I fumed and paced in our hotel room, occasionally glancing between Vinyl’s bed and Lyra and Bon-Bon’s. They thought it best that they stay with us tonight, to keep things from getting worse than they already were. Between a drunken Vinyl and an absolutely enraged me, I had to concede their point. I tried reminding myself that Vinyl wasn’t acting like herself and that a combination of hormones, alcohol, and possible mind-altering magic was behind it, while practicing the deep-breathing exercises my therapists had taught me – and for a few minutes, it would work. But then I’d look at Vinyl sleeping so soundly, and all that anger would come flooding back as I remembered what she almost did. What she was willing to do.
That wasn’t right though. I had been in a similar situation after Canterlot, and Vinyl hadn’t held that against me; she had been nothing but supportive when I told her what happened while I was under the influence of the changeling venom. Was this any different? Did I have a right to be angry with her for this? She clearly wasn’t herself but… There were two differences. The changeling venom was unknowingly ingested and wore off in a matter of days; Vinyl chose this for herself and seemed quite happy to spend the next decade enjoying her restored youth. Was that fact alone enough to damn her for her actions? More importantly, could we still make our relationship work?
We had to. The idea that we wouldn’t was almost inconceivable.
At that instant, I would’ve downed the potion in the hope that it could solve our relationship problem, but I soon remembered my condition and chastised myself for thinking like such a foal. That was what had gotten Vinyl into this mess; one moment of weakness, of doubt, and she had made a mistake that jeopardized our marriage. If I was going to follow her down that path, I was going to be methodical and meticulous. I’d have to make sure there was a way I could drink the potion without risking our filly’s health, be sure the potion didn’t have any effects beyond causing me to have the body and mentality of a teenager, and make sure I would still be able to keep my job even though my physical appearance had–
I shook my head. Such thoughts were patently ridiculous; I wasn’t about to cause myself to regress to a teenager just because Vinyl had, although… well, she did have a small point. It would be nice to be a teenager and actually enjoy myself in some way, as opposed to sequestering myself away from society. I glanced back at my wife and my anger sprang back up. If I had been the pony to consume the potion, I would have never considered… The two of us would have to have a reckoning once I was sober and I could think with a relatively clear head. I laid down on our couch and stared at the ceiling, working to take deep relaxing breaths as the filly inside of me decided to start kicking again. If anger rules me when I talk with Vinyl, nopony will benefit, I repeated to myself, as I felt my eyelids grow heavy.
Vinyl continued to avoid my gaze as our train headed back to Ponyville. After waking up and taking some aspirin, she had mumbled a few apologies about last night while I tried not to let my anger get the best of me. So far, I had succeeded in not yelling at her for acting like a horribly inconsiderate foal. I suppose not degenerating to her level is a small victory. Emphasis on small. “So…” Vinyl said, making a point of looking to her right at Lyra, who was sitting just right of me, “how did you find me?”
“Bon-Bon saw you take the train to Canterlot after you left me,” I said, doing everything in my power to keep my voice neutral. This wasn’t her, I repeated to myself, hoping that with enough repetitions it might become true.
“Yeah,” she said, rubbing the back of her head and staring at a very fascinating bit of carpet on the floor. “Look, I’m sorry for bailing on you, I was planning on coming back today though. It’s just… I wanted to have some fun, go back and get ponies talking about DJ-P0N3 again, do all the cool things I used to do when I was young, you know?”
I glared at her as I failed to keep myself from saying something regrettable. “No, as you pointed out Sunday night, I didn’t do anything fun when I was younger, so I suppose I don’t understand. Just like I don’t understand the compulsion to cheat on your wife with a mare half your age. Tell me, Vinyl, did you think about having an affair when you left for Canterlot or was that improvised?” At some point while I slept, my anger had shifted from something hot that could barely be contained to something cold sitting in the pit of my stomach that infected everything I did. Despite my better efforts, it seemed our reckoning would happen sooner rather than later.
“I said I was sorry this morning, didn’t I? I wasn’t even going to sleep with her, I mean, I wasn’t planning on it, and could you try not to raise your voice? This hangover is bad enough already,” she said, a spark of rage appearing in her eyes. “Besides, I wouldn’t have even been with her if you could have just supported me in the first place.”
“Lyra, Bon-Bon, I would recommend the two of you go to the train’s bar. Vinyl and I have some things we need to discuss, and I would prefer it if you were absent as we aired our dirty laundry.” The two of them nodded and snuck out of our car as I focused my attention back on Vinyl. “So it’s my fault you cheated on me then? My fault you went to Canterlot? You’re right, I didn’t support you earlier, and perhaps I should have, but since that time you have done nothing I would ever support. Perhaps if we had had a discussion like civilized adults, we could have reached an agreeable conclusion. Up until last night, I was willing to compromise with you on several issues for the sake of our relationship. Now though, I feel the need to just… Do you have any idea how completely idiotic and dangerous that was?”
“You keep saying I cheated on you, but I didn’t sleep with anypony. If we’re going to start counting kissing another pony as cheating, then I should’ve gotten pissed at you after your time with Turn Coat.” Two nights ago, that comment probably would have flattened me, but now I had steeled myself for such remarks. Vinyl might be fiery and passionate, but she would burn herself out quickly. I was steel, and like Bon-Bon said, I would endure until Vinyl finally saw sense.
“Those are two completely different situations and you know it, or did whatever mare you were walking home with last night dose you with changeling venom?” I said, keeping my voice controlled.
“Well, I mean, we drank a lot,” she said, after a pause, “That’s kind of similar right? You know, my judgment was impaired and I probably wouldn’t have kissed her if I hadn’t been drinking, so I figure… right? The point is we both made mistakes and I forgave you for yours. I’ll admit, I messed up, but it’s not like it was that big a deal.”
I laughed, unable to contain myself properly. “You chose to drink, Vinyl, you chose to keep drinking, and you chose to go home with a mare you had only known for a night. Ignoring the fact that you cheated on me for a second, do you have any idea how incredibly dangerous that is? We have a filly on the way, and even though you’re acting like a complete idiot right now and I am still incredibly unbelievably upset with you, I would prefer it if you were there to watch her grow up.”
“Really?” she asked, anger draining from her eyes. “I thought you would at least kick me out of the house for a while or… I don’t know, I figured you would be way more upset.”
“Oh, believe me, I’m more upset than I’ve ever been,” I said, although as I spoke I could feel the anger begin to leech from my body, “but right now my main focus is preserving our relationship with as little damage as possible. If you’re willing to work with me and keep your temper in check, I think we might be able to move past this. If not… well, I’m not ready to consider the possibility of ending our marriage yet. You were right when you said you had supported me through a great many hardships, and…” I sighed, taking in a deep breath and struggling to get the next words out of my mouth. “If you insist on staying a teenager, I will try to overlook my own feelings on the issue and be happy for you.”
She rolled her eyes at me. What is it about teenagers that makes them think that rolling their eyes is the height of wit? “Geeze Tavi, if you just said that Sunday night, we wouldn’t have had a fight. But hey, at least you finally figured that out.”
My eye twitched and I reminded myself that I loved my wife, and even though she was being a complete ass right now, shoving my hoof down her throat would be… inappropriate and detrimental to my main goal of keeping Vinyl from doing something either incredibly stupid or incredibly dangerous while Lyra worked on finding a way to reverse the spell. “I’m glad we worked that out,” I said instead. “However, for the next few days I would appreciate it if you slept in the nursery or on the couch, I’m still not comfortable with the idea sleeping with a teenager.”
I could see her frowning and I moved to cut her off before she could do something terribly idiotic that would reignite hostilities. “I understand you aren’t an actual teenager, you just look” – (and act, I thought) – “like one. All I’m asking for is a little time to think, and I promise that while I am thinking you will have my support. Does that sound agreeable to you?”
There was a long pause as she thought over my terms for what felt like an eternity. “I suppose,” she said reluctantly, as if the very idea of not getting exactly what she wanted pained her. “But this won’t last any longer than, like… a week, right?”
“It probably won’t last more than two days,” I said, smiling at her. “Once I’ve had time to clear my head and get some advice on the situation, I’m sure we will be back to sharing a bed. Just promise me there will be no more impromptu trips to Canterlot.”
“Alright,” she said. “If I go to Canterlot again, I will bring you with me, okay?”
“That wasn’t what I was asking, but I suppose I can at least live with that.” I closed my eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, expelling the cinders of my anger with it. “I want to work things out, and I think that as long as we are both trying, we should be fine.”
“Yeah,” she said, nodding her head and looking at me from her side of our room. “Hey, I know you still don’t want to sleep with me and stuff, but can I at least sit with you? I mean, I still miss you and stuff.”
I nodded at her. “That would be lovely, Vinyl, and I thank you for trying to be understanding.” She moved to sit right next to me while I spoke, and pressed her body against mine.
“Thanks,” she said, nuzzling my neck. Her head rested barely an inch lower than it normally did, but that small alteration transformed the gesture from familiar and soothing to something that felt strange and alien. More than anything else though, it was a reminder that whatever status quo we had established over the last five years had been completely annihilated, and if our relationship was to survive, we would have to rebuild it from the ground up. I closed my eyes, and focused on the new start of our new status quo as the train carried us back to Ponyville.