >What an odd thing to put in the will. But whatever.
  414. >She nods, leaving quietly through the door in the corner.
  415. >”To Wheatley-”
  416. >The stallion in question perks up.
  417. >”-I offer an opportunity. I don’t know why we were on such terrible terms, but I offer you an opportunity of peace between you and I, if you will accept it. The bottle you see before you is the very same wine you offered me upon the death of my first wife. I have taken the liberty of drinking the first half, and entice you to drink the rest and smash the bottle as a sign that you accept peace. If you do as such, I shall give to your name five thousand bits as a parting gift, that we may leave our trespasses at the door before Elysium.”
  418. >The rest look at the stallion in question. For the first time in your life, you see his confidence falter. That wicked smile of his turned to something else, though you can’t really name it.
  419. >He looks at the bottle, and as if reading his mind, the lawyer spoke up.
  420. >”I had read through and already had it tested for all sorts of poisons, Mr. Wheatley. Even gave some to a couple critters. I assure you it’s perfectly normal wine.”
  421. >He nods, taking the bottle as the lawyer puts down a bank note.
  422. >”Does it have to be all at once?”
  423. >”Biggs was... incredibly particular in his directions. All at once, then smash the bottle, then you get the note.”
  424. >What an odd situation. It’s the very bottle he’d gone and married to stay his place in this silly bidding war, and upon dying, he’s going to be entirely rid of it.
  425. >What was Biggs up to? Surely he didn’t actually intend to give up? He was never the sort!
  426. >”Oh, well. It shouldn’t take long then.”
  427. >The lawyer offers up a glass, just so the stallion doesn’t look unbecoming, chugging a bottle. Then readies a small trashcan.
  428. >You patient wait while Wheatley takes a couple minutes, pouring and drinking. When he’s done, he places the bottle in the trashcan, stepping just hard enough to shatter it into several pieces.
  429. >The lawyer sets it aside, looking at the will and the trash can several times. He pushes the note to Wheatley and reads further.
  430. >”The first thing I leave to my beloved son Butters, is the chest marked with the hoof-shaped serpent; to be opened and its contents carefully examined by Butters before moving on.”
  431. >He pushes a second box straight to you, and you open it hesitantly. What oddity are you going to get? Some peculiar cause for confusion?
  432. >You dump out the contents and see only two pieces of paper. One is a legal scroll, wrapped in ribbon, the other, a typical letter scroll.
  433. >You open the legal one carefully, observing it.
  434. >It’s his marriage certificate. To the wine. Is it a momento? You aren’t entirely certain the purpose. It’s hardly the most personal thing he could give you, if it is.
  435. >The others look curious. Your confusion is probably quite apparent.
  436. >You push it aside and open the other one, pulling the ribbon aside and dropping it into the box.
  437.  
  438. >’Dear Butters,
  439. >You probably figured out the plan already, but if you haven’t, you’ll know it shortly.
  440. >In this box, you’ll find the original certificate of my new marriage. The one I’d been carrying was just a copy I had made. I couldn’t risk losing it after all.
  441. >There are several court cases that I need to make you familiar with, regarding the laws on the responsibilities of legal representatives...’
  442.  
  443. >You read straight through, vaguely covering several cases before you get to the end and all the pieces click into place.
  444. “Okay. Now I get it.”
  445. >You leave the note open, then grab the marriage certificate.
  446. >You give it to the two guards just behind you.
  447. “I need your assistance to make an arrest. Do you gentlemares mind reading through this document?”
  448. >”Who? On what charges?”
  449. “Murder.”
  450. >One takes it, reading through the details, then points out several to the mare next to her.
  451. >The other one walks around to the trashcan and digs out the bottle, looking it over in several places.
  452. >You turn to the lawyer.
  453. “The late Mr. Biggs had you prepare the standing living will of his wife and successor.”
  454. >”He...did. The will said to have it present but mentioned nothing to do with it.”
  455. “Present it to the guards, if you will.”
  456. >Wheatley is entirely lost on what exactly is going on.
  457. >The guards look over the document.
  458. >”So ‘she’ was a legal entity?”
  459. >”Yes ma’am. The paperwork shows all you need to know.”
  460.  
  461. >The two question him for a short while before looking at Wheatley.
  462. >”Stand up please.”
  463. >”Sure. What’s going on?”
  464. >”You’re under arrest for the murder of Duchess Berry of Canterlot.”
  465. >”What?! Preposterous! L-let me go!”
  466. >”Nope. You can fight it in court. As is your right as duke, you may take this matter straight to the highest court and be assigned a time for high nobility to examine the case-”
  467. >”I invoke the right!”
  468. >”-after three months to gather evidence.”
  469. >”I revoke! Surely we can do it faster in town!”
  470. >You cough, getting their attention.
  471. “I invoke the right as heir to the victim in question.”
  472. >”Very well, it’s settled.”
  473. >”You rat! You’ll pay for this!”
  474. >The guards tie him up and carry him and the evidence off, leaving only you and the amused lawyer.
  475. >”I had heard of Biggs getting into all sorts of legal shenanigans before, but never saw any of it myself. What just happened?”
  476. “The late Biggs ‘Bury’ just paid Wheatley to assassinate his own wife from the grave.”
  477. >His confusion is apparent. “Hasn’t she been dead for some time, now?”
  478. “The bottle.”
  479. >He rests his face.
  480. >”How absurd. I can only suppose he had his purpose.” He grabs the will again, adjusting his glasses. “If you’re done acting on the contents of the box, the will does continue on before the second part.”
  481. “Alright. Go ahead.”
  482. >”To Butters, my dear friend and now son, I offer to you and your select lineage, in perpetuity, welcome accommodation at the house of Berry, so long as the property remains within the Berry name; along with a stipend of one hundred bits a month in total, should your lineage choose to remain as guests, and an additional three hundred bits per pony, per month, should you accept the role of primary caretaker of the total property of the Berry estate within the Canterlot region, along with reasonable additional payment should you find overwhelming success with estate assets, as determined by our higher noble family. Additionally, you shall immediately receive power of attorney over estate assets until the remainder of the will can be acted upon.”
  483. >”If you do not accept the previous offer, though I suspect you will, I offer a sum of two thousand bits and gracious thanks for putting up with my antics. I can only beg that you finish what I had started.”
  484.  
  485. >The lawyer puts it down.
  486. >”That’s all that’s left for this part of the will. The other part needs the rest of the family to be present.”
  487. >You nod. He sits down and grabs some paper, then a quill.
  488.  
  489. >”So. Do you accept either offer?”
  490. - - -
  491.  
  492. >You take a deep breath, clearing your lungs from the smoky area upstairs.
  493. >You come down to a packed bar, filled with all sorts of ponies of both high and low class.
  494. >Bags of bits and glass after glass pass over the bar, keeping Scotch and her bartenders quite busy.
  495. >More importantly, happy.
  496. >For the first time in a long time, she’s smiling. She’s finally able to be in her place in life again.
  497. >And things have gone quite smooth for you, too.
  498. >The rest of Biggs family were surprisingly accepting of a new brother.
  499. >And Wheatley and his wife were so wrapped up in the law they’d forgotten about the auction for a time. Long enough for you to win it.
  500. >Scotch is free to be. The bar is bringing in new life from around the area. The family is all settled and has mourned and moved on.
  501. >Hopefully, all can stay well.
  502.  
  503. >Destiny has come to reap what you have sown, however.
  504. >Through the front door, you hear a stallion barking an order, then coming through the door.
  505. >Wheatley.
  506. >He walks through with displeased look, washing judgment and contempt over the many patrons.
  507. >He looks around the bar, then locks eyes with you. The stern glare doesn’t move you, but move you do.
  508. >You come to his side.
  509. “Wheatley.”
  510. >”Butters.”
  511. >He glances around again.
  512. >”I suppose congratulations are in order. Three months waiting to hear the princess end this ridiculousness is a long time.”
  513. >You shake your head.
  514. “A pyhrric victory. Would you like me to take your coat?”
  515. >”I’ll only be here a moment.”
  516. “I insist. I’ll cover every bit.”
  517. >He passes you by, leading himself to a seat at the bar.
  518. >”Very well.”
  519. >You stroll around the bar, telling the others to let you take care of him.
  520. “Well Wheatley, we’ve got some of the locals on tap. A few of the popular imports from Mottlesville. And a batch of sweet stout we’re trying out.”
  521. >He peruses the chalkboard menu above, idly flicking his ear.
  522. “I really do suggest the sweet stout. The coffee taste isn’t too strong and it’s got a hint of berry in it. Very easy to just keep drinking.”
  523. >He rolls his eyes.
  524. >”I’m sure it is. Sure. I’ll try it.”
  525. >You grab a clean glass from the rack, holding it under a spout. Thick, dark liquid pours out, filling the glass with a short layer of foam.
  526. >You whip around and place the drink in front of him. You grab one for yourself, nodding to him as you drink some down while he sips.
  527. >The glass parts your lips and you set it on the counter. He mulls over the taste, giving hesitant approval.
  528. >”It’s good.” He snorts. “How much is it? I don’t see it on the menu.”
  529. “For you? Free.”
  530. >He stares. “Not tomorrow, I bet.”
  531. >You look under the counter and grab a small parchment. It’s a three-inch scroll with the family’s stamp on the bottom.
  532. >You give it to him, placing it just where he can read it.
  533. “Wheatley, I said I’d cover every bit. Just to be sure you understand, I mean you can come in and drink yourself into a coma at your pleasure, all on the house, any day you want. It doesn’t cover guests, of course, but I’m certain it’s something you can enjoy nonetheless.”
  534. >He narrows his eyes. Clearly he hasn’t forgotten the last gift given to him.
  535. >”What’s the game?”
  536. “No games, Wheatley. A peace offering.”
  537. >He barely moves. He’s thinking long and hard before he speaks.
  538. >”Three months is a long time, Butters. I’d rather have those months back. Beer doesn’t make up for that.”
  539. >You nod happily, taking another swig.
  540. “I agree. Three months is a hell of a long time. A year is longer, though.”
  541. >He stares on.
  542. “I’d hoped you hadn’t forgotten. Wheatley, before you had your three months stolen from you, you’d helped steal a year from the poor mare that used to own this place.”
  543. >”I didn’t start that fight.”
  544. “But you played your part. Week after week. You didn’t need to start anything. You just needed not to stop anything.”
  545. >You lean on the counter.
  546. “For all the complaining you’d done about Biggs not giving others’ their owe, you did the same thing.”
  547. >His eyes are narrow in thought, looking down at the lip of his drink.
  548. >”This feels rather accusatory for a peace offering.”
  549. “I’m just trying to get you to understand my position. I’m not going to rail you over past decisions.”
  550. >He stares at the parchment, furrowing his eyebrow.
  551. “Biggs died scared that you’d carry on to harass and undermine everything he left in his stead. That you’d move on and find another target. He was scared you were exactly the stallion he thought you were. I want to prove him wrong. I’m not asking you to forgive everything, Wheatley. I’m asking that it all be buried with Biggs, whatever it was you had with him.”
  552. >He doesn’t move for some time.
  553. >His ears swivel. Maybe he’s listening to the crowd, maybe he’s just looking for a distraction.
  554. >”I’ll... give it a chance, I suppose.”
  555. >You nod.
  556. “Thank you.”
  557. >You grab your glass and clink it to his.
  558. “Here’s to hoping for a better tomorrow.”
  559. >Down the hatch. You set the glass down to see him drinking slowly before setting his down.
  560.  
  561. >”Here’s to hoping.”
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