• Published 21st Oct 2012
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A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing - Dee Pad



Can a changeling truly renounce his identity and find happiness amongst those he was taught to hate?

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Bonus Chapter 9 - Intervention

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
By Dee Pad
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Bonus Chapter 9: Intervention

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Chamella stood perfectly still with one leg raised and her nose pointed up. A small bead of sweat slowly ran down her neck and she felt her suspended leg quivering as she attempted to remain motionless. She had been standing there upon the mirrored stage in Carousel Boutique for what felt like an hour, unmoving and expressionless, save for the strain she was putting on herself in order to maintain those features. Rarity, her friend and employer, slowly and methodically circled her, sizing her up scrutinously, or rather sizing up the crimson, sequined dress and bejeweled bridle that the changeling was currently wearing.

Chamella enjoyed working with Rarity and had even come to enjoy trying on and modelling dresses for her to help her out with designs and measurements. However, she had learned about her boss that the unicorn did prefer to use a living subject to display her dresses rather than a mannequin as it gave her a better idea of what the ensemble would look like on her customer. Standing still for long periods of time turned out to be much more difficult than it sounded. And it always seemed like her nose would get itchy just as they started. It certainly wasn't her favorite part of the job to say the least.

"Hmmm..." the unicorn thoughtfully hummed to herself. "I don't know. I feel like it's missing something. What do you think, Fluttershy?"

Sitting on a couch off to the side, the yellow pegasus looked up from the magazine she was skimming through and gave Chamella a quick once over. "I think it looks lovely," she quietly responded with a smile.

Rarity briefly questioned her friend's opinion in her own head, unsure if she agreed. "You think? I get this nagging feeling that it could use a little more... pizazz."

Fluttershy quirked an eyebrow. "It's covered from head to hoof in sequins and gems. I'm not sure you can make it any more pizazz-y."

The fashionista circled Chamella one more time, oblivious to the shaking in the changeling's legs. "Perhaps a matching saddle? Something... ceremonial-looking." Rarity threw a hoof up in frustration. "Oh, forget it. I'll have to poke through some books to get a better understanding of their cultural designs." The ivory mare stepped down from the platform and removed her orange spectacles. "You can take off that dress, Chamella. We're done for the day. We'll give it another go some other time."

Chamella released a breath of relief that she felt like she had been holding forever. Her hoof hit the wooden platform with a loud clomp and she let her neck relax, rolling her head around to work out an aching kink. She didn't think that Rarity even realized how long they had been at that. When Rarity gets into her "zone," she can get completely wrapped up in what she's doing and lose track of time as well as the state of those around her. It was a part of her job, she knew that and she was happy to do it for the mare who so generously offered her a place to stay, but if she had to keep doing this for such long periods of time, she was going to need a chiropractor.

The door to the boutique swung open, sounding the small bell that hung above it. At the sudden noise, Chamella let out a surprised yelp and staggered backward until her rear hooves slipped off the platform, causing her to tumble behind it. As much as she enjoyed her job, one thing she did not enjoy was having an audience. Somepony quiet and sweet like Fluttershy was fine, but having anypony else present sent the blood rushing to her cheeks with embarrassment for reasons that not even she understood.

"Uh, you okay, Chamella?"

At the familiar voice of her best friend, Chamella peeked up from behind the platform, still ensuring that only her face was visible. Standing in the doorway, wearing a puzzled and somewhat concerned expression, was Shade. Similar looks decorated the faces of the other two mares present as well. "I-I'm fine," she stammered nervously, hoping that maybe Shade hadn't seen the dress she was wearing, though there was nothing she could do to obscure the bridle.

"She's trying on one of my new designs," Rarity explained, knowing that Shade was aware of Chamella's dislike of being the center of attention. "I've been trying my hoof at some Saddle Arabian formal attire—with my own personal flair of course—but, as elegant as it looks, it's just... not looking finished." Rarity knew that Shade had little interest in the topic of fashion and chose to explain for the sole purpose of elaborating the situation, so she decided to abandon the topic there and start a fresh one.

"But nevermind that," she said with a smile. "I haven't seen you in a few days. It's good to see you again, Shade."

"Likewise," he returned with a friendly grin.

Of course, the reason she hadn't seen him was the same reason that he hadn't seen Chamella, or anypony for that matter: they were dealing with the mating season, keeping themselves cooped up to avoid any hazardous encounters. Shade assumed that Chamella had told Rarity all about it, as well as the rather unfortunate event that unfolded between the two of them as a result. Thankfully that had all blown over by now and the changelings could once again think straight and go outside without any worry.

Or at least he thought it had.

Shade couldn't help but notice that Chamella still hadn't gotten up from the platform and was avoiding eye contact with him. It was pretty obvious why. Neither one could ignore the elephant in the room, but it was Rarity that decided to bring the subject up.

"She told me what happened," she said with a sympathetic look. "It's actually the reason why I had her cancel her lessons with Twilight. I didn't actually receive a large order from Manehattan. I noticed that she was acting strangely and, after quite a bit of prodding, managed to get her to tell me what was going on."

"So she was a day earlier than me, huh?" Shade sighed. "You're a good friend, Rarity. Thanks for being so understanding about it for her."

"A lot of good it did in the end though," Rarity responded with guilt. "I had to run an errand and made the mistake of trusting her to behave herself until I got back. I was... shocked to say the least when she had told me what happened. Thankfully it hadn't gone any further than that and she managed to keep herself barred in until the whole thing could sort itself out."

Shade looked at Chamella who was still not looking directly at him. This was what he was worried about, the whole reason why he made sure over the years that they were never together when mating season came around. It was awkward and it concerned him how this was going to affect their friendship.

Shade put on a smile. "Chamella, come out here."

Finally, she looked at him, but more in surprise than anything. After what she had done, she thought that Shade would rather not see her again. But, despite the shame she felt at the moment, she listened, standing up and coming out of hiding. All things considered, the dress wasn't really a concern by comparison. She stood in front of Shade, her cheeks burning red as the image of what she had done came back to her. But something about the smile on Shade's face made her feel a little more at ease.

"Look," he started, placing a hoof on her shoulder, "we don't have to dwell on this. Sure, it's something we both wish never happened and will likely never be able to forget, but, given the circumstances, it could have been a lot worse. And I talked to Winter about it."

Chamella's pupils shrunk at the mention of the pegasus's name. Deep down, she was hoping that, by some unlikely chance, Shade hadn't told her about it. But of course he would. She didn't really expect any different of him.

"She understands, too," Shade explained.

A sudden wave of surprise and relief washed over Chamella, quelling the shame and guilt she felt. "S-She does?"

"Yeah. She knows that we didn't mean for it to happen and is willing to overlook it as long as we don't let it happen again. Okay?"

Chamella finally managed a smile. The amount of relief she felt at that moment was indescribable. She was so worried that she may have seriously damaged not only her friendship with Shade, but Shade's relationship with Winter in the process. It was a huge load off her mind knowing that that wasn't the case. To show her gratitude for their understanding, Chamella wrapped her hooves around Shade's neck and hugged him.

Fluttershy leaned over to whisper to Rarity. "Um, I'm a little lost here. What's this all about?"

Rarity waved a hoof dismissively. "Don't worry about it, dear."

The touching display between the two changelings sparked a question in Rarity's mind and she decided she'd voice it. "Shade, if you don't mind me prying a little, do you and Winter have any plans for tomorrow?"

Shade gave the unicorn a puzzled look. "Plans? For what?"

Rarity put on a coy smile. "Why, for Hearts and Hooves Day of course."

Shade sighed internally. Another holiday? What arbitrary thing were they celebrating this time? "Hearts and Hooves Day? Is that anything like that Hearth's Warming thing?"

"Heart's and Hooves Day is a very special holiday where couples in love go out of their way to do something extra romantic for their special somepony," Rarity explained, a particular fondness showing in her expression.

Shade was only more confused by her explanation. "But... isn't that something people should do everyday? You shouldn't have to wait until one specific day of the year to do something romantic, should you?"

The unicorn's face went blank. "Well... I... Huh... I suppose you're right. I guess it's just been so long since I've been in a serious relationship. I wonder if I'm starting to get desperate?" She turned to Fluttershy. "Do I sound desperate?"

Fluttershy simply shook her head, banking on that being the correct answer.

"So, to answer your question, no, we don't have anything special planned," Shade replied. "And if she wanted me to do something special, I'm sure she would have mentioned the holiday at some point or another."

Rarity breathed an envious and forlorn sigh. "Yes, I suppose. Regardless, I hope you still enjoy yourselves."

Once again, the bell above the boutique's front entrance chimed, gathering the attention of the four individuals present. Standing in the doorway was the very mare that Rarity was inquiring about.

"Well, speak of the devil," Rarity chirped. "Good afternoon, Winter."

Winter gave a friendly smile. "Hi. Sorry, didn't realize you had company," she said, referring to both Fluttershy and Shade.

"Think nothing of it, dear," Rarity assured with a dismissive wave of her hoof. "Actually, I was just asking Shade here if you and he were doing anything for Hearts and Hooves Day."

The ivory pegasus shrugged. "Nothing in particular. I mean, we could just go out for dinner or something, but I don't see any need to make a big deal out of it. I don't want Shade to feel obligated to do something for me just because it's a holiday he's never heard of."

Rarity nodded in understanding. "Yes, he said as much."

"So what brings you here, Winter?" Shade asked with a pleasant grin. "I wasn't expecting to run into you here."

"I could say the same."

Shade's smile faltered. He didn't expect her to say it so flatly. Was she upset about something?

"Actually, I came here to talk to her."

Shade followed her pointing hoof to Chamella. The female changeling seemed confused, looking around as if she expected somepony else to be there. She then pointed to herself with a touch of nervousness. "M-Me?"

Winter turned to Shade, her loving smile gracing her lips once again. "Shade, would you mind waiting for me at home? I want to talk to Chamella in private, okay?"

Shade was understandably puzzled. It had been almost a whole year since he and Chamella had moved to Ponyville, yet the two most important mares in his life, his girlfriend and his best friend, didn't really seem to spend much time together at all. Maybe this was a good thing. He wanted the two of them to get along, but at this point were they even actually friends?

"Sure," Shade answered. "It'd be nice for you two to actually have a conversation every now and then. I'll see you when you get home." He gave Winter a quick kiss and headed for the door.

Winter smiled to Shade as she watched him leave, giving him a loving wave goodbye. Once the door closed, Winter's smile vanished and she shot an icy glare over her shoulder to the only remaining changeling in the room. Chamella instinctively stepped back under the harsh gaze of the pegasus. It was like she had become a completely different person all of a sudden. Winter stomped over to the changeling and pointed a hoof at her chest.

"Alright, listen," she snapped angrily. "You and I need to have a serious talk."

Chamella gulped. She was actually scared right now. "A-About what?" she stammered, though she was pretty sure to what Winter was referring.

"You know full well 'what.' What happened the other day, what you did, should not have happened." Winter's vicious glare was unwavering.

"I-It was accident, I swear," Chamella meekly defended. "I-I didn't mean for it to happen. I tried to stop myself, but I couldn't.

"And that's exactly the problem! You can't control yourself. He was doing everything in his power to prevent that sort of thing from happening and as soon as you come into the picture, that all went out the window!"

Winter paused, taking a slow, deep breath to cool her head. She looked back at Chamella's frightened eyes. It was like she had become the predator attacking her prey when, given their biology, it should have been the other way around. Chamella stayed silent, afraid that anything else that she could say might just wind up making things worse.

"I don't exactly understand what the two of you were going through," Winter continued, trying to keep her tone at a less threatening level, "but I know it was difficult, for both of you. I'm not mad at Shade and I don't blame him for letting that happen. I blame you."

Chamella winced at the accusation. She would give anything to just let this torment be over with.

Rarity stepped forward with a sympathetic expression. "Winter, don't you think you're being a tad harsh? She was struggling just as much as Shade was."

Winter's glare was diverted to the unicorn. "With all due respect, Rarity, please stay out if this. This is between Chamella and me. The whole reason I asked Shade to leave was so he couldn't be here to defend her because he's a good guy and I know that's what he'd do."

Rarity wanted to interject, but the determinate look in Winter's eyes discouraged her. She had a point: this really wasn't any of her business, but she didn't want to leave Chamella alone with her right now.

Winter's glower turned back to the cowering changeling. "See, it's different for you. You don't have a special somepony whose life you can ruin by doing this kind of thing, but Shade does. And if you keep doing stuff like this then..." She trailed off for a moment, looking away as if thinking about something. When she looked back, the anger had left her face and was replaced by a solemn frown. "Then I'm not sure we can be friends."

Both Rarity and Fluttershy looked worriedly at one another. Chamella's pupils shrunk at the mare's words, but still she remained silent.

"And... it hurts me to have to say that. You're Shade's best friend and you've known him way longer than he's known me. I know you guys have a deep connection with one another and that's why I've been trying my hardest to like you. You're an important part of Shade's life, which makes you an important part of my life. But thinking about the things you've done—kissing Shade and... trapping me in a cave for three days—I'm finding it more and more difficult not to outright hate you."

Chamella was almost on the verge of tears. She let out an almost inaudible gasp when Winter had brought up that rather unpleasant memory. She had forgotten how horrible of a first impression she had made on her. Now, she was starting to understand where Winter was coming from. She had done some terrible and unforgivable things to her. It was a miracle that the pegasus even tolerated her presence all things considered.

"I'll be honest," Winter continued, "the thought of actually asking you to leave Ponyville had occurred to me." Winter put up her hoof to interrupt whatever reaction Chamella was going to make to that admission. "But, for Shade's sake, I don't want to do that. I want to be able to call you my friend, Chamella, but some changes need to be made."

The changeling, slightly shaking from this onslaught, finally managed to gather up enough courage to speak, though "desperation" may have been a more appropriate term. "L-Like what?"

Winter thought about her words for a moment, trying her best to at least take some of the stress off of Chamella's shoulders, before giving her a firm and resolute look. "Well, there's really just one change that needs to be made. It's painfully obvious that you still love Shade the same way that I love him."

Chamella wanted to dispute that claim, but knew full well she was right. She did love Shade, and it was because she loved him that she tried her best not to get between he and Winter. She only wanted him to be happy and Winter was what made him happy. Chamella was willing to accept that.

"And I know that I can't just make you stop loving him, but this can't happen again, do you understand?"

"But what should I do then?" Chamella asked, that desperation now showing in her voice.

Winter sighed. Her eyes drifted in Rarity's direction for a brief moment before falling back to Chamella. "I just need you to try. I know you care about him and that doesn't have to change, but if you continue to have these feelings for him, bad things can happen. I want you to try and divert your love somewhere else, away from Shade. Find a way to prevent this from happening again. At the very least, you need something to distract you the next time mating season comes around."

A lightbulb went off over Rarity's head and Winter's meaning clicked immediately. The fashionista stepped forward, an eager glint in her eye. "Winter, are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?"

Winter nodded. "Chamella needs a boyfriend. Somepony who's not Shade. Maybe if she can learn to love somepony else, then we won't have anymore issues."

Rarity clapped her hooves together gleefully. "Oooh, I was wondering when this day would come! To be perfectly honest with you, I've been wanting to play matchmaker for Chamella for some time. I just never really got around to it."

A smile finally managed it's way back onto Winter's lips. "Well, that's good. I was actually hoping to ask for your help with this. If anypony could find a date for Chamella, it'd be you, Rarity."

"Leave everything to moi," Rarity said with a flick of her mane. "Anything for the sake of love and friendship."

Winter turned back to Chamella, hoping that her smile would quell the anxiety in the changeling. "Can you do that for me, Chamella? I really do want to be able to call you my friend. If you do this then that'll bring us one step closer to that."

The changeling cautiously brushed her long mane out of her eyes and came out of hiding. Despite the fact that she had just been verbally bombarded, the fact that Winter was even giving her a chance to make up for all the crumby things she's done was a blessing. Chamella managed a small smile and nodded. "Okay, I'll give it shot."

Winter giggled happily. "Thank you. Even if you can't find a boyfriend, a simple one-night-stand during the mating season would probably suffice anyway. But this is a more long term solution. Anyway, I have to go. I need to talk to Shade about all of this. Oh, uh, sorry for putting you on the chopping block there, Chamella. I hope this all works out."

"Me, too," Chamella agreed.

With that Winter went on her way home, leaving Chamella, Rarity and Fluttershy standing in the boutique. The latter still wore a rather uncomprehending expression.

"Um... I'm still a little confused. So you're going to set Chamella up on a date?"

"Exactly," answered Rarity. "Actually, I'd be pleased if you would help me out, Fluttershy."

The pegasus smiled. "Sure. Chamella and I seem to have some things in common. Maybe that'll help in deciding who she should date."

Rarity nodded in agreement. "Good thinking. Come to think of it, I do know this one stallion who could be a viable partner. I sometimes collaborate with him when it comes to designing men's wear. And I know for a fact that he's single."

"Oh! I just thought of somepony, too," Fluttershy said. "I could ask him about it later."

"Umm... Do I get any say in all of this?" the excluded changeling spoke up.

Rarity placed a hoof on Chamella's shoulder. "I'm afraid not, dear. Winter made it abundantly clear how important this is and you already said that you were willing to do this for her and for Shade. It's not up to you anymore, darling." An eager grin spread across her muzzle. "This is in the hooves of destiny now. Fluttershy and I are merely playing Cupid, directing our arrows in the name of love." As Rarity felt the hair of Chamella's mane on her leg, she replaced her grin with a grimace. She hoisted a few strands with her hoof and analyzed them. "Unfortunately, it's going to be difficult to attract a nice stallion when your mane makes you look like you've been mauled by a manticore. We're going to have to do something about this."

A worried look appeared in Fluttershy's teal eyes. "Oh, you don't mean..."

The excitement in Rarity's eyes made Chamella just a little worried.

"Makeover~!"

***** ***** *****

Equestria was still barely on the edge of winter. Snow still blanketed the ground and the air was still crisp with the season's chill, though today was particularly mild. Still, even having a little bit of snow on the ground meant that outdoor activities were somewhat more limited and this included outdoor dining. The tables that were normally arranged just outside of Horte Cuisine's restaurant had been taken in long before Ponyville's first snowfall. Now, if anypony wished to eat there, they would need to be seated inside.

But not every customer was safe within the warm confines of the building. Rarity and Chamella stood outdoors in the snow, wearing wool hats, cozy scarves and saddles. The latter of the two was understandably nervous, fidgeting and asking if she could wait inside despite the fact that she wasn't actually cold. Chamella envied every pony that she witnessed going into the establishment.

It didn't help that she was receiving some odd looks from most of them as well. Of course, she knew why. Everypony in town knew that there were two changelings living in Ponyville and have known for almost a whole year. However, the changeling standing outside the restaurant didn't look familiar to any of them and made them wonder if there was a third that nopony told them about. The female changeling they knew of had a long, straight, purple mane that looked like it was perpetually wet and matted against her face. However, this unfamiliar changeling's mane—while still the same shade of deep purple—was swept to one side, almost completely concealing her right eye and was tied in a long braid that was draped across her opposite shoulder, nearly hanging down to the ground. She looked several degrees more sophisticated and kempt, though her demeanor was more in line with the changeling they knew about, meekly keeping her head down and avoiding eye contact.

It was only by Rarity's insistence that Chamella went through with the change. They had gone through countless different styles, most of which involved moving her hair away from her face entirely. Since she was little, Chamella had always used her long mane as a sort of shield to obscure herself when she was nervous or afraid, all of the various styles that Rarity had tried out removed that, making her feel vulnerable. But when the creative spark went off in the unicorn's head, the style Chamella wore now came out. It was elegant and manageable, but still provided some level of security. When she saw herself in the mirror, it was the first time that Chamella could ever consider herself pretty. Add a touch of blush and some deep blue eye shadow and she looked like a completely different person.

Though, as it turned out, that didn't give her the confidence boost that she was hoping for, as the new style only served to make her stand out even more.

"When are they going to get here?" Chamella whispered to Rarity.

The unicorn kept watching the skies. "Any minute now, I'm sure." She passed the changeling a sympathetic smile. "Feeling nervous?"

Chamella looked at Rarity as if she had just asked an apple if it was an apple. "Of course I'm nervous. I've never been on a date before, let alone a blind date."

Rarity gave a dismissive flick of her hoof. "Oh, I'm sure it'll go just fine. You're a very pleasant, young mare. You just need to come out your shell more. My hope is that a nice stallion that you can get along with will help with that."

Chamella groaned in anxiety. She liked her "shell." That's why she didn't come out of it. It was safe and never judged her, just like Shade. In a way, Shade was like her "shell." He was the only person that she really ever opened up to and could talk freely with.

Her pink eyes turned up to the unicorn who was continuing to give a her that reassuring smile.

Well, maybe that wasn't entirely true. Since living in Ponyville, Rarity has been an important figure in her everyday life. They talked, hung out, worked together. Rarity was even teaching her new things. Now that she thought about it, Twilight Sparkle was much the same. Maybe she was finding less need for her "shell" as time went by. Who was to say that she couldn't do that for somepony else?

"Oh, here they come."

Chamella looked up to see two pegasi coming in for a landing in front of the restaurant. One was Fluttershy, as she expected. The other, however, she didn't recognize. A young stallion with a jet-black coat, light blue and silver mane styled into a mohawk, bright, yellow eyes and a cutie mark of a storm cloud and lightning bolt.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," Fluttershy apologized.

"Not at all, dear," Rarity assured with a chuckle.

There was a short pause before Fluttershy realized that she was forgetting something. "Oh! Right, I should introduce you two. Chamella, this is Thunderlane. Thunderlane, this is Chamella."

Thunderlane's eager smile vanished at that instant. "Uh, wait. It's... her?" He questioned, pointing to Chamella.

The changeling felt her anxiety quickly build up on her again.

Rarity nodded, but, at the same time, gave the stallion a stern look. "That's right. Is there a problem with that?"

Thunderlane chuckled nervously under Rarity's judgmental gaze and waved his hoof back and forth. "N-No no, no problem. It's just... when Fluttershy said she was setting a friend up on a blind date, I guess I wasn't expecting a changeling. Sorry, I don't mean to sound rude or anything. It's nice to meet you."

The stallion extended his hoof to Chamella, which she accepted, though hesitantly. "You, too," she returned, her voice barely audible.

"Well then, I guess we'll just give you two some privacy," Rarity said. "We handled the reservations for you. Just go on in and enjoy yourselves, alright?"

With a wave goodbye, Rarity and Fluttershy left the two to their business. Thunderlane offered an awkward smile to Chamella, but the changeling couldn't manage one herself; her stomach felt like it was doing loops right now. The stallion stepped forward and opened the door to the restaurant, holding it open for Chamella.

"After you," he said politely.

Chamella took a deep breath. As much as she didn't want to be doing this, she had to remember that she was doing it for Shade and for Winter and their relationship. Finally managing a small smile, she accepted Thunderlane's kind gesture and walked inside, the stallion following behind her.

It didn't take long for the pair to find an empty table for two with menus laid out and they sat across from one another. Then the awkward silence kicked in, the only sound audible being the jumbled and incoherent conversations of the restaurants other patrons. Chamella was relieved to see that she was receiving no second glances from the other ponies; her new look was making her feel more than a little self-conscience. Looking across the table she could see Thunderlane idling flipping through his menu, his eyes looking everywhere but at her.

She knew it all along: this was a bad idea. It was easy enough for Shade to find a partner; he was kind, caring, protective and it probably helped that he was disguised as a pony when he met Winter. How could someone like her possibly get any stallion to feel the same way about her when she was so... not like Shade?

"I guess this is pretty weird, huh?"

With the silence broken, Chamella looked at Thunderlane who was smiling sheepishly. He seemed to be reading her mind or, more likely, her expression.

"To be perfectly honest, when Fluttershy came up to me about this, she hesitated. I kind of thought that, from how... well, shy she was being, that she was actually going to ask me out. But you were the last person I would have thought to have been set up with."

Chamella just looked away dejectedly. Thunderlane, realizing what he said, hastily tried to backpedal.

"W-What I meant was, there are, like, a hundred mares in this town and only one of them is a changeling. Like I said before, it was unexpected." He laughed awkwardly in hopes that he could lift her spirit. Judging by the look on her face, this date had already gone too far south. If he wanted to save it, he'd have to get her talking. "Look, if I wasn't interested, I'd have left when I met you. So why don't you tell me a little about yourself? I knew there were changelings living here and everything, but I don't know anything about you guys."

Chamella looked up at him again. She didn't know what to say. A part of her felt like he was just humoring her and trying to get this date over with. But another part of her was flattered that he wanted to know more about her. She opened her mouth to speak, but had trouble finding a place to start. She looked again at his waiting face, ears swiveled forward in anticipation of anything she was willing to share with him. Chamella finally managed to talk, but not the words he was probably expecting.

"Sorry, I'm not really good at talking with people I don't know. I guess, growing up with nothing but other changelings, it's difficult to decide who you can trust."

Thunderlane was thrown off balance by that reply. "Uh, okay. I guess that's understandable. Well, then why don't I tell you about me? You can talk to me if you get to know me better, right?"

The changeling was surprised by his answer. Maybe he was giving this date a fair chance. Chamella smiled softly. "Okay."

Thunderlane leaned his forelegs onto the table, thinking about where he should start. "Alright, I guess the first thing you should know is that I'm originally from Cloudsdale. I moved to Ponyville a few years ago after I got out of high school and got a job on the weather team here."

A spark went off in Chamella's brain. "Just like Winter."

The pegasus raised an eyebrow. "Winter? You mean Winter Maple?" He tapped his chin in thought. "Yeah, I guess that's pretty similar to her situation. Wait, isn't she the one going out with the other changeling?"

Chamella nodded to confirm his theory.

"Right. I take it you two know each other, right? You and that other changeling. Uh..."

"Shade," Chamella quickly filled in the blank for him.

"Shade, right. So how long have you two known each other exactly?"

Chamella didn't even notice the smile on her face grow slightly wider. "Our whole lives. There's not a day in my memory that I didn't know Shade."

Thunderlane chuckled. He was happy to see that Chamella had joined the conversation so quickly. "So you two are pretty close friends then."

"Best friends," she responded with fondness. "I owe everything to Shade. You can probably tell just by looking at me that I'm not really very tough, especially for a changeling. Because of that, I used to get picked on and harassed by the other changelings all the time. Thankfully, Shade's always been there to stick up for me. He's like..." She thought about the way that Shade had described their relationship on multiple occasions. "Like a big brother."

Thunderlane smiled knowingly. "I know exactly what you mean. I'm a big brother myself and I know how it feels to have a younger sibling look up to you. Any time my little brother comes home from school with his head hung low because some jerks were giving him a hard time, it makes me sick to my stomach. I have an obligation as an older brother to step in and do whatever I have to do to protect him. And even if there's nothing I really can do, the very least I can do is cheer the little guy up. Because I'm not just his brother, I'm his friend."

Chamella giggled happily. Suddenly the discomfort of being forced into this situation was dissipating. She was conversing openly with Thunderlane. Moreover, she was enjoying herself. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe making new friends and meeting new people wasn't as difficult as she made it out to be. Maybe befriending Rarity and Twilight wasn't just a fluke.

"You two ready to order?" came the voice of their waiter.

Chamella only just realized that she hadn't even looked at her own menu. She looked up to Thunderlane. Maybe she could just have whatever he was having. But he wasn't even looking at his menu. With a somewhat uncomfortable expression, he was staring at the waiter. Chamella turned and nearly fell out of her seat, letting out a surprised yelp.

Smiling back at her, a pencil and notepad at the ready, was Shade preparing to take their orders. The embarrassment of the scenario was evident by the red tint taking over Chamella's cheeks. For a moment she had completely forgotten that Shade actually works here and was silently cursing the fact that Rarity had scheduled their date for a day that he was working this shift.

"H-Hi," the flustered changeling stammered like a foal caught with their hoof in the cookie jar. "Um, this is just, uh..."

Shade chuckled with amusement. "Relax, Chamella. Winter told me what's going on."

Chamella almost let out a small whimper when she recalled the verbal lashing the mare had given her.

"I really wish I could have been there to stick up for you, but, admittedly, she has a point."

Chamella nodded weakly. "I know."

"Look, this is a good thing you're doing. It'll be better for everyone this way. I want you to be happy just as much as I want Winter to be happy and I'm glad that you actually have the courage to do this for us."

Chamella smiled bashfully, looking across the table at Thunderlane. The pegasus could clearly see the bond that Chamella had described between them. It was certainly reminiscent of his own relationship with his little brother.

Shade turned to the stallion seated across from her. "So, you're Chamella's date?"

Thunderlane gave a nervous smile and a nod. As an older brother himself, he hoped that Chamella's "big brother" would be accepting of his "sibling's" choice.

Shade kindly extended a hoof to him. "Nice to meet you..."

"Thunderlane," he introduced as he shook Shade's hoof.

"Treat her right, okay? I'm trusting you to keep her happy," said Shade with a touch of sternness in voice, more like a father than a brother.

"I was planning to."

Shade gave an accepting nod before preparing to take their orders. He looked at Chamella one more time.

"Your hair looks nice by the way."

And the embarrassment comes flooding back.

After taking their orders and delivering their meals, Chamella and Thunderlane continued their conversation. She talked about life growing up in the Changeling Kingdom and what she loved most about living in Ponyville and all the new things she was getting to experience for the first time. He talked about his own life, his relationship with his younger brother, the hardships of being an average guy going through high school and his arduous move to Ponyville. The more they talked, the more comfortable Chamella became. In a lot of ways, Thunderlane reminded her of Shade; a caring and protective older brother. That sort of made him ideal to her. The whole point of this was to keep her feelings for Shade from getting the best of her. What better way to do that than to be with somepony who was like Shade?

As time ticked by and the food on their plates disappeared, it became apparent that the date was reaching its conclusion. Thunderlane paid for their meals, they said goodbye to Shade and they now stood outside the restaurant. The sun was starting to set, a sure sign that this evening was coming to an end one way or another. Chamella didn't realize that she had been smiling for quite a while now. Any doubts about this idea were completely quelled. She had fun and she liked the person she had spent her time with. Were these evidence of a successful date?

Thunderlane awkwardly scratched the back of his head, unsure of where things went from here. "I had a good time today."

"Me, too," Chamella agreed with a grin.

"So... do you want me to walk you home?"

The changeling was confused by the offer. She didn't exactly know the protocol for a typical date, but she didn't want him to go out of his way for her. "That's okay, it's not that far."

Thunderlane seemed a little disappointed. "You sure?"

Chamella nodded and smiled cutely.

"Uh, okay then. Well then, maybe we can, I don't know, do this again sometime. How's that sound?"

Considering how much she enjoyed this evening, it was hard to say no. "Sure. I'd like that."

A satisfied smile played across the stallion's lips. "Cool. I'll stay in contact with you then. Good night." He looked at her smiling face once more, hesitated briefly as if hoping that she would stop him, then flapped his wings and made his way home.

As she watched him fly off, she couldn't help but feel that she should have done something more before he left. Too little too late now though. Ultimately, it didn't matter. She was sure they'd see each other again. In fact, she was eager to go on another date, her excitement manifesting itself as the added spring in her step as she leisurely trotted back to Carousel Boutique.

***** ***** *****

The smell of toast and citrus wafted through Carousel Boutique as the bright rays of the early morning sun beamed through the dining room window. Rarity, still garbed in her plush, purple bathrobe and mane wrapped up in a towel from her morning shower, delicately placed a plate of marmalade toast on the table alongside her cup of earl grey and took a seat. As she took her first sip from the cup, she glanced across the table to her employee who was chewing a bite of her breakfast.

Rarity smiled coyly. The grin on Chamella's face certainly had not gone unnoticed by the unicorn and she was intent on inquiring about it. The only reason she hadn't the previous evening after Chamella had returned home was to give the normally reserved mare some time to think about this new experience and let her find a way to properly describe it. Now that a new day had started, Rarity could finally sate her curiosity.

"I trust by that smile that your date went well yesterday," the unicorn asked as she held her teacup to her lips.

Chamella's grin never fell, but was now accompanied by a bashful blush. All the information Rarity needed really, but to hear it straight from the horse's mouth would be nice too. "Yeah," she answered sheepishly.

"Do you like him?"

"He's really nice. I had doubts at first, but once I started talking to him, it was like talking to somepony I've known for a long time."

Rarity giggled proudly. She knew a nice stallion would help Chamella open up more. "That's good to hear, darling, because I've set up another date for you later today."

Chamella's smile faltered, making way for slight confusion and surprise. "Another date? With Thunderlane? Already?"

The unicorn took another sip of tea and shook her head. "Mm-mm. Not Thunderlane. Somepony else."

The changeling looked unsure. "Why? What's wrong with Thunderlane?"

"Nothing. I just think it's unrealistic to believe that the first person you meet is going to 'the one.' If you want to meet Mr. Right, then you need to keep your feelers out. How do you know if the dress you're wearing is the perfect one for you if you've only been to one store? Do you know what I mean?"

Chamella idly poked at her half-eaten slice of toast. "It worked for Shade."

Rarity sighed. Chamella couldn't help but notice a hint of disdain and frustration. "Yes, he was one of the lucky ones I suppose. Not all of us can be so fortunate as to find our soul mate on the first go." Chamella quirked an eyebrow. It sounded like she was speaking from personal experience. "Look, Thunderlane is fine and you can put him on the backburner if things don't go well this time. But how do you know you won't like this stallion even more?"

Chamella had to concede the point to Rarity. She didn't know. Maybe she was right. As much as she enjoyed her date with Thunderlane, perhaps this other stallion would appeal to her even more. "So who is it?"

Rarity's smile returned. "As I mentioned yesterday, he's a colleague of sorts. Even if you weren't going to go on a date with him, you probably would have met him eventually if we ever collaborated again. His name is Pinprick."

Another name she didn't recognize. For as small as the town was and how few people it actually had, it was surprising to see just how many people she didn't know or had even heard of. Though it was probably a result of her introverted personality.

"When am I meeting him?"

"Noon. Once again, I've made reservations for the two of you at Horte Cuisine's. I told him to meet you there then."

Chamella made an almost inaudible groan, worried about what the answer to her next question might be. "Shade's not working there today, is he?"

Rarity chuckled at her friend's bashfulness. "No, I believe he and Winter will be spending the whole day together. It is Heart's and Hooves day after all. Hopefully that will bring some romance to your date as well." After taking the final bite of her toast, Rarity daintily wiped her mouth with a napkin and stood from her chair. "Now then, we should get your hair done up before you go."

***** ***** *****

Once again Chamella found herself standing outside the door of Horte Cuisine's restaurant and once again she found herself wondering if this was a good idea. She quickly recapped her experience from the day before in her head, trying to weigh the good with the bad to determine if she wanted to do it all over again. The only "bad" thing she could think of was those awkward first moments when she didn't want to go through with it, but even that wound up working out as she ultimately greatly enjoyed herself. Plus, now she knew what to expect from a blind date and had a better idea of how to proceed. She wasn't half as nervous about it as she had been the first time.

It'll be fine, she told herself. Just do what you did yesterday.

After checking to make sure her styled mane was okay, she took a deep breath and opened the door. Inside, the restaurant was teeming with customers as usual. No more or no less than what was typical, it was just a matter of figuring out which one was this Pinprick that Rarity had set her up with.

On the far side of the dining room, seated at a table for two, Chamella spotted a stallion making eye contact with her; a unicorn with a blue coat, wavy, silver mane and bright, orange eyes. Upon noticing Chamella, the stallion put on a gentle smile and stood from his seat, gesturing for her to come over. That must have been him. As she approached, she was able to get a glimpse of his cutie mark: a safety pin.

"Are you Pinprick?" Chamella asked cautiously, hoping to avoid any embarrassment.

The stallion nodded curtly. "I am."

Chamella breathed a sigh of relief internally. She put on a smile, hoping to make a better impression this time around. "Hi, I'm Chamella. It's nice to meet you."

She extended her hoof to shake with him, but was surprised to see him instead gently hold it before leaning down to kiss it. A red tinge filled the changeling's cheeks instantly. "The pleasure's all mine," he stated politely.

Well, that introduction was certainly different than the previous one. And it only got stranger when he kindly pulled out her seat for her to sit down. In a state of mild confusion, Chamella took her seat and he sat across from her, his soft smile never faltering. Already she was at a loss for words. So far, this date was nothing like the first one. There was no awkwardness, no avoiding eye contact and no forced grins. Pinprick had only said two sentences to her and already she could tell that he and Thunderlane were world's apart.

But was that really a bad thing?

The stallion spoke again, breaking the calm silence between them. "Rarity told me a bit about you. I have to admit, I was a little surprised to hear she wanted to set me up with a changeling," he laughed.

"And... that doesn't bother you?" Chamella asked quietly.

Pinprick laughed again. "Quite the contrary actually. I was intrigued. The idea of dating a changeling is so foreign to anypony. That's part of the reason why I went along with this." He looked Chamella over carefully, grinning all the while. "And, I have to say, so far I don't regret that decision. You may not be what people are used to seeing around here, but you are quite beautiful regardless and have a rather... exotic charm about you, if you don't mind my saying."

Chamella's blush returned. It was one thing for her to finally see herself as pretty, but to hear it from somepony else made her face hot. But she didn't feel like she was blushing with embarrassment. It almost felt as if she were basking in his praise. She had never been admired before. She wasn't sure how to react to that.

A waiter came to their table to take their orders and, after making their selections, Chamella took the opportunity to shift the subject off of herself and focus on the stallion she was with. "So... um... H-How do know Rarity, Pinprick?" she stammered in a clumsy attempt to change the topic.

"Call me Pin." The changeling nodded to acknowledge his request. "Rarity and I occasionally work together. I'm a tailor you see, so if there's any patchwork that Rarity doesn't have time to fix up or when she needs a male's perspective on her designs, she usually comes to me. I wouldn't exactly say we're close, but we do respect one another."

Chamella simply nodded as she listened to him, though her mind wasn't so much focused on his words as it was on the fact that he never broke eye contact with her. Even though he was talking about himself, Chamella felt like she was the center of attention. The weird part was she liked it for once.

"Rarity mentioned you were a shy one," Pinprick noted, commenting on how quiet she was being. "And that's fine. In fact, it's cute. But if I'm being at all obnoxious, just let me know."

"No no, you're not obnoxious," Chamella hastily stated, worried that he was perceiving her silence as discomfort. "I'm just listening, that's all."

Pinprick chuckled. "That's good then."

The waiter returned, placing their meals in front of them. Pinprick opted for a hearty caesar salad, but on the opposite side of the spectrum, Chamella had ordered a simple hamburger off of the restaurant's red menu. Aside from the occasional griffon that was visiting Ponyville, the town's two resident changelings were really the only ones around to use that menu, and even then it wasn't often.

The burger was enveloped in Chamella's green magic and she lifted it to her mouth. However, as she prepared to bite into it, she happened to glance across the table. For once, Pinprick wasn't smiling, nor was he looking into her eyes. Instead, he focused on the meaty delight that Chamella was about to sink her fangs into. The changeling lowered the burger.

"What's wrong, Pin?" she asked worriedly.

His eyes shot back up to hers as if she had interrupted his train of thought. "Hm? Oh, uh... it's nothing," he dismissed, his smile clearly forced.

Chamella looked down at her meal, then back to Pinprick. "Is it this? You know, because it's meat? Does that bother you? Because if it does, I can order something else."

"No no, it's fine," Pinprick attempted to assure her. "It's just... well, I guess for a moment I forgot changelings were carnivores. But you don't have to order something else. You shouldn't have to restrict yourself on my account. You are who you are. I'm not going to try and change that. Go ahead."

"Are you sure?" He smiled again, genuinely this time, and nodded affirmatively. Chamella raised the burger again, opened her mouth, paused to see if there would be any objections, and then took a big bite. As she chewed, she checked to see Pinprick's reaction, expecting a grimace or for him to be looking away entirely. Surprisingly, he simply watched, unfazed.

"Huh. That wasn't as gross as I was expecting it to be." He laughed at his revelation. "Or perhaps I was simply too distracted by your beauty to notice."

Chamella smiled bashfully. She was reveling in all of these compliments. Why did she feel this way? Was it because this was the first time in her life that somepony had actually called her beautiful? In any case, she found herself enjoying this stallion's company more and more as the date proceeded. He paid her compliments almost constantly, stared endlessly into her eyes, and he didn't even seem to mind that she was eating meat. She had never met anypony like him. He was a real gentlecolt. Even when there was silence, when she looked back into his orange eyes, she could tell that all he was thinking about was her. For once in her life, she felt she was something to be desired. It was a foreign feeling to her.

And she liked it.

As the clocked ticked ever forward, Chamella completely lost herself and her concept of time entirely, having not noticed that she and Pinprick had finished their meals half an hour ago and the two were just sitting there, chatting. It wasn't until the waiter brought them their bill that they realized how much time had passed, which inevitably meant that their date was coming to an end.

Stepping back out into the crisp, late-winter air, Chamella and Pinprick looked at each other one more time. He didn't have to say anything to make the changeling blush; at this point, she could preempt any of his much welcomed praises.

"I can't remember the last time I had a date as enjoyable as this," Pinprick commented with a smile.

Chamella smiled back. "I really enjoyed meeting you and talking with you, Pin."

The stallion chuckled. "Not as much as I," he said, holding her hoof in his own and delivering a gentle kiss as he did when they had met. "Would you be opposed to the idea of us getting together again sometime?"

"Sure." Chamella surprised herself with how quickly she had answered that. Apparently her anxiety had all but vanished at this point, and she owed it all to two kind and open-minded stallions. Pinprick and—

"Hey, Chamella!"

The changeling's head tilted up in the direction of the new, yet familiar, voice. That anxiety that she had thought she had gotten passed began to well up again when she saw Thunderlane alight on the ground next to her.

The pegasus wore a friendly grin. "Fancy running into you."

"Oh, uh, hi," Chamella greeted quietly. She gulped nervously.

"So, hey, I was wondering if maybe we could get something to eat later. That sound good?"

Chamella fumbled for a response, but couldn't manage one. "Um..."

"Excuse me."

Thunderlane finally took notice of the unicorn stallion standing with them, eyebrow raised and looking none too pleased.

"It's a mite inappropriate to ask a mare out to dinner when she's already in the middle of a date with somepony," Pinprick pointed out sternly.

Thunderlane stared at the unicorn, confused. "A date? What? Chamella, what's he going on about? Who is this guy?"

"I think I should ask you the same thing," Pinprick interrupted.

Chamella purposefully avoided eye contact with both stallions as they stared at her, expecting an answer. She could feel the nervous sweat beginning to form on her neck.

"Are you actually on a date with this guy?" Thunderlane asked incredulously. "I thought you said you wanted to go out with me again and now you're out with this guy?"

"Considering the tone you're using with her, I can't say I blame her," Pinprick shot back.

"Hey, butt out! She went out with me first!"

"Then she obviously thought you weren't good enough and went for a stallion who could treat her right!"

"You wanna say that again?!"

Chamella's eyes shot between the two stallions as they argued, each word uttered only doing more to tick off the other and elevate the dread rising within the changeling. Chamella's brain fought for anything she could say or do to end this torment, so she did the first thing that managed to coalesce in her mind. Chamella's wings buzzed and she took off in a rush and flew away, trying to get as far away from this mess as she could, leaving a trail of regretful tears in her wake.

Thunderlane's anger subsided for the moment and he called out to her. "Chamella! Hey, come back!" He shot a glare at the other stallion. "See what you did?"

Pinprick sighed remorsefully. "I think we're both to blame here. Chamella's a delicate flower. She probably blames herself for this. We should catch up to her and give her a chance to explain."

A feeling of guilt began to well up inside Thunderlane. He looked back in the direction that Chamella had flown off, but by now she had already disappeared.

***** ***** *****

The sound of quiet sobbing disturbed the peaceful silence of Ponyville's park. While the concerning sound would have normally garnered the attention of the surrounding populace, at the moment the park was empty, save for one individual. A weeping changeling lay perched in the branches of a leafless tree, her tears dripping from her cheeks and taking the long fall into the blanket of snow below.

I knew this was a bad idea.

Chamella pulled at the braid of her hair, undoing the purple coil and letting it fall back to it's natural, bland state. All she was trying to do was open up a little more, find somepony besides Shade that she could find comfort with. But all she wound up doing was making two perfectly nice stallions hate her and each other. It seemed like love was something that she was destined to be without and she couldn't help but think that it was because she was a changeling. Whenever she learned to like someone, whenever she felt strongly about someone, she always wound up hurting them. And now she had ruined her chances with not one, but two stallions that she actually liked.

She was cursed. That's what she thought. What other explanation could there be? She was fated to simply stand by and watch the people she cared about be happy, but unable to find that happiness herself.

Maybe it would better off if I did go back to the Changeling Kingdom.

"Chamella?"

The changeling's heart jumped in fright at the sound of Thunderlane's voice below, but looking down, she could see he wasn't alone. Pinprick was with him. That was both puzzling and worrying. She turned herself away from them, too ashamed to look them in the eyes.

The two stallions looked to each other with concern in their expressions. Thunderlane spoke to Chamella again. "Look, we don't know exactly what's going on, but if you come down here, we can talk about this."

"We can tell from your reaction that you didn't mean any harm in all this. We just want to give you a chance to explain what this is all about," Pinprick added.

Chamella glanced over her shoulder, wiping a stray tear from her eye. "Are you... Are you mad at me?"

"'Confused' is more like it," Thunderlane answered.

Chamella sniffled quietly as she contemplated what she would do. Ultimately, though reluctantly, she decided to listen to them. With a weak buzz, she lifted herself from the tree and slowly let her hooves drop back to the snow covered ground. She looked into Thunderlane's eyes, then Pinprick's. She could tell they were a little upset, but not angry as they were before. Pinprick spoke up first.

"Why exactly did you not mention anything about Thunderlane?" he asked bluntly.

Chamella's stomach tightened at the question. As much as she didn't want to assign blame, she felt she had to be truthful. "Rarity told me that I need to, uh... 'keep my feelers out.' She said it was no big deal. I don't know anything about dating. I didn't think this would cause any trouble. I was just following Rarity's advice."

Pinprick rolled his eyes. "Rarity. I probably should have guessed. She's always had a rather gung-ho attitude in regards to dating."

"But you gotta admit," Thunderlane interjected, "Chamella is good company. I suppose we can at least thank Rarity for that."

"So what now?" Chamella asked. "I already feel like a ruined any chance I had with either one of you. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't want to talk to me anymore."

Pinprick closed his eyes in thought. "The way I see it, you have a choice to make."

Both Thunderlane and Chamella shared puzzled looks. "What choice?" the female inquired.

"Well, it's pretty clear that you like both of us," the unicorn elaborated. "And I don't think it's any stretch to say that, in the little time that we've known you, we've come to like you as well. So the choice is yours really. Thunderlane or myself. I think you have a right to make that decision."

Chamella stood there with her mouth agape. Both Thunderlane and Pinprick were watching her expectantly, waiting for her to make her choice. It was baffling to her that she was even being given the option. After the way they reacted, she would have thought that they'd want nothing to do with her anymore, yet here they were, eager to hear her answer.

But who should she pick? As Pinprick stated, she did like both of them. Barring the unpleasantness of their encounter not ten minutes ago, it was almost impossible for her to choose which date she enjoyed more. Both gave her a feeling of comfort and companionship. Both were kind and showed genuine interest in being with her. Both had even asked if they could go on another date. It really boiled down to what one gave her over the other. On the one hoof, Thunderlane was a lot like Shade. Supportive and protective. He gave her the feeling of safety and security that her best friend had provided her over the years. She knew that was something she wanted. But on the other hoof, the way Pinprick made her feel was nothing she had ever felt before. To hear from him constantly that she was beautiful and a pleasure to be around was alien to her, an undiscovered feeling of being desired by somepony. Not even Shade could offer her that.

Chamella took a deep breath. She never imagined she'd have to make this decision, let alone how difficult it would be, but as she looked into the expectant eyes of her two potential suitors, the answer became a little more clear to her.

"I choose..."

The two stallions instinctively leaned forward to hear her response.

"...neither."

Thunderlane and Pinprick stood silent for a moment, unsure if they had heard her correctly. "Uh, did you say 'neither'?" the pegasus asked.

Chamella nodded. The pair were unsurprisingly befuddled by that answer and awaited an explanation. "I really enjoyed the time I spent with both of you, and I really do like you both. At first, I was worried about going on a date because I don't do well around people I don't know. But after meeting Thunderlane, it... wasn't so bad." She put on a cute smile. "I guess I shouldn't let past experiences get in the way. Thanks to the two of you, I think I can be a little more open from now on."

They still seemed a little confused. "So, if you like us, why didn't you choose either of us?" Thunderlane questioned.

Chamella sighed, feeling slightly guilty. "It's because I like you both that I can't choose. And I'm afraid that if I pick one of you, I'll hurt the other's feelings. I don't want anypony being upset with me or whomever I wound up picking, so if I can't have both of you, then I can't have either of you. At the very least, I still want to have you guys as my friends."

"That's... very mature of you, Chamella," Pinprick commented. "Though I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed. I was kind of looking forward to seeing what it would be like to date a changeling, especially one as stunning and kind-hearted as you." He gave Chamella a proud smile to which she smiled back.

"Whatever the case, I still enjoyed our first—and I guess only—date," Thunderlane said. "But if you ever, you know, change your mind or something, feel free to look me up."

Chamella giggled. "We'll see."

"So I suppose this is goodbye for now," said Pinprick. "I'm sure we'll see each other around though. And we may even wind up working together at some point too."

"I'm looking forward to it," the changeling stated.

As the two stallions were about to leave and return home, Chamella stopped them. "Wait."

Pinprick stopped and Thunderlane folded his wings back in.

"I just want to give you two a little something to say thank you." Chamella leaned her head in between the two stallions and delivered two quick kisses to their cheeks, first to Thunderlane, then Pinprick, before trotting past them with a pink tinge on her cheeks and a smile on her lips and leaving them in much the same state.

Even if this whole experience hadn't gone the way anypony had intended, there was no denying the effect that it had on the normally shy and reserved changeling. Maybe she should continue to look into this "dating" thing. At the very least, she hoped this would bring her one step closer to finally earning Winter's trust. That alone was enough to keep her smiling.

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