• Published 27th Oct 2013
  • 15,675 Views, 340 Comments

Change of Life - Goldfur

Zevan was a loyal changeling and did his queen's bidding, although he questioned why she had broken the peace. After being badly injured though, he had to reconsider his future, and a unicorn mare with a broken horn was a surprising part of it.

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Cogs had felt embarrassed by being carried on Set Square’s cart that morning, and all the way from their shopfront too! Neither he nor Moonlit Haze had asked before she had telekinetically lifted him up and firmly settled him among the materials. Evidently they did not want to be slowed down, but curious passers-by obviously had wondered why he could not walk himself. Now on their way home from the job, he was once again in the cart and feeling self-conscious. This time though he was glad for the respite. He had worked flat out that day, his employers getting him to do a huge variety of jobs as quickly as possible with scarcely a break. Although hampered occasionally by his injuries, he nevertheless accomplished just about everything that they set him to do, even though he felt exhausted by quitting time. It was a good tiredness though – a well-earned one, with the satisfaction of doing work that he enjoyed. After so much time recently spent among the lowly drones of the hive, it felt marvelous to be doing the kind of work that he loved once again.

Set Square stopped outside of Lavender Dreams’ shop, and Cogs jumped off the cart before Moonlit Haze could hoist him telekinetically. The rest had let him recover some of his energy by then, and he was not thrilled about her handling him with her magic. The earth stallion immediately continued on his way, but to his surprise, Moonlit Haze followed him inside.

Lavender greeted them both and asked, “How was your day?”

“My bosses tried to work me to death on the first day, but I fooled them and survived,” Cogs replied with a grin in Moonlit Haze’s direction.

Moonlit returned the smile and said, “I’ll let you into a little secret now – we don’t normally work at quite that frantic pace. We did all that today to see how you would cope and what your strengths are. Frankly we thought you would fumble somewhere along the way, but it seems your claim to be a Mister Fix-it weren’t all that exaggerated. I reckon that you could learn our trade pretty quickly if you wanted to, but of course you’re already a qualified mechanic and don’t have anything to prove.”

Cogs breathed a sigh of relief. “So it was a pressure test? Thank Celestia! I honestly don’t know if I could keep up that pace for several days in a row.” Then a thought occurred to him. “Wait! I know that I told you that I’m a qualified mechanic, but I didn’t have any proof of it. Are you just taking my word for that?”

Moonlit Haze laughed and shook her head. “We’re business ponies, Cogs – we contacted the Cloudsdale weather factory to check out your claims. Your bosses were glowing in their appraisal of your work, and about the only bad thing that they had to say about you was how abruptly you left their employ, leaving them short-staffed for a while.”

“Um, yeah. That family business that took me away was sprung on me completely by surprise. I didn’t have the luxury of time to wait until they had found a replacement.”

“We understand, Cogs. Family comes first.”

“So, same time tomorrow then?”

“No – it’s the weekend. Those are our family days, and of course we get some extra rest too. We’ll expect to see you Monday morning though. One more thing…” She took out a coin pouch and put it on the counter. “Consider this an advance on your wages. Now that we’ve assessed your abilities, we’ll be discussing your salary with Golden Words this evening, and we’ll formally sign you up when you come in next week. We know that you’re currently broke though, so we felt that this would tide you over until payday.”

Cogs smiled gratefully. “Thanks – I really appreciate this!”

“You’re welcome, Cogs.” She then turned to Lavender who had been listening with interest. “I see you have some lovely orchids in stock. Could I get that pink one there, please?”

“Of course,” Lavender replied, going over to the display shelf to fetch the indicated flower. “I didn’t know that you liked orchids.”

“Oh, it’s not for me. It’s a gift for Goldie. I know she likes them, and she’ll get a kick out of this.”

Lavender wrapped some pretty paper around the pot. “That’s right – her birthday is this weekend, isn’t it? Say hello to her from me, will you?”

“I’ll do that. How much is this?”

Lavender named the price and Moonlit paid her. “You two have a good evening,” she said and turned to leave.

Lavender looked at Cogs. “I suppose you’re hungry?”

“Starving!” he admitted.

Lavender laughed. “Somehow I’m not surprised. Go clean up while I lock up the shop. I have some more of my vegetable soup simmering on the stove, so we can have dinner immediately.”

After that hard day’s work, that meal was the best that Cogs could remember in a very long time.

* * *

Saturday may have been a day of rest for the Square Deal team, but Lavender opened her shop only a little later than normal. “I can’t afford to miss out on a day’s sales,” she explained to Cogs. “Besides, Saturdays are usually some of my best days for flower sales.”

Cogs had slept an extra hour, but after breakfast, he too went to work. First of all though, he made a visit to the hardware store. With the bits that Moonlit Haze had given him, he was able to purchase a few materials to effect some more of the repairs that needed to be done. That morning he unstuck a jammed window, replaced a pane of glass that had been broken when Lavender had tried to force the window open, and fixed a couple of sticky keys on the cash register. He then made lunch for them both, with a bowl of fresh wheatgrass as an added extra treat that he had also bought while on his shopping expedition.

After lunch, he repaired a rickety shelf, added a couple of new ones, replaced the worn-out and leaky fittings on the watering hose, and replaced a broken light fixture. He even washed the shop windows despite never having done that job before. At least when he slipped and spilled the bucket of soapy water on himself, he had given Lavender a good laugh, and only his dignity had been injured.

Cogs’ real injuries were checked again by Healing Hooves at her clinic later that day. It had been decided that it was too risky for him to continually resume his changeling form at Lavender’s place to have the dressings changed, and besides he was sufficiently ambulatory now to get there without difficulty. It was also a very good excuse to catch up with any news.

“I got word from my hive today,” Healing Hooves said as she removed the old bandages. “It seems that Twilight Sparkle, one of the Elements of Harmony, discovered a changeling a couple of days ago.”

“I certainly know who Twilight Sparkle is, and I suppose if anyone were to uncover a changeling, it would be her because she’s the Element of Magic,” Cogs said with a grimace. “Is the changeling from my hive? I kind of doubt it – we were all very thoroughly expelled from the region.”

“You’re right, he isn’t. He’s from Queen Polistae’s hive.”

“And what sort of trouble did that cause?” Cogs asked in dread.

“You’re not going to believe this,” Healing Hooves replied with a touch of incredulity in her voice. “The changeling took Twilight Sparkle to visit his hive.”

What?! You’re joking? No pony has ever visited a hive before, or at least none that I have ever heard about.”

“No, I’m perfectly serious.”

“But… why? Was he coerced? Surely he wouldn’t betray his hive that much?”

“Actually quite the opposite. Twilight Sparkle persuaded him that she wanted to learn more about us to prevent misinformation about changelings from harming others hidden in the population.”

“She was attacked by our swarm! Chrysalis injured Celestia! Why would she even consider doing that for us?”

“For a friend, apparently. The changeling goes by the name of Novel Tale, an author of popular fiction, and Twilight is a big fan. The bottom line is that she realized that Chrysalis was the exception rather than the rule, and her scholastic curiosity kicked into high gear. She stayed overnight in Polistae’s hive, doing an initial study.”

“I suppose we should be grateful for that,” Cogs said doubtfully. “Now that the ponies know we exist, any positive news from a respected source can only benefit us.”

“That’s possibly why we haven’t seen any more activity from the Royal Guard lately. Twilight Sparkle has Princess Celestia’s ear, and this recent event might have changed her attitude toward us.”

“Not that I’m going to relax. I doubt that she’d be quite so charitable in my case,” Cogs said sadly. “So what has your queen got to say about the situation?”

“Basically just carry on as normal while this plays out. She and the other queens will be watching the situation carefully. I can’t say that I am thrilled about the possibility of our kind coming out into the open, but that may be inevitable now.” She finished rewrapping Cogs’ leg. “You can change back now.”

Cogs resumed his pegasus form while the healer placed the special ointment that she had been using on the leg back on the shelf among a large collection of potions and other ointments.

“Did you make all those medicines yourself?” Cogs asked idly.

“Some of them. The rest, like that ointment, I purchase from a zebra shaman who lives in the Everfree Forest.”

“What’s a zebra, and why would they be crazy enough to live there?”

“She’s an equine, but with black and white stripes. I’ll have to find a picture of one to show you later. As for her choice of habitat – I can’t really say, but it seems that she and the forest seem to understand each other.”

“She can keep it to herself, but I can’t fault her medicine. How much longer am I going to have to have these changes of dressings?”

“That should be the last application needed. The healing accelerator has done a fine job of regenerating your flesh and chitin. It will still be sore for a while, but you’ll soon be walking normally.”

“And what about my wing?” Cogs asked hopefully.

Healing Hooves hesitated. “It looks as if it’s healing okay, but that’s not the entire story. I told you that it was badly injured, and it remains to be seen if there are any long-term problems. You really need to see a specialist about it.”

“You know that I can’t do that. They’d realize that I’m not a real pegasus immediately.”

“Yes, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait a while longer until I’m sure that the healing magic has repaired the damage and we can test your wing.”

Cogs was disappointed. “Hopefully not much longer. There’s a reason why I chose a pegasus form, you know? I miss flying a lot.”

“If you were a real pegasus, you might be ready to fly again now. They’re extremely resilient and heal fast. But you’re not, so you’re going to have to be patient. If it wasn’t for the magic healing treatments that I’ve given you, natural healing might take months, not days, so be grateful for that.”

He sighed in resignation. “Yes, I know. Any further advice?”

“No, not at this time. Just continue what you’ve been doing for now, and I’ll see you again this time tomorrow.”

Cogs thanked the healer, and on the way home pondered the implications of the news. Changelings openly known? He could not imagine that ponies were quite ready for that yet, let alone his own kind. The future promised to be very strange for them all.

* * *

Sunday was a day of rest for both of them. Lavender chose to spend a lot of it pottering around in her backyard vegetable garden and declined Cogs’ offer of help. “My garden is my hobby,” she told him. “While I might ask you to water something during the week, the rest of the time I want to be able to nurture my plants myself. The vegetables that I grow for our meals taste better to me because I know that I’ve raised them myself. Now shoo! You’ve earned a day off too. Do something else for a change.”

Cogs reluctantly allowed himself to be chivied off of her property, and he started wandering a little aimlessly around the village. Despite the small size of township, he had yet to see even half of it for various reasons, so he took the opportunity to do a little exploring. He discovered various shops, a smithy, a couple of restaurants, and a bar. He decided to leave paying a visit to the latter for a more appropriate time, although he had found other bars a useful source of emotions to feed upon. Maybe they weren’t the purest, but they were usually less inhibited. Right now though, he wasn’t feeling particularly hungry for them.

Eventually he came to an open parkland where he found couples strolling and foals playing, and he settled down on some soft grass just to watch them all living their seemingly carefree lives. He wished that he could be so relaxed, but so many recent changes and unknowns made his future so uncertain. The only thing that he knew for sure at the moment that he was growing to really like this place and its ponies. There were much worse alternatives than spending the rest of his life here as just another unimportant pegasus going about his daily business, and socializing with his friends. Friends… Lavender was getting to be a little more than a friend. He could feel her interest in him growing, but could he afford to respond to that? Changelings had formed relationships with ponies innumerable times over the centuries in order to get a reliable source of love upon which to feed or harvest for the hive, but often they just emulated feelings for the ponies. Cogs did not want to do that though. Lavender deserved far more than fake feelings for her. On the other hoof, he did not want his problems to become hers if he let his guard down and became more than just a friend.

Trying to resolve that dilemma was impossible, and Cogs sought a distraction. Looking up, he noticed a few pegasi cavorting in the sky. They did not seem to be doing anything in particular, merely enjoying the freedom and exhilaration of flying. He was so envious. As he had told Healing Hooves, there was a reason that he had chosen a pegasus as his permanent form, and when he had not been working at the weather factory, he had spent much time with other pegasi reveling in the joy of flight. Now here he was ground-bound for days.

Cogs recognized one of the pegasi. It was Golden Words, and it was plain that she was enjoying herself. He wondered what she was seeing up there. As he watched her, she seemed to notice him. Pegasus distance vision was excellent, and perhaps she picked up on the fact that he was looking a bit down. She abruptly changed course and headed towards him. With a well-timed back-wing, she landed gracefully on all four hooves right next to him.

“Good morning, Cogs. Are you enjoying this lovely day?”

He gave her a lopsided smile. “The sun is warm, the breeze is pleasant, and I’m stuck on the dirt.”

She looked at him sympathetically. “I know I’d hate to be unable to fly. I make at least two flight breaks a day while writing to clear my head and inspire my Muse. How long before your wing is healed enough for you to fly again?”

“Probably not for a couple of weeks, if the healer is correct. Maybe longer.”

“Ouch. That long? You must have been really messed up.”

“Yeah, it wasn’t pretty.”

“Well, I can’t make them heal any faster, but perhaps I can help you a little anyway.”

To Cogs’ surprise, Golden Words took off and hovered over him. Then she slipped her forelegs around his barrel and under his forelegs. With a few strong beats of her wings, she lifted him off the ground and started pulling him up into the sky. It was not very dignified for him, but he didn’t care – he was in the air again and feeling the wind in his face. The mare took him for a loop above the town, giving him his first aerial view of it. There was nothing exceptional about it, but he thrilled to be able to recognize so much of it now. After the tour was done, Golden Words headed towards a nice puffy white cloud, and Cogs realized that she intended to land upon it.

“Hey Goldie! Could you ease up please? My flight magic has been messed up by my smashed wing, and I need to be sure that my cloud-walking ability hasn’t been affected.”

“Okay, I’ll let you down carefully.”

Golden Words hovered slowly down, and Cogs extended his right hind leg to tentatively test the cloud. As hoof met the surface of the cloud, it met the usual soft resilience associated with cloud-walking. His other hind leg joined the first, and then she let him down on all four hooves. Cogs sighed in relief to know that at least one thing was still working properly. He sat down on the cloud, and Golden Words sat down beside him. They looked over the edge of the cloud to watch the village below them.

“Thank you, Goldie. I needed this,” Cogs said very sincerely.

“You’re very welcome, Cogs. It was the least that I could do for a friend.”

“We’ve scarcely known each other for a couple of days, but you’re already calling me your friend?”

“Of course you are, and for the best of reasons. You have done so much for our dear friend, Lavender, and we haven’t seen her so happy for ages. You’re a good pony, Cogs, and we’re happy that you have become a part of our lives.”

Cogs looked at the ponies on the ground going about their lives, for the most part blissfully unconcerned about their futures. Could he do the same? He had apparently made an impact on several lives just by being himself, so perhaps he really did belong here. Was there even a realistic alternative? He would not be accepted into any other hive, and it was risky resuming his place at Cloudsdale because of the possibility of his former hive-mates becoming aware of him. This little village in the middle of a forest was a near-perfect place to remain unrecognized and build a new life.

“You know, coming here was an accident, but I think a very fortuitous one. With friends like you and Lavender, I think I could be very happy here.”

“I’m very glad to hear it. By the way, Hazy wants to invite you and Lavender over to dinner one night this week. Would next Saturday be good for you?”

“Huh? I suppose so. I’d have to check with Lavender of course.”

“Great! It’ll give me more of a chance to get to know you better. Meanwhile though, I think my herd-mates might be wondering if I’ve run off with you, so I’d better take you back down now and rejoin them.”

Cogs took one more good look around. “Okay, I’m ready.”

Golden Words carried Cogs back down just as she had brought him up, setting him on the ground in the same parkland from which they had started. She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and then took off again with a cheery “Bye”!

Cogs snorted in amusement. The mare had ruined a perfectly good blue funk. It seemed that he had nothing better to do with the rest of the day than to enjoy himself. Perhaps it was time to check out that bar?

* * *

Into every life, a little rain must fall. Fortunately for Cogs, this rain had been scheduled by the weather ponies and was not unexpected. Lavender had loaned him an umbrella, and he remained perfectly dry as he rode the cart as usual. He would have been happier though if it had not been a bright pink one, drawing the attention of amused ponies everywhere they went. Still, it was hard to ruin his good mood. He had been offered a good salary as an employee of Square Deal Renovations, and he had been very happy to sign on. Not that there was any real chance that he would have knocked it back, of course, but it was good to have the security of a full-time job. It had come with a slightly surprising condition though – he had to spend a certain amount of time doing work for Lavender. Until then, Cogs had not fully realized just how deeply they were concerned about their friend. He had no hesitation in agreeing to that condition at all.

Lavender announced that she was going to make a supply run tomorrow when he came home that afternoon. “The wildflowers are at their best the day after rain,” she explained.

“What about the shop?” Cogs asked.

“It will be closed as usual, of course.”

“Don’t you miss out on some business that way?”

“Yes, but wildflowers are my specialty, so I have to make these runs.”

“What if I mind the shop for you while you’re gone? I know most of what needs to be done for selling by now, and I can always take orders for stuff that only you can handle. I can also do a bit more maintenance work in between customers.”

“But what about your new job?”

“I told them that my first priority is helping you,” Cogs fibbed. “They agreed to let me take time off for that if needed.” He wondered if they had realized that he might want the whole day off when they had asked him to look after her needs, but decided that they probably knew her better than he did.

“Well, I suppose so. If you really want to do it.”

Cogs could sense her pleasure at the offer despite the uncertainty in her response. “Yes, I really want to do this for you,” he reassured her. “I’ll just nip around to Square Deal and let them know I won’t be coming tomorrow.”

Set Square’s response was typically brief. “Sell lots of flowers,” he ordered.

Moonlit Haze added, “Don’t worry – the job that we had planned for you can wait until the next day.”

“Great! I’ll see you Wednesday morning then.” Cogs went back home feeling rather pleased with himself.

* * *

Cogs learned the next day that there was a big difference between minding the shop briefly, and being responsible for it all day. In fact, he began to wonder how Lavender had managed so long by herself. It was amazing how normally pleasant ponies became annoyingly picky and demanding when they became customers. And when he could not help them with a particular order, they would always make him feel bad by saying how Lavender would be able to help them so easily. He did not regret his offer to play shopkeeper, but he was very glad that it was not his real career. Nevertheless, by the time that Lavender returned that evening, he had done some respectable sales that the mare would otherwise have missed out on, and that made up for the day’s frustrations.

The rest of the week went well for Cogs. There was plenty of work for him that he enjoyed, and Set Square was definitely warming up to him. He was up to two consecutive sentences when talking to him now! Cogs marveled at how well Moonlit Haze and Set Square worked together, always seeming to know what the other was thinking. Of course they had been doing this kind of work together for quite a lot of years. Despite knowing that they were all about a decade older than him, he had not fully realized that fact before he had met their children for the first time. They had two fillies – one an earth pony, the other a unicorn – and a pegasus colt, but they had normally left for school before Cogs arrived, and he simply had not bumped into them until by coincidence on Thursday. Moonlit Haze had obviously been the mother of one of the fillies, while Golden Words was responsible for the other filly and the colt. It was only upon meeting them did he learn a bit more about the Square Deal family.

All three ponies had been of the same age and in their final year of school when they decided that they wanted to form a herd together after graduation. Moonlit Haze and Set Square wanted to go on to trade school though, while Golden Words wanted to begin work on a writing career. None of this was going to bring in any money though, so Golden Words decided to put her writing on hold and took a job to support them all while they learned their trade. During that time, both she and Moonlit came into foal, and after they were born, added to the burden of Golden Words. It had been a hard couple of years, but all three were dedicated to each other, and everypony did all that they could to make it all work out. When Set Square and Moonlit Haze finally started up their business, they told Golden Words in no uncertain terms that aside from the bookkeeping, her time was to be dedicated solely to her writing from then on.

Success rarely comes quickly in the fiction writing game, and it was no different for Golden Words. It took her a year and a half to sell her first story, and more time to become a recognized author. Nevertheless her herd-mates had supported her as unstintingly as she had them until she started earning real money from her novels. They had done all this while raising two foals also, the third not being born until a few years later. It served to demonstrate to Cogs the strength of their love and unity in their herd, and had made him a little bit envious too. After all, changelings didn’t have families; they only had their hive-mates. Didn’t they?

* * *

Cogs had bought some paint with his wages that week, and had spent much of Saturday painting the shop. He had started with the interior which desperately needed brightening with fresh paint. Lavender had helped him by moving plants and other goods out of the way in one section while he had worked on it. That made it a little cramped in the shop, but they were able to keep business going all day that way.

Cogs finished painting a section about an hour before Lavender was due to shut the shop for the day. He hastily cleaned up because he had an appointment to keep. Today was the day his wing splints were coming off, and he was dying to stretch his wing.

As he was about to step out the door to head over to Healing Hooves’ clinic, Lavender called out, “Don’t forget that we’re due over for dinner at Square Deal at six!”

“I haven’t forgotten,” he reassured her. How could you forget a dinner date with your employers? Cogs had been a bit surprised by Moonlit Haze’s dinner invitation, but he found out later that it was not the first time that Lavender had been a dinner guest. In fact it was a semi-regular thing for them to socialize, and this was obviously more for her benefit than for him. Still, it was not as if they couldn’t have just asked her as usual and left him out of it. He was rather looking forward to it actually, so he did not want to waste time.

Healing Hooves warned him not to try anything abrupt when she took off the splints and bandages. Her horn glowed as she gave the wing a deep examination before saying, “I’m not one hundred percent happy with the way it has healed. Externally it looks fine, but I feel something wrong internally. I want you to carefully extend your wing fully.”

Cogs did as he was instructed, and was dismayed that it trembled and sagged.

“Just in case it’s only a case of non-use, I want you to do a series of wing folds and extensions to try to loosen it up a bit. Gently! I’m not after speed or strength, just control at this stage.”

Again Cogs did as he was asked, and another problem became apparent. He could not completely fold his wing at all. It tended to sag, and if he stopped consciously trying to hold it in, it drooped even further. He opened and shut the wings several times, but it did not make any difference. He looked at Healing Hooves for answers.

The unicorn shook her head. “It may just need more time to recover. On the other hoof, there could be some nerve damage. My scans just aren’t capable of discerning any more accurately. At this stage, I can only advise you to gently exercise it every day for a few days, and we’ll see if it improves. Don’t try to fly. Your wing isn’t strong enough yet, and your flying magic may still be compromised. I’ll give you a healing spell booster too. It might not help, but it can’t hurt to try either.”

Cogs left the clinic feeling somewhat dejected. Even though he had not really been expected to be allowed to fly as yet, he at least thought that he would be close to that goal. Now he had to deal with the possibility that at best it might take several more days, and at worst he could be permanently grounded. He had worked up quite a funk by the time that he got back to Lavender’s place. That was very quickly blown away when he saw her there waiting for him.

Lavender had not wasted her time while Cogs was away. She had washed and groomed herself, and she was now wearing a simple but flattering formal lilac-colored dress that matched her mane nicely.

Cogs gaped and said, “Wow!”

Lavender spun around to show off the dress a bit more. “You like it?” she asked with a coy smile.

“Very much so,” he assured her. “You’re going to make me feel very under-dressed at dinner.”

“Silly stallion! Only the mares dress up. You just get to make me look good!” Her eyes twinkled with good humor. “Just go brush your mane and we’ll head over now.”

“Yes, boss!” he said with a grin.

They were welcomed cordially by the family including all three of the foals, and Cogs was amused to see that Lavender was right – all the mares and fillies were dressed up while the stallions and colt were not. Thankfully, dressing up for the occasion was as formal as the dinner got, and the evening was relaxed and enjoyable. It was also a novel occasion for Cogs. While he’d had his share of friends and a social circle at Cloudsdale, he had never experienced this family type atmosphere. He liked it! He was beginning to think that he had perhaps got himself into a comfortable rut while working at the weather factory. Sure, he had not been unhappy, but then again he had never experienced the exuberance for living that these people enjoyed. He was eager to learn from them how to do the same.

Regrettably the evening drew to a close, and he and Lavender reluctantly said their goodbyes. Luna’s moon was high and gave them sufficient light to see comfortably, with occasional splashes of light from the windows of the houses they passed as they strolled home together.

“The stars look particularly pretty tonight, don’t you think?” Lavender commented.

Cogs looked up at the twinkling points of light. “They do seem to be nicer than normal. Or perhaps it’s because we’re feeling so good from that dinner date that everything feels a bit better.”

“You like that kind of thing then?”

“I haven’t experienced anything like it before, but I would like to do it again sometime soon.”

“I don’t think Goldie and Hazy would mind having another in a few weeks, but Set isn’t the biggest fan of frequent dinner parties.”

“I’m just being a bit selfish, I suppose. I was feeling rather depressed after I saw Healing Hooves today, but you turned that all around. I just want that good feeling to last for longer.”

“You’re the least selfish person that I know, Cogs. You talk about how you were feeling depressed? Well, that was me before you fell into my life. I also wish the feeling to go on longer.”

“But you already have your friends and your own business. You are the strongest person that I know despite your disability. You have made a life for yourself that I have never known. I envy you, Lavender.”

“I’m tired of being strong, Cogs. I want to be able to let go occasionally and know that somepony is there by my side. Will you be that very special somepony?” She stepped in front of him, and before he realized what she was up to, she leaned in and kissed him.

Cogs’ wings popped out in shock, his eyes wide with surprise. He could sense the desire behind her actions, the need and the growing love that fueled them. His mind was in turmoil. She wanted him, and yet he wasn’t exactly what she thought he was. Or maybe he was? She did not care that he was a banged-up stranger she had met by the roadside. She cared about what that stranger had done while staying with her, and whatever his outer form, that was what Cogs really was like. She liked him for himself! He had emulated feelings for many mares while working in Cloudsdale in order to feed on their desire, but he had never felt any real connection to any of them. However, it was different with Lavender. She stirred up feelings that he had never felt for anypony before. Celestia help him – maybe he was falling in love too!

Lavender drew back from the kiss, disappointed in the lack of response from Cogs. She looked away sadly. “I see. You don’t want a broken mare either.”

Cogs was shocked by that, and he found his voice. “If you’re broken, then so am I. Healing Hooves told me today that I could have nerve damage in my wing, and might never fly again. Do you pity me for that? I don’t pity you for your broken horn. I admire you. I’m astounded by you. And… I love you.” He startled himself with that admission, but that did not stop him from putting a foreleg around her and pulling her into another kiss. This time he gave as good as he had gotten, and some more besides.

Lavender was at first almost as startled as Cogs had been, but then she melted into his embrace and returned the kiss passionately. For several long moments, they were both oblivious to the rest of the world.

Eventually they broke apart, both panting a little for breath. They grinned at each other and she giggled.

“Oh my! I never thought that it was going to be like that,” Lavender said.

“What did you think it would be like?” Cogs asked curiously.

“I don’t know – I’ve never been in love before.”

“That makes two of us. I don’t even really know how to be a very special somepony.”

“Don’t worry – you’re doing just fine,” she reassured him.

Cogs looked around. “Umm… are we going to keep making out in the street?”

Lavender laughed. “I hope not. Let’s go home, dear.”

Upon arrival at Lavender’s place, Cogs became unsure again. She, however, headed for her bedroom.

“What do you want me to do, Lavender?” he asked.

She stopped in the doorway, and smiled coyly. “Very special someponies don’t sleep on the sofa, Cogs.” She then continued on into the bedroom.

Cogs realized that he was stepping into unknown territory here, and in more ways than one. He followed her unhesitatingly though. He found her standing by her bed waiting for him.

“Will you help me out of my dress, please? I don’t want to have it mussed up.” She didn’t need to say how it would get that way.

Cogs found it amazingly exciting to undress her, and despite the fact that she was just as nude as she was every other day, she was even more desirable to him right now.

“I’ve never done this before with anypony,” he confessed.

“That’s okay – neither have I,” she replied. “Shall we learn together?”

“I can’t think of anything that I would rather do right now.”

They spent the next hour learning what pleased each other and what didn’t work. Sometimes they made hilarious mistakes that left them both giggling like schoolfoals, but most of the time the sounds were of ecstasy. Eventually they finished making love and she snuggled into his embrace tiredly.

“Goodnight, my love,” she said softly.

“Goodnight, dear one,” he whispered in her ear.

She quickly fell asleep. Cogs however did not. Physically he was tired, but he was so supercharged with the love energy that he had been absorbing from her that he reckoned that he should be glowing from it. He felt that he would never have to consume love energy again, he was so full of it. And yet he knew he would again, because he had a mare who loved him unstintingly, and whom he loved in return. Life could not possibly get better than this. He stroked his sleeping lover’s mane, crooning her name. “Lavender, my beloved,” he said softly, “I may not have been born a pony, but I think I was destined to be one for you. As long as I live, I promise you that I will try my hardest never to fall short of your hopes and dreams for us.”

* * *

The next day they slept in very late. Rather than work in her garden, Cogs insisted that after breakfast, they go out and join the other ponies enjoying the day off. “I want to show off the most wonderful mare in the world who is my very special somepony. I want to see how jealous of us they’ll be when they see us together.”

Lavender laughed and agreed.

Perhaps the other ponies weren’t quite so jealous, but many were surprised at seeing her so obviously smitten with him. Some were happy for her, while others wondered what he saw in the disabled mare. They were pretty much oblivious to everyone though until they ran into Set Square and his wives also enjoying a Sunday stroll. Even the stoic stallion was surprised at what had so obviously changed between them. The mares were absolutely delighted though, and they gushed over Lavender, congratulating her and already making plans in their heads for the marriage ceremony.

Cogs looked at the bemused stallion and asked, “So, do you know a good place to buy a horn ring?”

For the very first time that Cogs had seen, Set Square broke into a broad grin. “Took you three and a half weeks from lost soul to fiancé. I’m impressed. You’ve done well, kid.”

Three sentences and a smile from Set Square – miracles did happen!

Author's Note:

And they lived happily ever after. Yeah, sure! More to come, folks!

As mentioned in the first chapter, I will be drawing on some of the fanon created by Blissey1 and his story - "A Novel Tale". However, while a lot of it will be simply a matter of not recreating the wheel, I will not be slavishly copying all his ideas. In fact I disagree with some of them. The basic story is great though, and I have referenced his character, Novel Tale, and Twilight's visit to Queen Polistae's hive. It's good background material, but not essential to my story. Nevertheless I tip my hat to him.