Change of Life

Zevan was a loyal changeling and always did his queen's bidding, although he quietly questioned why changelings should end centuries of secret but peaceful intermingling with the pony population. After being expelled from Canterlot by the irresistible force of love and badly injured after crash-landing in trees, he had to reconsider his future. Ponies knew that changelings existed now, and the only example of them was Chrysalis' attempt to overthrow Celestia and their attack on Canterlot's population. His kind would be pariahs for the foreseeable future and maybe even their disguises would not keep them safe. A unicorn mare with a broken horn might do the trick though.
There is now a prequel to this story - Prelude To Change I suggest that you read that first.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/141487/change-of-life

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10. Foals

Twilight only called on Cogs twice more to perform his speech because as word got around about her efforts to alleviate fears about changelings, she readily got local volunteers. That suited everypony, so Twilight called that favor completed. Nevertheless those were two occasions when Cogs had to leave Whitetail Meadows and Lavender behind, both of which he hated to do. Worse yet was trying to explain to Lavender why he had to do so. In the end he decided he could not lie to her, but instead hid behind an excuse.

“The nature of my favor to the Princess is a secret. Please don't ask me what it is,” he had told her, the implication being that it was Twilight’s business that was secret rather than his.

“We both owe her very much. I suppose I can't begrudge her that,” Lavender had replied.

Lavender’s easy acceptance of that excuse was both a relief and a source of sadness to him. The misdirection was still a deception, and that was one more than he had ever intended to perpetrate on her. He resolved that he would never again do so. That resolve was sorely tested weeks later when Lavender came into season once more. If only she had not said those reassuring words…

“If you're not ready for a foal as yet, I'll understand.”

Indecision drove Cogs crazy. He knew that she wanted a foal. By Celestia, he wanted one too! But the Loving Deception was still a deception, and he could not convince himself that she would want a foal that way. In the end, he let the opportunity pass, and cursed himself for days afterwards as her obvious sadness tainted their relationship. He reminded himself of his marriage vow to make her happy, and he knew that he could not let the next opportunity pass.

Aside from the favor and the missed opportunity though, life progressed fairly normally. Cogs’ workload continued to grow, so he was spending less time helping Moonlit Haze and Set Square with theirs, but it earned him a raise for the more professional work. He put most of that into Lavender’s business, enabling her to import more merchandise from elsewhere. With the onset of winter, that became a very valuable boost to the trade that normally dipped at that time of year.

As Lavender unloaded a delivery of flowers from the Ponyville hothouses that had arrived on the train that morning, she said to Cogs, “Normally at this time of year, because Winter has stopped all the wildflowers from blooming, I could not replenish my normal stock, and buying it in stretched my finances very thin. That’s why I could never afford to pay for maintenance. Now we have a financial buffer, and we should make it through very comfortably. Hearth’s Warming is going to be especially wonderful this year!”

For once Cogs was not caught out with an unfamiliar event – after all, they had celebrated it in Cloudsdale also. Nevertheless, he suspected there might be differences. “What are your plans for Hearth’s Warming? I’m curious to know if they are different from the way pegasi celebrate it.”

“I doubt that it will be that different. There will be the village play, of course, but mostly it will be time spent with family… Oh. You won't be able to have family with you then, will you?”

“What are you saying, Love? I have you, your parents and siblings, and even the Square Deal herd are like family to me. Don't be sad for me, because I have most of my closest family right here every day.”

Lavender nuzzled Cogs. “That’s one reason that I love you – you've always looked on the positive side of things.”

“I learned from you that even the worst situations can be overcome, so what is there not to be positive about?”

“You're right. One day I’m sure you’ll be able to have your brothers and sisters visit you again.”

Cogs wished that was true.

* * *

As Cogs settled into bed with Lavender on the evening of Hearth’s Warming, he felt ready to burst with all the food that he had consumed that day. Combined with the plethora of joy and love that he had fed upon, he wondered if he was even going to need to eat for a week. He embraced his wife and nuzzled her, and she had giggled sleepily, having eaten almost as much as he had. Chrysalis was an idiot, he reflected. She could have had all this too, but gave it up in a quest for meaningless power. He was the far richer for his simpler life.

* * *

There was a sense of renewed life in the air. The weather pegasi had brought in warm fronts and the snow was melting. Ponyville had completed their winter wrap-up already, but Whitetail Meadows did not have the earth pony population to emulate that. Nevertheless Spring was definitely in the air, and with it came the first wildflower harvest.

“But there's still snow everywhere!” Cogs had protested.

“Frost Mare’s Tears push up their blooms through the snow,” Lavender explained. “They're always the first flowers to bloom, and only available for about a week. I've always made a point of harvesting some of those. If I time it right, I can get one or two other types of early blooming bulbs. They all fetch a good price.”

“And you go out in the snow and slush to harvest them? That can't be fun.”

Lavender grimaced. “No, it's not, but that's part of the job. And of course now that my magic is partially back, it won't be quite as hard as it has been in years past.”

“So, does that mean you don’t need my help?”

“Need you? Honey, I will always want you with me, you know that, but you also know that I've done this by myself several times before. If you don't want to go out in these conditions, I won't blame you.”

“I didn't say that! Of course I'll go with you. I think I might invest in some boots though.”

Lavender smiled. “That's my smart stallion!”

The next day, Cogs wondered just how smart he supposedly was as they struggled to get the cart unbogged from the softening ground. It was just as cold and slushy as he had feared.

“Is it always this bad?” he panted.

“Not usually. It seems much worse than previous occasions,” Lavender admitted.

“At least my hooves are still dry,” Cogs grumbled.

They were both quite tired by the time they reached the area where the Frost Mare’s Tears grew, and they decided to take a break. Cogs poured out some hot cocoa from a thermos flask for both of them. As they sipped the welcome warmth of the chocolate drink, Cogs looked around at the scenery more closely. He frowned as he realized something.

“Isn't that the Everfree Forest over there?”

“Yes it is,” Lavender confirmed.

“Aren't we awfully close to it?”

“I've never had a problem. We won't actually be going into the Everfree to do our harvesting.”

“I should hope not!” Cogs responded vehemently.

Lavender’s predictions on the flowers proved correct. They were kept busy for hours harvesting and packing three kinds of snow-blooming flowers, and Cogs had to grudgingly admit that it was going to be well worth the extra effort.

They had packed up for the day a little earlier than they normally would. Considering the trouble that they’d had getting there, they allowed themselves extra time to retrace their course. Lavender had just finished getting into her harness with Cogs’ help speeding up the process, when a couple of loud growls caused her to snap her head around to look at the source. Then she screamed in terror.

Cogs turned around and faced a fearful sight. Two timberwolves were advancing upon them! His first instinct was to take flight out of their reach, but he immediately realized that Lavender could not follow suit. Worse yet, the harness would prevent him from trying to carry her off to safety with him. Even as he looked around desperately for some kind of weapon to fend off the creatures, he knew it was hopeless. As Lavender started struggling with her harness, he knew that she would never get it off in time. There was just one alternative left.

Cogs leaped between Lavender and the timberwolves, and his form was briefly engulfed in green fire, startling the wolves. Moments later, they faced a huge manticore that advanced on them with great menace. They snarled and backed away, aware that not even two timberwolves were a match for an angry manticore. The beast made as if to lunge at them, and they turned tail, streaking off in the direction of the Everfree Forest. Cogs watched them carefully until they disappeared within its depths before turning back to face his wife.

Lavender watched him with wide eyes and gaping mouth as he resumed his normal pegasus form. Cogs tried to think of what to say, but struggled to come up with anything reassuring. “Are you okay?” he asked.

Lavender slowly nodded mutely.

Cogs went to put a reassuring foreleg around her, but she flinched back. He was devastated by that reaction. “Lavender, it’s still me. Your husband. The stallion who loves you.”

“You… you're…” she started trying to say.

“I'm a changeling,” he admitted. “I have always been a changeling. The pony with whom you fell in love is a deception that became a reality. But Lavender, I am now what you see before you – a pegasus in all but birth.”

“Why? Why didn't you ever tell me?!” she yelled at him.

“Because I was afraid. Because I never wanted to ever see what I am seeing right now – the love of my life fearful and angry because of what I am. Because... I don’t think I could possibly live without you anymore.”

She stared at him as he began to weep uncontrollably. Tentatively she reached out and touched him on the shoulder. He felt the same as he always did, except he was trembling from anxiety. Then she realized something. “That changeling with Twilight – that was you, wasn't it?”

Cogs nodded.

“I thought that there was something very familiar about it. That has been puzzling me ever since, but now I understand why.”

“How could you have known anything?” Cogs asked, confused but glad that Lavender was not freaking out. She was clearly far more angry than frightened.

“The changeling’s crest was the same color as your mane, and it… you… were favoring your right wing despite it being recently healed. But it's when you gazed into my eyes that I realized that somehow I knew you. And of course you weren't there beside me either.”

“You already suspected me?” he asked wonderingly.

“Well, just a tiny bit. I thought I knew better,” she added angrily.

“Then you're not going to turn me away now that you know?” Cogs asked hopefully.

“My husband may be an utter idiot for not telling me the truth, but I know he loves me. And Celestia help me, I'm hopelessly in love with him too!”

With a cry of joy, Cogs flung his forelegs around Lavender and hugged her tightly, Their lips met and they kissed ardently for a lengthy time.

When they finally parted though, Lavender punched him hard on the shoulder and said, “I'm still angry with you though, and we have much to discuss.”

Cogs rubbed the severely abused shoulder. Lavender certainly had not pulled that punch. “I agree, but we have the entire trip home to get started on that conversation and tell me how many ways I've been a fool. However, may I suggest that we start on our way before those timberwolves come back with friends?”

“Good idea,” she replied, putting words into action. “Although couldn't you just turn into something even bigger?”

“My love, it was all illusion. I was no bigger nor stronger than I normally am. If those wolves had attacked that manticore, they would have been able to defeat me easily. Also, the bigger the illusion, the harder it is to hold, and the shorter the time it lasts.”

“But you stay looking like a pegasus all the time?”

“That's because it’s a same-size transformation. It's more sophisticated and lasts until I choose to change, but it's limited to my real size and mass.”

“So, if this cart gets bogged again, you won’t be able to turn into an ox and haul it out?”

Cogs laughed. “Only the weakest ox in Equestria. Look down. See my boots?”

Lavender could see his boots over his hooves just as they had been all day. “Yes. So?”

“If I had really become as big as that manticore, I would have burst out of these boots. I'm afraid you’re stuck with little ol' me helping you.”

There were a few times that both of them wished that was not true before they got the cart back onto a firm road. Their exertions left little time for more conversation until they were headed westwards back to their home, and even then there was stony silence from the mare for a long time. Cogs wisely said nothing until eventually Lavender brought up her biggest sore point.

“I suppose that's why I've not become pregnant yet – changelings and ponies can’t have foals?”

“Twilight told me that there isn't a compatibility spell for us, so I'm afraid that's true, or at least mostly so,” Cogs admitted, relieved to have the subject out in the open.

“Mostly? How so?”

Cogs explained about the Loving Deception and what it would entail.

Lavender looked thoughtful. “So, although the semen would come from a donor, you would still be the one siring the foal in me?”

“Well, technically speaking, I suppose I'd still be the sire.”

“And you genuinely want to be father to a foal?”

“Foals, and yes.”

“So you would be sire and father, but not related by blood. Two out of three is good enough for me.” She stopped the cart and poked a hoof in Cogs chest. “But I get to pick the donor, understand? Not just any pegasus stallion is going to be good enough for our foal!”

Cogs happily agreed.

* * *

They began their research the next day. Because Whitetail Meadows was predominantly a unicorn village, that immediately whittled down the options considerably. They wanted a pegasus stallion to match Cogs’ apparent type, but only a few pegasus families called the village home, and of them, only a few of the stallions in those families were eligible. Fortunately Celestia smiled upon them and they found one perfect candidate. Silver Heartbreaker was young, healthy, attractive, intelligent and hard-working. He also thought he was Celestia’s gift to single mares and a devout bachelor. They would not be causing any potential rifts in any relationships, because there were none to be affected.

They were just days away from Lavender going into season again and putting their plans into action, when things took an unexpected turn in the form of a telegram. Lavender waved it about excitedly when Cogs got home from work. “This arrived early this morning,” she said as she passed it to Cogs.

Cogs quickly realized that it had come from Twilight Sparkle. It read, “DEAR COGS STOP HAVE IMPORTANT NEWS STOP WILL BE VISITING YOU THIS EVENING STOP HRH TWILIGHT SPARKLE”.

Cogs was surprised. This was not like the times when she had called in her favor, although she signed it officially like previously. He could only surmise that it had to do with changeling business that she could not openly mention. He said as much to Lavender.

“If it isn't another speaking engagement, what else could it be? What other subjects did you discuss?” she asked.

“Only a couple. She asked about other changelings, and answered my questions about making us compatible.”

Lavender got excited. “I can't see her coming to give us exciting news about other changelings, but a way to have foals – that would be marvelous!”

“Please, darling, don't get your hopes up too much. She was quite emphatic about the difficulty of making a compatibility spell and how long it would take.”

“Then what else could it be?”

“I don't have an answer for that, but as she said that she’d be visiting this evening, I suppose we won't have too long to find out.”

They debated postponing dinner until Twilight arrived, but decided that she was more likely to time her arrival after their normal dinner time. This proved to be correct as a knock on their door came as they were finishing cleaning up after the meal. Cogs answered the door to find the alicorn dressed in a hooded cloak to disguise the nature of their visitor. He silently gestured for her to enter, and closed the door behind her.

Twilight pushed back her hood and smiled at them. “It's good to see you both again. How is your horn coming along, Lavender?”

“Very well, your Highness. I practice the lessons from my foalhood to strengthen it. I suspect that because I already have a teenager’s familiarity of its function, I will get more use out of it sooner than I did as a young filly.”

“That's excellent news, but please just call me Twilight. I'm not visiting you personally on royal business. That’s entirely with your husband, and I must beg to have a private discussion with him.”

Cogs interjected, “It's alright, Twilight – she knows everything.”

Twilight looked at him with surprised pleasure. “You told her…?”

“That I'm a changeling, yes. Or more precisely, I gave her a graphic demonstration.”

“And then I nearly bit his head off because I was so mad at him,” Lavender added.

Twilight shrugged. “Not quite the reaction that I imagined, but I did predict that it would not break you two apart. I had good vibes from both of you. Nevertheless this will make things a lot easier. Did he tell you about the Loving Deceit?”

“Yes, and in fact we are very close to using it. I will come into season again soon. I was hoping though that you had found a suitable compatibility spell though when you said that you had exciting news.”

“Oh, I'm sorry, Lavender, but no. I did not exaggerate the problems associated with that, nor how long it might take.”

Lavender looked a little crestfallen. “It's okay – Cogs did try to tell me not to get my hopes up.”

Twilight continued with a sly smile. “However, it occurred to me that I was looking at the problem the wrong way.”

“What do you mean?” Cogs asked in puzzlement.

“You're not looking for fertility – that's provided by the donor sperm. What you are after is a biological link – something that will make the foal a true child of you both. That is an entirely different problem, and one that could be far more easily solved.”

“How?” Cogs and Lavender chorused.

“Ironically it still involves a compatibility spell.”

“But you said that it had to be crafted to specifically match each species,” Cogs pointed out.

“If you want to make the couple totally and permanently inter-fertile, yes. However, all such compatibility spells have a common base, and that base is all that I need to make an aspect emulation spell. In the simplest terms, what it does is take some aspect of your biology and impress it on the donor sperm. It could be any compatible trait such as eye color or mane pattern, or simply increase the likelihood of being male. You may or may not ever know what it is, but I guarantee you that some aspect of Cogs will be part of any foal that he sires.”

Cogs looked at Lavender to see her reaction, but he need not have bothered.

“Yes!” Lavender cried out and started pronking about the room. “Yes, yes, yes!”

Cogs grinned and said, “I’d say that’s an acceptable alternative.”

“I do get that impression,” Twilight replied with a matching grin.

“So what does it involve?”

“It's a two-step process. Firstly, I need you to drink this potion.” Twilight levitated a small vial out of her saddle pouch. “I guarantee you'll hate the taste, but it's an essential part of the process.”

Cogs unstoppered the vial and swigged the contents as quickly as possible. He discovered that Twilight had not exaggerated about the taste, and nearly gagged on it. He managed to keep it all down though. “So what happens next?”

“Wait for it.”

“Wait for wha-omigods!” Cogs felt as if he was being zapped by a stray lightning bolt that kept going for several seconds. It did not exactly hurt, but it was not pleasant either, maybe something like an extreme case of pins and needles. Fortunately the sensation died away completely, although the memory of it lingered on.

“Please tell me that I won't have to do that again,” Cogs pleaded.

“Sorry about that, but the worst part is over. Now I just need a small amount of your blood and hair.” She brought out what looked like a bracelet. One section had a disc with a lid that hinged open, revealing a small cavity within. She then levitated a pair of scissors and snipped a tiny length of his mane which she then put into the cavity. Then she held up a thick needle. “I’m going to prick your ear for the blood, okay?”

“If you say so,” Cogs agreed.

He flinched as the needle jabbed him in the furless inner portion of his right ear, and Twilight guided a couple of drops of his blood into the cavity with the hair. She then closed the lid, and a spark from her horn sealed it permanently.

“That's step one complete. The potion infused with your every cell and now retains every aspect of your nature. Next, I need to activate the modified compatibility base spell to act as a vehicle to transfer some of that aspect to the donor sperm. Pardon me while I concentrate on the incantation.”

Both Cogs and Lavender were curious about what words were in the incantation, but they were very quickly confused. Although the words had some degree of familiarity, and it was obvious that there was some form of rhyme to it, they had no clue as to what exactly the alicorn was chanting. They did note though that as the incantation progressed, her horn grew brighter and brighter, and then suddenly she leaned forward to touch the tip to the bracelet. They expected to see some sort of dazzling effect, but it was as if the bracelet simply drank up all the magical energy, and the glow ceased.

“Phew!” Twilight said with relief. “That went well, but it's a lot of effort. Makes me wonder what a full compatibility spell would be like to cast. Anyway, the job's done, and this amulet is ready to do its work.”

“What in the world were you chanting though?” Cogs asked.

“I told you that the first compatibility spells go back a long way. We're talking millennia here, and that was back in the days when they spoke the ancient Equestrian language. The only way you can cast those spells is to know and use the original language.”

“So that’s why it sounded familiar but I couldn't understand it.”

“That’s right. It also prevents incompetent amateurs from trying it on their own. Nasty things can happen if you screw up those spells. Believe me, I tested them for weeks before I was confident that my variant was safe. Otherwise I would have contacted you much sooner.”

“And we're very grateful for that. So, what do I do with the amulet? Wear it on my hoof when we make love?”

“Around your dock, actually. Much closer to the scene of the action, if you know what I mean.”

“Um, yeah,” Cogs answered with a tinge of embarrassment. “Do I need to do anything to activate it?”

“No. Making love will activate the amulet by itself. At the moment of impregnating Lavender, the amulet will impress some aspect of you on the semen. Like natural fertilization, the combination is random, so you won’t be able to influence it an any way. Without the amulet, only the donor’s traits will be passed on.”

“Will we need to do all this again when we want another foal?”

“No, it should be good for several activations – a lot more than you'll ever likely need.”

“Then there's nothing more to say than that you have our deepest gratitude. Once again you have made our lives so much better, and we can never hope to repay you.”

Twilight waved a hoof airily. “Don’t worry about it, please. It was a fascinating research project, and it added a large chapter to the body of knowledge that I have been accumulating on changelings. Who knows? You may just be the first of many changeling-pony couples who want a foal like that.”

Lavender said, “Then if we can't thank you that way, how about a piece of hot cherry pie with whipped cream? I made one up as soon as I learned that you were coming.”

Twilight grinned widely. “Now that’s the kind of thanks that I'll readily accept!”

The three of them enjoyed generous helpings of cherry pie and pleasant conversation before Twilight announced that she had to go.

“Spike will start to worry if I don't get home soon,” she explained as they escorted her to the door.

“It's quite a long way to fly at night,” Cogs agreed as he allowed Twilight to exit and then followed her outside.

“Oh, I won't be flying all the way. Princess Celestia used to teleport to Ponyville from Canterlot occasionally, and since becoming an alicorn, I've been able to extend my range also. I'll be home in no time. Goodnight. Let me know when the foal is born!”

Twilight launched herself into the air, beating her wings powerfully until she was above the rooftops, and then with a flash of magic, she was gone.

“I hope nobody noticed that,” Cogs said. “She completely forgot about her cloak!”

* * *

“You’re having far too much fun with this,” Cogs griped.

Lavender giggled. “Oh, come on, darling! How often does a wife get to pretty up her husband like this?” she said as she brushed his long golden mane.

The day had arrived that Lavender was in season, and so their plans had swung into action. Lavender had insisted on having the final say in what Cogs’ female alter ego looked like, and the result was a pink-coated earth pony mare with an exceptionally long golden mane and tail which Lavender was currently brushing and braiding with ribbons to hold the braids artistically in place. Cogs was already wearing a frilly blue blouse that Lavender never wore, even though it had been a gift from her mother. He felt utterly ridiculous. He knew why she was going to such lengths though. Part of it was a subtle punishment for deceiving her about his true nature, but he knew that another significant part was because she was bothered about him going to have a liaison with another pony. True, it was with a stallion, and it was going to be an utterly meaningless one relationship-wise, but it still annoyed her, so she was dealing with it as best as she could through humor. She was getting a kick out of this!

 

 

Lavender stepped back to admire her handiwork. “There! Now you look irresistible!”

“That was never going to be a problem with Silver Heartbreaker,” Cogs pointed out.

“Nonsense! A mare should always look her best when she's on the prowl for a stallion,” she replied with cheerful certainty.

“I don't want to attract half the bar’s patrons though!”

“Don't worry, I'm sure that their marefriends will hold most of them back,” she replied mischievously. “Now come have a look at yourself in the mirror.”

Cogs stepped over to the mirror and looked at himself… or herself more accurately at the moment. Cogs had to admit that Lavender had done a better job than he could have by himself. “Damn, I look good!”

“Of course you do, and a lady doesn't say ‘damn’.”

“So good, I think I’ll have to elope with myself.”

“Ooh! You’re going to pay for that one, smartie!”

Cogs grinned, then he noticed the time. “Oops! I had better get going if I'm to get to the bar on time.”

Lavender stepped up to give him a kiss on the cheek. “Good luck, hon, but don't enjoy yourself too much!”

“Believe me, any enjoyment will be entirely feigned. I was never the kind of changeling who did this kind of thing to harvest emotions, and I'm only doing this for you.”

“For us,” she corrected.

“For us. Love you, darling!”

Lavender opened the back door to check to see if anypony was in sight, both on the ground and in the air. Spotting no ponies, she gave Cogs the go-ahead. He slipped out quietly and took a circuitous and inconspicuous route to the bar that was Silver Heartbreaker’s regular watering hole. The stallion was a creature of habit, stopping by every day after work at the same time. Cogs intended to be there when he arrived because smooth-talking Silver was likely to have a mare or two hanging off him within minutes otherwise, and Cogs did not intend to have any competition tonight. That was why he had tolerated Lavender prettying him up further. He wanted to seize the stallion’s full attention tonight, and no other mare was going to interfere with his mission. He had a wife to please!

They had settled on Cogs being an earth pony for a couple of reasons. Firstly, his cover story would be that ‘she’ was travelling to Canterlot by train and was stopping overnight at Whitetail Meadows’ only hotel. A pegasus would not need a train, so that was out. And because this was a unicorn predominant village, an earth pony was a little more unusual, and thus a bit more exotic than the regular crowd. Besides, Cogs was not terribly good at horn magic.

Cogs entered the bar, and judging by the reactions of the stallions there, ‘she’ was creating the intended impression. He made his way to the bar, deliberately leaving a large space between himself and the nearest pony, subtly signalling that attention was not desired. Of course his quarry was not the subtle sort, so the gap was an open invitation. Cogs ordered a drink and waited.

A minute later, right on time, Silver Heartbreaker entered the bar. He scanned the room and immediately latched onto the sight of the attractive female stranger. ‘Fresh blood!’ he exulted to himself, and made his move.

“Why, hello there, pretty filly. You’re new in town, I believe?” Silver began.

Cogs knew exactly what Silver wanted, and how he normally went about it. He had no intention of letting the self-centered pegasus spin his usual flattery and lies. He was there for just one reason, and he had no time for games. “Yes, I’m on my way to Canterlot, and find myself alone for the night while I'm here overnight. Do you know where a lonely mare can find a little… comfort… tonight?”

Silver Heartbreaker could hardly believe his luck. A fresh mare who was both gorgeous and horny, ready to practically leap into bed with him!

“I believe I can help you out with that, my dear. Silver Heartbreaker at your service. And what would your name be, may I ask?”

“Call me Mystery Mare,” Cogs replied.

Silver was intrigued. “A mare of mystery? I like that. Can I try to fathom your secrets?”

“I was hoping you would ask.”

Silver took Cogs to his home that was located not too far from the bar. Fortunately Cogs did not have to make too much clever small talk along the way because the pegasus practically dominated the conversation. The stallion had pretty much a one-track mind when it came to mares, and Cogs struggled not to roll his eyes or yawn with boredom. Silver had already decided that the mare was an easy lay, and did not bother with any subtlety. That suited Cogs completely. He was there for just one reason, and whatever it took to do the job and be done with it was fine with him. Although he had learned a lot about love-making from Lavender, there was no love involved in his time spent in bed with Silver, and lust was pretty much empty calories to a changeling. Silver got what he wanted, and Cogs what he needed – a fair exchange.

Cogs took his leave of Silver as soon as possible, but he did have some parting words for the stallion.

“Farewell, silver lover! Until next I pass through your world.” Cogs then kissed him on the cheek and left. There was no real feeling in it of course, but he would probably need the randy stallion again if Lavender wanted another foal, and it was best to leave the door ajar for the next occasion.

Cogs headed in the general direction of the hotel once he left Silver’s home, just in case he was observed. At the earliest opportunity though, he slipped into an alley shadowed from the moon, and reverted to his normal pegasus form. He took off the blouse and the ribbons in his tail. The ones in his long mane had fallen out once it had reverted to its normal shortness, so he didn't have to worry about those. He once again made an inconspicuous trip back home.

Lavender threw her forelegs around Cogs’ neck and embraced him the moment he stepped inside their home. Despite her upbeat mood earlier, she had still been concerned that the plan would somehow go wrong. She was hugely relieved when he smiled lovingly and said, “Mission accomplished”.

Lavender kissed him long and ardently before she said, “Shall we complete the Loving Deceit then?”

“No,” Cogs replied.

“No?” Lavender was perplexed by that answer.

“There's no deceit left, only love,” he explained as he gently led her to their bedroom.

“Only love,” she agreed and gave herself to him completely.

* * *

Life – such a precious thing, and a gift that Cogs had never dreamed of being able to give. He gazed wonderingly at his wife’s gravid form while gently massaging her swollen belly.

“Ooh! That feels so good,” Lavender murmured.

“So you don't want me to stop?” he asked, holding his hooves back teasingly.

Lavender put her hooves together and gave him her best puppy-dog eyes. “More belly rubs, please?”

Cogs grinned and complied, eager to please her, but to also feel the new life growing within her. A changeling was going to be a father – was there a more amazing sight in all of Equestria?

* * *

The new parents gazed adoringly at the tiny pegasus foal in her crib as she gurgled and waved her diminutive hooves.

“What are you going to name her?” Cogs asked.

“I was thinking of letting you name her,” Lavender replied.

“Me? I've never named anything besides myself in my whole life. Even Mystery Mare was your idea.”

“You've never been a father before either, but here's your daughter. So, any ideas?”

Cogs looked thoughtful. He considered the foal’s buttery yellow coat and her tiny mauve mane so much like her mother’s. “How about Dandelion Dreams?”

“That's pretty, but don't you want some part of her name to reflect her sire?”

“She's a pegasus and she has my green eyes – I think that's enough for me. I believe she needs a name that honors her mother.”

“Thank you, darling. Dandelion Dreams it is then.” Lavender stroked the foal’s mane lovingly. “Little one, you’re going to have an unusual father, but no more dedicated one will you find in the village. Welcome to the family.”

 
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