No Nose Knows

by Irrespective

Chapter 23: 23. - Bad Bean

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Bean was having a hard time.

He was having a hard time seeing. His vision had gone unfocused and blurry, and he was pretty extra sure the tears were a contributing factor. There wasn’t much before him now other than outlines, vague shapes and grayscale colors.

He was having a hard time walking. His hooves felt as heavy as lead, his fetlocks shackled, double-bound and burning with a Tartarus spawned fire that he wasn’t sure would ever be quenched.

His hearing was totally shot. He wasn’t sure if anypony was speaking, but it wouldn’t have mattered. All he could hear was a thrumming, pulsing woosh that was steadily increasing in pressure, not volume.

His mouth felt cold; the taste on his tongue raw and metallic. His jaw was locked and his teeth were pressed so hard together that there was a distinct possibility they would start to chip, crack and deform. His throat was as dry as his beloved’s sun, and…

Oh, his beloved! He stumbled, staggered, nearly fell and somehow recovered as the mere thought of his one above all nearly made his heart burst. He didn’t know how to get through this, how to tell her. He didn’t know if he could tell her.

He wished Luna would take pity and simply dump a meteor on top of him. That pain would be less.

He wasn’t even sure of where he was at the moment. Had Celestia teleported him out, or had he walked? Was he still in the palace, or even in Canterlot? Was he in a hallway? Did it even matter?

It was at the peak of his despair that he felt something begin to sweep over him. There was a softness over his heavy back, and a sweetness for his sour nose. He felt surrounded by warmth, lifted by light, touched by kindness and delivered by understanding.

“I love you, Baked Bean.”

That penetrated. Through the haze, through the weight, through the darkness and the sadness, through the unyielding crush of horror, that celestial voice touched his soul and provided the love and the will to conquer this.

“I love you too,” he whispered.

“You’re not alone in this, my Bean. I am here, with you and for you. Forever will I be by your side, and forever will you have my support. Whatever this is, we will conquer it together.”

“You’ll hate me,” he replied, and he licked his teeth and lips in a vain effort to remove the blasted, searing metallic torture from his tongue. “You’re going to throw me out, and I’ll lose the greatest thing that has ever happened or could ever happen to me.”

“I don’t think you’re capable of such a crime,” she replied. “Not from what I’ve seen of you. Your disposition is one of harmony and peace. You will not be weighed in the balance for this, nor will I ever find you wanting.”

Bean fell to his knees, but Celestia fell with him. Nothing was said, but much was shared as Bean buried his face in her silken fur and simply wept.

It was here, in this place and in this time, that Baked Bean began to comprehend what Love really was and what it really meant. This was a moment that would forever define all other moments that came after it.

And this changed Baked Bean. He could sense that he would never fully know or understand the how, but he knew he could never be what he once was.

He had no idea how long it took him to regain enough composure to face her. Once he did, however, he sucked in a sob of delight when he found a magenta pair of eyes penetrating the gray that had seized his vision.

“When you are ready, my dear Bean.”

“I don’t even know how to begin. It’s… I just…”

Her nose softy touched his. “I have found it is best to just spit it out.”

He went with that. “I was fifteen. I had just tried out for and gotten a spot on the long distance track team, and I was eager to get to know the other ponies. I had joined with the hopes of getting some relief from my failures in cooking, but that’s besides the point.

“There was a team meeting the Friday after I joined. I eagerly went, hoping to make a good first impression, and at first everypony was cool. We went over some team news, when training and practice would be, and what was expected. I knew I wouldn’t be a strong competitor, but I did give the team enough bodies to compete so it didn’t matter. And then…”

His head dipped until his nose was nearly on the floor. “Then it happened.” He paused, and sniffed loudly.

“Tell me, please,” Celestia whispered.

“It was a hazing. I was… well. I grew up around alcohol, used it all the time in cooking. I knew full well what it did to a pony, how it reacted. I can tell you how long it would take a pony to get drunk, simply based on how much they had.

“And then, I found myself sitting there, watching in disbelief as the team captain began passing out the liquor he’d stolen from home. It was whiskey mostly, from what I remember. The largest bottle was passed to me, and I was told that in order to finalize my place on the team, I had ten minutes to drink the whole thing.

“It was impossible, and I knew it. There was no way anypony could drink that much that fast. I told them so, refused to take any part of it, and then started to leave.”

His tears began to fall against his will, but he fought through them. “But then Swift Hoof, that idiot, he popped up. While the others jeered at me, he talked me into staying, and he told me they were desperate and couldn’t afford the loss. He reassured me it was just a dumb prank, and that I just needed to drink as much as I could, throw up or get sick and let them laugh at me. He… he told me they’d all done it when they’d joined, and it’s been done for decades. Just a harmless stunt. Nothing could go wrong. They’d respect me for doing it after. He…he…”

Bean shuddered fiercely. “The final nail was when he offered to match me, ounce for ounce. He didn’t mind if they laughed at him too. He was the one who had encouraged me to join the team, so he was willing to help me get through the last part.

“I caved,” he stated, with a note of such disgust that it hung in the air, putrid and festering. “I knew I shouldn’t, and I did. I took that bottle, I took a glass, I poured out a shot, and I downed it.

“Things get muddled and fuzzy at that point. I honestly don’t remember how much I drank, or really what happened. There was lots of laughing and I’m pretty sure I threw up two or three times, but that’s about it. There’s nothing else.

“When I came to, I was in a jail cell. The police had found me behind the trash cans at school, with a couple of empty whiskey bottles nearby, and Swift Hoof…”

Bean couldn’t talk for a moment. The emotion was just too much.

“Alcohol poisoning, they said. He, um...”

“That wasn’t your fault, my love.” Celestia’s wing pulled him in tighter, and peace began to fight back against his depression. “What happened is as plain as the nose on your face.”

“I’ve never been able to believe that,” he whispered. “He took the drinks because of me. If I hadn’t… if I had just…”

“Baked Bean, the what if game is a horrible game to play,” Celestia said, and he felt her gentle touch lift his chin up so his eyes could meet hers. “If your case had come before me, you would have been innocent. You did not force Swift Hoof to join you, his choice was his own. Your choice was a foolish one, but it was one brought about from the pressure of others. How many fifteen year olds have done similar things in an effort to fit in?”

“But I knew better. I should have left, and I didn’t.”

“Perhaps. But are you sure Swift Hoof would have left with you? He might have stayed and this all would have happened anyway.”

“It was my fault.”

“Baked Bean, that may or may not be.” Celestia said in soft but firm tones. “What truly matters is what you have done since then. Has your life been one of deceit and criminal activity, or has it been honest and clean?”

“It’s been clean. I never had a desire to be a criminal and this incident further drove it in.”

“Then you have learned, and you have grown because of it. Blaming yourself for what happened will accomplish nothing. Making things better will.

“Let me tell you a story; one you may have heard before. There was once a princess who neglected and ignored her younger sister for so long that her jealousy turned her into a monster that was bent on destroying the sun and bringing about an eternal night. Sound familiar?”

“A little.” He had to chuckle.

“If you add it all up, I have probably spent centuries pondering what I could have done differently; how what happened to Luna was my fault. I was the one who neglected her, and the argument can be made that I created Nightmare Moon with my callousness.

“But Luna was the one who chose to turn to her anger. Whatever my part in it was, it was ultimately her choice to do what she did. I did not force the Nightmare upon her. She took it on herself. And whatever your part is, Swift Hoof made his choice. Learn from it, and be better because of it.”

There was a pause as Bean closed his eyes and contemplated this. When they opened again Celestia felt a wave of happiness when she saw the same joy reflected in his face.

“How do you do that?” he quietly chuckled.

She booped his nose with hers. “I look at the inside of a pony, and I try to see what they really are. I then simply help them to see it too.”

“Thank you.”

She pulled back a bit and gave him a compassionate smile. “You are welcome. So how does this incident end?”

He drew in a long breath. “Despite the urging of my parents and my attorney, I plead guilty to the charges. I was sentenced to probation and community service, and that newspaper article the tweed menace has is the article about my conviction.

“However, a week later the team came forward and confessed. They had panicked when Swift Hoof had passed out and stopped breathing, and they had taken both of us to the school and made it look like it was just me and him.

“The captain of my team eventually received my sentence, but we all voluntarily agreed to take community service as punishment. My conviction was expunged and erased, and I felt so horrible about the whole thing that I just suppressed it and forced myself to forget it. My parents never brought it up again, and neither did anypony on the team, so we just kinda moved on, I guess. That was pretty much the end of it there.”

Celestia gave him another boop. “How did Swift Hoof’s family handle all of this?”

“Hoo.” He blew out a breath. “Devastated, in a word. But yet, very forgiving; far more than they should have been, in fact.”

“Did they ever blame you for what happened?”

He thought for several moments on that one. “No, no. They never blamed anypony.”

“Then don’t blame yourself either.”

“So you don’t hate me?”

She chuckled a bit. “No, my dear Bean. I don’t hate you. I am still very much in love with you. But here is your chance to come clean; is there anything else you’ve done that a pony could use against you? Are there any other misdeeds or criminal activity that I need to know about?”

“I stole a candy bar from the corner market when I was four. Dad caught me and had me pay it back.”

“Oh, well,” she huffed, and the feathers on her wings ruffled. “I certainly can’t associate with a four-year-old candy thief.”

“I jaywalk on occasion. But only late at night, when I was trying to get home before curfew.”

“You are one bad Bean.” She laughed.

“Rotten to the core.” He laughed with her. It was amazing how relieving and ennobling that laugh was. “No, I’ve never been one to break the law. I haven’t done anything else.”

“Good,” she replied. “I didn’t get the impression that you were that type.”

“So what do we do about Mister Tweedy?”

“It’s clear this is a blackmail attempt,” she replied as they both stood. Her wing stayed over him, though, and Bean found they were in a hallway, but it was noticeably devoid of anypony, even guards. “He probably wants a nice payoff to stay quiet. The problem is that this can happen again; anypony who has a newspaper from that time could eventually reveal this. However, I think there is a way to resolve this once and for all. It may be rather painful for you, though.”

“I’ll do whatever I need to do. Just tell me.”

Princess Celestia strode back into the throne room with her wings locked in the full and upright position and with righteous indignation on her face. She was secretly pleased, however, to find that Cadence, Shining Armor, and Luna were all standing and glaring at Silver Tongue, and Luna was giving him the most wonderfully intimidating stare she’d ever given in her life. He was trying to glare back, but it was fairly obvious he was questioning this choice he’d made. Six guards also stood around him, each with either their spear or their horn at the ready and itching for an excuse to be used. Celestia glanced over all of them quickly before nodding to Shining Armor.

“This is an outrage!” Silver Tongue shouted as soon as the shield came down. “I have never been so insulted! I came here to—”

“Luna?” Celestia cut him off forcefully, but her stern stare remained on him. “Tell me, what was the penalty for blackmail against the Crown, again?”

Luna grew a evil and decidedly demented grin. “Why, as I recall, the penalty was fifty years on the racks, Sister. Or perhaps it was fifty years in the stockades? I always get them mixed up. Perhaps we could do both, but at the same time! That was always fun. Do you still have my iron maiden cabinet? I could substitute that for the stocks, if need be, but it might be a little rusty.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Silver Tongue shot back. “I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m just looking to ‘educate’ the Princess before the press does.”

“Oh really,” Celestia replied. “And how much would this ‘education’ cost?”

“After having been treated so poorly, I do believe the offer should be withdrawn.”

“A marvelous idea, because here is what is going to happen. You are hereby fined five thousand bits and ordered to serve a month in the dungeons for attempted blackmail against the crown.”

“I’ll go public with this!” Silver threatened while holding the newspaper out. “The ponies of Equestria have a right to know the truth!”

“They do indeed,” Celestia replied. She then began inspecting one of her shoes quite closely as she continued. “The funny thing is, when a new prince comes into power, the press is, naturally, very eager to interview him. So, as we speak, Prince Bean is preparing to sit down with a rather sizeable press pool and to lay out his history before the ponies of Equestria. By this time tomorrow, I anticipate that every newspaper in Equestria will have a nice, full-length article about Prince Bean, and it will be a very detailed history. In fact, I do quite anticipate that his arrest and conviction will be covered.”

This turned a few pairs of curious eyes to her.

“Sister?” Luna managed to ask first.

“Oh yes. But I also am quite sure that his subsequent exoneration will be covered too.”

“What?” Silver Tongue finally cracked.

“You really should be a bit more thorough when you do your homework, Mister Silver. It would help you to avoid any embarrassing decisions. Yes, Prince Bean was eventually found to be innocent of the charges you found in that article. He will confess to what happened anyway, and you will have no story to share. I’m really disappointed that you thought bribery was a good idea, however. Are you really so desperate for money that you have to stoop to this level?”

“I am a very successful used wagon salespony, thank you very much!” he shouted again. “And when my lawyer hears about this, you’re—”

“You know,” considered Celestia thoughtfully, “if you had thought to bring this before a lawyer first, you would have saved yourself a considerable sum. But since you decided not to, let’s leave the lawyers out of it this time. Think of it as an educational experience. Professor Shining Armor, would you take our new pupil to his classroom?”

“Let’s go,” Shining ordered. Silver Tongue continued to protest loudly while he was escorted out, but the spears and horns provided more than enough motivation to keep moving.

Celestia then took a deep, cleansing breath. “Wysteria? Are there any more petitioners?”

“About a dozen at the moment, yes,” the secretary replied, then looked over her shoulder. “Well, three now. I think the rest of them got scared away.”

“Very well. Allow me fifteen minutes to inform Cadence and Luna of the situation, and then we’ll resume.”

“How you holdin’ up, Bean?”

Baked Bean gave a sad smile to Shining Armor as he sat in the chair next to him, graciously took the pink lemonade Shining offered, and then he drew in a long breath. “You still want to speak to the felon, eh?”

“Don’t do that to yourself. You were young, you made a dumb decision. I think you’ve already paid the price for it.”

“I bet you never did anything this dumb.”

“Last day of Basic,” Shining immediately responded. “I was in a class of fifteen cadets. We were looking forward to graduation, and one of the cadets offered to take us all out for a round in celebration. I told him no first off, but he and the others pushed and pushed until finally I joined in.

“Bean, that night we nearly drowned three good cadets, and seven were dismissed from the Guard. I bet I felt about as low as you did when I had to go home and explain to my folks and to Twily what had happened. My sister nearly killed me with that look of disappointment all by itself. That moment changed me, Bean; but one or two more shots and I would have been explaining to my Sarge why there were dead ponies in my platoon. You’re not the only one. Most ponies, in my experience, have made at least one serious blunder in their life. The trick is you realized how stupid it was. There’s plenty of ponies who never wise up to that fact, and just keep repeating the same mistake.”

Bean inhaled deeply. “I guess so. Y’know, it was strange, and yet kinda nice to just lay it all out there. Telling the whole story to Celly and the reporters was… liberating, I guess.”

“I’d say that’s a good sign,” Shining replied. “But now, leave it in the past. Don’t be constantly dragging it back to the present; it won’t do any good. It happened, yes. Acknowledge it if it comes up again, remember what you’ve learned from it and then move on.”

Bean hummed for a moment while he thought about that, and his vision went up to the evening sky. “I guess so. Can’t say I ever tried to destroy Celestia and bring about an eternal night, so Luna still has me beat.”

“Yeah, exactly. But look at where she is now. Her past does not define her present.”

“I never really understood why nopony gave her any attention back then. I know there were a lot of monsters or whatever, but whenever I looked up at the night sky when I was a colt I was amazed at what I saw.

“Then when she returned! I remember going out and looking at the stars that first night after I heard she’d returned. I mean, no offense to my wife, but Luna is the true Princess of the Night. The stars were… I’ve never been able to fully describe it. It was some grand celestial dance, a waltz to a scale I could never hope to fully comprehend.

“So, I guess if she could overcome then so can I. I bet there’s some whoppers that Celly could lay on me from her past, too.”

“And yet she’s still our Princess,” Shining offered.

“As she should be.” Bean’s glass went into the air towards Shining in a toast. “Here’s to being stupid and giving in to peer pressure.”

“Cheers.” Shining nodded his head, clinked his glass against Bean’s, and they both took a long drink of the pink sweetness. “And here’s to never doing it again.”

“Hear, hear.” Bean clinked his glass again, and another long drink was shared. “Tell you what. Let’s move on to a happier subject. It would seem that your wife made my wife very happy with those Bridleway tickets.”

“Aunt Celly loves anything that gets her out of the palace,” Shining replied. “She also loves anything that gets her out among her ponies. She is a social creature, so there will be a fair amount of socializing in your future. But I would recommend you find ways to get her out and about: museums, musicals, art exhibits. You could probably even take her out for Nightmare Night somewhere; she really likes going to the smaller cities and sharing in their local customs.”

“That totally makes sense. I was a little worried myself about being stuck in the palace too.” He looked out over the veranda in thought. “And she’s never seen Hinny of the Hills?

“Scheduling conflicts. She has really, really wanted to though.”

“So I gathered.” Bean chuckled. “And dinner afterward?”

“Cadence left that part up to me. So, what do you think of this…”

“That’ll be perfect, Auntie Celestia,” Cadence gushed. “He’ll be astonished.”

“I hope so. He needs something nice after today. Lulu, are you going to come too?”

“I fear I would be a fifth wheel in your festivities,” she replied.

“Not at all! We would love to have you,” Cadence replied.

“Well, if you insist.” The Lunar Diarch laughed a little at her niece’s enthusiasm. “I have heard good things about the play, and I am mildly curious to see it. If I will not be a burden, then I would like to come.”

“You are never a burden, dear sister.” Celestia gave her sister a quick hug. “It will be most delightful to have you accompany us.”

“Good evening, Wysteria!” Cadence proclaimed as the faithful secretary entered the room. “I thought you had gone home already.”

“I was just about to, but there was one thing I wanted to check on with Princess Celestia.”

“And what is that?” Celestia asked.

“Baked Bean had asked for a dossier to be compiled on… well, himself. There’s a team of ponies heading to Salt Lick right now to investigate his past. I’m told it will take about two to three weeks to have the full report back.”

“Thank you for telling me, Wysteria, I didn’t know he had done that. However, let the team carry on. I believe the Prince is doing this to prove he has nothing else to hide, both from me and from himself. I have full confidence that their report will be very boring indeed.”

“I’m expecting that too.” Wysteria chuckled. “Good night, Your Highnesses.”

The Princesses all bid her good night, and Luna then stood and stretched her wings while Wysteria showed herself out.

“I should attend to my duties as well. Celly, I’ll keep an eye on his dreams tonight. He may relive the incident, and if he starts to I will help him through it.”

“Thank you, Lulu. I wish you an uneventful evening.”

Luna then teleported away, leaving the two Princesses to look out at their husbands on the veranda.

“I wonder what they’re planning,” Celestia remarked.

“Dinner for tomorrow, hopefully. Shining said he would take care of it.”

“Well, since Bean is helping him I would venture to say it will be a most wonderful date. You and I are two very lucky mares.”

“Yes we are. Now we just need to work on Twilight! Are you totally sure your law doesn’t apply to her? I could set her up quite nicely with a special somepony if it did.”

“My dear Cadence,” Celestia replied on a haughty tone, “while it may have worked out for me, a flower patch is no place to find a special somepony.”

“Oh!” Cadence pouted. “But it’s so much funnier doing it your way!”

“No, no, no!” Celestia replied in the midst of both of them laughing. “No noses!”

Next Chapter: 24. - I Saw The Future Estimated time remaining: 2 Hours, 55 Minutes
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