• Published 1st Feb 2018
  • 2,094 Views, 90 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 15 - An Overdue Greeting

Carrot leaned listlessly against the glass, watching the world slide by in a melange of meaningless shapes and blurs. Across the aisle and about seven rows up, Sunburst seemed to be sleeping, his head canted to one side and his face obscured by the limp mass of his ridiculous mane. At least he has the decency to keep his distance. It seemed that neither of them were going to pretend to be friends, and that suited Carrot just fine.

The next train that would pass through Ponyville hadn’t left until the night after their meeting. He still couldn’t quite believe he had agreed to accompany Sunburst back rather than sending him on his own way, but he was still too tired to really care. In actuality, he was still tempted to let Devil drag the idiot wizard into one of Manehattan’s alleys. As poorly as he and his brothers got along, he had no doubt that if either of his brothers found out what Sunburst had done, they would turn him into a kind of competition to see who could get the loudest shrieks.

In his heart, though, Carrot knew it wouldn’t solve anything. He wasn’t even sure he would get any satisfaction from it. And for all that he hated Sunburst, he really didn’t think he was the only villain of the whole mess. That he had shown such kindness to Carrot only added to his conflicted feelings.

This doesn’t absolve him. I don’t care if he goes back in time and makes it all so it never happened—he can’t undo what I know now. And now he’s trying to “fix” it. Intrusive bastard. It made it all the more annoying that Carrot had unwillingly appreciated some elements of Sunburst’s little pep talk. Sunburst was certainly the last pony Carrot wanted affirmation from; nevertheless, he hadn’t been able to completely dismiss some of the curious things their lives had in common. Nor, for that matter, could he ignore some of Sunburst’s more nagging questions.

“Aren’t they still the same foals you loved, for whatever reason?”

That really hadn’t been a fair question. Just how was Carrot supposed to feel about them after he discovered they weren’t his? Yes, he had loved them. But didn’t the fact that they were really somepony else’s make that all the worse?

“I’ll be damned to Tartarus if, after you brought them home, you didn’t love them like they were your own.”

That was true enough, Carrot knew. As the night drank in the miles they left behind, he couldn’t help thinking back to that beautifully bright day when Pumpkin and Pound had been born. He had been a nervous wreck for days, and when the time finally came, Cupcake had eventually rolled her eyes and threatened to tranquilize him if he didn’t calm down and help her get to the hospital. Then they had been there, sleeping in their little bassinets, oblivious to all the friends and family who came by to welcome and adore them. Carrot couldn’t recall ever feeling as warm or awed as he had that morning.

It didn’t matter whose they were that morning. I even wondered for a little while, but it just didn’t matter. It was all I could do to take in every detail, keep up with every moment before it went away. It hadn’t been about him at all then, and deep inside, he was grateful that he could still remember it that way. Yes, he had taken enormous relief and pride out of Cupcake’s pregnancy. That morning, however, he hadn’t loved them for what they meant to him. They had simply been there, pure and true, and he had loved them for it.

Those moments had kept coming afterwards, too. He could still remember all the daydreams he’d had as he watched them play, or on the rare nights when they slept more peacefully than any living creature ought to. He had imagined hundreds of different days waiting ahead of them, what it would be like to watch them grow up over all the years that would come. I promised myself I would go to every one of Pound’s sports games, if he turned out to be the type. I knew what books I wanted to get for Pumpkin, how we’d read them together… or just working out how to help her practice her magic.

He had imagined taking them to school, placating Ms. Cheerilee when they inevitably pushed the boundaries, congratulating them on their triumphs, and consoling them when it all seemed to turn against them. He had wondered what it would be like to watch them earn their cutie marks, follow their passions through graduation, even find love lives of their own and bring special someponies to introduce when the first snows of Hearth’s Warming fell.

He had wondered, yes, but he had also known something. He had known that, no matter what, he would be proud. Even just imagining it, he had thought his heart might burst with happiness for them as they grew and worked their way through this messy world. Now, jostled by the grumbling train, cradled in the murky night by emotions darker than he ever thought he could hold, each dream made him ache with stolen hope and longing.

I want those dreams back, he thought dejectedly. I want those dreams to come true. I want…

“Yes…” he said to himself drearily. “I still want some of it… don’t I. I still want to know what kinds of ponies Pumpkin and Pound turn out to be.”

But is it right to want that if they’re not mine?

Does that really have anything to do with it? another part of him asked.

Sunburst was right about one thing, at least. Even if they weren’t his children by blood, he had built a different kind of bond with them. He had forged it over days and weeks and years, dedicating enormous segments of his life to learning about and understanding them. And he did understand them, better than either Sunburst or whoever the other father was could ever hope to. He knew the way Pound telegraphed when he was done being held, winding up a dramatic punch that he would deliver if he wasn’t let down quickly enough. He knew how Pumpkin never allowed her toys to be piled in a box, but had a specific place around the room where she wanted each to be.

Is that bond strong enough? he wondered. Can you really be a father to someone you’re not related to?

He felt the answer should have been obvious. Ponies adopted foals all the time. No one questioned the bond families like that shared. Looking at it like that, he could only marvel that it seemed so hard for him to feel the same way.

You can want ponies to be happy even if you’re not related by blood, can’t you? You can want to be part of their lives, to care for and build them up. Isn’t that how love starts? With two ponies deciding to become something more together?

That, however, was going back too far. It brought Cupcake to mind where before he had been able to keep her half-hidden in the background. Almost without realizing it, he was back behind the walls in his mind, and his heart was closed. He still couldn’t question his feelings where she was concerned. He was afraid if he did, he would fall into a dark hole he would never find his way out of. Even the pain of recalling happier memories was simply too much.

The train jolted as it hit a rough spot in the tracks, and the ponies sleeping around him grunted and grumbled in their sleep before settling back into oblivion. Carrot closed his eyes and tried to focus only on the sounds of the tracks, the rhythm of the swaying car. They were on a more direct route than he had taken to escape Ponyville, and so would arrive sooner. It was still a long journey ahead, though, and he decided he ought to at least try to rest if he could. No matter what Ponyville had in store for him, facing it exhausted would only make it all worse.

He slept fitfully, and the trains rumbled on through the night and the following day, chasing the sun into the west as Carrot and Sunburst drew closer and closer to Ponyville. They didn’t speak, didn’t even make eye contact through the entire journey if they could help it. So the time passed, the Equestrian landscape blurring through immaterial hills and valleys until Mount Canterhorn and the silhouette of Canterlot finally began to rise in the distance. As the sun won the mismatched race, the train rounded the final bends and pulled into Ponyville station just as the second evening was darkening into night.

“So,” Sunburst asked, looking uncertainly at Carrot. He stood almost far enough away on the platform that most ponies wouldn’t think they were together, and he had to speak up a little to be heard clearly. “How should we go about this?”

Carrot wasn’t sure why, but he suddenly felt extremely self-conscious. Everything was too familiar, and it was unsettling after the dissolution and anonymity of Manehattan. There, he realized, he had been able to withdraw into himself, and no one had paid it a second thought. Here, not only did he recognize every brick in the train station’s façade, every bend and curve of the roads, but not one of the ponies wandering about at the late hour was a stranger. He might not be able to put a name to everyone, but there wasn’t a face about that he hadn’t seen at least once—and who didn’t know who he was.

He didn’t know how much of what had happened with Cupcake had spread through the little town, but rumors spread fast. It wouldn’t have taken much at all for at least ninety percent of the residents to have heard some titillating tidbit about how his life had fallen apart. It was almost enough to send him slinking back into the train.

And Sunburst is here too, he thought, his anxiety mounting ever closer to a real panic. What the hay is that going to make them think?

He took a deep, steadying breath. You’re in control, Carrot. This goes how you want.

“Actually, Sunburst… I’d appreciate it if you gave me some space for now,” he said, not taking his eyes off the paths in front of him. “I’d still like to think through some things alone.”

Sunburst seemed uncertain about whether that was a good idea or not, but he hadn’t dared to argue with Carrot about a single thing since they set out. He’s probably too scared to jeopardize this little cease-fire we have going. Instead, Sunburst only gave a slow nod. He started to walk in another direction, probably just chosen at random.

“Alright. In that case, I think I’ll find Starlight and tell her I’m here. Do you... do you want us to let Cupcake know you’re back?”

Again that wave of uncertainty, and again, Carrot shut it away behind a thick door. He kept his eyes focused on the road as he answered. “Not yet. I need to think, and she… she’ll want to talk. If you do see her... probably won’t be able to avoid telling her, but give me some time in any event.”

Sunburst seemed even less happy about that. Carrot didn’t know whether he would even be able to avoid telling Cupcake if they saw each other. For the moment, however, he went along with it, and Carrot lost sight of Sunburst as he started to make his own way in among the cottages. The lamps were glowing brightly along the major avenues, but be found himself instinctively keeping out of the light and avoiding ponies as he wandered deeper into the town. It was a simple enough task to keep to the back alleys and the dimmer streets, and the meandering route gave him time to try to pick apart his thoughts at a safe pace.

Why did I come back here? he wondered, keeping a wary eye on the bright windows and doorways he avoided. Maybe this was a mistake.

Sunburst had wanted him to remember why he had been drawn here in the first place. He wanted him to remember the better times before he decided if they had been false or not.

Well. There’s only one place to do that. He turned to the center of town. A noticeable gap between rooftops marked the place where everything had begun. He made his way forward, carried with apprehensive but steady steps. It was time to see if anything was left, or if all that was remained of his past was an empty lot and some scorched scars.

* * *

Sunburst hesitated as he stepped onto the avenue leading to Princess Twilight’s palace. The crystal lamps had just ignited, and in their curiously cool amber glow, he could see Spike giving the front stairway a final sweep before closing everything up for the night. He took an involuntary step back, going through a quick mental rundown of the castle procedures he had observed in his previous stay. I’d rather not talk to anyone but Starlight, otherwise word might get back to Cupcake. But if Spike’s cleaning up, that means I’ll have to knock to be let in when he leaves. Either way, doesn’t look like I’m getting in completely unnoticed.

He bit back a curse at his lack of magical ability and felt a seething envy of teleportation spells. Better to get in without making any more of fuss than I have to, then. He approached the circle of light around the castle doors, drawing Spike’s attention just as he finished the lowest step.

“Sunburst!” Spike said, greeting him with his eyebrows raised in surprise. “What are you doing back so soon?”

“Hey there Spike,” Sunburst replied quietly. “Kind of a long story.” I probably shouldn’t ask about Cupcake. That would seem odd to him. “Is Starlight around?”

“Ohhh,” Spike said, drawing out the sound just a little bit longer than Sunburst thought he ought to have. He frowned, but Spike just gave him a sly grin. “I see.”

“Spike,” Sunburst admonished, putting only the slightest hint of his fatigue into his voice. He did not have the energy or humor left for assumptions.

“It’s cool, it’s cool,” Spike said with an airy shrug. “Last I saw, she was in the library.”

“Thanks, Spike.” Sunburst moved to step past him, hoping the conversation was at an end. Before he could go inside, however, he heard someone trotting up hurriedly behind him.

“Sunburst?”

Ponyfeathers. How do ponies keep sneaking up on me? Sunburst sighed. It was exactly his luck that, once again, the voice was not the one he wanted to hear. He turned, pulling on what he hoped was a casual, if wary, smile as he greeted Cupcake. He felt the familiar lurch of subdued longing as he noticed Pumpkin looking out at him curiously from a foal carrier on Cupcake’s back. A fidgety Pound was trying to squirm out beside her.

“Hey Spike, Twilight’s wondering if you’ve— Sunburst?” Starlight trotted into view at the top of the steps, coming to a quick stop as her eyes flitted between him and Cupcake.

I give up.

“You’re back!” Starlight continued. “Is…” she glanced at Cupcake uncertainly, but Cupcake only stared at Sunburst with a similar measure of wariness. “Is anything wrong?”

Aw, horseapples. Sorry, Carrot; looks like you’re not lying low for long at all. “No, nothing wrong. Nothing more than usual,” he added before he could stop himself. Spike was looking between them all with an increasingly invasive curiosity. He could definitely tell something strange was going on.

“You haven’t heard anything, have you?” Cupcake asked, almost as if she couldn’t quite bring herself to ask. “From Carrot?”

“Carrot?” Spike asked, his brow furrowing in confusion. “I thought he went to Manehattan. Why would Sunburst meet up with him?”

“About that,” Sunburst asked, holding back an annoyed glance at Spike. “We really should talk.”

It didn’t need to be said that the conversation wasn’t meant for outside ears. Yet even the hint was enough to animate Cupcake with more energy than Sunburst had seen in her since his first arrival. She gave a quick nod, said something about coffee for everyone, and ushered them up the stairs and through the doors before Spike could ask any more questions. He thought he heard Spike call out to them when they were out of sight, but Cupcake’s only response was to quicken their pace.

Starlight gave him a quizzical look, but he only shook his head. There was simply too much to go through, and the risk of their voices carrying was too high. Only when Cupcake had corralled them inside their suite did any of them utter another word.

“What happened?” Cupcake asked as she dragged a playpen out of the bedroom. Sunburst held back a wince as she deposited Pumpkin inside. He couldn’t help giving a long, quiet look at his daughter as Cupcake turned to move Pound in with her. It might have been his imagination, but he thought Pumpkin was watching him with an equal intensity, eyes bright and questioning as she held him with her small gaze.

“Sunburst?”

“Yeah,” he said, tearing his eyes away from Pumpkin. “Sorry. Bit exhausted.”

“I can tell,” Starlight said sympathetically. “So, what happened? Carrot didn’t contact you or anything like that, did he?”

“Not intentionally,” Sunburst hedged. “But we did sort of run into each other by accident.”

“ ‘Run into each other?’ ” Cupcake asked.

“It was a really freakish coincidence, all said and done,” Sunburst replied, brushing back his mane awkwardly.

“Is he back? Did he come back with you?”

Sunburst hesitated, casting about for some answer he could give and still keep his promise. It was no good, though. By her expression, Cupcake was already guessing the truth. “Yes,” he admitted. He threw out a foreleg to block Cupcake as she darted forward, running for the door without another word. “Wait, wait! He’s not ready to talk to anyone yet.”

“Not ready?” Cupcake demanded, looking at Sunburst with wild eyes. “How can he be back and not ready? What more does he need to do?”

“He’s still trying to come to terms with some things,” Sunburst said, holding up both hooves in a placating gesture. “We managed to talk a little in Manehattan, and his mind’s in a pretty messed up place right now.” There was no way he could even hint at how seriously Carrot was contemplating ending their relationship. Any discussion on those lines that wasn’t between Carrot and Cupcake would definitely lead to disaster. “But I think he’ll be ready to come here soon.”

“Soon?” Cupcake asked. She seemed to shrink before his eyes. “Soon? How soon is soon? He’s already been gone over a week.”

“Very soon, I think,” Sunburst insisted. “He’s already back in town, so he can’t want to stay away much longer.”

“Still… maybe I should go to him,” Cupcake said, edging around Sunburst and closer to the door. “He’s been dealing with this all alone. We should at least talk about some of this together.”

“Cupcake, I know you’re afraid,” Starlight said. “And I know how desperately you want to see him again. But maybe we should wait a bit longer, if he wants us to.”

For a little while, Cupcake just stood there, biting her lip furiously as she stared at the door. A thin dam of tears stood in her eyes, not spilling over, but reflecting the crystal lights all the same. Then, Sunburst saw it break. He wasn’t sure exactly indicated the change physically, but when it happened, he knew it was hopeless. “No... no, I... I can’t,” she said. “He asked for space, and I gave it to him. He left me alone long enough. If he’s back, then we’re talking. Now.”

“Cupcake,” Starlight warned, but it was too late. Before either of them could make another move, Cupcake was running for the door without a backward glance. Starlight dashed a few steps after her, but slowed to a resigned stop as the door banged open and Cupcake vanished into the castle. She turned to Sunburst, apprehension clouding her face. “Should we…?”

Sunburst gave an exhausted sigh and shook his head. And once again, you throw a wrench in the works. Well done, Sunburst. Well done. “I don’t think there’s any point. If she’s made up her mind, then it’s probably time to let them work it out. If they can.”

Starlight turned back to the door, clearly still on the verge of chasing after Cupcake and dragging her back. Then she slumped. “You might be right. Honestly, a few more days of hearing nothing, and I’m not sure either I or Applejack could have stopped her from following him anyway. She’s been on the verge of a breakdown all week.” She glanced at the playpen, giving a hollow chuckle as she spotted Pumpkin and Pound staring at them with wide, puzzled eyes. “Guess I’m back on duty keeping on eye on this pair. Will you stick around until she comes back?”

Sunburst glanced at the playpen. Pumpkin was still watching him, head tilted just a bit to the side as she stared with a bemused expression. She seemed to be trying to decide something about him.

“Maybe I shouldn’t,” Sunburst said. Forcing each word out was like tapping hobnails into his horn. Almost fearfully, he took a step back from Pumpkin. “Cupcake wouldn’t want me here.”

“Some of that may change soon,” Starlight said quietly, watching Sunburst with a cautious expression. “And it’s not like she took the time to tell you to keep away before she ran off.”

Sunburst shook his head. “I… I can’t.”

“Sunburst?”

“What I mean is, if things don’t change, I won’t be able to take it,” he explained. “If I meet her now, and then I have to stay away again… it’ll kill me, Starlight. I can’t… I just can’t right now. Not until I know.”

Starlight looked like she wanted to argue. Sunburst was fairly certain she was going to as soon as she put together a few things to say. Before that happened, though, a knock rapped smartly at the door. Sunburst turned with Starlight in confusion, glancing at the door before shooting her a puzzled look. “That can’t be one of them, can it?”

“Can’t be Cupcake already,” Starlight said, making her way to answer it. “I mean, maybe it’s Carrot, and he doesn’t want to just barge in. I can’t believe they missed each other, though.”

“It would fit the pattern,” Sunburst said wryly as she made to open the door. “With all the bizarre twists of fate we’ve had thrown at us, them missing each other would just about be the last straw. It’s not like it could get much crazier than that.”

“Spike?” Starlight asked as she opened the door. “Did you need something? And who’s this?”

Now thoroughly puzzled, Sunburst stepped closer to get a better view of the door. As he saw the pony standing behind Spike, his jaw dropped in what could only be understood as annoyed dismay.

“Hey,” Hoops said, brushing a lock of his mane back nervously with a wing. He took a few steps inside. “I’m, uh… I’m looking for a pony named Cupcake. Some ponies in town said she would be…”

Hoops caught sight of Sunburst, who by then had hardened his face into his best disapproving glare. At Hoops’ reaction, Sunburst allowed himself a small flicker of satisfaction. Professor Hornsnapper herself would have been proud of the expression of horror that dawned on the larger Pegasus’ face.

“Oh, ponyfeathers,” Hoops said.

“What are you doing here?” Sunburst demanded. He took a step forward, then froze. Unbidden, the memory of being challenged with just such a question not two days ago resurfaced, and he suddenly felt less sure of himself.

“Hey man, look,” Hoops said, raising a defensive hoof. “I’m not here for trouble, seriously.”

“You’re Hoops,” Starlight said as understanding dawned on her. Then both her expression and voice chilled markedly. “Thank you, Spike. Would you give us some privacy?”

“Uh…” Spike’s eyes were darting between the three ponies. His curiosity was still plain to see, but it was clear he was also worried about the open hostility in the room. He didn’t seem to want to leave the unknown pony alone. “Are you sure you—”

“Privacy, Spike,” Starlight said. Without another word, she shut him out of the room. Then she turned back to Hoops, and when she spoke, none of the ice had left her gaze or voice. “You’re the one who ran out on Applejack.”

“Oh. You know about that, huh?” Hoops said, scratching the back of his mane as he took a tiny step back. “Yeah. Not my best moment.”

Sunburst felt his glare fading a little. It was almost like he was looking at a different pony than the one he had confronted back in Manehatten. There was none of the defiant bravado, none of the angry defensiveness that Hoops had pushed back with before. He almost sounds conciliatory.

“Listen,” he said, looking past Starlight to Sunburst. “I thought about what you said. Couldn’t get that or a few other things out of my head after all this started catching up to me.”

“You’re not going to tell me you changed your mind,” Sunburst said uncertainly. “You were pretty clear about your feelings on the matter.”

“Hey, come on, you kind of ambushed me,” Hoops said, frowning. “I didn’t ask for any of this, and it got sprung on me pretty fast. I ought to get cut a little slack, at least.”

“So, you’re here to talk to Cupcake, then?” Starlight asked, breaking in before anything could escalate between them. Hoops grimaced, and Sunburst noticed his wings twitch. Conciliatory or not, he looked like he wanted nothing more than to rocket away.

“I guess?” he said. “I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do, or what anyone wants from me, but—”

“Da?”

Sunburst jumped as the small voice sounded out behind him. Three heads turned to stare at the playpen, where Pound Cake had climbed up and perched precariously on the edge of the wall. Pumpkin was standing up and poking her head over the barrier as well, but Pound had fixed Hoops with an almost spookily intense stare. Without waiting another moment, he fluttered down to the floor and started an unsteady trot across the floor towards the adults.

“Whoa,” Hoops said, sounding suddenly winded. “That’s not… him, is it?”

“Hold on there little one,” Starlight said, putting out a foreleg to stop Pound. “Not sure now’s the best time.” She glanced between Sunburst and Hoops, clearly nervous about the turn everything was taking. Sunburst could sympathize. He doubted Cupcake had expected Starlight to manage this sort of mess while she was out tracking Carrot down. This really shouldn’t be happening without them.

Pound was looking between Starlight and Hoops with a simple, frustrated confusion. He screwed up his face when he looked at Hoops, as if he was trying to sort through an exceptionally difficult puzzle. “…da?”

“Holy shit,” Hoops said, still short of breath.

“Hoops!” Sunburst snapped. Hoops, however, didn’t seem to be able to hear him anymore. He took a few steps into the room, staring at Pound with his mouth slightly agape.

“Is he…?” Hoops didn’t seem to be able to ask the complete question. His wings had stopped twitching, but now he looked like he might shatter instead.

Starlight glanced uneasily at Sunburst, then back at Hoops. “Uh… yeah, Hoops. This is Pound Cake. He’s… um…”

“Your son,” Sunburst finished. “Biologically, that is.”

In a bizarre gesture, Hoops used both his wings to pull his mane back from his eyes and tuck it behind his ears. Sunburst blinked, realizing he had never actually seen the younger pony’s eyes before. They were startlingly bright, a brilliant, clear shade of pastel green that reminded him of jade. They were wide open now, staring at Pound in an expression that Sunburst almost thought was… awe.

Hoops stepped up to Starlight, pausing before coming any closer. He looked down at Pound, who was still watching him with a suspicious expression. “Heh…” a ghost of a smile twitched onto his face, but was too unsteady to remain. “He’s… he’s a cute kid,” he said, his voice as unsteady as his smile had been. He sniffed, and to Sunburst’s astonishment, a few small tears spilled out from his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. Hoops didn’t seem to notice. Then he took a long, broken breath and blinked hard, shaking his head. “Oh man, I wasn’t ready for this.” He gave an even louder sniff, wiping a foreleg almost angrily across his face. He bent down a little, his knees trembling ever so slightly, and looked at Pound a little more closely. “Are you seriously… mine?”

As if in answer, Pound pushed his way past Starlight’s leg. Her mouth tightened, but she didn’t seem to know whether she should interfere or not. Pound stalked up to Hoops, tilted his small head, and his lip pulled back in an expression of concerned thoughtfulness.

“You can’t know… can you?” Hoops asked. He glanced at Sunburst, almost begging him to say something. “He can’t know.”

“Da.” As if to emphasize his point, Pound gave Hoops’ leg a sharp poke, almost a punch, looking up at him with a strange, almost demanding expression. Hoops shrank back, and Sunburst could see him start to pull his leg away defensively. Then he froze, seeming to pull just a tiny bit of calm together before he looked to Starlight.

“C… can I…?”

“I…” Starlight just shook her head. “Just… be careful. If anything happens, I will present your immolated corpse to Cupcake as an offering of penitence.”

Hoops bent down, the motion as robotic and stiff as if he were watching somepony else guide his body with the most rudimentary controls. Pound almost clambered into his forelegs in response, and Hoops sat back on his haunches harder than he probably meant to as he tried to keep his balance. “Holy shit,” he breathed again. He didn’t have a good hold on Pound, and the tiny foal squirmed a little as he pulled himself into a more comfortable spot. In that moment, Sunburst felt a wave of pain and envy so intense, it almost knocked him back on his own haunches. Not yet, he told himself. Pumpkin will be there when we’re all ready to work out how we’ll structure this. And I’ll be there for her.

“I was not ready for this,” Hoops repeated quietly, almost reverently. “Are you seriously mine? That’s just…” he looked up at Starlight and Sunburst. “I don’t think I can wrap my head around that.”

Slowly, almost stealthily, Pound started to pull his foreleg back. Hoops looked down, curious, just in time to take Pound’s full roundhouse punch straight on the nose.

“Ow!” he yelped, nearly falling flat onto his back as his wings scrabbled erratically at the air. He nearly dropped Pound out of sheer shock, and both Starlight and Sunburst jumped forward, levitation spells ready to catch the foal if necessary. Pound managed to cling to Hoops’ shoulder, though, and once Hoops had steadied himself, Pound pushed himself away and fluttered to the floor. He stalked away, looking strangely pleased with himself, while Pumpkin garbled out incoherent approval from the playpen.

Hoops scowled, holding a hoof over his face as he glared at Pound. “Okay,” He said, rubbing his reddening snout with a pouting expression. “He actually might be mine.”

Sunburst didn’t feel any compunctions at all about laughing at Hoops, even if it did earn him a deadpan stare from Starlight.