Father Mare

by Spark of Inspiration

Added Benefits

The next afternoon, everybody seemed to be in a foul mood. Not only had multiple fights broken out between exercises, but, if it was to be believed, Aileron was the instigator.

Soarin couldn't seem to understand just why he would do that. He had always been a voice of passion and relative sensibility, even though Vane still had those abilities in spades.

After his shower was finished, Soarin quickly flapped himself dry, did a quick rub-over with the towel, and managed to catch Aileron just outside the door to the mare's shower room.

"You know, you have some-" Aileron began to rant, until he noticed it was Soarin he was speaking to. "Sorry..."

"Hey, what's up today?" Soarin asked earnestly, taking a few steps closer to the obviously troubled new member.

Aileron looked back for just a moment before flapping off in a huff, leaving his superior far behind.

Spitfire flew down and answered the question for the flustered rookie. "You remember how he wanted to be with Cross? Turns out she's been leading him on this whole time."

"Oh." Though he had never run into that problem before, he could sense just how hard it had hit Aileron that day. If Spitfire had done that the night they 'relieved their stress', he would have been just as angry, if not more.

"Come on, we've got twenty minutes to get up to the castle in time."

Soarin followed closely behind as Spitfire secured her saddlebags around her midsection and took off, flying in the direction of the main gate to Canterlot Castle. The flight only took about ten minutes for her, but with the slower speeds Soarin had adjusted to using, they would need a bit of a buffer.

"So what do you think this thing is about?" she asked, trying to stimulate some form of conversation between them.

"You read the letter- it's probably about what they'll do for us while this is going on."

Spitfire let a dense silence fall over the two of them as she considered the options. Though she was having just as much trouble accepting the situation, Soarin had yet to say anything directly about the subject lately. Every time, it was 'this' or 'what's going on'. Ever since she had set him straight on what was truly happening, he had been exceedingly quiet about it.

But if there was one thing she had learned from his encounter with Cross the day before, it was that he would come to her if there was a problem he couldn't solve. Intervening only made it worse.

Yet she still wanted to help, and something deep down told her that she would need to get involved soon, or he would be so set in his ways that he would actively resist whatever she tried.

"You know, Soarin, maybe we'll finally meet the other affected ponies."

"I guess so. Let's hope Jet Set has his priorities straight this time."


Soarin facehooved in mid-flight and replied, "You remember that mare that stormed out of the castle when we found out?"

Spitfire gave a nod of understanding, and went into a light dive toward the castle's main gate. Soarin followed her down, and he landed shortly afterward, a good bit of distance behind his Captain.

Luckily for him, his ground speed was still faster than most ponies, and he caught up to her after a bit. By the time they reached the gates, Spitfire pulled the tickets out of her saddlebags and flashed them at the pair of guards on either side.

They nodded to each other and pushed the large brass gate open for the two pegasi. And to their surprise, somepony shouted through what sounded like clenched teeth, "Hold on, I'm almost there!"

A pale green earth pony mare with a surprisingly short blonde mane and a frantic look in her eyes galloped up to the gate, an envelope held off to the side of her mouth. "My wife couldn't make it, but here." She dropped the envelope and rummaged through it for a few seconds, pulling out a matching ticket to the ones Soarin and Spitfire had.

She - or rather he, if she was to be believed - shoved the ticket back inside the envelope, picked it up, and followed Soarin and Spitfire through the gate.

"So..." Spitfire began, visibly nervous around this new mare, "you're here for that meeting too?"

"Yuh," she replied, the envelope still clenched between her teeth. "I gah thi lehher-"

"I can't understand a single thing you're saying," Soarin commented, biting down on the other end of the envelope and taking it out of her mouth.

"You're Wonderbolts, aren't you?"

"Well we can't really say we aren't," Spitfire answered, giving the new mare a nudge. "Think we could get a name out of you?"

"Whole Grain. And might I say, it's awesome getting to see you in real life. My daughter and I are huge fans."

Both Spitfire and Soarin silently groaned to themselves, figuring that she would go on forever about how they were their favorite group of professional fliers - mostly because the only other one in the vicinity was made up of griffons - and how they wanted to see them live or enjoyed seeing them live, going on a massive spiel about everything they did like most of their overeager fans would.

Instead, she simply said, "We loved seeing your show a few months back in Fillydelphia."

They braced themselves for the over-excited rant they were so used to hearing, but Grain seemed to be finished. Mostly comfortable with her now, Spitfire replied, "I don't think we stop near Fillydelphia much..."

"You're telling me. We've just settled for watching you whenever you come to the area." She looked at Soarin curiously and asked, "I take it you're the reason you guys are here?"

"I guesh sho..."

"Hey," Grain said, hesitantly stepping closer to Soarin, "I'm sure it's hard, but just think. After this is all over, we'll be back to normal in no time."

Though he had been worried about that for a while, hearing it from another one of the mothers-to-be seemed to calm his nerves more than anypony else could have. He offered the letter to Spitfire, who tucked it into her saddlebags in one quick movement. "Thanks," Soarin told her, stopping to pat her on the back. "I definitely needed to hear that."

"Jeez... you're awfully touchy-feely, you know that?"

"Sorry," he apologized, before Spitfire interrupted.

"We're just about late for the time they expected us to get there. Let's get moving."

It was just a short jaunt up to the main doors of the castle, which were opened by another pair of guards, then another four minutes of walking down labyrinthine halls and up a surprisingly large staircase to get to the Princesses' private dining room. When the doors magically opened for them, it revealed a windowless room with a large table, plus the Princesses at either end and three other mares sitting at various spots around it.

"Welcome," Princess Celestia greeted, prompting a bow from the three ponies entering their private dining hall. "Please have a seat anywhere you like."

"Thank you, Princess," they said at almost the same time, causing more than a few awkward glances between them and a hearty chuckle from Luna.

When she was done laughing at them, Luna turned back in Celestia's direction and asked, "Sister, would you happen to know Discord's location?"

"There will be no need, Luna." Her horn lit, and a beam of pure light shot out, stopping at the empty spot between one of the early arrivals and Grain. A large ball of light formed, and faded just as quickly, leaving a distracted draconequus behind, playing chess with floating pieces against what seemed to be a levitating lion paw.

He continued to move one of his pieces, which then proceeded to fall down to the board from midair. "Quite an interesting move," he mused, rubbing his goatee with his eagle talon.

"Discord..." Celestia said, thoroughly interrupting his train of thought.

The ornate chair spun around, revealing Discord's full form slouching in it. "Oh Celestia," he said smoothly, putting his arm back on with a snap of his talon, "you always interrupt me during my games."

"You were due here an hour ago, Discord," Princess Luna accused, throwing him a glare that could have melted even the strongest pony's heart. "Explain yourself!"

"Very well, Miss Royal Canterlot Voice. As you can tell, I was playing a perfectly interesting game of three-dimensional chess with righty here," he held up the lion paw that he connected seconds ago, and continued, "and now I'm suddenly in here with all these mares. Hardly a punishment if you ask me."

The mare sitting across the table from Soarin adjusted her top hat and asked, "What do you mean, punishment?"

"Oh, you don't know... Well I'm sure you'll find out before this is over. I'm certainly not telling."

"I am," Princess Celestia addressed them, drawing all their attention to her. "Discord is only here for one reason: to apologize. After much research into the nature of the magic that affected the city, we found it matched that of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza."

"So then why is he apologizing?"

Princess Celestia cleared her throat and continued, "Because Princess Cadenza and her husband Shining Armor are both in the Crystal Empire, far to the north. We discovered that Discord picked up on her magical frequency and cast it at that level to confuse us."

"So... Discord caused this?" All six mares at the table glared directly at the blushing Draconequus, staring a hole straight through him, as one appeared thanks to his magic.

"Oh, you wound me so..."

"We are currently unsure if he truly caused what you are here for, but it is highly probable," Princess Luna answered them, taking their attention away from the god of chaos. "However, there is more to discuss."

“Of course, there is still the real purpose of this meeting,” Princess Celestia reminded everypony present, giving a barely visible grin. “The fact remains that we have many things to discuss about the castle’s services.”

“Indeed, sister.”

The six mares in attendance all looked toward their solar princess with anticipation. Each of them had ideas of what they would receive as benefits, and they were anxious to see just which ones they would be gifted.

“However, we must say one thing before we begin. Our services will end one month after the births of the foals, after which we trust that you will be capable of caring for them on your own.”

Soarin flashed Spitfire an ‘I-told-you-so’ look as Princess Celestia finished her introductory speech. “As such, we shall cover the major expenses that are required during your expectant period. Now then, shall we get started?”

Everypony in attendance nodded in agreement, and thus, the meeting began, soon to be interrupted by a loud sip from Discord.

He set the still full teacup down on the table and said, “Please, go on. Don’t let me interrupt.”

Celestia grudgingly attempted to start again, "They will consis-“

Discord gave a long, drawn out yawn and leaned back in the chair he had been summoned in.

“As I was saying, our services will consist of routine-“

Another sip from the god of chaos echoed throughout the room.

“Discord,” Celestia addressed, her previously serene face contorted into a grimace, “please let me finish. This matter is one of incredible importance.”

“Oh, very well.” With a snap of his talons, the teacup disappeared, leaving a floating mass of brown liquid behind, which he then proceeded to pull into his mouth and chew rather loudly. Everypony at the table stared at him awkwardly, not quite sure of what to say.

“Now that we have peace, on with discussion,” Princess Luna said with a hushed giggle.

“Our services will consist of routine health checks every two weeks, to be scheduled by the mothers; a support network meeting weekly in the interior courtyard; and coverage of any urgent medical expenses caused by the child's development. Does that sound fair?"

Everypony present agreed, except for the pink mare sitting next to the other mare in the top hat. "Does that cover any... complications that might come up?"

"We are willing to include complications with the pregnancy if you believe there will be such problems," Luna answered, cutting Celestia off just before she could say the same thing. "It would be unwise of us not to assist in such a case."

"As my sister has stated, we would be very willing to offer our support if such an occasion arises."

"Alright," the mare said with a slight quaver in her voice. It seemed pretty clear that she wasn't satisfied, but she was probably trying not to get on the bad side of the princesses while they were being as generous as they were.

That is, until Celestia asked them, "If there is something else you wish to discuss, we would be glad to hear it." After a quick scoff from Discord, she adjusted her statement, "Most of us, anyway."

Whole Grain eventually took them up on their offer. "Me and my wife will be going back to Fillydelphia in a few days. What'll happen then?"

Luna gave the stallion-turned-mare a confused look and inquired, "But did Gilded Scroll not tell us that everypony affected was a citizen of Canterlot?"

"Indeed," Celestia mused, seeming just as confused as her sister. "You say you and your wife are from Fillydelphia? Is there anypony else here that does not live in Canterlot?"

Soarin and Spitfire raised their hooves, and Spitfire answered, "We're technically from Cloudsdale..."

"It seems I will have to speak to my secretary at some point about her work," Celestia reminded herself before moving back to the point at hoof. "But now on to your question. We would prefer if you could stay in Canterlot for the duration of your pregnancy, but if you must return home, we will transport you personally."

Grain settled back into his seat, most likely mulling over what the princesses had told him. When nopony made their presence known, Celestia stated, "It seems that everything has been resolved. Your weekly meetings will start this weekend at precisely seven o'clock in the afternoon. Good luck, my little ponies."