• Published 1st Feb 2018
  • 2,388 Views, 95 Comments

Heteropaternal Superfecundation - Thornquill

When Sugarcube Corner burns down, Sunburst & Hoops are the last ponies that ought to be affected. But if the past can't be buried again, even Ponyville's model family may be shattered forever.

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Chapter 1 - Bachelors

“There you go, Flurry,” Sunburst said in a voice as gentle, warm, and soft as the velvet blanket he tucked over the little princess. “That should keep you nice and toasty, shouldn’t it? No winter storms will get to this princess, no ma’am!” He bent down and nuzzled Flurry’s nose softly with his own. Flurry giggled and batted him away, giving the ragged end of his long beard an extra swipe for good measure.

“Oh, now.” Sunburst shook his head as he looked down at her, but his smile remained. “None of that. You were supposed to be asleep half an hour ago! Feisty little thing.”

He tucked the covers a little more tightly around her, but froze when her horn sparked. A few small pops and golden flashes sizzled, then faded to nothing. Flurry gave the blanket a glare, then turned her irritated gaze back to Sunburst.

“See? You’re all tuckered out,” he said, unable to keep his relief from showing. Getting Flurry to bed when she still had energy to pour into random spells was nothing shy of an agility course. “So don’t give me that look. I’ll bet you can’t even hold back a yawn, can you?” Sunburst mimicked a wide yawn, though by the end of it he felt himself yawning for real. His aching muscles reminded him of the chase Flurry had led him on earlier. At least, he reflected, I seem to be keeping up with her better lately. While he had never, ever been a stallion anypony could call physically strong, even his reluctant muscles had taken on a thin layer of toning from chasing after Flurry. He’d even lost several pounds of flab since volunteering to help take care of Flurry for Cadence, and he was more than a little proud of how his robes hung more loosely than they had before.

Flurry kept her stern glare on him for a few more moments. Then, her face twisted a little before she scowled and buried her head under the covers—though not before she’d let the beginnings of a long, gaping yawn of her own show. Sunburst only shook his head again, chuckled gently, and lowered the shades of the crystal lamps around the room. “Goodnight, little snowflake,” he said, then turned and trotted quietly to the door. Behind him, Flurry let out a few incoherent, disgruntled noises and buried herself deeper in the blankets. She would yield the battle to him that night, but she would be all the more determined to make him pay for it tomorrow.

“Thank you, Sunburst,” Shining Armor said as he let him out of the nursery and closed the door softly behind him. “I don’t know what I’d do without you. I have an easier time browbeating recruits than I do with Flurry whenever Cadence has to leave.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble,” Sunburst said, waving a dismissive hoof as he followed Shining down the hall.

“Well, actually. About that,” Shining said, a small frown crossing his lips as he glanced sideways at Sunburst. “We’ve both been meaning to talk to you about something.” For his part, Sunburst felt his heart skip a beat.

“Did I do something wrong, Prince Armor?”

“No, no,” Shining said, shaking his head. “Nothing like that. You’re the best godfather a filly could ask for. Or her parents, for that matter. But we’re worried you’re letting us put too much of it on you. Your work as court wizard goes a long way beyond foalsitting the princess.”

“Oh.” Sunburst frowned, his eyes wide with genuine puzzlement as he stared into the distance. “I certainly haven’t felt that way. I have plenty of time to pursue my research. I have my office hours for the citizens, and you and Cadence always know how to find me for official business. I haven’t felt any encumbrance on my schedule.”

“Are you sure? Don’t get me wrong, we’re incredibly grateful for all the help. We’re just concerned you don’t have much time for… well, for you outside of all these responsibilities you’ve taken on for us.”

“That’s very considerate of you. But really, my responsibilities are me these days. In a good way!” he added hastily, seeing Shining’s frown deepen. “Even before I came here to the Crystal Empire, I was… lost. In a lot of ways.” His eyes wandered to the floor, a shadow falling over his heart and darkening his expression. “I came here to make a fresh start and… escape some old wounds, I guess. And thanks to you, Cadence, and little Flurry, I’ve done that. I’ve gone from just being a random catalog of information to having a focus for all my knowledge. A direction to apply everything. It’s almost everything I’ve ever wanted.”

“Almost?” Shining asked. “So you are more than just your work.”

Mentally, Sunburst cursed himself for the slip of his tongue. Why can’t I just say the right things? “Really, Shining, there’s nothing more I could want that you can give. My studies have meaning again, and Flurry’s… well, she’s almost like the daughter I never got to have,” he finished, swallowing a sudden painful lump in his throat. He had already broken down in tears when Shining and Cadence named him as Flurry’s godfather; he didn’t need to get all weepy now.

“But that’s part of what Cadence and I were worried about. We’re afraid we’re not leaving you enough time to pursue your friendships or tend to any family you might have… or want. Like that friend of yours, Star… Starlight… what was her name?”

“Starlight Glimmer,” Sunburst said. He felt his nerves cool a little, and he made a conscious effort to keep his smile steady.

“Right!” Shining exclaimed, nodding his head emphatically. “She’s been up here a few times to see you. Don’t you want to go down to Ponyville sometime and pay her a visit too?”

This time, Sunburst knew his smile slipped. He turned away and gave a weak chuckle, hoping it would hide the sudden fracture. “Oh… well. Ponyville’s so far away. It’s not just Flurry. I don’t think I could put any of my duties on hold for that long. It’s just not very practical.”

“Oh, come on,” Shining said, leaning a little closer. “We can manage for a week or two without you if you want. You’ve certainly earned it. And besides…” he stepped even closer, giving Sunburst a good-natured, yet unmistakably sly grin. “Cadence thinks Starlight’s hoping you’ll notice her a little more. And I know I’ve caught you smiling more than usual around her.”

“Oh…” Sunburst chuckled again, a little more raggedly than before. He kept his eyes busy looking anywhere but at Shining Armor.

Shining, meanwhile, blinked, and his smile fell a little. He stepped back, suddenly looking a bit abashed, as if worried he might have gone too far. “I mean… it’s your business, Sunburst. I’m not trying to intrude. But you’re a great guy, seriously. Cadence and I are honored to count you among our friends. You deserve to go for a deeper relationship if you both want it.” He gave a short, shy laugh and blushed a little as he looked away. “You two would make an adorable couple, is all.”

“Thanks,” Sunburst said. The remains of his smile were now little more than a pained grimace. In his chest, there was a cold lump of lead where his heart should be. “But I’m not… It’s just, I don’t think I’m… well, looking for that kind of thing at the moment. Not really ready for it, if you understand.”

Shining did not look like he understood. If anything, he looked more confused than ever. But a moment later, he nodded, and his eyes were apologetic. “Sure. I’m sorry, Sunburst. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“No apologies necessary, Your Highness,” Sunburst said, returning Shining’s nod. “It’s very kind of you to look out for me. I do appreciate it. But as for Starlight… I guess I have everything I think I ought to have right now.”

Shining gave Sunburst another concerned glance. He didn’t seem comfortable with Sunburst’s tone, but it seemed he was ready to let the matter go. “By the way,” he said, clearly changing the subject, “I brought you today’s mail. We finally got the shipment from the south. The trains broke through the snow in the pass early this morning.”

“Ah, thank goodness,” Sunburst said, accepting the small bundle of envelopes gratefully. “I was starting to think we’d have to wait till spring to re-establish contact.”

“Never a dull day, this far north,” Shining chuckled.

“Uh… yeah,” Sunburst agreed absently, no longer hearing a word Shining said. His eyes were fixed on the writing on the topmost envelope. “Uh… I need to go through some of these. I’ll see you tomorrow, Your Highness.”

“Oh… alright,” Shining said, clearly taken aback as Sunburst scurried away down another hall. “Have a good night, Sunburst.”

Sunburst didn’t even wait to reach the safety and privacy of his chambers. As soon as he was alone, he tore the bundle apart and let most of the envelopes scatter to the floor. Holding the one that had caught his eye in his magic, he shredded the top and yanked the contents out with almost enough force to rip them. As his eyes darted over the words, each line made his face lose shade after shade of color until he was nearly as white as the paper he stared at.

He stood there frozen for several minutes. His eyes were unmoving, but his mind was racing with the force of a gale, assembling and rearranging information in a mental display that would have nauseated any other pony. “That won’t work,” he said to himself, verbally working through what little his mind couldn’t hold. “But… there’s another way to fix this. That… just might do the trick.”

* * *

“Ow!” Score rubbed his nose where the paper had smacked him. “What the hay, Hoops?”

“Nice try, bro,” Hoops said. His voice was loud and languid, his vowels almost as elongated and meandering as the sprawl of his body as he lay on the largest sofa in the room. The sofa looked not only like it had seen better days, but as if it now longed for the sweet release of the landfill before it had to endure more of the life it knew. Several empty cans of cheap beer lay sideways on the stained carpet below, the only evidence of their contents being the smell of Hoops’ breath as he stared up at his roommate. “I know you wrote that.”

Score grimaced at the rumpled letter on the floor. He looked mildly offended at the presence of any printed material in their home. “The hay is this?”

“Nice. Try. Bro,” Hoops repeated, leaning a little further back into the woebegone sofa. “I’ll give it to you, you almost got me. But…” He gave a long, self-satisfied sigh. “You’re going to have to get out of the nest a lot earlier than that to fool old Hoops.”

Score’s expression of offense deepened as he plucked the letter from the floor with two feathertips. His eyes moved slowly back and forth, his lips twitching as he silently read to himself. Then, his eyes widened and his jaw dropped a little. “Dude. Seriously, I did not have anything to do with this.”

“Not falling for it!” Hoops sang.

“I’m serious! I mean… maybe it was Dumbbell, or something. But how do you know it’s a prank?”

“I just know, Score,” Hoops said, waving a lazy hoof in a circle. “Look, if there was any real chance of… that, I’d know. I mean, geez, we’ve been hanging together since Junior Speedsters. You know everything I know.”

Score looked down at the letter again. “Yeah, but I mean, that’s why I was worried.” Hoops could see his eyes laboring slowly over the page, as if he was trying to find something. “ ‘Cause weren’t you seeing that one mare in the town it’s talking about? Same place Rainbow’s from?”

“Old Rainbow Crash? Yeah, she’s around there too.” Hoops felt his brow furrow as a fresh spike of irritation hit him. “Huh. Wonder if she’s the one behind it.”

“Maybe? But Hoops, seriously, is there even a chance this is real? You know coach’s policy on this sort of thing. If the team found out, your duffel’d be hitting the back of your head on your way out.”

“Score. Listen. For the last time,” Hoops said, frowning as he lifted a long, lank lock of his brown mane. “It’s a prank. Whichever of you guys wrote it didn’t even get my fillyfriend’s name right. That’s how I know it’s fake.”

He leaned back and closed his eyes, pushing away his annoyance that Score wouldn’t just fess up and laugh about it. He could still feel the initial spike of adrenaline searing through his arteries from when he had first read the letter, the surge of fear that had broken through his lackadaisical afternoon. It had scared the sunlight out of him, but he wasn’t about to let either of his roommates have the satisfaction of knowing that. And he sure as hay wasn’t about to let it bother him any longer than it already had.

I don’t owe anypony any money, he thought with a slight scowl, turning his attention away from Score. And I most definitely do not have foals.