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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7. Who Am I? Part 1

Several months after Dandelion’s fifteenth birthday surprise, she pulled Fern into her room and said, “I want your opinion. Does this make me look more mature?” With that, she transformed into an older filly with different colored fur and mane.

“I see you've been practicing your unique changes. Not bad!”

“Do you think it’s enough to convince Black Ace that I’m fillyfriend material?”

“You’re not still chasing him?” Fern asked with a long-suffering sigh. “Sure, you look old enough, but you’re not going to convince him to be your coltfriend.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. I've watched those older fillies, and I've seen how they wave their manes and shake their plots to get his attention, and now I can do that too!”

“I keep saying this, but... don’t say that I didn't warn you,” Fern replied with a resigned look on her face, and left the room.

“Well, I’m just going to have to prove I’m right!” Dandelion said to Fern’s retreating backside.

* * *

Fern was walking past Dandelion’s room later that day when she heard what sounded like crying, and when she focused her empathic sense, she could feel the misery that her sister was feeling. Fern pushed open the door and saw Dandelion lying on her bed, her face buried in the pillow that was muffling the sound of her sobbing. Fern entered the room, closed the door behind her, and went over to sit on the edge of the bed.

“What happened, sis?” she asked gently.

For a long while, Fern wasn't sure that she was going to get an answer, but eventually the sobbing stopped.

“I did what I said I’d do. I caught Black Ace’s eye just as I said I could. Then it all went wrong.”

“What did he do to you?”

“He called me a child! Told me to go home and play with my toys!” Dandelion yelled in grief-stricken anger.

“Why would he do that?”

“I don’t know! I tried to talk with him, and he seemed to lose interest. The more I talked, the worse it got until he said that to me.”

Fern wished she hadn't seen this coming because her older sister was genuinely hurting. “I’m sorry, sis, and I really don’t want to rub this in, but he’s right – you are a child, at least relative to him and his interests. You may have looked grown-up, but you’re still just a fifteen year old with a fifteen year old’s experience and interests. Black Ace is eighteen and looking for adult companions. Until you have gained some more years, you aren't ever going to attract the interest of someone like him.”

“How could you know this? You’re not even thirteen yet! How can you be so sure that it’s all my fault?” Dandelion asked angrily.

“You’re not the only one with a special talent, remember? As long as I can recall, I've been able to feel emotions and see how people react. It’s made me think harder before I act, or even speak. That’s how I got my reputation for being a quiet child. I knew this could happen because I've felt it happen before in similar fashion. You’re just letting your emotions trample your logic.”

“Do you want to know how sick to death I am of hearing how I am just a pubescent filly with raging hormones? Don’t you think I can be something more despite being only fifteen?”

Fern got up from the bed and started towards the door. She stopped and looked back. “No, I don’t. You’re not ready yet. You’re only hurting yourself by trying, and hurting me by the unhappiness I feel that causes. Oh, and someone else who is very close to you already if you weren't so blind. Please stop and think of the consequences first before you try anything else.”

Dandelion did not even bother replying.

* * *

For lack of a better idea or opportunity, Dandelion did not try anything with Black Ace again for several months, although she did make trial advances on several other older colts with similar results. While her mood swings continued, she did manage to concentrate enough on the extra studies involved with starting as her father’s apprentice that he was satisfied with her efforts. It did not stop her pining for what she could not get.

Today was typical of many of the recent days, with Dandelion lamenting her woes to Summer Storm. As was so frequently the subject lately, Dandelion was complaining about how older colts like Black Ace would not pay any attention to her, and Summer commiserated with her.

Dandelion and Summer had been enjoying a flight together when they had passed over the parklands and spotted Black Ace with a couple of his fillyfriends enjoying the fine weekend weather also. Dandelion’s good mood had been soured by that sight, and she no longer felt like flying. “Let’s go to my place,” she suggested.

“Sure!” Summer agreed, and followed her down to the Wild Dreams shop where Dandelion’s father could be seen working on his usual Saturday maintenance chores. “Hi, Mister Cogs!” she called out and waved as they set down.

“Hi, Summer,” Cogs replied with a welcoming smile.

Going inside, Summer waved to Dandelion’s mother, but didn't say anything because Lavender was busy serving a customer at the time. Fern was also busy in her little corner of the shop where she displayed the results of her own passion – herbs. Cogs had built a glasshouse out the back especially for her to pursue her interest in herb growing, and it earned the filly some extra pocket money. Lavender had high hopes that Fern would join her in the business when she got older, just as Dandelion was following in her father’s hoofsteps.

“Hey, Fern, could I have some of your special pick-me-up blend?” Dandelion asked.

“Okay, but if you’re making herb shakes, I want one too,” Fern replied, selecting the requested herbs.

“Sure thing, thanks.”

Dandelion and Summer then went through the rear door to the house proper and headed for the kitchen. There Dandelion made the special herb shakes, giving one to Summer before taking another out to her sister. When she came back, she drank about two thirds of her shake before sighing in satisfaction.

“I needed that,” Dandelion said.

“Me too,” Summer replied. “So what do you want to do now?”

Dandelion snorted in semi-amusement. “What I want to do is go out on a date with Ace.”

“Yeah, that’s not happening unless you've thought of a brilliant foolproof plan since the last time he turned you down.”

Dandelion looked glum. “No, I haven’t. I just don’t know what to do to make him interested in me.”

Summer sucked thoughtfully on her shake before replying, “If only we knew how stallions think, or even what their fillyfriends say and do when we’re not around. Then we’d be able to do the same.”

Dandelion’s eyes suddenly widened in realization. “If only I was a stallion….”

Summer laughed. “Then you wouldn't be interested in Ace any more.”

No, but I’d learn what the older fillies do,’ Dandelion thought to herself. She gave Summer a knowing smile. “Maybe I have a plan after all.”

“Ooh! Tell me!”

“Nope. Can’t tell you this one.”

“Huh? Why not? We don’t keep secrets from each other.”

“Because this isn't just my secret, so I can’t give it away, but if it works, I’ll let you know what I find out.”

“Oh. Okay, I suppose. When are you going to do whatever you’re going to do?”

“Very soon, but first I have to prepare. I have to make sure everything is perfect!”

* * *

Dandelion had spent a lot of time in front of the mirror that evening, trying on different coat and mane patterns. The one thing that they had in common were that they were all on a male’s body. She had taken on the form of an older colt similar to Black Ace, but wanted a look that was distinctively different from his, but at least as handsome. She settled on a dark brownish-red coat with bright orange mane and tail. She designed a setting sun cutie mark and nodded in satisfaction. She had agonized for a while over whether to become a unicorn like him, but decided to remain a pegasus. If race was going to be an issue, she might as well find out straight away rather than be surprised later. Besides, she would look silly if she could not actually use the horn in situations where it would be expected. All that remained was to give her/himself a new name. “Sunset Blaze – yeah, that works,” she murmured. She memorized the final form, repeating the name until she was certain she had the association down pat. She went to bed that night with barely contained excitement for the next day.

The next morning, the first thing that Dandelion did was practice the new transformation. “Sunset Blaze!” she told herself, and with a flare of green magic, he stood there in her place. A grin grew on his face. “Oh yeah, the girls won’t be able to resist me.”

Dandelion resumed her normal form before grooming her fur and heading off to breakfast. She usually spent Sunday morning with her father, and did not really have an excuse to get out of that; not that she wanted to anyway. Her relationship with him was still strong despite the turbulence of puberty. Besides, she was more likely to find her targets after lunch, so she bided her time and enjoyed playing sky disc with her father, sister, and brother.

After lunch though, Dandelion excused herself, and flew off to a secluded spot in the nearby woods. There she transformed into Sunset Blaze and set out to check the most likely hangouts of the older teens. Everything was going to plan, and his confidence grew. The first places that he looked had plenty of mares and fillies, but not the group that he was looking for. They did seem rather attractive to him though, and he toyed with the idea of dallying there with them instead, but he eventually decided to stick to the original plan. The second place was no different, but again the females looked more enticing than usual. After noticing that his gaze was lingering on one particular filly for a while, Sunset was pleased to realize that his sense of perspective seemed to be different in this form, and that could only make his plan more of a success. He could hardly wait to see how it would work out with his target group, and so he moved on to the next likely location.

The Royal Bean was an open-air café that was one of the regular hangouts for teens, serving coffee to those old enough to like it, and shakes and smoothies to those who did not. Although Sunset once again did not find the particular fillies whom he was looking for, he did encounter another familiar face. Summer was there with her parents, apparently having stopped for refreshments during their own family day. Mischievously, he decided to go past their table and catch her eye. When he did so, he gave her an inviting smile and a wink.

Summer was surprised by the unexpected attention, and she blushed a little but returned the smile.

Sunset was surprised to feel a thrill at that. Rather than continuing on his quest, he took a table a little way from hers. Pretending to look at the menu, he occasionally took peeks in her direction. Then their eyes met and locked for a small eternity before he managed to tear his sight away. Then to his consternation, he began to feel a most unfamiliar but very insistent sensation from between his legs. Looking down, he realized with shock that he was getting aroused. He closed his legs in front of him to prevent it being seen, desperately trying not to think about what was happening to him. Inadvertently though, his attempts at concentrating on anything but his body brought his eyes back to Summer’s table.

The filly had watched Sunset react to her smile and was emboldened to return his wink. She smiled as he obviously liked that, and wondered why she had never seen him before.

Sunset groaned as his arousal grew stronger. Why was he reacting this way? He was only attracted to males… no… she was only attracted to males, but he was definitely male. Maybe too male. That had never been taken into consideration when making plans. Too late he realized that perhaps the transformation was much more than skin deep.

Sunset was saved by the arrival of the waitress who coincidentally positioned herself between him and Summer. Fortunately she was an older mare who did not provoke the same reaction as Summer did. He ordered an ice cold drink, and asked her to hurry. In the meantime, Summer’s parents got up from their table, having finished their refreshments. Summer followed with more than a little regret and a last backward glance at the handsome colt.

While waiting for his drink, Sunset did his best to think of the least sexy thoughts that he could. When the refreshment arrived, he drank it fast enough to give him brain freeze. That seemed to finally kill his arousal and, after a couple of minutes, he was able to leave the café and quickly head home.

* * *

Cogs was more than a little surprised when his eldest daughter burst into the room, grabbed him by the hoof, and practically dragged him into her room.

“Whoa! Where’s the fire, Dandy?”

“I really need to talk with you right now, Dad.”

“Should we get your mother too?”

“No! I mean, I’d rather not. This is kind of your specialty.”

Cogs was surprised yet again by the vehemence of the rejection. He knew that it had to be something very serious, and sincerely hoped that she was correct in her appraisal of his ability to help. “What’s bothering you, dear?”

“Let me show you something,” Dandelion said, and transformed back into Sunset Blaze.

Cogs was impressed. “You've been practicing hard. I can’t see a single thing wrong with your young stallion form.”

“That’s the problem, Dad,” Sunset replied in a rich masculine voice that further impressed Cogs. “It’s too perfect! I tried it out for the first time just a short while ago, and I… it was… oh sweet Celestia!”

Cogs was puzzled, and encouraged her to continue. “It’s okay. You can tell me whatever the problem is.”

Sunset’s lips quivered as he tried to speak, and he was horrified to realize that the mere memory of the incident was arousing him again. He desperately resumed his natural form. A filly once again, she started to calm down a little, and yet she still felt the lingering effects of the arousal.

Cogs patiently waited until Dandelion was ready to speak.

Finally Dandelion managed to put a sentence together. “Dad, I accidentally met Summer. She didn't know who I was, but I know her only too well. Everything that I like about her just seemed to be so much more attractive to me then. So attractive that I was getting turned on. Dad, I got an erection!”

Cogs understood how that could be embarrassing in public, but that obviously was not exactly what was bothering her. “That’s hardly surprising, dear. You’re young and full of hormones, and you’re definitely a good match for each other.”

“But I’m female! I like boys! Why was I suddenly so attracted to a filly?”

Suddenly Cogs realized where the problem lay. “No, hon. You’re a filly now, but then you were a colt, and you were feeling perfectly normal reactions for a colt of your age. I know – your mother made sure that I understood what it was like for pony children of both sexes.”

“What are you saying, Dad? Are you telling me that the transformations are more than just a disguise?”

“Yes, Dandy, I’m saying exactly that. They are not illusions or changes to your appearance; they are profound transformations that change your actual physical nature. You did not just change to look like a male, you actually became a male, and you gained everything that male would have, including rampaging male hormones apparently.”

“Oh my goddess! I’m really sexually attracted to my best friend!”

Cogs looked a little perplexed. “Surely you've tried a male form before this?”

“Why should I? I’m a female, so I always transformed into other kinds of females. This was my first time trying a male. Not counting when I accidentally transformed into you, that is, and I sure wasn't thinking about sex then!”

Cogs gave her a reassuring hug. “I’m sorry, Dandy. Once again I've made a false assumption. Changelings just don’t think that way. To us, our sex is a matter of convenience. I could never have taken the form of Mystery Mare and acquired the sperm donations if I hadn't truly been a female in form and feeling. It’s only our gender that is a matter of choice. I have a masculine nature, so I chose to be a male pegasus. Our former doctor, Healing Hooves, had a feminine nature, and chose to be a female unicorn. Now you have the same kind of choice. You can be physically male or female equally, but up here…” He tapped her on the forehead, “…you can be whatever you choose to be.”

“I've been female all my life – why would I suddenly choose to be male?”

“Some ponies are born one sex, but identify with the other. You have yet to mature into an adult, and your understanding of your gender is obviously still in flux. What is your heart telling you? You have been the closest of friends with Summer since you were little more than a foal, and I've watched your relationship with her grow all that time. One encounter with her as a colt, and you were instantly aroused?”

“Yeah, by those rampaging hormones you mentioned,” Dandelion scoffed.

“Oh? Tell me honestly – was Summer the first filly that you saw as a colt? Or even the first female?”

Dandelion recalled her plan for searching for some ponies, and how many mares and fillies were looked at before encountering Summer. “No, she wasn't.”

“Then why weren't you aroused earlier?”

Dandelion replied hesitantly, “Because… male me saw her as a potential mate and not the others?”

“Exactly. My darling daughter, for years before I came to this village, I had always avoided any relationships, but it took less than a month for me to realize that your mother was my ideal mate. Don’t ignore the possibility that yours might be another filly because your future happiness could be right there under your muzzle. I’m not saying that a sexual reaction is necessarily a guarantee that she’s the one for you, but it certainly is a good indication that you have stronger feelings for her than the average female that you’ve met so far.”

“Are you encouraging me to be a male?” Dandelion asked incredulously.

“No, honey, I’m encouraging you to learn to know yourself. The fact that you’re so confused and upset shows that you need to understand your masculine responses and how they might relate to Summer.”

“But who am I then? Am I a filly or a colt?”

“Why not both? You are in what might be a unique position – a shape-changing pony who can be a true male or female at will. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one if that’s not your nature.”

“You’re not going to tell me that Mom is going to agree with that?” Dandelion replied incredulously.

Cogs grimaced. “Probably not, at least at first. Your mother is very much the pragmatist though. Once she understands what the situation is, she won’t get in the way. She loves you very much, and wants you to be happy just as much as I do.”

“Dad, I still feel confused. Did you have to go through this too?”

Cogs shook his head. “After we pupate, we are just small versions of our adult selves. We eat, we grow, and we learn, but we don’t have the sexual tensions. Of course we’re basically neuter anyway, except for queens and the small number of breeders. We drones only get interested in sex if we start interacting with beings who are interested in it, and that’s usually ponies. It’s a matter of feeding on the emotions of love and desire that turn us on, instead of hormones.” Suddenly something occurred to him. “Oh, Tartarus! Fern is sensitive to emotions and will be getting hormonal soon also. We might have to find some way of coping with a sex-crazed daughter.”

Suddenly Dandelion’s problems did not seem quite so big when she considered what her sister might be facing in the near future. Nevertheless, it was still daunting. “Dad, if what you said is true and I have feelings for Summer that go beyond friendship, I might have to tell her our secret if I follow your advice.”

“I know, hon. Take your time and think about this. Try to figure out exactly how you feel about Summer, and above all whether it’s reciprocated. It could be a life-changing decision that you make, and it’s not something to be rushed, no matter how you feel right now. When you feel you’re ready, bring her to dinner one night. I’ll tell your mother what to expect. In fact, let me explain this whole situation to her. You've got too much to think about already.”

“Thanks. That would be great,” she replied with a surge of gratitude.

Cogs hugged her again and said, “Always remember this, Dandy – I can love my firstborn if they are a son just as much as they are a daughter, and that’s an awful lot.”

“Now you’re getting all mushy, Dad,” Dandelion replied, but there was a small smile on her muzzle and a tear glistening in her eye as she returned the hug.

* * *

Dandelion left the house and took off, looking for a quiet place to think. She spotted a small cloud drifting over the village and headed for that. It was sufficiently high and insignificant for her purposes, and she settled down onto it, laying her head on her forelegs while looking down upon the village.

 

 

How did I not see how complicated things had gotten,’ she thought to herself. ‘I figured that this ability to shape-change was going to fun and useful, but instead it’s brought me mostly heartache and confusion. One thing’s for sure – nothing is what I've thought it was before.

She spotted Black Ace emerging from a shop, a trio of fillies in tow. Dandelion snorted in bitter amusement. Even now she could feel the tug of desire for the dashing stallion, but unlike all times previously, she acknowledged that it stemmed mostly from teenage lust rather than anything more suitable in terms of a relationship. “What has he going for him besides his exceptionally handsome looks?” she murmured, forcing herself to put aside her desire and look at him objectively. “Athletic? He plays fairly well at unicorn-only sports that require magic. None of those more physical ones that might mar his perfect good looks though. Hardly a sports star. Smarts? He coasted through school, satisfied with scraping through with a passing grade. If he’s more intelligent than that, he certainly doesn't bother showing it. He hasn't bothered to pursue any real career since graduation though. Charisma? Cartloads of that, but that wouldn't get him a job. It would get lots of mares chasing him however. Probably plans on getting a large herd and letting them support him for the rest of his life. A parasite in other words.”

Dandelion sighed and then cursed herself. Even after that assessment, she still wanted to be a member of that herd. She finally realized though that her chances were zero because he was going to pick only those mares that had something to offer him, and she was too young and unexceptional, at least in ways that would interest him.

She turned her thoughts to the fillies. “So, do I have feelings towards females? They’re pretty, and I know some of them would make good mates, but I don’t feel anything strong in particular towards any of them. What if I was a stallion though?” She looked all around to see if she might be observed, then seeing that the coast was clear, changed into Sunset Blaze.

He took another look at the fillies, concentrating on taking them in just as female ponies rather than people, and he felt the swell of desire. “Damn, I’m a horny colt!” he exclaimed with a touch of bitterness. It was all true, it seemed – none of his feelings were anything except hormone-fueled lust. No matter what sex he was, his teenage desires were all base biological ones rather than anything more substantial. Or maybe not? There was still the question of how he felt about Summer. She had always been his friend since the day they had met. They had both been just five years old, and it would not have mattered if he had been a colt or a filly then, but they weren't foals any more.

“We’re both fifteen going on sixteen. We’re both on the cusp of becoming adults. Maybe I’m seeing more in Summer than just a friend? She’s smart, supportive, fun to be with, not afraid to tell me things that she thinks I need to know even if I don’t like them… everything Dad saw in Mom. Am I so much like my father that I want a mate who is like my mother?”

He suddenly spotted Summer winging her way in the direction of his home, and he ducked back behind the cloud so that she would not spot him. He realized that this was the time that she normally finished her usual family time on Sundays, and came to meet up with Dandelion after she had done the same. He watched her enter the house and caught himself admiring her rump. “Tartarus! I left out sexy when I assessed her qualities.” He had always admired her red and gold mane and tail, but now she seemed so much more appealing. She was maturing into a beautiful young mare, and he had hardly noticed until now. However, how much of those feelings were stoked by his male hormones?

The cloud was limned with green as Sunset changed back into Dandelion. She knew Summer would come looking for her, and she wanted to reassess her feelings as a female when her friend found her. Summer soon exited the house and took off into the air, gaining height so as to search more effectively. As pegasi were wont to do, she looked in all directions including up, and her keen eyesight quickly spotted Dandelion. She flew up to meet her, stopping to hover in front of her.

“You look pretty glum. What’s wrong?” Summer Storm asked.

“I've had some nasty shocks today,” Dandelion admitted.

“Can I join you and we can talk about them?”

“If you can find the room on this little cloud.”

Dandelion shuffled over as best as she could, and Summer landed next to her. Despite the cloud-walking magic of two pegasi, the little cloud darkened as it took the strain of supporting both of them.

“Oops! I hope this doesn't drizzle on somepony!” Summer exclaimed as she settled down close to Dandelion. It was a little too snug, and their wings were rather squashed together. Summer lifted her wing out of the way and laid it over Dandelion’s torso. “Ah, that’s much better.”

Dandelion was startled by the familiar gesture, although looking back she realized that it was not the first time that Summer had done something similar lately. She just had not paid any attention to them then, but now it seemed she was hyper-aware of everything she did. Dandelion’s wing was still a bit uncomfortable, so she decided to follow suit to see what happened. After wriggling around a bit to maneuver her wing in the cramped space, she laid it over Summer’s body and partially around her neck. Dandelion noticed that Summer was also a little startled, but her friend still snuggled in a bit more closely. It felt nice – really nice.

Before Dandelion could comment, Summer said, “So what’s got you feeling so down?”

Dandelion hesitated, wondering just what she could say. She decided to start off with a confession. “You were right, and I’ve been an idiot.”

“Well, yeah, but about what this time?” Summer replied with a teasing grin.

Dandelion let the comment slide. “About chasing after Ace. I have been just hormone-soaked fool.”

Summer was immediately conciliatory. “I’m sorry that you've been hurt by that, but at least the worst that has happened is wounded pride and a bit of embarrassment. I won’t rub it in – I just didn't want you to waste your time and effort over him. Time to move on and perhaps find a coltfriend who is better suited to you.”

“I’m not so sure that I want to do that right now.”

“I understand. What brought about this epiphany of yours anyway?”

“Sorry, Rainy, but I’m not quite ready to talk about that yet.”

“Okay, I won’t push you. Mind if I talk about something that’s related that happened to me though?”

Dandelion could guess what subject she was going to bring up, and she really felt the need to know Summer’s impression of the incident. “Go right ahead. I’m all ears.”

“Today, while I was with my parents, we stopped at The Royal Bean for drinks. While we were there, a handsome young stallion whom I’ve never seen before passes by. He smiled and winked at me, and he stayed to order a drink. I could tell that he only stopped because of me, and when our gazes met, he stared at me as if he’d seen the filly of his dreams.”

“You’re just imagining that!” Dandelion scoffed, knowing that her friend had practically hit the nail on the head. She needed to be sure that Summer was not making the same mistake as she had.

“No, I’m not!” Summer protested. “I mean, yeah, I felt a sexual response when he first winked at me. Who wouldn't? He was a gorgeous deep reddish brown with a fiery orange mane, maybe seventeen or eighteen years old and a delightful smile. If I hadn't been there with my parents, I would have gone over and introduced myself, but I settled for having another look. That’s when our eyes met. I could tell that he was just as surprised as me at the attraction. It was as if we already knew so much about each other, but our eyes had just been opened to just how much we liked what we saw.”

Dandelion groaned. Summer had just described exactly how she had felt, and it just added to her quandary. Was she really attracted to Summer, or was it just a male-female thing?

Summer misinterpreted Dandelion’s reaction though. “I’m not just making this up! While you were mooning over Ace, I was practicing a lot of self-control about fantasizing over colts. This was different. This was real.”

“Sorry, Rainy, I wasn't trying to mock you. It just reminded me of the stupid things that I imagined. What happened after that?”

Summer snickered. “He tried to hide it, but he was getting turned on, right there in the café. I have to admit that I was flattered. Also very, very frustrated because my parents wanted to leave right about then, and I had to go.”

“So what are you going to do now?” Dandelion asked, hoping that Summer could not feel the blush that she was experiencing right then.

“Well, after I finished my day out with Dad and Mom, I took a brief flight around the village, hoping that I would spot the stallion before coming over to your place.”

“No luck, I assume?”

Summer shook her head. “Not a sign. He disappeared as quickly as he first appeared. I’ll keep an eye open for him and ask around. Maybe I’ll get lucky.”

“If I see him, I’ll let him know where to find you,” Dandelion promised.

“Thanks. Maybe he’ll like you too? We could share a coltfriend like we share everything else.”

“Are you sure about that, Rainy?”

“You know, I don’t think I could imagine doing anything without you, Dandy,” Summer replied sincerely.

That startled and pleased Dandelion, and she nuzzled Summer gratefully. “Thank you, Rainy. You've made me feel a lot better.”

Summer accepted the nuzzle with one of her own before saying, “You’re very welcome, Dandy. Now, who wants to go flying?”

Dandelion stood up and said, “Yeah, I’d like to stretch my wings for a while. How about a race?”

“Only if I get a head start!” Summer said as she took off.

Dandelion was left with a view of her receding rump and, as she took off in pursuit, she wondered if she really wanted to overtake that lovely sight. Then she wondered where that thought came from.

* * *

Dandelion used the afternoon’s normal activities to take her mind off her predicament, but that night as she lay in bed, all the day’s events replayed over and over again in her mind. It all came back to two very important questions – did she actually like being male, and did she have deep-seated feelings for Summer irrespective of her gender? It was still too soon after her wake-up call with regards to Black Ace to have any confidence in the answer to the latter, but at least she could test the former. With a decision made, she was finally able to get to sleep.

The next few days proved too awkward to put her plans into effect, so she settled for becoming Sunset Blaze in the evenings after retiring to her room for the night.

Sunset did not try to do anything in particular that he thought stallions might do, but instead just followed normal routine, trying to let whatever should come naturally happen in its own good time. He was most disconcerted the first time that he needed to go to the toilet to relieve his bladder, and morning wood was very embarrassing despite nobody there to witness it, but other than those, things were fairly normal other than his thoughts dwelling on Summer a bit more than usual. That was all in the controlled environment of his home though, and he knew that he needed to go back out in public soon.

After school on Thursday, Dandelion made an excuse to part ways with Summer, and after finding a secluded spot, changed into Sunset. Then he flew to intercept Summer to ‘accidentally’ encounter her. He caught up to her at the baker’s shop where she had stopped to pick up some buns that she had promised to bring home with her after school. He bumped against her at the counter, murmuring an apology.

Summer turned and started to say, “No problem…” and her jaw dropped. “You… you’re that stallion I saw at the café on Sunday!”

Sunset gave her a cheeky smile. “I remember you. Are you following me around? Please say yes!”

Summer giggled. “If you insist!”

“I hope it’s not too forward of me, but I was hoping that I would see you again,” Sunset said.

“I was hoping that I wasn't imagining the attraction that you and I shared. Otherwise, I’ll have made a fool of myself in front of my best friend.”

“No, it may have been surprising, but it was real. I’d like to find out if it could be more.”

Summer looked uncertain for a moment. “I’d really like to find out too, but I’m still a filly. I don’t turn sixteen for another two weeks.”

Sunset smiled reassuringly. “Relax – I’m younger than I look too. I just want to hang out with you a bit and see if we could at least be friends for starters.”

“I think I’d like that then. How about tomorrow? I’ll be free after school.”

“Tomorrow sounds great. Where do you want to meet?”

“How about where we first met? I can go there right after class lets out.”

“Good idea. We can re-start where we left off, perhaps?” Sunset said with a waggle of one eyebrow.

Summer giggled again. She could not believe how perfectly things were working out. “I’ll be looking forward to it.” She grabbed her bag of buns and made a hasty exit before her blush became obvious to everyone in the shop.

The pony behind the counter said, “Did you want anything, sir?”

Sunset just smiled and said, “No, thanks. I think I've already gotten what I wanted.”

* * *

Summer could hardly wait to tell Dandelion the next day about her meeting with Sunset. It was only then that she realized that she had forgotten to ask what his name was. Nevertheless, her excitement remained undimmed.

“You've got to see him, Dandy! I think he’s a couple of years older than us, but he still likes a filly like me. Maybe he’ll like you too.”

“Rainy, I’d sooner roll around in a cactus patch than barge into your date with your mysterious stranger. You go and enjoy yourselves. I’ll hang around out of sight to catch a glimpse of him though, so I’ll know exactly whom you’re gushing over.”

“Are you sure? We usually go catch a movie together on Friday nights. I don’t want to leave you out of things.”

“What? You think that I'm afraid that you’re planning to dump me now that you have a coltfriend? Don’t be silly, Rainy – we’ll have plenty of opportunities to hang out as normal. I’ll survive being without you for one evening.”

“Thanks, Dandy. I’m just so excited about this.”

“Believe me, I’m just as excited for you.”

It seemed like the day dragged on longer than normal, but eventually the final bell of the day rang, and school was over for the week. Summer and Dandelion wasted no time in packing away their things in their lockers, and then heading off to The Royal Bean. Dandelion stopped short of the café though.

“I’m going to find a spot around here to watch. After I've seen him and things seem to be going okay, I’ll let you two enjoy yourselves. Then I’ll go home and have a meal by myself, and cry bitterly about the unfairness of it all.”

Summer stuck her tongue out at Dandelion. “Too late to play that card, Dandy. Don’t tread in any cacti on the way home!” She then trotted off to her rendezvous.

Dandelion grinned. She loved seeing her best friend so happy and excited about meeting Sunset. If everything worked out, she would feel very happy too. Just as long as everything kept working to plan, maybe she would know herself, or himself, better also. Belatedly, she realized that she had better leave and find a secluded place to change.

A few minutes later, Sunset came to a perfect landing right in front of the table where Summer was waiting.

“I’m sorry if I kept you waiting. I forgot to ask exactly when you got out of school.”

“That’s okay – I forgot to ask you your name. I've had to refer to you as ‘that handsome stallion’ all day!”

“I've been called worse, but I would prefer it if you call me Sunset Blaze. And what would be the name of ‘that gorgeous filly’, may I ask?”

“I’m Summer Storm.”

“A storm with a silver lining, I see by your cutie mark. Planning to be a weather pony?”

“I’m aiming to be an extreme weather specialist. It looks to be more exciting than general weather work.”

“Funny that you should say that. I’m pretty good at lightning wrangling.”

“My best friend’s uncle is a lightning wrangler. He taught her a lot of tricks of the trade.”

“So you’re saying I have competition?” he asked with a smile.

Summer laughed. “Not for a couple of years, at least, and probably not even then. She’s training as an apprentice mechanic under her father.”

“So I can look forward to maybe teaming up with you one day then?”

“Maybe. Have you moved to Whitetail Meadows Village? I've never seen you around before last Sunday.”

“I’m kind of passing through. I’m stopping here for a couple of weeks though. Maybe I’ll stay for a bit longer, if I have the incentive.”

“Maybe I can find it for you.”

“Maybe you can. Tell me more about yourself, Miss Silver Lining.”

Summer giggled at the nickname, but did as she had been asked. She found him incredibly easy to talk to, and far more understanding of what fillies were interested in than she thought any colt would know. He was witty, always smiling, and that incredible sense of comfortable familiarity grew every minute. It came as a shock to her when she realized that the time had gotten away from them, and she was almost overdue to get home. She made a hasty apology to Sunset, promised to see him again soon, and then took off for home.

Sunset watched her go with a mixture of disappointment and elation. He understood why she had to leave, and he needed to get home also, but the evening had been going so well that he had been loathe to let it end. He took wing and headed towards his house, thinking about what he would do the next time they met up.

When he arrived, he realized that he couldn't change outside. The flare of green magic that accompanied the change would be far too obvious in the twilight. Nor could he go inside first because his brother would likely be there, and he was still not privy to their secret. If he went off somewhere to change, he could be late for curfew, and although he was fairly certain that his parents would be fairly forgiving, he did not want to give them cause to reconsider their fairly lax rules. He looked up towards the tiny balcony that was outside of his room, and realized that he could probably enter through the window there. The lock was notoriously unreliable, and he never remembered to fix it. He flew up and tried the window, and as expected, the lock sprung and he was able to enter, but not without a loud creak as it swung open.

“Yeah, another thing to remember to fix sometime,” he murmured with annoyance.

He drew the blinds, and was finally able to change unobserved. She then made her way downstairs to let her parents know that she was home. Then she had to explain why she had come from upstairs and not in through the door. Oops.

That night as she lay in bed, Dandelion re-ran the evening with Summer in her head, trying to recapture what she had felt as Sunset Blaze. It was proving harder than expected because as she only now was realizing, she had lost sight of her goal of studying her reactions as a stallion, and had been engrossed with enjoying the evening with Summer instead. It did seem to reinforce one thing though – she did have feelings for her that extended beyond mere friendship. At least that was true when she was a stallion. Would that still be true in her natural sex? Did she even want it to be true? She still was not sure, but there would be time yet to find out. Sunset Blaze was not going away for a while yet, and both he and she would be looking for answers.

* * *

Over the next couple of weeks, Dandelion divided her time with Summer in both her normal and male forms. Summer was apologetic for not being with Dandelion as much as normal, but Dandelion insisted that she take advantage of Sunset’s presence in the village for as long as it lasted. Seeing that he had continued to point out that he was just passing through, it lent some urgency to their socializing. Of course that was exactly what Dandelion wanted, because while Summer could see it as a temporary thing, she could justify taking some time away from Dandelion, while Dandelion could excuse herself from butting into their relationship without arousing suspicion. That worked fine right up until Summer invited Sunset to her birthday party.

“I turn sixteen this Friday, and I am going to have a birthday party at my place with my closest friends. I would really like you to be there too,” Summer told Sunset with a hopeful look on her face.

Sunset already knew about the party because he would already be going as Dandelion. He could not understand why he had totally overlooked the possibility of Summer wanting Sunset there also, and was left floundering for a response.

Summer was disappointed by his lack of enthusiasm for the invitation. “What’s wrong? Don’t you want to come to my party?”

“Believe me, I do, but I’m not sure that I can be there because of other commitments,” he extemporized.

“You've always been so mysterious about these other commitments of yours. You talk with me about so many things, but you won’t talk about that. Are they really more important than spending that time with me?”

“Their importance is relative, but I can’t be in two places at once. I've always said that I can’t always be here for you, and you know that.”

“I do, but this is very important to me. Can’t you make an exception this time?” Summer pleaded.

Sunset thought hard. Maybe he could find a way to make it work? “I’ll think about it and let you know tomorrow. Perhaps I can squeeze in a brief appearance.”

Summer hugged him. “Thanks! I know that you’ll do your best.”

The best that Dandelion could come up with though was to ask her father for help, and that was not going to be easy. Although she had told him that she was experimenting with being male for a while, she had not explained that it was by being Summer’s coltfriend. Somehow she suspected that he was not going to be impressed.

“Dad, I need to ask a very, very big favor from you.”

Cogs asked, “And what would that favor be? Don’t say an advance on your allowance.”

“No, nothing like that. I need you to stand in for me briefly at Summer’s birthday party.”

That intrigued Cogs. “Now why would you need me to do that?”

“Because I need to be there as my male alter ego too. Summer just invited Sunset also, and really wants him there.”

Cogs frowned. “Are you telling me that Summer’s coltfriend, Sunset Blaze, has been you all the time? When I told you to find out what it was like to be a stallion, I didn't mean that you should go out and deceive your best friend.”

“It wasn't meant to be malicious, Dad! I told you how I felt the first time that I met Summer as a stallion, and I needed to know if there was more to it than just sexual attraction. I just combined my goals.”

“But you used your best friend,” Cogs pointed out.

“I made her happy! She loves having a coltfriend, and I always said that it could only be temporary as I would be moving on. That way, there would be no commitments made that would need to be broken.”

Cogs sighed. “Dandy, relationships don’t work that way. You can’t just schedule a few weeks of being a coltfriend and then expect no repercussions when you break it off. If my sense of how she’s been feeling lately is correct, it’s going to hurt when Sunset Blaze leaves.”

Dandelion looked downcast. “I… never meant to do that. I only wanted to make her happy while sorting out my own confusion about my gender identity.”

Cogs put a foreleg around his daughter and gave her a reassuring squeeze. “I understand – you’re a teenager making a teenager’s mistake. Celestia knows I made a few of my own while trying to be a real pegasus. I can’t see any really good way out of this, so I’m going to do you that favor. However, it’s on one condition.”

“What’s that, Dad?” Dandelion asked with some trepidation.

“I want you to come clean and tell her everything. Not at her party – I won’t have that spoiled, but sometime soon.”

Dandelion thought about it for a couple of minutes while her father patiently waited. She came to a decision. “My birthday is nine days later. I don’t want a party this time. I’d just like to invite Summer over to spend the day with me, and share in the usual family celebration. I’ll tell her everything then. Is that okay?”

“What about Sunset Blaze?”

“He’s going to announce that he’ll be out of town after Summer’s birthday. I won’t say that it’s forever, so she won’t be too unhappy in his absence. Frankly, I don’t want him to go; I've come to like my male alter ego.”

“Are you going to be prepared to have your birthday upset by the repercussions of your revelation?” Cogs asked.

“I really don’t know, but I do want this secret to end, and I don’t know if I can really celebrate if I can’t be honest with someone who is so close to me.”

“Then I hope for the best for you two. I’m also grounding you after Summer’s birthday party as punishment for deceiving her. Any objections?”

“No, Dad,” Dandelion replied meekly.

“Good. Now let’s work out the details of your favor.”

* * *

Sunset promised to make an appearance early at Summer’s party, insisting that he needed to leave town soon thereafter for a while. That was enough to satisfy Summer, and on the day, the visit went without a hitch. At one point Dandelion excused herself to go to the bathroom, but instead surreptitiously left the house. It was Cogs in disguise who returned, while she transformed into Sunset and went to the front door to announce his arrival. Cogs did not have to do much to maintain the illusion that both Dandelion and Sunset were present at the same time, although he was amused when Summer introduced him so enthusiastically to ‘her’. For the rest of the time while Sunset was there, much of the focus was on him and Summer, so Cogs was not pressed hard to keep up the pretense of being Dandelion. He also got to observe exactly how Sunset and Summer related to each other, and tasted of their emotions. He wondered if his daughter even realized the depths of her own feelings. Then Sunset regretfully announced that he had to leave, and Cogs slipped out during the distraction to exchange places with Dandelion once again. Cogs went home happy in the knowledge that Summer’s birthday looked like being a very pleasant one, but a lot concerned about his daughter.

Dandelion had more difficulty explaining to Summer why she was being grounded afterwards, passing it off as a private family matter. Her grounding was lifted on Saturday though, on the condition that she spent the day with Summer. That was perfectly fine with Dandelion though. Although she was no longer being Sunset, she still wanted to spend her time with Summer, and it was pleasant to go back to doing some of the old routine with her.

Sunday started just as well. Summer was excused from her normal family day outings for the special occasion, and instead spent all day with Dandelion and her family. In the absence of the usual birthday party for Dandelion, the girls were treated to a special luncheon at a restaurant. Then they were left by themselves to enjoy the rest of the day as they saw fit until it came time for the family dinner.

Summer Storm had often eaten dinner with Dandelion’s family, but never before as part of a private family celebration. Dandelion had been quite insistent though, so naturally she had come. Nevertheless, it was a fairly typical mealtime, with the single exception of Dandelion looking a bit antsy occasionally. When the meal was finished though, Lavender excused herself.

Come along with me, Forest,” Lavender said. “Your sister has something to talk about that doesn't concern you.”

“Aw! Do I have to?” Forest whined.

“Yes, you do. One day when you’re older, I’ll explain why.”

Lavender took Forest Breeze up to his room, and Summer sensed that for whatever reason she had been invited to this family event, it was going to happen now. She was not disappointed.

Dandelion seemed to brace herself as she took a deep breath, then turned to Summer. “Something happened last year when I turned fifteen – something really big that changed my life in unique and permanent ways. Then a few weeks ago, part of that change manifested in a way that has had my head spinning ever since, and it’s going to affect you also. Probably a lot too, but after tonight, things are going to be very different.”

“Wow! You make it sound so mysterious and thrilling,” Summer said with a small smirk.

Dandelion gave a little chuckle and said, “I suppose I did, but it’s true. Firstly, I’m going to tell you our family secret, and I must ask you to swear to never divulge this to any pony.”

“Come on, Dandy! You know I’d never tell one of your secrets.”

“Yeah, but this is a family secret, and I’m asking on their behalf also.”

Summer shrugged. “Okay. I swear to keep whatever secret that you are about to tell me.”

“Thanks, Rainy. My father is a changeling.” Dandelion just hit her with that and waited for a response.

Summer stared at Dandelion for a long moment, and then said, “Seriously?”

Dandelion nodded. “Honest, he is.”

Cogs nodded, adding, “I really am a changeling.”

“This is too late for an April Foals joke, y’know?”

Dandelion looked at Cogs. “Dad?”

Cogs nodded, and with the usual flare of green magic, transformed into his changeling form and waved one holey leg. “See? One hundred percent genuine changeling.”

Summer gaped in shock. “But… I've known you almost all my life, and I never suspected.”

Cogs changed back to his pegasus form and replied, “I think that’s the point of being a changeling. We blend in. We make friends. Sometimes we even fall in love and have a family.”

“But we learned in biology class that you can’t breed with ponies.”

Dandelion answered for Cogs, “Short version – magical intervention by Auntie Twilight. I am definitely his daughter, and I know it because I inherited more than my eye color from him.”

“You’re a pegasus though, not a changeling too, right?”

“Right. I’m definitely a pegasus, and if you don’t believe me, you can ask Auntie Twilight the next time she’s here. However, it’s an ability that I inherited from him that will affect you.”

“More than finding out that your best friend’s dad is a changeling?” Summer said incredulously.

“Much more, and I only found that out myself when I turned fifteen. I can shape-change too.”

“Prove it!”

“I intend to.” With that, Dandelion transformed into her mother.

Summer gaped in awe. “Oh, wow!”

“I even sound like Mom when I copy her form,” Dandelion said.

“You do! I can’t tell the difference at all. Can I see more?”

Dandelion transformed into Twilight Sparkle. “Before you ask, no, I’m not a real alicorn. I just look like her.”

“It’s still impressive. What else can you do?”

“I can not only copy other ponies, but I can make original forms also. You may have seen this older filly around occasionally.” Dandelion then transformed into the very first completely unique form that she had ever created. “It took me months to get the hang of making an alter ego that was completely unique rather than a copy of another pony. Remember back when I said I had an idea for finding out what Black Ace liked in fillies?”

Summer nodded. “Yes, I do. You never came back with an answer though.”

“That’s because I found out the hard way that looking eighteen didn't make me eighteen. I was rather humiliated by the experience.”

“No wonder you didn't want to talk about it. Hey! If you can do all that, can you do a stallion also?”

Dandelion looked at Summer in jaw-dropping surprise before saying, “It took me many months after that before I even thought of trying out a male form, and you brought it up in minutes.”

Summer shrugged apologetically. “What can I say – I've had a certain stallion on my mind lately, and the idea just popped into my head.”

“I see. At this point, I apologize profusely for what I’m going to reveal to you.” Dandelion then changed into Sunset Blaze.

It was Summer’s turn to drop her jaw in surprise. “Oh sweet Celestia! You look just like him. That’s even more incredible. You hardly even met him and yet you've copied him perfectly!”

“No, Summer,” he began in his warm male tones, “I haven’t copied Sunset – I am Sunset Blaze.”

Summer’s expression froze, staring in shock at Sunset. “No, it can’t be! It’s been you all this time? Was it all just a huge joke at my expense?”

“No it wasn't, I swear. When I accidentally first met you at the café, all I intended to do was a little harmless tease, but something totally unexpected happened. You know it too. When our eyes met and we could not turn away, something happened between us. Summer, I don’t just look male, I am male in this form, and every fiber of my being is doing now what it was doing then – screaming at me that this is the pony whom I want to share my life with. Summer Storm, I think I've fallen in love with you!”

Even Cogs was a little surprised to hear that admission. For Summer, it was like a bolt out of the blue. Her jaw worked as she tried to form words. Abruptly she turned away and galloped for the door.

“Summer! Come back!” Sunset cried, then reverted to her natural form to follow, but Cogs stuck out a foreleg and stopped her. “What are you doing, Dad?”

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