• Published 20th May 2015
  • 14,315 Views, 3,123 Comments

Shifting Melodies - Thadius0

He's a unicorn accountant in service to a smuggling ring. She's a high-ranking Thestral in the Day Guard. Together, they fight crime. Too bad one of them's lying.

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Chapter Seven - Don't blow it out of scale

Grissom Gossamer, a battle-hardened Thestral and head of the Canterlot Royal Council. In his long years, he had seen just about everything, from the return of several dangerous deities, to the ascension of a young unicorn into a graceful Alicorn.

As far as what ponies were capable of, he’d seen the best and he’d seen the worst. Equine kind was far from perfect, and the prosperity they enjoyed could also make one greedy, always wanting for more.

Right now? He sat at his large desk, a newspaper clasped in his shaking hooves. It told of a report that had made the front page, of the brutal murder and burning of a winged equine in guard armour. The thing was, if it had been a pegasus, their innate magic would have made them a little resistant. There would have been burnt feathers found.

There was only one other species of winged equine. And of that particular race, only one was in Las Pegasus...

But it couldn’t be true, there was no possible way something like this could have happened. She was too careful, too strong... There was... no way...

He slowly placed the paper on his desk, his breath was ragged and his eyes held one emotion.

Pure. Unbridled. Rage!

Whoever did this? They would suffer the same fate. Grissom would see them BURN!!

He was so caught up in preparing to march on Las Pegasus, he failed to see the beautiful unicorn enter the room. She watched him with an amused smile until he finally took note of her presence.

“Moon Song,” he rasped, his voice could barely take form. “Our... our little girl... she..”

“Is just fine,” Moon said with a bright smile. She placed a letter on the table, one that had already been opened and read by the unicorn. “I received this an hour ago.” Grissom all but snatched the note as his golden eyes scanned the page. After re-reading it for about the dozenth time, he placed it back on the table and sighed, a great weight lifting from his shoulders.

“Is this true, is this letter truly written by her?”

“It’s her mouthwriting, and my mother’s intuition is never wrong. While in a difficult situation, our little girl is just fine~”

He sighed again as he fell into his chair, the mare moving to rub the built-up tension from his shoulders.

“Alright, I knew she wouldn’t be taken from us so easily, but still... that was quite the scare!”

“And now you know how I’ve felt about your time with the Guard,” she said in a sweet tone, as her hooves pinched his shoulders hard. “And yet you said I was a fool to worry...”

“Ah! Owowow, okay! I get it!” he winced.

She released her grip and smiled again. “Still, we should pay her a visit once this is all over. She has a lot of explaining to do.”

“That she does,” Grissom agreed as he read the letter once more. His gaze turned to a steely determination and he frowned again. This time in annoyance. “I intend to find out exactly who this ‘Level Ledger’ is and why she outlined his name with hearts!”

“I thought I was supposed to be the one feeding off of you,” the changeling commented as he read the newspaper. “Yet when I come home and you think I’m not looking, you’re the one that attaches yourself to me.”

“I have no idea what you mean,’ Midnight said as she clung to his back. “I was taking a nice walk on the ceiling and you just happened to walk in as I felt like getting down. Pure coincidence. Nothing more.”

“That was five minutes ago,” Ledger replied, not taking his eyes off the paper. “You could just come out and say you want to cuddle, rather than try and sneak them in.”

“But my way is so much more fun~” she pouted and whined. “C’mon, cut me some slack. Being dead is reeeeeaaaly boring~”

“So is being pounced every other hour,” Ledger returned as he turned the page of the paper. “Gets boring and predictable. Though if you ask nicely, I might return the cuddle.”

Song suddenly loosed her grip and shifted to one side, effectively swinging vertically and hanging from his belly. She crawled up so her forehooves were wrapped around his neck, her legs around his waist.

“Hugs?” she blinked. Ledger sighed and put the paper to one side before smiling and sitting on his haunches, drawing the Thestral in for a hug.

“Fine, hugs,” he returned, holding her close and basking in the sensations.

“Toldya that my huggability cannot be denied~” she giggled, never failing to be surprised on how warm he was, despite the thick chitin.

Dear Mom and Dad

If you’re reading this, then don’t worry, despite what you may hear or read, I’m totally not dead. Just... pretending to be dead. (It’s a looooong story)

Things have gotten complicated here in Las Pegasus, and please trust me when I say that I’m doing this for a very good reason. The life of a friend depends on it!

So Daddy? Please don’t do anything rash! I have everything under control and all this should be wrapped up in a week or so. Honestly, being dead is fun, like a vacation only I’m stuck inside.

And Momma? Make sure Daddy listens to this letter and doesn’t do anything rash anyway. I’m counting on you to keep him in line like always~

Also, I’m living with this great guy. His name is ❦Level Ledger❦ and he’s just about my bestest friend ever~ He’s a little different than most stallions I’ve met before, but trust me when I say that he’s a great bu-guy I meant guy!

Aaaanyway, lotsa love and I’ll see you guys again soon!

All the love.

~Midnight Song~

“I-I don’t even...” Grissom sighed and facehooved, a reaction he’d taken everytime he’d read the letter. “And this... this ‘Ledger’ fellow? She’s seems...” Words seemed to fail him at the moment.

“Smitten?” his wife suggested. “It appears to be the case. And what of this little slip here? While as adorable as it is, it means something... something our dear Midnight doesn’t want us to know~”

Grissom stared at the line. ‘Bu’ What on Equus could it mean? Boyfriend? No, she’d have just said that if that were the case. Then a thought occurred, one that disturbed him greatly. He pressed a button and buzzed in his assistant.

“File! Get the list of known infiltrators. The LP one!”

“Yessir!” she said with a bow and left the room. Grissom stared back at the letter and frowned. Just what had his little girl gotten herself into. File quickly returned and Grissom scanned the list, his scowl deepening with each page. None of them, none of them with ‘Level Ledger’ or any mix of those words were listed as registered or on the watch list.

Which meant he was either jumping to conclusions, or that this was an unregistered one. And both thoughts were quite concerning.

“Just what are you doing Midnight?” he muttered.

“Midnight...what are you doing?...” Ledger asked as he backed up slowly. Midnight stalked closer and licked her lips.

“Hmmm, I’m just curious...what does chitin tastes like? It sorta looks like licorice. So I’m bored and curious and that is a dangerous combination.”

“Along with that undercurrent of lust in your being, yes, yes it is all a dangerous combination,” Ledger pointed out as he unknowingly scooted even closer to the wall. “I don’t think I like where you’re looking, Midnight…”

“Hmm, well I wonder if the silver and black parts have different flavours,” she replied, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “You’re sweet on the inside, let’s see about the outside~”

Ledger’s flank hit the wall, and he instinctively turned to look, making the foolish mistake of taking his eyes off the Thestral mare for even a second. By the time he turned back, she was already in mid leap, hooves outstretched and ready to taste a changeling...

Until the door opened and interrupted her trajectory, the thestral slamming into it painfully. Captain Narrow walked in, sparing a glance at the dizzy bat.

“Uh, should-should I be wondering what that was all about?” Fortunately, during her moment of distraction, Ledger had redonned his disguise.

“She’s just got cabin fever,” the now-a-unicorn said. “So...what’s up? Why’d you break quarantine?”

Narrow looked at him. What was that flash just now? Well, whatever. “It’s Toll... she’s, well it appears she’s up to something. Our guards reported a lot of activity at the central warehouse earlier today. Do you have any idea what she might be up to?”

“Central...activity…” Ledger pursed his lips, before his eyes widened and he cursed. Something in Gryphon seemed appropriate. “Oh that bitch! That’s where she kept the foals! She’s moving them because we damaged her network too badly! Captain, if you can stop that cargo at all, I suggest you do so! You may not be able to tie it back to her if I know her, but you’d be able to reunite those families!”

“Then we have to move fast!” Narrow said. “If we do this, our hooves have been forced and there will be no going back. You... may not have a job to go back to after this Ledger.”

“No, there’s a plan,” Ledger said, mind whirling. “There’s always a plan. Have a pegasus fly over and catch sight of the logo on the boxes. They aren’t her logos, but they are shell companies owned by her. You can claim you were watching them and can bust them. I can still fulfill my role tomorrow. We can still do the original plan and this one.”

“Alright, I’ll mobilise a squad and move out.” She gave the unicorn a hard stare and nodded. “I’m trusting you on this one Level. Is that trust being misplaced?”

“I have to make Toll trust me tomorrow and hide all signs of anything going awry while you pull off the biggest simultaneous bust in this city’s history. I’m trusting you just as much,” Level replied. “If either of us fail, we’re dead.”

Narrow nodded, while she already knew as such, it never hurt to have confirmation every now and then. She looked at the dizzy thestral, who had slowly picked herself back up.

“Urgh! Who hit me and can I hit ‘em back...” she mumbled, rubbing her head.

“Later,” Narrow said. “Sergeant Midnight Song! Can you be counted on to keep this unicorn safe and sound? To ensure that no harm would come to him should things go pear-shaped?”

Song allowed herself a silent giggle. If only the Captain knew... Still...

“Of course Ma’am! No harm will befall him. On my blade, this I swear!”

“Mm, good girl,” Narrow nodded. As long as Midnight was watching over him, she could direct the rest of her troops without having to worry. “Alright, it seems I have a lot to do. Best of luck tomorrow you two!”

The door closed behind the captain as she left, and this time, Ledger made sure it was locked before sighing and dropping his disguise again. “Well...that was a close one,” he observed.

“Mmhmm,” Midnight nodded as she licked her lips. “Now... where was I~?”

“Uh, granting me mercy?” Ledger weakly attempted to lie his way out. Midnight chuckled and waved a hoof.

“Oh, silly Ledger... that’s cute~ Now hold still, this’ll only take a moment~”

The drone let off a panicked yelp and attempted to dive out of the way...poorly.

“Express to Las Pegasus? Should only take a moment to punch that up. Gonna need a name, though,” the colt behind the ticket counter said.

“Grissom Gossamer and Moon Song,” the stalwart thestral stallion replied. “We request a private carriage, in the name of her Highness, Princess Celestia.”

The colt looked at a list of names in his booth, nodded, and punched a few keys before tearing a pair of train tickets off the roll and holding them in one hoof. “Normal fare for two to Las Pegasus, six bits. Express fare, twelve bits. Private car, would be eighteen, but royal privilege cuts that off entire. Still, twelve bits.” He held his other hoof out expectantly. Grissom paid up and nodded to his wife, who grabbed ahold of the tickets with her magic. They headed for the train, which sounded it’s departure whistle soon after.

“So what do you suppose is waiting for us?” Moon asked her husband.

“A stallion who had better have the purest of intentions,” Grissom growled. And he’d better not be what I think he is…

The ride was blessedly short, as the express train stopped for nothing on its way to the Sin City of Equestria. Within a matter of hours, the thestral stallion and his unicorn wife were stepping off onto the Las Pegasus platform, rotating a few joints to get the kinks out that hours of sitting still had given them.

Several stallions had taken notice and began to stare, seeing as how Moon Song was simply beautiful. Platinum blonde locks against a coat was was as white as pure driven snow. Then they noticed the stocky thestral stallion next to her and decided that there were suddenly much less dangerous things to stare at.

“Must you be so intimidating?” Song sighed as they stepped off of the platform and out into the street. “They’ll do no harm by looking you know.”

“This is Las Pegasus, I’ll not put it past them,” Grissom grumbled. “Now, should we head to the station to find our daughter?”

“No need,” Moon smiled and produced the letter. “She was kind enough to put a return address~”

“Our dead daughter sends a returnable letter?” Grissom sighed as she checked a map and made off for the apartment. “Only she can pull off something like that...”


Midnight suddenly sneezed, spraying mango juice all over Level.

“...You’re just lucky carapace is extremely easy to clean,” the changeling grumbled as he moved to stand up from the couch. “Back in a minute.”


Once the couple had reached the building, Grissom was the first to enter and noticed the landlord sitting behind the counter, newspaper in his grasp. Grissom’s eyes twitched as he recognised him from the dossiers he’d read during the trip. He cleared his throat to garner attention…

The Earth Pony behind the desk lowered his paper and raised his eyebrow at the couple. “Ah, hello. Renting? Or visiting?”

“Level Ledger! Where is he, changeling!” Grissoms tone was curt and short. He had no time for games. The stallion behind the desk sighed and put both his forehooves on the table.

“You know the terms of our agreement,” he said. “I can neither confirm-” here his right hoof tapped the table, “-or deny” left hoof this time, “that any of my tenants may or may not” right hoof, “be changelings as well.”

Grissom opened his mouth, but was shushed by Moon Song. The graceful unicorn stepped forward and smiled gently. “Forgive my husband,” she said sweetly. “He’s a tad upset and seems to have misplaced his manners. We are trying to find our daughter, Midnight Song, as was informed she is staying with a Level Ledger here. May we be directed to her apartment please?”

“Of course you can, and as I understand it, there are several extenuating circumstances regarding his story,” the Earth pony said as he made a show of checking his book. “You should really ask him about them, get the story yourself. Ah...here we are.” The landlord looked back at the unicorn and raised his eyebrow again. “Promise to keep him reigned in?”

“I will endeavour to try,” Moon replied with her ever-present smile. “He’s a bit of a grump, but he’s a nice stallion.”

“I’ll be nice when I find my little girl,” Grissom grumbled under his breath.

“204, and do try not to disturb the other tenants too badly,” the landlord informed the couple. Moon Song nodded once more as Grissom had already made a beeline for the stairs. He was going to get to the bottom of this.

Moon just sighed, hoping she wouldn’t have to help hide the bodies...

Midnight had retired to her room for a bit, wanting a power nap after eating half the kitchen out of sheer boredom. She’d just closed her door when somepony knocked on their main door, the object shaking slightly due to the loose hinges. Level stepped out of his bedroom, the shower having only taken a moment, along with the drying.

“I’m getting more visitors in one day than I have in one month before you moved in,” the ‘ling observed, before putting his disguise back on. When he opened the door, a smiling unicorn mare greeted him.

“Ah, hello sir,” she smiled. “Might you perchance be Level Ledger?”

“I am indeed,” he said, his horn already lighting up as he fetched some ink and parchment for use out of the direct sight from anyone that might be watching him. “Might I ask who you are?” He already had an idea...

Before the mare could reply, a large thestral stallion pushed past her, baring down on the slightly smaller unicorn stallion. His eyes were filled with an emotion quite commonly referred to as either rage, or great annoyance. It was difficult to tell.

“Where. Is my. Daughter!?

“I only got the news myself when she flew out, didn’t come back, and showed up in the morning’s paper,” the unicorn said, displaying a note hovering over his back for them to see. Play along. Walls might have ears. She’s fine. “I assume you are Midnight Song’s parents, then. I am terribly sorry for your loss.”

Grissom said nothing. He turned to his wife who offered a solemn nod in return. The quill was yanked from his grasp by her magic and added a footnote.

Inside. I will cast a barrier.

The unicorn in front of them nodded and re-took control of the quill. That’s fine. But like I said. Play along. “If you want to come in to take her things, or hear about her time with me, I would not mind too much. I’ll even make dinner for the pair of you.”

“That... would be kind,” Moon sniffed, her acting was flawless. Ledger could feel the sadness emanating from her. The pair followed him in and her mood flipped like a switch, her horn lighting up as the walls flashed gold for a moment.

“There, Beta-level barrier is set up,” she smiled. “One of my specialties really. Nopony will hear us now.”

“Excellent,” Ledger smirked, before drawing in a deep breath and putting it to the test right away. “MIDNIGHT SONG, ARISE FROM YOUR GRAVE! YOUR PARENTS ARE HERE!” There was a groan from her room as a sleepy thestral walked in slowly, rubbing her eyes with a hoof.

“Level.. would you please shut the hell... up...?” Her eyes widened as a white unicorn spear-tackled her with a hug, sending the two tumbling across the ground. “GAH! Mom!?”

Grissom had remained silent, though his expression had softened greatly. He would have hugs eventually, but right now? Nopony escaped from a Moon hug.

“And now that she’s distracted,” Ledger said, turning to Grissom. “Hmm. I’m thinking macaroni, cheese, and potato casserole for dinner,” he said. “Any objections?”

“I’m thinking broiled unicorn,” he replied tersely. “We have more important things to discuss right now, rather than dinner plans.” He took a step towards him, his scowl deepening. “Like why my daughter is classified as DEAD!!”

“And she can tell you about that, or we can talk about that, over dinner,” the unicorn stressed, not intimidated in the slightest. He worked with Toll Taker, after all. “Something like what I just outlined takes a lot of prep work. Plus I know better than to let Midnight help in the kitchen anymore. So while I do that, you can squeeze her for information. Sound fair?”

Grissom sighed as he watched his daughter and wife embrace... or she was strangling the young Thestral. One of the two.

"Fine," he simply uttered. Level gave him a smile and all but vanished into the kitchen, leaving the family to reunite after one of their supposed deaths.

"Urk! Mom... can't....breathe..." Midnight croaked out before she croaked for real. Moon Song finally let her go and smiled.

"So, have you learned not to worry us so much?"

"I think so, yes..." Midnight wheezed, clutching her probably broken ribs. "I missed you guys though," she smiled as her father moved in for a more normal hug. "I'm sorry you got so worried..."

"Well it's a good thing you sent that message," Grissom said, his tone considerably brighter now "I was about ready to send the army here..."

"Awww~ I love you too Daddy," Midnight giggled, returning his embrace. “And sending the army would not have been such a good idea... we have a very technical plan in place. Just trust me okay?”

“I always have,” Grissom sighed and smiled warmly. “So how does you pretending to be dead have to fit in with this plan?”

“Well... explaining that might take a while. So let’s wait for Lev to finish his awesome cooking and we’ll discuss it then.”

“Speaking of~” her mother cooed, pulling her daughter back into a less deadly hug. “Just how do you know that handsome colt and is he yours yet~?”

“M-Mom!?” Midnight blushed a deep red and sighed. “It’s... kinda complicated with him. He’s the one that rents this apartment and we’re just friends for the moment. We have to sort out this little dilemma regarding Pegasus Air first. Then... then we can sort other things out.”

Grissom laughed at that response. “Well now, this is the first time I’ve heard you so reserved about a stallion. Maybe he’s a good thing for you after all~”

“DAD!” Midnight growled and pounced, the two wrestling on the floor hissing and play-fighting... well Grissom was playing, Song was trying to murder him.

“Ah, this brings back memories~” Moon sighed wistfully as she looked towards the kitchen. “Oh Ledger dear? Do you require an extra set of hooves at all?”

“Not at the moment,” the unicorn said as he walked out, horn aglow. “Just melting the cheese now. After that, all I need to do is put everything together in a pan and set it to bake. This is one that Fredrick admits I’m better at than him, at least.”

“It pays to have magic at times,” Moon smiled knowingly. “Well regardless, do sing out if I can assist.”

“Ahhh, what I wouldn’t give for one of your meals again,” Midnight sighed, having wrestled her father into submission. “There’s something to be said for homemade meals. It just has something that no restaurant can compete with.”

“You are too kind dear,” Moon Song smiled, as she had a small dig through the records that Midnight had bought. She gasped slightly as she pulled one out. “Midnight dear, is this my record?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah... I saw it when I was out shopping. I was gonna show Level when I had time, but the topic hadn’t really come up yet.”

“I see,” Moon Song smiled happily. “That means a lot dear.”

Midnight nodded as her stomach gave a loud growl. “Urgh! Level.... Hungry...~” she whined, her tail wagging back and forth.

“The actual dinner won’t be ready for quite some time,” Level said, shaking his head. “But if everyone is amicable, I can prepare a small snack of fried spinach beforehand. Garlic and olive oil really do wonders for such a simple leaf.”

“That sounds lovely,’ Moon replied. “Thankyou for being such a gracious host Level dear.”

“Not a problem at all, but if you could, please have her curb her eating habits? With only one of us currently ‘alive’ at the moment, I’m not sure I’ll be able to feed her for much longer,” the stallion commented with a small grin. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear she was pregnant, the way she’s going through the fridge.”

Both Moon and Grissom paused and the unicorn stallion suddenly had two concerned parents in his face, one looking quite excited, the other wondering how many ways he could be dissected.

“I did say, ‘if I didn’t know any better,’” he clarified. “While I might not be privy to any of her apparently promiscuous past, I myself have done nothing more intensive than hug her.”

Grissom ‘humphed’ while Moon Song looked a little dejected.

“Darn, and here I was hoping for some grandfoals... Midnight? When are you going to settle down and get married?”

“When I’m not dead?” she replied back. “Besides, kinda busy with being a Guard, you know? For Princess and country and all that? I don’t have time to get married and raise foals.” Moon was about to respond, but Midnight raised a hoof. “Look, we’re not talking about this now. I’m stressed enough as is.”

Moon sighed, her daughter was right of course, and she didn’t want to upset her again. “All I’m saying is that you should consider it, you’re still young, but time has a way of catching up on you.”

Midnight just thunked her head onto the table, with Grissom giving a hearty chuckle. Moon glared at him, her ever-present smile just making it all the more terrifying.

“And just what is so amusing?”

“Well,” Grissom chuckled. “We did tell her that her life was her decision to make after all. We can’t really argue with her on that front can we?”

Moon just pouted and Midnight nodded. She knew she loved her dad for a reason. The smell of fried spinach started to waft in from the kitchen as Level just sat there, horn glowing as he observed a family so unlike, yet eerily similar to his own interact with one another. Midnight spied him out of the corner of her eye and motioned for him to come closer.

“You can come in, they won’t bite... I think?” Midnight giggled. Level chuckled as well before bringing four plates of the fried greens out for the ponies and himself to enjoy.

“It’s simple, yet it never lasts whenever it’s made,” Ledger pointed out. “I always prepare to put some away, yet it always vanishes before it gets there.” He took a seat at the couch in the living room and started to nibble at his own plate, horn still glowing as he prepared the main course from afar.

“Especially so now that I’m here~” Midnight giggled, apparently quite proud of her gluttony. She took a heaped serving, only to have her hooves slapped by her mother. “Ow! What the hay Mom?”

“You will wait for everypony else dear,” she chided her. “Seeing as how you’ve already eaten recently.”

“Awww...” Midnight pouted, knowing there was no resisting her mother’s stern stare. Once everypony else had plated up, she finally got to have at it, and simply grabbed the bowl that the spinach was in... and again was slapped for it.

“Midnight Song, show some manners.” Moon chided again. “Some ponies might like seconds, so eat in moderation dear.”

Midnight sighed, pushing the bowl back and taking a smaller serving. “Yes Mom...”

With a final burst from his horn, Level stopped casting and nodded. “And that’s dinner in the oven. Should only take it about half-an-hour to finish baking.” The unicorn took another bite of the delicious greens and looked from Midnight to her family, enjoying the love they shared for one another, and refraining from touching it - barely.

“Well we have some time,” Grissom said. “Can you explain what’s been happening Midnight?”

The thestral mare offered a look to Ledger, as if asking if she should tell them the whole story, minus the whole ‘Changeling’ thing. With a soft shake of his head, Level spoke up instead.

“It’s really simple when you understand one basic fact, Sir,” Level said as he cleared his mouth. “I’m the bookkeeper for Pegasus Air, and I’m trying to change that.”

“I see, so you’re attempting an inside job then?” He’d seen his fair share of this before. “That’s risky... you got some guts kid, I’ll give you that.”

“Yes, well, with all the troubles Toll has been experiencing lately, she ordered me to kill my roommate, on suspicion that the leak was a combination of me taking my work home with me and her stealing it and giving it to her fellow Guards,” Level said before taking another bite and motioning at Midnight with a hoof for her to pick up the story.

“And well, disguising a dummy and burning it was my idea actually,” Midnight continued. “While it wasn’t my most... well thought out plan, it was the only way I could see that didn’t require putting Level in protective custody or getting him killed. It only occured to me after that you guys would panic.”

“Well, I agree it was not a well-thought plan,” Grissom nodded. “But it was an excellent display of quick-thinking, wit, and you made it quite believable. You’re becoming quite the mare Midnight.”

“Eheh~’ Midnight blushed and giggled, as Level could feel the ego rolling off of her. “I am pretty danged amazing huh?”

“Lets not get ahead of ourselves,” Grissom stated as he finished his food. “Now, the question is, how long do you intend to keep up this charade?”

“Just until tomorrow when I punch out,” Level said as he polished off his plate as well. “I have the job of distracting Toll and making her trust me while the LPPD and local Guard pull out all her legs from under her.”

“So a risky ‘do-or-die’ mission huh?’ Grissom let out a low chuckle when he remembered who was in charge of the Guard here. “Captain Narrow... she’s got a pair bigger than most stallions I know. Hmm, I wonder if I could-”

“Not a snowball’s chance in Tartarus!” Both Midnight and Moon Song snapped. “You are not joining in on this!”

“Aw c’mon, I’m not that old!” Grissom grumbled. Both mares giggled, giving him a patronising pat on the withers.

“Age doesn’t seem to be a factor, I’ve observed that mares always seem to want to protect their stallions,” Level said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Midnight doesn’t like the idea of me going back tomorrow.” Now if only the Hives would adopt something similar...

“Because you’re a civvie!” Midnight argued, not wanting to display the real reason she was worried. “I have no idea what that psycho mare is capable of!”

“Your concern is touching, but ill-placed in this circumstance,” Level said with a grin that was only a touch too wide. “If she were to actually try something, I’d be more than willing to demonstrate on her all the things I know about how to mess with unicorns.”

“Being one helps dear,” Moon nodded. “But mares can be tricky, especially one’s with magic.”

“And I saw her mess up a pretty decent-sized stallion with a single hoof,” Song argued. “I’m still worried, but I’ll be there to back you up... out of sight of course.”

“Well then I am no longer worried,” Moon replied with a chipper smile. “You seem to have a fine guardian angel on your side Mr. Ledger.”

“Now if only she would stop draping herself across my withers every other hour, I might be able to get things done,” Ledger grumbled, but winked at Midnight. “Seriously, you know she only has one thing on me. Imagine what I can do when I’m not afraid of her anymore.”

That raised a few warning flags in Grissom’s mind as he leant forward. “And exactly what does she have on you? I will not place my daughter in danger!”

“If I told you the secret she had on me, it wouldn’t be a secret, would it?” Ledger said, smiling a little at his logic. “If worst comes to worst, I will deal with that bitch myself. And believe me, while I’d need the element of surprise, in any prolonged fight between us, I will win.”

Grissom opened his mouth to reply, but Midnight cut him off. “It’s alright daddy, I know what his secret is and it’s fine. Nothing that could or would want to hurt me. Isn’t that right Lev?”

“True,” Level said with a nod. “Nothing about me could...well, no, strike that. I would never hurt you.”

“And two,” she continued with a small smile before turning serious. “You will not be killing Toll Taker. She will atone for her crimes in a legal manner and I would feel really bad about having to arrest you for murder sweetie.”

Ledger huffed and crossed his hooves. “She deserves it, but fine...can I at least put a compulsion on her so that every time she gets close to telling my secret, she blurts out something completely unrelated?”

“I hold no responsibility for what happens while you defend yourself. Errant spells are difficult to fix, especially when they appear harmless.”

Grissom chuckled again. He’d taught her well indeed.

Moon sniffed the air and hummed. A second later, the oven dinged. “Aha, I believe that’s your cue dear Level.”

“Indeed,” he said as he got up to go into the kitchen. Not a moment later, the sound of the oven opening reached their ears, and the smell of something good increased. “Mmm...yes, this looks just about done. Midnight, do we have enough chairs at the table, or will half of us need to take the couch?” As he asked, Level was rummaging around for dinnerware.

“Well, we only have two chairs,” she replied. “So yeah, we need some couch time for the others.”

“Dibs on the couch with my Middy!” Moon suddenly shouted.

“Dammit!” Grissom cursed.

“It actually makes more sense if I join you, ma’am,” Level said as he poked his head out, before pointing at his aglow horn. “We can eat without needing to worry about a table wherever we go.”

“True enough,” Moon sighed as Grissom smiled triumphantly. Midnight shook her head, hoping her parents would grow up one day. Moon Song smiled though and looked towards the kitchen, with Level Ledger suddenly feeling a cold chill.

“Well, we can discuss certain things then~” she giggled.

“Ah, yes,” he said a bit nervously, before floating four plates with food out behind him. “But first! The one really good recipe I didn’t learn from Fredrick, and the one he can’t best me at! The one I’ve been working on since I was twelve! I present to you, my casserole!”

Two plates were put at the table, and Level trotted over to the couch and made himself comfortable with the other two floating along. When the ponies examined the dish...it looked to be a block of noodles, potato bits, and cheese, with a fine crust on top.

“Macaroni, boiled to perfection. Scads of cheddar cheese, melted. Potato, chopped into tiny bits and fried up with oil and herbs. Put in the same baking pan, then sprinkle some bread crumbs on it and set to bake for half an hour.” With the explanation finished, the brown unicorn dug into his food and sighed.

Midnight sniffed the food and a small part of her brain died and was singing with the angels. It didn’t take long for her to start inhaling the food, as her and her dad devoured it like a pair of predators. To anypony else, it was quite a sight, and the sounds would haunt their dreams.

Level snickered as he calmly ate his own. Guess that whole ‘Tender loving care’ he infused the dish with worked. Also, note to self, ponies seem to find emotions highly delicious. He cast his gaze over to the mare on the couch with him and nodded at her food. “And what do you think?”

“It’s quite delicious,” she said, dabbing at her mouth with a napkin. “I must say Level dear, this is looking to be very much in your favour. So far? I approve.”

“Delicious and filling, that’s why I learned the recipe in the first place,” Level agreed with a nod. “Gives me plenty of energy for those late-night study sessions...that become the next morning.”

“So you’re well-read as well?” Moon smiled as she continued to eat. “My little filly has found someone wonderful indeed. It makes this old mare proud.”

“I made it my mission to travel and learn when I was younger, which got put on hold when I took that job for Toll Taker,” he admitted. “I only wanted enough to pay for rent while I read the local library...and she twisted my hoof into staying long past that.” His serving was mostly gone by now: for all his control, even he felt like eating quickly...if only to try and stop the thestrals from raiding his kitchen for more.

“You’ve had a tough time huh?” Moon said gently, giving the two bats the eye when she caught them creeping into the kitchen. As they slinked back to the table, she chuckled lightly, sounding like a clear, crystal bell. “Well, you seem to be taking good care of my precious Song, and I know she’ll take care of you in return...”

“Oh, I’ll take care of him alright~” Midnight sang out, causing the mare’s smile to falter for a brief blink of the eye.

“Dear, must you be so-” Moon paused as Midnight flittered over, whispering something in the mare’s ear. Said ear flicked as she gave the briefest of glances to Level, and a faint blush graced her cheeks.


“...Midnight, do I want to know what you just told your mother?” Ledger deadpanned, already knowing by her emotions, but playing the part of a unicorn.

“Mm... nope~” Midnight giggled., flying back to her seat. Moon Song, ever the professional, kept her composure and coughed once.

“Well, I really do hope you continue to get along with Midnight... She can be quite difficult to get along with sometimes, but she’s an honest child.”

“Ma’am, if you’re done with your dinner, I advise you to make way for Midnight,” Ledger warned. “She’s...not all that difficult to get along with, and if I know her, she’s going to want to reward me for this meal while I’m still on the couch…”

“Don’t be so greedy, you’ll get hugs later~” Midnight said from the table, currently besting her father in hoofwrestling. How and why they were doing so was a mystery. “Right now, this old bat is going down!”

“And... then there’s this,” Moon sighed again.

“As long as they don’t break anything, I say let them have their fun and burn off that energy,” Ledger shrugged. “I’m going to go put the leftovers away before they mysteriously vanish, and check to see if we have anything that’ll work for dessert.” The stallion got up from the couch and gathered up the dirty plates with a quick burst of magic and began trotting into the kitchen.

“Allow me to fix dessert,” Moon Song said, following him into the kitchen. “As way of thanks for that wonderful meal.”

“You really don’t have to,” Ledger said as he put the plates in the sink. “You came all the way here to check on your not-dead daughter, and with you two around, I’m not getting pounced every five minutes when she’s awake, so really, dinner was the least I could do.”

“And I appreciate it, very much so,” Moon said, pushing him out of the kitchen. “But I truly insist and will not take no for an answer.”

“You will lose Lev,” Midnight said, slamming her father’s hoof into the table. “HAH! And yeah, just give it up and let her have the kitchen.”

“Considering our snacking habits, I’ll be surprised if there’s anything in there for her to work with,” Ledger grumbled as he lay down on the couch, in a slightly darker mood. “Bloody mares,” he grumbled. “Think they know what’s best...it’s been my kitchen for a year now…”

Moon Song paused, she hadn’t meant to upset the poor dear, but Midnight had beaten her to it. She leapt across the room and landed on top of the disguised changeling.

“Now look, Mom is just making dessert. She’s not out to take over your life, just make something sugary to eat.” She lay her head against his chest and looked up at him., her voice dropping to a whisper even he could barely hear. “She doesn’t mean any offense, how could she when she doesn’t know.”

Ledger sighed and drew Midnight in for a hug, whispering to her in return. “I’m sorry...you I trust...I’ll try to trust her as well.” He drew his head back up and turned to the kitchen, an apologetic smile on his face. “Sorry, I was being kind of rude, and Midnight reminded me not to be. For the promise of something sugary, I can suspend my phobias temporarily.”

Midnight smiled and gave him the softest of kisses on the lips. “Trust me, if I know my Mom, you’re gonna get something really special~”

Seeing the surprising problem resolved, Moon returned to the kitchen, soon finding something that her family would enjoy, and hopefully the young unicorn as well. After some rummaging around to locate all the utensils, music suddenly started to play and Moon Song begun to sing…

Ledger’s eyes widened as his senses were overloaded. The love and care she put into singing, as well as making a single dish! It was nearly overwhelming. A lesser drone might have exploded by now, trying to feed on all the ambient emotion. As it was, Ledger merely basked and drank his fill, his head bobbing in time with the song.

Midnight smiled widely and decided that Ledger should have an extra treat. She inhaled and closed her eyes, soon joining her mother in song…

Ledger groaned and put his head closer to Midnight’s ears, dropping his voice to a level where only she could hear him whisper. “Too full already...keep it up and Estate will feel it from downstairs.

Song finished off the song and smiled at him, it was extremely rare to hear the mother and daughter singing together, since Midnight was always so busy with the Guard. Grissom for his part had a wide smile on his face, having enjoyed the duet imenselley.

Ledger just hugged Midnight close and sighed, expressing the happiness he not only felt himself but was also stuffed with. He was certain if he were to shift back, his stomach would be far too large! “Well, I will treasure that memory forever,” he said aloud, even as his eyes closed while he snuggled with Midnight.

“You’d better,” she giggled, Grissom watched them and sighed. She seemed... happier, than she had been in a long time.

“I guess I can’t fault him for that,” he thought to himself. “I just hope this doesn’t wind up like last time... And I still need to check on ‘that’ as well”

The moment was quite beautiful, until Moon Song returned with her dessert...

Homemade Mango parfait.

The effect was instantaneous. Level Ledger soon found his hooves grasping thin air, as Midnight had all but teleported to the table, her tail wagging back and forth.

“You stole my snuggle buddy,” the unicorn stallion pouted at Moon Song. “Stole her with your mango treats.”

“And you appear to already know her weakness,” she smiled. “Be sure not to abuse that power~”

“Oh, I have tricks of my own,” Midnight purred as she munched on the delicious treat, even as waves of love poured out of her.

Ledger pulled one closer to himself and began eating his own dessert, humming at the taste. “Oh, this is good,” he admitted. “Very good. I’ve a fondness for sweets, and this is one of the best I’ve ever had.”

“I’m very glad to hear it dear,” Moon Song winked as she took delicate bites of her own. “I make all my treats with lots of love, so please enjoy~”

“Hmmmmmm~ Shhoooo guuuudd!” Midnight drooled at the mango treat. This night was utterly perfect... well, aside from the start. That kinda sucked.

“How anypony couldn’t taste that is beyond me,” Ledger admitted. Love and care around sugar? It was a good thing he could just shift some new teeth in, otherwise he might end up with a lot of cavities. “So believe me when I say I will enjoy this to the fullest I can.”

“That’s good,” Moon winked. “I made a little extra and stored it in the fridge. A little incentive to come home to tomorrow hmm?” A thought occurred and she glanced to Midnight. “And there is one for you as well, so no being greedy, Little Bat~”

“Aww, not the foal name~” Midnight whined and licked her dessert dish clean. She looked at Ledger, promising a slow and painful death should he ever repeat those words. His grin, which was bordering on maniacal, didn’t lessen in the slightest.

“You have a weapon against me,” he said cryptically. “Now my arsenal is accruing its own weapons as well.”

“Dammit Mom,” Song pouted, the older mare simply laughing.

After some more talking, Grissom was about to grill Ledger a little more, when there was a flash of green flame, and a scroll materialised in front of him. He caught the object and his eyes scanned it before frowning.

“Hmm, it seems Celestia is in a bit of trouble,” he muttered. “And I told Luna that those... humph! Honey? We have to return to the capitol.”

“Aw, I was hoping to talk with Level a little more... oh well, until next we meet hm?”

“I can at least walk you to the station,” Ledger offered. “I’m not the one that’s dead, so it’d only be polite.”

“Well, I don’t see the harm,” Grissom said. There were still things to confirm after all. “Don’t raid the fridge anymore missy!”

All he got in response was a garbled ‘Blarg!’ from the couch. Ledger chuckled and whispered into her ear before kissing the top of her head.

I promise to be your snugglebug when we get back if you behave.”

“Fiiiiine~” Midnight pouted. Maybe she could read- Naw, she had music. She was gonna jam!

“Then’s lets be off!” Moon Song said. “Should we walk, or does an express Teleport sound better?”

“Either way’s good with me. I myself haven’t studied the spell, but none of the locals bother me,” Level admitted as he went to hold the front door open. “So it’s your choice really.”

“Hmm, would you mind ‘porting on ahead and getting the tickets?” Grissom asked his wife. “I’d like to talk with our friend here for a bit.”

Moon nodded and hummed. “Very well, I shall see you boys soon. Play nice alright?” And with that, there was a flash of light and she was gone, leaving the two males outside the apartment together.

“So, what did you want to talk about, sir?” Ledger asked as they began their descent to the lobby. “We should be safe for a little bit from prying ears,” he whispered.

“I had Moon do a scrying spell while you were cooking, this building has no bugs of ‘that’ variety,” he said. “And while we’re on that topic, perhaps you might entertain an old fool with a few answers?”

Coincidentally, the pair of them walked past the front desk at just that moment. “Hello Ledge, hello sir,” the Earth Pony said with a bit of a grumble. “Ledge, watch your back around this one. He’s not kind at all.”

Grissom sighed as he walked over to Estate. “I do apologise for my earlier callousness. I let my concerns cloud my judgement and I mean you no ill will.” He held out a hoof and a small smile graced his muzzle. “I am Grissom Gossamer, First Councilman for Her Highness, Princess Celestia.”

The stallion blinked in surprise before taking the hoof with his own and smiling slightly as well. “And I’m Real Estates, owner of this building, along with what few others I can get ahold of. Buy ‘em, fix ‘em up, sell ‘em to ponies that aren’t criminals. Market for an apartment building is non-existent, though, so I’m stuck here for a bit as the landlord.”

“Perhaps once the city is cleaner, you’ll prosper a little more,” Grissom replied. A thought occurred and he grinned. “Or perhaps market to out-of-town honeymooners? I hear it’s a fine season for love~”

“It’d be nice to not have to walk past the strip and all it’s lust for food,” Estate agreed. “Though personally, I prefer loyal customers.”

Ledger blinked and looked between the two. The conversation seemed...just out of reach. Like he should know what was going on. Grissom turned back to the stallion and nodded.

“We should be off, don’t want to keep the missus waiting too long.” He gave a polite nod to Estate and left a card on his desk. “Should you find yourself in trouble, let me know and I’ll do what I can for you and yours hmm?”

“We do have our own ways,” Estate cryptically replied, even as he grabbed the card. “But more options are never a bad thing.”

Ledger’s mind was whirling, even as he held open the front door for the Thestral stallion. “Okay...lost,” he admitted. “It’s like you were having two conversations at once there. While not something I’m unfamiliar with, I knew none of the finer points.”

“Well, I was talking and he was talking,” Grissom chuckled. “It takes two to have a conversation after all.”

“Yes, but the way you were saying certain things implied a whole host of other things, and I’m trying to draw a meaningful conclusion from it,” Ledger admitted, not liking the one he was coming up with.

“I happen to know that stallion,” Grissom said. “I was rude to him earlier and simply apologised for my behaviour. That apology extends to you as well Ledger.”

“The only way you could be rude to him for him to take that much offense that quickly would be if-” Here Ledger’s breath hitched as he stared at Grissom. “If you knew.”

“Hmm, knew what boy?” he said, looking up at the sky. “My hearing’s a little out of it at my age.”

“You...know,” Ledger repeated, not wanting to say it out loud in public. “Somehow, you know and threw it in his face. I know that’s what happened, because once I found out...well, we eventually mended our relationship. Took a while, though.”

Grissom sighed as he looked at Ledger. His eyes told a thousand stories and an age of experience. “I know a great many things Ledger, and I continue to learn every day. And yes, I insulted a part of him that he keeps... personal... but I apologised for that.” Those cat-like eyes continued to bore into him. “I will tell you now boy, I love my daughter with all my heart. Always have, always will. Distance can never change that.”

He sighed as they continued their walk, his ears flicking about before coming to rest. “If you know that stallion like I do, perhaps he and you... aren’t so different yes?”

“The question is, how did you know before you arrived in this city today?” Ledger asked, a bit of nervousness in his voice. He was well aware he was breaking the law as he was, but Toll...

“Many... do not enjoy the same rights... the same luxuries as most,” Grissom said. “We do our part to make sure that harmony is maintained, for the greater good. Sometimes... a watchful eye is necessary. We extend our hoof to those that ask for it. And we raise that hoof against those that would do harm. Such is the way of the world.”

“So you have...access to their records,” Ledger said, unconsciously putting a bit of extra space between them. “You or someone you work with or for. And you looked him up...but why?”

“My daughters last words to me,” he replied with a tender smile. “She has a way with words... and sometimes trips over them. She meant nothing by it of course. Accidents happen and I acted because I was... still am, concerned.” He looked at him, one eye closed. “Tell me boy. Do I have a reason to be concerned?”

“This is Las Pegasus, sir,” he replied with a small laugh. “If you’re not looking over your shoulder every five minutes, then somepony’s stealing your bit-bag.”

“True, but my concerns lay a little closer to home,” he said. “You seem like a fine... stallion, and I worry, just like any other old fool.”

“I could never bring myself to hurt her,” Ledger replied honestly. “And if she were hurting, I would do anything I could to take away the pain. She’s been kinder to me than any other mare I’ve met.”

“Her kindness is only outdone by her...” He fumbled to find the right word. “Eccentricity, yes, let’s go with that hmm?” He smiled knowingly as they reached the station. “Should you want it, I will extend our hoof to you as well. You simply need to say the word.”

Ledger waited until they’d reunited with Moon before replying. “Sir, the offer is tempting, but I have to ask you to hold off. After all, Toll still knows, and is keeping me from doing as many others have. Though I have to ask, what is your position that you know about them so...readily? Why do you care?”

“Look at me boy, do I look like the rest of the herd? I differ as much as any other and the sting of... isolation is still present, even now.” Grissom shifted his leathery wings and sighed. “I have done many things as Celestia’s right hoof. Up to and including the passing of many Bills of Rights. Some more... personal than the rest.” He patted the unicorn on the shoulder and smiled. “The offer has no time limit, call me at your own discretion.”

“Whenever you get done with...whatever Celestia wants you for, we’ll likely be done with Toll as well, and I’d prefer to have it done as quickly as possible, so that I can live here legally,” Ledger admitted, looking at the both of them. “A show of faith, I suppose...you don’t have to promise me anything, but since you’re her parents, and I trust her…”

Ledger closed his eyes and took a deep breath, before opening his now silver and slitted pupil eyes. He blinked at them and smirked. “I trust you both,” he admitted. “You care about her like parents should, and she’s been nice to me.”

“Of course,” Moon smiled and gave the stallion a hug, as to obscure the view of any bystanders. “Why do you think I put so much love into my cooking then~?”

An earlier comment poked it’s way into his mind. “I’m very glad to hear it dear, I make all my treats with lots of love, so please enjoy~”

“I’d ask how you knew, but I’d like to keep my sanity for the time being,” Ledger admitted. “Still, thank you for understanding.” He turned to Grissom and blinked, setting his eyes back to normal. “Any reservations, sir?”

“I’m a father, there will always be some boy. But the fact you still stand should be proof enough for you. Take care of you and yours... you hear?”

“They’re not mine.” Ledger admitted. “If anything, I’m hers.

“Equal,” Moon said, pulling away from him. “You take as much as you give. Nothing more, nothing less. You rely on one another and take care of one another. Simple no?”

“It’d be...nice to be equal,” Ledger admitted. “And if you have any questions about that, or the peculiarities about my eyes you just observed...I’m not sure how much more time you have left before the train leaves, so either ask now or when you next come back.”

“We’ve meddled quite enough for one evening,” Grissom said, as Moon moved next to him. “But we’ll be back soon, once all this blows over. And... should the worst come to pass. Try and forgive her hmm?”

“She already knows,” Ledger said. “There’s not much worse she could do at this point.” The train whistled sharply as Moon Song headed for the carriage after one last hug. Grissom nodded and shook his hoof before turning.

“We all have secrets Level Ledger...some just hide them better than others...” And just like that, the unicorn found himself alone of the platform, the train steaming off into the distance.

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