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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6. Relatives

Cogs had never felt this terrified in his life; even facing up to Queen Chrysalis was looking more preferable. Nothing in his life had prepared him for this moment, but the consequences of his decisions had inevitably caught up with him. His knees literally shook at the thought of what he had to do, but he could not put it off. It was time to meet his future in-laws.

Lavender had sprung the surprise on Cogs after he got home from work on Monday. As she hugged and kissed him, she announced, “We’re going to have dinner at my parents’ home tonight. I sent them a message today announcing our engagement, and they insisted on us coming over for dinner so that they can meet and get to know you.”

To say that Cogs was stunned would be an understatement. He had literally not given a moment’s thought about meeting her parents, but then again he was new to the concept of having a relationship with a pony too. He had grown up in a changeling hive, a totally different social environment, and the concepts of personal relationships and interactions with ponies had to be taught to him before he went out of the hive. Realizing that he had fallen in love was a surprising and novel experience, but one that he had only the slightest knowledge of the ramifications of it all. His unenlightened response to Lavender was, “Wha–?”

Lavender had to laugh at the expression on Cogs’ face. “Oh, come on! It won’t be that bad. Of course they want to learn more about the stallion who swept their daughter off her hooves.”

“They do? What kind of things? Is this some kind of test?”

Lavender burst out laughing while Cogs just stood their helplessly wondering what he had just said that was so amusing. When she got her giggles under control, Lavender replied, “I’ve never looked at it quite that way, but I suppose it can be. Don’t worry so much though – you’ve already done the most important part. And remember that this will be my first time bringing a stallion to meet my parents, so it’s new territory for me also.”

Nowhere near as new as for me!’ Cogs thought. “Could you give me some coaching?” he pleaded.

“To help impress my parents? Of course I will! Just have a little confidence in yourself though. It’s who and what you are that made me fall in love with you. Keep being that person and I’m sure that you’ll win them over.”

Cogs reflected that he had little choice than to be what he was because he did not know how to be someone else. He just was not that good creating alternative identities, which is one reason why he had always stuck to his pegasus form. However, even that did not have much depth to it. Living with Lavender for the past two weeks had broadened that immensely, but it was still pitifully meager in comparison to a real pony’s experiences. He really began to get nervous then.

Lavender closed up the shop and they both bathed and groomed their coats and manes. Cogs asked if she was going to dress up again, but she informed him that this was a family event, not a formal occasion, so no.

“Oh,” Cogs said, not sure if he was disappointed or not. “Would you at least like to wear this?” he asked, producing a little hinged box and passing it to her.

Lavender opened it to find a fine necklace with a silver pair of wings pendant, and she gasped in pleasure.

Cogs said, “I picked this up on the way home as a kind of engagement gift. I thought that you might like it.”

Lavender threw her forelegs around Cogs’ neck and pulled him into a big kiss. Then she drew back slightly and said, “And you are so worried about doing the right thing! You’re a natural, Love! Will you put this on for me, please?”

Cogs did not feel it necessary to tell her that he had sought Moonlit Haze’s opinion on what would be appropriate; the basic idea had been his though. He fumbled a little with the unfamiliar clasp, but it was soon proudly displayed just below Lavender’s throat.

They departed for Lavender’s parents’ home, and along the way she coached him on some of the things to expect. Instead of reassuring him though, the sheer breadth of the subjects was beginning to daunt him. By the time that they arrived at their destination, Cogs was just a bundle of nerves, and wondering if there was any way out of this situation. As Lavender rapped on the front door with her hoof, he steeled himself and put on his best smile. ‘They’re her parents, not my executioners,’ he reminded himself.

The door was opened by a blue unicorn stallion with a dark blue mane with silvery stripes and an artist’s palette cutie mark. He grinned broadly when he saw Lavender, and his expression only dimmed a little upon noticing Cogs. “Come on in, dear. Your mother is expecting you.”

Lavender gave him an affectionate hug. “Dad, this is Whirring Cogs, my fiancé. Cogs, this Cobalt Dreams, my father.”

Cogs and Cobalt shook hooves, and Cogs said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” He was even more pleased that he managed to say that without his voice trembling.

“So you’re the one who won the heart of my little jewel? You should consider yourself to be a lucky stallion.”

“Oh, I most certainly do, sir.”

“Enough of the ‘sir’. If you’re going to be my son-in-law, you may as well start calling me Cobalt. And you prefer to be called Cogs?”

“Yes, s– Cobalt.”

“Excellent! May I ask what’s wrong with your wing? It seems to be sagging.”

“Nerve damage from my accident. I can’t hold it in properly.”

“My sympathy. You can tell us more about how that happened later. Right now, let’s introduce you to Lavender’s mother and my wife.”

Cobalt led them into the living room where a light purple unicorn mare with a dark purple mane with white stripes and a cutie mark consisting of a quill and ink bottle. There was also a unicorn colt seated beside her with the reverse of Lavender’s coloration, and with a baseball bat and ball cutie mark.

Cobalt said, “Cogs, this is my wife, Mauve Prose, and our son, Keen Eyes. Mauve, this is Whirring Cogs, our daughter’s beau.”

Mauve Prose was the picture of refinement. She smiled warmly but with elegant restraint. “I have heard good things about you, young stallion. I hope to hear many more this evening.”

So do I!’ Cogs immediately thought. “Lavender surprised me when she told me that we were to have dinner with you this evening. I haven’t had time to prepare any good stories to impress you,” he told her with a grin.

Despite what Mom looks like, she really appreciates humor,’ Lavender had advised him, and it seemed it was true. Mauve’s smile increased just a little, but enough for him to notice.

“Then perhaps we’ll see you at your most honest,” the mare replied.

A completely honest changeling? That was an impossibility, but he would have to try.

“Do you like sports?” interjected Keen Eyes.

“Only a little – pegasus hoofball mostly,” Cogs replied.

Keen Eyes looked disappointed. “No baseball?”

“Never held a bat or ball,” Cogs admitted. “Not that I’m unwilling to try sometime.”

Mauve said, “Our son is a keen sports player. I’m not sure where he gets it from. Same place as our daughter’s recklessness, I presume,” she said with an accusing look at her husband.

Cobalt shrugged and gave her an apologetic smile, but it seemed that there was no real bite in her words. In fact, Cogs could taste no rancor or ill will at all in the room. That calmed his nerves considerably. Knowing that he was not going to have to fight an uphill battle to please Lavender’s parents was reassuring.

Mauve got up and said, “Pardon me, Cogs, but dinner is almost ready. Cobalt, could you lend a hoof, please?”

When the two had left the room, Lavender said, “Mom likes you so far. Told you it wouldn’t be so bad.”

Keen Eyes snorted. “Are you kidding? Mom’s been so excited that you got yourself a coltfriend that she’s been fussing around ever since she got your message, getting ready for tonight.”

“I can’t blame her, I suppose. I have to admit that I was losing hope of getting one, let alone such a great one like Cogs,” she replied with a loving smile at her fiancé.

Cogs gave her a sheepish grin. “You make me sound more special than I am. I’m the lucky one. I never dreamed of falling in love so easily.”

“Okay, now you’re just getting mushy,” Keen Eyes complained.

“Keen! Help serve up dinner!” Cobalt called from the kitchen.

Lavender showed Cogs to the dining room table while her brother grumblingly complied with his father’s order. Apparently Mauve had not spared any effort for the occasion, and dinner was more like a sumptuous feast. It did not stop her or Cobalt from peppering Cogs with questions about him though. He answered as best as he could, and asked many questions of his own to help balance out the conversation. He learned that Cobalt was a modestly successful artist, while his wife had a job as town recorder and deputy mayor. When they pressed him for more details, he stuck with what he knew well, that mostly being the time that he spent in Cloudsdale. He embellished that as much as he could because he was on familiar ground there, but it made him sound more than a little overenthusiastic about his former career. By the time that they were finishing the meal with drinks, that brought up the subject of his injured wing again.

“Are you going to be able to fly again?” Cobalt asked.

“I really don’t know at this time. Healing Hooves says that there’s still a possibility that it will come good, so I hope so.”

Mauve asked, “If it does come good, then would you want to go back to work at Cloudsdale?”

Cogs realized that she was concerned about him leaving Lavender behind, or at the very least uprooting her. “Mrs Prose, I loved my job there, but my life is here now. I already have work that I enjoy, and I have a mare that I love with all my heart. I have no desire to leave Whitetail Meadows.”

Mauve nodded. “That’s very reassuring. So when do you plan to give us grandfoals?” she asked and calmly took a sip of her coffee.

Cogs froze and his eyes went wide as the question hit home. Foals? He had not given the slightest thought to that, and for a very good reason – changelings were not inter-fertile with ponies! How was he going to get around this?

 

 

 

“Mom!” Lavender objected. “We aren’t even married yet! And I’m certainly not going to pressure Cogs into having foals so soon either.”

“While that may be true, dear, you really should plan for them. Sometimes the moment takes you, and that’s too late to start thinking about what you’re going to do afterwards.”

Cogs was not worried about unexpected pregnancies; it was the expected ones that concerned him. He did not think that Lavender would rush into wanting a foal, but what was going to happen when she decided that the time was right? How was she going to react when that time never came?

“Yes, Mom,” Lavender replied placatingly. “And now that you’ve traumatized Cogs, I think it’s time we head off home. We both have to start work early tomorrow.”

Cogs smiled gratefully at Lavender. They said their goodbyes, made vague promises to have dinner again soon, and started on their way home. They walked in thoughtful silence for a while before Lavender spoke up.

“Did my mother’s question really bother you, Cogs? I assure you that I’m not in any hurry to have a foal. I’m more interested in building a life together with you. Foals can wait for a long while yet.”

“I suppose her question did bother me,” Cogs admitted. “However maybe not the way that you’re thinking. Lavender, I literally hadn’t given a thought to having foals, and it bothers me that I did not consider how that would affect you.”

Lavender kissed him on the cheek. “You’re a dear for worrying about that, but don’t let it bother you. Even I hadn’t given that much thought yet. We’ll know when the time is right, and in the meantime we have each other. That’s more than enough for me right now.”

“And for me too,” Cogs said fervently. ‘But I’m not going to leave it until then to think what to do about it,’ he added in his mind.

“Aside from that, I think the evening went very well. Both Dad and Mom like you, and they definitely sympathize with your wing problem. By supporting me through my rehabilitation after I broke my horn, they have a good idea of how a disability affects a person.”

“I could tell that your parents liked me partially because your broken horn did not bother me. I still say that it’s sad that no other stallion would give you a chance for them to get to know you just because of that. On the other hoof, if they had, then I would not be engaged to the most wonderful mare in the village this evening.”

“Nor I to the best stallion in the village,” she replied while nuzzling his cheek.

Thoughts of foals quickly disappeared after that as the lovers lost themselves in their feelings for each other.

* * *

At his soonest opportunity, Cogs brought up the matter with Healing Hooves. She was less than impressed.

“You spent how many years as an emotion harvester, and you don’t know the answer to this? What kind of a field agent were you?”

“Not a great one,” Cogs admitted. “I was a lot more interested in my work at the weather factory than I ever was in love harvesting. I barely ever made more than minimum quota.”

Healing Hooves sighed and rubbed her forehead in exasperation. “So you’re telling me that you have never heard anything about this kind of thing?”

“Umm… maybe a little. Something about love in the seat?”

Healing Hooves groaned. “That’s Loving Deceit, you twit, and it’s a last resort. Many changelings who have a relationship with a pony of the opposite sex such as yours prefer to admit to being sterile and suggest adoption. However there are many times when their partner will only be truly happy to have their own child. In those cases, there are two alternatives – one each for male and female changelings. For females, it’s pretty simple. They emulate a pregnancy until it’s time to give birth. Then a changeling nymph is forced into a transformation into a foal of the appropriate species, and the ‘mother’ gives ‘birth’, usually with a changeling midwife so that the supposed sire never knows that it was faked. A changeling nymph that is forced into a transformation will never be able to change back, and will grow up exactly as any other unicorn, pegasus, or earth pony, except of course that they will still be biologically a changeling, and thus sterile. They may never know why if the ‘mother’ never tells them.”

“Did you ever do that?” Cogs asked.

“No, I never took a mate. My relationships have always been indirect, such as with Lavender. Now stop interrupting. The important bit is what males do, and it’s only possible because we aren’t actually male or female. In fact all drones are gender undifferentiated. Only nymphs who are fed a special substance may grow into fertile females or males to be breeders for the hive. However, the rest of us possess both male and female organs, which is why we can emulate either sex, but we’re sterile. With me so far?”

“I know that much,” Cogs replied sulkily. “That’s why we have to choose our gender when we leave the hive.”

“Thank Celestia for that much at least! Here’s why it’s important for you though. If you choose this course, Lavender can have a real foal. You will sire it, she will get pregnant, and both of you will be its parents.”

“But how? As you just said, I’m sterile.”

“That’s where your choice of gender comes in. You can change it at any time. You emulate a mare, find a willing stallion, have sex, and collect his semen inside of you. You then change back to male, have sex with Lavender, impregnating her with the semen. Choose a pegasus stallion as the donor and you will even have a chance that the foal will be a pegasus child also. Now would you be willing to do that for her?”

“Would Lavender really want a foal if she knew that it wasn’t really sired by me?” Cogs asked doubtfully.

“As I said, you will be the sire – you just won’t be the foal’s blood relation. That may be a pedantic distinction, but nonetheless a real one. If the day comes that Lavender wants a foal, she will want you to give it to her. That’s the loving part of the Loving Deceit.”

“And never telling her for the rest of her life that I wasn’t the foal’s true parent is the deceit part. I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with that idea.”

“I never said that it was perfect.” Healing Hooves’ attitude softened a bit then, and she got a far-off look on her face. “However, I have known several changeling-pony couples who have done this, and they have never been happier. A close friend of mine did it just a year before I came to Whitetail Meadows, and they now have three foals. They are a very normal and joy-filled family. Because of them, I almost decided to look for a stallion of my own. Never underestimate the joy of having a family, Cogs. You get just one chance at getting this right. Think long and hard before you commit yourself to a course of action.”

“I understand. You’ve given me much to ponder, Healer. Thank you.”

“I’m doing this for Lavender as much as I’m doing it for you. Think of what she would want.”

“Of course! I love her, and what makes her happy is what is most important to me.”

Healing Hooves nodded in satisfaction. “Good. Now run along! You’ve taken up enough of my time already.”

Cogs left her clinic with just one unanswered question – should or shouldn’t he practice the Loving Deceit? It did not matter to him that he would not be the foal’s true sire, because he did not have a pony’s biological imperative to pass on his traits to his descendants. Only Lavender’s feelings mattered, and he had to get that right. It would tear him apart if she was hurt by his actions. Healing Hooves would be happy to know that this was one lesson that he would take to heart and not screw up.

Author's Note:

Up until now, I have shown how much like a pony that Cogs is. This time I highlighted just how different he is, and how not everything has an easy answer.

The way female changelings have a baby is pretty much consistent with human legends. The male version is my idea though. What do you think of it?

   
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