• Published 11th Feb 2020
  • 1,373 Views, 37 Comments

Trixie's Beau - Scyphi

Trixie has been dating a stallion, but Starlight isn't convinced he is all that he seems to be...

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A few hours later, the sky starting to dim into evening, they all regrouped not far from Café Hay, the fanciest dining restaurant in Ponyville as well as, according to some, the best dining the town had to offer. It made it a favored spot for lovers to go on dates, and already by that time, a few couples had arrived at the restaurant for dinner. As it was not yet seven o’clock though, Trixie hadn’t arrived with her own date, but they knew she would be soon, and all four of them were keeping an eye out for her and the disguised changeling accompanying her should they arrive early, trying to do so while also looking inconspicuous.

They were somewhat self-conscious of that last part though, seeing they were all dressed for their respective roles in what had quickly become Silverstream’s plan. Starlight was dressed in a sunhat, sunglasses, and a simple silk scarf tied about her neck. Silverstream, meanwhile, was uncharacteristically dressed in a fancy white dress shirt and a black vest and bow tie worn over top of it. Gallus and Smolder, however, were a bit more characteristically dressed in a pair of tight-fitting black catsuits with matching black beanies over their heads, giving them an almost stealthy appearance. They also wore a pair of black sunglasses apiece but this was more for the fun of it than anything.

Smolder, however, had her pair propped on her forehead as she was looking her suit over a bit skeptically. “You know, it’s been awhile since I last put this on,” she thought aloud.

“Yes, I believe caught trying to set up a prank for Rainbow Dash this past fall was the last time you were in them, if I recall the detention records correctly,” Starlight said flatly, not really approving of how the griffon and dragon had previously used the suits in the past.

“Well, the last time that you know of,” Gallus reminded with a knowing smirk. Starlight shot him an unamused look.

Smolder, however, remained focused on her suit, pulling at the seams around her thighs. “It’s just…it doesn’t feel like it’s fitting as well as it should anymore.” She sighed and looked to the others. “I dunno, you guys tell me—does this suit make my butt look big?”

“I refuse to answer,” Gallus replied immediately, “because I rather like living, thank you very much.”

Smolder grumpily bopped him hard on the shoulder regardless.

“All right, all right, it’s getting close to seven o’clock,” Silverstream said as she set up a large pad of paper on an easel. “Let’s make sure we’re all clear on what the plan is.”

“Good idea,” Gallus agreed as he rubbed his shoulder. “Because you still haven’t explained this plan of yours, Sil, at least not in full. Where do you exactly fit into this anyway?”

Silverstream flipped to the first page on the plan, revealing the first of several crude step-by-step drawings she had dreamed up. “I will be serving Counselor Trixie and King Thorax their food!” she said. She motioned to her outfit. “Why do you think I’m dressed like this?”

Smolder eyed her outfit for a second. “I dunno. Why?”

“Well, this is what the waitresses at Café Hay wear!” Silverstream said.

“So…you’re going to be pretending to be one of their waitresses?” Starlight guessed.

“I am one of their waitresses!” Silverstream clarified happily. “They hired me earlier this afternoon and I start this evening shift!”

“Wait, for real?” Gallus asked, surprised. “You legitimately got a job at this place?”


Just so to pull off this plan of yours?”

“Also yup! Though I figured the extra income won’t hurt too.”

“Yeah, but you’re also still in school currently,” Smolder reminded skeptically. “So how are you going to still go to classes and work this job after tonight?”

“I have no idea!” Silverstream said brightly before tapping the pad with her talon. “But back to the plan now!” She circled her talon around a crude drawing of Trixie and Theodore entering the restaurant. “Counselor Trixie and King Thorax should be here at any time now. When they arrive, I’ll make sure to be the one to greet them and sit them down at their table, effectively making me the waitress attending to all of their dining needs this evening. That’s phase one!” She flipped to the next page, which showed a drawing of Trixie and Theodore sitting at their table while Starlight was seated at an adjacent one. “Meanwhile, Headmare Starlight will be secretly seated at a nearby table, watching what Trixie and Theodore do while they’re here. She’ll be looking out for any complications and making sure everything goes according to plan and that nothing interferes! That’ll be phase two!”

“Phase two really seems more like just part of phase one, or not even really a proper “phase” at all, just more of a failsafe,” Starlight remarked as Silverstream again flipped pages.

“Well, I called it phase two anyway,” Silverstream stressed without missing a beat before tapping the newest drawing of Gallus and Smolder on the restaurant’s roof. “As for phase three, Gallus and Smolder are going to go up onto the roof and wiggle their way into the restaurant through its ventilation system and drop undetected in the restaurant’s pantry connected to the kitchen.” She flipped through a couple more pages portraying all of this as she talked. “Once there, they’re going to wait undetected and watch what happens with the cook in the kitchen until they get the signal to act.” She flipped to a new page, portraying herself at Trixie and Theodore’s table. “Once everybody’s in position, we then begin phase four. When I go to take Counselor Trixie and King Thorax’s order, I’ll also talk them into also ordering the braised celery side-dish that’s listed on the menu.”

“Why the braised celery specifically?” Smolder asked.

“Because it’s on sale this week, and I get a special bonus for every customer I successfully upsell the dish to!” Silverstream explained before continuing, flipping pages yet again. “Anyway, once Gallus and Smolder see the cook has gotten the order and has started making the braised celery side-dish, they’ll sneak out and slip some cayenne powder into Thorax’s dish, which, when it’s finished, I then take back to their table. King Thorax then eats it, the cayenne power makes him have to drop his disguise, revealing himself to Trixie, and BOOM!” she pounded her fist on the last page she had turned to, depicting all of this. “Mission accomplished!” She turned to the others. “Any questions?” Starlight raised her hoof. “Yes, Headmare Starlight?”

“Did you really have to take the time to sketch out all of this?” Starlight asked, motioning to the mostly filled pad of paper.

“Absolutely!” Silverstream replied without hesitation. “Any other questions?”

Gallus scratched the side of his head. “How are we going to know when the cook’s gotten the order for this bruised celery…dish…thing?”

“Braised celery,” Smolder corrected under her breath.

“Well, that’s why you gotta keep an eye out for it, silly!” Silverstream replied, like it was obvious. “Besides, you’ll probably hear me pass the order on to the cook, so…listen for that, I guess? Any other-other questions?”

The other three exchanged glances for a moment, thinking about it, but ultimately none of them could think of anything else to ask. “Seems pretty straightforward to me,” Smolder finally said with a shrug.

“So do we have everything we need to get started?” Starlight asked. “I mean, we’ve all got our disguises or whatever, but is there anything else we need?”

“Just the cayenne powder, which I’ve got right here,” Gallus said, pulling out a vial of the orangey powder and shook it smugly. “Should be more than enough for our purposes.”

“Just don’t add too much,” Starlight advised. “If you do, Thorax might notice and know something is up. So just apply a little bit. It’ll probably mean it’ll take longer for it to take effect, but that should be fine so long as we do this right.”

“All right,” Gallus said, putting the vial away. “Nobody go and do this wrong then.”

“Great idea!” Silverstream said, before throwing her forelegs into the air. “GO TEAM!”

She grinned happily at the others, waiting for them to join in with her cheering. But they instead just stared at her flatly for a beat then, deciding that the discussion was done, they one by one turned and left to get into their respective positions. Silverstream, unfazed, simply gave herself a high-five and pranced off to join them.

When Trixie and Theodore arrived at the restaurant a few minutes later, neither suspected anything was amiss nor was there a reason to suspect anything, leaving them free to enjoy each other’s company on a hopefully romantic date.

Then their waitress showed up.

“Hello and welcome to Café Hay!” Silverstream greeted as she approached the couple. “My name is Silverstream, and I’ll be your waitress for the evening!”

Trixie immediately locked eyes with the hippogriff, surprised. “Silverstream?!

“Hi, Counselor Trixie!” Silverstream greeted with a wave. “I got a job here!”

“I can see that, but why?” Trixie demanded before her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Did Starlight put you up to this?

“Nope!” Silverstream assured without missing a beat. “Headmare Starlight absolutely did not tell me to go get a job here so to carry out any sneaky plans or anything like that!” Which was technically true—it was really more the other way around.

Trixie was less than assured though, and she turned her head to start scanning the restaurant for any sign of the unicorn in question or anything else suspicious. Theodore, looking suddenly nervous, did the same. Some distance away at table where she had been trying to discreetly watch, Starlight quickly ducked her head behind the menu she’d been using as cover, trying to make like she was considering what to order. Theodore overlooked her completely, but Trixie’s gaze lingered on her for a moment. But nevertheless, even Trixie finally shrugged with a sigh and turned back to Silverstream, apparently mollified for the moment.

“Fine,” she conceded to Silverstream and motioned for her to continue. “Just get us a table please.”

Silverstream squeed and motioned for the couple to follow her. She, quite deliberately, took them to a table sitting directly centered with the room’s front window, where they had the best view in the restaurant, but they were also easily seen by nearly all of the other diners in the restaurant. Most specifically, Starlight, who had taken to discreetly watching again as Silverstream got the couple settled, was relieved that thus far everything was going well, especially considering the haphazardness of the plan and, frankly, who her coconspirators had ended up being.

So far so good, she thought to herself.

But then it wasn’t.

“This seat taken?” another patron, a fairly non-descript slate-grey stallion, asked in a deep gravely voice, approaching Starlight’s table suddenly.

Starlight jumped, surprised, but at best only gave him a passing glance. “Yes, sorry,” she murmured in his direction, keeping her eyes on Trixie and Theodore, “I’m, uh, saving it for…”

But the stallion sat down in it anyway before she had finished speaking. “Good,” he simply stated, scooting himself up to the table like Starlight had said nothing.

She gaped at him. “Excuse me, but I didn’t give you permission to sit there.”

“I wasn’t really asking,” the stallion replied, giving her a cold look that reminded her of something she couldn’t quite place. “I was going to sit here regardless of how you answered.”

Starlight frowned, starting to feel weirded out and tried to piece together whatever his intentions were. “Look, sorry, if this is your attempt at trying to make a pass at me…”

The stallion laughed mockingly. “Oh please, don’t flatter yourself!” he declared. “I couldn’t be less interested in such nonsense. No, the only one here trying that with a pony, of all creatures, is Thorax over there.” He nodded his head in Trixie and Theodore’s direction, who were now listening to Silverstream list their options for the evening. “Speaking of, I can’t help but notice how much attention you’re still giving them.”

Starlight’s brow furrowed, but quickly tried to cover. “Look, I don’t know what you’re…” but then the exact phrasing the deep-toned stallion’s sentence sank in. “…wait a minute…” she leaned closer, taking off her sunglasses so to squint her eyes at the stallion. The stallion simply raised an eyebrow at her, as if waiting for her to put two with two. And soon, after spying a faint magical flicker in his eyes, she had. “…Pharynx?

“Did you really think I’d let my brother, the daftest ever king of the changelings, go wandering off to Pony Land without at least someling to keep an eye on him?” the disguised changeling replied. He leaned back, a smug grin tugging faintly at his lips. “He hasn’t ever truly been on his own since he left the hive because I’ve always been close by the whole time he’s been here.”

Starlight felt her chest clench, starting to realize where Pharynx was going with this. “The whole time?” she repeated softly.

“Mm-hmm,” Pharynx confirmed. She could tell he was amused by how he was making her squirm. “Which means I’m totally aware of how you’ve been trying to blow his cover all afternoon today, and I’m sure the fact you’re here now in a frankly unconvincing disguise is no coincidence either.” He nodded his head towards Silverstream, who had left Trixie and Theodore’s table so to attend to other guests. “So you’re here and she’s over there…where’s the other two, the griffon and the dragon?”

“Oh,” Starlight said unsteadily, tapping her hooves together as she avoided eye contact and anything that might give away their plans, “I don’t know…I’m sure they’re…around…”

Specifically, they were currently on top of the restaurant’s roof, having spent the past several minutes trying to pry off the grill covering the ventilation system. They had hoped to have gotten it off and into the vents already, but it was taking a little longer than anticipated. Gallus had spent most of that with a screwdriver, trying to loosen the grill’s bolts, but they were stiff and stubborn and didn’t want to unscrew. So after taking entirely too long to undo just one bolt, Smolder got fed up and used her dragon claws to forcibly rip out the remainder. This mangled the bolts beyond repair, but at that point she couldn’t care and they didn’t exactly have all the time in the world here.

Once they had the grill off though, they peered into the dusty vent to gauge how to best proceed. Gallus swallowed uncomfortably. “Gonna be kinda…tight in there…isn’t it?”

Smolder glanced over at him, knowing small spaces weren’t really his thing. “You gonna be all right doing this, then?” she asked, figuring she better find out now before they went much further.

Gallus took a deep breath. “Yeah, yeah, sure,” he assured, mustering an honestly fair bit of bravado. “I mean, it’ll be a small squeeze, but…it could also be smaller, right?” he chuckled half-heartedly. He then gazed more seriously back into the vent. “Besides…it’s for the good of a friend…right?”

“I suppose,” Smolder said, surveying the issue. She didn’t have much issue with small spaces herself, but instead of opting to go first, she instead had a better idea. “Tell you what, you go first.”

Gallus looked at her questioningly. “…really?”

“Yeah, that way you can know that I’ve got your back and will always be right behind you,” Smolder said. It was almost touching and comforting hearing her say this, until she added, “So if you get stuck, I’ll be right there to shove your butt back into moving again and we can just get this over with already.”

Gallus’s eyes narrowed and he sighed. “Wherever would I be without you, Smolder?” he asked sarcastically as he started to reluctantly wiggle into the vent.

“Probably stuck in some vent somewhere for the rest of your natural life, if we’re being totally honest,” she replied as she followed him.

Luckily, once inside the vent, Gallus didn’t have much more issue with it. Certainly, it was cramped in the vent and he wasn’t totally cool with that, but it also proved more spacious than it appeared, more than one would expect for a vent like this, giving them sufficient room to move around. Knowing he wasn’t alone helped. So soon Gallus managed to calm down his nerves a little focusing on the task at claw, and they both started to get a bit caught up in the moment, moving quickly and effectively.

“You know, this is seriously awesome, us getting to do this,” Smolder remarked keenly as they wiggled their way through the restaurant’s ventilation system. “It’s like we’re spies or something! Rocks, I keep half expecting some dramatic theme music to kick in right about now.”

Gallus glanced back at her as they thumped along through the narrow metal vents, smirking, before looking back ahead. “Dun duh,” he began to sing the deep baseline of a song, “Dun-dun dun duh, dun-dun dun duh, dun-dun dun duh, dun-dun…”

Smolder, sharing his smirk, joined in as she recognized the song, picking up the main melody. “Dun da daaaaaa, dun da daaaaaa, dun da daaaaaaa, dun-dun! Dun da DAAAAAA, dun da DAAAAAA, dun da DAAAAAAAAAAAA-DUN-DUN!”

They kept singing like this as they wiggled through the vents, unaware that the vent they were crawling through went across the ceiling of the restaurant’s back store room, where a janitor in the middle of wrapping up his shift for the evening could clearly hear them singing and thumping through the vent above them. He stared questionably up at said vent.

“Is somebody up there?” he finally called.

Silence abruptly fell as the two intruders went still within the vent. “Uhhhh….no?” Gallus was heard replying after a moment’s hesitation.

Not impressed, the janitor merely raised an eyebrow at this. However, glancing at the clock, he saw that his shift was almost up and knowing that he wasn’t paid overtime, he therefore decided this wasn’t worth wasting his evening over. “Well, all right then,” he said, continuing to clean up and leave like nothing was amiss. “Have a good night!”

“Thank you!” Gallus and Smolder both called back from within the vent, before continuing on their way without further delay.

After several more moments of their clambering through the ventilation system, Smolder spoke again. “Is this going to take much longer? Because I’m getting tired of staring at your fat butt.”

“Aw, whaaat?” Gallus replied back. “Are you really saying that you aren’t enjoying the view?

“Got a newsflash for you, Gallus—you’re not as well-endowed as you think you are.”

“Well, then, if it’s really gonna be such a problem, I’m more than happy to let you take the lead.”

“Really. You’re okay with that despite your claustrophobia.”

“Yeah, because then you’ll be ahead of me, and personally I could stare at your butt for however long as…”

He was cut short as Smolder tackled him from behind, leading to a series of loud bangs within the vent as they banged about, wrestling, until a grill they rolled over suddenly popped open and they both tumbled out, crashing with a thud to the floor of a new room. Untangling themselves with some collective groans, they sat up and took in the shelves ladened with food serving as their new surroundings.

“Pantry?” Gallus guessed aloud.

“Pantry,” Smolder confirmed decisively.

They then both retrieved their sunglasses, put them back on like nothing had happened, and resumed their mission. Going to the pantry door, they carefully cracked it open and peeked into the kitchen beyond. There, they could see the restaurant’s chef at work putting together an order, unaware he was being observed.

“Whelp, we’re in position,” Gallus murmured softly to Smolder. “So now, we wait.”

To her credit, Silverstream was actually doing fairly well as a waitress, who went and assisted other guests rather well while waiting for Trixie and Theodore to decide what to order. Eventually though, she came back to the couple’s table to see if they were ready, and they were soon deep in discussing their choices. Unfortunately though, Starlight struggled to pay too close attention to this due to Pharynx sharing her table, keeping an eye of his own on her every move.

“I don’t understand you ponies and all this weird stuff you’re always cramming down your throats,” the disguised changeling mumbled as he perused a menu of his own that another waiter had given them in the meantime. “I don’t even know what some of these so-called foods even are…truffles, asparagus, au gratin potatoes, cilantro…what in the name of acorns is cilantro?

“It’s an herb,” Starlight replied as she half-listened to his grumbling, disinterested. “I thought the hive had been trying a larger diet of solid foods since everyone reformed though.”

“Nothing as…exotic…as all of this,” Pharynx replied without looking up from his menu. “Just the basic things, as it should be. You know, leaves, mushrooms, changeling cheese, hive beetles…” Starlight pulled a face at that. Pharynx must have noticed because another smirk flickered onto his face for a moment. “And none of that still replaces good ol’ nutritious emotive energy because we all still feed on that, of course. All that changed was how we went about getting it.”

“I’m aware,” Starlight assured. She leveled her gaze at him. “I’ve been thinking about something, though.”

“A dangerous pastime, considering it was your so-called thinking that got you into this mess in the first place,” Pharynx reminded crossly.

“That’s sort of what I’ve been thinking about, though,” Starlight said. “You said you’ve been in the background, watching over Thorax, this whole time, right?”


“And so you’ve been aware of what I’ve been doing in response to that from the start as well, right?”

“That is what I said, yes.”

Starlight leaned closer, giving him a questioning look. “Then…why are you only now trying to intervene?” she asked. “You could’ve tried to stop me well before now.”

“There wouldn’t have been any “tried to stop” to it if I had,” Pharynx assured confidently.

Starlight rolled her eyes but conceded to his ego pandering. “Fine, whatever, but regardless, you still didn’t. So why not?”

Pharynx was very good at showing no reaction to her questioning, but the fact he paused before answering seemed telling. “Before you kept it to relatively private areas where others wouldn’t be witness to it happening,” he eventually but evenly replied. “You can’t claim that here though, not in this public restaurant.”

“True,” Starlight replied, “But that’s partly because I found out the truth. If you had stopped me sooner, I might have never found out, and then we probably wouldn’t even be here now, talking about it.” Again Pharynx paused, so now Starlight was the one raising a knowing eyebrow at him. “Pharynx, did you want me to find out?”

Pharynx leveled his gaze with her a long moment, but Starlight could tell she had hit on something he’d hoped she wouldn’t. “Clearly, it didn’t make much of a difference whether you had or not in the end,” he cryptically replied instead, not exactly answering. But before Starlight could press him further, he nodded his head towards Trixie and her date. “Speaking of, you have anything you want to tell me about what’s happening over there?”

Starlight turned and saw that Silverstream’s taking of Trixie and Theodore’s order had devolved into her begging the flabbergasted couple. “Pleeeeaaaaassseee order the braised celery, pleeeaaaasssseeee!” she pleaded, giving them both big puppy-dog eyes.

“Fine, we’ll order the dumb side-dish already!” Trixie said, pushing her away. “Just…stop doing that!”

“Yay!” Silverstream cheered, jumping back up and jotting it down on their order. “That’s two bowls of braised celery! Anything else?”

“I…think we better leave it at that, if that’s okay,” Theodore placated gently.

“Sure!” Silverstream said with a grin and turned to go. “All you had to do was just say so!” Behind her back, Trixie rolled her eyes.

Pharynx watched the hippogriff cross the room towards the kitchens. He looked back at Starlight while pointing a hoof in Silverstream’s direction. “Any ideas what that was about?” he asked.

Keeping it casual, Starlight just shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe she gets a commission for everyone who orders the braised celery or something.”

“Mm-hmm,” Pharynx hummed, not looking very convinced.

“You know,” Gallus muttered as they waited in the pantry, “It occurs to me that we could’ve just given Sil the cayenne powder and had her slip it into Thorax’s food as she’s bringing it to him. Then we wouldn’t have had to sneak around and wait like this.”

“Shush,” Smolder said, elbowing him in the gut as she peered out at the chef working in the kitchen. “And personally, I’m more focused on how this guy who thinks himself a chef of a fancy restaurant keeps doing these dishes wrong.”

“Oh really?” Gallus asked skeptically as he peeked out at the chef putting the final touches on some kind of noodle casserole dish. “Like what? It looks plenty fancy to me.”

One could almost hear Smolder scowl. “He keeps putting the garnish on the wrong side of the plate,” she hissed.

Gallus’s eyes narrowed, unimpressed. “Oh no, how will we ever survive?” he groused sarcastically. This earned him another elbow in the gut. He ignored it. “What do you know about this, anyway?”

Smolder tensed suddenly. “Uhhhhhh…”

Fortunately, she was spared from having to answer by Silverstream’s head appearing in a little window through which prepared dishes came and went from the kitchen. “Ordering!” she called happily. “I need two mushroom melts with braised celery sides!”

As the chef conveyed that he heard and set about making the requested dishes, Gallus and Smolder perked up from where they were quietly observing in the pantry.

“Finally,” Gallus grumbled, straightening. “It’s about time their order came in.”

“We sure that was Trixie and Thorax’s order, though?” Smolder asked, who realized something. “I mean, Sil never did say how we would be able to tell.”

“It’d better be,” Gallus said, who wasn’t willing to keep waiting to find out. “Besides, it’s the first parsed celery dish we’ve heard get ordered the whole time we’ve been here, so who else could it be?”

“It’s called braised celery,” Smolder muttered under her breath, but she couldn’t deny Gallus’s logic, so they settled down to wait for the chef to prepare the dishes, appearing to start with the braised celery, and looking for their chance to act. As the side dishes started to take shape while the main dish continued cooking though, Smolder had another thought. “How are we going to do this, anyway?”

“Without the chef noticing?” Gallus asked. He bit a talon, pondering the problem. “Good question…he never really goes far from the dishes as he’s making them, does he?”

“Only when he’s handing them off to waiters,” Smolder said. She bit her lip thinking it over too, watching the chef start putting the prepared food on their respective plates and bowls. “Well, maybe if we can catch him while his back is turned and moved quickly—oh, now what is that idiot doing?” She shot daggers at the unknowing chef as he decorated the bowls of braised celery by placing a pair of celery sticks next to them. “You don’t put the celery sticks at the bottom of the dish that’s just—graugh!

She moved as if she was about to run out and set him straight, but Gallus quickly held her back. “Don’t,” he warned simply, “Our job’s just to slip some cayenne powder into one of those bowls, nothing more. He can arrange the food however he likes after that for all I care.”

“Yeah, well, I care,” Smolder hissed, shrugging him off, “and so should he, but he’s just…” she stopped as the chef proceeded to do the same thing with the second bowl. “…oh slag, he’s doing it again!” Smolder moved again without thinking, and this time Gallus wasn’t quick enough to stop her as she irately burst out of the pantry, quickly stomped across the kitchen, shoved the surprised chef aside, and fixed his error herself. “You should always put the celery sticks on the left side of the bowl, NOT along the bottom,” she reprimanded as she went, “they’d just be in the way there and hard to grab by the proper hoof or claw, you should know that already, you scorching ninny!

She then whirled upon the chef to chew him out further, only to see his confused and alarmed face and sudden realize just what it was she was doing. “…who the hay are you?” the chef asked, finding his voice as he looked the dragoness up and down in bewilderment. “How did you get in here? It’s employees only back here, and you are certainly no employee!” Recovering his nerve and with Smolder’s tongue tied as she realized in horror she’s blown her cover, he started to chew her out. “And who are you to go telling me how to do my job? I have been working this job for—!”


The chef went abruptly silent and dropped like a sack of potatoes on the floor, revealing Gallus standing behind him, hefting the frying pan he had just banged over the pony’s head. They both stared down at him for a second then Smolder shot her gaze back up at Gallus.

Really?” she snapped at the griffon. “You knocked him out?”

“He was going to get us both caught!” Gallus argued back, lowering the frying pan. “I had to do something! Though I wouldn’t have had to if you hadn’t just rushed out and confronted him like that! And over food arrangement, no less!”

“This is a fancy restaurant!” Smolder argued back. “He should’ve known better than to get it wrong, here of all places!” She kicked the unconscious chef on the floor grumpily. He grunted but otherwise didn’t stir. “If he wasn’t so bad at his job…”

“Well, if you had a bit more self-control, we wouldn’t be in this mess!” Gallus hissed. He then sighed and forced a grin, trying to find an upside, any upside. “Well…at least this’ll make it much easier to slip the cayenne powder into Thorax’s food, right?”

Smolder gazed down at the chef lying between them and winced. “Yeah…it’s not like he’s not going to get back up from that anytime soon, is he? So what are we going to do now?”

It was then they again heard Silverstream’s voice behind them. “Ordering!” she called while popping her head up in the kitchen’s little serving window. She was immediately distracted upon seeing Smolder and Gallus standing inside though. “Oh! Hey guys! In position and everything already, I see! Great to know the plan’s still going good!”

Smolder and Gallus moved to stand in front of the fallen chef, blocking him from view, while Gallus hid the offending frying pan behind his back. “Suuuuure!” Smolder replied unconvincingly. “And…what are you doing, Sil?”

“My job as a waitress!” the hippogriff replied cheerily. “Ooh, speaking of, I need three stuffed pepper combos, extra haybacon on the side, two chili cheese samplers…”

“Oh, no, no,” Smolder attempted to interject, waving at Silverstream to stop.

She didn’t seem to notice and kept going with the lengthy order. “…a basket of lentils and onion rings, a catch of the day, and a tofu steak cut in the shape of trout.” She grinned at them, oblivious to the blank looks they were giving her. “You guys got all that?”

Smolder started to reply no but Gallus abruptly saluted first. “Three stuffers wearing pants, a plate of hot air, basket of Grandma’s breakfast, and change the soy to a koi, got it,” he confirmed resolutely before rushing over to the stove, starting to set out pots and pans.

“Yay!” Silverstream cheered. “Lemme know when it’s ready!” She then vanished again from the window.

This left Smolder standing blankly in the middle, looking back and forth as she tried to understand what just happened. “Wait,” she began, seeing Gallus was really starting to prepare the meals, “You’re actually going to make the order?”

Somebody’s gotta,” Gallus replied as he gathered ingredients and started putting them in a pan. He was doing so with surprising speed and efficiency. “Besides, the chef didn’t finish Trixie and Theodore’s mushroom melts.”

Smolder was taken aback by Gallus’s unexpected skill at this. “You sure you can do it?”

“Well, it can’t be too different from when I worked in that diner back in Griffonstone…”

Smolder’s eyebrows went up. “You worked in a diner?” she declared, further surprised. “When?

“About a year before coming here for school.” Gallus shrugged as he left one pot to simmer while starting to chop up onions to put in another. “I worked a whole lot of odd jobs growing up, because I needed the funds to keep me fed.”

“And…one of them was working at a diner.”

“Yeah, but I eventually left there to work with Gilda and her scones cart instead, which was how Grampa Gruff even knew I existed so to send me here at all, and…”

“So wait, you can cook? Like, actually cook?”

“Well, I can follow a recipe,” Gallus replied, holding up the chef’s book of recipes from where it was left open in front of the stove. “Which is more than you can ask of most cooks back in Griffonstone, so that’s something. Actually, I was the first cook that diner had in a long while who actually followed the recipe, so…y’know…” He pointed a talon suddenly. “Hand me that bottle of olive oil, will you?” Smolder numbly handed it over. “Anyway, I figure once we throw in your apparent knowledge of how all of this is supposed to go on the plates, we can get by. If we don’t, someone’s going to wonder what’s keeping the food and come investigate, and then this whole jig’s up.”

Smolder rubbed her claws together uncertainly but had to concede to Gallus’s logic. If he could really provide the food, then she definitely could arrange it as needed for serving. And she’d do a better job of it than that chef certainly would’ve. Remembering him suddenly, Smolder decided she better get his limp body out of the middle of the floor, dragging him over to a broom closet to lock him in. When she finished with that, Gallus was in full swing cooking and certainly did seem to know what he was doing. “I still can’t believe you know how to do all this,” she remarked, somewhere between befuddled and impressed.

“And I still can’t believe you got us into this mess because you disagreed on where a celery stick should go on a plate,” Gallus snarked back, stirring a pan of cooking vegetables. “How did you even know that’s a thing, anyway?”

Smolder blushed, avoiding eye contact. “Uh, well…”

“Does it have anything to do with all those frilly dresses and the fancy tea set you’ve got in your dorm?”

Smolder froze, eyes bulging. “How did you--?

“Look, if you really don’t want anyone finding out you’ve got all that, you probably shouldn’t leave your closet door open for all to see every time they step into the room.”

Smolder blanked out for a long moment, before replying in the form of a facepalm, angry at herself.

Eventually, Silverstream brought Trixie and Theodore’s finished order of mushroom melts and braised celery to their table, wishing them a happy meal. The couple then spent a moment or two sampling their food.

“Mm, these mushroom melts seem tastier than normal,” Trixie noted aloud in mild surprise.

“I’ll take your word for it, seeing I’ve never had them here before,” Theodore said, who was more savoring dining with good company like this. He suddenly had an idea. “You know what we could use for this?” he asked Trixie with a grin. “Some romantic music!”

“Oooh!” Trixie said, blushing a little. “Not beating about the bush tonight, are we?”

Theodore smirked confidently and pulled Silverstream aside as she passed by again. “Hey, Silverstream, can you give us a song to set the mood with?”

“A song?” Silverstream repeated, and glanced uncertainly in Starlight’s direction across the room. Starlight quickly averted her gaze to dissuade Pharynx from seeing, but he seemed to catch on anyway as he gave them both a suspicious look. Silversteam didn’t seem to notice him though. “Oh, I dunno…”

“Oh c’mon, surely you of all creatures can sing a good song,” Trixie prompted, joining in.

Silverstream bit the edge of her beak for a second. “Well…I do know one song…but the last time I sang it, all of my friends sorta pleaded with me to stop and never sing it again…”

“Oh, I’m sure it can’t be that bad,” Theodore insisted. “All we need is a song to set the mood.” He glanced in Trixie’s direction and they shared a look.

“Well, alright then,” Silverstream said, setting down her tray. “Here goes!” She took in a very deep breath, and then started to sing: “This song’s gonna stuck inside your—this song’s gonna get stuck inside your—this song’s gonna get stuck inside your heeeeaaaaaad!…”

Pharynx tilted his head in her direction as she kept singing, as did several other patrons in the restaurant as they overheard, but he then shook his head and turned to Starlight. “So are you ever going to explain what the scheme is anyway?” he asked knowingly.

Starlight mirrored his look. “Who said there was any scheme at all?” she asked.

Pharynx’s look morphed into one that silently screamed are you kidding me? “There’s a scheme. Unlike my brother, I’m not an idiot, Starlight Glimmer.”

“But you love him anyway, right?” Starlight asked sweetly, leaning her head on her forehooves.

Pharynx snorted and rolled his disguised eyes. For a moment he looked like he wouldn’t reply, but then he relented. “He is still my brother.”

“So it probably drives you up the wall knowing there might be anything that could potentially harm him, or at least give him trouble, right?”

“He’s our king, so I’d still be concerned about that anyway, seeing the future of the hive apparently depends on him.”

“Yeah, but if he was just the king, you could’ve just sent any ol’ changeling to keep an eye on him. But instead, you came personally.”


So, you’re his brother. That means if anything were to happen to him you’d be next in line to rule, which further means your safety is rather important to the hive too.”

Pharynx snorted and averted his gaze. “I can take care of myself.”

“That’s not my point.” Starlight leaned closer, gaze softening. “Pharynx, I’m not an idiot either. If you really knew I was onto him from the start, then what’s the real reason why you didn’t try to stop me before tonight? At the very least, why didn’t you stop me and Silverstream when we were snooping around his wagon, because I’m sure you knew about that too, didn’t you?”

Though his annoyed expression didn’t change, Pharynx only averted his gaze further.

Starlight eyed him for a moment, trying to read his thoughts. “…were you hoping I’d be able to talk him out of the charade?”

Pharynx finally met her gaze again. “It didn’t work, did it?”

Starlight leaned back, folding her forelegs on the table. “No more than when you tried it, I’m guessing.”

Pharynx snorted. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,” he remarked, glancing at Theodore in a way only a changeling could see him. “He’s head over hocks for her, has been for a while now. But he’s also so terrified she’ll reject him if she knew the truth…he’s not letting himself think.” He made a low grumbling noise as he lowered his gaze, shaking his head. “The one time he actually listened to one of my suggestions, and…”

“Wait, this was all your idea?” Starlight exclaimed, momentarily surprised before she remembered the changeling she was talking to and scowled. “Oh, that absolutely figures! I knew someone as kind-hearted as Thorax couldn’t have thought of something like this on his own!”

“I didn’t actually mean it!” Pharynx hissed in his defense. “Let alone that he’d actually do it, either! But once the idea got in his head…” he trailed off, slumping backwards in his seat, wearily massaging his brow with one hoof.

“Sounds to me like we both want the same thing then,” Starlight observed. “So why keep me from intervening in the first place anyway?”

“Because you want to force a confrontation between them!” Pharynx replied, shooting a hoof at Trixie and Theodore who were still enduring Silverstream’s song, “Regardless of who it might hurt in the process!” He leaned closer. “And you recruited foolish children to help you do it, to boot!”

On any other day, Starlight would’ve agreed with him on that last point, but today she felt she owed her students a little defense. “Hey, no, Silverstream, Gallus, and Smolder might all still be young, but they’re way more capable than you’re giving them credit for!”

“Oh really?” Pharynx challenged. “You think they’re really mature enough to handle subterfuge such as this?”

“Absolutely,” Starlight stressed. “I have no doubts at all that they’re being professional about this.”

“Whoa, look at the size of some of these buns,” Smolder remarked aloud as she explored the kitchen while Gallus worked at the stove. She surveyed a tray of cooling buns set to one side. “They’re absolutely huge! This one’s probably bigger than my head!” She picked up one in her claws and held it up in front of her head so to compare. Catching sight of her reflection in the shiny bottom of a nearby stainless steel pot though, she chuckled. “Hey, Gallus!”


“Check this out!” She held up the bun in front of her face, covering it entirely, and started to sing. “I’m a bun, I’m a bun, I’m a tasty, tasty bun! To be baked and kneaded, oh, what fun! You can have me with—”

Fortunately, the bun in front of her face worked quite well as a cushion from the saucepan Gallus then threw at her head.

“Well, regardless of your choice in helpers,” Pharynx continued, unconvinced, “No matter what the either of us think about it, this is still something they have to sort out themselves at their own speed, and eventually they’re going to have to and you know it!”

“But the longer they let this go on, it’s only going to get worse!” Starlight argued back. “I can’t possibly just stand to one side and do absolutely nothing about it!”

“We’re not. We are trying to nudge and encourage them into taking the steps to fix this themselves, as it should be.”

“I already tried that!”

Pharynx scoffed at her. “You didn’t want to wait on them, you wanted to do it all yourself! Why else would you have gone straight to Trixie and tried to tell her the truth the moment you found out?”

“I was trying to be a good friend!” Starlight hissed dangerously. “Not that it mattered, because she didn’t believe me!”

“Of course she didn’t!” Pharynx snapped. “To Trixie, she cares more about who he is on the inside not the outside, and with Thorax, we both know what lies inside of him is the same no matter what disguise he tries to hide it behind. You focused on what Thorax looks like. She focused on who he truly is.”

This made Starlight pause, taken aback. She looked towards Trixie sitting at her table, looking at her best friend in a slightly different light now.

“Basically, she didn’t take too kindly to you trying to defame someone she had already figured out for herself is a good creature,” Pharynx concluded, “All without knowing he was pretending to be something else. And it rubbed her the wrong way that you refused to see what she could see.”

Starlight lowered her gaze, running her hoof along the edge of the table and feeling slightly ashamed. “This still can’t go on,” she tried to protest. “Thorax still has made no effort to fix this himself, and I fear he’ll try to never do so if we let him.”

“He’s an idiot for letting this continue despite knowing he should end it, yes,” Pharynx unapologetically agreed. But then he leaned closer. “But you know why we all let him be our king anyway despite being an idiot? Because at the end of the day, even if it takes a bit for him to get there, Thorax always pulls through, and always does what needs to be done anyway.”

He pointed a hoof at Starlight. “You should already know this, because you personally have seen him do it. Leaving the hive to go befriend you silly ponies? Standing up to Queen Chrysalis and finally giving her what she had coming, and again against her, Tirek, and Cozy Glow? Devising plans to defend the hive from that maulwurf? Making powerful allies in Equestria, the Dragon Lands, and more?” For a brief second, Pharynx’s rock-solid composure cracked slightly. “Making even the likes of me see the good in reforming?” The crack vanished as quickly as it appeared as Pharynx drove his point home. “That was all him. Not me. Not someone else. No one told him to do these things. He decided to stand up and do them.”

Pharynx leaned back, thinking his point made. “Thorax may not always figure it out right away…but he always does sooner or later. He’s done it before. He’ll do it again. And sooner or later…he’s going to do it here with Trixie too. I know he will. We can nudge him in that direction as much as we want, but in the end…he’s the one that will make the choice.”

Stunned by the passionate argument, Starlight could only just sit there, mouth slightly agape, as she slowly realized Pharynx had a very fair point, but she was at too much of a loss for words to say so. In the prolonged silence that fell between the two of them, Starlight gradually became aware again of Silverstream still singing her song.

“…’cause it’s so catchy, catchy, it’s such a catchy song! Gonna make you happy, happy, don’t try to fight it, sing along! This song’s gonna get stuck inside your—” Silverstream was then abruptly silenced when magic clamped her beak shut.

“…I think that’s enough of that song, thank you,” Trixie remarked with an annoyed grumble as she released her beak again.

“Oh, okay,” Silverstream remarked, completely unfazed. “If you like, though, I could try singing a different song I know—Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team—!”

No, no, that’s okay!” Trixie assured quickly, ushering the hippogriff along and away from their table. “I think we’ll just do without music after all.”

“Alrighty then!” Silverstream remarked as she headed off.

So Trixie and Theodore resumed their meals in silence.

Then Theodore started humming under his breath. “Huh,” he remarked aloud. “That song really does get stuck inside your head!”

Trixie merely groaned.

Meanwhile, things had calmed down a little in the kitchen as new orders stopped flowing in for the moment and the food already in progress was either wrapping up or waiting to finish cooking. Gallus was paying particularly close attention to a pot of cheese soup, tightly covered and simmering on the stove. Glancing around and confirming the moment was going to last though, he suddenly spoke up.

“Hey, there’s a bathroom in this place, right?” he asked Smolder.

The dragoness looked up from the pyramid of measuring cups she had been stacking, not having had as much to do as Gallus had. “Well, I saw the door for one around that corner back there,” she offered, pointing a claw past the kitchen’s storage shelving, where the corner of the room jutted outwards forming an L shape. “Why?”

“C’mere and keep an eye on this cheese soup for me then,” Gallus instructed, motioning her over. She walked up while he continued explaining. “If it hits a full boil, take it off the heat immediately. You don’t want to see what happens if you don’t, trust me.” He patted her on the shoulder before proceeding to walk off. “Meanwhile, I gotta go drop a deuce.”

Smolder pulled a face. “Oh, thank you so much for sharing that with the rest of us, Gallus,” she remarked, words dripping with sarcasm.

“No problem!” Gallus smugly quipped back, absolutely unrepentant.

Smolder rolled her eyes as he vanished around the corner and was heard stepping into the bathroom. She remained by the stove, watching the pot and listening to it simmer, for a few moments undisturbed. She was just beginning to think this would continue without event when she heard the service bell ding behind her, announcing Silverstream’s return.

“Ordering!” the hippogriff called then spied Smolder through the little window and brightly giving her a wave. “Hey, Smolder! I need the summer salad special whipped together, lickety-split! Can you do that?”

“Uhh…” Smolder glanced at the soup pot then back where Gallus had vanished into the bathroom, uncertain. “I guess? But…”

“Great! Lemme know when it’s ready!” Silverstream then vanished again before she could finish explaining the situation.

Smolder glanced around again, debating. The food preparation had been Gallus’s thing, but she didn’t know how long he was going to be. The pot of cheese soup seemed like it was going to be fine for a few more minutes, though…maybe she could spare the time to do it herself…

“Aw heck,” she finally declared, leaving the stove to grab the recipe book and a mixing bowl, “how hard can it be to make a salad?”

As Trixie and Theodore continued eating their meal in peace, Starlight turned over everything Pharynx had told her, suddenly having second thoughts about all of this. She still felt Thorax should come clean on the truth and still remained feeling…extremely annoyed…that he had been deceiving her best friend and had done so with romantic intent no less…but Pharynx’s comments had at least made her better appreciate why he himself hadn’t intervened like she was trying to, and made her think that maybe he was right, and that her attempts to meddle might only make an already unfortunate situation even worse. But there was still one thing that didn’t quite add up to her.

“Pharynx,” she began slowly, the first time she had spoken in a couple minutes of silence, “If you’re really so confident that Thorax will eventually end this charade on his own…why were you hoping I’d talk him into doing it?”

Pharynx sighed. “Because you, despite everything, still have one point, and that’s the longer this goes, the worse he’s making it for himself and Trixie.” He pinched the bridge of his snout, squeezing his eyes shut in frustration. “You already determined that I wasn’t able to convince him into ending it, so I hoped if you tried too, that’d…nudge him to stop putting it off. But obviously that hasn’t worked either.” He hummed to himself thoughtfully. “Maybe if we both tried to convince him together…”

“So it sounds like he’s taking his dear sweet time realizing what he needs to do,” Starlight said knowingly.

“Oh, he’s already realized that, I can tell,” Pharynx assured. “He knows perfectly well he needs to come clean. He’s just trying to put it off for as long as he can.” He sighed again. “Like I said, he always figures out to do the right thing eventually…he’s just also an idiot that can put it off for too long sometimes. Like now.”

They both sat there for a few moments quietly watching Trixie and Theodore, who had amazingly still not noticed they were there observing them despite having stopped any effort of being discreet about it due to the heat of their discussion.

“Of course, it might not matter with whatever mad scheme you’ve devised to try and force them to end the charade,” Pharynx added, shooting Starlight a look. “Still waiting for that to drop, by the way.”

“Oh, well,” Starlight coughed sheepishly, no longer feeling as confident about the plan as she had going into it but still not wanting to admit that there even was a scheme, “You’ve had me basically pinned here the whole time and you’ve seen everything I’ve done, none of which is really going to affect them in any meaningful way, so…”

“Yeah, still not convinced,” Pharynx assured. He jerked his head in the direction of Silverstream who was busy helping another table. “Especially as you’ve got helpers, two of which I have yet to see where they are this whole evening, and you still haven’t told me just what this plan even is.”

Starlight had no comeback to that, and instead just chuckled nervously, forcing what she hoped was an innocent-looking grin. The silence that then followed suddenly allowed some of the conversation between Trixie and Theodore drift their way.

“Hey, does this braised celery taste kinda spicy to you?” Theodore asked Trixie.

Trixie chewed thoughtfully on hers for a moment. “Not really. Why, you saying yours does?”

“Yeah,” Theodore replied with mild puzzlement. “It has a bit more…zing…to it than I would’ve expected…” he shrugged. “Maybe the chef got a little too overzealous with seasoning mine…”

Pharynx glanced briefly in the direction of his disguised brother before looking back at Starlight. He raised a suspicious eyebrow at her.

Starlight just chuckled nervously again.

As it turned out, making a salad was a lot harder than it looked, and it wasn’t long before the kitchen was in slight disarray as Smolder hurriedly worked, feeling the pressure increasing on her the longer this took.

“How the heck did Gallus ever do this sort of thing at all?” she mumbled as she struggled to chop a carrot. “He makes it look so easy!”

She glanced at the salad as it currently stood out of the corner of her eye. It wasn’t finished yet, but already it didn’t look right and instead appeared quite messy. Smolder wasn’t sure she could fix it, but she pressed on anyway, considering herself past the point of no return. She only stopped when she heard a thumping clatter somewhere behind her and turned around to survey the kitchen, thinking Gallus was returning from his bathroom break. Not seeing anyone, though, she shrugged and turned back to working on the salad.

Until she felt a pair of hooves tightly grab her shoulders. “What are you doing in my kitchen?” the voice of the chef, clearly conscious again and having escaped the broom closet, growled darkly in her ear.

Smolder tightened her grip on the salad tongs in her claws. “…making a salad?” she offered lamely.

The earth pony glanced around her at her pitiful salad-to-be. “Not very well,” he noted aloud in disapproval.

Smolder scowled, offended at the lack of support. “Yeah, well, at least I know the proper arrangements for it,” she retorted.

She could feel the pony scowling at her. “Well, it wasn’t your place to intervene,” he reminded sternly. “And now I think it’s time you left.”

“Yeah, about that,” Smolder said, before abruptly spinning around, ripping herself out of the chef’s grip and brandishing the salad tongs at him like a sword. “Can’t leave just yet.”

The chef was momentarily taken aback, but then he grabbed a stirring spoon and clacked it against her salad tongs, mirroring her gesture. “We’ll see about that.”

And with that, he lunged, stabbing the spoon at her and forcing her to deflect it with the salad tongs, thus beginning a rather odd fight for control of the kitchen.

“What did you do?” Pharynx pressed as he continued to gaze suspiciously at Starlight.

“I haven’t done anything,” Starlight quickly but unconvincingly tried to assure, “you’ve been watching my every move this whole evening, so…”

What did you do?” Pharynx repeated, his tone getting increasingly dangerous.

“Pharynx, I promise, I wasn’t the one who did anything malicious,” Starlight again tried to assure, even though she was basically admitting she knew something technically malicious was planned.

It only seemed to rile up Pharynx more. “What. Did. You. DO?

Before Starlight could try again to give a non-answer, they suddenly heard a low moan from the direction of Trixie and Theodore’s table. They both turned to see Theodore rub at his belly in discomfort.

Trixie, noticing, grew concerned. “You okay, Theodore?”

“Yeah,” Theodore initially assured, but after he failed to hide a wince from a fresh wave of aching in his belly, he revised the statement. “Well, maybe…I think something I ate might not be agreeing with me…”

Trixie started to rise. “Do we need to get help?” she asked, worried.

“No, no,” Theodore quickly assured her, trying to shake it off and resume eating like nothing had changed. His face had become worryingly pale though. “I’m fine. I just need to—ooh!” he suddenly doubled over, clutching at his stomach.

“Theodore!” Trixie declared, quickly hurrying around the table to try and help him, the commotion starting to draw the attention of other restaurant patrons and staff members, worried there was an emergency.

Starlight looked on with growing horror, not thinking the added seasoning Gallus and Smolder had clearly succeeded in adding to Theodore’s meal would cause so much discomfort, or else she wouldn’t have ever agreed to it. But before she could really do anything more to react, a pair of hooves roughly grabbed her by the scarf around her neck and turned her to face Pharynx, looking none too happy now.

“Explain,” he growled dangerously. “Now.”

“Pharynx, I swear, I didn’t know it would have this bad an effect, or else—”


“—I was just keeping watch!” Starlight finally blurted out, “While the others added it to his food!”

Pharynx’s grip on her tightened painfully. “Add what?

“It was supposed to just make him have to drop his disguise, that’s all! Gallus and Smolder weren’t even supposed to add all that much…”

ANSWER ME, PONY!” Pharynx’s bellowing was starting to make for a second scene that was drawing the attention of others in the room too, wondering what was going on.

So Starlight relented. “…Cayenne powder.”

“Cayenne pow—cayenne p—” Pharynx was too furious to even speak properly as he angrily shoved Starlight away, knocking her to the floor and hurried to go help the probably-not-disguised-for-too-much-longer Theodore. The most he coherently managed to get out was a brief curse of “balani devoveo!” in the changeling language as he shoved onlookers aside to reach his brother.

And there were a good number of onlookers by that time, all gathering to ogle at Theodore, now out of his chair and doubled over while at the same time trying desperately wave off all the attention for fear it’d get him revealed. Even the head supervisor of the restaurant hurried over, trying to get the onlookers to back up and inquire to Trixie if they needed to call for an ambulance.

Starlight just laid there, sunhat having toppled from her head, looking on at the scene in horror until Silverstream, coming over, pulled her upright again. But even the hippogriff looked decidedly worried. “Gosh!” she murmured as she stared at the scene unfolding before them, “Ocellus hadn’t reacted this badly to that powder, and she probably ate way more than Thorax has, ’cuz Gallus really likes his nachos extra spicy, see…”

This told Starlight that they probably couldn’t have predicted this outcome then, but it hardly reassured her as she pressed her hooves to her temples, wondering if this plan could go any more disastrously than it already was.

The kitchen was filled with the sounds of clacking kitchen utensils as the chef and Smolder ducked, weaved, and parried each other’s attacks, sparring around and around the room with growing intensity. The chef at one point nearly got the drop on the dragon when he managed to feint and stab downward at her front. But Smolder twisted out of the way and grabbed the chef’s extended foreleg, using that as leverage to throw him backwards onto the counter and then hopping up on top of him, pointing her salad tongs threateningly at his snout.

It was then that they heard a toilet flush and a few moments later, Gallus strolled out of the bathroom at last. He stopped and stared when he saw Smolder had the chef basically pinned down on the counter.

He motioned to the scene incredulously. “I was only gone for five to ten minutes!” he protested.

“Yeah, well, it was a bad time for you to have to go take a crap!” Smolder snapped back from where she was keeping the chef pinned.

Sorry!” Gallus responded. He jabbed a thumb at his belly. “It’s not like I can help that whatever I put in here doesn’t want to stay in there forever!”

“Oh, don’t even try and blame your stomach for—”

She would’ve gone on, but the chef, seeing they were distracted, used that chance to wrench Smolder’s salad tongs away and then buck her off of him, knocking her onto the floor. He then jumped to his hooves and moved to go after her when Gallus tackled him from behind.

“Oh, no you don’t!” he shouted angrily, wrapping his forelegs around the chef’s barrel and trying to get him pinned again. “You do NOT do that to her and get away with it!”

The chef responded by trying to buck the griffon off again, but to little avail as the two bumped into the kitchen storage shelves with their grappling, knocking several things off of it and onto the tile floor with loud clatters.

Though still looking rather ill—having broken out into a hard sweat, panting hard, and looking like he was trying not to throw up—Theodore’s condition had stabilized a little, enough that the initial alarm over the matter was starting to wind down some. But before anyone could really do more than that, a loud crashing sound was heard back in the kitchen, drawing everyone’s attention.

“Sacré bleu!” the head supervisor declared at the sound, the well-being of his restaurant taking priority now that the immediate emergency with Theodore seemed to have passed for the moment. “What is all ze commotion?!”

He hurried towards the kitchen doors so to investigate, passing Silverstream and Starlight in the process, who turned to stare after him, also wondering what was going on in the kitchen.

“Huh!” Silverstream remarked. “Gallus and Smolder must’ve dropped something back there.”

Starlight felt her heart seize. “Gallus and Smolder are still in the kitchen?” she asked with dread.

“Uh-huh!” Silverstream replied innocently. “I’ve been giving them orders to cook all evening! And from some of the compliments I’ve been getting from the guests, sounds like they’ve—”

Starlight didn’t stick around to hear the rest as she quickly hurried after the head supervisor to do any needed damage control, almost afraid of what she’d find in there.

She was right to be afraid, as they arrived one after another in the kitchen to see Gallus and Smolder, somewhat scuffed up, having pinned the chef to the floor and were hogtying his hooves together. They froze and started at the head supervisor like foals with hooves caught in the cookie jar, but when Starlight burst into the room immediately after him, they both warmed up a little at the sight of a familiar face and sheepishly waved in her direction.

“Hey Teach,” Gallus murmured, shamefaced.

Starlight, taken aback by the scene before her, failed to reply right away which gave the supervisor the chance to put two with two and whirl upon her. “Do you know zhese two riffraff?” he demanded angrily. “Are you responsible for zheir abhorrent actions?”

Starlight winced and grinned sheepishly herself, knowing there was absolutely no good way to explain this, and making only a weak chuckle. It was then that they heard a loud POP followed by a low whistle growing in volume as they turned to look at a large covered pot on the stove. It had begun to shake and rattle as if under pressure.

“Ah,” Gallus remarked stiffly, realizing what was going on. He glanced at Smolder. “Let that cheese soup come to a full boil anyway, huh?”

Smolder winced. “Kinda got distracted,” she admitted. “Is that…bad?”

The pot popped again and its rattling increased. Except for the chef who was too bound up to move (to his clear dismay), the others started backing away from the stove.

“Bad isn’t quite the word I would use,” Gallus replied as they did so.

“So…what should we do?” Smolder asked next.

“Well, one perfectly logical course of action comes to mind.” Gallus stopped to take in a deep breath before bellowing, “EVERY CREATURE FOR THEMSELVES!”

Dragging Smolder along with him, he ran for the kitchen’s walk-in freezer and hurried inside, slamming the door shut behind them. Realization sank in after that, and the supervisor hurried forward to try and do something—anything—to stop the oncoming catastrophe. It was clear it was much too late for that though, so Starlight, dismayed, turned around and ran back out of the kitchens at a full gallop, heading right for where Trixie and Pharynx still were, trying to help the ill Theodore, all of whom looked up in alarm as Starlight surged towards them.

“I’M SOOORRRRRYYYYY!” Starlight wailed as she galloped at them, bodily throwing herself upon them in hopes of shielding them.

Then there was a loud and wet bang followed by an explosion of molten cheese bursting out of the kitchen doors.

Author's Note:

Still though...things can only go up from here.