Conversations in a Canterlot Café

Frothy Brew is the barista in the Canterlot café owned by himself, his wife, and his daughter. Years of hard work had made the café a successful and modestly popular place to stop and get a drink or a snack. Nothing prepared him though for it to become a hub of interaction with the undisguised changelings that were being seen more often in the streets of Canterlot. Can he put aside his feelings for the species though after witnessing the most horrifying aspect of the invasion years ago?
This story runs concurrently with the latter part of my Change of Life story. While reading that and Prelude To Change is not necessary, they do give valuable background that is glossed over in "Conversations". Cover art and story illustrations are all done by Foxenawolf.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/192085/conversations-in-a-canterlot-caf

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12. Chapter 12: Change of Heart

Monday mornings were always extra busy, so Frothy did not get an opportunity to chat with Peach to find out if she had made any decision before they both took a break after the rush had died down. Nevertheless he did not wish to seem pushy on the subject, and so he waited to see if she brought the subject up herself.

“Y’know, I didn’t really get to sleep quickly last night,” Peach began. “You had me thinking too hard about me and Archer.”

“But did you reach any conclusions?” Frothy asked in his most tactful voice.

Peach sighed. “Yeah, I did. I realized eventually that if I had to think that hard about it, I wasn’t in love with him, but I really seriously do like him a lot, and I don’t want to spoil that.”

“Hmm, I see. I think you need a little perspective.”

Peach looked at her father intently, her curiosity aroused. “Oh? And what would that be?”

“What do you know about how your mother and I got together?”

“I know that Weighty Words introduced you two back when you were doing business studies. Then you started dating, and eventually got married.”

Frothy waved a hoof dismissively. “Accurate enough, but lacking in important details.”

“Care to elucidate then?” Peach said, resting her chin on her hoof and paying close attention.

“When Weighty introduced us, we of course had no idea that she was also matchmaking. Now I know that she’s a changeling, I have a better understanding of why and how she saw that we’d be compatible, but back then we were just study-buddies. We each had strengths in different areas, and helped each other in the weak areas. We were both so intent on our studies, and so comfortably familiar with each other, that it was weeks before it occurred to either of us to ask the other out on a date. In fact it was the end of the semester when we had more free time before we got around to it.”

“Gee, you really couldn’t keep your hooves off each other, could you?” Peach said drolly.

Frothy grinned. “Well, it’s not as if I was totally oblivious, but yeah, we were very focused on our studies to the exclusion of most everything else. I think that’s one reason that Weighty Words put us together though. She knew what both of us had to learn, and that is you can’t ignore living your life just to build a business. When we did start dating, we suddenly realized how much we had been missing out on, and when the next semester started, we continued dating. To our surprise, it really didn’t affect our studies much at all. We did take our time learning more about each other though, and the things that we liked. However, there was no one point where either of us could say that we had fallen in love. It was a gradual thing built up over time, and then one day after a particularly pleasant evening out, Cherry said that she would love to do that more often, and I said something totally unromantic like perhaps we could build a business together so that we’d always be able to have time off together also. She retorted that maybe a more personal partnership would be appropriate.”

Peach grinned. “I bet that knocked you for a loop.”

“Maybe not as much as you think. After all, it had been a very pleasant night. I asked her if she would care to start negotiations. She replied that she was open to the right offer.”

“I gather that the ‘negotiations’ were successful?” Peach’s grin grew wider.

“Well, you were born nine months later,” Frothy admitted.

“Woohoo! Conceived out of wedlock!” Peach crowed.

“Don’t be a smart-ass. You know very well when we got married and how old you are.” Frothy found it hard to stifle a grin of his own though. “Anyway, the point that I’m trying to make in my own long-winded and circuitous way is that falling in love isn’t necessarily going to happen out of the blue. Yes, our friends Lavender and Cogs did, but really that kind of thing doesn’t happen too often. Mostly it’s like your mother and me – gradually getting to know each other better and better, enjoying our times together, until one day you realize that this is something that you want to do for the rest of your lives.”

“Just like Archer and I have been doing? So you think we have a chance, given sufficient time?”

“Hon, I can’t guarantee anything, but yes I do. However, I don’t want you to rush into it with false expectations. This is something you have to get right, because it would kill me if you got hurt, no matter if it was unintended or not.”

“But surely if I do fall in love, Archer will know that for an irrefutable fact, and fall in love in return?”

“As I understand how changelings react, yes he would. But that doesn’t mean that your relationship will work out. Contrary to the popular quotation, love does not conquer all. Cherry and I found out that we worked well together before we fell in love. I strongly recommend that you be sure that you two will do the same before you do something that cannot be undone.”

“You seem awfully keen on emphasizing the problems our relationship could cause, Dad.”

Frothy looked away with a guilty expression on his face. “Peach, despite everything that has happened lately, I’m still not very keen on the idea of having you marry a changeling. I’d hoped one day that you’d bring home a nice stallion whom I could growl at but secretly like, and look forward to having grandfoals. Archer has changed everything though, and I don’t know what to think anymore, so I’m falling back on a father’s most basic instincts – I want to protect you. Perhaps one day Archer will prove himself to me and I will not feel this way anymore, but until then I will always advise caution.”

“But you won’t interfere?”

“I won’t discourage; I can’t promise non-interference though. In the end, though, you’re an adult mare and the choice is yours to make. Please choose well.”

Peach leaned over the table to kiss Frothy on the cheek. “I promise, Dad.”

* * *

“Frothy, we have a complaint,” a green changeling told him in an irritated tone.

Frothy was surprised – this would be the first time that he’d gotten a real complaint from any of the changelings. “What’s the problem, Karrantha?”

“We’ve been waiting for our order for too long. This isn’t like you to let your customers wait like this.”

“That’s odd – I don’t have any outstanding orders right now. Hasn’t Parva taken your order yet?”

“Yes, he did, and then he went over to the other table to take the orders of those ponies. I don’t believe that he has stopped chatting with them since.” She stared accusingly at Parva.

Frothy looked at where Karrantha was staring. Just then the ponies that Parva was talking to, burst into laughter at something he said. The Orange Changeling seemed to be on a roll and in no hurry to move on.

Karrantha continued, “This isn’t the first time this has happened either. Parva is neglecting the changeling customers in favor of the ponies. I hope that this isn’t a change of policy on behalf of this café?”

Frothy frowned. “No; no it isn’t. Pardon me for a moment while I get someone to serve you immediately.” He went to the back room door and called out, “Peach! Could you come out and serve Karrantha and company, please?”

“No problem, Dad. Be there in a sec.”

Frothy went back to the counter and said, “Peach will serve you in a moment. Your drink will be complimentary for your inconvenience.”

“Thanks, Frothy.” Karrantha went back to her table just as Peach came out.

Frothy pointed out her customer, and then turned back towards Parva. “Parva! Come to the counter, please!” he called out loudly.

Parva looked over his shoulder and said, “I’ll be there in a minute, Frothy.”

Now, Parva!” Frothy said sternly.

The changeling was startled, but he hastily said, “Back in a moment, folks,” before he trotted over to Frothy. “What’s the problem, Frothy?”

“That’s what I want to find out. Come to my office with me.” As Parva started to object and hold up the order from the pony customers, he continued, “Leave it on the counter. Peach will attend to it.”

Parva did so and followed Frothy into his small office. He closed the door behind them.

“I can taste that something is really bothering you. Am I in trouble for something?” Parva asked.

“Yes, something is bothering me. Why are you neglecting our customers?”

“What? But I’m not! I’m still putting in extra effort to entertain the customers, just as I have since I started here.”

“Yes, the pony customers. The customers who can give you emotional sustenance. You have been giving them the bulk of your attention, to the detriment of the changeling customers. It shames me that I had to have it rubbed in my muzzle before I recognized what you’ve been doing. Now that I think back on it, I’ve seen other instances, and it should have been obvious. From early on, I was able to tell which ponies were actually changelings in disguise due to the way you reacted to them. Well I’m telling you now that that’s got to stop. This café earned its reputation for good coffee and good service before it became a hub of changeling activity, and that is not going to change now. From now on, I want to see all customers treated equally, and I don’t wish to be embarrassed by complaints of slow service. Do you understand?”

Parva hung his head and softly said, “Yes, Frothy.”

Frothy softened his tone. “Look, I know that you took this job in order to achieve your task as an emotion harvester, and I have no problem with that. You do a great job of entertaining the customers, and that helps our reputation. However, I hired you as a server, and that’s what I pay you to do, so that must be your priority. If you feel that you can’t achieve both tasks, then I will have to find a replacement for you, and I don’t want to have to do that because we all like you. But this is a business first, and my family’s means of making a living, and I can’t let anypony… or changeling… affect that.”

“I understand. I promise that it won’t happen again.”

“That’s good enough for me. Now let’s get back to work. We don’t want to let Peach get too overwhelmed.”

They left Frothy’s office just as a trio of changelings entered the café.

“I’ve got this!” Parva called out to Peach as he trotted over to them. “Welcome to the True Brew Café! Do you want anything to go, or would you prefer a table where I can serve you?”

* * *

When Archer visited the café that afternoon with his squad, Frothy pulled the changeling aside.

“You and I have a conversation to finish,” Frothy said, looking Archer in the eyes.

“Same place as before?” Archer asked.

Frothy nodded and started heading for the door. “Mixxy, back in a few minutes!”

Archer noticed that the new shop had all the fittings in place now, and must surely be close to being ready to open. “The place is looking good, Frothy,” he commented as he took a seat at a table.

“Yes, we’ll be announcing the opening soon. However, we’re not here to talk about that.”

“It’s about Peach, isn’t it? You want me to stop seeing her?”

“Yes, it’s about Peach. No, I’m not going to do anything of the sort. From what you told me last time, you are eagerly waiting for her to fall in love with you. Well, I’m going to tell you what I told her this morning, and that is to take your time and get this right. Be patient! You don’t understand us ponies well enough yet, any more than I completely understand you changelings. She is still learning though, and so must you if you want to win her love.”

Archer looked at Frothy with a perplexed expression. “You must be right, because I certainly don’t understand you. One moment you’re trying to run me off, the next you’re friendly, then you’re discouraging me, and now you’re giving me tips on relationships!”

“There’s only one thing you really need to understand, Red Archer, and that is that my family means everything to me, and I will love, support, and protect my wife and my daughter to the utmost of my ability. How I feel about your relationship with Peach doesn’t matter in the end though because that’s her choice to make. I will do whatever I can though to make that choice one that I’m happy with also. My experience with meeting Whirring Cogs and his wife and children has shown me that your approach to relationships is different, and sometimes your thinking is alien to us, but in the end the results are basically the same. So I repeat – be patient, learn from her, be good to her in the meantime, and perhaps you will have just as good a relationship.”

“Understood, Frothy.”

“Good.” Frothy got up to head back to the café, but looked back with his trademark smirk. “You may fill in the usual appropriate heartfelt threats, if it makes you happy.”

The changeling grinned back lopsidedly. “I’ll do that.”

* * *

Frothy returned to the café just as two ponies entered the main door – one familiar and the other decidedly not. Twilight Sparkle spotted Frothy and headed towards him, bringing along her companion. The white-coated unicorn mare was exceptionally tall, at least as tall as a large stallion, although much more gracefully built, and her white and pink mane and tail matched her well. Frothy had not often seen ponies from Prance before, but this mare had to be one. What she was doing in Twilight’s company, he assumed he was about to find out.

“Hello, Frothy Brew,” Twilight said with uncharacteristic formality. “I know you did not expect to see me again so soon, but I have a friend here who would like to meet you. This is Fleur De Lis, the Prench liaison, socialite, and supermodel in her spare time. Fleur, this is Frothy Brew, owner and proprietor of the True Brew Cafe, and a remarkable figure in changeling-pony relations.”

“Bonjour, Monsieur Brew. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Fleur De Lis said in a thick Prench accent as she extended a forehoof.

Frothy shook her hoof gingerly. “The honour is mine, Lady Fleur De Lis. The Princess is too generous in her assessment of my contribution though.”

Fleur smiled. “Nonetheless, I am here to talk to you if you have a moment to spare? And without any other ponies in the shop for the moment, if possible?”

Frothy looked at Twilight who nodded her head in encouragement. “Please?”

Frothy said, “Okay. Archer would you…” His voice trailed off as he noticed the changeling Guard gaping in shock at Fleur De Lis. “Archer?”

Archer tore his eyes from Fleur and replied, “Yes, Frothy?”

“Could you lock the front door and stand by for a moment?” Frothy asked the changeling even as he wondered what was bothering him.

“Sure. I’m on it.” The changeling went to do so with startling alacrity.

By now, Frothy was sure that there was something going on with this particular aristocrat that he was not yet aware of. He preferred to keep away from the bluebloods and other highborn ponies because they were snobbish and condescending to working class ponies such as himself. Twilight had proved to be a remarkable exception, so he hoped that any pony that she brought to meet him might be also.

“Would you care for a refreshment, Lady Fleur De Lis?” Frothy asked.

“Oui. Thé chaud, s’il vous plaît,” Fleur replied.

“Hot tea,” Twilight helpfully translated.

“Coming right up. Please make yourselves comfortable while you wait.” Frothy headed behind the counter and began preparing the tea. As he did so though, a bright yellow light lit up the room. He turned to look at the source, and was shocked to see magic yellow fire burning down Fleur’s body, leaving behind a crooked horn, slitted orange eyes, burnt-orange coat, and a bright orange mane and insectile wings. She was another changeling, but far larger and more imposing than any that he had ever seen before.

 

 

Twilight grinned at Frothy’s consternation. “Looks like re-introductions are in order. Frothy, may I present to you Queen Polistae of the Orange Hive.”

A queen? A changeling queen was visiting his shop? Frothy’s mouth opened, but no words came out.

“Forgive me, Mister Brew,” Polistae said in a completely unaccented voice. “I enjoy my little joke a bit too much, but I don’t have too many opportunities to surprise ponies.”

“So that’s why Archer was acting so weird – he recognized what you were,” Frothy said as he looked accusingly at the Red Changeling, only then noticing that he had drawn the blinds as well in anticipation of need for privacy.

“Sorry, Frothy,” he replied. “I’ve never known a queen to visit outside of the formal meetings at the castle. It wasn’t my place to say anything though.”

“Right. Okay, Your Majesty, do you still want that tea?”

“Yes, please, and that talk too,” she said as she settled down at a table.

Frothy completed the task, and brought two cups of steaming hot tea to the table for his guests. He then settled down opposite Polistae and said, “So, Fleur De Lis is just a disguise for you while you’re in Canterlot?”

“Oh, much more than that,” Polistae demurred as she stirred a lump of sugar into her tea. “She’s as real as any changeling’s permanent alter-ego.” She sipped the tea and sighed in contentment. “Very nice! Anyway, many years ago, I wanted to keep a closer watch on what was happening in the seat of power for Equestria, and I created Fleur for that purpose. It gave me the opportunity to meet up with important people, but not have to be present for too long. After all, I have a hive to run.”

“So you weren’t around when Chrysalis made her move?”

“Sadly, no. I would have caught out that bitch in a moment if I had, but then I probably would not be here talking to you today.”

“Which brings me to why you are here to talk to me?”

Polistae sighed again, sadly this time. She sipped a bit more of her tea before replying. “I understand that your business and your family were subject to attacks by one of my Harvesters going by the name of Wild Nights.”

Frothy’s expression hardened. “Yes, that’s correct.”

“I’m here to offer a formal apology on behalf of the Orange Changelings. There is no excuse for what he did. All our Harvesters are under orders not to bring harm to ponies, but this one rationalized that he was only trying to damage your property, without thinking of the consequences.”

“My daughter, Peach, has visited the Red Changeling hive, and she tells me that their queen keeps a subtle control of all her changelings. Isn’t it the same for you?”

“I believe that Peach would be referring to the hive workers. Harvesters are a special breed that require a looser style of control in order to be able to effectively do their job. Unfortunately that means that exceptions like Wild Nights are possible. However, surely you have learned more about Harvesters by now, and should understand this?”

“Yes, I had heard something like that. I’ve also been told so much about how beneficial you changelings have been for pony civilization, but along comes some somepony like Wild Nights to put a lie to that.”

“I wish that I could say that something like that could never happen again, but I can’t. Because of the negative impressions from the Blue invasion, we’ve talked up our positive traits as much as possible to counteract the horrible perception of our kind, but of course we do have our negative traits also. We are not perfect, and we have inevitably made mistakes and hurt ponies over the course of history, but the same is true of even the best of ponies. Just ask Celestia some time about her regrets. The bottom line though is that we are doing our best to achieve exactly what we have said all along – to peacefully co-exist with ponies.”

“I have a Blue Changeling friend who has done more to convince me of that than any other person, changeling or pony.” Frothy got up and extended a forehoof to Polistae. “On behalf of my family, I accept your apology, Your Majesty. Thank you for taking time out to visit our humble business to do so.”

“My duty and my pleasure, Mister Brew.” Polistae shook his hoof, then transformed back into her Fleur De Lis guise and continued with her affected Prench accent, “And it has been most interesting to visit this quaint little café of yours to see what the common people enjoy.”

Frothy grinned, recognizing the act that she was putting on. “I bet Princess Celestia got a bit of a surprise when she found out who you truly are.”

Fleur laughed. “Not as much as Monsieur Fancy Pants did.”

“Fancy Pants?”

“One of the top echelon of the upper class, and Fleur’s frequent companion,” Twilight explained.

“I see. I’d call that more of a shock than a surprise. I don’t suppose you see him much nowadays though now that he knows who you are?”

Fleur smiled mischievously. “Oh, the shock did not last long. In fact we see as much of each other as we always did. After all, now he can brag that he’s consort to a queen, non?”

Frothy had not thought of it like that, but then again he was not one of the upper class constantly playing social games and politics. That might be his idea of fun! “Good luck to him. And to you, I suppose.”

Fleur’s smile softened, and her eyes took on a slightly distant look. “Yes, good luck for me,” she agreed.

Frothy abruptly wondered if changeling queens could fall in love too. And what did the other queens do? The more he learned, the more questions were raised.

Fleur’s attention returned to Frothy. “Merci beaucoup for the most magnifique tea, Monsieur Brew, but we must be going. Work is never done for such as I, so I must bid you au revoir.”

“Farewell, Lady Fleur De Lis. I hope to have the pleasure of your company again someday.”

Archer had taken the cue, and had already opened up the shop again. Twilight said goodbye and headed out the door with Fleur. A unicorn stallion who was just approaching the café, stopped in surprise as he recognised the mare. Then he rushed up to her, telekinetically pulling out a quill and pad.

“Fleur De Lis! Could I get your autograph, please? I loved your winter fashion parade!”

“A fan? How cute! Mais oui, mon ami,” she replied in her thickest Prench accent, taking the quill and pad from the bedazzled pony.

Frothy who had been watching as she had left, just had to laugh. “Queen of the hive specializing in acting and entertaining – yeah, she’s in her element alright,” he murmured to himself.

* * *

Red Archer returned later that day in his unicorn guise as the café was closing up.

“Going out again tonight?” Frothy asked as he locked the door behind the changeling.

“Yes. We’re going to see the new production being put on by Witty Wordplay. It’s premiering tonight.”

“Never heard of them,” Frothy admitted.

“It probably not to your taste anyway, I’m guessing.”

Peach turned up just then, dressed in a simple gown for the occasion. “Hello, Archer. I’m glad that you’re a little bit early. I wanted to have a word with you before we went out.”

“Sure! What’s up, Peach?”

“I’ve been putting a lot of thought into our relationship, and while I know you want more, I don’t want to rush into this. I like being your friend too much to want to spoil things by making hasty decisions.”

Archer looked a little glum at that. “I understand, Peach.”

“However, I think that there’s one step that we need to make right now,” Peach continued. “Could you please change back into your changeling form?”

“Er, okay,” Archer said, putting words into action. “May I ask why?”

Peach grinned. “If I’m going to have a changeling for a coltfriend, I ought not to be ashamed of what he is, right? Tonight we go out without pretending that we’re something that we’re not.”

“Are you sure about this, Peach? If there’s any backlash, it’s going to be a lot harder on you than it will be on me.”

“I’m sure. I think it’s worth the risk.”

“Then do you think we really do have a good chance at making a go of this?” Archer asked hopefully.

Peach abruptly leaned over and gave Archer a quick kiss on the cheek, and while the changeling was still stunned in pleased surprise, she said, “Yes, I think we do.” She picked up her purse from the counter and headed for the door. “Come on, we don’t want to be late for the show.”

 

 

“Yes, Peachy!” Archer replied as he followed her out with a goofy look on his face.

“G’night, Dad!” Peach called out as she closed the door behind her.

Cherry came out from the back room to join her husband who had been discreetly observing his daughter and Archer. He said, “Did you hear what just happened?”

Cherry nodded. “I heard everything. Did Peach kiss him?”

“Yep. I don’t know who was more surprised – him or me.”

“I think we have just witnessed the future of Equestrian society.”

“What? Ponies all taking on changeling coltfriends or fillyfriends?”

“No, silly! I mean ponies going out with changelings will eventually become as ordinary as a unicorn going out with a pegasus. Maybe it will take years, but with ponies like our daughter and changelings like Red Archer, I think that it will certainly come about.”

Frothy nuzzled his wife and said, “Y’know, considering all that’s happened, I think maybe that’s not such a bad thing to look forward to after all.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Author's Note:

So is the story finished? Well, it's pretty much done now. I've told the story that I set out to tell, and a little bit more. There's just an epilogue left to tie up the last loose ends. Yes, there's obviously going to be much more happening between changelings and ponies, but perhaps that should be the subject of another tale, although if Frothy and family have any part to play, I'll be happy to bring them back. I hope you have enjoyed learning about my version of the changeling fanon.

I received donations from a couple of people this time, and so you get two illustrations by Foxenawolf for this chapter. Don't forget to check out her page at http://www.furaffinity.net/user/foxenawolf for both pony and non-pony stuff. Thank you to my generous donors!

Next: a word on Fleur De Lis. I know that some wikis have her name as Fleur Dis Lee, but that doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Her cutie mark is three fleur de lis after all, so why the alternate (and incorrect) spelling? I find it far more likely that someone who did not know how to correctly spell the name was responsible for writing it that way, and the error was perpetuated by people who did not know any better. Anyway, I will refuse any suggestion that I should use the "official" spelling.

EDIT: I now understand how Fleur Dis Lee can be copyrighted. She will nevertheless remain correctlyspelled in this story.

As for Fleur being a changeling, I was looking for candidates to be Polistae's alter ego, and really there was only one stand-out character. She was tall and slender like Cadence, and with barely any canon to interfere with the story. She had a grand total of one line in the show, and while it wasn't in a French accent, I think I can away with that minor inconsistency. I hope you liked that little surprise.

 
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