• 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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Epilogue

Two years later

It was as warm and clear a day as any Ponyville could hope to see. Not a cloud was in sight, and the sunlight made Twilight’s castle glitter and shine in dozens of clear, iridescent colors within its crystal walls. Down below the castle, ponies milled about the town square, going about their business as on any other day. While vibrant, there was nothing unusual happening, and the markets saw only slightly busier throngs of ponies coming, going, and spending their hard-earned bits. And at the edge of the square, standing clean and proud in the place it had occupied since time out of mind, was Sugarcube Corner.

The rebuilt shop had been raised with enormous slabs of warm, brown stone, only a little taller than it had been before, but with a few extra wings added to give the family within more living space. Although the stone had been laid as seamlessly and with as much expertise as only generations of rock farmers could bring, there were a few incongruous spots standing out in its facade. Here and there, little scraps of old wooden walls stood, blended with mortar and stone as cleanly as could be managed. Even so, at the edges of most of those older walls, ponies could still spot faded scorch marks from where the fire had torn away the old building.

Naturally, the Pies had offered to remove the old walls completely, but Carrot and Cupcake had asked if they could be worked into the new structure instead. When asked why, Cupcake would only say that it seemed important. Now, those old sections still remained, almost invisible, but still clear as scars, never to fully fade away. They were almost like permanent reminders of everything that had gone before, as steadfast as the memories that would always be with the ponies who had endured those times.

For her part, Starlight couldn’t decide if the implications were grim or poetic. All in all, though, she supposed it was at least fitting.

“It’s hard to believe how far they’ve come,” Princess Cadence said, following Starlight’s eyes to the Corner.

“I think I’ve only recently started to relax a little, as far as all that’s concerned,” Starlight agreed. “It was touch and go for months. There were days when I thought it really was going to fall apart, even after all the effort they went to.”

“Wounds like that take so much longer to heal than ponies think. And I’ve never seen circumstances to make it so hard as theirs. I confess, I’m relieved too.”

“None of us could have done it without you,” Starlight said, giving Cadence a small smile. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a counselor as devoted as the one you recommended.”

“Even the strongest among us sometimes need the expertise of others. I’m only glad that it seems to have worked out. They will have trials ahead of them for the rest of their lives, but I think they will make it now. The darkest days are finally behind them.” She turned back to Starlight and returned her smile. “But that’s beside the point, isn’t it?”

Starlight gave Cadence a look of exaggerated annoyance. “No, nothing’s changed between me and Sunburst.”

“Why not?” Cadence pouted.

“It’s just never seems like the right time,” Starlight sighed. “Something’s always coming up either in the Empire or here with Twilight. Life’s kept us busy. And to tell you the truth, I think we’re comfortable with the way things are. Maybe one day, it’ll feel right to grow things a little closer. We’re not in any rush.” She gave a small laugh and shook her head. “Besides, Pumpkin just started magic kindergarten. What with his regular duties and traveling between the Empire and here to see her, he’s not going to have any time to spare for me.”

“Well, if you’re both happy, it’s not really my business to pry,” Cadence admitted primly. “But if I can be that annoying friend for just a little bit longer, don’t take anything for granted too much. It always seems like we have all the time in the world, but we really never know when all the chances will suddenly be gone.”

“I think we understand that better than most,” Starlight said, giving the Corner another glance. Then they lapsed into silence for a little while, making their way back to Twilight’s castle.

“On that note,” Cadence asked carefully, “How are Applejack and Hoops? I was so sad to hear things didn’t work out between them after all.”

“They’re doing alright, as far as I can tell,” Starlight said. “Hoops is always close by in the off season, and he swings by every chance he gets when the team is within train or flying distance. It’s a good thing, too. He’s about the only pony who can keep up with Pound. That little colt is getting more and more reckless when Hoops is away, from what Cupcake tells me. He’s going to be a hoof-ful for a long time to come.”

“No doubt,” Cadence chuckled. “Has he been seeing anypony else in the meantime?”

“Not that I’ve heard,” Starlight shrugged. “Applejack’s seeing someone new though.” She gave Cadence a sly look. “You’re not going to believe who.”

“Who?” Cadence asked, unable to conceal her curiosity.

She really won’t ever quite grow up, Starlight thought with a wry grin. Cadence looked more like a schoolfilly eager for gossip than an Equestrian Princess. “Fleetfoot.”

“Fleetfoot?” Cadence asked, brows shooting up incredulously. “From the Wonderbolts?”

“The one and only,” Starlight laughed.

“Okay, no, you’re right. I would not have guessed that one. How in Equestria did that come about?”

“So, I guess AJ had caught Soarin’s eye at some point, and he asked Rainbow Dash to set something up where they could run into each other,” Starlight explained. “Well, you know Rainbow Dash. She went and set up this sort of community charity event where ponies could race against the Wonderbolts, and she basically dared Applejack that she couldn’t even beat the trainees in a ground race.” Starlight couldn’t help giggling a little as she remembered the event. “Long story short, bad idea. Applejack didn’t just leave the recruits behind, she ran Soarin and everypony else into the dust.”

“I’m not sure I can say I’m surprised,” Cadence laughed. “What did Rainbow Dash think would happen?”

“Not a total shutout like that, I guess. Apparently, Fleetfoot took it especially hard, so she hunted Applejack down afterward for a bit of trash talk or something. Next thing everypony knew, they were dating.”

“Huh… go figure,” Cadence said.

“Yeah. So far, they seem pretty happy together. I guess only time will tell.”

“I suppose it will,” Cadence agreed. “She does seem drawn to competitive types though, doesn’t she?”

“Apparently,” Starlight laughed.

They reached the castle and parted ways inside the foyer. Twilight had set the rest of the afternoon aside for Cadence’s visit, and though they had invited Starlight to join them at the spa and for coffee afterwards, she had declined. It seemed better for the two of them to have their time together, what with how rarely the chance for purely social visits came along. Instead, she made her way to her own rooms, shutting the door behind her as she made her way to the small desk she had set up beneath the window.

Let’s see, she mused, pulling out a drawer and scanning the scattered pages piled up inside. Stages eight and nine of Intrepid’s Incantation of Insight still need the snags worked out of them. Or, The Curse of Eternal Chattering, that one backfired pretty horribly. And there’s always the re-cataloging of the library’s nonfiction. The architectural and archeology sections have been getting especially crowded lately… Yep, there’s plenty to do.

She pulled out Intrepid’s Incantation and gave it a cursory glance as she tried to decide what she felt most up to tackling. As she passed over task after task, though, she started to realize she was already feeling cooped up. She had settled into her work at the castle years ago, but every now and then, she still felt the need to get out and break the routine—and maybe a few nonessential rules—every now and then. As she put the jobs away and pondered what activities she might be in the mood for, she found herself thinking back on her conversation with Cadence.

“It always seems like we have all the time in the world, but we really never know when all the chances will suddenly be gone.”

She frowned, annoyed at how the thought seemed to nag at her, as if the nosy princess of love was still there in the room with her. Even so, she couldn’t help but feel her gaze drawn out over the town to Sugarcube Corner, standing just within sight in the center of town. Carrot and Cupcake might have mostly mended the rift between them over the years, thanks in no small part to their dedication and a good dose of professional guidance. Even so, Starlight still cringed to imagine how close it had all come to ending completely during those insane first days. Out of nowhere, Ponyville’s healthiest and happiest family had been thrown into the worst storm imaginable. It would take a special group of Tartarian demons to think of any worse troubles to throw at them than what they had endured.

Starlight closed the drawer and instead pulled out a clean sheet of stationary. Ink and quill came next, and before she could second-guess herself, she laid out her words in her clearest, most elegant magical script.

Dear Sunburst — I hope this finds you well, and that those Ice Pixies you mentioned have stopped harassing the barrier around the city. Nothing urgent’s been happening down here. I was just wondering if you’ll have any extra time next time you come down to visit…

The End.


Author's Note:

This story started off as a joke. It was a random conversation used to burn up the ninth and tenth hours of a twenty-hour road trip back from Bronycon 2017. Obabscribbler, Astro Brony, and myself were headed south on I-95. After going through an entire deck of pony-themed Cards Against Humanity, I think one of the cards must have inspired us to start talking about one of the older, more cynical fan tropes: that Mr. Cake was not the father of Pumpkin and Pound. I remember hearing the idea all the way back when Season 1 aired. Naturally, it was based on the slightly absurd way the characters in the episode explain how an Earth Pony couple has different kinds of children.

Then someone—I can’t be certain who, except that it sure as hell wasn’t me—said that because litters of kittens and puppies often have multiple fathers, why not foals? And just like that, Pumpkin and Pound each had a different father, neither of whom was Carrot. We picked the new fathers based on nothing but their character design. Pumpkin’s father had to be a Unicorn with some brown or orange, and Pound’s had to be a similarly-colored Pegasus. This wasn’t going to be a story by this point, mind; at least, not a written and published one. It was just an insane “what if” discussion, so the more unlikely and absurd the candidates, the better. I can’t remember all of them, but I remember Doctor Stable in particular was rejected early on, because although his color scheme was close, he seemed just a little too boring as a prospect for an accidental affair.

Eventually, we settled on Sunburst and Hoops. The intersection of these characters, coming almost from opposite ends of the show’s timeline, along with the sheer absurdity that either would have an affair with a married character like Mrs. Cake, confirmed it had to be them. The idea was too stupid, and in the context of a fatigued joke conversation, too funny, to choose anyone else. But I still wasn’t interested in the idea as a story. As the discussion went on, though, we started trying to puzzle out just how this could have possibly happened.

Looking back on it, I wish I could remember more about how the conversation actually advanced. I wish I could remember who came up with which idea, which of us came up with a twist that left the others moaning in protest at just how awful we were making these characters’ lives, but I can’t. There was just too much happening. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was probably one of the best story-building, collaborative brainstorming sessions I’ve ever heard of. And it was entirely by accident.

Most of the bones of the story were laid in that single hour. We decided everything had to have happened at Las Pegasus, because where the hell else? We decided Cupcake was there chaperoning Pinkie to a convention, and she was upset because she didn’t really want to be there. Sunburst would be there because he had flunked out of school, and his friends took pity on him, and Hoops would be there for a celebratory team trip. We knew from the get-go alcohol was involved, and we knew there had to have been agreements at some point that it was all a horrible mistake and would never be spoken of again. One of us suggested that because Sunburst knew he had a daughter and could never see her, it was for that reason he was so attached to Flurry, like she was the daughter he could never really have. And we decided that everything would all go to hell when Sugarcube Corner burned down, completely at random, and made it so the other characters would have to get involved and start finding things out.

This was the point that I finally started to feel the first spark of interest in really exploring the story and actually writing it. For an utterly ridiculous, random idea, there was a lot to unpack about just what would happen to these characters in such a situation. How would each react? What waves and storms throughout their lives brought them to such an unlikely meeting? What would each of them want later? What were the different ways they would try to carry their lives forward? They’re all so massively different in personality, so much so that in the show, they never meet, and have no reason to. The clash that created, I realized, was awesome.

We paused the lengthy road trip at a Walmart. It was pouring rain, and while Astro and Scribbler scurried inside to to resupply, I pulled out my laptop, typed up the gist of our ideas in a hundred words or so in a text file, and had closed it all up again before they got back. By that point, I was pretty much committed, even though I didn’t yet know it. The next morning, I wrote what became chapters 1 and 17—the beginning and end of the story—in the airport lounge.

As I kept thinking about the ideas later, I was surprised to realize the character I was most interested in was Hoops. And that, I think, was what clinched it for me. I don’t think I would have written a word of this if not for him. To me, at first, the obvious role for him would be as the throwaway villain. He was Rainbow Dash’s childhood bully, a vapid, vain, shallow character who, in the show, is never anything but a rude, drawling idiot who exists to be shown up by the main characters. He was the archetypal dumb jock. If I see him in a story, my expectation is that he will be an antagonist. He will be there to be cruel to everyone, the other characters will be proven good just in contrast to how unlikable he is, and by the end, he will be punished by being banished from the cast and absent from the denouement, free to go on being an idiot for eternity. And I realized then that it seemed really unfair.

Something told me right away that Hoops himself would be really unhappy if he was written this way. And I think there was almost a challenge in that. I wanted to really know more about the character I first thought of as simplistic and one-dimensional. I wanted to know what made others in his life want him to be around, not just why the main characters don’t like him. I felt he deserved a chance to grow. And that became the challenge for the entire story. I didn’t want any of the characters to have a shot at being a clear villain. Every single one of them, I was realizing, simply wanted different things, were terrified of different things, and all of them were incompatible.

When we all got home, Astro and Scribbler asked if we wanted to write it up all at once together, co-authoring a Google doc in real time. Instead, I have to admit, I allowed myself to be a bit selfish. By then, I was really interested in the idea, but I also knew I was starting to take it in a different direction than my compatriots in how I wanted to handle many of the characters. So I asked if I could work with it on my own for awhile, with the promise that if I stalled or lost interest, I would come back, share anything I had managed to write, and we would salvage anything worth salvaging and finish it together as originally intended. And they, being the exceedingly generous and gracious friends that they are, allowed me to run away with our idea and do with it what I would.

That the story got finished in the time frame it did is a testament to just how well we laid the groundwork together. There is absolutely no way I would have come up with many of the ideas in the story on my own, let alone structure them. If I’m honest, I would have been afraid to think of most of them. If this story has done one monumental thing for me, it’s been to push me way, way past many of my comfort zones.

Of course, the story grew far beyond our original concepts. Stories do that. Carrot was not sterile in our discussion, and his family was never mentioned. I added in Applejack, because Cupcake needed someone to open up to. Later, I gave Applejack a relationship with Hoops, because the story wasn’t already complicated enough. (She hasn’t forgiven me for it, and I still catch her glaring at me in my imagination when I give the cast another look). One thing we never got to talking about during the road trip was the second half of the story after Carrot learned the truth, so I had to figure that out as well. As for Screed, she came to me while I was browsing a forum about beginning careers in construction. I was looking for inspiration for what was then going to be Hoops’ uncle, and instead found one employee’s fervent testimony about the best site boss he had ever known—a woman who ran the site like an occupying army and the crew like a family. And yes, I did write this story, start to finish. But so much of the story exists because of the ideas we came up with together, and I will eternally be grateful to Astro and Scribbler for the license they gave me to finish everything.

I have no doubt that there are aspects of this incredibly complex and deeply emotional scenario that I have explored imperfectly. Even for a team of writers, representing every perspective, every hurt, and perfect justice and morality would be impossible, and I don’t claim to be anywhere near so wise. Others would have guided these characters to very different ends, or else down countless different paths to that end. And all of it would be legitimate, because there are doubtless real people out there walking all of those paths simultaneously. But what I am confident of having done is said some things I believe to be true, some things I think aren’t said very often, and learned to look at a few issues in ways that were new, at least to me. As a writer, I don’t believe I can aspire to do much more than that.

Thanks are also owed unceasingly to my beta readers:

To Luna Farrowe, who burned through the dang thing so fast and so enthusiastically, it gave me my best hope that maybe I’d put something good together after all;

To Chaotic, whose calm, judicial analysis helped me better understand how the characters were working together, and a few places where they weren’t;

To Neighrator Pony, whose brusque, unyielding support for the story was matched only by the courtesy in which he framed his suggestions;

To AShadowOfCygnus, for his thorough commentary, suggestions, and praise, delivered in only the finest acerbic English tradition, and for soldiering through his unbounded disdain for my choice to include Starlight Glimmer;

Also to UrbanQhoul for creating the beautiful cover art for this story, and to Scribbler for commissioning it as a surprise;

And to my phenomenal wife Amiki, whose unwavering support and encouragement makes everything I work and live for possible.

Lastly, though I might be stretching your patience a bit too far, I want to thank everyone who has read the story, and I do hope it has been of some enjoyment, for all its insanity. The MLP community has been an ongoing source of joy and energy for me for years. Although building these stories has helped me develop my skills, my greatest satisfaction is that crafting a story or two allows me to give back to and grow this community, even if only in a small way. I never know what’s next, but to anyone who’s supported or enjoyed this story, thank you.

Comments ( 15 )

This wrapped up rather smoothly and was a far nicer take on a silly fandom trope, only with actual reason behind it here. Nice job!

Last Chapter: Through trails and tribulations, Applejack and Hoops reunite as there bond becomes as strong as ever.

Epilogue: JK lol they broke up and we're not going to tell you why.

............wat?

Whoa 😮
I knew this story would have some ending for the set up, but dang! The story behind the story was something...
Underapeeciation review coming soon! :pinkiehappy:

You're welcome, and thank you very much for writing it; it explored things I've not often seen, at least done in this way. (One thing I can think of to say in more detail is that it seemed a very... mature story, as it were. The shapes the characters' lives were taking, the issues they were dealing with and the ways they were dealing with them... I'm not sure how to really clearly express it, but I do recall finding it nice.)

To be honest, I didn’t really have a lot of interest when I decided to read it, I was just looking for any fanfic involving sunburst (there are just not enough fanfics about him :twilightblush: ). But then...wow...the story trapped me (is that the word?). I was always waiting for the next chapter. It was interesting, the descriptions and plot twists were great. Heck, everything was really good.
This is such a great story :twilightsmile:

So, I'm glad the end here did conclude with many potential issues moving forward being at least talked about, like how this ending is one where Carrot is the one that is making all the compromises, the one who has the most to lose to give everyone else a happy ending. And, indeed, a focus on his happiness over his responsibilities. And that the epilogue here does acknowledge that it wasn't a smooth process with everything.

It looks like in the end here the personal issues were deemphasized for the final confrontation of the two of them. Carrot's insecurity was only mentioned in the context of the past, and Cupcake's, well, there wasn't really a strong angle delivered for her own personal flaws in the first place. Instead the ending seemed to be more about what was wanted and the question as to whether or not they could move forward than what was going on below the hood.

I think I'm happy with the ending, though, generally. Definitely not an easy subject to tackle.

Sorta surprised that the process of inspiration of this went from a joke into a serious drama, though.

This was an overall good story. The ending seems too happy though, something like this and getting reminded repeatedly that Carrot got cucked with the two real fathers visiting . And then with Carrot's insecurities and the fact that he will never be a real father...yeah, all these things combined should have resulted in a break up no matter how good the counselor. Oh well.

This fic genuinely baffles me. It has just about every romantic drama cliche I can think of, trying to explain it to someone took almost ten minutes, the whole thing is basically about a marriage dispute, it's a genre I don't read much of in the first place.....and yet it's one of the single most engaging things I've ever read.

Even when the cliches happen, how everyone reacts to them is so real and so raw. The characters are so real and raw. The descriptions of emotions are pretty much exactly like what I hear in my worst times. The writing manages to convey that everyone and no one is really the Bad Guy and gives everyone time to both explain their perspective and see how the plot is affecting them. The way the secret spread felt natural and not forced, a rarity in itself going by my few experiences in the genre. I had a feeling how this would end, but I still felt genuine suspense after every chapter and have no idea how readers who were there from the start survived between updates. The resolution felt genuine, to my relief as I spent the whole story wondering if it would hold this incredible line. But it did, and I'm so amazed and so thankful it exists.

You, my friend, are a fucking artist.

8932143
That just happens sometimes, for a variety of reasons that aren't all dramatic enough to warrant much attention. Plenty of epilogues jump over that stuff.

8945528
I'm okay with them breaking up. It's just a bad felling of whiplash.
Though I can't tell if its from the writing or my taste in closure itself.

8945577
That's fair. Emotion-based stuff seems to be particularly subjective in works like this

It is well-written, and nice but Applejack and Starlight, even Carrot's dad, basically everyone seems weirdly apathetic about Carrot Cake. Starlight seems to basically only care about Sunburst getting to see Pumpkin, and doesn't even once seem to express any care for the pain Carrot's been put through, and Applejack talks to basically everyone and tries to comfort them except Carrot. Even Carrot's dad, weirdly, seems to completely not care that Carrot's wife cheated on him with two Stallions and, in their conversation, seems to spend more time accusing Carrot of being to rash then giving any sort of critique of Cupcake at all.

Indeed, if I have one problem, its that other than himself, the story seems to spend almost no time actually making any character but Cupcake and Carrot (who then both by the end are forced to change their views) out as mistaken. Starlight spends virtually every conversation with Sunburst telling him he's too rough on himself, Applejack never once seems to even level a mild critique at Cupcake or Sunburst, and then Carrot gets lectured by both his father and Sunburst. Its weird since Carrot is so clearly the biggest of the actual adult victims here, having just been lied to for years and having his trust violated in awful ways, yet, to quote the earlier chapter, its almost as if the story is more concerned with making it Sunburst's sob story, and Starlight thinks the only important thing to be achieved is that Sunburst gets what he wants, forgetting about Carrot completely.

8932143
“He would later die of a cold.”

8946715
So what I’m getting from this is that Cupcake belongs to the streets and men can’t have shit in this world?

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