Growing Up Dandy

This story is a sequel to Change of Life
Dandelion is a pegasus filly, Cogs and Lavender's firstborn daughter, and a joy to them both. As a changeling though, Cogs had no experience with raising pony foals, so when a crisis arises, he often has to wing it. Sometimes the solutions are more creative than others, and sometimes the problems are unique. After all, how many fillies have a changeling parent?
This is a series of stories that are sequels to "Change of Life" and takes up after chapter 10 (Foals).

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/163295/growing-up-dandy

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2. Bully For You

No matter how hard you try, sometimes a day just blows up in your face. Cogs had started this particular day with his usual cheerful farewell to his beloved wife, and headed off to what he was sure would be a quick and easy repair job that would take two hours tops. Nine hours later, frustrated and worn out both physically and mentally, he trudged homewards after finally getting the recalcitrant device running. Even that achievement was overshadowed by the fact that he had previously quoted the cost of the repair, and the customer had refused to pay one bit more, and even complained about how much he had been inconvenienced by the delay in fixing it. Cogs had resisted the demands for a discount on the repair bill because he had already lost a great deal of money on the job, and there was no way that he could afford to give away even a meager extra amount. After all, he had two foals to support, and one had just started school.

The thought of his little Dandelion cheered him up a bit. She was growing up so fast, and seemed so bright and eager to learn. Perhaps she would take after him in more than just being a pegasus? He looked forward to hearing about her first day at school. It had to be a lot different from his experiences, of course, but she was not a changeling like him, and would never know what it was like to grow up in a hive. From what he had learned from Lavender and his colleagues at Square Deal Renovations, school sounded a lot more interesting than his own experiences.

Keeping his thoughts on his daughter allowed Cogs to pick up his hooves and look a lot more upbeat than he really was. He was able to give smiles and pleasant replies to acquaintances whom he passed in the street, which was important because he had built a reputation for friendly and competent service that had served to build up his side of the business. No pony was keen to hire a sour worker. A cheerful smile and a pleasant demeanor had served him well… with a few notable exceptions such as today. He had also vowed never to bring his troubles home, so when he walked into his house, he greeted his wife with a nuzzle and a kiss, and not a hint of what had transpired that day.

Lavender returned the kiss, and then sighed. “Dandelion got into a fight at school.”

Cogs’ hopes of a relaxing evening with a meal and a bit of love-energy sustenance were instantly sunk as he tasted his wife’s emotional distress. As he’d had to do many times over the years, he carefully trod through the unknown territory between his experiences as a changeling, and the world of ponies. “That is not something that normally happens at school, I take it?” he asked tentatively.

Lavender raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you saying that it is normal for changeling schools?”

“Well, not exactly normal, but not unusual either.”

“I see we’re going to have to dispel some more preconceptions,” Lavender said with resignation. Even after several years of marriage, they still kept bumping up against things like this. Sometimes it made her wonder how changelings ever managed to remain hidden for so long when they saw things so differently sometimes. “Anyway, while fights do happen occasionally, they don’t usually start so young or so soon, and they certainly aren't tolerated by either the school or the parents.”

The emphasis she put on the last word told him that he was expected to ‘do something’, and that something needed to be done immediately. “I guess that you have already had words with her?”

“Yes, but I was unable to get the full story out of her. However, she has always been daddy’s girl, and I think she will talk to you more than me. Just be careful, please. I've told her that fighting is unacceptable, and you need to be firm but fair about this and back me up without being too rigid…”

Cogs put his hoof to Lavender’s mouth to stop her talking. “You’re beginning to babble, dear. I get the idea.”

Lavender nodded. “I’ll have dinner on the table soon. I bought fish to celebrate her first day at school, but I don’t want it seem to be a celebration of a fight instead.”

“One way or another, I think we’ll come to an understanding, and maybe your silly hubby can learn a little too at the same time.”

“Thanks, dear,” she replied, and kissed him. Her confidence in him and the little burst of love she gave him bolstered him and he headed off to Dandelion’s room.

They had extended their home after Dandelion had been born. The existing single bedroom was not adequate for raising a family, and two more had been added in anticipation of having another foal after Dandelion. Paying for that had kept money tight for a while, but had been well worth it. Right now though, it would give Cogs and his daughter somewhere private to chat. Even a changeling knew that it was easier to talk one-on-one than to several if the subject evoked strong feelings.

He found Dandelion half-heartedly playing with the erector set that he had given her for her fifth birthday. It had quickly become her favorite toy, reinforcing her parents’ belief that she was inclined to follow in her father’s footsteps. To be so disinterested in it was a sure sign that she was upset about something, and there wasn't a prize for guessing what. The feathers in her wings looked disheveled and in great need of preening, and they certainly had not been like that when he had dropped her off at school this morning. Cogs took a deep breath and let it out slowly – time to take the bit in the teeth!

“Hi, Dandy. Your mother tells me that you got into trouble at school today.”

“Wasn't my fault!” she said with a pout, not looking at her father.

“Care to tell me why then?” he asked as he sat beside her.

Dandelion sulkily said nothing.

Cogs sighed; he had hoped that this would be easier. “Dandelion Dreams, this isn't a game, but it isn't the end of the world either. You need to talk to me so that we can sort this out. Your mother is upset, and I might have to be also if you don’t talk to me.”

For a moment, Dandelion looked alarmed. She doted on her father, and hated the thought of him being mad at her. “Pearl Charm was being mean!” she blurted out.

“Who is Pearl Charm, and why was she being mean?”

“She’s a unicorn filly in my class. She says pegasi don’t belong here!”

“Where here? The school?” Cogs thought he might be getting a glimmer of the problem already.

“No, not just school. Here!” she said, throwing out her forelegs in emphasis.

“The whole town?”

Dandelion nodded. “She says I should go home to Cloudsdale.”

Cogs’ fears were confirmed. Whitetail Meadows had been established by unicorns, and was still predominantly populated by them, but had since acquired both pegasus and earth pony residents. Most unicorns were fine with that, but there were some who were decidedly not. Sad to say, they tended to pass their bias onto their children. The fact that most of the pegasi in the town had been born there did not seem to make a difference. ‘Go back to Cloudsdale’ was the common taunt, even for those pegasi who had never been to the cloud city in their lives.

“I suppose that you told her that you were born here, and she didn't care?” he asked gently.

“Yeah.”

“So did you ignore her?”

“I tried, Daddy, but she kept being mean.”

“What did she do?”

“She used her horn to pull away my stool when I sat down, and she spilled ink over my drawings.”

“Did you tell the teacher?”

“Yeah, and Miss Chalkboard told her to behave, but she still was mean when we went out to play.”

Cogs was aware of how imaginative young unicorn foals were when they first started being able to use their horns. Some were huge nuisances while he was working on a job, albeit merely mischievous rather than nasty. If the parents could not keep them under control, then only patience would enable him to cope, and patience was not what one could expect from a little filly. “So what happened then?”

“I told her to leave me alone or I would buck her.”

“Let me guess – she didn't believe your threat, did something else mean, and you bucked her?”

“Yeah!” For a moment Dandelion was defiantly proud of that, until she remembered that she was in trouble for it. “I didn't buck her too hard,” she added.

“And that’s what started the fight?”

“Yeah.” Under her breath she added, “I should’a bucked her harder.”

Cogs contemplated the facts. If this kind of thing had happened in the hive, it would have been pretty much dismissed as normal squabbling among the young, but this was not the hive, and Dandelion was not a changeling like her father. Between his wife and the years that he had spent living as a pony in this village, he knew that this was unacceptable behavior, so he could not turn a blind eye to it. On the other hoof, neither could he tell his daughter to just ignore the filly, because bullies did not work that way. Then he recalled something from his days at Cloudsdale, and he realized that perhaps there was a compromise.

“Okay, I understand that Pearl had to be dealt with in some way, but starting a fight is not an acceptable method, either for myself, your mother, the teacher, or Pearl’s parents. I suspect that we’ll be getting a visit from some angry unicorns soon, and Mom is going to have to deal with them because they don’t like pegasi like me. You have to realize that what you do won’t affect just you, and that there will be consequences for this kind of thing. You will be punished for starting that fight.”

“But that’s not fair!” Dandelion exclaimed. “What about Pearl?”

“If she continues to be mean, and I wouldn't be surprised if she does, then we will have to deal with her, but in a much more subtle way.”

“What’s subtle mean?” Dandelion asked apprehensively.

“In this case, it means sneaky,” Cogs reassured her. “There are options other than starting a fight, and I won’t be happy to hear that you have done so again. Do you understand me, young filly?” he asked sternly.

“Yes, Dad, but what about Pearl?”

“For now, just watch out for her tricks, and try to be patient. Your uncle Blue Arc will be visiting this weekend, and he knows a couple of tricks that I think will help you. I think you will like what I have in mind. Now, come on out and apologize to your mother. She’s still very upset with you.”

Dandelion nodded glumly. “Okay, Dad.”

They stepped out to the kitchen, and Lavender silently waited for her daughter to say something.

“I’m sorry for fighting, Mom. I won’t do it again.”

Lavender looked at Cogs questioningly, and he said, “Later, dear.” She nodded and turned back to Dandelion. “Apology accepted. Now get your sister and come to the table. Dinner is ready.”

Cogs laid the table and Lavender served up the meal, consisting of a garden salad, hay fries, and a succulent pan-fried trout.

“Oh wow! Fish for dinner!” Dandelion exclaimed. Like her father, it was one of her favorites.

“Yes, those look wonderful, don’t they?” Cogs replied. Then he picked up his fork and lifted the fish off Dandelion’s plate and put it with the one on his own plate. “And this is the punishment that I promised. No fish for you tonight.”

“But Dad…!”

“Don’t ‘but Dad’ me. Next time you are tempted to do something bad, just remember that there will be consequences. Be thankful that this time it’s only a fish.”

Dandelion nodded sullenly, but Cogs noticed that Lavender was nodding in approval. They ate mostly in silence – Dandelion sulkily, and Cogs happy not to discuss his own rotten day. Two delicious fish were helping to improve his mood quite nicely though.

* * *

Blue Arc, Cogs’ best friend from his days at the Cloudsdale weather factory, had become a regular visitor to Whitetail Meadows since he had been Cogs’ Best Stallion at his marriage ceremony. It had been great for both of them to have that friendship renewed and growing once again. In fact he visited so often that he had become an honorary uncle to Dandelion Dreams, and then later to Sky Fern when they had their second daughter. The pegasus stallion was still unmarried, but you would not have guessed it by how well he got along with the two young fillies. He even helped out with Dandelion’s beginner classes in flying, but today Cogs wanted his help in another completely different matter. As soon as Blue Arc arrived on Saturday, Cogs took him aside to explain what he wanted of him.

“I see. And Lavender is cool with this?” Blue Arc asked after the explanation.

“I didn’t exactly explain what I planned,” Cogs confessed. “That’s why we’re talking while she’s busy with the shop. I think that it’s the way to go though. Dandelion tells me that Pearl is still causing trouble, so something decisive needs to be done, and I don’t think a stern lecture is going to cut it.”

Blue Arc grinned. “You don’t need to convince me any further. After all, I know exactly what that was like. I’m just hoping that Dandy is a lot better at weather magic than you are.”

“No need to rub it in, Arc. You still don’t even know which way to turn a nut to unscrew it,” Cogs retorted.

They glared at each other before bursting into laughter. They had been teasing each other about their fallibilities since they had met at the weather factory, and each had helped the other out with their problems on many occasions. It was one of the foundations on which they had built their friendship over the years, and neither would have it any other way.

Cogs offered his friend a drink, filled a kettle and put it on the stove, and then fetched Dandelion. Sky Fern was with a play group, which conveniently kept her from being under hoof and potentially blabbing to Lavender what they were doing.

Dandelion raced up too give Blue Arc a hug. “Hi, Uncle Blue!” she said enthusiastically.

“Hi, Buttercup!” he replied with a grin and a warm hug.

“I’m not Buttercup,” she said indignantly.

“Sorry, I meant umm… Daffodil,” he replied as if he was struggling to recall her name.

“You’re the daffy one!” she shot back.

“Ooh! Good comeback!” he congratulated her. “How long have you been waiting for me to use that?”

“Months! Why have you never thought of daffodils before?”

“Because I’m daffy. You told me so!”

Dandelion giggled. She loved him because he was almost never serious. “Daddy says you’re going to teach me a trick.”

“Yep, if you can do it. Your daddy was hopeless, but I did it for the first time before I turned five. That’s how I earned my cutie mark.”

“Ooh! What is it?”

The kettle started boiling just then.

“Right on cue!” Blue Arc said. He fetched the kettle from the stove and put it on the table with the spout facing him. “Watch this,” he instructed.

The kettle was billowing steam, and Blue Arc reached out his fore hooves into it. With his weather control magic, he seized the cloud and started condensing it smaller and smaller. When it was only a few inches across and much darker, he held it in one hoof and brought it close to the kettle, and then tapped it firmly with the other hoof. A miniature arc of electricity arced across the gap from the cloud to the metal kettle with a loud snap.

“Cool!” exclaimed Dandelion. “Are we going to zap Pearl with lightning?”

Blue Arc laughed. “Nothing quite that drastic. First I have to teach you the difference between volts and amps – how strong and how much, otherwise you might make more and bigger problems for yourself and your parents, not to mention that poor filly. However, we have to see if you have an aptitude for this before we proceed any further. You've shaped clouds for me before – but can you compress one like I just did?”

“Let me try!”

Cogs put the kettle back on the stove again to bring it back to the boil, and for the rest of the morning, Blue Arc tutored Dandelion on the methods of manipulating clouds for the purpose of generating electrical potential.

* * *

Dandelion did not have to wait too long on Monday morning at school for a good excuse to put her newfound skills to work. Pearl Charm seldom let an opportunity pass to harass Dandelion. Being the only pegasus in her age group at that school, Dandelion had Pearl’s undivided attention. On this occasion as Dandelion tried to get on the swing that was slung from a big tree branch, the unicorn filly snatched the seat of the swing away a fraction of a second before Dandelion sat upon it, and she landed hard on her rump.

“Ha ha!” Pearl laughed obnoxiously loudly at Dandelion. “Stupid pegasus can’t even use a swing properly!”

Dandelion glared balefully at Pearl. This was a typical trick of hers – impossible to prove unless the teacher witnessed it personally, and Pearl never let that happen. She always made sure that no pony was watching before she pulled a stunt like that. This time though, that was going to backfire on her.

“You better stop doing that to me, or else!” Dandelion warned.

“Or else what? Gonna buck me again?” Pearl taunted, knowing that she could manipulate the situation in her favor. “I don’t think so. Now seeing as you can’t even use a swing properly, I think I’ll show you how it’s done.”

“Yeah, why don’t you do that?” Dandelion agreed with a smirk.

That disconcerted the unicorn filly for a moment, but she still grasped the chains holding the swing seat and started pulling herself onto it.

Dandelion put one wing to the steel chain. “Better watch out though, Pearl – that swing bites!” With that, she released the carefully stored static charge that she had reserved for just such an occasion, just as Blue Arc had shown her.

Pearl shrieked as the massive charge surged through her, frizzing her mane and tail, and leaving her in a twitching heap on the ground.

“Oops!” Dandelion said. “Don't say I didn't warn you.” She walked away in high satisfaction, wondering only if the bully would give her another chance to get a little more revenge.

 

 

 

* * *

Dandelion had to give Pearl some credit – it took only two more incidents to stop the unicorn harassing her, or at least physically anyway. On the third occasion, Pearl tried something in the classroom in a desperate attempt to make Dandelion look bad in front of the teacher. Blue Arc had anticipated this however because of his own experiences, and he had given Dandelion instructions on how to turn this to her advantage. A wire had been hidden leading from Dandelion’s desk to Pearl’s, and for the third time, Pearl was the recipient of a large but relatively harmless shock. Needless to say, screaming and twitching on the classroom floor did not impress Miss Chalkboard, and with Dandelion obviously out of reach two desks away, it was impossible to try blaming her despite suspicions. From that day forth, Pearl limited her attacks to verbal barbs, but they rarely bothered Dandelion. She knew who had the superior position, and her smug smile in response to the taunts infuriated the helpless bully.

A few months later, a new pegasus filly joined their class. Dandelion did not have to wait long for Pearl to show her colors and zero in on the shy newcomer, and she was ready to step in as soon as Pearl's verbal harassment began.

"You don't want to bother her, do you, Pearl?" Dandelion asked, pushing herself between the obnoxious bully and her potential victim. "We pegasi stick up for each other too, y'know?" The look she gave Pearl left the unicorn filly in no doubt of what would happen if she dared try her tricks on the new girl.

"Yeah - dirt sticks to dirt," Pearl sneered before turning away and leaving the two alone for now.

"Are you okay?" Dandelion asked the relieved filly.

"I'm fine, thanks. What's with her?" she asked, looking at the retreating Pearl.

"Just the class jerk who has a thing against pegasi like us. My name is Dandelion Dreams."

"I'm Summer Storm," the tan-colored filly with a red and yellow streaked mane replied.

"Well, Summer, if she gives you any more problems, just call on me. From now on, we're going to be the best of friends!"

For the first time, Summer smiled. "I think I'd like that."

* * *

Dandelion reported the success of their ploy to her father one evening as they sat out in the garden together to look at the stars in one of their father-daughter bonding occasions.

Cogs put his foreleg around Dandelion to hug her. “I’m glad that’s settled. No one gets hurt, and your mother won’t have to deal with Pearl’s parents again. There’s only one last thing that I want you to do for me.”

“What’s that, Daddy?”

“Promise me that you will never use that trick maliciously. I don’t want my daughter ever becoming a bully like Pearl.”

Dandelion thought about the pleasure that she had gotten from zapping Pearl, and despite her youth, she realized that she could easily start doing it for the fun of it rather than in self-defense. That would make her father sad though, and the thought of doing that to him made her shudder. “I promise, Daddy.”

“Thank you, Dandy. I love you, hon.”

“I love you too, Daddy.”

Cogs reflected on the incident – a crisis averted, a lesson learned, and a daughter’s welfare successfully attended to. He was not naïve enough to think that this would be the only major problem that his daughters would cause over the coming years, but for now everything was perfect, and he lapped up the pure love that she had for him. Whatever came in the future, she was worth it.

Author's Note:

These episodes will not necessarily be published in chronological order because I will be writing them as good ideas occur to me. However, there has to be a lot of potential for such an unusual family to have interesting incidents to relate. What do you think would or should happen with Dandelion and her family?

 
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