• Published 18th Jun 2020
  • 4,974 Views, 638 Comments

Unending Love - Azure Notion

After trials and heartache, Firefly, undercover changeling love collector and wife, received a wonderful and joyous gift. But what will happen when the inevitable fallout of the failed Canterlot invasion reaches her home?

  • ...

Act I ~ Chapter 1

“Hello! Welcome to the Sweet Roast Cafe. What can I get started for you?”

Sweet Leaf stood with a smile behind the cashier’s counter at her and Fine Roast’s cafe. This morning, her smile was as genuine as any she’d ever had and with glee that added even more to her mood, she could tell that her happiness was quite infectious.

“Hi!” the light blue unicorn customer greeted back. “Could I get a plain, large coffee with a, hmm,” the mare paused, peering over and squinting as she examined the baked goods display built into the counter. “Aw, I was hoping to have one of your cinnamon raisin bagels.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I just haven’t had time to bring the fresh batch out to the front. They’re ready in the back and I can go grab one for you.”

“Sure! And you don’t happen to have any plain cream cheese do you?”

“We absolutely do! I can also spread it on if you like.”

“Yes please!" the customer said enthusiastically.

“Wonderful!” Sweet Leaf reached over to her stack of large cups, grabbing one along with a marker. “Could I get a name for the order?”

“Sure, it’s Velvet.”

“Perfect,” she wrote the unicorn’s name and drink on the cup. “That’ll be five bits.”

The mare opened her saddlebags with her magic and levitated the bits out onto the counter.

Sweet Leaf scooped up the bits and placed them in her register. “Thank you. We’ll call you at the serving counter to your right when your order is ready.”

Sweet Leaf grinned as her customer walked off to a seat near the serving counter. She looked back straight ahead at the next stallion in line. “I’ll be with you in a moment.”

At his nod, she turned around to her husband who was currently in the middle of squirting syrups into a cup. She walked the few steps over to his left and brushed her side against his, her lemon coat mixing with his cream fur.

“Hey hon.” Fine Roast pushed lightly back into her.

“Hey, got another order. An easy one this time.” She set the latest customer’s cup behind two more.

“Great. I need a little breather after that morning rush.”

“Mhm, me too. I’ll be in the back a moment. Getting a bagel.”


Sweet Leaf continued past the left side of the counter and through the doorway into the kitchen. She walked over to the tall pastry warmer on the right side of the room, opening it and grabbing a hot cinnamon raisin bagel out with a pair of tongs. Closing the warmer, she set the bagel on a sheet of paper and began preparing the customer’s order.

She sighed an undeniably happy sigh. She’d gotten the one thing in her life she hadn’t even known she wanted, hadn’t known was possible. She’d gotten a true relationship with her husband. All morning, her infectious happiness had spread to her customers, their happiness spreading back to her in a warm, pleasant cycle. It was nothing compared to her husband’s love, the love given to her true self, but the customer’s unknowing contributions were very pleasant nonetheless.

As she spread the plain cream cheese along the sliced bagel, her smile soured to a small frown as she couldn’t help but wonder what her customers would think if they knew exactly who was preparing their pastries. She pursed her lips as she imagined their reaction, likely one that wouldn’t be pleasant for her or Roast.

After all, how many ponies would be happy with being served by a changeling?

Sweet Leaf shook the less-than-pleasant thoughts clear of her head and grabbed a small rectangular plate from the cabinet above her, placing the two bagel slices on it. She refused to let such thoughts get in the way of her happiness. Sweet Leaf might still have to be the actor for the rest of the world, but for one stallion she could just be herself. She could just be Firefly.

Firefly took the plate in her hoof and closed her eyes for a short moment, thinking of Roast and his love for her and, in turn, her love for him. She thought of what she had to be for them so she could be a wife for him. Sweet Leaf took a deep breath, then released it and opened her eyes, pleased to feel her happy expression coming back naturally.

Joy on her face and a little spring in her step, she walked back out to the main area, finding Roast was working on the drink before her latest customer’s plain coffee. She continued past him, swishing her tail to brush it against him, and placed the plate on the serving counter.

“Velvet?” She called out and saw the mare’s head lift up from her newspaper to look at Sweet Leaf. The mare got out of her seat and walked half a dozen steps over to Sweet Leaf. “Here’s your bagel, ma’am. Your drink will be done shortly.”

“Thank you.” She took the plate from Sweet Leaf and headed back to her table.

Sweet Leaf walked back to the cashier’s counter and greeted the waiting stallion.

“Hello! Welcome to the Sweet Roast Cafe. What can I get for you?” she said joyfully once again. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a dark blue stallion stand, his eyes on her. She felt a low boiling anger rising from him and when she flicked her eyes over, she saw his eyes, full of contempt. She immediately recognized him.

Wavy Pallette? What is Spindle’s ex-source doing here? I didn’t even see him come in.

“Hi. I’d like a large iced caramel—”

“Sweet Leaf,” Wavy Pallette interrupted.

Both she and her customer looked over at the interjecting stallion. Her customer opened his mouth, but Sweet Leaf took control of the situation before he could speak.

“Wavy Pallette, if you could please wait a moment, I’m helping this fine stallion with his order.”

Wavy regarded the stallion for a moment and turned back to Sweet Leaf.

“I want her back,” Wavy Pallette said, ignoring Sweet Leaf’s request.

“Excuse me?” Sweet Leaf tilted her head in genuine confusion.

“Bobby Pin. I want her back. Bring her back.” He stomped a forehoof.

“Look buddy,” Sweet Leaf’s customer piped in, “whatever problem you got, get in line. I’m trying to order here.”

Wavy Pallette glared at the other stallion. “Yeah, and I’m trying to get my marefriend back. So excuse me if I don’t care.”

“Wavy, please. We can talk about this in a few minutes, just let me help this customer.”

“No,” he said harshly and pointed a hoof at Sweet Leaf. “Go back to your little nest or cave or whatever and bring her back.”

Sweet Leaf squinted at him. “Wavy, I don’t know what you think is going on, but whatever it is, it’s not right. Now please let me help this customer and we can discuss this in the back.”

Wavy scowled at her for a short moment. “I know you’re one of them,” he growled.

“Excuse me?” she repeated herself.

“I know you’re a changeling!” Wavy Pallette shouted.

Sweet Leaf’s eyes grew wide and the entire cafe grew silent. Everypony’s eyes turned to the commotion and she felt as if a spotlight had shone upon not only Sweet Leaf, but Firefly as well. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. How could he have suspected her? Was it pure denial? Anger?

Nevermind that. Should I insist on taking him back into the kitchen? No, that would be suspicious to all the other patrons. Which she noticed were all still staring and for a moment, she felt exposed. Vulnerable. Get a hold of yourself and act! Firefly berated herself, mentally shaking off her feelings.

Sweet Leaf looked at her customer. “I’m sorry sir, it appears this can’t wait.”

The stallion gave her a wary look and stepped back.

Sweet Leaf turned back to Wavy Pallette. “For the sake of not repeating myself, how in Equestria did you come to that conclusion?” she asked coolly, raising an eyebrow.

“You and her were—”

“What is going on here?” Roast interrupted the blue stallion, coming to stand left of Sweet Leaf. “Exactly what is it you’re accusing my wife of?”

“Your wife,” Wavy Pallette pointed a hoof at Firefly, “if you can still call her that, is a changeling.”

“Roast,” Sweet Leaf whispered, “let me take care of this.”

“And you know this how?” Roast ignored Sweet Leaf.

Wavy drew his pointing hoof back and thrust it again at Sweet Leaf. “She and Bobby Pin were real close, especially this last month. And now all of the sudden my marefriend turns out to be a changeling? Coincidence? Absolutely not.” He lowered his hoof. “She knows where the real Bobby Pin is. Tartarus, I bet she even knows where the fake one is!”

“You come into my cafe and start accusing my wife of—”

“Roast!” Sweet Leaf shouted. She huffed once she’d gotten his attention. “I. Am handling this.” She turned back to Wavy Pallette. “Wavy. The only reason I haven’t thrown you out is because we’re friends. I know and understand that what’s happened to your marefriend hurts and you want that hurt to go away.”

“Don’t try to—”

“Wavy,” Sweet Leaf said loudly and authoritatively, “Be quiet.”

“But you come into my cafe, my home, and accuse me of being a heartless, love stealing monster. You think I’m not torn up knowing my friend is out there somewhere, scared, surrounded by who knows what? I am afraid for her. She was such a gentle, naive soul and for this to happen to her…”

Firefly closed her eyes and shuddered. “I’m afraid to even think about what’s happened to her or where she could be.” Sweet Leaf opened her eyes and looked at Wavy Pallette again. “So don’t, Wavy. Don’t think for a second that if I could go out there and save her that I wouldn’t.”

Wavy Pallette simply stared at her. She could tell his emotions were a flurry. It was working.


“Roast!” Sweet Leaf snapped at him quietly. “Please. Just a moment”

“You say you’re torn up.” Wavy Pallette began, a feeling of determination flowing from him like a broken dam. “But when I looked at you a few minutes ago, you were smiling like this was the best damn day you’ve ever had.”

Sweet Leaf’s lower eyelid twitched. “Think about it for a second, Wave. I’m a barista. In a cafe. This is my job. You think patrons are going to want to come back if all they get is a mopy, sour, angry pony serving them their drinks? I can’t afford that, though you’ve done a good enough job making a spectacle out of me anyway.”

Wavy Pallette looked around for the first time and saw that everypony was staring. When he locked eyes with a couple of them, they turned back to their drinks or meals, acting as though they hadn’t heard a thing. He turned back to Sweet Leaf and the anger, pain, and sadness flowing from him told her he wasn’t convinced.

His eyes flicked to Roast for a short second. “What about him?” Wavy pointed a hoof at her husband, narrowing his eyes at Sweet Leaf. “Why won’t you let Roast say anything?”

She looked over at Roast and the two of them looked into each other’s eyes for just a moment. She could feel he was confused and a little hurt. She put that off for the time being and would have to address it later. She tore her gaze away from Roast’s and placed it on Wavy.

“Because I needed to get my piece out. I needed you to understand that she was my friend too. That she is my friend.” She snorted. “And because, trust me. You wouldn’t have wanted to hear what he was going to say to you.”

She let silence reign for a long moment and Roast spoke up tentatively.

“Wavy,” Roast began, looking to Sweet Leaf as though asking for permission. When she said nothing, he continued. “These kinds of accusations shouldn’t be taken lightly. Like Sweet Leaf said, it’s understandable the way that you’re feeling, but coming here, interrupting our guests, and taking it out on my wife,” Sweet Leaf felt his tail touch and hold against her for a short instant. “It’s simply unacceptable. I’m going to forgive you on the basis of us being friends and you not being in your right mind.”

Wavy Pallette opened his mouth, but no words came out. His emotions were all over the place. Sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, loss. It was a mishmash of an emotional soup, and not a very pleasant one.

Sweet Leaf walked around the counter and put her hoof on the darker stallion’s withers. “Go home, Wavy,” Sweet Leaf told him softly. “Calm down, get your thoughts straight. After that, if you want to have a proper conversation, a shoulder to cry on, or even a sounding board, Roast and I will be here.”

Firefly could tell he was still upset. She didn’t need to be an emotivore to know he wanted to say more, but had nothing to add. Ears twitching and tail restrainedly flicking, he clenched his jaw and gave a curt nod. He turned around and walked out the cafe door. Sweet Leaf watched through the large front windows as he turned left onto the street and continued walking. Once he was out of sight, she let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding.

She looked around at all their customers and put on a forced smile. “I am truly sorry about this, everypony. I hadn’t anticipated this kind of drama, or honestly any kind of drama, when we opened this morning. As an attempt to apologize for this interruption, I would like to offer everyone here a coupon for a free drink.”

She looked back over the counter at Roast and he gave her an approving nod.

“If you’re interested, please come up at any time before you leave.”

Sweet Leaf walked back around and placed herself at the cashier’s counter. She looked back to Roast who still hadn’t moved and gave him a tense smile, though she couldn’t manage a real one. His overprotectiveness nearly cost them more than Wavy already had and she was… frustrated with him, she realized. This wasn’t the first time he’d shown his need to protect his wife, but it was the first time it made her upset. The other times it didn’t affect her like it did now and she wasn’t sure why. Normally she’d brush it off and get back to her day, but it wasn’t working now.

She looked back at the cafe guests, a few ponies beginning to form in front of her.

“Hello. Welcome to the Sweet Roast Cafe,” she said, her enthusiasm tempered. “What can I get started for you?”

She did her best to get back into her role, to be the happy Sweet Leaf. It took a good deal of effort, though her smile never quite reached her eyes.

Firefly stood in front of the upstairs bathroom sink, staring at herself in the mirror. Her frown was the most prominent thing about her. Breakfast rush had fully passed, but the incident with Wavy Pallette stuck with her. She let out a single, mirthless chuckle. Wavy really had come in and ruined her morning. There was no way he could prove she wasn’t merely Sweet Leaf. He had nothing on her other than her friendship with a pony that turned out to be a changeling.

His word was his only sword.

Her frown deepened as she tried to understand why she was bothered so much. She huffed when, yet again, she came up blank. Right now, she just wanted to go curl up with… well, no, she didn’t want to spend time with Roast at the moment. She wanted to go and… she didn’t even know what she wanted to go do!

She snorted and stomped a forehoof. Why?! Why am I so upset right now?! I should be able to push all this aside. Firefly squinted at her disguised self. Get a hold of yourself, Firefly. You didn’t spend three years in training and six more in Equestria to turn into an emotional little nymph.

She closed her eyes once again and breathed in deep, holding the breath.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Release.




Her breathing exercises only helped a small amount to clear her mind, but it would have to do. She mentally forced herself to get back into the role she was wearing and opened her eyes. Sweet Leaf looked a little better. There was no longer a frown on her face, though her expression was nowhere near where it was earlier that morning.

She looked down and turned on the faucet, squirting soap onto her hooves and scrubbing. There was still the lunch rush and then the rest of the evening customers to deal with. She imagined some of them might be coming back to use their coupons.

Sweet Leaf lightly shook her head at the thought. Not surprisingly there were quite a few ponies willing to take advantage of a free drink, though not every one of them did. She couldn’t blame those that took the offer. If she were in their place, she’d take a free drink for the awkwardness they’d had to sit through.

Word would no doubt spread about the incident and she was sure they’d get some gossipers over the next few days. Though it was entirely possible a portion of the ponies wouldn’t come back at all. Some ponies could be rather skittish, after all the rumor of a “changeling” working at a cafe would no doubt be unsettling for some.

She rinsed her hooves of soap and dried them on the hoof towel hanging to her right. She looked up and smiled at herself, the grin almost making it to her purple eyes. Time to be the happy barista once more.

Opening the bathroom door, Sweet Leaf turned down the upstairs hallway and headed for the stairs. Walking down the steps and entering the kitchen, she saw Roast to her left, cleaning dishes. He looked over and caught her gaze.

“Hey hon,” Fine Roast said gently as he rinsed a cup, “how are you doing?”

“Hey. I’m doing fine,” she replied. She hesitated for just a moment, but realized she needed to keep up appearances until she could figure herself out. Walking up to him, she gave him a nuzzle on his cheek. “Are there any tables left that need bussing?”

Roast placed the cup on the drying rack. “No, I got all the dishes.” He moved to the washing side of the sink and started working on another dish. “Though some of the tables need wiping.”

There was more he wanted to say, she could tell. Though she wasn’t in the mood to deal with talking right now, especially the kind Roast probably wanted. “Okay, I’ll be out front then.”

Before he could say anything, she turned around and entered the cafe proper, heading left into the barista area. She looked out at the tables and saw there was only one pony sitting near the entrance. The fall morning air was a little too cold, so no ponies had seated themselves outside. There were, however, lots of empty, dirty tables inside to clean.

She opened the sink cabinet and took out the cleaning bucket and rag. Walking into the seating area, she busied herself with the tables, wiping up crumbs and dried spots of coffee.

Off to her side, she saw Roast come out of the kitchen and take up the spot in front of the cashier. As she was wiping down the last table in the far, front corner of the room, the cafe door opened. Her back was to the door and she was grateful Roast was at the counter. He could take the customer’s order and begin making it while she took her time cleaning.

The pony continued walking and once they reached the counter, a feminine voice began. “Hi Mister Roast. Do you know if Sweet Leaf is around?”

Ugh. Another pony to deal with. She mentally scowled at first, but noticed a scent in the air. That wasn’t a pony. She breathed in again and recognized who the smell belonged to.

It was Vexor. He’d left his pheromone glands in place with his disguise. Good thing too, otherwise Sweet Leaf wouldn’t have recognized him.

Sweet Leaf turned around just in time to see Roast pointing the pony in her direction. She focused on the pony and a gasp came from the light pink mare who excitedly trotted towards her. Sweet Leaf plopped the rag back into the bucket and grabbed a couple napkins, drying her hooves.

No sooner had Sweet Leaf put down the napkins as she was swept up into a tight hug.

“Sweet! How are you doing, my girl?”

Wrapped up in the hug, Sweet Leaf wracked her brain for Vexor's disguise’s name. The others had mentioned it at the last gathering. It was Rose Something. Rose...

“Rose Petal!” Sweet Leaf exclaimed, her previous thoughts and feelings shoved out of her mind as she perplexedly and reluctantly returned the other mare’s hug. “I’m, uhh, good? What brings you around?”

Rose let go of Sweet Leaf and gave her a big grin. “The group is doing a little get-together tonight at my place and I’m stopping by to invite you!”

“Really?” Sweet Leaf’s eyebrows raised in true surprise.

A get-together at Vexor’s place? It’s been a long while since we last did it at his house. Hay, it’s been months since I last saw him and he was in a different disguise then. And a meeting so suddenly after the last?

Sweet Leaf continued, making sure to add a bit of excitement to her voice. “What’s the occasion? Not that I don’t love seeing you all.”

“Oh pshaw.” Rose Petal rolled her eyes and batted a hoof at Sweet Leaf. “Without us you’d be as bored as a tree!” She snorted. “Hehehe! Get it? ‘Cause boards come from…” The pink mare cleared her throat at Sweet Leaf’s unimpressed gaze.

“Yes, well, Scroll got a new board game that he’s dying to try out with us and it sounds like a ton of fun!” Rose pranced a little in place.

“Oh!” Something happened. Maybe Skitter wants to talk about Spindle. Or did Skitter get word about the wedding? I need to go to this, but…

Sweet Leaf hummed for a moment and tapped her chin. “Well, I do have a shop to run, so it would have to be late tonight. What time were you all planning?”

“Don’t you worry that pretty little head.” Rose patted Sweet Leaf on the head, bringing back a little of Firefly’s annoyance. Rose continued unperturbed, despite the momentary glare from Firefly. “We already thought about that. How’s a quarter before seven tonight sound?”

“Hm, we close at six. I suppose I could rush cleaning tonight.”

“Perfect!” The pink mare beamed, clapping her hooves together. “We’ll see you—”

“Rose,” Sweet Leaf interrupted, “that wasn’t a yes.”

“Huh?” Rose put her hooves back on the floor and tilted her head, her light blue mane flowing over one eye. “What do you mean?”

Sweet Leaf rolled her eyes. “I have a husband.”

Incomprehension remained on Rose’s face.

“Really? I need to make sure he’s okay with it.”

“What?” Rose reeled her head in surprise. “You need his permission? You’re a big mare aren’t you?”

Sweet Leaf sighed. She really didn’t want to deal with this right now. And at this point, she had no idea if this was an act or if Vexor really was this oblivious. “No. I mean yes. I am a grown mare, but when you’re part of a relationship, it’s a two way street.” Sweet Leaf couldn’t help her slight condescending tone. “We try to involve each other in our lives. It, you know, helps deepen the bond.”

“Huh.” Rose Petal looked off into the distance as if it was the most profound thing she’d heard in ages. “Huh…”

“So… excuse me while I go talk to Roast.”

The mare brightened back up instantly. “Alrighty!”

Sweet Leaf stepped around the mare and headed for her husband.

Sweet Leaf’s husband. Er, no, Firefly’s husband now. Well, and Sweet Leaf’s... Augh! Whatever, both our husbands!

She mentally shook her head. Some of Rose’s ditz must have rubbed off on her. Regardless of whose husband he was, she needed to have a talk with Vexor later. This ditzy act of his was...aggravating.

She’d gotten caught up in her head and when she focused on her surroundings again, she noticed that Roast was looking at her inquisitively. “Hey Roast,” Sweet Leaf began as she approached the counter. “My friends are doing a little shindig tonight. Do you mind maybe doing a little more of the cleaning tonight? I can make it up to you tomorrow.”

Fine Roast furrowed his brows. “I don’t mind doing more cleaning...”

Sweet Leaf could feel that his emotions weren’t exactly the epitome of happiness. Even a little frustration. She knew there was a “but” coming.

“But,” he began, “I was hoping we could, well, talk about some things?”

She figured that was what he wanted. He no doubt wanted to talk about Wavy Pallette and probably the way she treated Roast during the debacle. She was definitely not in the right mind to deal with that.

She’d “deepen the bond” later. Right now, finding out about what Skitter was calling a seemingly emergency meeting was more important. Roast needed to understand.

“Ah. Right,” Sweet Leaf said, hoping she kept most of the exasperation out of her voice. “This is—I mean, I’m really wanting to go to this. Can we talk about that another time? Please?”

Roast searched her face for a moment before sighing and giving in. “Alright. We can talk about it another day. I don’t mind if you go.”

“Thank you, Roast.” Sweet Leaf gave him a smile for a short moment before turning and walking towards her fellow changeling in disguise.

“Well? What did he say?” Rose asked when Sweet Leaf neared her.

“He said he’s okay with taking a little more of the cleaning over tonight. I’ll be there.”

“Hehe, yay!” Rose cheered, pumping a hoof into the air. “Just you wait, this is gonna be amaaazing!”

Sweet Leaf’s eye twitched. An act. It has to be. It better be. The only other explanation is brain damage.

“Well, I have to get back to cleaning...” Sweet Leaf let the end trail off, hoping Vexor would take the hint.

“Right! Okay, I’ll see you tonight, Sweetie!” Rose waved as she began walking towards the exit.

Once she left, Sweet Leaf let out a breath. Stars above, that ‘ling needs help.

For Sweet Leaf, closing time in the cafe couldn’t have come sooner. She’d settled into a rhythm and there were thankfully enough customers after lunch to keep both her and Roast busy. Or at least busy enough that they didn’t have the time or space for a private talk. Though now with the last patron having left a couple minutes ago, she and Roast had no barriers for conversation now. No physical barriers, at least.

Sweet Leaf checked the clock and read twelve minutes past six o’ clock. She’d need to leave in just over ten minutes to make it to Vexor’s place by six forty-five. That meant she needed to get as much cleaning done as—

“Sweet?” Roast interrupted her thoughts. “Firefly?

A small spike of fear ran through her at the mention of her changeling name. She quickly squashed it and turned to face her husband in the kitchen doorway. “Y-yes?”

He walked towards her, projecting a mess of feelings. “Are we, well, okay?”

She tilted her head in confusion. “Are… we okay?”

He nodded.

Firefly searched his eyes and his emotions. “Yes? Why wouldn’t we be?”

He walked over and sat down in front of her on the cold tile floor looking at her. “It’s been only a day since I got to be with you. The real you. And today was not what I expected it to be,” he said, uncertainty coloring his words. “The thing with Wavy happened, yes, but after that you’ve been… distant. I guess I was kind of hoping for another honeymoon period where we’d get to laugh and play and get to know each other all over again.” He looked down and let out a deep sigh. “Today has been pretty much the opposite of that.”

She parroted his sigh. She’d been trying to keep her emotions to herself, but that apparently didn’t work as well as she’d thought. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand what’s going on.” He opened his mouth and she held a hoof up. “I mean I don’t get the feelings I’m having. I’m frustrated and angry and confused and a little sad.” She let out a low growl. “The worst part is I don’t know why or what I’m...emotioning at!”

Had the tone been less serious, they might have found mirth in her improvised verbing. Instead she huffed and apologized again. “I’m sorry. I need a little time to figure it out.” Firefly looked her husband in the eyes. “We are okay though. I promise.”

Roast managed a little smile. “Okay.” A few seconds of silence stood before Roast spoke again. “This thing you’re going to, is it a, uh, changeling thing?”

“Yes.” Firefly nodded. “I’m not sure why they’ve called a meeting, which is why I need to go.”

“This kind of thing isn’t normal?”

“Well, yes and no?” She wiggled a hoof back and forth. “Kind of. We have meetings usually once a month, but we had one just last week. I’m guessing this has something to do with Spindle.”


“Yeah, the changeling who—” She stopped mid sentence and facehoofed. “Right. I forgot you never knew her real name. Spindle is Bobby Pin’s changeling name. Or rather, Bobby Pin is one of Spindle’s disguises.”

“Ah, right,” he said and added softly. “I… hope she’s okay.”

“Yeah, me too.” She really wished there was something they could do for her. For all Firefly knew and hoped, she’d already left town.

Roast looked at her. “Firefly?”

She’d momentarily forgotten how nice it was to feel love flowing from him. She looked into his green eyes, full of care and compassion. “Yes?”

“I love you.”

Despite it all, despite all her feelings and frustrations, at him or otherwise, she couldn’t help but grin a little. “I love you too.” She moved closer and hugged him, holding him tight. “We’ll get through this, okay?”

“Yeah. Okay.” He held her back, just as tight.

She took in his scent and allowed herself to bask in his presence. She’d find out what was wrong. She had to.

After a long moment, Firefly let go and Roast released her. She looked at the clock and saw she needed to leave in a few minutes. “Roast, I need to get going. Are you sure you’re okay with cleaning?”

He nodded and gave her a loving simper. “Yes, I’m sure. Go and enjoy your ‘game.’”

She got up and turned around, heading for the cafe door. She looked back and saw Roast standing, watching her leave. “Thank you, honey.”

“You’re welcome. See you tonight.”

“See you tonight,” she agreed, turning and leaving the cafe.

Sweet Leaf pushed open the gate to Rose Petal’s front yard, admiring the intricate picket archway covered in flowering vines. As she walked along the straight walkway, she couldn’t help but stare at the front lawn. Though “lawn” wasn’t the appropriate term anymore. The small yard had been turned into a wonderfully maintained flower garden, overflowing with lillies, chrysanthemums, roses, and lots of other flowers that Firefly didn’t know the names for. It was the only one on the block that had such vibrant and plentiful decorations of any kind. Firefly wondered if Vexor maintained it or if it was his source.

She mentally shrugged as she reached the front door and reached a hoof out, rapping out three loud knocks on the solid, decorated wood.

She took in the floral designs carved into the surface and couldn’t help but think of how expensive such an intricate door would be.

Her musing was interrupted as the door opened, revealing a smiling, pink mare.

“Sweet Leaf!” Rose Petal exclaimed, rushing forward and wrapping her fellow disguised changeling up in her second hug of the day. “I’m so so so happy you could make it!” She set Sweet Leaf down and turned into the house, beckoning with her hoof. “Come in, come in! We were just about to start our game!”

“That’s, uh, great.” Sweet Leaf entered the house, still taken aback by Rose’s mannerisms. “Have the others shown up yet?”

“Yep! The whole gang’s here. Well, except for Bobby Pin, but I couldn’t find her today!” she said sadly.

Ah, then maybe they don’t know?

Rose shut the door behind Sweet Leaf and locked it. “Come on, the others are waiting in the family room.”

Sweet Leaf followed, heading straight down the hallway, passing the kitchen on the right and living room on the left. As they walked, Firefly saw that all of the pictures on the wall had an off white mare with an orange mane a few shades lighter than Sweet Leaf’s own. Next to her in most of the photos was the same pink mare leading Firefly down the hallway. She couldn’t help but notice that there were a few that featured the couple looking several years younger, even one in what looked like high school.

“Here we are!” Rose broke through Firefly’s thoughts, standing to the side and smiling brightly with closed eyes. She held a hoof out next to the family room door, gesturing for Sweet Leaf to enter first.

Sweet Leaf walked past Rose and saw a coffee table parallel with the length of room with treats, drinks, and an unopened board game box on top. Surrounding the coffee table on three sides were a loveseat, a couch on the far side, and a recliner. On the couch sat two familiar earth pony stallions on opposite sides. On the right, closest to the door they’d entered from, was a tan furred and mint green maned pony holding a teacup in his hooves. To the left sat a blue stallion with a yellow and light green striped mane, his hooves crossed and an unamused expression on his face.

“We’re here!” Rose called out as she walked into the room behind Sweet Leaf.

“Yes, we’re aware, Rose,” Warm Plate said from the far end of the couch, rolling his eyes.

“And as such,” Rose dragged the word on, excitedly bouncing her hooves before stopping and pointing a hoof at the family room window, “the blinds are closed,” she then pointed her hoof back to the hallway, “and the doors are locked! Time to party! Hehe!”

Green flames surrounded Warm Plate and replacing the blue stallion’s form was a changeling stallion, groaning disapprovingly. “Ugh, it’s about time Vexor.”

“You said that to me last meeting, Tarsus,” Long Scroll said as he shifted his tan, masculine form to a female changeling body. “At least you didn’t change early this time.”

“Right, ‘cause that turned out to be a total disaster, didn’t it, Ssskitter?” Tarsus hissed, teasing her sarcastically. The changeling mare merely shook her head.

Rose and Sweet Leaf walked to the others, Sweet Leaf taking a seat on the loveseat and Rose taking the recliner. Rose shifted out of her pink form and into his natural a male changeling self. He looked over to Sweet Leaf with a raised eyeridge.

Sweet Leaf took the hint and shed her disguise, her changeling form taking over.

“Welcome to the party, Firefly,” Skitter said. “I brought some cookies and crepes and Vex made the tea. Help yourself.”

“Thanks, but if I can say first…” Firefly turned and threw an incredulous look at Vexor. “Holy sweet mother of Chrysalis herself. What is wrong with you Vexor?”

“What?” he asked coolly, in a deep voice.

“Rose Petal. The amount of sweet saccharin ditziness she exudes is just… overload.”

“It’s called acting. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?” he said, calmly. He got up and grabbed a small plate, placing a couple sweets on it. “And I like to think of it as, mmm, excitable.” He took a bite of cookie and sat back down.

“Still, it’s a lot. I couldn’t tell if that was you or if you’d simply lost it,” Firefly said, reaching over and pouring herself a cup of tea with two sugars.

Vexor swallowed. “Then the acting worked. Regardless, I didn’t choose this personality.” He took another bite, talking through the food in his mouth. “Rose Petal was already really clueless and bubbly. I’d like to think I toned back her nature a little in the last couple months.”

“Right, well. If we could get started?” Skitter asked Vexor, her teacup levitating in front of her and taking a sip.

“Yes, go ahead,” Vexor said, waving a hoof at Skitter.

“Okay,” Skitter started, setting her cup back down and looking at the other three changelings in turn. “As the most senior changeling here in Hoofington, the hive sent me an urgent letter. The contents are to be passed on to all of you.”

“Why so formal and serious?” Vexor asked.

“Because this is important. It doesn’t say in the letter, but if I had to guess, our queen hadn’t banked on losing.”

“Seems pretty obvious,” Tarsus said, a frown on his face. “No orders, no what-ifs, just ‘be ready to do what you’re already supposed to be ready to do.’”

“Yes, I agree, it could have been a little more planned out,” Skitter agreed, setting down her teacup on the coffee table, “but—”

“And really?” Tarsus interrupted. “Taking over Canterlot? What did she think she was going to do if she did manage to subdue the pony princesses? Order the rest of Equestria to heel?”

“Tarsus!” Firefly said angrily, “We don’t know what happened and we don’t know what decisions led her to this level of action. So don’t assume things you have no basis on.”

“If the papers I’ve been reading are right, she didn’t get the love princess’s personality even half correct! She was reckless!”

“Bite your tongue! That. Is our queen,” Skitter glared at the contentious changeling. “Like Firefly said, you don’t know what happened. If she decides to reveal to us what took place in Canterlot, it’ll be our business. Until then...”

“That’s,” Tarsus began, but closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “You’re right. But do you understand the implications for us of what she’s done, right? We don’t have to worry about being discovered and having reports of ‘some strange creature,’ anymore.” He made air quotes with his hooves. “We have to be worried about dungeons, torture, and executions!”

“I don’t think ponies would go that far, Tarsus,” Vexor said, his voice remaining calm. “I don’t think they have it in them to execute.”

“Really?” Tarsus frowned and raised an eyebrow at Vexor. “You think they’d roll over and accept it if they learned the dozens of ponies we have back at the hive? The dozens more that have stayed in cocoons their entire lives? That have died in those cocoons?”

Vexor shook his head. “No, they wouldn’t roll over, but I can’t see ponies going as far as executions.”

“To answer your question, Tarsus,” Skitter started, “yes, we understand the implications. The hive understands the implications. That’s why we’re here tonight. Now, as I was saying, if you’ve read the papers, then you’re aware that our queen and her army at Canterlot were thrown from the city with a great magical force. The queen’s advisors sent out letters to all collectors with instructions and guidance.

“First point is, if at all possible for the next couple months at least, if discovered, we should attempt to remain in Hoofington under a new guise. We should not immediately attempt to find a new source and instead should rely on our little community of five for support.”

Firefly felt a sinking in her stomach. She’d specifically told Spindle to do the exact opposite.

“It’s far too dangerous with pony suspicions where they are. If we can, we should house any of us whose disguise is compromised.” Skitter leaned back against the back of the couch. “To make matters worse, we’re essentially on our own for the time being. No cleanup crews will be sent out and the hive will not respond to emergency requests.”

Firefly gasped and put a hoof over her mouth. “Oh no,” she half whispered.

“Firefly?” Skitter sat up and looked at her. “Is there a problem?”

“It’s, uhh, Spindle.” Firefly placed her hooves in her lap. All three of the other changelings’ ears perked up. “Wavy Pallette came to the cafe two nights ago saying he saw Bobby Pin as a changeling.”

“Oh no,” Skitter repeated Firefly’s sentiment.

“Yeah. Roast…” she paused for a short moment. Firefly debated how much she should tell them. Thinking quickly, she decided she had to tell them anything they might come to find out on their own. “Roast was there, so he heard about it too.”

“Great.” Tarsus fell back against the couch’s back, staring at the ceiling. “Just what we need, a damned source, knowing his wife’s friend is a changeling.”

“It would have happened regardless,” Skitter said. “All of our sources are going to find out eventually.” She looked at Firefly and Vexor as well. “In fact, this means that our roles now know, through Sweet Leaf, that Bobby Pin is a changeling. Use this knowledge naturally as a pony would.”

Tarsus sighed and looked back over at Skitter. “Right. You’re right. I’ll have to think about what Warm Plate will do.”

Skitter turned back to Firefly. “Is that all?”

Firefly shook her head. “I wish it was.” She took a deep breath and continued. “Wavy went to the guard after, which isn’t really unexpected. But then Bobby Pin shows up at the cafe not ten minutes later.”

“Are you…? Oh sweet Chrysalis. Not even a new disguise? Please tell me Roast didn’t see her.”

Firefly shrank a little in her seat. “Not at first. I opened the door and she told me she thought she screwed up.”

“Only thought huh?” Tarsus said. “I knew she was going to be trouble.”

Firefly wasn’t going to deal with this. Spindle deserved better. “Maybe if you’d been more helpful and less antagonistic, this wouldn’t have happened!” She snapped at him.

“Firefly! Tarsus!” Vexor said. “Enough. Tarsus, this is my house, which means my rules. If the only thing that’s going to come out of your mouth is complaining, keep your mouth shut.”

Tarsus crossed his hooves and looked away.

“Firefly, continue please,” Vexor said, turning back to her.

“Right.” She let out a breath. “Okay, so I shoved Spindle out and closed the door behind us. She asked me for love crystals because she couldn’t get to hers.”

“Wait wait wait,” Skitter interrupted. “You’re telling me she left her crystals behind?”

Firefly nodded.

Skitter let out a long groan. “This just keeps getting better. Tell me you at least tried to go get them.”

Firefly’s eyes went wide. She’d been too caught up with getting discovered herself that it hadn’t crossed her mind once.

“You didn’t.” It wasn’t a question. Skitter rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Why in Equestria wouldn’t you?”

“I’m sorry!” Firefly called out, indignant. “I was…” She hesitated. She was about to say preoccupied, but that was a little too close to the truth. “I didn’t think about it.”

“It’s, well, not okay, but what’s done is done,” Skitter said exasperatedly. “I’ll see if I can stop by tomorrow and get them. Anyway, please, continue.”

“So, next was…” Firefly thought for a moment. She couldn’t tell them about Roast’s questioning or her fleeing or them getting back together. Wait, she hadn’t mentioned the important part yet. “Right. She’s brand new, so she wasn’t thinking straight. I guess I wasn’t either. I told her to go find a new town.”

At this point it looked like Skitter wasn’t going to be surprised by anything more Firefly had to say. Either that or she was saving her curses for the end.

“In the middle of me telling her to leave and get a new disguise, Roast opens the front door. I heard the click and tackled her, putting her on top of me so it at least looked like she instigated it. She ran off after that.”

“Did either of you go to the guard?” Skitter asked.

“No, I, err, Roast said he didn’t want to.” Firefly realized immediately she shouldn’t have said that and clamped down on her fear. It wouldn’t do to display odd emotions in front of fellow emotivores. She had to come up with something quick.

“Didn’t want to?” Vexor asked, unwittingly giving Firefly breathing room. “Why wouldn’t he want to? Surely he understood what changelings were by then.”

Firefly nodded. “Yes, he did. I asked him first if we should and he said it wouldn’t do the guard any good.”

“Hm,” Tarsus said and peered back at the warning glare Vexor sent his way. “I guess that makes sense in a dumb kind of way. All that happened was her knocking on the door and running away. Since he knew changelings could change disguises, he probably figured the guard wouldn’t be able to trace her. Or maybe he didn’t want to get involved with changeling business.”

“More the latter, I think. Do you think I should push it?” Firefly asked, hoping it would make her story more believable.

Skitter shook her head. “If you’ve already tried, I would just leave it. As long as it’s not hurting anything, I don’t think any good will come from poking the bear. Now, is that all?”

Firefly grinned nervously. This kind of was a lot, now that she thought about it. “N-no?”

Skitter merely grimaced and moved her hoof in a circle, signaling for Firefly to continue.

“Wavy came to the cafe this morning. He accused me of being a changeling in front of many of our guests.” Firefly waited to see if they were going to interrupt. When they didn’t, she continued. “He claimed that since Bobby Pin and I were such close friends, that I had to be a changeling. It felt more like lashing out than it did an actual accusation. We...well I told him something about us being good friends and being offended. He was still upset when he left, but I don’t think he’ll be an issue,” she said with finality. “And that is all I have.”

“What about Roast?” Skitter asked after a moment. “Is there any suspicion from him?”

Firefly made a show of thinking about it. “No, I haven’t felt any and I don’t remember him acting odd since that night.”

“Goodness,” Vexor said quietly, “You certainly seem to have had an eventful last few days. Far more than me at least.”

Skitter and Tarsus hummed in agreement.

“It has been a journey.” Firefly let out a breath and closed her eyes, honestly more exhausted than she’d realized.

“Though I do have a question,” Vexor said.

She opened her eyes and looked at Vexor. “Hmm?”

“I get that it’s been a lot, but these are things we should be prepared to handle.”

Firefly cocked her head at him, wondering where he was going with this.

“You’ve been rather easily aggravated today. You snapped at Tarsus twice. Even when I came into your shop, I felt true annoyance from you at Rose Petal’s behavior. It’s not like you to let things get to you and it’s especially not how we’re trained.”

She didn’t want to give away information so she simply kept her inquisitive expression. “What’s your question?”

“Is something bothering you? I mean Firefly, not Sweet Leaf.”

“I guess…” Firefly falsely started, not knowing what to say. It was everything, all of the above. The invasion, the accusation, Roast, oh gosh was it Roast. She wanted to ask someone, talk to someone, but she didn’t have anyone she could confide in. Though maybe… maybe she could talk around the issue.

“I guess it’s all of that,” Firefly started again, “but Roast and I also kinda had a big fight last week and I’m trying to figure out what to do about it.”

“Firefly,” Skitter said. When Firefly looked over at her, she saw the odd look Skitter was giving her. “Why is that bothering you?”

“What do you mean?” Firefly asked, confused. “If Roast and I can’t make up, then I’m going to lose him as a source.”

“That’s not something that should upset Firefly,” Skitter told her. “Sweet Leaf should be upset about that. You should be working that brain to solve the problem. You’re mixing your role’s emotions with your own.”

“Right. Sorry. I’ll figure it out.” Firefly knew she shouldn’t have mentioned it and now she regretted it. “What was the next thing in the letter?”

Skitter merely looked at her. “I’m sorry to say, Firefly, but I don’t think this is going to simply go away with a little thinking.”

This was what Firefly was afraid of. This was why she should have kept her mouth shut. What did she really think she was going to get out of it, validation? There was no getting around it now though. She’d stepped in it. Now she had to find a way to deal with it. “What do you mean?”

“I’d like you to try something. Close your eyes, for me, would you?”

Firefly looked at her a little incredulously. “Ooo-kay?” She closed her eyes. She didn’t want to, but if she could play Skitter’s game, they could move on.

“It’s fine. We’re not here to attack you, Firefly. Us collectors are too valuable for that kind of nonsense,” Skitter comforted, though Firefly thought it might have been half directed towards a certain contentious changeling.

Firefly merely nodded in response.

“Okay. Now think about before you and Roast had your fight,” Skitter paused, allowing Firefly time to think. She thought about Roast and when he came home from his coffee convention. She couldn’t help but chuckle inside at his perfect timing with the creep at the cafe.

“Good. Now think about something nice that he did for you.”

A spike of fear washed over her before she could control it. She realized what Skitter was trying to do. It was too late though, the emotion was broadcast to the other three. She had to think of a cover story quickly. Despite her attempts, she felt her heart start to pound.

“You can open your eyes.”

Firefly breathed in deep and did as she was told, preparing herself for a mental battle.

“That fear you felt? It’s the same thing I felt two years ago,” Skitter told her. “You realized it didn’t you?”

“Realized what?” Firefly nearly stammered out her first word.

“The affection you felt right before the fear. That was Firefly’s feeling, not Sweet Leaf’s.”

“Y-Yes.” There was no use in denying it. “What did you mean you felt it two years ago?”

“Back in Manehatten,” Skitter started, “I’d been with my previous source for a little over two years. My role and him were engaged and the wedding was just a couple weeks away. He’d been extra affectionate, doing all sorts of things to please my role. One night after he went out of his way to do an intricate date night, I realized I didn’t have to put any effort into how my role was responding to him. I didn’t have to think about what to do or say. It was no longer my role that was accepting his affections. It was me. Skitter. It scared me. I’d never consciously experienced the feeling before and it felt… good. Really good.

“I realized I’d started to have feelings for him.”

Firefly didn’t know what to think, let alone say. Was Skitter like her? Was she not the only one who held feelings for her source? “What-what did you do?”

“I wrote a letter back to the hive. I had made up an excuse of a business trip to tell my source and went to rent a room in a hotel for a few days. A couple days later, I got a letter back saying the situation I was in was dangerous and that I needed to remember my training.”

Firefly looked down, trying to remember anything they’d taught them about this kind of situation. She came up with nothing. She looked back up at Skitter. “I don’t remember anything about that.”

Skitter chuckled. “Neither did I until I spent a long time later thinking about it. The letter said that I needed to remember the training about guarding yourself from experiencing the affection your role produces. We don’t remember it because it was half a day during the emotional deflection curriculum. You might recall it better as the session every trainee made fun of.”

“I remember that one.” Vexor said. “It definitely wasn’t long. The overarching opinion of everyling there was how ridiculous it was that anyling could fall for a pony. Even the instructor made fun of it.”

“Yep.” Skitter nodded at Vexor and turned back to Firefly. “You’ve been with Roast for four years now, right?” At Firefly’s nod, she continued. “I’m surprised it’s taken you this long to have these feelings.”

Now that she thought about it, she did recall something about that. If she remembered correctly, she’d talked to a collector in training that had already taken that portion and told her it was a total joke. “Right, I think I remember that. So, what did you end up doing about it?” She steeled herself for the answer. No matter what it was, this time she would not show her cards.

“Well, the rest of the letter said I either needed to get control of myself or move on to a new source,” Skitter continued. “I tried for a little bit, but realized I’d already been feeling that way for a while. I decided it wasn’t worth the effort and moved on.”

Firefly nodded at the expected answer. She refused to entertain the idea of moving on from Roast.

“On the way to our wedding, I convinced him to take a side trip to the Neighagra Falls. I coordinated with a cleanup crew and made sure it was just him and I and a pony pulling the carriage. On the way, an ‘accident’ happened while we were being taken to the peak. As far as anypony knows, none of us survived the trip. As for what really happened, both ponies are currently in cocoons at the hive.”

“Right.” Firefly had to convince them that she could “break” herself of her feelings for Roast. Ironically, it likely meant she needed to repair her and Roast’s relationship. Though now that she realized her actions had been tainted by her true feelings, even in front of her fellow changelings, it shouldn’t be hard to subdue her outward appearance. The hard part was over. “I think I should—”

“Before you make a decision,” Skitter cut her off, “I think it’s best if you try to deal with this. It would be a shame for the Hoofington changelings to lose two of their five sources. Especially with the current circumstances and doubly so for one as productive as yours.”

If she hadn’t been so adamantly controlling her emotions, relief would have flooded over her. This was perfect. She didn’t even have to try to convince them. Firefly looked over at the other two changelings. It seemed they were content to merely listen to the conversation. Worked for her. She looked back at Skitter. “Okay. I will do what I can. And can I, uhm, come ask you questions if I need to?” Adding a bit of timidness for show’s sake.

“Of course.” Skitter gave Firefly a small smile. “Well as long as we have an appropriate audience. Though I guarantee you it won’t be easy. If we were automatons, this wouldn’t be a problem, but we’re living, feeling creatures. Just keep that in the back of your mind. And remember, the hive is depending on us, especially right now.”

“Right. For the hive.” Firefly nodded.

“For the hive,” Skitter repeated. “Now then, that was quite the side discussion. Getting back on track, the rest of the information isn’t nearly as harrowing as the order. Second bit is about gatherers. They will be skipping next month’s trip and instead will be coming in two months. They will be visiting you, Vexor, disguised as Lemon Shine. Now it says we should expect…”

Firefly smiled as she half listened to Skitter. This would be easy. If she could handle something like admitting her love to Roast, she could handle making up fake progress towards stifling her feelings. Though first things first would be to find out what was making her frustrated in the first place and why she couldn’t seem to let it slide off of her. That might be less easy.

But Firefly could handle it. She’d have to.

They’d continued until around eight thirty when Skitter announced she needed to be heading back. She’d told her source that she, or rather he, Long Scroll, would be back by nine.

They’d all changed back into their disguises and dispersed fairly quickly. Firefly was pleased with the results of the meeting. Though that meant she had to go back to the cafe where Roast was waiting. She would have to be adamant about talking about it later. She really did need some time to figure herself out.

Turning down the alley leading to the back entrance of the cafe, she mentally prepared some speeches of what to say to convince Roast to not deal with it until she was ready.

She was a few paces from the door when she realized she hadn’t brought a key with her. Roast hadn’t said he was going anywhere, so when she turned the knob and felt it click open, she was relieved that she wouldn’t be stuck outside until he came back.

Sweet Leaf entered the kitchen and saw all the lower floor’s lights were off except the stairway’s. Her heart fluttered a little at his forethought. Little considerations like that were one of the reasons she loved him. She frowned as she turned around and closed then locked the door, huffing at herself. Those kinds of thoughts made her sound shallow, even to herself.

She loved him for far more than the mere things she could get out of him. At least, she thought she did. She’d kind of admitted it to herself only a couple days ago. She turned to the stairs, determined to prove herself right. Though as she stopped at the first step and a yawn forced its way out of her mouth, that might be a job for another day. She shook the tiredness from herself. She still had to convince her loving husband that he didn’t need to dote on her until she felt capable of understanding her feelings.

Reaching the top of the stairs, she turned left and saw their bedroom was dark. She stepped quietly toward and inside. Once her eyes adjusted, she realized the bed was empty. She flicked on the lightswitch and light flooded the room. Immediately she noticed that Roast’s pillow was missing. She squinted at the thought.

He didn’t plan on… Did he?

She turned around and saw a gentle light barely coming from the living room. She walked down and peeked around the corner, seeing the back of the couch and candle light flickering along the walls and ceiling. Entering the room and peering around the side of the couch, she saw Roast, laying down on his belly, covers on top of him, a book in front of him, and a pillow resting against the couch arm.

“Roast? What are you doing?” Firefly asked gently.

“Oh, hi honey.” Roast looked up at her and smiled. “I was just reading a book before turning in.”

“I can see that,” she said with a raised eyebrow. “I mean what are you doing here, in the living room with a pillow and comforter?”

He grinned, nervousness both flowing from him and marring his face. “I, uh, kind of thought that maybe you’d like a little space tonight?”

Her heart broke a little at what he must have been feeling all night. Even with her reassurances, he was still unsure where the lines of their relationship were. After all, actions speak louder than words. She might still be a little miffed at lots of things, one of them being him, but she refused to let him segregate himself from her.

She snorted, perhaps a little too loudly. These fight things were for the birds.

“No.” She put on a disapproving frown.

“Er, uh, no?” he stammered.

“No,” she repeated. “I won’t let you do this. Just because we had a, well, I had a little disagreement and need time to understand these new feelings doesn’t mean we aren’t husband and wife.”

“I never said—”

“Shush. Get up, blow that candle out, grab your pillow, and come to bed. I’m tired and we have to get up early as usual.”

He looked at her for a moment before giving in. “Alright.”

She turned around and walked back down the hallway to their bedroom. Entering the room, she went around to the other side of the bed and turned on her nightstand light, then went back to the door and flicked the ceiling light off. By the time she’d walked back to her side of the bed and pulled her covers back and slipped in, Roast was standing in the doorway with a pillow under one foreleg. She could see and feel that he was unsure.

“Honey? Please come to bed,” she asked gently, patting his side of the bed.

He walked over and put the pillow at the head of the bed.

“Sweetie,” Firefly began softly as he pulled his side of the covers back, “I’m sorry. I… I can’t stand you punishing yourself for something I did.”

“I wasn’t punishing myself,” he replied. “I was wanting to give you the space you needed to sort things out.”

Firefly paused for a moment, then softly grinned at her wonderful, sometimes headstrong husband. “Thank you for that. But I don’t need that kind of space right now. Earlier this morning it might have been different. I’ve calmed down a lot since then.”

“So it was something to do with—” He cut himself off and took a deep breath. “Right. Let you deal with it.”

“Roast, my love.” Firefly leaned over and held his cheek in her hoof, looking him in the eyes. “I promise you. Once I’m ready to talk, I will tell you. In the meantime, I want my husband.”

He gave her a genuine, though small, smile. “Okay.”

She leaned in and hugged him, feeling him return the hug near immediately.

She pulled back and gazed lovingly into his eyes again. “I love you.”

He smiled again, more full with honesty and repeated her. “I love you too.”

Author's Note:

It's finally here! Thank you all so much for being patient with me. I'm super excited to get this out to you.

Hope the 10K word first chapter isn't too intimidating! :pinkiecrazy: