Foal Fever

by Distaff Pope

First published

With a filly on the way, Vinyl's started dreaming about her glory days as Equestria's premier DJ. A mysterious potion offers her a chance to feel young again, and with Vinyl's youth restored, Octavia's pregnancy is suddenly a lot

With a filly on the way, Vinyl's started dreaming about her glory days as Equestria's premier DJ. A mysterious potion offers her a chance to feel young again, and with Vinyl's youth restored, Octavia suddenly finds herself having to figure out how to raise a teenager, a teenager who is also her wife, and wants nothing more than to hop in bed with Octavia. If only she could have a drink.

This story is something of a special project. I aim to write, edit, and publish a story a day. The rules are simple, each chapter must be written and edited in one day, and I must publish an update every day. I have gifted myself a five day backlog to allow for days where I am completely unable to write due to travel, work, or illness. If I fail my challenge, I will still try to do two chapters in one day, and if I fail that, I will just try to carry on and make sure there are as few failed days as possible. Hopefully, I will see you at the end of the month with a flawless record behind me.

1. Night Terrors (Octavia)

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I tossed and turned, unable to rest comfortably as the foal growing inside of me continued to kick and squirm. Not for the first time, I cursed myself for volunteering to carry the thing. I could have just let the doctors cast the spell, merge one of my eggs with Vinyl’s, and enjoyed the next eleven months while Vinyl got increasingly bloated, sick, and generally miserable – but no, I wanted to experience the magic of childbirth firsthoof. More the fool me.

Still, the weight in my stomach wasn’t the only thing keeping me from sleep. Doubt weighed heavily upon my mind, as I tried to imagine just how I could properly raise a child. It wasn’t the first time such doubts had run through my mind, but with delivery day drawing closer and closer, they were becoming both more persistent and more upsetting. Certainly, I had done everything I could to ensure a happy childhood for my future daughter: we purchased a bigger house, set up a nursery, and I went through and read reviews on a multitude of products designed for foals to make sure they were safe to purchase. I had been meticulous and methodical in all my planning, but that didn’t mean I knew how to actually raise a child.

My parents certainly didn’t, and had wound up inflicting a great deal of psychological scarring on me that I had only worked my way past in the last few years. What positive child-raising experiences could I draw on? Perhaps teaching children was a comparable experience; but then, nopony had ever voted me in as teacher of the year. While my students certainly learned more than they did with other teachers, almost all of them thought I was too harsh. My parents were far too harsh, and the thought of making the same mistakes they did terrified me..

A sharp punch in my gut stopped such musings. Apparently, my child had inherited my proclivity for punching things, and was currently using that skill to the fullest. Why in Equestria would mares do this to themselves? There had to be an upper limit on how much a mare would tolerate to continue the species, and having a child continuously pulverizing my internal organs and having to pee every few minutes was mine. Vinyl had mentioned several times that she wanted to have two daughters, and I found myself grateful that she was capable of carrying the next one, because I certainly wasn’t going to do this again.

Vinyl stirred next to me and moved to drape her foreleg over my upper barrel. “You up?” she asked after a remarkably long yawn, ensuring that if I wasn’t up before, I certainly was now.

“Yes,” I said, deciding that rolling over to face her was too much effort. Besides, I was finally in a somewhat comfortable position.

“Care to tell me what’s on your mind?” she asked before giving me a kiss on the back of my neck.

“It’s less what’s on my mind, and more what’s on my bladder, and the answer to that question is your– our child, who has quickly developed a love of punching and kicking my insides.” To punctuate that point, l’enfant terrible jammed a hoof into one of my kidneys. After the pain cleared, I proceeded to rebuke myself for referring to my own child as l’enfant terrible, it was… she probably wouldn’t be that terrible, although I did make a note to ask Vinyl’s parents what she had been like in her foalhood. Certainly, the impudence our daughter was showing must come from her side of the family. I was quite well behaved, growing up… although, my parents might disagree on that.

Again, I argued with myself over whether or not I would make a suitable parent. I was strict and thorough, but all the books I read indicated that those two things were not enough. My parents were nothing but strict, and because of that, they abandoned me when I was barely an adolescent. No, to be a good parent, I needed to be more than just strict. I needed to be perfect. “See,” Vinyl said, pulling me out of my head, “I can tell when something is bothering you because you get all tense, and that can’t be good for Vinyl Jr.”

“We are not naming our daughter Vinyl Jr. or Vinyl Scratch II or, Celestia forbid, Vinyl Scratch Mk. II. It’s bad luck to name a foal after yourself, and more importantly, it’s horribly tacky. We shouldn’t even be talking about this because I haven’t had the name dream yet.” The name dream served a vital role in making sure a pony’s name related in some way to their special talent. For instance, the name dream Vinyl’s mom had involved seeing a vinyl record spinning round and round on a turntable. The name wasn’t just handed to them, but it gave them a general idea of what her talent would involve. Then they decided Vinyl Scratch sounded quite nice, and my wife was named. I briefly wondered what my name dream had been, before shaking the thought off as getting an answer would require talking to my parents, and I hadn’t heard from them in years.

“Yeah, okay,” Vinyl said, as I felt her laughter on the back of my neck. “That’s fine, but seriously, what’s bugging you? You’re still super tense.”

“It’s just...” I sighed and very carefully rolled over to face her, doing everything in my power not to upset the foal growing inside me. I was rewarded for my concern with another kick. “I’m worried I might not be a skilled parent. My parents were less than adequate, and my students all think me to be a rather strict disciplinarian.”

Vinyl laughed again. “Yeah, how long did it take you to get that little nickname for you, ‘Miss Slavedriver’, stomped out?”

“You were the pony who started it,” I said, glaring at her, “so please don’t act like you completely forgot about it.”

“I mentioned your old nickname from the orchestra to one teacher, before the school even opened. It’s not my fault Sweetie Belle overheard it and accidentally called you it during class. But that’s not importantl the important thing is that you’re going to be a great mom. She’ll probably be just like you, and you will get along great. Or, you know, if not, you can be the no-fun discipline lady while I can be the cool, laid-back, fun parent.”

It was my turn to laugh. “Vinyl, I love you, and I won’t dispute the fact that you are ‘cooler’ than me, but do you really think our filly will see you as cool?”

“Uh… of course,” she said, flashing me a confident smile. “Who was voted the hippest DJ in Equestria four years in a row?”

“You were,” I said, nodding my head at her, “but the last time you were nominated was a year before we met. I challenge you to name one musician who started performing in the past three years. I challenge you to name one album you bought in the past three years.”

“Easy,” she said, maintaining her veneer of confidence, although I could see a flash of worry momentarily trouble it. “Sweetie Belle and Sweetie Belle’s debut album. I can go on.”

I sighed as she exploited the rather obvious loophole I had left in the terms of the challenge. “Without naming a pony you taught in the academy,” I added.

Vinyl stared at me for several seconds, her grin wavering before completely collapsing in on itself. “I’m not cool,” she said in the same tone a mare might say her parents had died. “I’m not the hippest DJ in Equestria.” She flopped over onto her back and stared at the ceiling. “When did I get so boring?”

“You’re not boring,” I said, worried that my little barb had actually pierced her ego. “You just… you can’t stay cool forever, and I’m sure our daughter will love playing hooky with you far more than she’ll enjoy my lectures on… Oh Celestia, I’m already planning out all the lectures I will give our daughter. I’m going to raise another me, but somehow with more emotional damage.”

“Who knows,” Vinyl said, still staring at the ceiling, “maybe lectures will be cool then, I don’t know, because I don’t know what’s hip anymore. Maybe DJs stopped being hip and became… what’s that boring Prench word you use to say things are boring?”

“Passé?” I said, as I had my very own crisis over how terrible a parent I would be. Without intending to, I had completely crushed Vinyl’s confidence in only a few sentences. If I could do that to a fully-grown confident mare, then who knows how much damage I would do to a foal that was supposed to be looking up to me for guidance. I wanted to be a good parent, and instead, I was going to make an absolutely terrible mess of them. We might as well name her Octavia Mk. II, I thought.

“I’m old. I’m going to be an old boring parent, just like my parents were, and their parents were, and… I’m going to my DJ room. See you when I see you,” she mumbled as she rolled out of bed and headed for the door. “What’s wrong with me? How did I let myself become so uncool?”

I groaned as she slammed the door shut. “We haven’t even set your workroom up yet!” I yelled. “There are loose cables everywhere, the place is a complete mess, and–” I was cut off as a loud boom shook the building. “You haven’t cast your soundproofing spell yet,” I sighed as I started running through the list of our new neighbors and thinking who I would have to get apology fruit baskets for in the morning. Wrapping the pillow around my head, I rolled back onto my other side, and hoped Vinyl would fall asleep soon as the filly inside me started to punch in time with the beat.

Before I could stop myself, the seven most dangerous words in Equestria popped into my head. At least this can’t get any worse. The second I thought them, I felt as if time stopped for a moment as the wheels of fate realigned themselves. Something in my gut that rested right above my pulverized kidney told me that this wasn’t going to end well.

2. Bazaar of the Bizarre (Vinyl)

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I woke up with my head pressed against something hard and knobby, and tried not to snicker at the words hard and knobby. My eyes opened, and saw I was in my DJ room. Apparently, I fell asleep in there some time after I… I groaned, recalling how I had kind of sort of freaked out around Tavi. That was… it’s not like I couldn’t freak out, but she was already freaking out because of her completely terrible parents, and instead of helping, I worried about the fact that I was slowly turning into a boring old person.

It’s… I know it’s dumb, but for some reason, I never thought I’d have to deal with that stuff; like, I was so young and hip, I just figured it would carry me through until I dropped dead. Now, I was 33, spent most of my days teaching, and hadn’t done a big gig in months. Worse than that, I wasn’t even sure what was popular these days. It wasn’t that important though; my life was mostly good, I had a wonderful wife, I liked my steady job, and I still got to do a few small shows every few weeks. If that was the upside to getting old, then I guess I could deal with that. Would be nice to be hip and have all that other cool stuff too. You know, get back to DJing every night, teaching kids in the morning, and spending all my free time doing fun stuff with Tavi. Nice, but probably not likely unless I get really lucky...

Where was I? Right, I had fallen asleep in my DJ room, Tavi was probably still freaking out because she thought she would be a terrible parent, and she was probably going to be pissed at me for something like… Like not setting up the sound-proofing spell in my room before I started playing. Yeah, that would probably tick me off too, especially if I was one of the neighbors who got a wake-up call at two in the morning. I quickly soundproofed the new room before creeping out of my DJ room and towards our bedroom as silently as possible. It was so much bigger than our old one, we could actually fit all of our stuff in it, as opposed to storing half of it in a closet somewhere. I opened the door to our room, and found that Tavi wasn’t in bed.

I didn’t hear any sounds coming from the bathroom, so I wagered that she was doing something downstairs. Like, it was still earlyish in the morning, so she could have been eating breakfast. Actually, I thought, breakfast sounded pretty good, some Trot-Tarts would– I stopped and shook my head, looking at my flanks. They were starting to get a little pudgy, and as much as it pains me to admit, I’m too old to just eat whatever I want. Unfortunately, that meant Trot-Tarts were now a special treat for when I either worked really hard or was feeling particularly lazy and couldn’t be bothered to fix a real meal.

As I made my way downstairs, I heard the clopping of hooves in the kitchen. It could have been Woodhoof fixing breakfast, but even if it was, Tavi was probably still around somewhere. It’s not like she’d been going out of the house much since she’d started swelling up to blimp size. Okay, so she just looked bulgy in the middle, but… “Hey,” I said, calling down the stairs, “has anypony seen a big gray blimp floating around here? It’s broken free of its moorings.”

“Call me a blimp one more time, Vinyl, and just see what I do. I’m a pregnant mare suffering from at least three mood swings an hour. No jury would convict me if I beat a touch of sense into you,” Tavi said, her voice coming from the study. Oh! We have a study now, Tavi thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and I guess it was alright. It gave her plenty of room to put all the journals she’d written, and gave her a nice quiet place to practice her cello. This morning though, she was reading another book on foal raising. She must’ve been going through like a book a day, and at this point, I was kind of surprised there were so many books on raising kids.

“Hey,” I said, moving to kiss her cheek, “how are you doing this morning?”

“Fine,” she said, a happy little sigh escaping her lips as I kissed her. “Just doing a bit more reading. I will be a good parent to our little filly.”

“I know,” I said, sitting next to her. “Like, you’ve probably worried a hundred times more about being a good parent than your parents ever did. And… I mean, the fact that you care enough to worry seems like it means you will be a good parent, you know?”

I laughed at that. I know I shouldn’t have, but it was just so absurd. I mean, I don’t think Tavi’s parents read a single book on child raising, and if they did they certainly didn’t listen to it. Either that, or they took every word in The Complete Lunatic’s Guide to Foal Raising to heart. “Tavi, you aren’t going to make the mistakes your parent made,” I said after I finally caught my breath. “That’s… For starters, you actually seem to care about our foal, so that’s something. And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry for not helping you out last night. I guess I have my own issues about becoming a parent and getting old to deal with.”

She smiled as I sat down next to her. “I suppose I can’t expect you to be perfect all the time, Vinyl. Would you like to talk to me about what’s bothering you?”

“Promise not to laugh?” I asked, trying to give her a confident little smile. “You’ll probably think it’s dumb.”

Tavi frowned before wrapping a hoof around me and pulling me next to her. “Vinyl Scratch, you know you can talk to me about anything. I will never think something that concerns you is idiotic in the slightest. Yes, I might not agree with you, but I will never dismiss you out of hoof.”

“Alright,” I said, making sure the door was closed. “You made me realize that I wasn’t on the cutting edge of Equestria’s music scene anymore. I don’t know what’s popular these days, I don’t know what the hottest clubs are, I don’t even know if I’m even slightly relevant in Equestria’s music scene. I mean, does anypony even remember the name DJ-P0N3?”

“I do,” Tavi said, stroking my mane. It was the first time in a long time that one of us had to comfort the other, and having her do all of the comforting stuff is kind of nice. Maybe I should freak out more often. “And I know for a fact that several of your students do too. I have heard them talking numerous times about how ‘cool’ it is that they have you as a teacher and that they wish you could teach my music history class. While I personally dislike hearing such talk, I thought you might enjoy the news that you are still admired.”

Admired? Is that what she thought being hip is about? Like, just having ponies look up to you? Admired is what you get when you’re too old to be hip, too old to be on the cutting edge. Admired might as well be put out to pasture. Still, she was trying to comfort me, and at least the kids still thought I was kind of cool. “Thanks,” I said, “I know being hip isn’t that important, but it always came naturally to me, and now I’m just… not. I’m boring and I have to face that fact.”

She looked between me and the door several times before doing something with her mouth that she would absolutely kill me for if I ever told anypony about it. It was fun though. “Now,” she said, stroking my leg and looking up at me, “could I possibly convince you that growing old and dull with me can still be fun?” Oh sweet Celestia, this was going to be one of those days. So, ever since Tavi got all knocked up, her hormones have been just… completely out of balance, and that means there are occasionally days where she turns into some sort of incredible sex demon. It’s pretty awesome, and that baby bulge of hers is… the last few months have been really fun for me.

“I’d love to,” I said, “but remember, I’m going to the travelling bazaar with Lyra today. It’s only here for a week, and I want to see if they have any good stuff for sale. You can come with us if you want to though.”

Tavi pouted at me. Prim and proper Tavi pouted at me, and it was so smoldering and awesome that I almost hopped on top of her right then and there. “Very well,” she said, moving back towards her seat cushion. “Perhaps we could continue our… discourse when you return this evening? If you get back early, I’ll be waiting for you, and if you feel like cancelling, I’ll make it up to you.”

I nodded my head, not trusting myself to do anything more than say “I’ll see you later” as I headed out the door. She could be so maddeningly seductive when she wanted to, and she could be completely insatiable every now and then. I guess that’s either the upside or downside to marrying a mare almost ten years younger than you, depending on how you look at it. After I closed the door to the house, I headed over to Lyra and Bon-Bon’s, trying to think of anything besides the super-gorgeous mare waiting for me in my house.


“Hey,” Lyra said as she opened the door, “you got here early today, what’s up? Ooh! Come in, have you eaten yet?”

I shook my head as I walked into their living room. “Not really, and Tavi is being all hormone-y, so I kind of needed to get out of the house and clear my head.”

“Good hormone-y or bad hormone-y?” Lyra asked as she practically bounced into the kitchen. “‘Cause if she was crying and yelling, maybe you should try to comfort her as opposed to just hoofing her off to the butler. But… I don’t know, I don’t have any experiences either with being pregnant or dealing with a pregnant wife, maybe the super-old butler is better at comforting her than you.” She winked at me as she said the word “comforting”, before turning back to the fridge, while I just laughed at her joke. “You want a beer?”

“It’s 10:00 AM,” I said as she pulled two bottles of beer out of the fridge. “You know I like a drink as much as the next mare, but isn’t this just a bit early?”

“Nonsense,” she said, floating the beers towards me with her magic, “it’s a Saturday, your wife is pregnant so you’re drinking for two, and the travelling bazaar is all the more wonderful and mysterious when you’re inebriated.” She wrapped a curtain around herself to make an impromptu cloak at the last bit, as I tried to figure out if proving the existence of humans had made her more or less weird.

“Come on,” she said, using her magic to open the bottle, “doctor’s orders.”

“You got a Ph.D. in theoretical magic,” I said, grabbing the bottle with my own telekinetic field. “Which, I mean, congrats and everything, but can you please stop saying ‘doctor’s orders’ whenever you want to convince us of something. It was only funny the first fifty or so times.”

She stared at me for a second before shaking her head. “Sorry, can’t do it, the pony who gave me my degree said I had to work that line in as much as possible. You could say it’s a–”

“Finish that sentence with ‘doctor’s orders,’ and I will march right back home to spend time with my wife. My insanely sexy wife who offered me a day of mind-blowing sex before I left this morning. Actually… why did I come here again?”

“Because you can’t resist the allure of a travelling bazaar filled with who knows what? It’s the call of the unknown driving us ever onward in our quest for knowledge.” As she spoke, I finally noticed how small her pupils were and the way her mane was a bit frazzled. Tavi probably would have seen that instantly, but I’m a bit behind the eight ball when it comes to noticing the appearances of mares who aren’t her. Especially when I see them pretty much every day and am not attracted to them in the slightest. (Okay, maybe a little attracted; I mean, she was into some really fun stuff back when we were dating. Like… lots of whips and leather and magic and… I made a mental note of what I could do with Tavi once I got back. Hopefully, she would still be in the mood.)

“Lyra,” I said, drawing my mind back to Lyra’s slightly frazzled appearance, “how many cups of coffee have you had this morning?”

“I don’t know,” she said, practically shaking as caffeine pumped through her veins. “How many cups are in a pot of coffee, because the answer is that number times two.”

Great. While Lyra has a lot of great things going on, her ability to restrain herself isn’t one of those things. It’s usually Bon-Bon who keeps her in check, so whenever Bon-Bon has to leave town for a weekend for one of her ‘conventions,’ we get days where Lyra consumes her body weight in coffee… or alcohol… or both. To be fair to Lyra though, I was the same way before I met Tavi, minus the love of coffee.

“Alright,” I said, sighing. “Are you ready to go to the bazaa–” Before I could finish the sentence, she zipped next to me, her saddlebags on her back.

“Well, come on,” she said, darting off towards the door, “let’s try to get there before it closes.” I shook my head as I followed her, wishing I had stayed with Tavi this morning. If I had, I’d probably be having a lot more fun right about now.


“Welcome one and all to the Mystical and Mysterious Trixie’s Emporium of Arcane Wonders! See mystical artifacts that will dazzle and amaze, and if you have the coin, take some home for yourself! Trixie’s Emporium of Arcane Wonders will leave you breathless!” At the last words, the blue unicorn gave a dramatic flourish as fireworks went off around her. Damn that mare was dramatic.

“You two,” Trixie said, looking at us, “care to come inside and see some of Trixie’s wondrous wares?”

Lyra and I looked at each other before nodding, before Lyra zipped iinside the tent and started rummaging through the artifacts. “Careful!” Trixie yelled. “Some of those items have incalculable value!”

“Ooh!” Lyra said, wrapping a jade amulet around her neck. “I can practically taste the magic in this one, what does it do?”

“If you must know, it’s a glamour designed to make the wearer irresistible to the opposite sex, and it’s only 7000 bits.”

“‘Opposite sex?’” Lyra asked, taking the amulet off and staring at it for a few seconds. “Never mind, what else do you have? She threw the amulet back where she found it, and Trixie winced as it flew through the air before grabbing it with her magic.

“The Mysterious and Magical Trixie would be happy to show you her wares if you promise not to touch anything else.”

“Alright,” Lyra said, looking intently at several of the objects on the shelf. “Hey, do you have anything that relates to humans? I proved their existence, you know.”

Trixie blinked and took a step back. “Really? You are Dr. Lyra Heartstrings? I read your thesis paper. Your notes on portal crafting were simply incredible.”

“Thanks,” Lyra said, “Always happy to meet somepony who appreciates my work. Hey, remember that spell I described that could turn a pony into a human?”

“Of course,” Trixie said, “I particularly enjoyed the section where you theorized how the spell interacted with the affected pony’s personality and actually bounced between worlds to create a suitable outfit. It is… your knowledge of the arcane almost rivals that of Trixie!”

Lyra pointed a hoof at me. “Well, that mare with me, she was the second pony to undergo the spell. If you want, I can see about enchanting a necklace that turns the wearer into a human. Consider it a favor for a fan.”

“I promise, it will never leave the Mysterious and Magical Trixie’s shop. Please, take anything you wish from my humble shop as both payment and a sign of my gratitude. In fact, I will even throw in something for your friend.”

My friend tapped her chin. “Travelling magic shops always seem to have a reputation for selling cursed items or like… items that technically grant you wishes but always do so in an ironic way.”

Trixie took a step back, her face changing into a frown. “The Mysterious and Magical Trixie tests all her items to make sure they are safe for the general public. Those that aren’t are sent straight to the Princesses.”

“So… no evil amulets then?” Lyra asked as Trixie gave her a look that made me feel like I had just been thrown into an active volcano. Lyra quickly realized just what she had said and looked down at the floor. “Right, sorry, kind of forgot you were behind that incident a few years ago. Forget I said anything.”

“It is fine,” Trixie said, “I have gotten used to such insults. I like to think that the fact you forgot about my involvement with the Alicorn Amulet incident speaks volumes about my growth as a pony.”

“Yeah, that’s it. Anyways, if you don’t have any evil amulets, do you have a monkey’s paw?”

“What?” Trixie asked, as confused as I was. “Yes, somepony sold me one last night and I haven’t yet sent it to the Princess. Obviously I would never sell an item that is famous for granting corrupted wishes. More importantly, nopony in their right minds would ever buy it. The only reason Trixie purchased such an item was so she could send it to Princess Luna and see it safely disposed of.”

“I know,” Lyra said, “but I always wanted to test one out. Like, if I spelled out in precise detail what I wanted, could it still corrupt it? What if I asked for something that was already corrupted, like the worst peanut butter sandwich ever. If it gave me that, it wouldn’t really corrupt my wish, it couldn’t give me anything worse than my wish, so the only way it could mess with me is to give me something better than what I asked for. The possibilities are so tantalizing.”

Trixie blinked, opening a nearby safe and floating an object towards her. “You know what, you… you can have the monkey paw, just let me see the paper you write afterwards. I’m curious about your conclusions on the subject.”

“Thank you,” Lyra said, putting the paw in her saddlebags. “I’m sure Bon-Bon will love this. Well, probably not, but it’s for magic! And science!”

“The Mysterious and Magical Trixie needs some aspirin,” Trixie said, pulling a pill bottle out from under her cabinet before looking at me. I could have sworn she called herself something different a minute ago. “Please tell me you want something that is slightly…” She looked over at Lyra who was playing with her cursed ancient artifact. “Saner.”

“I actually think I’m pretty good,” I said, smiling at her. “Happily married, have a great job, and a filly on the way. Unless you have something that can make me young again, I’m good.”

“Actually, the Mysterious and Mystical Trixie has something that fits the bill. An ancient and powerful potion from the mystics of Neighpon. The State of Mind potion will take your mind back to younger days with just a sip, leaving you feeling alive and invigorated. The effects may only last for a single day, but it will leave the oldest mare feeling as if she were a teenager again, and every flask contains many sips.”

She pulled a blue bottle from a nearby shelf and brought it in front of me. “Be warned though, the potion is potent and the dose makes the poison, so the wise men say. To consume more than my recommendation can have dire consequences.”

“Like?” I asked, raising an eyebrow at her. “Also, weren’t you calling yourself the Mystical and Mysterious Trixie a moment ago?”

“I am allowed to have multiple titles,” she snapped before blowing some dust off the bottle. “Now, let’s see, effects of overdose include but are not limited to: long-lasting feelings of youth, reversion to adolescence, mood swings, although that really just goes with being a teenager, magical instability, de-aging, and in extreme cases, unlife.”

“So… just a sip then?”

“Did you just hit me with a legal disclaimer?” I asked as I looked over the potion, trying to make sense of the neighponese characters. “Like, I’m pretty sure I have to sign a contract for those to be valid.”

“But you did,” she said, pulling a paper out of her hat with my name signed at the bottom. “Is this not your signature?”

“How did you?” I asked, as I inspected what was clearly my signature. “This is… it’s too accurate to be a forgery. How did you do this?”


“Right,” I said, shaking my head as she put the disclaimer back in her hat. “Forget I asked anything. So… can I take a sip of this now?”

“You may,” she said as I pulled the cork out of the potion. “Just remember the rule, one sip a day, no more.”

I nodded my head as I pulled the vial up to my lips. There was a brief pause as I debated if this was the right course of action, before deciding that as long as I followed the instructions Trixie had given, everything would be fine. It’s not like I was suddenly going to get Tavi’s bad luck with stuff. The potion was a hot, caustic thing that burned as it worked my way down my throat and settled in my stomach. For a few minutes, I felt fine, except for the fact that my stomach felt like it was on fire, but soon I found the heat of the potion spreading. As it spread, the burning turned pleasant, and I felt…

I felt. I felt so many things, I felt passion again. Not the tame, muted passion I had grown used to the past few years, but something big and loud and booming. I felt the pounding of my heart as a throbbing bass leading me on to excitement and adventure. I felt the music in everything speaking to me again, as I remembered what drew me to the turntable in the first place. I felt young and excited and reckless. I felt desire for the beauty around me, and found myself staring at Trixie’s flank for several seconds. The warmth that filled me intensified as I thought of the mare at home who wanted me. I wanted to press against her and bring our bodies together, celebrating the purest and simplest pleasure in life.

For the first time in years, I remembered who I was.

I was Vinyl Scratch, and most importantly, I finally felt alive.

3. A Magical Day (Octavia)

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I scowled at the book I was reading. While I admit my parenting knowledge is minimal, this book’s central conceit that “fillies and colts need to learn about the world in their own way, and that discipline stops them from learning” infuriated me. I understand that emotional and physical abuse are bad parenting tools (or tools in general), but certainly proper discipline is needed when raising a child. To me, that seems like a necessity, not something to be shunned. How else would they learn what is and isn’t appropriate? Without discipline, they would be little more than savages.

Of course, the pony who wrote this idiotic drivel would probably argue that there is no such thing as inappropriate, and that boundaries prevent ponies from expressing themselves properly, and… Who in Equestria wrote this? I checked the dust jacket for the about the author section to find it had been written by a pony named Tender Heart. Apparently, her ideas were revolutionary when it came to limitless child raising. However, they were ideas I vehemently disagreed with. Giving a sigh, I set the book down on the table and pushed it away from me. All my months of research on foal raising had led me to the conclusion that no two parents agreed on how to properly raise a foal, making my quest to find the right parenting style all the more infuriating. How could I raise my daughter in a loving and nurturing environment, while still properly disciplining her when she erred? Obviously, there had to be a way, but I was having trouble finding it.

Maybe Vinyl was right last night when she said that I should be the disciplinarian and let her do the fun stuff. I’m certainly far better at the former than I am the latter. No fillies or colts ever said I was fun; a few said they had learned a lot from me, or that I had made them better writers or musicians, but never had I received anything near the affection Vinyl had. The topic of Vinyl made me shudder in both pleasure and revulsion as I recalled my actions with her earlier today. It wasn’t… they weren’t dignified, and while I would love to spend a day in her company, the offer I made her was rather salacious. Unfortunately, just thinking about Vinyl gave my hormones the opening they needed, and I felt the familiar pangs of pregnancy-induced lust, making it difficult for me to think clearly.

Instead of doing anything proper or productive, I found myself fantasizing about how much I would enjoy grabbing her the second she got home, dragging her back to our bedroom, and making the both of us unable to walk for a week. As I thought about all the things I wanted to do with, for, or to her, I felt my body become pleasantly warm, as if I had been reading a book at the beach on a summer’s day. The feeling soon subsided and I instead found myself sobbing at the thought of her earlier rejection of me. Had I become that unattractive to her? Did she not want me anymore? Or were pregnancy hormones just terribly volatile things that destroyed reason and rationality wherever they found them?

Deciding that being on my own would just further invite madness, I waddled over to Woodhoof to see how he was doing this morning.

“Good morning, Miss Octavia,” he said, putting the finishing touches on breakfast. “Was I correct in hearing Miss Scratch leaving this morning? If so, I am afraid to say that I cooked too much.”

“It’s fine, Woodhoof,” I said to the ancient pony. He had helped raise both my mother and myself, possibly my grandmother, and now he was on track to help raise my daughter. Several times, I had tried to figure out how old he was, but he never celebrated his birthday and evaded my questions when I threw propriety aside and asked him how old he was directly. “You know, I’m not opposed to eating leftovers. Certainly, I don’t expect you to cook three meals a day.”

He laughed at that as he moved the poached eggs he had prepared on to a plate. “You’ve been saying that for the past four years, and while I might have humoured you earlier, you have a filly on the way. You need fresh food just as much as you need your rest. Now, do you have any special requests?”

I tilted my head in thought for a moment, as I tried to sort out just what taste was on the tip of my tongue. “Fried cherries served in pistachio ice cream. I would… there is a lot I would do for that. Also, if you could get a hayburger and put some vanilla creme on it, that would be divine.”

“Then I shall find the ingredients at once, I’m afraid I shall be a while, so until then, I hope a few poached egg shall tide you over?” he said as I absolutely devoured the eggs placed in front of me. I nodded at him, bits of egg yolk running down the corner of my mouth. Another wonderful thing about being pregnant beyond the bloating and nausea is that it turns you into an absolutely deranged madmare with no sense of decorum. Such thoughts were the furthest thing from my mind as I wolfed down enough eggs to feed a family of four in less time that it takes most ponies to eat one poached egg. When I looked back up from my meal, Woodhoof was gone, probably off to find my ingredients, leaving me alone in the house (Moldy was off visiting Canterlot for a few days to do something grossly improbable, I’m sure).

With nopony else in the house, I decided I might as well go back to the study and practice my cello playing for a while. It was the best (well, okay, second-best) way to ignore whatever madness my overly-hormonal body was trying to convince me to do. I managed to practice for an hour before I started sobbing over… I honestly can’t remember what made me cry. Thankfully, Woodhoof knocked on the door around that time with my vanilla hayburger, which lasted for all of five seconds. After I finished my meal, I looked up at him, thinking perhaps he could help me with one of my problems.

“Do you think I will be a good parent?” I asked as I licked the remains of the vanilla creme and burger sauce off my lips. “It’s just… I’m worried I will make the same mistakes my parents did.”

He frowned at me and gave me his best look of disappointment. “Octavia Melody, I’m surprised you would ask such a foalish question. You’ve cared more for your child in the last nine months than your parents did in all of ten years. While I can’t say you will be a flawless parent, I assure you, you will certainly make a better parent than them, and you just might be better than your Grandmother Philharmonica. Whatever happens, you can be sure that you and Miss Scratch will make wonderful parents, and I can assure you that if you stumble, I will be there to offer what wisdom I’ve accumulated while helping raise you, your mother, and your grandmother.”

“How much older than her, are you?” I asked, the long dormant curiosity about his age coming back to life.

He just chuckled and shook his head. “Old enough to help raise her, but not old enough to raise your great-grandmother. Now, try not to worry yourself. Miss Octavia. Your stress doesn’t impact just you, now – and if you ever doubt your ability to raise a child again, just remember that you’ll have me to lend a hoof.”

“Thanks,” I said, smiling at him. “You… it’s meant a lot to me to have you around here these past few years, you and grandmother are the only good things from my foalhood. Well, and Miss Minor.”

Woodhoof returned my smile. “And it was always my honor to serve and raise such a special filly. Now then, I have to go make your… meal before the ice cream melts. If you wish, you can join me in the kitchen.”

“That sounds lovely,” I said, as I followed him out into the main room of our house.

For a while, my day fell into a sort of uneventful routine. Not to say it was boring, my pregnancy made that impossible, but there was nothing that truly stood out past the general madness of pregnancy until Vinyl returned home. As soon as she burst through the study door, I could see a gleam of hunger in her eyes. Before I could even say a word, the mare was planting a string of kisses from my neck down across my side as the familiar desire from earlier that day returned. I shook my head, trying to clear such thoughts. As fun as it would be to indulge, I wanted to actually talk to my marefriend beforehoof.

“How was your trip to the market?” I asked, trying to pull myself away from her as my body reflexively started to heat up.

“Good,” she said, trying to draw me back to her. “Let’s go to bed.” It was getting harder for me to think clearly as her hoof lovingly stroked my flank. I shuddered as the pregnancy hormones intensified my arousal, and I suddenly found myself struggling not to draw her down onto the scratchy, study carpet and do a myriad of wonderful lovely things with her. I caught a mischievous glint in her eyes that let me know whatever she had in mind was equal parts fun and debauched. Last time I saw that look, it ended in an evening with lots of leather and several novel uses for rope. The last tiny bit of resistance in me gave up, and the two of us quickly scampered upstairs and locked the door to our room.

The rest of the day, while certainly enjoyable for both of us, does not need to be expounded upon in great detail.

4. Young at Heart (Vinyl)

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It was almost midnight when Tavi finally fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. Normally, I would have probably passed out a few hours before that, but not tonight. Not for the first night I felt alive in… I don’t know how long. My whole body was just charged with energy, and while she was busy sleeping, I found myself staring at the ceiling wishing I could do just about anything else. The night was so young, it seemed a shame to waste it, I mean, I was pulling all nighters up until a few years ago. Up until just before I met Tavi.

Why did I let myself get so boring? Today was way more fun than the last few months combined. More fun than teaching classes, going to fancy dinners with Tavi, listening to her obsess about baby stuff, and evenings spent swapping stories with Lyra about work or all the fun stuff we did years ago. Instead of talking about all that, we could be out there doing it or more of it. Eventually, I had enough doing nothing and went to to my DJ room, remembering to actually put the stupid sound-proofing spell on it this time so I didn’t ‘wake the entire neighborhood up.’ Also, since Tavi was trying to sleep, I guess maybe waking her up with my awesomely mind-blowing music would be rude.

For almost an hour I played, until I guess I had an epiphany. Today was fun. The potion made it fun. The potion made me fun, and if I had some more of the potion, I could be like this for next few years, maybe longer if I had potion left over. The thought raced through my mind, again and again, growing louder with each repetition, until I finally had to do it. I mean, why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I want to be fun and young again? I’d still be married to the second-most awesome mare in the world, I’d still have all the cool stuff I had, but now I would be back to feeling like I was in the prime of my life, it would… it was so obvious. I went to the place in my workroom where I stashed the potion earlier that day (If Tavi saw it, she’d probably want to do a bunch of boring talky stuff, and I didn’t want to do that), and pulled out the stopper before remembering all of Trixie’s warning.

So, unlife sounded pretty bad. Like, probably didn’t want that to happen, and general moodiness, I could probably live without. I also didn’t want to end up as a little filly or something lame like that, but… if I could get to feeling this awesome forever… that couldn’t be a bad thing, could it? I mean, who doesn’t like feeling good? Shoot, maybe I could convince Tavi to drink some later, but first… I wrapped my lips around the bottleneck and downed the biggest gulp I could before eyeing the remainder. That should be enough to make the awesome last forever without risking unlife. Like, if taking a big sip could cause unlife then the potion probably wouldn’t be sold at all. That’s just completely unsafe.

I stopped up the bottle, hid it behind my record collection, and sat back down, waiting for it to take effect, figuring it wouldn’t be too long. The first sip I had taken started working in barely a minute, so the big gulp would probably hit me with the good stuff quickly. There were about ten minutes of waiting, before I felt what must’ve been the biggest yawn ever coming on. Weird how I went from being wide awake to feeling like I was about to pass out in less than thirty seconds, I thought as I made sure I had a decent area to lay down on. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I had a little nap, today had been a busy day, and getting a little shuteye wouldn’t be the worst thin… It was just… I had suddenly gotten so… Before I could finish the thought, I had completely conked out.


It was far too early for Tavi to be tapping me with her hoof. I mean, I had only fallen asleep what felt like a few minutes ago, and now Tavi was trying to wake me up for some reason? I opened an eye to glare at her, only to find out it was super-bright outside. Why in Equestria didn’t I close the shades? “Vinyl, wake up, it’s almost 2:00 in the afternoon.”

“Please,” I said, rolling over on to my back. “I haven’t slept until noon in years. Even if I stayed up a little late last night, it can’t be past 10:00 yet.” I stretched as I spoke, trying to wake myself up. “Also, what were you doing letting me sleep on the floor for so long? Couldn’t you have woken me up earlier so I could sleep on an incredibly comfy bed with an incredibly sexy mare?”

“I tried,” she said, glaring down at me. “At 3:00 in the morning, 6:00, and 9:00. Each time, you informed me that I should stop bothering you and let you sleep. Now you’ve been asleep for at least eleven hours though, so I think it’s time for you to wake up.” Tavi furrowed her brow as she looked at me. “Get up, something about you looks off.”

“Alright,” I said, slowly getting to my feet. “No need to get so pissy about everything.” For some reason, even when I was standing up straight, she was slightly taller than me. Did the potion make me smaller? Maybe, I suppose I wasn’t as tall as I was now when I was younger. But that would mean… I smiled and wrapped my forelegs around her. “It worked! The potion made me young and awesome again!”

Tavi took a step back, her eyes going wide with confusion. “Potion? Vinyl, what did you do?”

“You see,” I said, unable to keep myself from smiling, “yesterday, I found a potion that would make me feel young again, and I thought that would be awesome because, you know, who wouldn’t want to be young again? Feel like they did before they peaked. Anyways, I took the first sip and it worked, but that was only supposed to last for twenty-four hours, and I didn’t want to go back to being boring, so I thought maybe I could just take a big gulp and that would make the feeling of awesomeness last forever. I guess it did the next best thing and made me a teenager again.”

The blood drained from Tavi’s face and she just kind of deflated. “You… you did what? That sounds… isn’t chronomancy supposed to be incredibly dangerous?”

“I suppose,” I said, “I mean, technically doing what I did last night could have resulted in unlife, but I figured nothing that terrible would happen to me if I was smart, like, I feel completely invincible.”

She thumped her head against the wall she was leaning against. “That’s because you are thinking like a teenager, and every teenager thinks they are invincible. I thought I was invincible, and I was a mostly sane teenager. For instance, I remember one weekend I spent practicing my cello nonstop for an audition on Monday. Needless to say, I was completely exhausted come Monday morning and managed to sleep through it and part of Tuesday.”

“Wow,” I said, rolling my eyes at her. “Apparently, you were boring even as a teenager. Drink some of the potion with me and I can show you how to live a little, make up for your wasted youth.”

“First of all,” she said, moving to pinch her nose, “I am still quite young, and I don’t particularly feel like my formative years were wasted. I mastered a skill, met my wife who is currently making me question her good judgment, and I helped found an orchestra for Princess Luna. If only all ponies wasted their youth like I did. Second of all, even if I were tempted to drink the potion, I’m not eager to see what effect time magic has on our foal.”

“Oh, come on, for the last nine months it’s been ‘our foal’ this and ‘our foal’ that. It’s like… I get that this is important to you… us, but can’t we do something fun now and then?”

“You mean like spend a majority of a day in bed?” she asked, not bothering to hide her disdain. “Also! Just… Don’t try to distract me from the fact that you turned yourself into a teenager. Just what you were thinking?”

“I already told you, I wanted to be young and cool Vinyl Scratch and not old and boring Vinyl Scratch.”

“You… You weren’t old, you certainly aren’t boring, and there was no need for any of this. You are coming with me to Twilight’s right away and we are going to sort this out and get you back to normal.”

“But I don’t want to get back to normal, I want to stay like this. It’s way cooler, I feel awesome and invigorated and…” I paused as a shiver of excitement ran up my spine. “Let’s go to the bedroom and bang some more!” I ran a series of kisses across her barrel and to her flank before drawing us together, knowing what would happen next. In just a few minutes, I’d have her warmth pressed against mine as waves of pleasure rolled across our bodies. Being young again just gave me so much energy, and it felt like my entire body was burning with barely contained lust. Lucky me, there’s a mare who wants to do all the sexy fun stuff with me.

Suddenly, she got all tight again and pushed me away. “No, I’m not going to sleep with a teenager, even if…” She sighed before shaking her head. “Yes, you’re my wife, and yes, yesterday was fun, but right now, we need to get you back to normal. After that, we can see about a repeat performance.”

“So… no sex until I go with you to try to get turned back to normal?” I asked, trying to give her my best sultry pound. Why did she have to make things difficult? All I wanted was to feel her hooves and lips pressed against–

“Vinyl Scratch! Get that look out of your eyes right now. We are going to Twilight’s castle this instant to see about turning you back to normal.”

“Do we have to?” I said, stretching to show my flank off. The potion must have had me lose some weight, ‘cause I felt fantastically thin, like… all lithe and nubile. How could she resist me? I could barely resist me.

Her cheeks went all red as she looked down at the floor for a few seconds, taking some deep breaths. I used the opportunity to press my lips against hers and slip my tongue into her mouth. She moaned softly as I felt her lean against my. Then without warning, she drew away and clapped her mouth shut. “No, I need to focus. Vinyl, we are going to talk to Twilight right now, we are getting you back to normal, and then we can get back to doing such things. Come along.” She gave me her best firm commanding voice and I groaned before following after her. At least I had managed to hide the potion before passing out last night, and could get us both to drink it sometime, although… yeah, I should probably make sure that her drinking the potion wouldn’t cause our foal to pop out of existence.That would be bad.


“I’m sorry Octavia, but the magic has completely permeated her body,” Twilight said, the glow of magic fading from her horn as her magical diagnostic spell finished. “Undoing it would take weeks of work devising a counterspell, although it does seem like there’s a natural release valve for the magical energy. Do you have any information on the potion? Maybe if I knew how it worked, I could devise the counterspell faster, but it’s still rather doubtful. I promise I will work on this whenever I can, though.”

“And how often do you think that will be?” she asked, frowning at the purple princess.

“Well, we do have those negotiations with the Griffon Empire over the next few weeks, and I have to be in attendance, but I promise that as soon as I get back, I will make it my top priority.”

“Cool,” I said, trying to nibble at Tavi’s ear as she continued to glare at Twilight. “Gives me some more time to enjoy life, if you have to take your time with getting me back to normal, that’s totally fine.”

“Twilight, can you give me a copy of your notes on the potion as soon as you finish writing them up? I want to have Lyra take a look at them and see if she spots anything useful.”

“Alright,” she said, pulling a quill and paper out from her drawer. “I will get to work on that right away, Spike can fix you a meal while you wait.”

Tavi shook her head. “I’m afraid I have to decline that offer, I have an appointment with the travelling bazaar to talk to whatever pony sold Vinyl her potion. Could I trouble you to keep an eye on my wife while you work? I currently find myself not trusting her good judgment, and don’t want to leave her to her own devices.” I glared at her, just because I looked a bit younger didn’t mean she could go around treating me like a child, I was still older than she was. But now, she was treating me like some idiot. Hopefully, she’d stop acting all upset soon, and we could actually enjoy my newly regained youth. Because honestly, what’s the big deal? I’m still me. I still love her. Does any of this other stuff matter?

“Yeah, I can do that,” Twilight said as she put quill to paper before smiling at me. “Care to have a study session together Vinyl?” Tartarus would have to freeze over first, I thought as Tavi headed out the door with fire in her eyes.

5. Bad for Business (Octavia)

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“Lyra Heartstrings, open the door this instant!” I yelled as I pounded on our former neighbor’s door. Of course there was no response, this was just going to be one of those days where nothing went my way. My wife regresses back to being a teenager because of some sort of midlife crisis, Twilight says there’s no easy way to get her back to normal, I have to turn down Vinyl’s advances because she is suddenly substantially younger than me (or at least appears to be), and now I can’t find Lyra to take me to the shop where Vinyl bought the infernal potion. Thankfully, I happened to know for a fact that Lyra and Bon-Bon don’t make a habit of locking their doors, and while I don’t typically take advantage of that fact, today I felt like making an exception.

The first floor of the house was empty, although there were more than a dozen coffee cups on the kitchen counter, meaning Lyra was either on one of her truly legendary caffeine kicks or she was sleeping it off. Hopefully the former, because if she was asleep, there was no way I could rouse her, and with shops closing so soon, that meant another day of not beating the merchant who sold Vinyl the potion to a bloody pulp – although I suppose if she was willing to cooperate, I might find some other way of working out my frustrations. I headed downstairs, careful to announce my presence this time. “Lyra! Are you down there?”

“Hay Tavi!” she said. “What’s up? Is everything okay? How is Vinyl?” The questions were rapid fire and I barely had time to process them as I descended to the basement. Once I reached the bottom landing, I saw Lyra wrapping magical energies around an amulet and for reasons that I would prefer not to know, there was a monkey’s paw next to her, resting safely on the workbench, its two biggest fingers curled up.

“Vinyl turned herself back into a teenager. That should answer all of your questions satisfactorily,” I said, walking up to her. “Now come on, I want to go find whoever sold Vinyl the potion and… I don’t know what I’m going to do when I find her.”

“Interesting,” Lyra said, mumbling to herself. “Is Vinyl regressing an attempt at corruption or the logical continuation of the wish?”

“What?” I asked, staring at her in obvious confusion.

She smiled and shook her head. “Nothing! Just being absurd and talking out loud, nothing important.”

“Lyra, is there something you aren’t telling me?” I asked, my confused look slowly shifting into a stare.

“Nope, not at all. Everything is totally fine, let’s go find Trixie,” she said, floating her saddlebags over to her and putting the locket inside.

“Trixie?” I asked as she headed towards the stairs. “Why does that name sound so familiar?”

“Well,” she said, laughing, “do you remember that cruise a few years ago?”

I nodded.

“And do you remember that magician girl you tried to sleep with.”

I nodded as my stomach suddenly turned to lead.

“Then you remember Trixie. I’m sure you two will have plenty to catch up on,” she said, opening her front door.

“Could this–” I cut myself off before completing the invocation of tempting fate. I’d already made that mistake once in the past two days, doing it again would just be reckless. “Of course I get to run into her again. That’s just… of course the stage musician I tried to sleep with five years ago sold my wife the potion that turned her back into a teenager. The alternative would just be silly.”

“Yeah,” Lyra said laughing, “Funny how small a world it can be. It’s like everypony comes to Ponyville. Ooh! That reminds me, have I shared my theory about how Ponyville is a chaos nexus with you yet?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head, “but after two weeks of living in this town, I developed a very similar theory.”

“Right!” Lyra said, slowing down her pace to walk next to me as we headed towards the market on the outskirts of town. “I think watching all that crazy stuff happen to you planted the seed, but then the more I thought about it, the weirder the town became. First, all six of the element bearers live here. I suppose they’d have to live somewhere, but that somewhere being Ponyville is so statistically unlikely that it borders on impossibility. I guess that explains some of the more improbable things in this town, like Nightmare Moon first appearing here and Discord making this his chaos capital of the world, but there are other odd things. Luna basing her orchestra and her school here could be explained by her affinity for this town, but there are so many little things, like all the stuff that happens to you.”

She rubbed her forehead. “Yes, all of these incidents on their own are explainable, but in aggregate, the whole thing just stops making sense, you know?”

“If you’re arguing that this town makes absolutely zero sense, you don’t have to work hard to convince me. I’ve been saying that for years, and everypony just thought I was crazy,” I laughed as we continued our walk.

“And you were right. I mean, you’re still kind of crazy, you were on seven different medications up until a year ago, but you weren’t wrong! You were probably completely right about this town having some sort of intelligence that enjoyed messing with your life. I’m testing that theory now.”

“How are you testing it?” I asked, feeling the familiar tingle of worry up my spine. Lyra meant well, but I could easily see this ending with the entire town in flames… or turned into humans. With her, either is probable, and the latter is more likely.

“Can’t say too much without risking contaminated results, but I can say that I am observing events to see if they seem to form a proper narrative.”

“Does this have something to do with the pie gene?” I asked as we walked past the first of the travelling stalls, where a merchant offered signed Daring Do books.

“Maybe. Yes, but not quite in the way you’re thinking. I’ll explain when I have more data.”

“Please don’t,” I said with a sigh, “I’d prefer to keep what sanity I have intact and not go back on my medications. I’ve already taken more than enough for one lifetime.”

“Ooh! Right, I completely forgot the doctors said you were okay to go off your meds… Well, I suppose they kind of tapered you off as opposed to completely cutting you off, but… how are you? Doing, going off meds, I mean.”

“Besides today’s events, I am fine, I can even drink again, or at least, I could if not for the fact I am pregnant. Perhaps I might be able to drink one day without something terrible happening. Perhaps. I’m not particularly hopeful though.”

Lyra nodded her head as I spoke, guiding me to a nearby tent. “We should totally have a few drinks after you’ve delivered. I think you will need it.” She laughed at that as we approached a blue tent with an equally blue unicorn standing in front of it.

“Come and behold the arcane knowledge possessed by the Mysterious and Magical–” Trixie stopped as she saw Lyra and me approaching her. “Dr. Heartstrings, do you have the amulet? We will be leaving in a few days and it would truly be a privilege to have such an artifact in my shop.”

“Sure do,” she said, floating the amulet out of her bag. “And hey, Tavi here has a few questions for you, nothing big but she wants to know a bit about that potion you gave Vinyl yesterday.”

“Yes?” she asked, turning to look at me. “What do you wish to know about the Magnificent and Mystical Trixie’s potion? Is it not wonderful?”

“Actually, it isn’t,” I said, looking at her. “My wife turned herself back into a teenager.”

“She did? Then she is found in violation of the Great and Powerful Liability Contract, making Trixie exempt from any wrongdoing, malfeasance, or misuse on the part on the part of the customer. No legal action against Trixie can be pursued at this time.”

I sighed and rubbed my forehead. “I don’t want to sue you, I just want to know how to get Vinyl back to normal. That’s all, and I thought that since you sold the potion, you might be able to offer me some assistance.”

Trixie tapped her chin in thought before responding. “Yes, the Great and Powerful Trixie can offer you some assistance. In fact, I know just the potion you need.”

“Wonderful,” I said, feeling a smile immediately form on my face. “Then I’ll just purchase it and be on my way, for a while I was worried that this issue might take some time to resolve.”

“I said I know of the potion you need. I never said I had it in stock or that it was easily obtainable. To possess it, I will need to travel to the furthest corner of Neighpon, find the ancient brew masters of old, wait a month while they brew the potion, and then travel back to Equestria within a week so that the potion doesn’t lose potency. Doing so would cost a very large amount of bits on Trixie’s part, and even if I was working at cost, it would be no less than 800,000 bits. Throw in the amount of potential business lost, and the price more than triples.” My nascent good mood was smothered in its crib at her explanation. “While I do sympathize with you, the potion’s effects are not permanent, and your wife should eventually mature with the passing of time.”

“So there’s nothing you can do?” I asked, frowning as she glanced at several ponies walking by. “No other assistance you can offer?”

“I’m afraid not, but I will look through some of the more obscure tomes of lore I have collected and see if there is some knowledge the Magnificent and Mystical Trixie can glean.”

“Thank you,” I said, giving a defeated groan. “Then I suppose I should get back to figuring out how in Equestria I am going to deal with a teenaged wife until a way to fix the problem appears. It’s…” I shook my head, “I’m sorry, how very rude of me to complain about my personal life in front of you. If you will excuse me, I need to pick my wife up and make sure she doesn’t do anything else monumentally stupid today.”

“Of course,” Trixie said, giving a little flourish as I turned away. “As a sign of the Mysterious and Mystic Trixie’s sympathies, all items in the emporium are 20… no, 30% off for you. Trixie hopes she can count on your patronage in the future.” Because when I want to go out shopping, I go to the shop that turned my wife into a teenager, I thought as I headed back to Twilight’s castle.


“I still don’t see what the big issue is,” Vinyl asked as we headed back to the house. “Being young is awesome, I don’t know why you got upset when I said you should take a couple of sips of the potion to relax, and be young and cool again.”

“Because first of all, I’m only twenty-five, and more importantly… Do I really need to go through the whole list of reasons why me drinking the potion is a bad idea?”

Vinyl rolled her eyes. “No Mom. So, are you just going to lecture me all day? I mean, can’t we have a little bit of fun?”

I stared at her in utter and complete horror. First, she called me mom, presumably jokingly, and then in the same breath, she tried to proposition me. How is that even… I’m assuming I’m not alone in thinking that that is in particularly bad taste. “Vinyl,” I said, trying to collect my thoughts, “please think for a moment about everything that is wrong with your last statement, and then think about why I’m turning down your… generous offer.”

“Okay, so I called you mom,” she said as we walked, familiar faces glancing at us and presumably wondering just why my wife looked so much younger than usual, “but it’s like… you have been particularly mom-ish today. Maybe all those pregnancy hormones are getting your mom instincts fired up and ready to go.”

“Or maybe it’s the fact that my wife insists on acting like a foal. You’ve been acting like an utter child all day, and your treatment of me has fluctuated wildly between making fun of my ‘stuffiness’ and attempting to seduce me, so you will pardon me for not being instantly wooed by behavior that is just so schizophrenic.”

“And you’d know about that wouldn’t you?” she mumbled.

I swiveled my head around to glare at her as pain and rage vied for supremacy. “Excuse me, Vinyl, I don’t believe I heard that.”

She matched my glare with her own. “I said, you’d know about crazy. I mean, you’d have to with all the different meds you’ve been on, your little episodes, and let’s not forget the way you talk like your entire life should be a story. You are crazy, but I put up with it because I love you.”

“I’m sorry, Vinyl, are you trying to get at some larger point here? Because if so, it’s lost on me,” I said, struggling to keep my temper in check.

Vinyl frowned and the anger melted out of her eyes. For a second, she looked almost like her normal self. “All I’m trying to say is that I’ve done a lot to help you, and now it’s… I just want you to support me.”

“Of course, I support you,” I said as we started walking again. “That’s what I’ve been doing all day, trying to support you.”

“No,” she said as condescension reentered her voice, “you’ve been trying to fix me. You haven’t been even a little bit happy for me. What if I want to stay like this?”

“Then…” I frowned. The real her wouldn’t, the real her was a mature responsible adult. What I was talking to was a version of her whose priorities had been altered. Listening to her would be as pointless as listening to a pony who had been affected by changeling venom. She had helped me recover after that terrible incident, and now I would return the favor, whether she liked it or not. “You don’t,” I said. “At least, the real you doesn’t. Believe me, I know how confusing it is to be under the effect of mind-altering magic, and I promise that I will help you.”

“Uhmm… yeah, the only mind-altering magic that is affecting me is hormones, and all they’re doing is reminding me of how awesome being a teenager again is,” she said as I opened the door to our house.

That was a terrifying thought, that the only thing responsible for Vinyl’s sudden shift in personality was hormones. Of course, I suppose I couldn’t cast too many stones, as I woke up terrified last night that Vinyl had left me and couldn’t stop sobbing even after I found her sleeping in her workroom. It was a small miracle I had managed to exhibit such a tight control over myself today, and there was one point where reason had almost entirely left me and I succumbed to Vinyl’s advances. Thankfully, I managed to persevere in spite of my weaknesses. “Alright,” I said after several calming breaths. “We can talk about this later, I just need some time to think.”

“I can give you that,” she said before kissing the sensitive spot on my neck. “Why don’t the two of us go and do some thinking in bed.”

There was a second where all my pent-up frustrations from the day melted away and I found myself dreaming of how wonderful being intimate with my wife would be. She was still my wife, what harm would there be in having another night like last night and – a soft sigh escaped my lips – enjoying my life. Maybe Vinyl was right and I am a bit too uptight. So what if she was a teenager now?

The word ‘teenager’ shook me out of my reverie and I pulled away from Vinyl. She wasn’t her proper self, and taking advantage of that fact would both be morally wrong and might damage her trust in me once she was returned to normal. “I- I’m sorry,” I said, the words getting caught in my throat, “I can’t, not until my thoughts on the matter are properly sorted out.”

“Really?” she asked, rubbing her cheek against my flank, making me grateful that we were currently inside our own home where no passers-by could see such a brazen display. “Because all this heat I’m feeling is telling me exactly how you feel. Stop trying to convince yourself otherwise.” She kissed my cutie mark, slowly moving upwards until she was nibbling on my ear. My body shivered with pleasure, and I wanted nothing more than to–

Stop it, I thought, trying not to fall prey to the tyranny of hormones. I was still in control, I could still make responsible decisions, and even though I found myself fantasizing about having so much sex with Vinyl that we burned a hole in the couch, I would not give in to my baser impulses.

“I can’t. I need… I need to go for a walk, I’ll see you in a while,” she frowned at me as I spoke. “I think I will sleep on the couch tonight as well.” Before she could make a response, I walked back outside and closed the door. For some reason, she didn’t try to follow me, and I was incredibly grateful for that small mercy.

The next few hours were spent wandering around Ponyville while I worked to collect my thoughts on the issue at hoof. I still deeply loved Vinyl, and I need not delve any further in explaining how pregnancy hormones affected my feelings for her. Of course, they also affected my ability to think clearly, or even just figure out what I was actually feeling. I haven’t cried this much since I first moved to Ponyville – and at least then, I actually had things to cry about. Now, I’d sob for an hour if the paper was ten minutes late. Trying to sort out just what I thought about Vinyl becoming a teenager was virtually impossible.

Despite her lapse in judgment and current idiocy, she was still Vinyl Scratch. She was still my wife. She was still the mare who had supported me through impossible things more times than I could count. The fact that I would support her now was never in question; the only thing I wasn’t sure of was just how that support would manifest. Would indulging her strange fantasy that being young was wonderful serve to hurt or help the situation? Was she under some mind-altering magic, despite protestations to the contrary? Would she be upset with me for playing along when the potion was finally dispelled? Could the potion be properly dispelled? If not, could we continue our relationship with her being a teenager? Could I raise a filly and keep an eye on Vinyl Scratch at the same time? Would I actually have to parent Vinyl and deal with her moodiness?

None of those questions were answered while I walked, and I came back to the house feeling worse than when I had left, a feeling that was only compounded when I opened the door to find my wife sitting on the couch and glaring at me.

Whatever was about to happen, I highly doubted it was going to be a pleasant experience.

6. The Fight (Vinyl)

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What. The. Hell? So, I was trying to have some fun with my wife, and I thought things were going pretty well, but then she suddenly pulls away and starts talking about how she needs to be alone for a while, and then she goes out for a walk. I thought about following her, but screw it, if she wants to be all alone and broody, she can. It’s just dumb, I support her, but when something awesome happens to me, she refuses to join in my happiness. Instead it’s all ‘This isn’t proper, I need time to think, you’re not yourself.’ Please, I am totally me. In fact, I’d say I’m more me than I’ve ever been in my life. This is the pony I want to be, not some boring dumb teacher. I want to live, I want to play my music, I want to go to clubs. I want to enjoy being young again. I don’t get why Tavi wouldn’t want that, or at least be happy for me.

I glared at the door as I waited for my wife to get back. I sat there for hours, and do you know how boring that is? I mean, I really wanted to go do some DJing, but I also really wanted to pounce on her the second she walked through the door, and not in the same way I wanted to pounce on her earlier. This was so stupid, she wasn’t treating me like I was me, instead she was acting like she was my mom, which… whatever, she’s my wife, not my mom. I’m a fully-grown mare, and quite capable of taking care of myself, I don’t need her to tell me how damned irresponsible everything is. She’s like, “having fun isn’t irresponsible.” Bull, I can totally be responsible when I want to. I mean, I have a filly on the way. That practically screams responsibility.

So, I guess I can kind of understand some of her concern, she’s always been pretty uptight about stuff, and then I suddenly become young again and… yeah, that’s unexpected. Maybe a little freaking out is even warranted, but could she at least try to act happy for me. I’m still the same awesome mare she married. In fact, I’m even more awesome now that I’ve gone back to before I peaked. My whole life is ahead of me, and all I want is to spend it with her. It would be even more awesome if she would drink some potion too so I could teach her to live a little, but I can kind of see her concern about our daughter. Like, I’d hate to just poof her out of existence with the potion. Still, I bet Lyra can set up a magic ward to keep our daughter safe while Tavi drinks the potion.

While I waited for her, I wandered into the kitchen to grab a box of Trot-Tarts and brought it back out to the sofa, I had that awesome teenager metabolism again and it would be a shame to waste it. I stuffed the box’s entire contents into my face in a few minutes, leaving a scattering of crumbs and wrappers in my wake. Woodhoof could probably get it, I mean, he practically got off on all that butlery stuff, which makes my life way easier.

The door opened and Tavi walked in, looking as sad as I’ve ever seen her. Her shoulders and back drooped, and she just seemed like something had beaten her down. For a second, I thought that maybe yelling at her for being a terrible wife was a bad idea, but then I felt that burning anger in my gut again. How dare she not support me! How dare she try to make me go back to ‘normal’! How dare she walk in here looking so sad when she should be celebrating with me! “How dare you!”

She blinked at me and took a step back. “How dare I what, Vinyl? If you’re chastising me for leaving you to take a walk, I understand your anger, but I needed to clear my head. I needed to figure out just how I feel about this.”

“And?! What did you find? Still want to fix me and get me back to normal? Still want to ruin all my fun?” I pushed myself off up the couch and stomped a hoof on the ground. She should love me. Why wasn’t she acting like it? I screamed in frustration.

Somehow, Tavi managed to keep her cool as I screamed. “Yes to the first question, no to the second. I am all for having fun Vinyl, but you’ve been acting so erratic all day. I suppose… is this normal for most teenagers?”

“You were a teenager once,” I snarked. “Or wait, you wouldn’t know because you spent your teenage years doing nothing but playing the cello.”

Tavi’s frown deepened. “Yes, I did. And you are right again when you say I didn’t have a normal adolescence. You also know why, but in case you’ve forgotten, let me remind you. I had almost nothing as a teenager. My parents cut me off and my grandmother had died, prompting my exodus to Canterlot. My teenage years were spent in a small apartment paid for by the small inheritance my grandmother had given me, and I spent every day practicing because I so desperately wanted to make something of myself.”

“So that’s why you are all against me being young again,” I said, remembering our talks about her childhood. “Your teenage years were crap, so you just assume they are terrible for everypony. You, of all ponies, deserve a redo, and you can have it if you drink some of the potion.”

“That’s not why I’m against you being young!” she snapped. “It’s…” She ran a hoof through her mane and moved to sit on one of our floor cushions. “I still love you, you know that. That’s the one thing I’ve never doubted, but I just don’t know what to do. A part of me desperately wants to be with you, to ignore your little indiscretion and pretend nothing ever happened. Another part of me is convinced that doing anything romantic with you would be taking advantage of you and that you’d never forgive me after you go back to normal. Then another part wonders if I will have to raise you, and I’m worried about that because I have no idea on how to raise a teenager, especially when that teenager happens to be my wife. No books were written about that, there’s absolutely nopony in Equestria I can turn to for advice, and I don’t know what to do!” She started sobbing at that, and I moved to kiss her cheek. The voice in my gut howling How dare she! quieted for a moment when I saw my wife break down sobbing.

“Look, I get that this is a bit confusing, and I know you’re struggling with your own emotional thingies, but I just want you to be happy for me. That’s not too much is it?”

“Of course not,” she choked out between sobs. “No, I want to support you, I never stopped wanting to support you, I just don’t know how. Would fixing things be so terrible? We were happy before. You were you before, and now it’s like you’ve become a completely different mare. You’re so volatile and moody and I don’t know how to deal with it.”

How dare she not support me! “I’m not asking you to deal with this. I’m just asking you to support me, to love me. I’m asking you to do for me what I did for you all those times you needed help. I’m asking you to be there for me,” I said, feeling the anger claw its way back up my throat. Why didn’t she see how wonderful this was? Why did she insist on thinking this was a bad thing? Couldn’t she see that it changed absolutely nothing about our relationship? Why did everything with her have to be so difficult?

“But I can’t stop worrying that you aren’t you. I know you say you aren’t under the effect of mind-altering magic, but when I had changeling venom in my veins, I could have sworn my mind was clear and unfettered. My judgment was compromised, and I can’t help but worry that yours is too. What if by supporting you, I am actually hurting you? What if you hate me when you get back to normal? I don’t know. I can’t stop doubting myself.”

It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair. I did everything and anything for her. Supported her non-stop, and now she doubted I was me. After Nightmare Night, after Anthro-Con, after everything we’d been through together, she’d doubt me now. It was… I needed to get out of here, but first I wanted her to know how much she’d hurt me. I wanted to hurt her back. “I was always there for you!” I yelled, pointing a hoof at her. “Every time something shattered you, I was there to pick up the pieces. Every time you just need a pony to listen to you complain about this calamity or that, you have my ear. Every time you want something from me, I deliver it in a heartbeat, but I guess for you that’s a one way street with you.” She sank low in her chair and looked like I had actually hit her. I almost felt a little tinge of guilt, but this was her own fault.

“Well guess what, I’m out. Next time you have a big problem, you can fix it on your own, because I guess that’s how you want this relationship to work.” Before she could say anything else, I grabbed my saddlebags and marched out the door and slammed it shut, listening to the bang it made as I continued to storm off. I wish I could’ve seen the look on her face, I thought as I stomped away. For a second, I stopped, feeling something churn in my gut. Maybe I was a bit harsh on her, but it was her fault for not supporting me. If only she could’ve just been happy for me, I wouldn’t have had to have lost my temper. I just wanted her to be happy for me I thought as I wandered through town aimlessly. Why did she have to make things difficult and not support me? After a few hours, I found myself drifting towards the train station, my eyes darting to Canterlot in the distance.

Back in college, that city had been amazing, the clubs were some of the best I had ever seen, and for a few years, everypony who was anypony knew that if you wanted to have a big event, you needed to have DJ-P0N3 playing for your party. I even got to play for a royal wedding! How cool is that?! Now though, I just spent my days sitting in a classroom teaching fillies and colts about musical theory while Tavi took care of music history. Of course, I thought, a smile forming on my lips as I turned to look between the train station and the city in the distance, who’s to say things have to stay like that?

I headed over to the ticket booth, pulling my coin purse out of my bags. “Hey,” I said, passing my bits to the ticketer, “I’d like one ticket for the last train to Canterlot.”

7. Lost and Found (Octavia)

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I sat and stared at the door.

And stared.

And stared.

A voice in my head screamed at me for not going after Vinyl and apologizing, but it felt as if my entire body had gone completely numb, leaving me unable to so much as lift a hoof to go after her. I couldn’t even convince my mouth to form words. This was it, we’d never fought like this before. We had argued, certainly – a couple cannot be married for four years without having at least a few quarrels – but this was the first one I would actually qualify as a fight, less a disagreement between two parties interested in a mutually agreeable resolution, and more a verbal assault designed to cause pain in the opponent. At least, Vinyl had seen it as a fight. For me, it was more a massacre, the slaughter of an army unprepared for the brutal combat it would be facing. When the smoke had cleared, I found myself staring at nothing, trying to process just what had happened.

Funny, I thought, for some reason, I’m not crying. I cried over almost anything these past few months, but this… this just left me feeling nothing, as if I was a spectator, watching the events of my life unfold with no control over them. I wanted to go after Vinyl, to apologize, to do anything I could to mend this rift that had appeared between us, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t do anything. I just sat and stared and waited, hoping she would return soon. The hours continued to drag on, and I found myself moving to lay down on the seat cushions and make myself comfortable. I glanced at the clock. Eleven at night. I yawned. She would be back any minute, I just had to stay up for it…


I opened my eyes as the first rays of sunlight filled the room while a hoof poked at me. “Miss Octavia, you really should not be sleeping on the couch in your condition. I insist you get to your bed at once.”

“But Vinyl’s in there, and I don’t want to face her yet. Not after our fight last night,” I said, yawning to dispel the lingering traces of sleep clouding my mind.

“Ah yes, I believe I heard the tail end of that. I dare say your neighbors might have as well. Would you care to explain what happened? Perhaps I can offer some advice on the subject,” he said, sitting across from me. “As a butler to your parents, I was witness to a multitude of fights in my time, and I dare say I’m now rather knowledgeable on such things.”

“Very well,” I said, sighing as I called to mind all of yesterday’s events. “It’s a rather long story though, and parts of it strain credulity.” He nodded as I began relating all of the events yesterday that led up to the fight.

“I don’t think your parents ever had that particular fight,” he said as I finished my story. “Still, I might have some advice I can give. In fact, I spent some time in Neighpon after the Great Equestrian War. Lovely ponies, and their knowledge of potion crafting rivals that of the zebras.”

“Really?” I asked, shocked at his revelation. “You spent time in Neighpon? I had always assumed you were a butler your entire life, although in hindsight, I suppose that was rather silly of me. Of course you had a life before you were a butler.”

He nodded at me and smiled. “Indeed I did. I even spent some time with the ancient brew masters, seeking a place where both mind and body could properly heal. It was there that I started working as a butler; it was my way of repaying them for their kindness for taking me in.” He shook his head, remembering days gone by, while I tried to recall just how long ago the last Great Equestrian War was. Was it sixty or seventy years ago? “The point is that I do know a bit about the potion your wife drank, and would be happy to offer my knowledge.”

“Do you know how to undo its effects?” I asked as soon as he finished talking, hoping he could offer a solution to my problem.

“I’m afraid not,” my childhood butler said. “The potion was used by the monks to prolong their lives, not reverse the effects of time completely. I do know that when a few rather foalish acolytes drank large quantities of the potion in an attempt to live forever, they reverted to foalhood and when I left, they were only a year or so older.”

“So, what you’re saying is that Vinyl might be stuck as a teenager?” I asked, as my hopes were dashed to bits on cold unpleasant truths.

“Not stuck, she will age as the years pass. Of course, I could be mistaken, and the monks do indeed know of a way to reverse the potion’s more unpleasant effects, but simply chose not to as an attempt to teach the acolytes the folly of their actions.”

I nodded, recalling Trixie’s words a few days prior. “If she is going to be stuck like this for an extended period of time, what should I do? I find myself feeling rather lost.” Hopefully after my talk with Woodhoof, I could go to our room and apologize to Vinyl for upsetting her. Even if she had been particularly abrasive, she did have a few valid points last night. Maybe I should have just accepted the new transformation. If it was what she wanted, I’m sure we could find a way to make it work. Just… the idea of sleeping with somepony who looked so much younger than me– No, not just that, the idea of going out on a date with a mare who looked almost half my age, and being judged by other ponies, made my stomach squirm.

Did Vinyl ever have to deal with this? Our age difference was practically unchanged, the only difference being that a pony in their thirties dating a pony in their twenties is much less jarring than a pony in their twenties dating a pony appearing to be in their teens.

“You do have something of a dilemma on your hooves, I admit, but it’s important to remember that she is still the same pony you married. Her judgment might be clouded by her regained youth, but certainly, you are no stranger to how hormones can skew a pony’s judgment,” Woodhoof said, giving me a small smile. He was right, if anypony could understand how quickly hormones can override a pony’s better judgment, it would be me. The last few months had tried both my and Vinyl’s patience, but she had always been there to support me. I took a deep breath, and looked at the stairs. It was time for me to apologize to my wife for my actions last night. Unless I missed my mark terribly, she would feel just as terrible about the things she said last night as I did.

“Vinyl,” I said, knocking on the door to our bedroom, “I want to apologize about last night. Can I come in?” There was no answer, and I knocked again. After several minutes of knocking, I opened the door and was immediately struck by two things. The first and most obvious was that nopony was in our room. The second thing of note was that our bed was still made and Vinyl never made our bed, meaning that nopony had slept in it since yesterday morning, meaning–

I moved downstairs as quickly as I could, which in my current state was a moderately fast waddle. “Woodhoof,” I said as I reached the landing, “did you happen to make our bed this morning?”

“I’m afraid not, Miss Octavia,” he said, still sitting where I had left him. “When I came up to the main level to do my morning cleaning, I found you sleeping on the couch, and woke you up.”

“That means Vinyl didn’t come home last night,” I said, fear gripping my body. “What if she’s hurt? What if something terrible happened while she was gone? I need to find her. Woodhoof, I need you to start searching the town for news of her whereabouts, I am going to try and catch Lyra and Bon-Bon before they head to work, and then we will head out looking for her. Actually, can you run a note to the school explaining that Vinyl will be gone several days due to illness? Do that first and then help me search the town.”

“Of course,” he said, moving to the study to write a note. “I will render whatever services I can to see that Miss Scratch is returned safe and unharmed.”

“Thank you,” I said, heading for the door at my slightly-faster-than-glacial pace. “When is Moldy supposed to come back?”

“Professor Moldeaux will be conferencing with himself in Canterlot until Wednesday.”

“Alright,” I said, finally reaching the door, “so we probably won’t have his assistance. Hopefully we won’t, at least.”

The walk to Lyra and Bon-Bon’s lasted far longer than it needed to, and I found myself wishing I could move faster just so I could talk to somepony and get out of my own head. It was… the fear that something terrible had happened to Vinyl last night wouldn’t leave me alone no matter how much I worked to dispel it. Something could have happened to her; she was a young-looking, attractive mare on the streets at night. If not for the fact that this was the quaint crime-free town of Ponyville, my fears would have been far greater than they currently were. Still, she could be injured, or suffering some other deleterious side effect of the potion.

The door to Lyra and Bon-Bon’s opened as I drew near to it. “Oh, hey,” Lyra said, frowning as she saw me. “Are you here looking for Vinyl?”

I nodded. “How did you know?”

“Well,” she said as she opened the door for me to come in, “I was talking with Bon-Bon this morning over breakfast, and she said she saw a pony who looked almost exactly like a young Vinyl Scratch at the train station last night buying tickets for Canterlot. As soon as I heard that, I figured it was actually just teenaged Vinyl Scratch heading to Canterlot, and thought that was odd because she didn’t mention any plans to head to Canterlot when I saw her Saturday, and it was really odd because I thought for sure you would go with her if she did, so I was heading over to see if you were at home and ask what was up. Then you come here, and I figured something definitely has to be wrong. I took a guess that Vinyl was missing and you just confirmed it.”

“Oh,” I said, suddenly sitting down on a seat cushion. “My wife left town last night after a massive fight. That’s… that’s hardly ominous at all.” This had to be okay, I thought, repeating the mantra over and over to myself. She was still Vinyl, she wouldn’t just abandon me… Like she thought I abandoned her. We had never fought before, and if… what if this was the end of things? Had I just ruined our relationship because of my own stubbornness?

I shook my head, dispelling such thoughts. No, I was Octavia Melody and she was Vinyl Scratch, and I was going to find my wife, apologize, and get her back, while also trying to figure out just how I was going to make my relationship with a pony who had the mind and body of a teenager. Nopony said it was going to be easy; but then, these things never were. “Come on,” I said, smiling at my friends. “We are going to Canterlot to find my wife, and hopefully I can still salvage this situation… somehow.”

8. Life of the Party (Vinyl)

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I slammed my fifth drink down on the bar. “Another beer,” I said to the barkeeper. Rare Rocks used to be the coolest club in all of Canterlot; every night it was completely packed as ponies came out to hear the best jams, and I played there pretty much every weekend. Ponies came out to hear me jam. Now, it had turned into a boring corner pub, with maybe thirty ponies total in it.

“What happened to this place?” I asked as a gray stallion filled my mug.

He shrugged as he put the tap away. “New clubs opened downtown, ponies drifted over there, and the owner decided to turn the place into a bar when business dried up. Club ponies are fickle, but bar ponies, they find a place they like and they stay there.” The barkeep gestured at the other ponies in the bar. “I can tell you the names of over half these ponies, and I can tell you when almost all of them will be in the bar next. You got to have consistency when you’re running a business, and it’s easier to get a consistent stable than keep tryin’ to catch up with what’s popular.”

“So, do you know what’s popular now?” I asked, downing my beer. “Kind of want to get back into the Canterlot nightlife and figured this would be a good place to start. Then it turns out the whole club got old and boring.” Why would anypony prefer this to a banging nightclub? I mean, nightclubs just feel so much more alive and vibrant, it’s like everything awesome in the world is packed into them and things just seem better. The beer is fresher, the mares hotter, the music louder. This bar was like the opposite of that.

“Considerin’ that you’re askin me for my advice and drinkin’ my beer, maybe you could not go ‘round insultin’ the place I work. If you do, I might feel like givin’ you an answer.”

“Fine,” I said, rolling my eyes. “For a boring bar, this place is pretty nice. It’s just not as cool as a club.”

“Impressive compliment,” he said, glaring at me. “While tryin’ to say somethin’ nice about the bar, you managed to insult it two more times. You know, maybe it wouldn’t hurt a punk kid like you to show some respect.”

“Screw you,” I said, feeling my cheeks burn with anger. “I showed you my ID, you know I’m thirty-four, so why are you calling me a ‘punk kid?’”

I tossed him half the bits I owed and stormed towards the door. “Your beer sucks anyways, don’t know why I wasted so much time here. If I wanted to spend my vacation being boring, I would’ve stayed in Ponyville.”

“Yeah, well f–” I slammed the door shut to the bar shut and marched down the Canterlot streets. It was almost three in the morning, the bars would be closing soon, and all my old stomping grounds had gotten just… unbelievably boring. What the hell? After an hour of pounding the pavement looking for something cool to do, I heard the throbbing of a bass calling to me. Anyplace that played the bass loud enough for me to feel it in my bones had to be cool.

The noise came from a club called Beats. Outside, ponies still swarmed the entrance to get in, while bouncers kept them away. The club’s name was done up in flashy neon lights, and the walls were a plain simple white. I headed towards the entrance like I owned the place. The trick to getting into places like this was to act like I deserved to be there, which was pretty easy for me since I did deserve to be there. I was still Equestria’s best damn DJ and this looked like the best club in Canterlot. Too bad one of the bouncers didn’t get the memo ‘cause he brought his hoof up to stop me from entering.

“Name?” he asked, looking at his list.

“Vinyl Scratch,” I said, meeting his stare with one of my own, “but you probably know me as DJ-P0N3.”

“Oh yeah,” he said, nodding his head, “you used to be a big-time DJ six or so years ago, but then you kind of just faded away. Figured you’d look older than you do.”

I smiled at him. “I age well. Now, are you going to let me in? I want to talk to the club owner.”

“About what?” he asked, tapping his hoof against the clipboard impatiently.

“About playing for their club. Look, I’m having a big comeback, right, and I figure this would be a good starting place. I’ll even play for you on a Monday night just to prove how good at my damn job I am. You don’t have anypony special playing tomorrow, right?”

The bouncer shook his head. “That’s what I thought,” I said, “so let me through, I talk to your boss, and then I give you a free DJ-P0N3 show. Sound good?”

After a few seconds, he sighed and gestured me through. “Don’t make me regret this.” Like I said, act like you deserve to be there. It works every bucking time.


The club owner stared at me after I finished giving him my offer. He was a big fat pony, his coat a bright purple, a disco ball on his flank., and his mane was yellow. “So, you want me to bump our regular DJ to give a washed-up has-been a second chance?” he said at last.

“Hey, do I look like a washed-up has-been to you? I’m young, I’m hip, and I’m offering you a free show. Think about it, you spread the word that DJ-P0N3 is doing a show for you, and you’re gonna get some turnout,” I said, barely keeping my temper in check at his washed-up has-been comment.

“Yeah, from old ponies still clinging to the last remnant of their glory days. We want new fresh blood in this club, not dried-up old scabs,” he said, as the club shook from the throbbing bass. Each beat ran up my spine and made me shiver in excitement. I hadn’t been in a club like this since…

Since I met Tavi, I thought suddenly, recalling our fight. Was I maybe a bit harsh? Yeah, but whatever, she should have supported me, and since she didn’t, I deserve to take some time out to ‘think’ like she did. If that thinking involved me spending a few days in Canterlot, that wasn’t my fault. It was hers for being such a stuck-up snob. Like, I still love her, but why can’t she have a bit of fun? That’s all I wanted. Instead she gave me some line about “needing time to think.”

“Hey,” I said, narrowing my eyes at him. “I’m offering you a free show, and if you don’t want to advertise, you don’t have to. Just let me come on stage tomorrow, do a few songs, keep the energy in the room up, and if I do a good job, maybe hire me some time in the future. That’s all I’m asking, and I think that deal helps you more than it helps me. Like, free entertainment, that’s every club’s dream.”

He rubbed his head for a few seconds before finally talking. “Alright, I’ll give you a shot. You got one hour tomorrow night at 10:00, can you do that?”

I nodded and smiled, my face practically cracking in two. “Hell yeah, I can. I promise you the best show you’ve ever seen.”

“That’s a pretty big promise. You deliver on that, and I promise there’ll always be a spot in the club for you.”


I spent most of the next day playing whatever, listening to any popular song I could find to try to get a hoof on the pulse of Equestria’s music scene. Tonight was my big comeback, and I was going to make it kick some major flank. Tonight, ponies would know that DJ-P0N3 was back in a big way. I briefly found myself fantasizing about all the young mares that would be in the club tonight before shaking off those thoughts.

Even if I was incredibly pissed at her, I was still married to Tavi, and I wouldn’t throw that away for some hot young mare who didn’t look like a blimp. I mean, I guess the baby bump was kind of cute, but sometimes a mare just wants a pony who is tight and nimble in all the right places. Anyways, I wasn’t going to throw away my marriage with Tavi for a night or two of insane fun.

Who’s to say she has to find out? a part of me whispered. The part of me that was only interested in having as much fun as possible and damn the consequences. I really wanted to listen to it, but that would… I shook my head and went back to listening to the records I had purchased that morning, planning out my set list for tonight, smiling to myself as I did. Tonight was going to be awesome.

The rest of the day passed with me in my hotel room, playing my music as loud as I possibly could without getting hit with a noise complaint from my neighbors. I needed it to be loud to properly enjoy the music, but some ponies just couldn’t appreciate that and instead had to complain about their eardrums, or how they couldn’t sleep. This was important, and I couldn’t stop just because other ponies were inconvenienced, even if that other pony happened to be my wife. Once I got to be a big name again though, it would all be cool. If I could just get her to drink some of the potion, maybe she would understand. I made a mental note to find some way to protect our child from its effects when I gave it to her.

The club’s bass was throbbing as I approached, banishing whatever worries and doubts I had; tonight I was going to kick flank, and nothing could stop me. The bouncer waved me through and I headed towards the owner’s office. It turns out his actual name is Strobe Light. Amazing how he can be older than me and still run the coolest club in Canterlot. Guess it’s just proof that you can still get old without being boring. I mentally cursed Tavi for doing that to me. Yes, I loved her, but I didn’t want to get boring with her, I wanted to make her cool. Or maybe I did, I mean, it seemed so nice to just spend time with her, to have a stable life, to just be happy with what I had, but now all that stuff seemed so incredibly boring. It was like I had just woken up from some weird dream where I was somepony else.

“Hey,” I said, nodding my head at Strobe Light. “You ready for me to rock you and this entire club so hard ponies can’t get my beats out of their head for the next few years?”

He laughed as I took my seat. “You’re confident, I’ll give you that. You think an old mare like you can keep up with what ponies want these days?”

“Do I look like an old mare to you?” I asked, raising an eyebrow as I put my magenta-tinted goggles on.

“Nope,” he said. “I actually was a bit curious about that. You’re only a decade younger than me, but you look like you’re my daughter’s age. You sure you’re actually thirty-four?”

I nodded. “I just age really well. I don’t feel a day above twenty. I mean, I’ve got so much damned energy I don’t think I need to sleep. It’s pretty awesome.”

“Well, bring some of that energy up on stage with you; you’re gonna need it. The crowd out there can get pretty restless if they don’t like what they hear, and if that happens you gotta take care of it or get off the stage,” he said, opening the door to his office and pointing me to the direction of the DJ booth as the MC took to the microphone.

“Mares and stallions, may I have your attention please. Beats has arranged a surprise for you all tonight, for one evening only, we have the one and only DJ-P0N3 ready to play for you tonight, so give her a big hoof.” As he spoke, I walked towards the stage, listening to the murmuring of the crowd. I heard a few “who’s” and at least one “I thought she was dead,” but that didn’t matter.

What mattered was that they remembered me after I finished. I looked across the sea of faces as I took to my booth and recognized the look on their faces. It was the look of a pony used to the best. Nothing I can say will convince them that I am the best DJ in Equestria, I thought as I flipped through the record selection and put the first two records I had selected on their separate turntables, so I guess I will just have my music do the convincing.

Have I mentioned how much I love DJing yet? It’s like a game; I stoke their flames and get them pumped up until they are on the verge of exhaustion, and then when they can’t take much more, I give them a little breather so we can go even harder next time. You got to have good taste and a keen eyes, keeping track of how the crowd looks and giving them exactly what they need before they know they need it. They don’t even know you’re there, but you pull their strings and keep the party going.

When my set ended, I was mobbed by groupies of all sexes, but most of them vanished pretty quickly to get back to dancing when I said I was married, leaving only a yellow unicorn mare with black mane who looked maybe a year or two older than I currently did. “Can I buy you a drink?” she yelled, working to be heard above the music and gesturing to the bar. “Technically, I can drink for free, so I guess it should be ‘Can I get you a drink?’” She laughed at that.

“I know,” she said, wrapping a foreleg around me to turn me back to the bar. “But see, I grew up hearing the great DJ-P0N3’s fusion records, and dreaming about meeting you. Then you play here and I figure the least I can do is buy you a drink. Nothing will happen unless you want it to, and if you do want it to, I will do whatever you want.” The mare smiled at me and I felt a prickling warmth spread across my body. She reminded me of all those mares I used to date, the ones who worshipped me and would do pretty much anything I wanted. Not like Tavi who had to be difficult about everything.

“Sure, I suppose one drink wouldn’t hurt,” I said, smiling at her. “But only if you tell me your name.”

She giggled as we approached the bar, and I noticed the image of a martini glass on her really amazingly tight-looking flank. “I’m Clubber Lane,” she purred, “and I promise this will be the best drink you’ve ever had.”

9. Cantering Through Canterlot (Octavia)

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“I’m surprised you both volunteered to help so quickly,” I said as the train moved towards my former home at a pace far too slow for my liking. “It’s... I know you have busy lives, and it was presumptuous of me to assume you would come so easily. I know Lyra is loathe to miss teaching her classes at the academy.”

“Yeah,” Lyra said, nodding her head at me while Bon-Bon looked out the window, “I normally am, but Vinyl needs help, and I kind of feel just a bit guilty, so I figure this is my way of making it up to you.”

“Why do you feel guilty?” I asked, confusion entering my expression. “You didn’t force Vinyl to drink the potion.”

There was a brief lull as she looked between Bon-Bon and me. “No, I guess not, but… you know, I was there when she got it. I could’ve done something, but instead I was too busy making wishes on my monkey’s paw.”

“I saw that,” I said, dimly recalling the monkey paw resting on her work bench. “Do you think you could wish for Vinyl to go back to normal?”

She shook her head. “Not until I have a better idea of how it works. I don’t want it to make things go bad; it already made my second wish go way worse than I had kind of thought possible.”

“What did you wish for?” Bon-Bon and I asked simultaneously.

“Well,” she said, laughing nervously. “I did take what I thought was a decent precaution. For my first wish, I wished that no future wishes would cause any pony to come to harm. Then I wished that Vinyl signed Trixie’s contract.”

“You what?!” I yelled, my nostrils flaring and my eyes going wide with anger. “Why in Equestria would you do that?” Bon-Bon looked between the two of us and moved slightly closer to her wife. I saw her muscles tense as she prepared to leap up and defend Lyra if the need arose.

“Well, because I kind of thought nothing bad would happen in the context of the wish. The worst conceivable outcome was that Vinyl signed the contract; I didn’t think she would start acting crazy. Uhmm, I’m really sorry it led to you and Vinyl having a fight, I totally didn’t mean for it to.”

I took several deep breaths in the hopes of calming myself before I absolutely throttled the life out of Lyra. “Also,” she continued, “when I made the wish, Vinyl hadn’t signed anything yet, so really my wish might not have even done anything. But if it did, I’m sorry.”

I closed my eyes and counted to ten to try and banish my anger. As satisfying as it would be to yell at her, anger would get me nowhere, especially since she might be useful in getting Vinyl back to normal. “Help me find Vinyl and keep things from getting worse than they already are and I will consider your apology accepted. I also expect you to drop all of your other research in favor of finding a way to reverse the spell. If you do all that, then you have my forgiveness. Do those terms sound agreeable?”

Lyra nodded and I looked at her wife, whose brow had furrowed. “Bon-Bon, do you feel I am being particularly harsh?”

She shook her head. “No, I’m just surprised you aren’t angrier. If this was Vinyl, she would be absolutely furious.”

“Well,” I said, still struggling to contain my absolute fury while I felt my eyes water. I suppose that last bit was the work of my rogue hormones. “If the last two days have demonstrated anything, it’s that Vinyl is far more passionate than I.” I looked out the window at the quickly-approaching city. “Now, shall we form a plan of attack?”

The other two nodded and I closed my eyes, thinking of how we could quickly comb the city and make advantage of our resources and skills. “Lyra, you know where you and Vinyl used to hang out. Considering that this whole situation stemmed from her desire to be young again, I feel it is likely that she is either at, has been, or is going to some of those locations. I want you to visit them and ask the bartenders or proprietors if they’ve seen anypony matching her description.”

“Alright,” Lyra said, pulling a notepad from her saddlebags and writing.

“Bon-Bon, I want to make use of your connection to the EIS. I’m sure they owe you a few favors, and if you could call some of them in to find Vinyl as quickly as possible, I would be greatly appreciative.”

“Of course,” Bon-Bon said, nodding her head at me as the train entered a tunnel, shrouding our passenger car in darkness. “But why is it such an issue that we find her quickly?”

“Because,” I said, my lips twisting into a frown nopony could see as tears splashed my cheek. Damned hormones, making me lose my composure at the slightest things. “Right now, Vinyl isn’t herself and I’m worried she will do something we both end up regretting. Normally, that’s not a worry for me, but then, normally she doesn’t run off to Canterlot without telling me.”

“Oh!” Lyra said and I could hear her voice actually perk up. “I get it, you think she will cheat on you.”

“N-no,” I said, suddenly feeling like a dragon’s claw had wrapped around my heart and was trying to crush it, while I heard Bon-Bon shush Lyra. “I don’t… She could. I never thought of it before, I just trusted her to do the right thing, but now… I don’t know, maybe she will or maybe she will do something equally regrettable, I don’t know. I don’t know what she might do and that terrifies me more than it should.” I ran a hoof across my cheek to dry my eyes and I felt another hoof patting me on the back.

“Don’t worry, Octavia,” Bon-Bon said in her best maternal voice as she continued to pat my back. “We will find her and get her home safely, and as soon as I get to Canterlot I will talk with my contacts, alright?”

I nodded my head at her as the train came out to daylight. “Thank you, I’m sorry for panicking back there, it’s just… I’m almost surprised I am doing this well, the last twenty-four hours added to the fact that I’m already pregnant, and a part of me wonders how I am still standing.”

She smiled at me. “It’s like I told you on your wedding day, you endure impossible things. I have no doubt you will get through this. Now, you never told us what you were going to do to find Vinyl.”

“I can’t walk as quickly as either of you, so I thought I could help find Vinyl by enlisting Moldy for aid.”

“He’s in Canterlot?” Bon-Bon asked, the surprise clear in her voice.

I nodded. “He is exchanging data with… I don’t know what you would call the colony he volunteered to help Luna guard the Dreamlands. Either way, the two of them usually spend a few days every three or so months talking and sharing experiences to ‘ensure they are both developing along desirable paths.’” I said, mimicking Moldy’s distinct cadence. “Hopefully, he will be able to offer some assistance.”


“The Lifegiver’s values have been compromised?” Moldy asked in rather spacious chamber of the Canterlot dungeons. Most of it was consumed by a giant green blob that Luna had been nurturing for the past five years, while the mold-pony and I took up what little space was left.

“That’s certainly one way to describe it,” I said before pausing to further reflect on his words. “Actually, that’s an incredibly apt way of describing it. For whatever reason, she decided to leave Ponyville without letting me know.”

“So she ran away from home?” the mold-pony asked, tilting his head at me.

“Yes… I suppose so,” I said slowly, wondering just why it had taken me so long to put those words to describe her actions. They were absolutely accurate, but up until he said them, I had never considered them. She had run away from home, of course she had, because she was acting like a stupid angsty teenager no matter how much she pleaded to the contrary. How had I not seen it before? “Anyways, I came here because I was hoping you could help me find her. You have… a skill at seeing multiple places at once, and I was hoping I could use you to–”

“Spy on the population of Canterlot to find your wife?” he asked, interrupting me.

“I wouldn’t have mentioned the spying on Canterlot bit, but yes, I suppose that statement is basically accurate. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then I apologize for bothering you and will attempt to find Vinyl on my own.”

He laughed as a cloud of spores erupted from the larger colony behind him. “We will not spy on all ponies in Canterlot, but we will listen, and when we hear her familiar voice, we will relay the information to you. Other voices will be filtered out, and so their privacy will stay sacrosanct. Please give us time to work, it will take at least an hour for our spores to properly saturate the city.” Moldy pointed a hoof at the spores floating out of a hole in the ceiling. “Once Vinyl is found, I will alert you.”

“Thank you,” I said, before giving him a friendly peck on the cheek. “Your help means a lot to me.”

“Think nothing of it,” he said as I turned to face the door. “After all the Deathbringer has done to ensure our success, helping her find her other half is the least we can do.”

I walked out the door and headed back to the streets of Canterlot to head towards our designated meeting place.


The Blue Recluse Tavern was mostly empty when I arrived, and the hours since then had seen no real change in its number of patrons. A few ponies sat in one of the back corners drinking, while I picked at my mandarin salad. I had gotten an odd look from the server when I ordered it with barbecue sauce, but since I was willing to pay good bits for it, his look quickly disappeared. I groaned out loud. It was almost 10:00 and I hadn’t heard from Lyra or Bon-Bon yet. It was… they were probably just being thorough, but it would be nice not to be left in the dark.

As for Moldy, he was probably still waiting for his spores to report back, although it had been far longer than the hour he had originally estimated. While I was thinking on what might have delayed him, the tavern doors opened and the mold pony walked in. “Greetings Deathbringer. We apologize for taking so long to find you, but in our last conversation, you neglected to tell me just where the meeting location was.” I mentally facehoofed. That would certainly explain the delay. In fact, it was a small wonder he had managed to find me at all.

“It’s fine,” I said as he sat next to me. “Have you found anything useful yet?”

He shook his head. “Nothing at this time, Deathbringer; the spores reached optimal saturation levels a few hours ago and since then we have been looking for you. Our spores heard Lyra and Bon-Bon speaking of meeting you at the Blue Recluse, and I quickly headed here.”

“They already met up then?” I asked, taking another bite of my salad.

“Yes, thirty-seven minutes ago at the grand fountain. They have been slowly meandering this way since then. Unless my calculations are off, they should be here within five minutes, possibly sooner,” he said, making unblinking eye contact with me as he spoke. While Moldy had gotten better about social cues, he occasionally lapsed and acted in a way that was distinctly unequine.

“Did you find anything out at all then?” I asked, glancing at the entrance to the bar.

“We heard Lyra and Bon-Bon’s news, but highly doubt there is any point in telling you as they will be here shortly, and we have learned that taking away such things from other ponies is frowned upon. Instead, we will try to listen to the whispers of our spores so that we may inform you of news as soon as we hear it.”

I nodded at him as he closed his eyes and seemed to retreat into himself. Over several seconds, all of his movements stopped. The only times he forsook the equine mannerisms I had spent years teaching him was when a task required the concentration of the entire colony. Even though he was offering me assistance, I found the sight of the unmoving pony unnerving, and I tried not to look at him too much while I waited for the arrival of my other friends.

True to his word, the door to the tavern opened in less than five minutes and Lyra and Bon-Bon walked in. My anger flared at the sight of the mint-colored unicorn, but I somehow managed to suppress such feelings and instead reminded myself that it was better to have Lyra feel like she owed me something as opposed to verbally berating or physically accosting her. Besides, there was a very good chance she would be instrumental in helping me save Vinyl.

“Did you find anything out?” I asked the two of them.

They both nodded at me and Lyra spoke first. “Several of the bartenders recalled seeing a mare who looked like Vinyl last night. She was pretty rude to most of them and complained constantly about how the bars had gotten ‘boring.’” I nodded at that, the statement mirroring Vinyl’s complaints before she stormed out of the house.

“So, we know she is avoiding her old locations, I suppose that narrows the possibilities slightly. Where are the clubs that would hold her interest then?” I asked, trying to keep myself from frowning at the fact that all Lyra learned during her investigation was where Vinyl wasn’t.

Lyra shrugged at me before taking a bite of my salad. Why in Equestria anyone else would want to eat a salad with orange slices and barbecue sauce is beyond me. I could barely even make sense of why I wanted to eat it. “I don’t know, I haven’t been here in forever. They did recently renovate the downtown district though, so… maybe there?”

Bon-Bon nodded before I could voice my displeasure at having to work off of guesses. “That matches with what I found, EIS overheard a pony mentioning that an old-school DJ was trying to have her big comeback at his club tonight. Unfortunately, we were unable to successfully identify the mare in question. All we were able to figure out was that the show would be somewhere in the new downtown district.”

“So she’s playing in a club downtown,” I said, trying to figure out if I was happy that we knew that much or enraged that that was all we knew. I look forward to this filly being out of me so I can think like a sane pony again. “In that case, I suppose we should start heading there so we don’t have as far to run when Moldy finds something.”

I tapped my friend in an attempt to draw him from himself. After about a minute he opened his eyes and focused them on me. “Yes?” he said, his words slurred as he worked to refocus himself. “We are headed to the downtown district I assume?”

“We are,” I said, as we all got to our hooves. “Can you focus your efforts there?”

“We’ve been doing so since I heard Lyra and Bon-Bon’s news. Unfortunately, our ability to hear is dampened as one of the clubs is making far too much noise for us to hear anything near it. If I might advise you, considering the Lifegiver’s affinity for producing such loud noises, that club might be a likely location to start at.”

My heart practically leapt into my chest at his news. If anypony was making enough noise to deafen Moldy, it was almost certainly Vinyl, and that meant we had a lead. “How long until we can get there?” I asked as I headed out the door.

Moldy closed his eyes for a second. “Assuming optimal pathing and considering your reduced speed, I would say an hour. The old town district is rather far from current downtown, and the city has been greatly reorganized since the changeling invasion.”

“I know that,” I said as we walked out the pub. “If you will recall, I happened to live here for several years, and even if I was never particularly adventurous, I can still recall the city’s basic layout.”

“Of course,” he said, nodding his head. “We forgot momentarily the history of the Deathbringer.”

Several ponies glanced at us with the mention of the title he had bestowed on me. “Please, call me Octavia in public. I’d rather not create a scene; remember, most of the ponies in Canterlot don’t know your true nature.”

“Right,” he said, “we have grown so used to Ponyville’s acceptance that we forgot it does not extend to the rest of the land. Forgive us our error.”

“It’s fine,” I said as we continued our journey, Lyra and Bon-Bon in the lead while I waddled in the back with Moldy. “We all forget things from time to time.”

“Yeah,” Lyra said. “For instance, a few days ago, I forgot that I shouldn’t use my friends as guinea pigs for important magical research even if I don’t think anything bad can happen. Sorry again, Tavi.”

I sighed at her. “Just help me fix it, and we will be fine. Moldy, please let us know if you actually hear Vinyl talking.”

“Listening for her distinctive voice is my highest priority. Rest assured, your wife will be found.”

We walked for a while longer, occasionally making small talk while I tried to keep myself from sobbing or screaming. Then, as we drew close to the downtown district, Moldy stopped, his eyes going wide. “Vinyl has been overheard. She is walking with another mare while heading down Canter Boulevard, between 3rd and 8th Street, heading towards 8th.” He frowned and paused, seeming reluctant to give the next piece of news. “Tone of voice and occasional smushing sounds indicate displays of affection and romantic interest.”

I froze as whatever worry I had faded away and was replaced with raw seething anger. “Lyra, Bon-Bon, go with Moldy and get to Vinyl before she does something regrettable. Move as quickly as you can, I will be along shortly.”

They nodded and galloped off while I followed at my own pace, a fire burning in my stomach. If Vinyl was going to keep acting like a damned filly, then I would have to start treating her like one.

10. Drunk on Life (Vinyl)

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“So, Vinyl, what took you out of the spotlight for so long?” Clubber asked as I took another gulp of what must’ve been my fourth beer since the show. “I actually started thinking you had retired, like so many DJs do.” She rolled her eyes. “They have their fun in their twenties, but then around thirty they all settle down, get sensible jobs, get married, and have a few foals. Could there be anything duller?”

I laughed. “Kind of funny you mention that, because I did get a boring job, got married, and I have a filly on the way. It’s… yeah, it’s pretty dull, and that’s why I’m back here, to show the world that I still kick all kinds of flank.”

She purred and inched ever closer to me. “Well, you certainly impressed me, but then, I’ve been a fan of yours since I was a filly. Just seeing you was a dream come true; actually being able to listen to your performance…” I saw a shiver run up her spine, and I felt a tingling warmth spread across my body. “Not much could make me happier.”

No, I thought, I love Tavi, and even if Clubber is super attractive and fun, that doesn’t mean I could just cheat on Tavi. “Well, like I said earlier, I’m a married mare,” I said, laughing nervously.

“Oh, I remember,” she said, getting close enough to lean next to me and let me feel the warmth coming from her own body. It was… it was very nice, but I couldn’t just cheat on Tavi. Although… I felt the familiar sting of anger, I wouldn’t even be having these thoughts if she could have just been a little bit supportive. Instead, she had to get all uptight and piss me off. Yeah, I wasn’t going to cheat on her, but I could still enjoy the company of another mare for an evening, and if there was some light touching, then that was on Tavi.

Clubber smiled at me and rested her head on my neck. I could’ve pushed her off, but I didn’t. “I’m not asking you to leave her, and like I said earlier, I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do.” She giggled. “I just want to spend time with you.”

Well, it’s not like spending time with a fan ever hurt anypony, and I was a mature adult, I wasn’t going to do something dumb just because a beautiful mare was throwing herself at me… even if it would be really fun, and Tavi would probably never find out about it. I smiled at Clubber Lane. “Well, I’m always happy to spend time with one of my fans. Especially one who’s been looking forward to seeing me for so–”

I was cut off as I felt a hoof on my back. I turned around to see Strobe Light standing behind me. “I see you’ve met my daughter already, Vinyl. She was always a fanfilly of yours, and I suppose I might have given you a slot here partly so she could see you perform. Thankfully, you were far better than I expected, and I’m happy to say that if you ever want to perform here again, we can make an opening.”

“Uhmm, thanks,” I said, looking between him and Clubber. “So… you didn’t tell me your dad ran the club.”

She shrugged. “I said I got free drinks and I didn’t like bringing that up. I’m just a normal mare, you know?”

I nodded and looked back at Strobe Light. “Well, I have to get back to work,” he said. “You two have fun, and try to make my daughter happy, Vinyl.” Strobe gave me a wink at that as he walked back to his office. Did I get that right? Did he just give me permission to sleep with his daughter, a mare almost half my age? Like, I’m no prude, and if I wasn’t married, I would probably would’ve gone back to her place already, but seriously? I thought most parents wouldn’t approve of sleeping with a pony almost twice their age.

“Daddy’s pretty awesome,” Clubber said, almost reading my mind. “Ever since Mom left us, he just wants me to be happy. I couldn’t ask for a better dad.”

“Yeah, sure sounds cool,” I said, feeling a nervous laugh escape my throat. I was here with a mare half my age (kind of sort of), my wife was in another city entirely and probably really worried about me, I had a filly on the way, and… maybe this whole thing was a bad idea. I felt a heat pressed against my neck as Clubber moved to kiss me, and I felt my worries melt away. So Octavia was in another city, and we were fighting, it was all her fault anyways. Maybe she deserved it. I mean, if she could just be fun and cool, we wouldn’t be having this fight. Instead, I was in Canterlot, a beautiful mare was throwing herself at me, and…

“You should have another beer,” Clubber said, gesturing to the several empty bottles on the counter. “It would be a shame if you wasted free booze.”

“I don’t know,” I said, shaking my head. “I’ve already had a few drinks, and I don’t want to get so drunk I can’t find my way back to the hotel.”

Her horn lit up and several more beers floated towards me. “Come on, I can walk you back to wherever you want to go. What’s the point of being young if you don’t enjoy all it has to offer?”

That… she made a lot of sense, I thought as I grabbed one of the beers with my own magic. A few beers wouldn’t hurt anypony, and I was having fun. “Alright,” I said, pouring the contents of the first beer down my throat. The night was young, there was a super-sexy mare who would do anything I wanted leaning against me, and I had free beer. It would be a shame to waste all of that. Once I get Tavi to drink that potion, I’m sure she’ll understand. I’ll tell her about tonight after she gets to be young again.

I quickly downed another beer as Clubber wrapped a foreleg around me and pulled me close to her. Her fur felt nice against mine, and yeah… alcohol, sexy mares, maybe Tavi could join us and then the three of us… I laughed out loud. That was silly, how could Tavi even find us? She was probably still in Ponyville worrying about me. Tomorrow morning, I would go back to Ponyville, apologize for getting mad, and then work on figuring out how she could drink the potion. It would be so fun once I got that stick out of her ass. Then she could come to my shows in Canterlot and…

“You don’t look so good,” Clubber said before pressing her lips against my cheek. “What do you say we have one more beer and then get you home?”

“That… that sounds good,” I said, fumbling at the beer with my magic before laughing. “I think I’m drunk.”

“Hey, I always say that waking up with a hangover is a sign of a really good night. Waking up with a hangover in a stranger’s bed is my sign for a great night,” she said, pulling me towards the door as I finished off my last beer. That did sound like a fun night and… No, I couldn’t cheat on Tavi, even if I wanted to, and even if she was being a boring stick in the mud, I wasn’t going to… she didn’t deserve that. But then, Clubber was here, and I could feel her lips pressing against my cheek and neck, while she rubbed her flank against mine, and it felt so nice. I dimly struggled to recall why Tavi would be upset with me for sleeping with her… Clubber, I mean. It was bad for some reason, but it would be fun and we were heading to her house, and why not, right? She couldn’t be that upset, right? I slowly turned to meet my lips with hers as I felt a warmth run up my body. It was fun, who could be against fun?

“Glad to see you’re coming around,” she said as we walked down unfamiliar streets. This wasn’t the way to the hotel, but I was having fun, and that was good and… I heard the sound of hooves on cobblestone. That was funny, three ponies who looked almost exactly like Bon-Bon, Moldy, and Lyra were heading towards us. I smiled and waved a hoof at them before losing my balance and falling on my face.

“Ow,” I said as Clubber helped me get back on my hooves. I laughed a little and leaned against her for support. “Thanks, babe. You… heh, you really helped me out.” I gave her a quick kiss to show my appreciation before the Bon-Bon looking pony started screaming.

“Vinyl Scratch! You have a pregnant wife, what do you think you are doing? And…” She paused as she got closer to me. “You reek of alcohol, just how much have you drunk tonight?” So, if she knew my name it was probably actual Bon-Bon, and that meant actual Lyra and actual Moldy were with her. Cool.

“Hey girls, what… what are you doing here? Did you come to see my show?”

“No,” Bon-Bon said as Lyra and Moldy caught up with her. “We came here because Octavia, your very pregnant wife, was worried something terrible had happened to you. We finally find you and it turns out you’re absolutely drunk and about to make out with some mare you barely know.”

I staggered towards Bon-Bon. “I know Clubber, she’s this super fun sexy mare whose dad owns the club I played at. It turns out she’s a really big fan of mine.”

Lyra and Bon-Bon groaned. “She’s back to wanting to date fanfillies, because of course she is,” Bon-Bon said.

Clubber spoke up to try and say something, but was shushed by Bon-Bon. “We need to think, dear, and if we need your input, we’ll–”

“We do not understand,” Moldy said, looking between Clubber and me. “Beyond the immediate problems of seeking romantic entanglement with ponies other than her wife, what is particularly problematic about her dating fanfillies?”

“Because,” Lyra said, “Vinyl used to be totally into that when she was younger. Fanfillies represent fun, meaningless, empty sex where Vinyl has all the power.” She pointed a hoof at Clubber. “This mare’s going to do pretty much whatever Vinyl asks to make her happy, and that just makes Vinyl a worse pony.”

“Hey!” I shouted.

“Sorry,” Lyra said, shrugging at me, “I know you don’t want to hear this, but when you were dating a fan you were kind of sort of a worse version of you. You drank way way more, you only really left your house or hotel room to go to a show, and you freaked out whenever a pony tried to criticize you because you had a mare convincing you you were perfect. They bring out your worst qualities.”

“I have to agree with Lyra,” Bon-Bon said, taking a step towards her wife. “You mellowed out a bit before you met Tavi, but spending time dealing with her and the insanity that came with her first months in town really forced you to be a better pony. My wife’s general idiocy has completely undone all of that though and then some.” She turned her head to look at Clubber. “Dear, there is a very angry pony coming who has a history of punching things she dislikes hard in the face. I would advise you to run.”

Clubber looked between me and the empty street. “Hey Vinyl, it was fun and we should totally hang out again some time when you can get away from your ‘friends.’ See you later.” I stumbled towards her to give her a good night kiss but before I could, she had darted down a nearby alley. I tried to turn back to face my three friends and ask why they had to ruin my night but only managed to fall back down on the cobblestone, and this time there were no hooves to pick me up. I rolled over to look at the sky.

“The stars are nice out tonight,” I said as I saw my friends move over to look down at me. “You should look up at them, not much going on down here but ground.” I burped and felt a little bit of vomit come up my throat.

“She’s about to pass out, isn’t she?” Bon-Bon asked, looking from me to Lyra. Lyra just nodded.

“So…” I said, belching again. “Did Tavi come with you? Because I really want to talk to her. Do… do you think we can give her some of the age potion? Because I feel like…” I gestured my hoof in the air. “I feel like she would have a lot of fun with it.”

Bon-Bon just sighed and shook her head. “You two can have that conversation in the morning. I know she has a lot she wants to talk to you about. But for now, just get some sleep, we’ll see you home safely.”

I nodded at her and smiled as I felt Lyra’s magic wrap around my body and lift me on to Bon-Bon’s back. Hopefully, tomorrow we could apologize and make up and have everything be good again. All I wanted was for her to support me.

11. Round 2, Fight! (Octavia)

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I fumed and paced in our hotel room, occasionally glancing between Vinyl’s bed and Lyra and Bon-Bon’s. They thought it best that they stay with us tonight, to keep things from getting worse than they already were. Between a drunken Vinyl and an absolutely enraged me, I had to concede their point. I tried reminding myself that Vinyl wasn’t acting like herself and that a combination of hormones, alcohol, and possible mind-altering magic was behind it, while practicing the deep-breathing exercises my therapists had taught me – and for a few minutes, it would work. But then I’d look at Vinyl sleeping so soundly, and all that anger would come flooding back as I remembered what she almost did. What she was willing to do.

That wasn’t right though. I had been in a similar situation after Canterlot, and Vinyl hadn’t held that against me; she had been nothing but supportive when I told her what happened while I was under the influence of the changeling venom. Was this any different? Did I have a right to be angry with her for this? She clearly wasn’t herself but… There were two differences. The changeling venom was unknowingly ingested and wore off in a matter of days; Vinyl chose this for herself and seemed quite happy to spend the next decade enjoying her restored youth. Was that fact alone enough to damn her for her actions? More importantly, could we still make our relationship work?

We had to. The idea that we wouldn’t was almost inconceivable.

At that instant, I would’ve downed the potion in the hope that it could solve our relationship problem, but I soon remembered my condition and chastised myself for thinking like such a foal. That was what had gotten Vinyl into this mess; one moment of weakness, of doubt, and she had made a mistake that jeopardized our marriage. If I was going to follow her down that path, I was going to be methodical and meticulous. I’d have to make sure there was a way I could drink the potion without risking our filly’s health, be sure the potion didn’t have any effects beyond causing me to have the body and mentality of a teenager, and make sure I would still be able to keep my job even though my physical appearance had–

I shook my head. Such thoughts were patently ridiculous; I wasn’t about to cause myself to regress to a teenager just because Vinyl had, although… well, she did have a small point. It would be nice to be a teenager and actually enjoy myself in some way, as opposed to sequestering myself away from society. I glanced back at my wife and my anger sprang back up. If I had been the pony to consume the potion, I would have never considered… The two of us would have to have a reckoning once I was sober and I could think with a relatively clear head. I laid down on our couch and stared at the ceiling, working to take deep relaxing breaths as the filly inside of me decided to start kicking again. If anger rules me when I talk with Vinyl, nopony will benefit, I repeated to myself, as I felt my eyelids grow heavy.


Vinyl continued to avoid my gaze as our train headed back to Ponyville. After waking up and taking some aspirin, she had mumbled a few apologies about last night while I tried not to let my anger get the best of me. So far, I had succeeded in not yelling at her for acting like a horribly inconsiderate foal. I suppose not degenerating to her level is a small victory. Emphasis on small. “So…” Vinyl said, making a point of looking to her right at Lyra, who was sitting just right of me, “how did you find me?”

“Bon-Bon saw you take the train to Canterlot after you left me,” I said, doing everything in my power to keep my voice neutral. This wasn’t her, I repeated to myself, hoping that with enough repetitions it might become true.

“Yeah,” she said, rubbing the back of her head and staring at a very fascinating bit of carpet on the floor. “Look, I’m sorry for bailing on you, I was planning on coming back today though. It’s just… I wanted to have some fun, go back and get ponies talking about DJ-P0N3 again, do all the cool things I used to do when I was young, you know?”

I glared at her as I failed to keep myself from saying something regrettable. “No, as you pointed out Sunday night, I didn’t do anything fun when I was younger, so I suppose I don’t understand. Just like I don’t understand the compulsion to cheat on your wife with a mare half your age. Tell me, Vinyl, did you think about having an affair when you left for Canterlot or was that improvised?” At some point while I slept, my anger had shifted from something hot that could barely be contained to something cold sitting in the pit of my stomach that infected everything I did. Despite my better efforts, it seemed our reckoning would happen sooner rather than later.

“I said I was sorry this morning, didn’t I? I wasn’t even going to sleep with her, I mean, I wasn’t planning on it, and could you try not to raise your voice? This hangover is bad enough already,” she said, a spark of rage appearing in her eyes. “Besides, I wouldn’t have even been with her if you could have just supported me in the first place.”

“Lyra, Bon-Bon, I would recommend the two of you go to the train’s bar. Vinyl and I have some things we need to discuss, and I would prefer it if you were absent as we aired our dirty laundry.” The two of them nodded and snuck out of our car as I focused my attention back on Vinyl. “So it’s my fault you cheated on me then? My fault you went to Canterlot? You’re right, I didn’t support you earlier, and perhaps I should have, but since that time you have done nothing I would ever support. Perhaps if we had had a discussion like civilized adults, we could have reached an agreeable conclusion. Up until last night, I was willing to compromise with you on several issues for the sake of our relationship. Now though, I feel the need to just… Do you have any idea how completely idiotic and dangerous that was?”

“You keep saying I cheated on you, but I didn’t sleep with anypony. If we’re going to start counting kissing another pony as cheating, then I should’ve gotten pissed at you after your time with Turn Coat.” Two nights ago, that comment probably would have flattened me, but now I had steeled myself for such remarks. Vinyl might be fiery and passionate, but she would burn herself out quickly. I was steel, and like Bon-Bon said, I would endure until Vinyl finally saw sense.

“Those are two completely different situations and you know it, or did whatever mare you were walking home with last night dose you with changeling venom?” I said, keeping my voice controlled.

“Well, I mean, we drank a lot,” she said, after a pause, “That’s kind of similar right? You know, my judgment was impaired and I probably wouldn’t have kissed her if I hadn’t been drinking, so I figure… right? The point is we both made mistakes and I forgave you for yours. I’ll admit, I messed up, but it’s not like it was that big a deal.”

I laughed, unable to contain myself properly. “You chose to drink, Vinyl, you chose to keep drinking, and you chose to go home with a mare you had only known for a night. Ignoring the fact that you cheated on me for a second, do you have any idea how incredibly dangerous that is? We have a filly on the way, and even though you’re acting like a complete idiot right now and I am still incredibly unbelievably upset with you, I would prefer it if you were there to watch her grow up.”

“Really?” she asked, anger draining from her eyes. “I thought you would at least kick me out of the house for a while or… I don’t know, I figured you would be way more upset.”

“Oh, believe me, I’m more upset than I’ve ever been,” I said, although as I spoke I could feel the anger begin to leech from my body, “but right now my main focus is preserving our relationship with as little damage as possible. If you’re willing to work with me and keep your temper in check, I think we might be able to move past this. If not… well, I’m not ready to consider the possibility of ending our marriage yet. You were right when you said you had supported me through a great many hardships, and…” I sighed, taking in a deep breath and struggling to get the next words out of my mouth. “If you insist on staying a teenager, I will try to overlook my own feelings on the issue and be happy for you.”

She rolled her eyes at me. What is it about teenagers that makes them think that rolling their eyes is the height of wit? “Geeze Tavi, if you just said that Sunday night, we wouldn’t have had a fight. But hey, at least you finally figured that out.”

My eye twitched and I reminded myself that I loved my wife, and even though she was being a complete ass right now, shoving my hoof down her throat would be… inappropriate and detrimental to my main goal of keeping Vinyl from doing something either incredibly stupid or incredibly dangerous while Lyra worked on finding a way to reverse the spell. “I’m glad we worked that out,” I said instead. “However, for the next few days I would appreciate it if you slept in the nursery or on the couch, I’m still not comfortable with the idea sleeping with a teenager.”

I could see her frowning and I moved to cut her off before she could do something terribly idiotic that would reignite hostilities. “I understand you aren’t an actual teenager, you just look” – (and act, I thought) – “like one. All I’m asking for is a little time to think, and I promise that while I am thinking you will have my support. Does that sound agreeable to you?”

There was a long pause as she thought over my terms for what felt like an eternity. “I suppose,” she said reluctantly, as if the very idea of not getting exactly what she wanted pained her. “But this won’t last any longer than, like… a week, right?”

“It probably won’t last more than two days,” I said, smiling at her. “Once I’ve had time to clear my head and get some advice on the situation, I’m sure we will be back to sharing a bed. Just promise me there will be no more impromptu trips to Canterlot.”

“Alright,” she said. “If I go to Canterlot again, I will bring you with me, okay?”

“That wasn’t what I was asking, but I suppose I can at least live with that.” I closed my eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, expelling the cinders of my anger with it. “I want to work things out, and I think that as long as we are both trying, we should be fine.”

“Yeah,” she said, nodding her head and looking at me from her side of our room. “Hey, I know you still don’t want to sleep with me and stuff, but can I at least sit with you? I mean, I still miss you and stuff.”

I nodded at her. “That would be lovely, Vinyl, and I thank you for trying to be understanding.” She moved to sit right next to me while I spoke, and pressed her body against mine.

“Thanks,” she said, nuzzling my neck. Her head rested barely an inch lower than it normally did, but that small alteration transformed the gesture from familiar and soothing to something that felt strange and alien. More than anything else though, it was a reminder that whatever status quo we had established over the last five years had been completely annihilated, and if our relationship was to survive, we would have to rebuild it from the ground up. I closed my eyes, and focused on the new start of our new status quo as the train carried us back to Ponyville.

12. Home Again (Vinyl)

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I stared at the beige nursery walls. I’d wanted to paint it something a bit more colorful, but Tavi insisted that a simple color would be better because she thought “doing otherwise would create too strong a divide between our daughter’s room and the rest of the house.” It would have been totally cool if we’d made her crib look like one of my turntables, but whatever. I guess I let Tavi have that one since she was the one reading all of the books. Now that I was the pony being forced to (temporarily) sleep in the nursery, I wished I hadn’t given in so easily. This room would look way rad if we just spruced it up a bit, painted it an electric blue, put some music decals on the wall, and put in a few strobe lights. Instead, we made the whole room boring, just like the rest of the house.

The inflatable mattress Tavi had moved into the room squeaked as I rolled over on it, trying not to accidentally poke it with my horn. Why had I ever agreed to this? I really don’t see what the big deal about me being young again is, but I figured that if it helped Tavi calm down, I might as well go with it. I mean, the worst-case scenario was that I spend a couple of days staring at the nursery ceiling. I stretched and yawned, rolling out of bed to start my day, when I heard a pony knock on the door. “Can I come in, Vinyl?” Tavi asked.

“Sure thing,” I said as the door opened. I guess it was one of those questions where she didn’t really care about the answer just as long as she appeared polite. Or maybe she was still a bit pissed at me for running off to Canterlot, which I guess I can understand. I mean, if I was in her place, I would absolutely still be super pissed. In fact, it was kind of weird we weren’t still having a full-on fight, and Tavi had moved on to just being a bit cool with me.

Tavi calmly walked into my room, smiling as she did so. “Good morning, Vinyl. Did you sleep well last night?” She closed the door and sat next to me while I nodded.

“Yeah, the bed’s alright. I miss ours, but I promised I would give you a few days, and considering that you didn’t kick my flank the other night, I guess I owe you at least that,” I said, leaning against the crib.

She nodded at me. “Yes. You do. If not for the fact that we have a daughter on the way, our argument the other day would be greatly extended. Just promise to be on your best behavior, and I will try to meet you halfway.”

“Got it,” I said, frowning for a second. “What do you mean by ‘best behavior’ though?”

“I mean what we discussed yesterday. No more trips to Canterlot, no drinking with mares that aren’t Lyra or Bon-Bon, and I would appreciate it if you tried to contain your outbursts. If we are going to make this…” She sniffed. “Change of yours work, we must communicate with each other.”

“Alright,” I groaned, “but can we please do something fun? Like, I don’t even care what, just as long as it isn’t just staring at the ceiling.”

“Of course,” Tavi said, scooting next to me. “Once I get back today, I would be quite happy to have a meal with you. Until then, try to stay in either the nursery or your work room. Lyra will be by to visit you throughout the day, and if you need anything let Woodhoof know.”

“Wait,” I said, repeating her words in my head, “are you grounding me?”

Tavi shook her head. “Of course not. You are a grown mare, and I would never dream of treating you like you were a child. All I’m trying to do is keep you from doing something idiotic. If confining you upstairs is what I have to do to ensure that, then that’s what I’ll do. Now, try not to flee Ponyville today if you can help it.”

I groaned and rolled my eyes. “It kind of sounds like you are grounding me.”

“Call it what you will,” she said, getting up on her hooves and heading towards the door. “The important thing is I want to make sure you’re safe, and if that means making sure another pony is near you at all times, then that is what I have to do. I will be visiting your parents at our old house today, and will hopefully learn how they dealt with you as a teenager. Be good while I’m out.”

“We will still have our date tonight though, right?” I asked, feeling a bit of annoyance that she still didn’t trust me. Yes, I had made a few mistakes, but it didn’t mean she had to go around treating me like a child. I was a grown mare, appearance be damned. I tried not to groan as she headed out the door.

“Of course we will, I just want to ask for their insight.” She walked towards me and kissed my cheek while running a hoof through my mane. “I still love you, Vinyl Scratch, don’t doubt that – I’m just not sure how to deal with some of your outbursts right now.”

I frowned as my annoyance got tinted with guilt. So… yeah, on reflection, I had been completely rotten to her, but at the time it felt really right. I mean, why would I care about what another pony thought? Even if that other pony was my wife, my own wants trumped hers, and I still kind of felt like that, but I also felt terrible for hurting her. It’s… Maybe Tavi had a tiny point when she said my hormones were messing with my judgment. While I was totally right to get upset, I probably wouldn’t have had such a big reaction if I was my old self. Not that she was right about this being a bad idea, being young again was awesome, but she might have been right about me being a bit more impulsive than I normally was… I shook my head and found that the room was now empty. She must have walked out while I was thinking. Why did she have to keep making me doubt myself? Being young again was great, and I loved her, but even when she was supporting me she made me feel guilty somehow.

Somepony else knocked on the door. “Might I come in, Miss Scratch?” Woodhoof said.

“Sure,” I said, “I could use somepony to talk to.” The door creaked open and he trotted into the room.

“May I ask how you are doing this morning? You had a rather busy past couple of days, and you looked rather ill when you came in yesterday night.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I was really hungover yesterday. I was passed out for at least half of the train ride home.”

He shook his head at me and chuckled. “Ah, the follies of youth, something I don’t think I’ve experienced in quite some time. No, I was quite happy to trade that in for old age’s caution.”

“But isn’t it way duller?” I asked, wrinkling my forehead. “I mean, don’t you miss being young and feeling like you can take on the whole world?”

“Absolutely not,” he said, taking a seat on my mattress. “Oh, may I?” he asked, pointing a hoof at the seat.

“Sure,” I said, moving to the rocking chair we had set up in the nursery. “You can use this chair as well, if you want to.”

“Thank you,” he said as I positioned myself on the seat. It wasn’t comfortable exactly, but it was designed so ponies could hold their foal with two forelegs without falling on their face. “However, I feel far more comfortable if I have four hooves on the ground… or air as the case may be. Now to answer your question: no, I don’t miss feeling like I could take on the world, because age has granted me the knowledge that I don’t need to.”

“Well, I didn’t mean actually take on the world, I just meant–”

“I know what you meant,” he said, cutting me off for the first time since I’d met him “The point is that I prefer the surety of old age to what youth offered me.”

“Fair enough,” I said, wishing I could’ve gotten a few more hours of sleep in before I decided to get out of bed. “Hey, can I ask you a question?” He nodded. “Well, what’s up with Tavi? I can’t tell if she’s pissed at me or friendly. It’s like I really just don’t get her right now; she’s not doing what I’d do in her situation.”

“She’s concerned about you, Miss Scratch. While I suppose there might be some anger regarding your actions two nights ago, a concern for your well-being has been her primary motivation thus far.”

“But I’m fine,” I said, rocking back and forth in the chair. “Like, I feel better than ever, so what’s the big issue?”

Woodhoof sighed. “Miss Scratch, imagine you are in your wife’s shoes. She comes home one day behaving erratically, doing things you would have never imagined in a hundred years, and then claiming everything is fine. How would you react?”

“I guess I’d be worried too,” I said, suddenly feeling kind of bad for worrying her so much. “But why can’t she see that I’m fine?”

“Because, Miss Scratch, you haven’t been acting fine. As far as she can tell something is deeply, profoundly, wrong and it is in her nature to try and fix it. If you want her to believe you are well, then you should try acting like a mature adult as opposed to a petulant child, pardon my bluntness.”

“It’s fine,” I said. “I mean, I guess I haven’t made the last few days easy for Octavia – but it’s like, all the things I want seem so important, and then everything else is just kind of pointless.”

He laughed at that. “A very accurate summation of youth. Now, I know Octavia fears you will run off to Canterlot again if I let you downstairs, but something tells me that desire to run is currently rather diminished. What do you say we head downstairs and I fix up a bowl of soup for you to eat?” Woodhoof asked, getting back up on his hooves. “Professor Heartstrings will be visiting soon and it would be rude of me not to have something prepared.”

I nodded and got up to follow him downstairs, thinking on Octavia’s earlier words. She was still totally into me, and that meant that if I tried hard enough, this fight of ours would be over soon and we’d go back to sharing a bed.

13. Parental Bonding (Octavia)

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I trotted quickly (well, as quickly as I could) through the Ponyville Market and headed towards our old house. Unless I had horribly misread the situation, Vinyl and I were finally coming to something of an understanding. Unfortunately, that understanding involved me doing rather a lot of bending over backwards to please her while she just promised not to throw another one of her fits. If I was going to spend at least a few weeks dealing with her like this, I would need advice, and that meant going to the two ponies in Equestria who knew more about Vinyl than I did. I knocked on the door to our old house and waited for it to open.

“Oh, hello Octavia, what brings you here today?” a yellow unicorn stallion with an orange mane slowly going grey said. “And where is Vinyl?”

“She’s actually the reason for my visit, Mr. Fixit. You see, she did something rather… foalish a few days ago and has now regressed back to having both the body and mentality of a teenager.”

Fixit blinked at me and gestured for me to come inside, his sense of incredulity having burnt out shortly after our wedding. “I see, well then, come in. I suppose you have a few questions for us.”

“That would be an understatement,” I said as I walked into our old house, now owned by Vinyl’s parents.

“Can I get you something to eat or drink? Mattie is out shopping right now, so we’re a bit low on food.” Mattie, properly Matryoshka, was Vinyl’s mother; her parents hailed from Stalliongrad, but she had been born in Fillydelphia. “She’ll probably have a bit more to say on teenaged Vinyl than I do, since she did most of the raising while I was travelling for work, but what did you want to know? Also, just to make sure, this isn’t some joke Vinyl put you up to, is it?” he asked, looking like it was more out of habit than any belief that this was a joke.

“I’m fine, thank you, and no, it’s not a joke” I said taking a seat on their couch and giving a sigh. “I just want to know how you dealt with her. The last few days have been… trying.”

He nodded at me. “Yep, you’re definitely telling the truth because that’s the same look Mattie would have whenever I’d come back from one of my trips. Did she try running off to Canterlot already?”

I nodded. “A common occurrence with her, I take it?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe. She’d sneak off to Manehattan or Fillydelphia occasionally, but Canterlot was always her favorite place. She says it has the best nightlife.” Fixit shrugged at that. “We punished her of course, but whenever she got an itch to go to Canterlot, she’d go to Canterlot. When Vinyl was younger, it was hard to stop her from doing something she’d set her mind on.”

“I’ve noticed,” I said, laughing to myself as he took a seat on one of the seating cushions. “Sunday night we had a fight and she decided to just head to Canterlot. Monday night, I found her and dragged her back home. She’s been calmer since then.”

“Of course she has, I bet she had a big show in Canterlot, right?” Fixit said.

I nodded.

“See, the thing about Vinyl is… well, you already know she’s pretty temperamental. We were happy when you showed up and mellowed her out–”

“I really didn’t do that much for her, she did more to calm me down than I her.”

“Maybe,” he said before getting back on his hooves. “I’m going to have a coffee, you sure you don’t want some?”

“If you are offering, I suppose I will have a cup,” I said, hefting myself back up on my hooves to follow him.

“Tavi, sit down. You shouldn’t be on your hooves right now. I’m surprised the doctor hasn’t put you on bed rest.”

Giving a sigh, I carefully lowered myself back on the couch.“I’m glad he hasn’t; there has been far too much for me to do these last few days, and most of it has involved your daughter.”

“Well,” he said from the kitchen, “that’s all the more reason that you should rest now that Vinyl isn’t acting up. Now, how did we deal with Vinyl…” He muttered to himself for a few minutes as I heard the familiar sound of coffee pouring. “What worked best with her was open dialogue and reasonable punishments when she did something bad.”

“Like running away to Canterlot?” I asked as he walked back into the kitchen, two mugs of freshly poured coffee floating next to him.

“Sometimes,” he said as I grabbed a mug with my hooves. “After a year or two though we eventually reached a compromise. She’d let us know a few weeks in advance, save up enough bits for a hotel room, and make sure that her visit didn’t interfere with school. If she did all that, then everything would be fine. If she didn’t, then yes, we’d have to ground her for a few weeks.” He sighed. “Those were not fun weeks for us. If I was home, we would take shifts sleeping so one of us could keep an eye on Vinyl at all times. If not, well… I don’t really know what Mattie did then. Thankfully, Vinyl stopped trying to sneak out as much once we told her our deal and she got a part-time job at the record store.”

“So then what should I do?” I asked. “Just let her run off to Canterlot whenever she wants? Because when she ran away two days ago, she almost slept with another mare, so the idea of letting her do that again makes me rather uncomfortable.”

“That does put a wrinkle in things,” he said, nodding as he took a sip of his coffee while I found my mind turning back to how I could continue a relationship with a teenager. “Well, don’t give in to all of her demands, that won’t be good – but whenever we helped her with something that was important to her, she was usually pretty agreeable. You know, tit-for-tat.”

“So you’re suggesting I help her with… something, so she will stop acting up?”

“It worked for us,” he said. “Like I said, don’t give her everything she wants, but with Vinyl, it’s a give and take.” He furrowed his brow. “This sounds like we are terrible parents, doesn’t it?”

“Considering the pony you are talking to, no,” I said, smiling at my father-in-law. “Believe me when I say I’ve dealt with worse.”

“Oh yeah,” Fixit said, nodding his head. “Your parents… I guess they sat on the opposite end of the spectrum from us. Look, just… all I’m trying to say is that rewarding Vinyl for behaving worked a lot better than punishing her. Punishing her just made her act worse.”

“Positive reinforcement,” I said, recalling the term I had encountered several times in my parenting as I took another sip of coffee. I had originally dismissed it as “soft” parenting, but the arguments the writers laid out had slowly increased my opinion of it. “That’s what works best with Vinyl?”

“I think it works best with most ponies, but Vinyl is particularly resistant to attempted punishments, as she views any attempted punishment as a call to war, and she can be particularly stubborn when she sets her mind to it.”

“Believe me, I know,” I said, sighing. “Can I just… Would it be possible for me to vent my frustrations to you for a bit? The past few days have been trying, to say the least, and I don’t know what to do. The mare I loved has suddenly turned into a petulant child, and I can still see the Vinyl I know in there every now and then, but there is just so much in her I don’t recognize anymore.” I found myself wiping away a tear as I spoke.

Fixit nodded, content to let me continue venting. “She wants to continue our relationship, and a part of me does too. Is that wrong? Does it make me a bad pony for wanting to sleep with a mare who looks like a teenager? It’s not because she looks like a teenager though, it’s because she’s my wife, and even if she’s being a royal pain right now, I still want to be with her. Of course, the simplest thing would be if she could just go back to normal, but that’s not even a possibility until Lyra finishes her work on potion analysis, and so what am I supposed to do until then? Our entire relationship feels like it’s been thrown off balance, and I’m struggling to right it,” I finished, giving another massive sigh for good measure.

“Have lunch with us,” Fixit said after a pause before gesturing for me to come into the kitchen. “Mattie should be home any minute now, so we can have some sandwiches and talk things out. We can’t help you with your relationship problems beyond telling you to do what you feel is right, but we can certainly tell you more about Vinyl. Worst-case scenario, you can blackmail her into doing your bidding by threatening to make some of her baby photos public.”

“You just said punishment won’t work on teenaged Vinyl,” I said, following him before taking a seat at the table.

“True,” he said as he finished his coffee with a gulp and moved to the kitchen counter, “but all teenagers fear being humiliated. Of course, I’d still try to avoid resorting to blackmail unless you absolutely have to.”

“Agreed, blackmailing my wife into behaving seems like the type of thing prone to backfiring and leading to the terribly sad breakup bit in romances that are so terribly contrived. I’m glad my courtship with Vinyl lacked anything like that.”

Fixit just stared at me, blinking occasionally while I processed what I had said. “My apologies, I still have problems remembering that my life isn’t a story, despite constant reminders by Vinyl to the contrary.”

“Pie gene problems?” he asked, clearing the table as the front door opened.

“I suppose so. Strange that there is a genetic condition that makes a pony think of their life as a story. It reeks of narrative convenience…” I trailed off realizing what I had just said. “I mean, it seems rather implausible.”

The door to the house opened and Vinyl’s mother walked in, levitating several grocery bags behind her.“Oh, hello Octavia, what brings you here today?” Mattie said upon seeing me, her voice as upbeat as ever.

“Vinyl regressed to being a teenager and I’m trying to learn how best to deal with her,” I said, nodding my head at the white unicorn as she entered the kitchen. Her hair had gone grey faster than Fixit’s, and she seemed quite happy to keep it that way.

“That… sounds like quite the problem,” she said, taking a seat at the kitchen table next to me. “Well, we will be happy to tell you what we can, but first would you care for some lunch?” As she spoke, she floated her groceries to the kitchen counter. “We can talk while we eat. I have quite a few stories to tell you.”

The rest of the afternoon was filled with sandwiches and long conversations about Vinyl’s more… let’s call it “combative” phases. I’ll admit it wasn’t the best news I’d heard, but any information that helped me deal with Vinyl’s next fit was of immeasurable value. I sighed as I slowly walked home. Hopefully Vinyl hadn’t tried to escape again in my absence.

14. Date Night (Vinyl)

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“So anyways, I’m sorry for wishing that you signed that contract. Well, technically, I wished that you had signed the contract, which probably explains how it was pre-signed, but anyways. I kind of feel terrible about that,” Lyra said, taking a sip of her soup. She’d been visiting for the last few hours and just gotten around to admitting her role in the last few days.

“It’s fine,” I said, shrugging before lifting the soup bowl up to my lips and guzzling it down – it was good, why shouldn’t I guzzle it? I mean, no point wasting time taking little tiny baby sips. “Glad you did, because being young again is super awesome. In fact…” An idea entered my head involving the monkey’s paw, the potion, and Octavia. Probably shouldn’t go mentioning that to Lyra though. She would probably freak out about that. I shook my head. “Nevermind, just a dumb little thought. Can’t even figure out how to put it.”

“Really?” Lyra asked, raising an eyebrow. “‘Cause you’re normally pretty good about describing your emotions and stuff. I mean, not super, but it’s not like you have a hard time saying what you’re feeling. Also, you have something on your muzzle.”

“I know,” I said, wiping the soup off my muzzle with a napkin Woodhoof had provided. “You didn’t have to get on my case about it.” It was… her comments about me being a worse pony from a few days ago still bugged me. I mean, how could she say that to her best friend? I’m an awesome pony, no matter what I do… although I guess I could understand some of her point, my behavior was a bit more erratic before Tavi, but that was only because I was free to do whatever I wanted. With her, I had to ask what she wanted or risk her getting super pissed at me, which… neither of those sounded fun, even though, I mean, I still loved her, she was just really fussy. Maybe once I wished she drank the potion, she would be better.

“Hey, Lyra, how exactly does that monkey’s paw of yours work?” I asked, smiling at her and hoping her desire to talk about her latest interest would outweigh whatever caution she had.

“Well,” she said, practically beaming at the chance to talk about her work, “it follows the exact wording of your wish and really doesn’t care much about the spirit. If there is any loophole in it that it can exploit, it will, so you need to make sure your wishes are ironclad or already kind of bad from the start.”

“What do you mean by that ‘kind of bad’ thing?” I asked, feeling my forehead wrinkle.

“See, the monkey’s paw is one of Discord’s old toys, so it wants to create chaos, and if a wish gives it the chance to, it won’t really care about corrupting it too much. If it takes away from the total amount of harmony in Equestria, it’s happy, or as happy as an enchanted monkey’s paw can be. I haven’t really researched the level of intelligence behind it.”

“Cool,” I said nodding my head and not really listening to her anymore. Wishing that Tavi drank the potion would probably reduce the amount of harmony in Equestria, and assuming I slapped on a clause that our daughter wasn’t affected, well that should fix everypony’s problems. It would be a great gift for her really. I mean, her childhood was so crap, she could use a redo, and we could redo it together. And we could do it together. “Sounds fun.”

Lyra and Bon-Bon didn’t lock their doors most nights, so it would be pretty easy to sneak into their basement, grab the paw, make my wish, and sneak back out. The hard part would be getting there tonight without waking Tavi… or maybe it wouldn’t. I mean, if I slept in the nursery, then I could probably slip out in the middle of the night; and if I didn’t, then that would mean we had patched things up, and Tavi would probably be exhausted, making sneaking out only a bit more challenging. Either way, I was young and nimble while Tavi was… well, she was pretty young still, but definitely not nimble.

I smiled at Lyra and made some more small talk, swishing my tail impatiently and waiting for Tavi to get back.


“Terribly sorry for the delay Vinyl, I got roped into a rather lengthy conversation about all your youthful exploits while talking with your parents. They had quite a few tales to tell,” Tavi said as she walked back into our house. “Then of course, I had to make my way back home, and that took far longer than I would’ve liked.” She sighed and took a seat next to me. “Also, why are you downstairs? I distinctly remember telling you to stay upstairs.”

“Yeah,” I said, shrugging, “but Woodhoof figured it would be okay for me to stay down here under his supervision, and if you’ll notice he and Lyra are still supervising.” I pointed at the two ponies, both currently occupied with cleaning up the dishes.

Her eyes narrowed for a second before quickly going back to normal. “Well,” she said, trying hard not to show her frustration. If I wasn’t married to her, it might’ve worked, “I will defer to Woodhoof’s good judgment. Now, I promised us a date night before I left this morning, did I not?”

I nodded my head enthusiastically. “Any chance said date night ends with the two of us sharing a bed?” I raised an eyebrow at her, and she just smiled.

“That depends on a great multitude of circumstances, your good behavior being one of the more important ones. If I can clearly see you are the same Vinyl I married, I might consider it.”

“Well, I mean, I can go get my ID from upstairs,” I said, getting up on my hooves and grinning at her.. “If that’s all it will take, we can get that knocked out right now.”

“You know that’s not what I meant,” she said, her earlier smile evaporating. “You can say you are you all you want, but since you drank the potion, you haven’t been acting like the pony I married.”

I opened my mouth to say something dashingly witty and clever, but she cut me off. “No, you haven’t been acting like a better version of yourself either. You’ve been acting like a teenager, which I suppose is understandable since it’s what you turned yourself into. Show me you can be more than that and we can continue the romantic nature of our relationship. Does that sound agreeable?”

“Sure,” I said, shrugging. “I get that I’ve been… a bit off the last few days, but you know, I’ve been better today. Just ask Woodhoof or Lyra.”

Lyra nodded at that. “She really hasn’t done anything recklessly stupid. Well, not today at least. Or yesterday, unless we found her after midnight.”

“Thank you, Lyra,” Tavi said, grimacing as Lyra referenced Clubber Lane. I kind of found myself shocked that I had gone with her, I must’ve had… just… at least ten beers, I realized as I struggled to recall the night. Maybe that had compromised my judgment ever so slightly. Meanwhile, Clubber couldn’t have had more than three, which yeah, I guess that’s kind of not great sounding. If I didn’t know better, I would say she was trying to manipulate me, but then, she’d also said she wasn’t going to force me to do anything I didn’t want to do, and I didn’t really stop her, did I? Or even move to stop her. Instead, I was just– I shook my head. Wasn’t important, what was important was that I didn’t do anything too terrible and that I was back with Tavi, and that meant I could still make the most important relationship in my life work.

“Yeah, thanks,” I said, looking at Lyra. “It was real fun having you over today. Can’t believe you took a day off work just to visit me.”

“Well,” Lyra said as she put the last of the dishes up. “Tavi was pretty insistent that you have somepony to watch over you all day, and she didn’t want–”

“Yes, thank you, Lyra,” Tavi said, cutting her off. “You’ve been of such help the last few days, but don’t you have some other work you have to do? Work involving–”

“Potion analysis!” she said, running out towards door while Woodhoof headed towards his basement room. “Yes, thank you for reminding me Tavi. Twilight sent me her notes this morning and they are absolutely fascinating. I want to start poring over them as soon as possible.” She stopped at the door. “Oh! If I could get my hooves on a sample in the next few days, that would be really cool too. I could start seeing how it worked and… Anyways, I will see you all later. You should come over for dinner tomorrow, we would love to have you.” Before we could say anything else, she ran out the door, giggling excitedly about the notes.

“So, you have Lyra searching for a way to reverse the potion even though I told you I’m completely happy with my decision?” Well, mostly happy, but I didn’t want to give Tavi’s any more ammo she could use against me.

“I do,” Octavia said, maintaining eye contact as she spoke. “I’m not going to force you to take whatever cure we devise, but I would prefer to have the option available in case you change your mind. I was hoping I could be the pony to break the news to you, but it seems Lyra can’t keep a secret to save her life.”

“Yeah, she gets talkative when she gets excited and when that happens, she forgets there are things she shouldn’t talk about. It’s pretty much just pure stream of consciousness with her then,” I said, scooting closer to my wife.

“I’m well aware,” she said. “Merely wondering why I would ever think that mare could keep a secret for any length of time. I blame the stresses of the last few days.”

“Well,” I said, resting my head against her shoulder. “Let’s see about de-stressing you. What are our plans for dinner?”

Tavi frowned. “I had planned for us to go out to a nice restaurant, but the idea of being seen with a mare who looks like a teenager, even though I know most of the ponies in town will recognize us, is something I am still having trouble with. Would you be at all amenable to having one of our combined practices?”

“You mean jam sessions?” I asked, making sure. “Yeah, we can do that, but I’d enjoy it if we can do some boring talky stuff too.”

“Really?” Tavi said, raising an eyebrow. “I would have thought ‘boring talky stuff,’ or conversation as most ponies call it, would be anathema to you.”

“Yeah, well, you said you wanted to see that I’m still me, and I guess us talking about stuff would be a good way of showing that.” I frowned, actually feeling the tiniest bit of guilt for springing all this on Tavi without informing her. Then, considering what I had planned tonight, I might as well give her one last good day of boring stuff before she had a chance to relive her life without all the bad bits. Obviously, once she drank the potion, she would see why it was so awesome, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t make her happy now. Also, if I made her happy enough, I wouldn’t have to sleep in the nursery anymore.

“Besides,” I continued, “I know I haven’t really done much to make you happy with me the last few days, and I figure I should start trying to undo that. You’re right, I need to show you that underneath my sleeker, younger exterior, I’m still the same Vinyl Scratch.”

She smiled and leaned down to kiss my forehead. “That sentence alone goes a long way towards assuaging my doubts, Vinyl, now is there anything in particular you wish to discuss?”

“Not really,” I said, enjoying the lingering sensation her lips left upon my forehead. “I just, you know, want to talk with you. Don’t really care what it’s about.”

“Ah,” she said, draping a foreleg over my shoulders. “If you insist on leaving the onus of responsibility on me, then I’d like to talk about why you decided that drinking this potion was a good idea. What is so important to you about being young again? Please, speak freely, I just want to understand your decision-making process.”

“You sure this won’t end with you getting upset with me for something I already did?”

Tavi laughed. “Vinyl, after the past few days, I highly doubt there is anything you could do to particularly upset me.” I laughed with her while I thought of what I had planned for tonight. That bit of news might upset her. At least, it would until she realized how awesome my gift to her was, then we’d probably spend the next two days in bed celebrating.

“You know,” I said, trying to answer her question, “I always prided myself for being on the cutting edge of Equestria’s music scene. I was there, I was leading the charge, playing the hottest artists and making mixes of my own. That was me, that was who I wanted to be, and then you reminded me that I just wasn’t that mare anymore. I wasn’t on the front lines, and when I did perform, I played for ponies who probably wouldn’t know a song written in the last ten years if it was right in front of them. Then I realized the only active musician I really knew was Sweetie Belle, and she mostly just sings showtunes and covers songs that were out before my mom was born. At some point, I turned into a mare I didn’t recognize, and that terrifies me.”

My wife gave me her best reassuring smile and stroked my mane with one hoof. “Vinyl Scratch, I love you, but you can be a spectacular idiot at times.” I felt my hackles raise at that part and got ready to defend myself. “Next time you start worrying about such things, talk to me, and I will help you. There’s no need for you to take such drastic options.”

“Yeah,” I said, pressing my head against her warm fur as the tension drained from both of us, “maybe I was a bit impulsive, but it’s not at all terrible, is it?”

Tavi sighed loudly. “Now that our relationship is beginning to reach a new equilibrium, I suppose I’m not as opposed to the arrangement as I initially feared. Now if I can just find a way to quiet the voice in my head that is worried about what will happen to my reputation if I am seen with a teenager. In Ponyville it wouldn’t be too terrible, since everypony here knows us already, and a mare overdosing herself on a youth potion is hardly the strangest thing to ever happen in this town; but in Canterlot or Manehattan, or wherever we will do your shows… well, I’d rather not be ostracized by all of Equestria.”

I couldn’t help but laugh as I thought of my plan for later. “I’m sure you will find a solution.” I pressed my lips against the back of her neck, just above her collar. “And I’m happy we aren’t fighting anymore. You are way better than club ponies, although it wouldn’t hurt if you were a bit more fun.”

She scoffed. “I am plenty fun, Vinyl, I just don’t think fun involves going to an overpacked club and listening to music, unless I’m doing so to support my wife, in which case I am more than happy to go.” Tavi pulled me tight against her. “You were right about one thing, Vinyl; you are a wonderful DJ, and it would be a shame if the world lost that. I promise that no matter what happens, we will find a way to get you playing more.”

“You’re not just humoring me because we are married?” I asked as I felt a warmth coming from her. Ooh, if things kept going like this, we would be hopping into bed soon, and that would be pretty damned awesome. The best part about her being pregnant is that once she gets in the right mood, there is no saying ‘no’ to her, and that means the two of us spend the next few hours wrapped around each other in bed. To put a bit more fire in that engine, I moved in front of her and pressed our lips together. I felt her give a happy little moan as lust began to bubble up inside of me. “See,” I said as I pulled away from her, “I’m still the same Vinyl Scratch. The only difference is that I can keep up with you.”

“I… I shouldn’t,” she said slowly. “You still look like a teenager and what if… my haste permanently alters our relationship in a way I didn’t earlier expect.” She bit her lip, a pained look in her eye. “Having said that, you do seem remarkably like your old self, perhaps–”

I cut her off by running a hoof down her underside, sending a shiver up her spine. “We’re married. We love each other. Screw what other ponies think. I promise that even if I go back to normal, I won’t think any less of you for this. You trust me, right?”

She nodded slowly at me. “You have been acting rather like your old self. I suppose my earlier fears about you being a completely different pony were somewhat unfounded. You might be a bit more temperamental and volatile, but underneath all that, you’re still the pony I married, aren’t you?”

“‘Course,” I said, nodding my head and smiling at her as I pulled her up on her hooves. “Still the same awesome pony as before, although now I’m way younger, and you got to admit, I look better.”

She smiled and leaned in to nibble at my ear. “I’ve found myself admiring your flank more these past few days, and the curve on your neck...” Tavi drew me towards her violently. “You don’t know how often I’ve found myself wishing you were back to normal these past few days so I didn’t have to feel so guilty about wanting you, well that, and I wished you’d stop acting like a foal. But now…” Her breath was hot on my ear. “You’re right, you are still you. Still my wife, and I love you, and I want you more than I have ever wanted a pony in my life. To feel your tongue against–” A violent shiver ran up her spine and her eyes went unfocused.

Oh, she was so absolutely irresistably hot when her reserves finally cracked. I mean, she was beautiful the rest of the time, sure, but when that hungry need entered her eyes, I always felt my knees wobble a bit, eagerly awaiting the sensation of her tongue darting into my–

“Vinyl,” she said, staring at me with eyes that spoke of raw physical need. “What do you say we continue this conversation in our room?” She spoke as if it was a challenge to string words together properly, but somehow she managed, and I quickly nodded my head as we darted off upstairs to hopefully screw until we couldn’t stand anymore.


Several incredibly fun hours later, I had reached the conclusion that pregnancy hormones were almost as awesome as teenager hormones. If Tavi had to deal with both of those simultaneously, she might not be able to get out of bed, but that was a risk I was willing to take, I thought as I crept out of bed, careful not to disturb my sleeping wife. A glance at the clock revealed it was just past midnight. Lyra and Bon-Bon were probably asleep by now, assuming Bon-Bon had gotten Lyra back on to a decent sleep schedule.

Moving as silently as I could, I crept down the stairs of the quiet house before moving out into the city proper. Nopony was around to notice me, and I made my way to Lyra and Bon-Bon’s house unimpeded. There was the briefest pause at the doorstep as I debated my course of action. I was about to break into my friends’ house to use a cursed item to turn my wife into a teenager against her will. It sounded really bad on paper, but it was for Tavi’s own good. She needed a better adolescence, because the one she had was absolute crap. Yeah, it looked bad on paper, but I was doing the right thing, I reminded myself as I crept into their basement, careful not to awake anypony.

Once in the basement, I quickly found the monkey’s paw and floated it over to me. As soon as I had it firmly in my grip, the two curled-up fingers unfurled. I had to think; I didn’t want to poorly word my wish, and cause something bad to happen. I wanted her to drink the potion, and I wanted her to be happy, but if I added that last bit into the wish, it would probably backfire really easily. So I had to wish that Tavi drank the potion, but I also had to specify that our filly wouldn’t come to harm as a result of the wish. Beyond that… That seemed like it. I took a deep breath and made my wish.

15. Rude Awakening (Octavia)

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The sun was far too high in the sky for my liking when I woke up. Not only that, but – I wiggled my hoof, trying to figure out just why it seemed minutely shorter somehow – something felt strange. The sensation was utterly indescribable, and indescribably strange feelings were not something I wanted to feel when I was nine months pregnant. Moving carefully, hoping not to upset my filly, I rolled out of bed and finally saw the clock. It was almost two in the afternoon. I hadn’t slept in that late in years. I hadn’t slept past ten in the morning in years; not since my first few months in Ponyville, certainly.

I groaned as I slowly made my way to the bathroom to give myself a cursory examination in front of the mirror to look for any abnormalities. It probably wasn’t that important, I reassured myself. I would find that nothing was off, and I could go back to practicing my cello and spending time with Vinyl. At the very least, I felt clearer about that; I saw distractions for what they were, and the most important things in my life were my cello and Vinyl… and our daughter of course. Still, it was amazing how I had allowed myself to forget my priorities.

For instance, this whole thing with Vinyl that had weighed upon my mind so much the last few days, why had I ever let it perturb me so? Vinyl was still Vinyl and– Why was the mirror slightly higher than normal? Actually, everything seemed slightly taller than normal, or maybe… I dashed over to the nightstand and put on my collar and bowtie. They were too loose, a size too big. Unless the world had gotten slightly larger while I slept, I was smaller. My heart caught in my throat. This was… I couldn’t jump to conclusions, but considering the facts that there was almost certainly an age potion in the house, said age potion made Vinyl shrink in size when she regressed to being a teenager, and that I now appeared to be smaller, there was one glaringly obvious conclusion I was trying to discredit.

It was possible something else implausible happened. I didn’t know where the potion was, making it rather difficult for me to drink it. Also, my daughter seemed to be unaffected as she went about her busy day of kicking and squirming inside of me, again making me doubt that the age potion was in play.

But if not it, then what? Neither Lyra nor Vinyl knew any age reversal spells, and I highly doubt Lyra could have been persuaded to use one on me. That left the monkey’s paw as the only plausible candidate, although again, I have no idea why Lyra would meddle. I could conceivably see Vinyl using it, but after yesterday’s good behavior I didn’t think that likely. I yawned again and headed downstairs.

“Morning, Tavi,” Vinyl said, her voice calling to me from the kitchen. “What did you get out of bed last night for?”

I paused midway down the steps at her question. “As far as I can recall, I didn’t leave the bed last night. Well, I left to take a shower a bit before midnight, but you were still wide awake then,” I said, resuming my walk down the stairs. “After that, I slept through the night and the morning apparently. Although…” I didn’t look forward to delivering this bit of news. “Vinyl, I’m smaller this morning. I’m not sure if the potion was at play, but something about me feels off. I have more energy and I feel like I’m properly focused, so many things I thought were important yesterday now seem trivial.”

“Like what?” Vinyl asked, looking like something caught in her throat as I walked into the kitchen.

I smiled and kissed her cheek, feeling a flutter of excitement course up my body. Strange that such a small kiss now seemed so positively charged. The simple act of pressing my flesh against hers, something that had become a daily occurrence after years of marriage now had a new weight. I certainly wasn’t complaining, but it was an entirely different sensation, and it felt like we were having our first kiss again. Blood rushed to my cheeks and I giggled. “Don’t worry, Vinyl, you are the most important pony in my life. Also, you seem to be taking the news that I possibly regressed to being a teenager in good stride.”

“Well, you know,” she said, chuckling, “I was kind of hoping you would drink some of the potion anyways. I guess your subconscious agreed.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, giving her a look of confusion.

“You know, I was just guessing that since you got out of bed last night and didn’t recall it, that maybe you were sleepwalking and drank the potion,” she said before giving me another kiss and causing one of my back legs to almost buck out from under me. The kiss I felt like I was struck by lightning, frying whatever part of my brain was responsible for rational decision making.

“That… that seems reasonable,” I panted after she pulled away from me. I wrapped my forelegs around her to draw her back to me and recapture the electricity. If this was what Vinyl had to deal with, her previous behavior was almost understandable and – I smiled as the warmth of her chest was brought against mine and savored her scent – why wasn’t I worrying? All available evidence suggested I had become a teenager, and yet I was only faintly bothered by that news. Most of me was far too busy enjoying all the delightful sensations to care. “You know, I’m still tired, I think I’ll lie down for a bit, would you care to join me?”

“Sure,” Vinyl said as I led her upstairs, “but if you wanted to screw, you could just say ‘let’s screw.’”

“I was trying to be discreet, Vinyl. Even if the potion has turned me into a teenager, I won’t abandon all self-control,” I said, leading her into our bedroom and slamming the door shut.


Several hours later, Vinyl had fallen asleep, taking over most of the bed and pinning me under her legs. As carefully as I could, I extricated myself from her and moved to the study where my cello case was. With the chaos of the last few days, my practice had lapsed, a rather unfortunate fact that bothered me far more this afternoon than it did yesterday. Did my supposed regression have something to do with that?

I took a deep breath as I propped up my cello and took my position. As Grandmother Philharmonica, the pony I had named my cello after would say, an unordered mind led to an unordered life, and right now my mind felt particularly chaotic. It was time to clean house and make sure nothing had been lost by my unexpected transformation. The most pressing concern was that this was going to be a repeat of the changeling venom incident, but how to go about seeing if my values had been compromised from the incident while still inside my head?

I decided that a comparison would be the most effective way to determine whether my mind had been compromised.While under the effects of the changeling venom, my priorities had been shifted dramatically, and everything outside of serving Turn Coat was made completely irrelevant. That was not the case in this instance. The things that were important to me yesterday were important to me today. I could make a convincing argument that my inhibitions had been reduced substantially, but it was worth noting that I was still able to control myself until we reached our bedroom, and I still acted with some discretion and decorum, unlike my wife. More evidence that I was still me. Or at least, mostly me. The most out of character thing was that I was hardly as distressed as I should be.

Then again, why should I be distressed? As was already established, I was still fundamentally myself. Unlike Vinyl, I was still able to think rationally and not allow temperamentality to override my judgment, althoughVinyl had gotten better about that issue over the last few days. My cello playing also gave me the ability to calm and order my mind, something I doubted Vinyl’s DJing did.

With my clarity of mind established, I moved on to determining how pressing an issue my transformation was before deciding “not very.” I was me, I was younger, the uncomfortable age difference between Vinyl and me had vanished, and my filly was still fine. Beyond having to explain what happened to my friends, I was very hard pressed to find a problem. Satisfied that all possible issues had been resolved, I was free to let my mind meander and wander while my hooves went about their business. I made a mental note to find some more challenging pieces. My cello practice had suffered during the past few years, and it was time I remedied that.

Eventually, I heard Vinyl knock on the study door and smiled at her as she walked in. “Did you have a pleasant nap?” I asked, while continuing my practice.

“Yeah,” she said, grinning at me as she took a seat at our table, “I was pretty tired. Actually kind of surprised that you didn’t get some sleep.”

“Well, I had plenty of last sleep last night, and I needed to think. You know my thinking is best when I have a cello and bow in my hooves,” I said, giving her a quick smile of my own as I moved to a new piece to practice. “I need to process how I felt about becoming a teenager and the general madness of the last few days, and it turns out I am surprisingly fine with it.”

“Really?” she asked, unable to keep the enthusiasm out of her voice.

“Really.” I nodded at her. “As far as I can tell, I am still essentially myself, just a younger version thereof, which is good news for me, but raises some concerns about your actions over the last few days.”

“Like what?” my wife said, her hoof moving to rub the goggles that hung down from her neck.

“Like the fact that you seemed perfectly willing to abandon me and sleep with some mare you barely knew,” I said, feeling a pit of anger suddenly blossom in my stomach causing me to stop playing and glare at her.

“I was upset, you know, you pissed me off, I wasn’t thinking clearly, and I regret it. Like… I shouldn’t have done that, and you know I’m sorry.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that. What worries me is that if I am fundamentally unaltered after consuming the potion, then that would mean that that… betrayal was always lurking somewhere inside of you. Either that, or you are completely unable to control your impulses.”

Vinyl blinked and took a step back. “Really? That’s… yeah! I might be impulsive, but you know, you… are you really going to get upset with me over this? I thought we’d moved past that.”

“I’m not upset with you,” I said, trying to keep my voice calm and beat down my anger. “What I’m saying is that perhaps it might benefit you to work on your self-control. That’s all.”

“You said you liked my impulsiveness,” she said, the faintest note of pleading in her voice. Apparently my comments had upset her, and that was the furthest thing from my mind. Further evidence of her inability to control herself, I suppose.

“It’s endearing enough, and your impulsivity is one of the reasons I love you, but when it leads you to cheat on me, then it becomes something needing correcting.” My scowl softened. She was still my wife and I loved her. Ponies made mistakes and that brief look of pain on her face made me feel like a monumental ass. While my criticisms were still absolutely valid, I suppose I could let it slide this time. My mind filled with memories of our afternoon together, and my criticisms felt trivial as I felt myself become flushed. I smiled at her. “That’s… I’m sorry. You’re right, ponies make mistakes, I was just so convinced the potion had affected your judgment, that when I realized it hadn’t, I struggled to imagine what might lead the mare I’d married to flirt with some clubber in a Canterlot night club.”

Vinyl smiled at me and draped her foreleg over my shoulder, causing me to give a rather content sigh and rest my head against my shoulder. “You know, I think you had it right, the hormones did… well, they make me feel really strongly about things, and I guess it might’ve blindsided me Sunday. Good thing I have you here to keep me on a tight leash, right?”

“Indeed,” I said, trying not to let the mental image of Vinyl on a leash compromise my judgment. “Even as a teenager I possessed a degree of self-control most adults lacked. I suppose it came with needing to teach myself a skill and master it in the span of a few years.”

“Yeah,” she said, stroking my foreleg with the hoof she had draped over me. “Well, this time you can actually loosen up and have some fun, right?”

“I suppose a few off days wouldn’t kill me, but I’m sure you will want a mature, responsible adult to plan out the next month or so?”

“What’s going on?” she asked, furrowing her brow in confusion.

“Simple, since this whole ordeal was kicked off by your desire to get back to your DJing roots, I had the idea of arranging a few shows for you at some of Canterlot and Manehattan’s premier clubs. Of course, I might need your help in identifying their premier clubs.”

Vinyl laughed and drew me closer to her. “I can do that. You are just determined to make me feel awful for… you know.”

“Not at all,” I said, pushing myself up to my hooves and heading towards the study door. “I know you feel awful for it, I’m just trying to show that I can support you. Besides, I might like putting on a few recitals while I’m back in Canterlot.” I laughed and shook my head. “You and the cello, that’s really all I need. Funny how I could forget that.”

“So… you’re happy that you drank the potion?” she asked, as I opened the door. I looked back to see her glancing at the floor nervously.

“While I wish I knew the circumstances behind my drinking of the potion, I suppose it isn’t as bad as I suspected, especially since our daughter is fine. Though… you didn’t have anything to do with this, did you? I can’t imagine you dosing me with the potion while I slept; that would be reckless even for you.”

“Nope!” she said, giving me her biggest smile as she headed towards the door. “I was as surprised as you were about that this morning. Anyways, I’m kind of hungry. Let’s have some dinner, plan out this tour, and maybe finish by eating in bed.”

“You know I don’t like eating food in our bedroom,” I said, following her to the kitchen.

“Yeah, I know,” she said. There was a brief moment of confusion on my part before realization dawned, and I suddenly found myself absolutely starved.

16. Pets and Pests (Vinyl)

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“Hey,” I said while Tavi wrote letters to Canterlot’s nightclubs asking if I could do a gig at their place during the next month or so. “So, I have a crazy idea, but are you still worried about raising a filly?”

“Some,” she said said, brushing a few strands of her mane back behind her ear. “While dealing with you the last few days has certainly helped prepare me for our daughter’s teenaged years, I’m still worried about my ability to deal with a small child. The formative years are the most important, and I don’t want to permanently scar our daughter.”

“Yeah, well, you know what’s like a child but harder to mess up?” I asked as I looked through the mail that had just been delivered. Sorting mail was usually Tavi’s job, but since she was working to start my big comeback tour, I figured I might as well look through our mail for her. Tavi shook her head at me.

“A pet!” I said, smiling while I floated the junk mail directly to the trash can. “Think of it, it’s like a foal in that it’s weak and helpless and can’t live without you, but you can’t really do any psychological damage to it if you mess up. It’s a great way to get a bit of practice in before the actual delivery.” And I totally wasn’t just saying that because I wanted a pet. It was all because I wanted to stop Tavi from worrying even though she was obviously going to be a great mom.

She put the quill back in the inkwell and chewed her lower lip in thought. “Well,” she said eventually, “my two biggest reservations about owning a pet were that I could barely make ends meet for just myself and that I had no desire to take care of another living thing. Obviously, those two factors are no longer a concern, so…” She tapped her chin a few times. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt if we went to Miss Fluttershy’s cottage to inquire about her recommendations.”

“Cool,” I said, quickly jumping to her hooves. “Let’s get going, I bet she has all sorts of cool pets up for adoption like… I know she had a bear a few years ago, that would be cool.”

Tavi blinked at me, trying to hide her irritation. Ever since I had kind of wished her back into being a teenager, her ability to not look annoyed at things had gotten way worse. “First of all, Vinyl, we are not getting a bear, especially not when we have a foal on the way, and second of all, we aren’t leaving until I finish these letters and you finish sorting the mail.”

“Alright,” I mumbled before looking back through the mail. “Bill. Bill. Junk. Bill. Boring. Junk. Junk. Whoa! Who do we know from…” I stopped as I saw the sender was a Mr. Record Profit and Mrs. Landed Estate. “Tavi, you’ll never believe who I just got a letter from.”

“Celestia,” she said, not bothering to look up from the letter she was writing.

“Less plausible than that.”

“Then who?” she said. “I don’t particularly feel like playing a guessing game all day, especially if you want to go to Fluttershy’s cottage to look for a pet.”

“It’s… your parents sent me a letter.” Tavi froze at the words, ink blotting the page she was writing.

“Vinyl,” she said, giving me a forced smile, “that really isn’t a thing you should joke about. Especially not when you’re trying to get back into my good graces.” Tavi glanced down at the page and balled it up before grabbing another sheet of paper.

“I’m not joking,” I said, passing the letter to her. “See for yourself.”

Tavi grabbed the letter and looked down at it before snatching at the nearby letter opener, muttering to herself as she did so. “Unbelievable… I can’t… Why would they…” She scanned the page. “They’re coming to visit, Vinyl. They’re coming to visit and I’m nine months pregnant and look like a teenager.” Tavi got to her hooves and began pacing the room.

“What’s the big deal?” I asked. “Just write them back and tell them to go to hell. Not that big an issue. I thought you were pretty much done with them.”

“I know,” she said, “but they said they want to bury the hatchet and apologize for their actions. If… if they are telling the truth, shouldn’t I at least hear them out?”

“If you want,” I said, putting the rest of the mail away, and wondering just how boring the family drama stuff would be. Still, I was trying to be a good wife, and the fallout would probably be pretty fun to watch. Besides, when she gets upset with a pony that isn’t me, the sex is really great. Although, I mean, that wasn’t that big a deal since the sex had been really great the last few days. So, if Tavi met with her parents, she’d get some emotional resolution stuff, and I would probably get a night of really mind-blowing sex. Sounded like a win-win.

“I think you should do it,” I said. “Maybe you all can work things out, and if they’re serious about working things out, maybe our daughter should get to know her grandparents. Well, both sets of them.”

“You… You really think so?” she said, frowning for a second. “When we brought up the issue before, you were always dead set against them having anything to do with us.”

“Well, you know,” I said, laughing nervously, “maybe getting all younger has made me kinder and more generous.” Tavi just stared at me, she didn’t really have to say anything to point out what an obvious lie that was. “Okay, so maybe I also thought that this might lead to some really great emotional sex after you got through dealing with them.”

Tavi gave an exasperated sigh and thumped her head against our study table. “Of course, I should’ve known your reasons were something base. Ever since you… regressed, sex has been your motive for everything.” And ever since Tavi had regressed, she’d been acting snobbier than usual, which was kind of funny since was just as “base” as I was. She just liked putting on airs when we weren’t in the bedroom. Still, if she wanted to act all high and mighty outside, I could put up with it. In fact, it was kind of fun knowing how dirty she actually was whenever she tried to pretend she never felt… impulses.

“Vinyl,” Tavi said, “you’ve been staring at me for some time, and that look…” She rubbed one foreleg with the other and blushed before looking away. “If you could refrain from such looks while we are trying to have a serious conversation, I would greatly appreciate it. We can indulge such thoughts after the day’s events are taken care of.”

Oh, it was going to be so fun to drive her to distraction. I leaned over and kissed her neck, causing her blush to deepen. “Come on,” I whined, “you know that no matter what happens I will be there for you, and if your parents start being terrible, you can show ‘em the door. It’s not that big of an issue.” I smiled at her as a tingle crept up my body. “I bet I can take your mind off your parents.”

She gave a small laugh and pressed her head against my coat. “Something tells me you will.” Tavi glanced between the letters on the desk and me. “I think those last few letters will hold a while. I’m going to take a nap for a bit before we head to Miss Fluttershy’s, would you care to join me?”

“I don’t know,” I said, getting back up on my hooves to follow her, “I’m not that tired. Maybe you can nap and I will just spend some time in my work room. You know, burn off some of that energy. Or…” Tavi turned and glared at me. “Oh! Is this that being coy thing you do even when we’re in our home. If you want sex, just say ‘you want sex.’ I’d be happy to help you with that.”

Tavi harumphed as I followed her upstairs. “It’s called having a sense of tact and decorum, Vinyl. I know it’s something of a foreign concept to you.”

“You’re right,” I said, staring at her flank swishing back and forth as she walked up the stairs, “the concept is a bit fuzzy to me, so maybe you could help explain the concept to me. Do tact and decorum play a big role before or after the paddle?”

She turned to face me at the top of the stairs, blushing and scowling simultaneously. “That! That’s only for special occasions and… Why are we talking about this outside the bedroom? Woodhoof could overhear us.”

“I think he knows we have sex. I mean, I know we used magic to get you knocked up but–”

“Inside!” She said, cutting me off before her frown vanished. “I mean… if we can talk about this inside, I promise I will be grateful.”

“Like… paddle grateful? Ropes grateful?” I asked. She looked down and nodded.

“Very much so, I… I would just prefer it if we didn’t discuss things in public,” she said, pushing me towards the door and pushing her lips against mine. “Or… outside of the bedroom at all.”

“Yeah, what gives>” I said, opening the door with an elbow and pulling her in. “You’re usually okay about me being flirty. Now you’re all back into propriety and stuff. It’s like when we first met, but actually worse because now we are supposed to be doing fun sex stuff but you get all uptight about it and start banging the propriety drum. I mean–”

“It’s hard,” she said, cutting me off. “You understand. I’m trying to keep my judgment from being compromised, keep myself from giving in to my urges, but you make it difficult, flaunting your raw sexuality about while I am desperately trying to keep myself from losing all control. I’m pregnant, I’m a teenager again, and I’m now under a tremendous amount of stress thanks to the fact that my parents are visiting. Every single second there is an explosion going off in my head reminding me that I am married to the most beautiful mare in existence and it takes all of my willpower not to just pounce on you. So yes, I am falling back on the old shields of propriety, tact, and decorum to keep myself even moderately sane.”

There was a pause. I smiled at her and leaned in close. “So… what you’re saying is that if I lean in close and nibble on your ear like this in public, you’ll–” Tavi laughed and pushed me onto the bed.

She crawled up next to me and pressed her body against mine. “Yes, you’re very funny, Vinyl, now shut up.” I opened my mouth to say something but before I could, she had pressed her lips against mine. So, it turns out that wishing she drank the potion wasn’t a good idea. It was an awesome idea.

17. May the Best Pet Win (Octavia)

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My parents will be here in three days, I thought as we walked to Fluttershy’s cottage. I should be preparing, getting ready for our meeting and trying to figure out just what I wanted to say. Instead, I was humoring Vinyl and looking for a pet. Certainly, it would be a novel experience, as I had never owned a pet before or even seriously considered the option. They were nothing more than distractions, really, but if Vinyl wanted one, I could humor her. Besides, her argument that it could improve my parenting skills wasn’t completely without merit. I certainly needed all of the help I could get.

“You excited?” Vinyl asked as we continued our walk. “It’s been so long since I had a pet, I am totally looking forward to it. What should we get?”

“I don’t know,” I said shaking my head in an attempt to dispel the looming spectre of my parents’ visit. “If you will recall, I’ve never owned a pet before, so any advice or ideas I have are completely unfounded.”

“Cool,” Vinyl said, nodding her head. “That means I get to pick it out then.”

“As long as I have veto power, that sounds acceptable to me,” I said as I berated myself for not being able to walk faster. We were going to waste half the day walking to Fluttershy’s, and we’d already spent quite a bit of it in bed. The thought of those hours made me frown and blush at the same time. While it was certainly an enjoyable experience, the total lack of control on my part was unacceptable. I had to control myself or risk falling to Vinyl’s level. I am Octavia Melody. I will control my actions, I reminded myself. There was certainly nothing wrong with enjoying my more intimate time with Vinyl, but my inability to resist my baser impulses was problematic. I was not a simple beast, and it wouldn’t do to go around acting like one. At the very least, I could control myself in public.

“Yeah, sure,” she said as the cottage came into sight. I scanned the area to make sure Discord, spirit of chaos and a close friend of Fluttershy, wasn’t nearby and was greatly relieved to find that he wasn’t. Even though it had been five years since our last meeting, I was not particularly eager for another. After Nightmare Night had almost caused me to lose my mind, the thought of spending more time with him wasn’t… It would be better if I didn’t see him on this trip.

“Fluttershy!” Vinyl yelled as she knocked on the cottage door. “Do you have any pets up for adoption?” There was a long pause as we waited for a response, and after a moment the door unbolted and opened a crack. A teal-blue eye looked out at us from the crack.

“Hello?” Fluttershy asked tentatively as the one visible eye looked between Vinyl and myself. “Oh, Vinyl, Octavia, what brings you– Why do you look so young?”

“It’s a very long story that doesn’t make that much sense, but the short version involves a magic potion Vinyl bought and decided to drink for reasons I cannot begin to fathom,” I said before Vinyl had a chance to give her version of events.

“Oh, alright,” she said, her eye looking down at the ground before darting back up towards us. “Did I hear you correctly when you said you wanted a pet?”

Vinyl nodded and I felt the urge to qualify her agreement. “We wish to look at your pets, and if we find one we both like then we will gladly welcome it into our home.” As I spoke, the door to the house flew open and Fluttershy walked out, positively beaming at us while I heard music come in from somewhere. She led us to her backyard as the music grew louder and she started to sing.

Now Vinyl my dear, I cannot express my delight.
It’s abundantly clear that somewhere out here
is a pet that will suit you just right.

Why didn’t she speak to me? Also, why was she singing? I opened my mouth to try to put an end to the song, but Vinyl cut me off.

I can’t wait to get started, but first let me set a few rules
it’s of utmost importance the pet that we get

“Hold it!” I said, interrupting her and causing the music to come to a halt. “Can we please do this without a musical number? I’m under quite a bit of stress, and would prefer it if we could get this done without having to sing my way through this.”

“Oh, were we singing?” Vinyl asked, her forehead wrinkling. “I mean, I knew we were talking, and I guess our conversation was kind of lyrical, but I didn’t know we had actually broken out into song.” My wife turned to face Fluttershy. “She has this Pie gene thingy that makes her… I don’t know, I guess it makes her notice more when singing starts and some other stuff.”

Fluttershy smiled politely and nodded her head. “Oh, I am very familiar with the Pie gene,” she said, careful to emphasize the word “Pie.” “Now then, do you have any ideas about what you might like?”

“Do you have a snake?” Vinyl asked scanning the menagerie that surrounded us. Fluttershy nodded.

“No snakes,” I said. “I will veto any idea that involves a snake on general principle. They are scaly, dangerous, have no legs, and utterly terrify me.”

“Fine,” Vinyl said, tapping her chin with a hoof. “What about a turtle?”

“I’m sorry,” Fluttershy said, frowning, “I haven’t had a tortoise or turtle who needed a home in years.”

“Alright,” Vinyl said, putting her thinking face back on. “Any chance you have an alligator or–”

“We have a filly on the way!” I yelled, cutting her off. “Why in Equestria would you think a deadly predator and our daughter would be an at all good combination?”

“Well, see, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that we had a daughter on the way,” she said, grinning sheepishly and looking at the ground. “Was mostly just focusing on how cool it would be. I mean, Pinkie’s gator is getting really big now, and when she takes it for a walk it’s like the coolest thing ever.”

“Perhaps we should stay away from reptiles,” I said nodding my head at Fluttershy. “What else do you have?”

The music suddenly sprang back to life as Fluttershy sang.

I have falcons and eagles,
they are both quite regal,
or perhaps what you need is a dark and mysterious

“You’re singing again,” I said to Fluttershy, rolling my eyes. Apparently, even I wasn’t exempt from the fact that all teenagers love to roll their eyes. I was just more aware of it.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, blushing and looking down at the ground. “I didn’t mean to.”

“Hey, it’s no big deal,” Vinyl said, moving to press her flank against mine and stroke my mane. “Tavi’s just a bit grumpy today because we had to leave the bed.”

My expression matched Fluttershy’s as I turned to look down and find the ground suddenly fascinating. I very much wanted to be upset with Vinyl for her brazenness, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be upset with her for touching me. No, I was quite happy with it, and that was the problem. Here I was, in public, enjoying my wife’s touch while a friend looked on. That was bad enough, but instead of properly keeping my composure, I found myself adjusting my weight slightly to lean into her touch and draw closer to her.

I couldn’t be mad at my wife, so I settled for at least being properly embarrassed and quickly drew away from her warm touch. “I am… I’m sorry,” I said, barely able to meet Fluttershy’s eyes, something made much harder by the fact she was looking at the ground as well. “I am rather stressed about my parents’ impending visit, and I shouldn’t have taken my frustration out on you. If you wish to sing, go ahead.”

“It’s fine,” Fluttershy said, giving me a tiny smile. “Everypony gets stressed at times, and if you don’t want me to sing, I won’t. I don’t really know when I’m doing it, anyways. It just kind of happens.”

“I’m well aware of that fact,” I said, lifting my head up high in an attempt to regain my dignity. It didn’t work and I still felt utterly mortified. “Anyways, shall we look at what pets you have that wouldn’t endanger our filly?”

“Of course,” she said, flapping her wings and fluttering over to a group of squirrels, mice, and guinea pigs. “These little babies are perfect for any filly, they’re small and easy to care for.”

Vinyl gave an exaggerated yawn. “Something cooler please? You know, maybe something I wouldn’t accidentally crush underhoof when I woke up with a hangover?”

“Oh dear,” Fluttershy squeaked.

“I have to agree with my wife on that,” I said. “Not the part about the hangover, but the general sentiment. I would prefer it if my first pet wasn’t a rodent. Is there any chance you have a dog or cat? They seem like the ideal starter pets.”

“Wow,” Vinyl said, trying not to laugh as I noticed how uncomfortably close she was standing to me, causing my heartbeat to quicken. I took a deep breath and steadied myself, I had to control myself. “You picked the two pets even more boring than rats.”

“They aren’t boring, they are just common,” I said, frowning. “I know I said I didn’t care what type of pet we got, but when I said that, I was thinking it would be either a dog or a cat. I apologize for being somewhat misleading.” Vinyl unintentionally brushed against me as she moved to look at some of the other pets, and I felt my whole body get warm. Why couldn’t I keep myself composed?

Fluttershy just whistled, and we were soon mobbed by a swarm of dogs, each barking happily at us and wagging their tails. I found myself taking a step away from their overwhelming enthusiasm while my wife happily played with them. Maybe a dog wasn’t for me, I thought looking around for a pet that was slightly more manageable before seeing a flash of black peeking out and vanishing behind the chicken coop. I trotted to investigate while Vinyl continued to tell every dog there that they were a good boy.

Behind the coop, a black cat with white spots looked at me, its body pressed against the ground as if it were trying to make itself invisible, a feeling I was quite familiar with. “And what’s your name?” I asked the cat.


“A fine name,” I said, sitting next to the cat. For whatever reason it didn’t run from my presence and even allowed me to stroke its ear and back. “I am Octavia Melody, though I suspect you’ll just end up calling me Tavi. Almost everypony does.”


Yes, I am aware that talking to a cat is utterly insane, but I felt the need for a companion, and a creature incapable of talking made for an ideal partner. “Likewise. You know, you’re not a bad little cat. If I wasn’t so certain that Vinyl would pick one of those brute dogs to be our pet, I’d be amenable to taking you home with us. Of course, my wife can be very hardheaded when she wants to, and lately I’ve had a hard time saying no to her. All it takes is one kiss and my ability to think rationally completely evaporates. Honestly, just the thought of her is enough to drive me to distraction.”

This time, the cat just stared at me.

“You’re right, that was rather too much information to tell a new acquaintance, wasn’t it? I apologize, but like I said, I’ve been needing a confidant, and you fit the bill,” I laughed. “First I have to deal with months of pregnancy, then Vinyl turns into a teenager, and then, due to reasons not entirely clear to me, I transform as well. You understand some of my frustration I hope?”

The cat nodded and I looked around the area. “You’re the only cat here, aren’t you?”


“I can sympathize. When I first came to this town, I felt like I was the only sane mare around for miles. The town responded by driving me mad, and now I’m talking to a cat. I suppose the sensation is similar to being the only cat in a yard filled with dogs,” I said, the cat purring as I stroked it. On the topic of dogs, Vinyl came bounding back behind the chicken coop, a brown shaggy beast of a dog as large as she was keeping pace.

“Check it out, Tavi, this is Brutus, isn’t he just the best?” she asked while Brutus panted, apparently either quite content or just hot. Considering his thick coat, the latter seemed more likely.. My new confidant moved to hide behind me at the sight of the thing and I felt myself inclined to do the same.

“Vinyl, he’s as large as you are,” I said, eyeing the dog nervously, unable to see its eyes as they were hidden by his fur.

“Yeah, but Fluttershy says he still has a bit of growing to do. I bet he will be able to carry us around by the time he finishes.” Because that’s what the dog needed, to be even bigger. “So, what do you think, can we keep him?” She looked at me with such eagerness and yearning, I found myself struggling to say no to her.

“Oh, I didn’t mean to disturb you,” Fluttershy said, causing me to pull away instantly as my joy collided with a wall of shame. My cheeks were positively burning as I struggled to look at the demure yellow pegasus, “I was just wondering if you’d found any pets you might like.”

“Yep!” Vinyl said. “Brutus is the best, and apparently, Tavi found a cat she likes, as well. Totally pegged her as a cat pony.”

“Indeed,” I said. “Would it be possible for us to take two pets?”

“Of course,” Fluttershy said. “I’m so glad Portia finally found a pony she likes. I will be over later today with some basic care items for you.” She smiled at us. “I’m sure you two will take great care of them.”

Fluttershy headed off towards her cottage, and I turned to look at my new companion. “What do you say, Portia, should we head home?”


18. Family Reunion, Take 2 (Vinyl)

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“How is it… how is it still hungry?” Tavi asked, pointing a hoof at Brutus who was tearing through the kibble Fluttershy had given us. “I swear, the thing has consumed its own body weight in food, and it shows no signs of stopping.”

“Brutus has a name,” I said, glaring at her, “and I don’t know how it’s still hungry. Probably has something to do with the fact that he’s still a growing boy. Yes, you are. Yes, you are.” I scratched the top of his head as best I could, causing his tail to wag with the force of a small filly.

“I swear he’s going to eat us out of our house.” Tavi took a seat at the kitchen table as Portia hopped up to join her. “He’s the size of a pony and eats four times as much.”

“Good thing his food is so cheap then, right?” I said, smiling at Tavi while she absent-mindedly stroked Portia.

“Yes, I suppose that is a positive,” Tavi said, sighing into her coffee. She had been a bit out of it the last few days, but I guess that’s kind of understandable considering her parents were coming to visit in – I looked at the clock – four hours. Actually, it was kind of amazing she was holding it together this much.

“Still worried about your parents visiting?” I asked.

She nodded at me. “Of course I am, there’s a giant timer in my head counting down the minutes until they knock on the door, and I don’t know what I’m going to say to them. ‘Hello Mother and Father. How have you been since I last tried to cut you out of my life, stole your butler, and how could I forget, had the Apple clan declare financial war on you? Good? I’m glad to hear that. Why yes, I have regressed to a teenager, I’m surprised you noticed since you kicked me out of the house and disowned me before I hit puberty.’” She used her best high class voice for her imaginary conversation. In all honesty, it wasn’t that different from her regular voice. Maybe a touch nasalier, I guess.

“Well, you know, maybe they were visited by the ghosts of parenting past and learned their lesson,” I said, moving to sit next to her while Brutus continued to attack his food bowl with the efficiency of a military machine.

Tavi pinched the bridge of her nose. “If that was a reference to ‘A Hearth’s Warming Carol’, I think it was the ghost of Hearth’s Warming Future that caused Scrooge to change his ways. An argument could be made that it was their combined efforts, but in either case, I highly doubt the scenario you’ve concocted is that likely. Of course, stranger things have happened.”

“Alright,” I said, narrowing my eyes at her while Portia moved to rub against one of my legs. That cat must be touchier than I am, and when it comes to Tavi, I am pretty touchy. “So, you got my reference, was there any reason you had to be so… exact?”

“Beyond my general desire to be precise? I suppose I might be distracting myself with pedantry to avoid the looming fact that my parents are visiting in four hours.” I took a closer look at her. Her back was completely stiff, and her pupils were beginning to shrink. If she didn’t de-stress soon, her meeting with her parents might go bad… well, even worse than it was already going to. I walked over and kissed her cheek while caressing her back.

“Come on, Tavi,” I said before kissing her neck. When I pulled away, her cheeks had gone red and she was suddenly having a hard time making eye contact. I don’t know what it was about the last few days, but she had gotten way more bashful when it came to sex. Like, it was kind of funny how uptight it made her and how much she enjoyed it. It was like a contradiction or something. “You’ve still got a few hours left and I think you need to relax a bit. Lucky for you, Doctor Scratch knows just the trick.”

She nodded her head as I pulled her back towards the stairs, a familiar hunger entering her eyes. Turning Tavi into a teenager was totally one of the best ideas I’d ever had. In fact, as she turned and pushed me back into our room, I was having a hard time thinking of a better one.


A few hours later, we were sitting in the study watching the clock tick. Woodhoof was waiting at the door to greet them, as Tavi insisted that protocol had to be observed for this meeting. At exactly 4:00, the doorbells chimed and we heard the sound of hoofsteps in the living room and a brief conversation outside our door before Woodhoof entered, Tavi’s parents behind him. Her mother looked basically unchanged, her coat still a few shades darker than Tavi’s, although her mane was much simpler this meeting. Her father was apparently a light-red earth pony with his mane a shade of yellow, and he wore a black hat.

“I would like to announce the arrival of Mr. Record Profit and Lady Landed Estate,” Woodhoof said as they entered our room. I took a closer look at Record Profit. His cutie mark was a golden record that matched his mane.

“Good afternoon, Mother, Father,” Tavi said, giving her parents a brief nod. “What brings you all the way out to Ponyville?”

Her mother laughed. “Octavia darling, must you assume we have our reasons? Perhaps we just wanted to see our daughter and… are you pregnant?”

Tavi nodded at her again. “I don’t know which surprises me more, that you noticed or that you didn’t know before you came here.”

Record Profit took the hat off his head and brought it over his chest before bowing his head at her. “Listen, Octavia, I know we’ve had our differences in the past, and we can understand your hostility towards us to a degree, although I would argue that our parenting made you the strong independent mare you are today.” Octavia scoffed at that. “Whatever the case may be, we came here to try to end the hostilities between us. You see–”

“We’re in danger of losing the familial estate,” Estate said, cutting him off. “After you had the Apple family declare war on us, all our sources of profit have been cut off. Your father lost his job and all of our investments either underperformed or went completely bankrupt. We’ve been living off of our savings for the past few years, but we’ve been taking out more than interest is earning us and we can’t keep it up forever.”

“That’s why we came to you,” Record said as his wife finished speaking. “You… well, you’re the only pony we can turn to for support. We know you loved Monticello as a filly, and so… we were hoping you could help us keep it. At the very least, it shouldn’t pass out of our family’s hooves.”

Tavi sat there, staring for several minutes as she processed the news. “That’s why you came here,” she finally said. “After all these years, you didn’t come here to apologize or beg forgiveness, you came here because you needed my help.” She frowned and I could see the doubt in her eyes.

“Yes,” Record said, nodding his head. “I still believe that our… treatment of you made you strong, that everything we did worked for your betterment, but I can also understand why there might be some hostilities between us.”

“You should count yourself lucky though,” Estate said, earning a glare from both Tavi and Record. “Most ponies fail to achieve the heights you’ve reached, and if not for our prompting, you might very well have turned into one of those ponies who leeches off the greatness of others, like your–” She turned to look at me just as Record drove a foreleg into his wife’s side.

“What your mother means is that there are so many weak ponies in Equestria today. Ponies who were coddled as a foal and because of that never amounted to anything, who never achieved anything near the heights you reached,” Record said, making a point not to look at me as he did so. “We wanted you to avoid that fate, and so yes, we were harsh, we were demanding, but we only wanted to make you strong.”

“I see,” Tavi said, slowly nodding her head. “Are you familiar with Princess Twilight Sparkle?” They both nodded at that. “I would say I talk with her once a month as we discuss various literary topics; she is quite an enthusiast when it comes to books.” Tavi half-smiled at whatever memory was running through her head. “So it’s only natural I learned a bit about her, and what I found most interesting were the stories she told me about her parents. You see, like you, they were rather wealthy ponies distantly connected to the nobility – but unlike you, they actually supported their daughter. They allowed her to pursue her own interests without reprisal, and she wound up saving Equestria multiple times and ascending to the highest office in the land.”

Nopony talked for a moment as Tavi stared at her parents. When she spoke again there was a barely restrained fury in her voice. “Do you see the moral of this little story? If not, I will be happy to spell it out for you. You were wrong. You were completely and utterly wrong. You didn’t make me ‘strong’, you didn’t drive me to succeed, my own ambition did that. All your parenting ‘style’ accomplished was to make me miserable.”

“I admit you have a point,” Record said. “In business, you need to know when you’ve lost, and I will admit now that we did. You win, we’ve lost everything, and I come to you today to humble myself before you. Whatever fee you wish to extract from us is yours, and all we ask is that you let the house stay in the family.”

“Yes, I couldn’t stand it if the house our ancient lineage built was lost to us because of our pride,” Estate said, adding her agreement before looking at me. “Even if it means allowing a pony of common birth to call our house home.”

“Father was of common birth,” Octavia said, glaring at her mother.

“Well, yes, but he actually made something of himself, he didn’t leech off of our good na–”

Tavi raised a hoof and silenced her. “As of now, I am considering helping you and am currently thinking of my terms. If you make one more remark disparaging my wife’s breeding, any such considerations will cease and I won’t raise a hoof as the house I grew up in is utterly demolished.”

Tavi’s parent’s faces drained of blood and Record looked at his wife. “I know how strongly you feel about the issue of breeding, but Octavia has done well for herself, and if a commoner makes her happy, she should do what she likes. Besides, we really aren’t in any position to make demands.”

“Indeed you aren’t,” Tavi said, looking at her parents, “and if you’re ready to listen, I have my terms.” They both nodded and she smiled. “Good, now I think my conditions are reasonable, but if you disagree, you are free to walk away. You will transfer Monticello to my name and declare me the head of the family. Obviously, that will mean recanting your previous disowning of me, but I’m sure you planned on doing at least that much.”

Record nodded. “We brought all the papers for that, as well as your papers of inheritance. It will take a few days to draw up the paper to declare you head of the Estate family and transfer the house to your name, but both of those items are agreeable to us.”

“Good,” Octavia said. “In exchange, you will be permitted to stay at Monticello for the rest of your lives. I will see about ending the Apples’ attacks on you. As owner of Monticello, I will take care of all expenses it incurs and ensure that we have no cause to sell it. I will also be able to stay at the house any time I wish and make whatever alterations to it I deem necessary. Those are my conditions related to the house. However, I have one condition that is more personal.”

“Of course,” Record said, “so far you’ve been far more generous than we were expecting.” So… that was generous for them? I mean, I already knew that Tavi’s childhood was pretty harsh. But if that’s what their version of generous was, then… geeze, what did they consider harsh?

“It’s a small thing,” Tavi said, “and I highly doubt you will care as it doesn’t involve finances or restitution, but I will be giving birth to a daughter soon, and I wanted to dictate your involvement in her life as you are still her grandparents. If you wish to have nothing to do with her, that is fine, but if you wish to play a role in her development, it will be with either Vinyl or myself supervising your interactions. I will not let you do to her what you did to me, but I believe you should at least be given a chance to redeem yourselves.”

“Alright,” they both said, trading glances with each other.

“Is that all?” Record asked.

Tavi nodded. “It is. I will go find our lawyer and ask him to draw up the papers. I don’t imagine it should take more than two days, and after that we can head to Manehattan.”

“You are going back with us?” Estate asked. “I had assumed that you had so much to do in Ponyville it would be at least a few weeks before you could get your affairs sorted out.”

“I’m on maternity leave, Vinyl wants to do a few shows in Manehattan, and I want to assess the house. Right now, there’s nothing keeping me in Ponyville and three very good reasons why I should visit Manehattan. Of course, I will have to speak with the Apples first, but I’ve managed to maintain a good relationship with my distant family.” She smiled at them. “Now, Woodhoof is waiting in the living room to show you to our guest room. Dinner will be served around 6:00, and we can speak more then. For now, I need to confer with my wife.” They nodded at her and headed towards the door where Woodhoof was waiting for them. As soon as the door closed, Tavi let out a giant sigh and thunked her head against the table.

“Did I just allow my parents to stay at our house for the rest of their visit?” she asked.

“Yep,” I said, scooting closer to her. “Also, that was way cool how you were totally willing to give up your old home just because your mom insulted me.”

“It was nothing,” she said, tilting her head to look up at me. “I’ve lived for years without the house, but living without you is something I’d go to great lengths to avoid, even when you’re being an utter pain.” For a second, her words made me feel guilty about lying to her and turning her into a teenager. Then I reminded myself it was all for her own good… the exact same words Tavi’s parents used to justify their actions. The guilt returned stronger than ever.

“So… I hate to be a giant buzzkill, but how in Equestria are we going to afford paying taxes on that huge-ass house of yours? I mean, I’m all for living in a giant mansion, but we aren’t exactly rolling in bits.”

Tavi smiled at me. “I’m going to write Luna a note suggesting she turn the east wing of my house into a local music school and request she exempt it from taxes. That wing hasn’t been used in a century and it would be nice to actually do something with it.”

“Won’t your parents be pissed at you for allowing filthy commoners like me access to their precious house?” I asked, laughing and leaning against her, enjoying the heat coming from her body.

“Quite possibly, but our terms stated that I can make whatever changes to the house I see fit. As long as the house stays in my name, I’m fulfilling the terms of our agreement. Just… not in the way they imagined.”

“Wow,” I said nodding my head, “So basically, you get a giant mansion upkeep free in exchange for turning over… how big is the east wing?”

“The house has four wings, the grand foyer, and a rather large garden.,” Tavi said, “so that would make the east wing less than a quarter of the house total. We’d still have the master wing, the servant’s wing, and the west wing to ourselves. I’ll have to speak to some contractors to make the necessary changes to the east wing, but I see no reason why our house can’t host a small music academy while allowing us to live comfortably.”

“If you set that school up, that will mean we have to spend a lot of time there though, right?”

She nodded. “I’m afraid so. I hope being away from Ponyville that long won’t be a problem for you.”

I shook my head. “Nah, should be fine. I mean, I want to do some more shows anyways, and Manehattan is a great place to do just that. It’s not like we will be selling our Ponyville house, right?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Tavi said. “Even if we might have to spend more time in Manehattan, Ponyville will always hold a special place in my heart.” She smiled and leaned in to kiss me. “After all, it’s where I first met you.”

It was such a soppy romantic thing to say, but it still made my heart pound in my chest. I could hardly help myself as I returned the kiss, slipping my tongue into her mouth as she did the same. I don’t know who pulled who down to the ground, but I do know that an hour later, both of us were staring at the ceiling, panting and out of breath, neither of us feeling the need to say anything, while I tried to think of what I’d need to get done before we headed back to Manehattan.

19. Apple Family Values (Octavia)

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I stood in a barn, surrounded by several ponies in dark robes. The one in the center was attempting to cover her cowpony hat with a black hood. “The Council of Apples has convened ta listen to Octavia’s…” The pony who was obviously Applejack and my very distant relative glanced at the cloaked figure standing to her left. “Do we really have to go through all this hooplah? It’s not like Ah’m against tradition, but this whole thing… she came to our house to talk with us, and Ah know it’s a big deal whenever the Apple clans meet up to discuss business, but do we really need the cloaks?”

“We are determining the fate of the Estate lineage, whether they will be welcomed back into the fold or cast from the herd,” the pony next to her said. “In my capacity as the representative of the Fillydelphia Apples, I say that proper protocol be observed. For a decision as important as this we can not allow for any reproach.”

“The representative of the Manehattan Apples concurs. Protocol must be observed.” The other ponies in the council nodded and chanted “Protocol must be observed.” My years associating with the Apple family had taught me that they had an even greater interest in propriety than I did. If even one little detail wasn’t completed according to tradition, an investigation was conducted, and for our meeting, that meant they needed to wear robes.

“Alright, alright,” Applejack said, looking back down at the sheet of paper. “So, Octavia, you come here today to call off our attacks on your folks, right?”

I nodded at her, trying to ignore the other Apples staring at me. I tried to recall what Applejack told me to say before our meeting. If their war on my parents had taught me anything, upsetting the entirety of the Apple family would be a rather poor idea. “Indeed. My parents have lost all their assets excepting their savings account and their house, and of four hours ago the house was signed over to my name. At this point, any future hostilities would be excessive.”

“And what of the assets we seized?” the pony who claimed to be from Manehattan said, her voice had the typical upper-crust Manehattan tinge to it. “Our influence in Manehattan has more than tripled since our war began, returning such assets–”

“We wouldn’t be returnin’ ‘em since they’d still be a part of the Apple family,” Applejack said, interrupting the Manehattan Apple. “Unless ya all are considerin’ striking the Estate family from the herd.”

“Certainly not, although at this point it would just be exiling the one member. No, our biggest concern is that she would be unable to properly manage all the assets we claimed during this dispute. We must not weaken the Apple Conglomerate.”

The other Apples (sans Applejack) nodded in agreement. “I don’t care about whatever assets you took,” I said, “I just want hostilities to cease. If letting you keep control of… what did you rename Capitail Records?”

“Apple Records.”

“Of course,” I said, chastising myself. It had to be Apple Records, every business they controlled had the word Apple associated with it. At this point, it was more a brand name than a food. “Like I was saying, I have no interest in regaining control of whatever assets you seized, as long as hostilities can cease and our lineage can formally be welcomed back into the clan.” Even if we didn’t know we were related to the Apples until shortly before the conflict began, I’d still rather be friendly with them than not. Especially since they thought so poorly of ponies who abandoned their core tenants.

They whispered to each other for a few minutes while I stood and watched. As Applejack had explained it to me, talking while they deliberating was a quick way to earn their ire. “Your terms sound good,” Applejack said once the whispering had abated, “but a few of us want to know you won’t go ‘round actin’ like your parents did. Sayin’ the apple doesn’t far from the tree and such.”

“Applejack has known me for several years, she can vouch for me. I trust the Element of Honesty would be a suitable reference for my character.” As it had been explained to me, anonymity was important in these meetings, and calling anypony on the council there by name would throw the entirety of the proceedings into question. Again, I’m not sure why a group of ponies descended from apple farmers have such strange and byzantine rituals, but since I needed their help, I couldn’t complain too much, at least not out loud.

“Uh… yep, she sure can,” Applejack said, sounding rather uncomfortable as she struggled with the minute deception. “So, we know Tavi– Octavia is gonna be stickin’ to Apple family values and not goin’ against kin.” Her words brought up my doubts about my ability to raise my filly, doubts that had gotten even heavier as I considered how the fact I might be stuck as a teenager for the foreseeable future might impact my ability to raise a child. My mind went back to all the horror stories I had read about teenagers who had gotten themselves pregnant, and I imagined ponies judging me for my mistake. I made a note to ask Lyra about her progress on reversing the potion’s effects before we left for Manehattan. It had been several days and my parents still hadn’t noticed I had been transformed.

“If that’s everything, I need to write a few more letters before my train leaves tonight. Is there anything else you wish to discuss?” I said, looking at the various hooded ponies surrounding me. They all shook their heads. “Wonderful, then I really must be off, I need to talk with Lyra and then go about writing a letter to Princess Luna… or perhaps I should do the letter first.” On the other hoof, if I wrote the letter first, Vinyl would be at the house, and if we were together my odds of doing anything productive for the rest of the day plummeted. Unlike my other love, the cello, my time with Vinyl was something that was almost impossible for me to say no to. Honestly, it was a small wonder I was able to get out of bed every morning as I tended to wake up with my wife’s foreleg draped over me and keeping me close to her. There were very few sensations more enjoyable than that, and almost all of them involved my wife and our bed in some capacity.

I shook my head to dispel such thoughts as I left the barn, trying to focus on all the things I had to do before I could enjoy myself. Work first, pleasure later. I smiled as I imagined my evening at home. If I could pull myself away from Vinyl at some point tonight, I could spend a few hours practicing my cello. The more I thought about it, the more I found myself regretting the fact that I had volunteered to do all these unimportant trivialities. The only things in my life that were truly important were my cello playing and Vinyl, so why in Equestria was I helping parents who had completely disowned me?

Before I could think any further, I heard hoofsteps coming from behind me as I reached the extremity of Sweet Apple Acres. I looked behind me to find my sixth cousin Applejack running towards me. “Wait up!” she said as she drew closer. “Ah wanted to apologize to ya for all that stuff back there. It… the family’s pretty big on tradition, ya know?”

“Obviously, if the last five years didn’t make me aware of that, the shadowy council meeting for absolutely zero reason did.”

“Yeah,” she said, rubbing the back of her head, “look, I get that some of our big family customs are odd, but it’s just the way we always did ‘em. We were havin’ our secret council meetings and big ceremonies back when Granny’s granny was just a filly. Truthfully, the Ponyville Apples kind of went our own way ‘cause we thought some of them traditions were a mite silly.”

“Just a mite,” I said, gesturing for her to walk with me as I headed back towards town. “And I always thought I had a problem with propriety. It turns out my relatives are far worse than I. Strange how we have that in common, even though I grew up free of them.”

“It’s in the blood, right? Like how you and Pinkie both got that Pie gene, which now that I think about it, I wonder how many folks in the Apple Family got that?”

“I highly doubt I am the pony to ask, although if I indulge in some unfounded speculation, perhaps your family’s focus on ritual and tradition is their way of reducing the gene’s effects. After all, Pinkie’s parents were rock farmers, were they not?”

“Maybe,” Applejack said as we walked. “I don’t rightly know. Ah just wanted to apologize for back there; they think that just ‘cause somethin’ worked for them before that it will keep workin’. Ah like traditional values as well, but at least Ah got sense enough to see when somethin’ ain’t workin, and havin’ big secret shadowy meetings… well, it might work, but it’s a whole lotta unnecessary hooplah.”

“While I agree the whole thing is a touch excessive, it’s also… I don’t know, interesting to me. You had all these traditions growing up, these strange things that helped keep your family together, and I didn’t have anything like that. I had routine, certainly; I woke up, ate breakfast, played my cello, ate lunch, played my cello some more, ate dinner, and then played my cello a bit more before bed, but nothing like your Apple Family reunion or Hearth’s Warming celebrations.”

“Well, Ah’m sure y’all did somethin’ for Hearth’s Warming right?” she asked, frowning.

“Of course, there’d be gifts under the tree, I’d open them and we would spend the rest of the day doing as we wished. Hearth’s Warming was a day we could relax and unwind.”

Applejack blinked as we walked. “Pardon me, Tavi, but that sounds like the worst way to spend Hearth’s Warming ever. Where’s the family? Where’s the bonding? It ain’t just a day off, it’s time to spend with your family and kin.”

“I know. The last few years with Vinyl and her family have shown me that.” My lips turned upwards at the thought of my wife and I found myself wishing I could skip my business with Lyra to spend time with my wife. Certainly, I thought as we walked, it wouldn’t be so terrible if I waited to speak with her until after we returned. There was no real rush, and maybe Vinyl was right, maybe my regression was a good thing. Either way, I could wait to speak with Lyra until after our trip finished.

“Well, like Ah said, Ah ain’t against tradition or anything, but sometimes, Ah think maybe we Apples can get too focused on it. Just got to find the right balance, I guess.”

I nodded at her, smiling as I thought of my wife waiting at home for me. Yes, Lyra could definitely wait a few more weeks.

20. Homecoming (Vinyl)

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“Wow,” I said as we explored Tavi’s old home. “Is this place bigger on the inside or something? Because you see it on the outside and think ‘That’s a pretty big house,’ and then you get inside and it turns out it’s this huge sprawling mansion with even more space than you originally thought.”

“Yes,” Tavi said as she opened the door to a massive bedroom with a bed in it that was only slightly smaller than our bedroom. “The architect, my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, was quite skilled at using space efficiently. He was actually an architect of some renown during his time, and there are still several buildings in the city that were either designed by him or inspired by his designs.” She sighed. “The building that would eventually become the Philharmonic Hall was one of them.”

“Okay,” I said, “I hate to interrupt you, but is this our bedroom? This thing is massive, there’s so much space in it we could probably set up a dance floor in here.”

Tavi nodded at me before surveying the room. “We could do that, but we won’t… Still, I would like to do something with this space, the mansion is so large I feel like no matter what I do we will still be wasting space; but then, I suppose that’s what this place was designed for.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, flopping onto the bed, the thing was so ridiculously comfy, it was like being hugged by a bundle of feathers.

“We are in Manehattan, a city packed on top of itself. The most excessive display of opulence here isn’t gold or silver, but empty space. This room is a display of status, a reminder to our guests about how fantastically wealthy our family is… or was, I suppose. We still have the house though, which is probably worth slightly less than Ponyville, excluding the Rich estate, of course,” she said, moving to sit on the bed next to me.

“Back up,” I said, rolling over next to her. “Are you saying that this is the guest room?”

“One of them,” Tavi said as she pulled me even closer to her, “I suppose I could have taken the master bed and bath, but my parents still have their things there, and sleeping in the same room they had sex in… The thought makes me rather uncomfortable.” As she talked, she pulled back her foreleg and stared at the ceiling. Apparently there were some thoughts that could actually cut down her sex drive. Good to know, I guess, though unfortunately that did nothing to help me. It had been almost an entire day since we last did anything sexy, and we had to be quiet about it because she didn’t want to wake her parents up. Where’s the fun in that?

“It’s fine,” I said, leaning in and kissing her neck. “This room is big enough for us anyways, and it’s cool that we can actually use this stuff too. I mean, we probably only need a couple of guest rooms, right?”

Tavi nodded. “Our house has more than that, but… yes, I don’t foresee us having more than four or five guests stay the night at a time. Of course, we also have to consider our daughter’s room, but there are several rooms near us we can use.”

“Ooh! We should get a room for Brutus and Portia too,” I said, nodding my head at her and stroking the bottom of her barrel. With each stroke, the tension in her body melted a little more and she soon snuggled up against me. It was so easy to seduce her since I turned her into a teenager, and I mean, it was for her own good too, she deserved a second chance after her parents messed up her teenage years the first time. Which they did for her own good.

“No,” I said, trying to shut-up the voice in my head and causing Tavi to lift her head up and give me a look of utter confusion.

“Are you alright, Vinyl?” she asked, looking down at me.

“Yeah, fine,” I said, having a hard time looking at her eyes. Instead, I figured I could probably just stare at her flank and play my guilt off as me just being super turned on. “Just… you know, uhmm… worried about my shows.”

Tavi smiled and leaned down to kiss my neck. “Don’t worry, Vinyl, you will be fine. You are a wonderful DJ and performer, and you know I will be in the…” she waved a hoof in the air, thinking for the right words. “Swarming mass of drunken revelers. Well, not in them, I remember what happened the first time I went into a mosh pit and was almost crushed to death and have no desire to repeat that, especially while expecting. I will be in the general audience though.”

“Cool,” I said, watching as that old familiar hunger entered her eyes. “What do you say we take a little break from our tour of the house for a while?” Instead of responding, she smiled and forced her lips against mine, her kiss getting rid of whatever doubts I had about if turning her into a teenager was a good idea.


“Vinyl,” she said, swatting away an exploring hoof as we went into her family’s personal gym, “would it kill you to…” I saw her repress a happy shudder as she spoke. She could act as uptight as she wanted to, but deep down she enjoyed my little public touches. “To… to try to act with some sense of decorum?”

“But decorum is so boring. I mean, come on, we’re all alone in the big giant mansion and… Hey, do you have a swimming pool?”

Tavi nodded at me. “We do, it will probably need to be filled up, but we actually have an Equestria Games-sized swimming pool as well as a pleasure pool in the garden.”

“Pleasure pool?” I asked, feeling my forehead get all wrinkly. “Is that as cool as it sounds?”

“It’s a pool with a small beach, a lazy river, and a bar with a waterfall above it. I will let you decide how cool that–”

“Okay, I was just thinking it was a pool we could screw in, but holy crap that sounds amazing, what are we doing not in that pool?”

“Well, like I said, the pool probably needs to be filled up first, as my parents had to cut down on superfluous expenses these past few years, but if we worked at it, we could probably have it working in under a week. As for the lap pool, it will probably take a week just to fill it properly.” She frowned at me. “Also, all of my readings indicate that having sex in a pool is far less pleasant than films make it out to be. Speaking of films, we should see the private theater.”

“Hey!” I said, as she headed for a set of stairs that connected this floor of the… I wasn’t sure what wing we were on to the floor we came down on. This place was like a maze, except instead of having dead ends, it had really awesome rooms. “If this house is so old, how come there are so many cool modern things like theaters and pools?”

“Because,” she said, walking down the stairs with me having to keep pace behind her, “my grandfather was an architect as well and made extensive renovations to this place in an attempt to modernize it. He also added electricity and indoor plumbing to Monticello. Actually, he was the pony who renovated Philharmonic Hall.”

We reached a narrow hallway at the bottom of the stairs and Tavi headed off down a side corridor. “Yeah, what’s up with that, you mentioned it earlier, is it another wing of the building. or…?”

She shook her head. “No, it’s… originally, it was the city hall, but as the city grew, they needed more space so they had a new one commissioned. My grandfather decided to turn the old building into a proper music hall. When he was finished, he renamed it Philharmonic Hall, and it became one of the premier social centers in Manehattan. I loved going there with my grandmother when I was younger, I think it was where I first developed an appreciation for classical music.” She smiled as she opened the door to reveal a small theater. If not for its size, it could have been a theater in a regular cinema.

I felt my jaw actually drop. “So…” I said, making no attempt to contain my shock. “This house… it’s ours right?” Tavi nodded. “If I wanted to, I could watch every Mare Trek movie in one sitting?”

“Probably not,” she said. “I doubt you could hold your bladder that long. bBut yes, you could at least attempt to watch all the movies sometime when I’m out of town for a few days.”

“Would you stop that?” she said, swatting my hoof away as her cheeks got even redder and her frown turned into a look of shame. I don’t know why she got upset with herself for liking me touching her. I mean, when we were in our room, it was awesome, but if we were where a pony might see us, it was suddenly a big thing. Apparently being a teenager again made her get more modest. I’d have to break her of that. Ooh! Maybe after our daughter was born, we could get really drunk in public. I thought back to my night with Clubber. Yeah, doing that but with my wife, that could totally be fun.

Tavi shook her head as her face lost its reddish tint. It was weird how our blushes were still visible even if our faces were covered in fur. My biology classes probably talked about why that was, but I didn’t actually pay attention to my biology class. “Vinyl, as much as I love you and being with you, there is not a force in Equestria that can compel me to watch all those films again. Even if…” She nibbled on her lower lip and I saw a teeny bit of longing enter her eyes. It was really way too easy to mess with her sometimes. But hey, it wasn’t my fault she kept trying to deny her real feelings and stuff, I was helping her express herself. Doing it for her own good. “We can revisit the issue at a later time. For now, we have a house to tour.”


Several hours later, we were sitting in the study (as opposed to the library and the archive, which the house also had), Tavi writing some letters while I tried to distract her, when we heard the doorbell ring.

“Want me to get that?” I asked, springing to my hooves.

Tavi shook her head. “It will be fine, Vinyl. I’m sure Woodhoof will get it, although I do hate asking him to manage this entire mansion. I want him to actually have some time off.”

“Maybe Moldy can take care of it,” I said, sitting down next to her. “Like, he can just create a few more colonies of himself and boom, free caretakers.”

There was a pause as she nodded her head. “That’s not a terrible idea, Vinyl. I received a letter from him saying he will be arriving in Manehattan tomorrow, and I will see what he thinks. Obviously, if he doesn’t want to, I won’t force him to do anything.”

“Obviously,” I said, rolling my eyes as the door opened. Tavi and I were practically goddesses to Moldy, if we wanted him to do something, he would do it with a smile. Not like I wouldn’t understand if he didn’t want to, but he would obviously want to. I don’t get why Tavi didn’t get that.

A yellow stallion with orange mane and an orange for a cutie mark walked in behind Woodhoof. “Might I present Mr. Orange of the Multi-Apple Conglomerate.”

“Thank you,” Mr. Orange said, nodding at Woodhoof. “I’m here today to act on behalf of my employers regarding recent acquisitions made during our hostilities with your parents. Now that your branch has been reconciled, I was hoping we could have your assistance.”

“With what?” Tavi said, rubbing her forehead with one hoof.

“We bought out your parents’ stake in a local music hall several years ago; however, since then our profits have been slipping and we fear there are very few Apples with knowledge of how to properly manage the music end of the business. We were hoping you could be persuaded to take over that aspect. We would transfer over a substantial portion of our shares to your name if you prove amenable to our request.”

I looked over at Tavi and her eyes had gone super wide. “You’re talking about Philharmonic Hall, aren’t you?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper. Mr. Orange nodded. “You… you want me to manage Philharmonic Hall? I assume I would be able to arrange events and other promotions?” Another nod.

“That we do, would you be interested in such an offer?

There was a short pause as Tavi sucked all the air in the room into her lungs. When she finally did speak, I think all of Manehattan heard her answer.

21. Philharmonic Hall (Octavia)

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I stared at the schedule I’d spent the last several days working on. Whoever had been administering the hall over the past few months had been completely and utterly incompetent. While I could understand a few popular modern bands playing there to boost numbers, the hall had been built as a bastion of classical music. While I was all for greater accessibility, I wasn’t about to open the gates to purveyors of party music, even if doing so would probably make my wife happy. The thought of my wife made me groan, the last few days she had been rather–

“Hey, Tavi, I’m bored, can you help me book the DJ shows? Or we can do something else, it’s up to you.” Vinyl asked from her spot on the sofa. She had taken to flopping haphazardly on a couch that could very well be considered an antique, her hooves sprawled over the backrest and headrest. She seemed absolutely intent on making sure I got zero work done these past few days, and much to my shame, I’d gone along with her. Right now, she was trying to distract me by making certain parts of her anatomy very visible. I struggled to focus on the schedule in front of me.

“We can have Mocart’s Symphony No. 9 on August 23rd, but if we do that…” I muttered to myself, trying to rearrange the schedule and excise as many undesirable elements as possible. Maybe Sweetie Belle could do a few recitals to help bolster the schedule.

“Come on,” Vinyl said, rolling her head so it was no longer supported by the couch, “I saw the schedule, it looks fine, I don’t see what’s so important about ‘fixing’ it. Most of the musicians playing there are pretty good.”

“That’s the problem,” I said, crossing another name off the schedule. “You think they are good.” She opened her mouth to say something but I cut her off. “I’m not saying the type of music you like is bad, it certainly has its place, but that place is not Philharmonic Hall. How would you like it if I put on a performance at… one of those clubs you want to play at?”

“Alright,” she said, lifting up her head in a close approximation of a nod, “I guess it would be weird if you played at Beats or something, but I mean, those musicians you have playing are some of the hippest and coolest in Equestria right now.”

“And I have no problem with some of Equestria’s more popular musical groups playing at Philharmonic Hall on occasion, but the schedule they gave me had far too many of those and not enough classical musicians. Thankfully, I should be able to convince Royal and Fiddlesticks to bring the orchestra to Manehattan for a few showings, and Sweetie’s moved to Manehattan after graduating, I’m sure she could be amenable to doing a few performances. In fact, considering she’d have the chance to play at one of Equestria’s most prestigious music halls, I think she’d be more than amenable.”

“That’s why you invited Royal and Fiddle to come and visit?” Vinyl asked, rolling off the couch and sauntering up behind me. I knew what was about to happen and sighed. I had so much I wanted to do, but when biology took the reins, I was utterly powerless. Certainly, the time with her was enjoyable, but at this point, it felt more like an addiction than anything else, and if it was an addiction, then Vinyl was my dealer.

She brought her hooves up to massage my shoulders and I felt stress I didn’t even know I had drain from my body. Her touch was absolutely exquisite, and I stifled a moan of pleasure. “I’d love to, Vinyl, I really would, but I have to finish this revised schedule today see if it’s agreeable to the board. I should be going in to talk about it, but I’m on maternity leave.” I laughed. “I’m on maternity leave for the job I just started a few days ago and…” I groaned. “I still have my job at the academy, and I don’t think I can do both at once. Certainly not if I’m in two different cities.”

Vinyl kissed my neck and I felt my cheeks suddenly burn; the whole thing had gotten rather annoying these past few days, and yet Vinyl acted like I was some sort of prude for not constantly wanting sex. “You’ve been worrying like… non-stop the last few days, I thought this was supposed to be a vacation. Come on, you should take your mind off things.”

“I’ve been taking my mind off things since before we got to Manehattan, that’s why I’m struggling so much today, and I would appreciate it if you gave me some time to work today.” I turned around and kissed her neck, causing one of her back legs to twitch. “I promise I will make it up to you tonight.”

“Fine,” she said, “I guess I should get ready for my show tomorrow. Thanks again for setting it up.” She kissed the back of my neck before turning to head out of the room. I heard her stop at the threshold and knew she was turning to look at me, waiting for me to crack. I wanted to put the papers away and turn to her. I wanted to pounce on top of her and do all manner of sordid things, but right now, I couldn’t. I gripped on to the table with all my might and worked to suppress those thoughts. After this, I could perhaps spend time with Vinyl and play the cello. At least I’d have some time to relax when she was performing tomorrow.

“Oh!” Vinyl said, calling my thoughts back to her. “You want to come to my show tomorrow? It would really mean a lot to me if you were there.”


“Of course,” I said, turning and smiling back at her. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Well, there went one free evening, hopefully I could skip some – or most – of her future shows.

“Cool,” she said, nodding her head as she walked out of the room and I tried to turn my attention back to my work and not towards the mare who was currently heading towards our bedroom. I made a mental note to write Lyra and ask how her work with the potion analysis was going, and looked back down at the schedule. I wanted to get a rough version finished before Royal Riff and Fiddlesticks arrived so I could ask for their thoughts.


“Octavia, it’s a pleasure to see you again,” the dark-blue stallion and my former employer, Royal Riff said. “It’s been too long since we’ve been able to properly catch up. How did you come to Manehattan? Also...” He blinked. “Why do you appear several years younger than you were when we last spoke?”

I smiled and recounted the circumstances that led to me heading back to my birth city. It had been a while since we last spoke, as the orchestra was quite busy getting ready for its next tour while I had been distracted with my own issues. “It’s never something simple with you, is it?” he laughed after I finished my story.

“Sadly not,” I said as Woodhoof brought in tea. “How is the orchestra?”

“Very good. Everypony is ready for the tour in a few weeks, although I’m a little surprised we don’t have a show in Manehattan.”

“Doesn’t bother me too much,” the yellow pony with blue mane and rather… memorable hat sitting next to him said. “No offense to you, Tavi, but this city’s always so… there’re no trees here. Except in that park of yours I suppose.” It was amazing just how much her speech had been refined since she married Royal Riff. Her accent was still very noticeable, but when compared to her distant cousin Applejack, her speech was practically impeccable. Not that there was anything wrong with Applejack’s speech, it was just… a noticable difference.

“Actually, that’s what I wished to speak with you about.” I nodded at Fiddlesticks. “During the Apple family’s feud with my parents, they gained control of Philharmonic Hall. Unfortunately, whoever they found to manage it had absolutely no idea what they were doing, and the schedule they made was something of a mess.” I showed the original schedule Mr. Orange had sent me a few days ago, and Royal Riff looked absolutely mortified.

“They were going to have deadpon3 play at Philharmonic Hall?” he said, recoiling away from the schedule.

“You can see my problem,” I said, pulling the original away from him. “I’ve been tasked with properly managing the property, and right now that means undoing the damage the previous manager did. It’s why I asked if you could visit me in Manehattan on such short notice.”

Royal nodded in understanding. “You want the orchestra to play at Philharmonic Hall.”

“Exactly, I actually think it was a terrible oversight you weren’t already scheduled to do so, but I want to make sure we can find a date that works. Thank you again for being able to get here in less than a week.”

“It’s perfectly fine,” Royal said. “Like I said, it’s been a while since we could catch up, and Fiddle and I have been wanting to take in the sights of Manehattan for a while, so when you said there was some urgent business you wished to speak with us about, we decided to take a three-day weekend and visit you. The orchestra can function without us for a day.”

“I’ve actually been wantin’ to talk to you for a while, we were so busy with the orchestra, I haven’t had a chance to talk to you about your pregnancy,” Fiddlesticks said, fiddling with her shirt. For some reason, she was quite fond of her garish, brightly-colored outfit, and the only time I’d seen her without it was when she was performing in the orchestra, where such excesses were frowned upon. She’d not been happy when I forced her to take her clothes off for our practices. Thankfully, that was Royal’s problem now, and I’d assume he had no problem convincing her to disrobe.

“What did you want to talk about?” I asked, recalling a talk we had almost a year ago about how she hoped to have a child soon. It was actually when I was asking for her advice when Vinyl and I were talking about having a daughter that she brought up her own hopes on the topic. Now I suppose she was wanting to know what to expect when she got pregnant.

“Just wanted to know how it was,” she said, giving me a small smile. “Royal and I have been talking about having a foal of our own, and I suppose now that it might be happening soon, I’m getting a little worried, so I thought I’d see how it was for you.”

“You’ll get sick every day, pee multiple times an hour, move at a pace slightly faster than glacial, your hooves will swell to just… unbelievable proportions, you won’t be able to drink even though you will desperately need to after experiencing some of pregnancy’s less pleasant symptoms, and I find myself looking forward to the day my daughter bursts out of me so I can reclaim my body. Beyond that, I suppose it’s nice.”

“Uhmm… thanks,” Fiddle said, frowning. “Ya know, when you put it like that, I’m kind of wishing Royal could do it.”

“Believe me, I’ve wished I’d made Vinyl do it multiple times. At least I can have her do the second one,” I said, nodding at her in agreement.

“Speaking of,” Royal said, “where is your wife? I’m looking forward to her arguing with Fiddle about whether rock or country is better.”

“Technically, Vinyl usually argues for electro’s supremacy during their arguments, but right now she is getting ready for a show tomorrow. Hopefully she will be down soon, but ever since she regressed, she’s been rather… temperamental I suppose.” I decided not to make my point by talking about the Canterlot incident. In fact, the less I had to remember that, the happier I was.

Royal frowned. “Yes, I suppose that would come with being a teenager. When put in that context, it’s incredible that you are able to stay so much like your regular self.”

I gave him a small smile. “Thank you. I suppose I have more experience controlling myself than most adolescents. Unlike Vinyl, I’m able to control myself to a degree, although sometimes... I don’t even think she tries. I swear, she’s using this whole thing as an excuse to do whatever she wants.” The two of them exchanged glances while I continued to smile at them. “Anyways, enough about her. If she doesn’t wish to spend time with us, that’s her loss. Now, how was your trip here?”

The three of us managed to talk for several hours, Woodhoof popping in on occasion to see if we needed anything. During that entire time, my wife didn’t even bother to come down and say hello.

22. For Her Own Good (Vinyl)

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I sighed and rolled over on the couch. This was so stupidly boring. Like, why did Tavi have to run off – well, waddle – to Philharmonic Hall? I mean, I get that this is kind of important to her or whatever, but we had barely spent any time together the last few days. Sure we had a few hours together here and there when I finally convinced her to hop into bed, but it took so much more work than it did when we were in Ponyville. I was hardly having any fun at all.

Also, shouldn’t Tavi be actually resting? I mean, she is super pregnant, and instead of getting bedrest or focusing on our daughter she’s been wrapped up in this Philharmonic Hall project. Again, it’s totally cool, but she should really be spending that time at home… with me. For her own good.

Dammit! That phrase had been bouncing around in my head ever since I’d heard Tavi’s parents use it. I rolled out of the couch and headed to a nearby vanity. Those stupid words were keeping me up at night, they just kept making me feel like I’d done something bad even though it was totally…

“I’m better than Tavi’s parents,” I said to my reflection, unable to complete the thought. “I actually care about her. Sure, I made the wish for her own good, but she’s happy now.” If I could just break down whatever weird resistance she had to us screwing, that would be even better. The mare needs to be liberated, maybe I could convince her to do a threesome or something once I broke through that wall. At that thought, I felt a wave of warmth bubble up inside me. Yeah, that would be nice… Maybe I could use the monkey’s paw and–

“Don’t you dare,” my reflection said to me. She looked older, like what I used to look like before I drank the potion. So maybe my reflection was talking to me, that was… okay, it was bad, but I didn’t do anything wrong. It was all to help Tavi. “You aren’t helping her. You’re helping yourself, you know that right? Just like Tavi’s parents, you keep thinking you know what’s best for, but did you ever consider that Tavi might be happy with how she was? Or did you just not care about what she wanted when you made the wish? Have you actually considered doing something selflessly nice for her since you drank the potion?”

“Of course,” I said, scowling at myself. “I wished she drank the potion. She’s way happier now, I’m sure, like we’ve been spending so much time together, and our sex life is way more active. We usually do it twice a day, now. What’s the downside?”

“She didn’t want it. Even after you ran off to Canterlot and almost cheated on her, she took you back, forgave you, and tried to make you happy, and how do you repay her? You’ve been nothing but selfish since you drank that potion, and so far Tavi has been tolerant. How long do you think that will last for? If the teenaged her is anything like you, she will abandon you to follow her own interests at some point, and what will happen then? Will you wish for her to come back? Will you completely override her wants for your own happiness and then justify it as ‘being for her own good?’ How far will you go?” my reflection asked, glaring at me and unable to keep the hatred out of her voice.

“Shut up!” I said, yelling at myself and pointing an accusing hoof at her. She returned the gesture. “You don’t understand… you… I did it all for her, I don’t care what you say. She’s happier now, and she won’t leave me… if she does, I’ll… I’ll do something.”

“Brainwash her into loving you?” my reflection asked, anger dripping from her voice. “You know who was great at that? A nice young stallion from Canterlot; if he was still alive, the two of you could trade notes. Ooh! Do you remember the months you spent putting her back together after that? Back when you still cared about her?”

“Yeah, I do,” I said, gritting my teeth. How did she have the audacity to lecture me? I mean, technically, she was also me, but she was being a total jerk. I loved Tavi, how could she even question that? “I remember helping her recover, I remember doing it to help her. For her own good. I don’t see what the difference between that and this is.”

She laughed. “You don’t see the difference between helping her recover after a pony forced his will onto her, and forcing your will onto her? You’re worse than he was, I mean, at least he didn’t say he was doing it ‘for her own good.’ When are you going to take some responsibility and stop doing whatever you want? Because right now, she’s either going to leave you or you’re going to destroy her. Maybe both. You can be better than this, Vinyl. We are better than this. Stop thinking about what you want and try to think about what she wants.”

“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” I yelled, throwing my hoof at the mirror and causing it to burst into a hundred pieces. As shards of shattered glass fell to the floor, I saw dozens of eyes glaring at me. “It’s for her own good.” I stomped my forelegs on the ground as blood trickled out of one of them. “Why can’t you understand that? Why do you have to keep trying to convince me I don’t love her? I love Tavi more than anything and–”

Somepony behind me cleared their throat and I turned around to face it. Tavi’s mom stood at the doorway, a small smile on her face. “Well, isn’t this a gift from providence? The pony who corrupted my daughter revealing her true colors, sick and twisted.” Her smile grew larger and I felt sick to my stomach. Instead of expressing joy, it was cold and evil, it was like the opposite of what a smile should be. “Tell me, how do you think she will react when I tell her about this? I’m almost certain she will kick you out of the house.”

My mouth went dry and I found myself struggling to form words. “How… how much did you see?”

“Enough,” she said, taking a seat on the sofa. “Enough to know you’re a deeply unstable mare and that you drugged my daughter to force her to regress to a teenager. Enough to destroy you if I so felt like it, and believe me, the thought of seeing you cut out of my daughter’s life makes me an incredibly happy mare. However, as satisfying as that would be, I must consider the long game, and I doubt I will be able to undo all of your influence on her. Instead, I must consider what benefits the next generation.”

“You mean… our daughter,” I said as the room spun around me. There was a pain in my hoof, and I looked down to find the carpet around it was soaked in blood. I guess I’d cut it when I punched out the mirror.

She smiled. “Exactly, Miss Scratch. In exchange for me forgetting this little conversation, I want you to remember something…” She leaned in close to me and I took a step back, causing several shards of glass to dig into my back hooves. “From this day forward, I own you, Miss Scratch. If I want something done, you do it without question or I tell my daughter what I saw today. First, I want you to put a few good words in for me and try to make Octavia charitably disposed to me. That should be a simple enough task, especially for a pony with as much influence over my daughter as you. Obviously, I don’t expect her to forgive me today, but I expect you to push her towards that end. Do we have a deal?”

I wanted to tell her to go buck herself, I did, but if I did that, then Tavi would leave me. I mean, I know she was trying to be all forgiving and stuff, and she was definitely happier now that she was a teenager even if she didn’t admit it, but something told me she wouldn’t be happy if she found out about what I’d done, so instead, I nodded my head while feeling like I was about to vomit.

Landed Estate gave me another one of her gut-turning smiles. “I’m glad to see you can be reasonable. I suppose it goes to show that even the most simplistic brutes can act in their own interest when properly motivated.” She got up to her hooves. “Now get to work, Miss Scratch, and…” she glanced at my bloody hooves. “Perhaps you should look into some bandages, I’d hate for you to bleed out on one of my carpets. It’s worth more than you are.”

Her smile grew and threatened to split her face in half. “Just remember, Miss Scratch, we are doing this for her own good.” She laughed while she walked out of the room and I vomited up onto the carpet she’d told me not to bleed on.

I looked back at the shattered shards of mirror carpeting the carpet as a mare I was quickly coming to hate laughed at me.


An hour later I was downing my third beer to prepare myself for what I had to do. Yeah okay, so I might be betraying my wife’s trust, but it was– I slammed my good hoof down on the table, unable to finish the thought. Dammit! I was trying to help her, wasn’t I? Landed’s laugh echoed in my head and I took another big drink of beer, trying to prepare myself to do something that was… Well, if I kept her happy, that was for her own good, right? It had to be, I wouldn’t hurt Tavi. I loved her, I wouldn’t do something bad to her. One day I would tell her, and she would understand… Just, not one day soon.

I drummed a hoof against the table and took another drink before heading over to Tavi’s work room. She looked up at me as I walked into the room, and a second later, she was by my side, inspecting one of my bandaged hooves. “What happened, Vinyl? Are you alright? You look awful.”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, having a hard time looking into her pink eyes. “One of my records broke and it sliced up my hooves.”

“Really?” Tavi asked, raising an eyebrow. “That sounds rather… I didn’t know records could be that sharp.”

“They are when they break,” I said, licking my lips and looking at the floor. “You know, I was talking with your mom earlier–”

“No, it’s fine,” I said as I broke out in a cold sweat, “she was actually…” Nope. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t lie to her, even if it would help her… or me. It was for our own good. No it wasn’t. I had to go. I had to fix the mess I made… I needed to go back to Ponyville, the answer was there. “I have to go to my show, you can stay here.”

“Are you sure?” Tavi asked, frowning. “While I can’t say I was looking forward to spending an evening in a club, it seemed like me being in attendance was rather important to you.”

I tried to smile at her. “Yeah, but you know, it’s not that big a deal… Like, I’ll have plenty of shows to do, and I know that you’ve been busy the last few days. Besides, forcing you to do this for me would be… selfish. Yeah, I’d hate to be that.”

She raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment on that last part. “Well, if you’re sure, I would enjoy having an evening at the house to relax. I will see you tonight?”

“Uh-huh,” I said, walking out the door. “By the way, your mom isn’t that bad, so if she asks if we talked, just tell her I said that, alright?”

“Vinyl, what is going on–” I slammed the door shut. I couldn’t be around her right now, and if I sprinted, I could lose her before I even left the house. Then, I could make it to the train station and everything would be fine. It was all for her own good. It had to be. Otherwise, I was a monster.


Early the next morning, my train arrived at Ponyville station. The sun was just starting to climb up into the sky, and I trotted quickly towards our old house. I hadn’t slept since yesterday sometime, but it wasn’t important. I had to get into Lyra and Bon-Bon’s house, get the paw, and make my wish. If I could do that, everything would be fine. I just had to get to it before her mom could rat me out.

I opened their door and walked inside, if I was lucky– “Vinyl,” Bon-Bon said, “what are you doing here? I thought you were in Manehattan.”

“Had to come back,” I said, heading towards the basement. “Is Lyra up?”

“No,” Bon-Bon said, looking at me from the kitchen, “but she wanted to talk to you and Octavia, she said she found something out about the potion. We were actually planning on heading to Manehattan today.”

“Great, I’ll see you there,” I said, walking down to the basement. “Need to hurry though, need to find the monkey paw before Tavi’s mom destroys me.”

“Vinyl,” Bon-Bon said, following me downstairs, “you know the monkey paw is incredibly dangerous, you really shouldn’t be using it.”

“It’s fine,” I said scanning the room for the paw. “I used the paw to make Tavi a teenager and that worked out fine. Having Tavi’s mom forget that should be just as easy. Easier even. Once I do that, everything will be fine. It’s for her own good.” I opened one of the drawers and threw their contents to the side searching for the paw. When I looked around the basement again, I couldn’t find Bon-Bon. I opened the next drawer and found the paw waiting for me. I picked it up with my magic and turned towards the stairs to find an angry mint-green unicorn staring at me..

“Put it down, Vinyl,” Lyra said, blocking my exit. “The potion messed up your judgment, and unless you calm down right now, it’s going to get worse.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, pulling the paw close to my chest. “I feel fine, better than ever, in fact.” I gave her my biggest smile and she took a step back.

“The potion… I suppose it’s obvious that it unbalances a pony’s mind, but I think it’s contaminated. Hormonal imbalances slowly worsen over time and… look, I need to talk to you and Tavi, but first you need to put the paw down.”

“I can’t,” I said, stomping my hooves on the ground. “I have to… it’s for her own good.” Lyra took a step towards me and I knew I had to make my wish now. “I wish Landed Estate forgot that I used the monkey paw to make Tavi drink the potion.”

“You what?” Lyra asked, taking another step towards me as another one of the paw’s fingers curled up, leaving one left. “Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? There were no qualifying statements there. You just wished she lost a portion of her memory; you didn’t even specify that it happen now.”

“Are you really going to lecture me?” I asked, taking a step back and heading towards the corner of the basement. I could probably teleport out of her and everything would be fine. I could still fix this. One of my problems was already solved. But there was too big a risk of Tavi finding out from somepony else unless… I could wish she loved me foreve–

I snarled and threw the paw on the ground. “You’re better than that, Vinyl.” I felt myself say. “You’re better than all of this, you just need to remember that and act like an adult. You don’t want to hurt Tavi.”

“I know,” I said, feeling myself snivel in response to my own accusation. “But if she finds out what I did… she won’t appreciate it. She won’t forgive me. It’s easier if she never knows. Do you think I could wish that none of this ever happened?” I looked at Lyra.

“That would be a really bad idea,” Lyra said, shaking her head. “Just think of how badly our kind of small wishes worked out, and then think of how bad a big wish could go. For all we know, it could completely reset the universe. Even if we added qualifying statements, I still think things would go bad.”

“Then what should I do?” I asked, plopping down on the ground and sobbing, while Lyra grabbed the monkey paw with her magic and brought it to her.

“Admit you messed up,” Lyra said. “Ponies make mistakes, and you made a really big one, but the longer you try to keep hiding it, the worse it’s going to be.”

“Besides,” Bon-Bon added, “it would be better for her if she heard the truth from you, as opposed to her mother.”

“Do you think she will forgive me?” I asked, snivelling and looking up at her while she moved to sit next to me and pat me on the head.

Lyra frowned. “Probably. Maybe. If anypony loves you enough to forgive you, it’s her, and if it helps, I will come with you and explain that the potion messed with your judgment.”

“Alright,” I said, suddenly feeling the last few sleepless days catch up with me. She’d forgive me, I thought as my eyes closed. After all, it was all for her own good.

23. Name Dreams and Darker Things (Octavia)

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I groaned, unable to focus on my cello playing. This was supposed to be a relaxing evening without Vinyl’s constant pestering, but… after our last talk, I found myself worried. She looked like I did whenever I was about to have one of my mental breaks, and I had just let her wander off onto the streets of Manehattan without checking to make sure she was okay. I put the cello to the side and sighed. I should probably go to the infernal club and check on her. She had supported me when I was having one of my mental breaks, and I would be remiss if I left her in her moment of need.

Walking towards the mirror and checking to make sure my bowtie was level, I berated myself for not stopping Vinyl when she was here. It would have been trivial for me to do so, but I was so thrown off by her… erratic behavior, I didn’t think to stop her before she walked off. I headed out to the house, only to bump into my mother, who was trying to smile at me. The effect was rather unsettling. “And where are you going, dear?” she asked. “I don’t think you should be going and moving around in your condition.”

“I’m going out to talk to Vinyl and see her show,” I said, continuing my walk towards the door while she moved to follow me. “She didn’t look that well when I saw her last, so I want to make sure she’s okay.”

“Oh,” my mother asked, raising an eyebrow. “Did she happen to mention our conversation earlier?”

“She did,” I said, finally reaching the house’s main hall. “Actually, she said that you came off as… pleasant during your talk.” Technically, Vinyl said she “wasn’t that bad,” but if my mother was actually trying to put her best hoof forward, I could be a bit more charitable towards her.

My mother nodded approvingly. “I’m glad to hear that. You know, now that I’ve spent more time with her, she isn’t nearly as bad as I initially thought. I dare say she’s beginning to grow on me.”

That was… unexpected. Maybe she was actually trying to turn over a new leaf and be better than she was after my family’s humbling – but something in my stomach told me otherwise. Over the last few years, I’d decided that that feeling was generally worth listening to. Still, I wasn’t about to call my mother a liar without having evidence. Maybe I could talk with Vinyl once whatever was bothering her was resolved. I took a deep breath, and headed out onto the streets of Manehattan.


The club was filled with strobing lights, throbbing bass, and sweating writhing ponies. If I had to imagine what the deepest pits of Tartarus might look like, this would be rather close to the mark. One thing the club did not contain was my wife. I headed off towards the back office in the hopes that she was taking a break and wanted someplace quiet to think. It was incredibly unlikely, but it was better than the alternative. Better than the idea that she didn’t come to the first show I had prepared for her. For that to happen, something would have to be very wrong, and I struggled to think of something that could keep her from going to one of her shows. Hopefully she was just taking a break and my worries were completely unfounded.

Those hopes were dashed when the only pony I could find in the back of the club was a pink female unicorn pacing around an office desk. “Un-bucking-believable, I take a chance on some washedup DJ and–” She swirled around to face me. “Sorry, this is employees only.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, nodding my head at her. “I’m Octavia Melody, I was the pony who–”

“Who convinced me to hire DJ-P0N3, believe me, I’ve been thinking about you a lot the last hour or so, ever since your wife decided not to show up and left me with a hundred pissed-off ponies and no entertainment. I managed to calm ‘em down, but she better have a damn good reason for not showing,” she said, taking a step towards me.

“That’s what I’m trying to understand. When she left the house a few hours ago, she told me she was heading towards her show, and considering her love of DJing, I doubt she just decided not to show up.” I looked at the couch and suddenly became aware of just how sore my hooves were. “Do you mind if I take a seat?” I gestured a hoof towards my bloated abdomen in way of explanation. She nodded and I headed towards the couch.

“So, DJ-P0N3 ran off and you don’t know why?” she said as I slowly lowered myself onto the couch. “How did you know she wasn’t here?”

“I didn’t,” I said. “She was behaving erratically and I wanted to talk to her and see if she was alright. Her absence is as shocking to me as it is to you.” What could have possibly prompted Vinyl not to show up? Last night she couldn’t stop talking about her “gig” tonight, and then she just decided not to show up? No, something must’ve happened, she was very clearly troubled when she left this afternoon and I had… I’d just ignored it so I could enjoy an evening to myself. How selfish could I be? Now she was Celestia knows where, and at least a part of it was my fault.

Coming here was pointless then, I thought, deciding to stay on the couch a few minutes longer before heading back home. If Vinyl wanted to head back home, my absence wouldn’t change anything, and the idea of walking back home on swollen throbbing hooves was currently something I’d prefer to avoid. No, my walk home could wait a few more minutes.


That night, I tried to convince myself not to worry. Vinyl was… probably fine and was just having another one of her episodes. Yes, that was grossly implausible considering that she usually ran off to DJ somewhere, and in this instance, she was doing the exact opposite, but what could I do? I had to wait two days to file a missing-person’s report, so until then, the only thing I could do was wait at home and try to figure out which possibility was the least worrisome: that something had prevented her from reaching her show, or that she had simply decided not to attend and come back home. If it was the latter – and I suspected it was, based off of her earlier appearance – what in Equestria would prompt her to run off? Everything was going so well, and she just decided to vanish.

Something must have gotten to her, and the only thing I could think of involved her conversation with my mother. I sighed and rolled over in my bed, trying to make myself comfortable. Either way, there is nothing I can do tonight, I tried to remind myself, although such thoughts did nothing to calm me down. Most of the night was spent combating my fears and hoping desperately for sleep, until some time before dawn, I finally managed to rest.

That night, I was standing in front of a massive waterfall, large enough to put Neighagara Falls to shame as millions of balls and other athletic paraphernalia cascaded over the edge, making the most unbearable sound imaginable. The whole ground actually seemed to shake as the tide of sports balls advanced towards me, the noise growing louder with every second. There was, I believe, a joke somewhere about me drowning in an actual sea of balls, but I refuse to spend much time thinking on it. Instead, I stared dumbly as the tide advanced, desperately trying to block out the surrounding racket. Racket. The word stuck in my head as the tide from the falls washed over me and the dream ended.

I gasped and suddenly came back to reality. It was – I looked at the clock – far too late in the morning. Almost ten, actually. I checked the room, no sign of Vinyl. Was she doing something regrettable now? Perhaps sleeping off a night of bad decisions? Or was she in danger? The doubt was eating at me, and the best way to figure out what happened was to talk with one of the last ponies to see her before she left.

“Good morning, Octavia,” my mother said as I entered the greenhouse she had spent most of her free time in the last few days. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Vinyl’s missing,” I said, walking up to her. “When I last saw her, she was behaving rather erratically, and I was hoping you might know why. She’s felt off the last few days, and I suppose I just dismissed it as nerves, but last night she looked like she was about to have an episode.”

“She has a history of mental illness then?” my mother asked, a small cold smile forming on her lips.

“No, actually. I’m the one who tends towards mental instability. It’s partially related to having parents who abandoned me before I was a teenager, I suppose. Vinyl is usually the pony who puts me back together, and now that she’s the pony in need, I’m going to do the same thing she did for me.”

I think she actually tried to smile at that, and it was somehow even more unnerving than her regular un-smiles. “That’s rather admirable dear, especially after what she did to you. I actually applaud you for being so forgiving.”

“Wh- what did she do?” I asked, suddenly finding my heart in my throat.

“You… she assured me you knew about the monkey’s paw when I spoke with her last night.”

“I do,” I said, feeling my fear subside somewhat. It was entirely possible that my mother had misinterpreted the story somehow and assumed Vinyl was the pony who made the wish. “But she wasn’t responsible for that, Lyra wished Vinyl signed the contract.”

“No, not that, dear, she told me you knew she wished you drank the potion.” She gave another smile before her face went completely blank.



My mother frowned. “I’m sorry, dear, do I know you?”

“Of course you know me, I’m your daughter. You weren’t a particularly good mother, but you–”

“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice devoid of its usual malice. “I’m actually having a hard time remembering anything at all right now. It’s… do you know where we are?” Things suddenly clicked together in my head. Vinyl was behaving erratically after my mother heard what she’d done. She’d wished for me to drink the potion. My mother knew. Vinyl was missing. My mother suddenly lost all memory. Last night’s worry suddenly transformed into a burning anger as the world around me went red.

24. Final Fight! (Vinyl)

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I woke up to the click-click-clacking of train wheels on tracks and the sound of conversation next to me. “Did you have to bring the monkey paw?” a voice I recognized as Bon-Bon’s asked.

“Yeah, the thing definitely needs to be disenchanted, and that takes a long time to do properly, so I figured I could do it at their house. You think they’ll mind?” Lyra asked while I heard a shuffling in one of her bags.

“For some reason, I don’t think they’ll be too upset that you’re trying to undo whatever curse is affecting them.”

“It’s not technically a curse,” Lyra said, “it’s just that as long as it exists it will try to work things related to the wish to go bad. It’s probably why I detected the faint aura of dark magic on that potion sample Tavi gave me.”

“Ooh, are you going to give them the good news about the potion?” Bon-Bon asked, her voice perking up. I thought about rolling over and letting them know I was awake, but… I didn’t want to face them right now, not after what I’d done. Besides, the bench I was on was really comfy and I kind of wanted to get back to sleep.

“I don’t know,” Lyra said. “All I found out was that there is a natural way to undo the potion’s effects, I still don’t know what it is and telling them now… it might just be false hope, you know?”

I heard a squishing kiss noise, and a second later, Bon-Bon spoke up. “Lyra, I think they deserve to know everything you do. Especially since I think every bit of good news will probably be appreciated soon. After Vinyl tells Octavia the truth, maybe some good news might calm her down.”

Oh, right, I had to tell Tavi I wished she drank the potion. Somehow I managed not to groan at the thought. Yeah, I had done it because I thought it would help her, but I didn’t expect her to be properly grateful. Like, I try to do my best for her and give her something she’d really like, but she couldn’t even be happy about it. I mean, maybe she would be, but… “Maybe you’re right,” Lyra said. “But what if I don’t find out how to fix it? I gave them all that hope for nothing.”

Was Lyra actually doubting herself? That seemed so odd, like… she was always so happy and enthusiastic about everything, and now she was… I mean, okay back when we were dating, she’d start freaking out about something super small, but I usually just ignored that and… Oh. That might’ve been one of the reasons we broke up. I was usually too busy focusing on my stuff that I didn’t notice when her stuff started bothering her.

Unless it directly impacted me, I didn’t care what she did; but then, she wasn’t particularly involved in my life, and we usually just did our own thing unless we were actively doing couple stuff. It wasn’t like what she had with Bon-Bon now, it didn’t have that mutual support. Like, if Lyra did this when we were dating, I probably would’ve asked if she wanted to talk about stuff before going back to my DJing. Instead, Bon-Bon was here, supporting her, probably letting Lyra rest her head on Bon-Bon’s shoulder. It was like what I had with Tavi. Had. Probably wouldn’t have it anymore once she learned the truth. I briefly considered grabbing the monkey paw and making a wish that Tavi loved me like she used to, but I killed the thought.

I could fix this… I had to. Once I explained myself, she’d understand, she’d forgive me. She had to, I thought, reassuring myself as the train sped towards Manehattan. Tavi would forgive me. She always did.


The house was almost completely silent when I walked in, and the only thing I could hear was the ticking of the clock. For some reason, the three of us were walking as quietly as possible, like we were worried about being overheard or something. I poked my head into the main sitting room, the central room for the wing we had made our home, and looked around. There, sitting in one of the lounge chairs, shooting daggers at me, was my wife. “I had an enlightening conversation with my mother today,” she said. “Or at least, I started to until she suddenly lost all her memories. She’s at the hospital with my father now, but I decided to stay here and wait for your return so you could explain yourself. You have twenty seconds–” She stopped as Lyra and Bon-Bon followed me into the room. “You brought friends.”

“Sorry,” Bon-Bon said, “Lyra had some urgent news for you and we were planning on just writing you a letter, but after Vinyl paid us a visit, we thought we should just go ahead and visit you.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry,” Lyra said, “I tried to stop Vinyl from using the paw, but… are things with your mom bad?”

“Like I said, she lost all her memories.” Tavi said, frowning. Okay, so Tavi’s mom was kind of evil, but I didn’t want her to lose all her memories. Just one, and it didn’t even work out because she still managed to tell Tavi.

“Well, it couldn’t have happened to a better pony,” I said, unable to stop myself. All I managed to do was get Tavi to focus her attention back on me.

“I’m sorry, Vinyl, right now I can’t look at you without seeing the world go red, so I would suggest you keep your damned mouth shut.” I felt a twinge of anger as the voice shouting How dare she? made its return. I came here to apologize and instead she was treating me like an idiot. Yes, I had done some really shitty things to her, but I was trying to apologize. Tavi could at least listen to me. I mean, I did just insult her mother after I accidentally caused her to lose all her memories, but I couldn’t help it. The words just popped out. Also, holy crap, Tavi did not swear lightly, how upset would she have to be to yell at her wife?

“Sorry,” I said as one of my bandaged hooves started to itch, and I tried to remember how often I was supposed to change the bandages. They weren’t bloody, so that was good. “I… wasn’t thinking.”

“Your behavior of the last few days makes that readily apparent. Your damned lack of thinking is what got us into this mess. If you had exercised even an iota of thought, the last few weeks would have been far more pleasant. Today we should have discussed the name dream I had last night and instead you… you betray my trust in what might be the worst way I could imagine.” I could actually see fire in her eyes as she got out of her chair and took a step towards me.

“First, you use magic to alter my behavior, then you lie about it, and then when somepony discovers the truth, you wipe out all their memories. Do I even have to explain why I’m opposed to all those things?” As she spoke, she lost more and more of her composure as raw anger replaced her usual civility. “Do you even care about me anymore, or am I just something for you to use as you see fit? Tell me, is there anything of the mare I love left in you?”

“Actually, the potion might have affected Vinyl’s judgmen–”

I cut Lyra off as a wave of anger filled my body. “I did it all for you, you know. I thought you might like being a teenager again so I made the wish, and I made sure our daughter wasn’t affected. You should be thanking me, but instead you’re acting like I did something bad.”

“If you thought your actions were so good, then why didn’t you tell me immediately?” she asked, stomping a hoof angrily on the ground. “Admit how terrible your actions were and maybe I will forgive you. Beg for my forgiveness and I might consider it. Show me that you can even begin to comprehend your mistakes and I will be a bit more charitably disposed to your actions.”

“Vinyl, remember that stuff I said about the potion,” Lyra said when I opened my mouth to say something. “It’s really important you try to control your emotions right now. You can admit that lying to Tavi was wrong, right?”

“It might have been,” I said, glaring at Tavi. “But that’s only because she’s too stupid to see when I did her a favor. If you had any sense, you’d be thanking me, not yelling at me.” I… yeah, I regretted saying that pretty much immediately, I opened my mouth to take it back, but it was too late. The words were out and Tavi’s face was twisting into a snarl.

“You ungrateful obstinate foal!” Tavi shouted, losing whatever composure she had left. “I have tried and tried again to be understanding. To repay all you did for me when we first met, and what do you give me in return? Pain, lies, and manipulation. Whatever it was that made me fall in love with you, it’s clearly gone now, and the mare who’d see me through any hardship has been replaced by a callous, shallow, manipulative pony who wouldn’t help another unless it benefited her. Tell me, did you wish I’d become a teenager with the idea that I’d be more likely to accept your advances in mind? Or was that just an added bonus?”

“I wanted you to loosen up, that’s all. Yeah, I thought the sex would be better, but it wasn’t like it was why I did it. I just wanted you to let your mane down and have fun for once in your life, but that’s apparently impossible. I guess that pink stripe in your mane didn’t have an effect after all.”

Something terrible happened then. All the anger drained from her expression and she went eerily calm. “It did, actually. It’s my rebellion against ponies who would try to dictate the terms of my life. A call to resist those who would make me into what they wanted, and right now it’s reminding me that you should leave.”

I felt a pain in my chest, like somepony had just run a spear through my throat and a sob welled up in my throat. Oh no. Oh Celestia, I had… The events of the last few weeks shifted and I saw how I had used her, how I had… “Tavi, I’m–”

“Save it,” she said, cutting me off and turning towards the stairs. “There is nothing you can say to undo this, so don’t… just don’t try.” She turned back to look at me as she reached the stairs.

“Goodbye, Vinyl Scratch.”

For the first time in years, I sobbed.

25. A Melody Alone (Octavia)

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Damn it, I was crying for some reason. Yes, I had just kicked my wife out of the house and wasn’t currently considering any plans to allow her back in, but she deserved everything I did to her. First she forced me to drink the potion against my will, then she lied to me about it, and finally she decided it was appropriate to wipe my mother’s memory. I could understand that the monkey paw didn’t have the desired effect for the last wish, but at this point it was the principle of the thing. She had proven willing to lie to me and use dark magic to get her way, and those were two things I was very strongly opposed to

Vinyl Scratch had done all that, and I was still crying. Why was I so upset? Hormones, damnable hormones, they were compromising my judgment and making it almost impossible for me to think rationally. I closed my eyes and took a series of deep breaths, trying to regain control of my mind and process just what had happened and what my next actions should be.

Right now, I had no business related to Philharmonic Hall, my father and mother were at the doctor’s office to check for a solution to my mother’s sudden loss of memory, and I had addressed a letter to Luna earlier that day explaining the situation, so the only issue I hadn’t dealt with yet was Lyra and Bon-Bon’s unexpected appearance. Yes, they come with Vinyl, but I could at least hear what brought them here. Hopefully, Vinyl had taken my hint and cleared the house… I… I didn’t want to see her right now. And why should I? After all she had done to me, it would be foalish of me to desire anything from her. The mare I loved was gone, consumed by the infernal potion, and right now I couldn’t see any way to get her back. Maybe if Lyra was lucky…

I entered the main den, a large room with a sitting area on one side and a large dining table on the other. It was the primary living area for the wing I had made my home. This house was far too big for just five ponies. Unfortunately, a cursory inspection revealed the room I expected to house my guests was completely empty. “Damn,” I muttered to myself. “I apparently have two guests wandering the estate with no idea where they are, and… where is Woodhoof?”

We had guests and he was just letting them wander unsupervised without informing me… the whole thing… Allowing such to happen was a failure of my ability as a host. Instead of tending to the needs of my guests, I had tended to my own emotional weakness and – I groaned – I had let them witness our fight in the first place. How in Equestria could I forgive myself for my breach in proper etiquette? If I am going to be tending to Monticello, I can’t carry on as I have during the past few years, I reminded myself. During the past few weeks, I had saved my family’s legacy, ensured we would keep our ancestral home, and ensured we would continue into the next generation; I couldn’t let all that slip through my hooves now.

My mind drifted back to Vinyl as I searched the house for either Woodhoof or my guests. A part of me wanted to go back to her and give her another chance, but it was too late for that, she had revealed herself to be the same as my parents and… another pony I would prefer not to think of. Going back to her now would be surrendering my freedom to another pony who wished to control me. Granted, her means of control might be more… affable than others I’d experienced, but she was right; the pink stripe reminded me to be better, to resist such influences, and right now, that meant resisting her.

“Woodhoof,” I called as I searched the house, “where are you?” There was no answer. After long minutes wandering the halls, I finally heard sounds coming from the third-floor atrium. I knocked on the door and listened for a response. Instead, I heard what sounded like a faint chanting as lights flashed from under the door. Against my better judgment, I opened the door to find Lyra sitting in the center of the room, the paw floating before her as a vortex of magical energy swirled around her, howling all the while. This… probably wasn’t something I should interfere with. I closed the door and went back to my search for Woodhoof as a loud boom shook the house. Interrupting Lyra would almost certainly be a bad idea right now, although it would be nice if I knew what she was doing.

Finally, I found my butler polishing the brass in the guest parlor. “Ah, hello Miss Octavia, I heard about your fight with Miss Scratch. How are you holding up?”

“I’m fine,” I said, sniffing at the air. “She made her choice, I made mine, and now we just have to deal with the consequences. While reconciliation would be nice, I really don’t think it would be appropriate, and… I suppose I have a hard time forgiving some of the things she’s done.”

“Yes, well, I believe the monks of Neighpon had an adage I was quite fond of. It has been some time since I last heard it, and something is always lost in the translation, but I suppose it would loosely translate as ‘Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.’”

“That’s…” I stopped as I suddenly recalled a bit about Equestrian history. “Why were you in Neighpon after the Last Great Equestrian War? It was fought against the Griffon Empire and Neighpon had absolutely no involvement. The played a key role in the Third Great Equestrian War, but that took place hundreds of years ago.”

He laughed and shook his head. “No, I was just touring the world after the war ended and thought I would spend some time in Neighpon.”

“Of course,” I said, twisting my lips up in a small smile. “So you’re saying I should forgive the mare who tried to twist me to meet her own ends.”

“Partially, but I’m also trying to say that Miss Scratch might have been twisted to meet another’s ends earlier. As Miss Heartstrings explained it, the paw corrupts everything touched by its wish, or at least… twists it. She’s working on the theory that her original wish infused the potion with dark magic, though she needs a sample of uncontaminated potion to test her theory.”

“And where is she going to get that?” I asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

“Oh, I’m sure a resourceful mare such as her will find a way,” he said, “but on that note, I really would advise against disturbing Miss Heartstrings, the disenchantment process is quite delicate, and any possible disturbance might backfire terribly.”

As if to punctuate his point a booming voice filled the house. “Release me from your grip, infernal mage, and I shall reward you. Power, Wealth, Love, all you wish for will be yours.”

“I saw her earlier and gathered as much. So, how much of our trouble is the paw responsible for?” I asked, taking a seat on the chaise.

“She didn’t specify,” he said as he finished cleaning the room. “What she did say though is that anything touched by the paw is slowly turned towards chaos and madness, and that such effects will continue until the paw is properly disenchanted.”

“Which is what she is doing now?” I asked as a very loud series of thumps came from above us and a chorus of voices chanted in an unknown language (or unknown languages, it was rather hard to make out any details beyond the fact that it hadn’t been heard in Equestria in quite some time) as the gas lights in the house flickered.

“Indeed it is, the ritual should conclude in less than a day, and after that, the paw’s influence in your life should abate,” he said, moving to sit next to me. “At least, that’s how it was explained to me.”

I frowned at that. “You say that, but I really haven’t detected any negative influence on my part. Yes, I have… regressed, but as long as I control my hormones I feel as normal as I ever have. Vinyl’s inability to control herself in her state speaks volumes about an inherent weakness that had previously been hiding beneath the surface. I tried to ignore it, but now the evidence is irrefutable.”

“If I may speak freely, Miss Octavia, I feel you should wait until after the paw has been dealt with before passing judgment. Acting now might be premature, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Perhaps,” I said, sighing and rolling my eyes. Again, such things seem to come naturally to teenagers. “I doubt a good night’s rest will change my opinion on her weakness. Also, I doubt I will be able to get a good night’s rest considering all this noise.”

He smiled at me. “All I ask, Miss Octavia, is that you try.”


The next morning, my mood had not improved too much. The night before, I had spent some time searching for Bon-Bon before eventually being informed that she had departed with Vinyl because Lyra and Bon-Bon worried about either of us being alone right now, and my parents returned to inform us that the doctors could find no way to restore my mother’s mind. Hopefully, the letter I had sent to the princesses the previous day would have some effect. Otherwise, I couldn’t think of a solution to the problem of my mother’s memory. On the other hoof, she was substantially more tolerable than normal, and I felt no great need to restore her to her old self immediately.

My attempts at sleep were stymied by the howling coming from Lyra’s room compounded with a sense of sadness I couldn’t quite quench. Vinyl had wronged me deeply, done something terrible to me, why in Equestria should I miss her? I was… I was better off without her, even if the guttural instinctual part of me failed to realize that. Maybe someday she might return to normal, but even then… Could I accept her knowing what weakness lurked just beneath her surface, waiting for a chance to return? Such thoughts plagued me as I tried to shut out the screeching of the damned, and ensured that when morning found me, I was particularly unhappy.

“Good morning,” Woodhoof said as I descended into the breakfast room (differentiated from the dining room by its east-facing windows and homier decor than the rather ostentatious dining room). “How did you sleep last night?”

I pointed a hoof up at the ceiling as a gurgled shriek echoed through the house. “That wasn’t Lyra screaming was it?”

He shook his head. “No, I don’t believe it was. If not for the fact that she said she needed absolute concentration for the ritual, I would check on–” The house suddenly went completely silent for the first time since Lyra started her ritual.

“Do you think she’s done?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

“It’s worth investigating, I think,” he said. As we got to our hooves, we heard excited hoofsteps upstairs. Before we could even clear the room, a mint-green blur burst through the door, a small black object trailing behind it.

“Check it out,” Lyra said, waving the paw around. Now that she had stopped moving, I could see that Lyra was completely coated in sweat and her mane frazzled. “Completely magically inert monkey paw. Took me…” She looked at the clock. “Wow, is it morning already?”

We both nodded. “That took way longer than I planned,” she said, looking around the room. “Do you have anything to eat? Dispelling ancient cursed objects really works up an appetite.”

“Are you alright?” I asked as Woodhoof went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. “You were up there for quite some time and I have to imagine that your ritual was quite taxing and… thank you for taking care of the paw for me.”

“No worries,” she said, panting for breath. “So, paw taken care of, you and Vinyl can get back together now, right?”

“Did the paw really affect her behavior that much?” I asked as Lyra took a seat at our breakfast table. “I feel mostly unaffected, so it’s hard for me to believe that the paw had too much of an influence on her.”

“Well, I think so,” Lyra said, “I haven’t run the tests on the potion, but…” She shouted into the kitchen. “Hey Woodhoof! You got that pure potion sample for me? After I get some sleep, I want to get my tests going as quick as possible, because the sooner we get you and Vinyl to make up, the sooner Bon-Bon can stop watching over her.”

“Uhmm… I’m sorry,” I said, glancing between Lyra and the kitchen door, “but why would Woodhoof have access to a pure potion sample?” I was beginning to suspect why, but that idea seemed too insane to consider. Because obviously, my life was a paragon of sanity.

Lyra shrugged, “I don’t know, I figured he was old so he had a bunch of stuff. After all, who doesn’t have at least a few mystery potions in the back of their closet?”

“I don’t. Vinyl, despite all her failings, doesn’t. The only pony who apparently has mystery potions in her closet is you,” I said, trying to figure out just how Lyra thought everypony had random potions lying around.

“Bon-Bon does too,” she said, frowning and tilting her head in thought, “and I bet Princess Twilight has a few potions in her castle as well.”

“Princess Twilight is–” I paused as I felt the familiar crackle of magic in the air.

“Incoming teleport!” Lyra shouted before ducking under our table. I moved to follow her when a bubble of white light appeared over our table. A second later, Equestria’s solar diarch, Princess Celestia, burst into existence on our breakfast table..

The small shattered sliver of my brain that still desperately wanted to make sense of the world broke completely and left me stammering in shock. The princess turned to look at me. “I apologize for intruding, Octavia, but as soon as Princess Luna told me about your mother’s plight, I came to help.”

There was some more stammering on my part until I could finally form my thoughts back into words. “I appreciate your concern, Your Highness, but you really shouldn’t trouble yourself for my sake, we… you have more pressing issues to deal with,” I said, hearing the faint sound of chimes in the distance. Thankfully, Woodhoof could deal with whoever else was visiting us. I shook my head; it was far too early to be dealing with guests, certainly far too early to be dealing with one of Equestria’s rulers. I hadn’t even had my coffee yet.

“Nonsense,” Princess Celestia said, smiling down at me. “The well-being of my little ponies is of the utmost importance to me, and I know a few spells that can reconstruct your mother’s memories using the memories of those closest to her. Considering all you’ve done to help my sister, helping you now is the least I can do.”

I smiled and shook my head, trying to convince myself that I wasn’t hallucinating, a task easier said than done. “Thank you, Your Highness. If you wish to help, I would talk with my father and Woodhoof, they have the most memories of her, and most of my memories involving my mother aren’t particularly pleasant.”

“Now, Octavia,” Princess Celestia said. “Every memory you can offer will help the reconstruction immensely. Even if they aren’t pleasant, they will be useful.”

Lyra had been silent ever since the princess’s arrival, and was currently glancing between us and the kitchen, trying to decide which was more pressing, overhearing our conversation or working to get some food. After a minute, she chose food.

“Of course,” I said, bowing my head to the princess. “I apologize for questioning you, obviously if you think my memories will be useful, you will have them.”

At that moment, the door to the main hall opened and Woodhoof walked in with Vinyl and Bon-Bon in tow. “Miss Octavia, Miss Scratch has arrived to off–” He stopped as he saw Celestia still standing on our dining table. My eyes darted from him to Celestia to the mint-green unicorn sticking her head out of my kitchen with a muffin lodged in her mouth to my wife to the clock that didn’t even read eight in the morning.

I sighed. This was going to be one of those days.

26. Acting Your Age (Vinyl)

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I stared at the door Tavi had walked through, unable to think. I’d screwed everything up, and now Tavi was gone. Numbly, I turned to head out of the house, feeling tears run down my cheeks. It had been so long since I cried last, but this was something to cry over. This… I’d never wanted this, I just wanted Tavi to be happy, right? No, a voice in my head whispered, you wanted Tavi to meet your definition of happiness. I walked out onto the streets of Manehattan, wishing there was some way I could take it all back.

“Vinyl, wait!” Bon-Bon yelled, calling after me. “Wherever you’re going, I’m going with you.”

“Really?” I asked, turning to look at the pony sprinting towards me. “I kind of figured you would stay with Tavi since you two are… you know, closer than we are. Like, why isn’t Lyra coming after me?”

“She’s working to disenchant the paw. We thought that should be our first priority, but we didn’t want to leave either of you alone,” Bon-Bon said, catching up with me.

“So… you keep an eye on me, Lyra does the paw thing, and Woodhoof makes sure Tavi is alright?” I asked, turning to continue down the sidewalk as ponies walked around us.

“That’s basically it, yes,” Bon-Bon said, nodding her head as she kept pace with me. I didn’t really want to talk with anypony after what just happened, but at the same time, it was nice to know my friends still cared about me after I’d been such a monumental ass. At least somepony did. “Lyra obviously would have preferred to go with you, but since she’s the only pony who can disenchant the monkey’s paw, we both agreed that should take priority. That means that I’ll be watching you until you fix things with Octavia.”

“You really think I can?” I asked. “I mean, I’d do anything to get her back, but I’m not sure what to do. I know I screwed up, but I want to get her back right now.”

Bon-Bon frowned and shook her head. “That’s the problem, Vinyl, you keep thinking about what you want. Even now, you’re still focusing on what you want and not what Octavia needs. The only way you have a chance at fixing things with Tavi is to start thinking about her, do you understand?”

“But I was thinking about Tavi when I made the first wish–”

“Were you really?” Bon-Bon asked, cutting me off. “Or were you just thinking about yourself and then trying to justify it by saying it helped her? Because as far as I can tell, the only pony who wanted Tavi to drink the potion was you.”

“Okay, so maybe I made the wish for me, but… I just want to get her back, you know? I mean, I love her, and… obviously, upsetting her was the last thing on my mind,” I said as we continued to wander the streets, with no particular destination in mind.

She groaned. “You’re using that phrase again. ‘You want.’ If you want to fix things, you can’t think in those terms for a while, so what do you think Octavia needs?”

“Well, if I was her, I’d probably like some time to calm down, and then after that… maybe a sincere apology?”

Bon-Bon patted me on the back. “That sounds like a wonderful first step. Now let’s get a hotel somewhere, and visit Octavia first thing in the morning.”

I sniffled back my tears and smiled at her. “That sounds like a plan.”


The next morning, I fidgeted with my freshly-bandaged forehoof while Woodhoof led us through the house to whatever room Tavi was in. “Thank you for coming back, Miss Scratch. I fear that without your stabilizing influences, Miss Octavia’s actions will trend towards severity. I can already see it in the way she composes herself.”

“What do you mean?” I asked as Bon-Bon followed behind me.

He sighed as we went up the stairs from the main foyer to our wing of the mansion. “From what I’ve gathered, her mind and emotions are in conflict about what to do with you, and while she misses you, she also thinks parting ways with you is the better choice. To resolve this conflict, she’s decided to–”

“She’s acting like she was before she came to Ponyville,” I said, realizing what he was getting at. Heartbreak and hormones were causing Tavi to fall back on old habits that I thought she had completely forgotten. This… I had to fix this, not for me, but for her.

“I can’t comment on how valid that statement is, as I hadn’t seen her for almost ten years before she came to Ponyville, but I certainly don’t want to see her acting like her mother. It’s… Miss Octavia is far too good a pony to go down that path.”

“Whoa,” I said as we stopped outside a door. “Is she really beginning to act like her mother?”

He frowned at me and nodded. “There are signs, if you know what to look for. She gave me a smile reminiscent of her mother’s after you left, and since then I’ve been thinking about what I can do to help. Almost all solutions involve you.” As he spoke, Portia came running down the hallway, Brutus chasing happily in pursuit. When he saw me, he stopped his chase and moved to lick my cheek, while Bon-Bon recoiled at the sight of such a massive dog.

“Nice to see you too, Brutus,” I said, patting the dog on the head. “I promise we will play after I talk with your mom… or your other mom, I guess. Now don’t mess with your sister too much, alright?” He nodded his head in understanding before running off. “Alright Woodhoof, announce me or whatever it is you want to do.”

He nodded and opened the door, while I followed him in. “Miss Octavia, Miss Scratch has arrived to off–” He stopped as all three of us saw Princess Celestia, co-ruler of Equestria, standing on our breakfast table.

“Huh,” I said, looking between Celestia and Tavi. “Things got weird without me, huh?”

Tavi closed her eyes for a moment, while everypony but the princess looked completely confused. For her part, the princess just stood there smiling while Tavi thought. “Alright,” Tavi said, opening her eyes. “Woodhoof, take Princess Celestia to my mother and father’s room. Bon-Bon, go with Lyra and… I don’t know, do whatever you want. Vinyl, why are you back here?”

“I… I came to apologize,” I said, having a hard time looking her in the eyes while the other ponies left the room, leaving me alone with her. They were so severe, they weren’t the eyes of the mare I knew. Of the mare I married. The worst part was that I was the pony who had made them so harsh.

“Ah, trying to win me back, I suppose you expect some honeyed words will make me forget about everything you’ve done.” Her eyes narrowed as I spoke, and I fought down my own anger. This wasn’t about me, this couldn’t be about me. It was about helping her heal.

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “Yes, I want you to take me back eventually, but this isn’t about that. This is about admitting my mistakes and sincerely apologizing for hurting the mare I love most in the world.”

She pursed her lips and nodded, allowing me to continue. “Look, I made a lot of mistakes, and I know you could argue that I was influenced by the paw, and maybe I was, but I still made them, and I still hurt you, so… I’m sorry. And I know I hurt you, and I know it’s tempting to just bottle up all your emotions to stop hurting, but… I think doing that is just as bad as me doing whatever I wanted. It’s like what I told you way back on the Valiant: you have to have a happy balance between control and over-indulgence, and… I just don’t want to see you cut off a part of yourself because I hurt you. That’s all. If you still don’t want to talk to me or whatever, that’s fine, I just wanted to let you know how sorry I was before things ended.” That was it, I’d said what I had to say, and now all I could do was see how she took it.”

“I’m impressed,” she said slowly, nodding her head in thought. “It sounded like you were being sincere, and a part of me wants to believe you, but… I can’t. Not after you lied to me and broke my trust. Still, if you are sincerely trying to be better than you were, I can give you the same deal I gave my parents: a chance. You may stay in the guest hall with them and go about your life as you see fit. If I think you have made substantial progress, we may revisit the issue of our relationship. As for your concerns about my emotional state, that is no business of yours.”

I swallowed a lump in my throat as she looked at me, trying to decide if her eyes had gotten any softer. I couldn’t tell. “Alright,” I said, “I guess I’ll go move my things to my new room.”

“Thank you,” she said, “I have to see my parents about a ritual, and I would appreciate it if your items were gone by the time I returned.”

“Of course,” I mumbled as I headed to our old room, feeling my eyes grow heavier with every step. By the time I stumbled into our old room, it took every last bit of willpower I had to get to our bed before passing out.


“Vinyl, wake up,” a familiar voice said, pulling me back to the real world. “What did you do?”

I groaned and rolled over onto my back. Tavi’s pink eyes stared down at me, a look of surprise and confusion on her face. “What do you mean ‘what did I do?’ I took a nap, I thought that would be kind of obvious.” I said, yawning. My whole body felt slower for some reason, and I groaned. The last few weeks… what had I been thinking? I had a life, I had a wife who loved me, I had a great job, and I still got to DJ whenever I wanted. Why had I been so obsessed with whatever bit of my youth I thought was so cool? The whole experience just made me want to throttle my old (younger) self.

Tavi shook her head. “That’s not what I’m… Vinyl, you’re old again.”

“Really?” I asked, rolling out of bed and heading to the mirror. I was definitely a bit taller than Tavi, and a glance at the mirror revealed that my body was back to its old proportions, stomach pudge and all. “Huh.”

“‘Huh.’ That’s all you have to say about apparently reversing the potion’s effect,” she said, bewilderment replacing her harsh expression from earlier today. “Again, what did you do?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know, Lyra said something about there being a natural way to undo the potion. I guess me trying to be mature and apologizing for…” I frowned recalling what I’d done to her. “I’m sorry again, it’s–”

“Not important right now,” Tavi said, cutting me off as her eyes hardened. “What is important is figuring out why you displaying one iota of maturity undoes the potion’s effects, while I’ve been nothing but mature since you forced me to drink the potion and still haven’t returned to normal.”

She scowled and stormed off towards the door, muttering. “I swear, if the fact that I am the only pony in Equestria who can properly control herself leads to me being stuck like this, I’ll…”

“I wasn’t trying to act mature,” I said, shouting after her as the door slammed shut, leaving me alone in the room to finish the thought in a whisper. “I just wanted to help you.”

27. To Err is Equine

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After Vinyl said her little apology, I headed off to see my mother. I… I wanted to believe her, but after all she’d done, I just couldn’t. Instead, I decided to focus on helping my mother regain her memories. Leaving Vinyl Scratch behind to help my mother, the thought would have been utterly inconceivable to me forty-eight hours ago, and now… here we were.

“Good morning,” Celestia said as I entered into my parents room. “I apologize for prying, but the letter Luna showed me alluded to a conflict with your wife. Are the two of you alright?” The princess gave me her implacable serene smile, and I tried to force down my irritation. Of course she knew intimate details about my personal life, why in Equestria wouldn’t she? It was her meddling that caused me to come to Ponyville in the first place.

For the first time in years, I found myself wondering if my coming to Ponyville had been for the best, before ultimately dismissing such thoughts. Ponyville gave me my daughter, that had to count for something, even if everything else had gone… poorly. Besides, Lyra and Bon-Bon were still enjoyable ponies, and maybe Vinyl actually was trying to reform. Either way, the most pressing matter was resolving my mothers current condition and getting her back to normal. (Yes, she was normally distasteful, but mind magic was something of a trigger for me.)

“We’re… I’m not sure right now,” I said, frowning. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather not discuss such a personal matter. Can we just get the spell underway?”

She nodded imperceptibly. “Of course, first I will need the three of you to form a circle around Landed Estate.” As she spoke, Woodhoof, my father, and I moved to take our places around my mother, who was apparently quite calm about being the focus of a major memory spell. Then again, I suppose just the chance at remembering who she was would make any risk worthwhile. “Good, now then, for the spell to work, I will need access to your memories. If you don’t wish to participate, I will call the ritual off.”

“I have sworn to serve this family, and if this is what is required of me, I will do it gladly,” Woodhoof said.

“And I would prefer it if my wife had her memories back,” Father said, giving the princess a properly formal bow. “Repeating our courtship would be… inefficient.”

“As long as my memories won’t be altered, I will offer my help,” I said, deciding it was reasonable to trust the princess with the contents of my mind. Certainly, I didn’t see her deciding to reshape the contents of my mind as she saw fit like Vinyl had attempted to do. The thought of how she had willingly altered me against my consent sent another raw spike of anger up my spine. If she had just forced me to drink the potion against my will and explained herself afterwards, it was conceivable that I could forgive her. Instead, she had lied about it and obliterated my trust in her when the truth came out.

“Landed,” Princess Celestia said, looking at my mother, “are you ready?” My mother nodded at her as a bright light enveloped Princess Celestia’s horn. Three beams of light shot out towards the ponies who knew my mother best. As one of the beams struck me, I felt a slow easy contentedness washing over me as memories of my mother bubbled up to the surface of my mind.

It was amazing to me how few memories I actually had of her. There were some from my foalhood where she lectured me about propriety and spent a large amount of time grooming me for high society, but I suppose I had forgotten how few moments of actual fondness there were between us. Our relationship revolved around what was and wasn’t proper, and that was it. Then after I got my cutie mark, there were the fights about what I was going to do with the rest of my life, with her insisting that pursuing an actual career as a musician would be a disgrace to our family name. Finally, there was the fight, the ultimate severing of our relationship where she told me that I could either abandon my dreams of being a musician or leave her house. I chose the latter and didn’t see her again for a decade.

I felt like I was a foal again, sitting in front of my mother as she lectured me on what a good filly should and shouldn’t do. She was right about some things, that there were proper ways to do things. Maybe if I had listened to her about Vinyl, my wife wouldn’t have… betrayed me so completely. More memories came to the surface of my mind, these not related to my mother in the slightest. They were memories of my time in Ponyville, of the whirlwind courtship with Vinyl, our first drunken date, her supporting me after the events of Nightmare Night and Anthro-Con, the rebuilding after Canterlot… Without her, I might very well have been driven irredeemably mad. If I could give my mother a second chance, I could give my wife one as well, and if she failed again, then I would know her apology this morning was nothing more than empty words.

The ritual ended and my mother collapsed on the floor. Celestia nodded at us. “She will need some time to process her new memories, and for that, she needs her rest.” As she spoke, Celestia floated her over to my parents’ bed and tucked her into the sheets. “After some rest, she should be better than ever.”

“And the less-pleasant aspects of her personality?” I blurted out as Celestia turned to leave. Why in Equestria would I bring that up?

Celestia just smiled at me. “It has been my experience that such traumas tend to leave a pony re-evaluating their priorities in life. Now if you will excuse me, I’m afraid I must get back to Canterlot. Please let me know how your mother recovers.” There was a brief cackle of magical energy and the princess vanished.

I nodded at my father. “You will let me know when she wakes up,” I said, turning towards the door. “Right now, I’m going to take a nap in my room. Hopefully mother won’t be too upset when she wakes up. I’d hate for her to try and kill my wife.” At least, not before I had a chance to.


My wife had passed out on the middle of my bed, thoroughly ruining my plan to sleep in it. She was supposed to be getting her things out of my room and instead she was taking a nap. I took a step closer towards her and realized something about her was off. Her proportions were both different and familiar. I frowned, this was either very good or very very bad. “Vinyl, wake up,” I said, standing above her. “What did you do?”

She snorted and flopped over onto her back, looking up at me and giving an absolutely earth shattering yawn. “What do you mean ‘what did I do?’ I took a nap, I thought that would be kind of obvious.” She blinked up at me, her countenance taking on a reflective aspect I hadn’t seen in it for almost a month as I determined that the potion’s effects had definitely left my wife. My heart fluttered for a second; she was cured, and this nightmare finally had a chance at ending. Unfortunately, she was either choosing to play dumb or completely oblivious.

I shook my head, trying to hide my frustration. “That’s not what I… Vinyl, you’re old again.”

“Really?” she asked, surprise entering her eyes. She was either a very good liar (and nopony was that good a liar when they just woke up) or she was actually surprised. I sighed. “Huh,” she finished. That was it? Her curse was over, and all she had to say was “huh”? I found myself biting my tongue. She managed to go back to normal and I was still stuck looking like a teenager? It wasn’t fair.

“‘Huh.’ That’s all you have to say about reversing the potion’s effects?” She had wanted to go back to being a teenager and now here she was, looking like nothing had ever happened, while I was still stuck looking a decade too young. Now if I wanted to continue our relationship (still debatable), our already noticeable age difference would be doubled. Of course, she wouldn’t care about such things, she was too much a free spirit to be burdened by the opinions of others. If I could find out how she undid the potion though, all my problems would be solved, or at least most of them. “Again, what did you do?”

She shrugged, still feigning ignorance. “I don’t know, Lyra said something about there being a natural way to undo the potion. I guess me trying to be mature and apologizing for…” She trailed off, shame filling her face while I fumed at the idea that her trying to act like an adult is what undid the spell. I had been the very essence of propriety, but I was still stuck like a teenager. “I’m sorry again, it’s–”

I cut her off. “Not important right now.” My eyes narrowed as I fumed over the injustice of our situations. “What is important is figuring out why you displaying one iota of maturity undoes the potion’s effects, while I’ve been nothing but mature since you forced me to drink the potion and I still haven’t returned to normal.”

The only pony who could possibly give me a reasonable explanation was Lyra, so I headed off to find her, muttering as I did so. Vinyl called out after me. “I wasn’t trying to act mature–” I never heard her finish the thought as I slammed the door shut and headed out into the mansion to find a pony who might have some answers.


“Lyra!” I shouted as I stormed down the halls of our mansion towards her guest room, “I need to talk to you about the–”

“She’s sleeping,” Bon-Bon said, poking her head out of their room. “She spent all night disenchanting the paw for you, so right now she needs her rest. I don’t care how urgent it is, unless the house is on fire, I’m not going to let you wake her up.” I frowned, recalling last night. She did deserve her rest, even if it greatly inconvenienced me.

“Vinyl undid her potion,” I said to my friend. “She claims not to know what she did, but she thinks it has something to do with her apology.”

“That’s great news,” Bon-Bon said, closing the door to Lyra’s room. “Half of your problem is solved then. Once we get you back to normal, everything will be taken care of.”

I shook my head at her. “This is not great news. If Vinyl acting like an adult is what undid the potion, then how come I’m still stuck like this? Since I drank the potion, I’ve taken great pains to be mature, and for whatever reason, I’m still a teenager.”

Bon-Bon frowned and shook her head. “Maybe that’s not the solution then. Perhaps you should talk to your wife and see just why she apologized to you.”

“That…” I frowned at her. “Your idea has some merit. You will send Lyra to me as soon as she wakes up?”

Bon-Bon nodded. “Of course. Just remember, it’s of the utmost importance that you keep calm. According to Lyra, the potion amplifies your emotions, and so if you two get into a fight–”

I cut her off and smiled. “Don’t worry Bon-Bon, I’m always in control of myself.” She just smiled and laughed nervously in response as I headed off towards our room.


In my opinion, a labyrinthine mansion is not a particularly pleasant place to traverse when you have a foal growing inside you. I had to stop and take a breather before I got back to our bedroom. When I arrived, Vinyl was busy putting all her possessions into boxes. “I want to talk,” I said, moving to lay down on our bed and get some weight off my hooves.

“Sure,” she said, floating the albums she had accrued during our time in Manehattan into a nearby box. “Mind if I sit on the bed?” I shook my head and she moved to sit on the far end of the couch, giving me as much space as I could. “So, what did you want to talk about?”

“In the general sense, I want to talk about us, but right now I am mostly concerned with just why the potion stopped affecting you,” I said, frowning and staring at the ceiling. “It just seems odd; you doing one semi-mature thing lifts the curse, while I’ve been nothing but mature and still stuck as a teenager.”

She shrugged. “Well, it’s not like I was trying to be mature, I just… you know, I realized I’d screwed up royally and wanted to help undo some of the damage I caused. I wanted to give you what deserved.”

“So, you stopped thinking of yourself and did something for another pony,” I said, rolling onto my side to face her.

“Yeah, basically,” she said, nodding. “It was like, I realized I’d been acting like a jerk and then Bon-Bon told me that instead of thinking about how to get you back, I should think about how to help you. So yeah, maybe putting another pony’s needs above my own is what did it. It was the first time I did that since I drank the potion.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe I turned into a jerk, and I really want to make that up to you, Tavi. Even if making it up to you means leaving you alone. I’d understand if you want somepony better.”

I gave her a small smile. “Excluding your behavior over the past few weeks, I don’t think I could find a better pony.” She had made mistakes, yes, but she was also trying to atone. If I could forgive my parents, I could forgive my wife. I found myself recalling our five years of wedded bliss, could I really throw all that away after a few bad aches? “Vinyl, I’m going to forgive you. Please don’t make me regret it.”

Vinyl positively beamed at that. “R-really?” she asked, her voice actually quivering with excitement.

“Really,” I said, feeling my bitterness melt away. “There’s too much good to throw out our entire relationship, and you deserve to be in our daughter’s life.” I crawled over to her and laid down next to her, before grabbing her foreleg and resting my forehoof on my bulging stomach, allowing her to feel the foal inside. “We’re family, and family forgives.” I smiled and kissed her cheek, as my lack of sleep over the past few days suddenly hit me with full force.

I smiled as my eyes closed, and five words escaped my lips before I lost all consciousness. “I love you, Vinyl Scratch.”

28. All Apologies (Vinyl)

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The light from Lyra’s horn faded. “Yep, I can’t detect any signs of outside magic in your magical field,” she said, beaming at us. “What did you do?”

“Vinyl apologized and I forgave her,” Tavi said, frowning in thought. A few hours ago, she had fallen asleep after apologizing to me, and now she was pretty much back to normal. Plus, I bet she didn’t have anywhere near as much shit to feel guilty about as I did. I’d been terrible to Tavi’s mom (though she kind of made it easy for me to be terrible to her), terrible to my friends, and terrible to Tavi. Yeah, she had forgiven me, but… I don’t feel like I actually deserved it. She didn’t even try to make me atone, she just forgave me. “I’m still not sure what the connection is. I can understand Vinyl maturing after acting like an adult again, but…”

“You both thought of somepony else,” Bon-Bon said, sitting next to her wife in the breakfast room. “It makes sense.”

“Really?” we both asked. Funny, we were talking together again. Not much of that happened when I was a teenager for whatever reason.

“How would thinking of another pony undo the effects of age magic? It doesn’t seem… I can’t see the connection,” Tavi said, sitting next to me.

Bon-Bon laughed at that. “Sorry, it’s just… for me, I remember being incredibly selfish when I was a teenager. Not maliciously, just… it was hard for me to think of what other ponies would like.”

“That sounds about right,” I said, nodding my head in agreement. “I figured what I wanted was best for Tavi, and thought she was just… wrong when she disagreed with me. It’s so dumb, but I thought I knew best about everything.” I swallowed nervously and found myself having a hard time looking at anypony. Tavi might’ve forgiven me (or at least said she had), but I was having a hard time forgiving myself.

“And perhaps my concern with propriety prevented me from properly empathizing with ponies,” Octavia said, noticing my discomfort and moving to pat my back. Dammit, could she stop being so sensitive and understanding? Ever since she woke up a few hours ago, she’d been reminding me of how the potion messed with my brain and that it wasn’t my fault, and the whole thing just made me feel worse somehow.

I mean, I didn’t deserve this forgiveness, I had screwed up royally, and she was being understanding and it’s like… I needed to atone for it, right? But how could I do that when she was just being nice and… was this what she felt like when I was doing so much to help her out after she just moved to Ponyville?

“Hey, I have to go for a walk,” I said, smiling at Tavi. “There are still a few ponies I need to apologize to.”

She frowned at me and tapped a forehoof against the table. “Hmm, you apologized to me, you apologized to Lyra and Bon-Bon, that just leaves…” Her eyes went wide. “Vinyl, I can go with you for this. You shouldn’t face her alone.”

“But I want to,” I said, getting up on my hooves. “I mean, I’m really kind of terrified, but at the same time, it’s like… my gut is telling me to. Besides, your mom really can’t hurt me. You know the truth and she doesn’t have anything else she can hold over me.” I reflexively leaned in to kiss her neck, and felt her muscles tense.

Tavi smiled at me and hid her discomfort. “Of course, but if you need anything… just let me know. I know how unpleasant she can be.”


“Please, come in, Vinyl,” Landed said, her smile shocking me with its sheer normalcy. Seeing an actual smile on her face was actually really unnerving. “I’m actually glad you stopped by.”

“Yeah, I wanted to apologize,” I said, stepping into her room. “I… did a lot of things I regretted while affected by the potion, and I think wiping your mind was probably the worst. I know you have no reason to forgive me, but–”

“Oh, just stop,” Landed said, laughing as she took a seat. “Your decision to apologize is admirable, but I honestly feel… fine.” She shook her head. “Something about the spell Princess Celestia used, old memories are coming to the surface and making me rethink some of my life choices. My mother, she was so kind and supportive of me – yes, she focused on propriety, but she still cared for me and wanted me to be happy. I think she was heartbroken when I married Record.”

“What? Record seems okay to me. Like, no offense, but when I met him a week or so ago he seemed a bit more… you know.”

“Nicer?” Landed asked, still smiling as I took my own seat. “Yes, I suppose he is, but at the same time… he’s driven. When he was younger, he was just as focused on advancing himself as I was. The only reason he changed was because during our war with the Apples, he lost all of his businesses. Now that he’s ‘retired,’ he’s calmed down substantially. Instead of managing a business empire, he spends his days reading or in the pool. Sometimes both.”

“So… he’s trying to be nicer, too?” I asked, looking around her room. It was… functional? I guess. There definitely wasn’t a lot of stuff there; a bed, a dresser, a mirror, and a bunch of empty space. Then again, Tavi said that empty space was apparently a sign that a pony was rich, so maybe this was just a sign that they were really well off. I mean, their room certainly had a lot of empty space. The only other furniture in it was the small tea table we were sitting around.

“I suppose,” she said, her smile briefly turning into a frown. “A part of me wonders if he’s not just playing nice now because there’s nothing to be ruthless about.” Landed shook her head. “I’m sorry, you didn’t want to hear my speculating. How can I help you?”

“You can start by telling me why you’re suddenly being so nice. Not complaining, but it’s really weird,” I said, wondering just what her game was. Not to say her being nice was bad, just so completely jarringly different that I couldn’t help but think it was part of some scheme to get back at me.

“Like I said, after the ritual, I found myself re-evaluating my decisions and realizing… I was horrible to my daughter. I encouraged Record to kick her out, I constantly plotted to get her to do what I wanted, and tried to bribe you to leave her,” she said, her frown growing. “My own mother supported me, and whatever event prompted me to be so… cold was lost in the reconstruction, I suppose. I’d like to try to be a better mother to Octavia, although I suppose she doesn’t need me anymore.”

“Nope,” I said, nodding, “and I don’t think you have any parenting wisdom you could share with her, but… I think she would love it if you got to know her and have a part in her life. I mean, as long as you don’t try to control her life.”

“Obviously,” she said, nodding and looking almost exactly like Tavi as she did. It was actually kind of weird how strong the resemblance was, even though… I mean, she was Tavi’s mom, so I guess it’s not that weird. “Can I ask you how I should go about that, though? You know my daughter better than I.”

“Tavi really appreciates it if you’re open and honest with her. I mean, it’s the main reason she forgave me. Show remorse, apologize, but just… be honest with her. Lies and mind-control magic are probably the two biggest ways to get her incredibly pissed at you.”

“Language,” Landed said. “It’s… there’s no need for you to swear, such things are improper.” Well, I guess she hadn’t completely changed. That was actually kind of reassuring.

“Sorry,” I said. “Anyways, my main point is that you should just… talk to her. I’ll even put in a good word for you.” I felt myself smile. “And this time, you won’t have to blackmail me.”

She blinked at me in confusion. “Did I actually try to do that?” Of course she didn’t know that. Tavi probably didn’t know about our “deal”, so whenever Celestia did her memory transfer thingy, that memory didn’t make it in.

I nodded at her. “Yeah, that… it actually led to our big fight. Well, it sparked our fight. Me being a total moron led to the fight, and I have to make it up to Tavi somehow.”

“Well then, it seems we both have things to make up for,” Landed said, her genial smile returning.

“Yeah, I guess we do,” I said, slowly nodding my head before returning her smile. “And hey, if she could forgive me, then I’m sure she can forgive you.”

“Perhaps so,” she said. “Anyways, Vinyl Scratch, consider your apology accepted. Assuming you accept my apology for my callousness, of course.”

“I think we can do that,” I said, nodding. “Water under the bridge, then?”

“Water under the bridge.”

“Cool,” I said, getting up on my hooves and heading towards the door. The sun had set a few hours ago, and with my youth gone (thankfully), I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open. Hopefully, Tavi will be cool with us sharing a bed, I thought as I walked back to our room and collapsed on the bed.


I woke up to the sound of a pony pacing. It was still dark out, and nopony else was in the bed. My wife was pacing at the foot of our bed, mumbling softly to herself. “You alright?” I asked, lifting my head up to get a better look at her.

She shook her head. “No, I am still… upset about things, I suppose, and more importantly, I think your daughter is trying to kill me by turning my internal organs into pulp.”

“Want to talk about it?” I asked, rolling out of bed. “Not the thing with our daughter, but the other one. The fact that you’re still upset. Would you prefer it if I found another room to sleep in?”

“No,” she said, wincing. “I’m not upset with you, just… I am, but I’m not. I forgave you, I’m happy to help you, but at the same time, a part of me worries that you will betray me again.”

“Well, I mean, I won’t,” I said, moving to turn the light on in our room. “But I also get that you might not trust me too much. I know I’ve been pretty terrible to you, and I know it takes time to restore a pony’s trust in you.”

Tavi grimaced and sat next to the bed. “I know… I mean, I know you won’t hurt me, but two months ago, I knew you wouldn’t hurt me, and then you did, and I suppose…” She shook her head and tried to smile. “I really don’t know where I’m going with this... How was your conversation with my mother?” Tavi suddenly asked.

“Weird,” I said, sitting next to her, and draping my foreleg over her shoulders while she pressed her head against my chest. “She actually seemed nice and… how did you know about our talk?”

“I spoke with her after my talk with my father.”

“Oh? How was that?” I asked, feeling my ears perk up and recalling Landed’s thoughts on the matter.

“Strange,” she said, “he admitted to some… less than pleasant things and then apologized for them.” Tavi stopped and laughed. “Considering how friendly my mother was, I might suspect my parents were replaced with duplicates.”

“Ooh! Or maybe it’s a changeling plot,” I said, instantly regretting the words as I felt her whole body get tense. Right, mentioning changelings to Tavi was a bad idea. I quickly tried to change the subject matter. “Hey, have you seen Brutus and Portia lately? Ever since we got here, they’ve been kind of… It’s a big house, and I’m worried they got lost.”

I groaned, cleaning up his messes was my responsibility, and that meant that there was probably a room somewhere that he had converted into his own bathroom. So… yeah, if this was supposed to be a test of our parenting abilities, we might have some things to work on. In our defense though, the last few days were really crazy, and I guess Bon-Bon was right when she said teenagers have a hard time thinking of ponies outside themselves. I know I did. “I’ll take care of it,” I said. “How’s Portia?”

“When I checked a few hours ago–” I heard her inhale sharply as every single muscle in her body seemed to get tight. “I swear, if I have to put up with much more of this, I’m going to dump our daughter off on my parents.”

“That’s pretty harsh,” I said. “I mean, I know they’re doing better, but still, I thought you were big into raising our daughter ourselves.”

“I am,” she said, the tension fading from her a few seconds later, “but I would appreciate it if she stopped making me feel like my body was about to be ripped in two.”

“Her kicking’s that bad?” I asked as she got back onto her hooves and started pacing again. She just nodded at me.

“I really don’t know what I did to deserve this, Vinyl,” Tavi said after a few more seconds. “I’m trying to be a good mother, I read every book on parenting I could find, I had something of a crash course on dealing with teenagers this past month, and I think–” She paused as we both heard something squish on the floor, and I suddenly found my heart in my throat.

“Vinyl,” she finally said, “my water just broke.”

29. Fathers and Daughters (Octavia)

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Vinyl had just walked off into the proverbial lion’s den alone and unarmed, leaving me alone to think… well, and talk with Lyra and Bon-Bon, but considering the glances I caught them sharing, they would probably appreciate some time alone. “I have some business to take care of as well,” I said, smiling at them.

“Alright,” Bon-Bon said, nodding her head as Lyra scooted closer to her. “We’ll see you tomorrow, I suppose.” I gave her a nod as I headed to the main foyer, unpleasant thoughts entering my head. Yes, I had forgiven Vinyl, and I absolutely meant it. For the first time in weeks, I had seen my Vinyl, and that look of sadness and regret in her eyes… it was one I was all too familiar with. During my first few days in Ponyville, I did things I regretted almost immediately, but even before we started dating, she was always there to forgive me, and… I just didn’t want us to fight anymore. We both regretted our actions, and isn’t love about forgiving when the other errs?

I didn’t doubt my decision for an instant, but something still sat uneasy with me and I was having a hard time understanding what it was. I curled up on one of the chairs and thought, hoping to find whatever it was that bothered me. I loved Vinyl, and I had meant it when I said I forgave her. There weren’t any ulterior motives to my forgiveness, unless a desire to move past our hostilities and welcome back the Vinyl I loved counted as an ulterior motive. I forgave her, I loved her, but when I looked at her, I still saw the other Vinyl, the one who had betrayed me completely, and wondered just how much of her was left.

The kiss she gave me before leaving to speak with my mother brought back far too many memories of the past few weeks, some pleasant, most not. In time, those memories would almost certainly fade as new memories replaced them, but what was I to do until then? The fastest way to move past such things was to continue our relationship normally, but those damned memories made doing so difficult. Every touch and kiss recalled the hours we spent together, and the betrayal they stemmed from. I sighed, forgiveness, it seemed, didn’t wash away all our past problems.

“Hello, Octavia,” my father said as he walked into the foyer. “I didn’t expect to find you here, I can leave if you wish.

I shook my head. “No, stay, I… if you don’t mind hearing about my relationship problems, that is. Having somepony to talk with would be immensely helpful right now.”

“Of course,” he said, nodding his head and taking a seat across from me. “Still having your fight with Vinyl?”

“You knew about that?” I asked, not recalling telling him about my fight with my wife.

He laughed and nodded, and I found myself noticing how oddly rehearsed the action felt. “I know you aren’t particularly close to your mother, but I’d like to think that if a pony wiped away your mother’s memories, you’d at least be a little upset with her.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “But to answer your question, no, we are no longer fighting. The potion that was affecting both of us has dissipated, and as far as I can tell, we are back to our old selves.”

“Potion?” he asked, his ears perking up. “Is that why you look different today?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Even after living in the same (admittedly very large) house as me for the last few weeks, he still hadn’t noticed anything was wrong until I had explicitly told him. “Yes,” I said as my laughter subsided, “the fact that the potion was dispelled is why I actually look my age. How did you not notice?”

“We hadn’t seen you for years. For all we knew, you might have just looked young for your age and commenting would have been rude,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “As for not noticing your change today, I suppose I was thinking of Landed. She’s been odd ever since she woke up.”

“Define odd,” I said, thinking of the conversation my mother was currently having with my wife.

“In this case, I mean pleasant. We were actually having a conversation about how she could make amends to you for all she had done.” He apparently saw the shock on my face. “I feel the same way you do. Your mother being pleasant to other ponies is not something I ever expected to see.”

“Then pardon me for asking, but if she was so unpleasant, why did you marry her?” I asked, deciding to ask a question that had been in the back of my mind for the last few weeks. While my father had been far more… amicable than I remembered him, my mother had been just as awful as she had when we last met.

His expression shifted into a frown. “I suppose you deserve the truth. I married her for the same reason I do anything: to advance myself. I formed a business empire with the now defunct Capitail Records, and still wanted more, so I married into one of Equestria’s noble families. Now that I’ve no more real opportunities to do so, I’ve found myself thinking more about the morality of all my actions.”

“Is that why you apologized to me?” I asked, furrowing my brow. Hearing him speak so freely was… more than a little shocking.

“No, I did that to preserve a measure of what I had spent a lifetime earning. Yes, what we did to you was terrible, and you deserved an apology certainly, but the only reason I worked so hard to convince your mother to bury the hatchet with you was because if we didn’t, we would lose everything. At least this way, I get to keep… something.”

I closed my eyes and took a calming breath as our daughter punched at one of my internal organs with all her might. I gritted my teeth until the pain passed. “Did you mean it when you apologized to me, or was this just some attempt to ‘advance yourself?’”

“It was both,” he said, not noting my physical distress. “You deserved your apology, but I also decided it was the best way to end the Apples’ attacks on us. If not apologizing to you would’ve benefited me more, I would have forsaken the right thing in favor of benefiting myself.”

“Then why are you admitting all this?” I asked, my mind turning back to Vinyl’s apology. It was easy for my father to seem sincere a few weeks ago, but apparently that had all been a deception, or at least a decision motivated more by pragmatism than a desire to make amends.”

His frown deepened. “For the last few weeks, I’ve had nothing to do but wander the house and think about past actions. Beyond that, seeing the mare you became… I suppose I’ve started to regret my ruthless pragmatism and want to try to be better. That means being honest with you now. You deserve a better father than I’ve been.”

“I see,” I said, nodding my head. “I appreciate your honesty then, it would’ve been easier for you to have just lied, but you chose to do the hard thing. That means a lot to me.”

He nodded at me. “Thank you for being so kind to your mother and me. It wasn’t something we deserved.”

“There’s a friend I have in Ponyville,” I said, feeling the same compassion I’d felt when I forgave Vinyl rising up in me, “she believes that if you were only kind to those who deserved it, it wouldn’t be real kindness.” I felt myself smile. “It would just be self-interest.”

“Something to think about,” my father said, tilting his head. “Anyways, I’m sure you have more to do this evening than talk to an old man about all the things he did wrong in his youth. Perhaps you should visit your mother and see how odd she is for yourself. I’m still trying to think if the change is a positive thing.”

“How would being nice be a bad thing?” I asked, getting up to my hooves, and feeling somewhat more at peace regarding my decision to forgive Vinyl. Maybe the bad in her was still there, but she was working to be better than it, and for the past five years she had succeeded so brilliantly I never noticed it was there, and assuming she didn’t drink anymore magic age potions, I never would again. Soon we’d have our daughter, and this unpleasant chapter of our lives would be closed. I made a note to discuss the name dream with her tonight or tomorrow.

As I walked to my mother’s room, there was another spasm of pain as I felt my daughter kick at me again. For some unknown reason, these punches were almost debilitating while her earlier attempts at punching and kicking were merely inconvenient. For a moment, I considered that this might be the start of labor before dismissing such thoughts. I wasn’t due for a few more weeks, I was fine.

“Good evening, Octavia,” my mother said after I knocked on her door. “What brings you here?”

I tried to smile at her, “I heard you were acting kind, and I came to investigate such claims myself.”

She laughed, “I suppose you’ve been talking with your father then? Yes, I am trying to be kinder than I was. Admittedly, it’s rather difficult, but I feel… when I was regaining my memories, I saw them from the perspective of the pony I was hurting, and all those feelings came with them. Woodhoof’s love, your father’s resentment, and your bitterness… I felt all of it, and now I want to make up for it. I wronged ponies, and I wronged you most of all.”

That was… I could understand how seeing all my actions through the eyes of another pony might lead to re-evaluating my priorities, especially if they had been anywhere near as unpleasant as my mother’s. “I’m sorry you had to go through that,” I said. “Even if the result made you better, nopony should go through that.”

She smiled at me. “That’s not important now. What is important is that I make amends to you.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “It seems that’s the theme for today, everypony wants to apologize to me for something, so allow me to make this simple, you are forgiven. As long as you don’t go about acting like your old self, there is no need to work on amends, although I would appreciate it if we got to know each other better.”

My mother tilted her head and furrowed her brow, in a very familiar look of confusion. “I honestly thought I would have to do more to win your forgiveness, my actions were… inexcusable.”

“They were,” I said, nodding at her in agreement, “but I’ve been doing a truly excessive amount of forgiving, and I see no need to break that trend. Besides, I highly doubt this is some sort of ruse.”

“What makes you say that?” she asked, looking at me from across her tea table.

“You never managed to make your smiles look like actual smiles before,” I said, as I felt another pain in my abdomen. I winced.

“Are you alright?” my mother asked, furthering my theory that she was trying to be a better pony. I highly doubt she would have noticed three days ago.

I nodded slowly. “My daughter is proving to be problematic,” I said as the pain subsided. “These past few weeks, she’s been growing more and more restless, and today is the worst by far.” Outside the sun had just gone down, and I felt my lack of sleep over the past few days catch up to me. “I am going to try to get some sleep. The last few nights have been rough, and maybe she’ll be better in the morning.”

“Of course,” my mother said, nodding her head at me as I got up onto my hooves. “I will see you tomorrow, dear.”


Sleep was not forthcoming that night, and I soon found myself pacing our bedroom, in an attempt to working my intermittent pain out or, failing that, exhaust myself to the point I could sleep through it. It also provided an opportunity for me to work my worries about Vinyl. She eventually woke up, and we had an illuminating conversation. When it was finally over, I felt like I could actually get some sleep. It was, of course, at that moment, that my water broke.

30. Birth of an Era (Vinyl)

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Ohshitohshitohshit. We were supposed to have two more weeks left ‘til she delivered, and I’m like… 90% sure Tavi hadn’t done much preparing for the birth while she was a teenager. I definitely hadn’t. “Vinyl,” she shouted, “we need to get to the hospital right now, grab the hospital bag and let’s go. If you see Woodhoof inform him that we are leaving.”

I frowned, not wanting to give my wife the bad news. “Uhmm… unless you set up the hospital bag when I wasn’t looking, we don’t have one in Manehattan. We have one in Ponyville though.”

She winced. “Alright, let’s just… let’s go then. The sooner we can get to the hospital, the better.” I grabbed my saddlebags while she was talking and put whatever items I could find that looked useful in it. Unfortunately, there weren’t many useful things lying around.

“Got it!” I said, heading towards the door, as she waddled behind me. “We have a blanket and… uhmm…” I floated more items towards me. “We have a lot of blankets. Did we need anything else?”

“Yes,” she said as she opened the door. “Lots of things, but if you can find a hoofwatch, we should be… okay.”

“Why would I need a hoofwatch?” I asked, putting the saddlebag on and heading out the door.

“Because–” I could see her wince. “Do you remember the talk we had a few months ago about what you needed to do once I went into labor?”

I shook my head, trying to think of where I could find a hoofwatch. “Sounds familiar, but… yeah, I forgot. I think once you set up the hospital bag in Ponyville, I figured it was all taken care of so I didn’t need to worry about it. What’s the hoofwatch for?”

She grunted. “Just get one from Woodhoof. I will meet you at the exit.”

“Alright,” I said as I sprinted off down the mansion halls. “I’ll be back as quick as I can.”


“Woodhoof! Get up!” I said, pounding on his door. I heard him shuffling out of his bed, and a few seconds later, his door clicked open.

“Is everything alright Mrs. Scratch?” he asked, gesturing for me to come inside.

“No time,” I panted, now that I was back to myself, anything faster than a light jog left me winded, but if Tavi needed me to run, I’d run. “Baby is a go. Need a hoofwatch for…”

“Timing contractions,” he said, nodding and moving to look through his dresser. “I should have one here…” Woodhoof stopped and pulled out a silver watch. “Take this, I will meet you at the hospital once I rouse the rest of the household and gather some items you and Mrs. Octavia might need..”

He said something, but I couldn’t hear him as I sprinted back towards the entrance to the house. Holy shit, why did we have to have such a big house? If we were back in Ponyville, this would have been super easy. Instead, I was running a marathon before we even left the house. “Got... the watch,” I said, chest heaving as I sucked in air. “Ready… to… go?”

She nodded at me and opened the door. “Yes, the last contraction ended roughly two minutes ago, start the timer when the next one starts.

“How will I know when it starts?” I asked as we walked out onto the street and I waved a hoof to try and hail a cab.

“You’ll know,” Tavi said, glaring at me as a cab a cab pulled over towards us. “Just start the timer when I start cursing your name, our daughter, or life in general.” She looked at the cabbie as I helped hoist her into the carriage. “Take us to the nearest hospital, please.”

“Sure thing,” he said as I hopped in after Tavi. “Should be no problem getting to Manehattan General. Hey is there any chance you know how the game is going? If we win tonight, we’ll have the Equestria series in the bag.”

“Great,” I said, taking the opportunity to catch my breath. So, a life as a DJ/teacher doesn’t lead to me being good at anything beyond a short sprint. Even Tavi is in better shape than me because of all the time she spends playing the cello. Like, that mare’s flank is toned. “And, I don’t know, we’ve been kind of busy the last few days.”

“It’s fine,” he said as we took off, “was just wonderin’ how the game was going, hate to be working tonight.”

I heard a string of profanity come from next to me and started my timer. “Alright,” I said, “what do I do now?”

“Time it to the end of the contraction,” she said, gritting her teeth. “Next daughter, you get to go through this while I have the midlife crisis. If you try to make me go through this again, I’ll bludgeon you to an inch of your life with your own tail.”

“That bad, huh?” I asked, looking down at the watch. Twenty seconds.

She nodded, grimacing. “They always talk about how painful it is, and I knew it was going to be unpleasant, but I thought it would be about as painful as being crushed by a crowd of ponies or breaking a leg. Not… gah! Why do mares do this multiple times? You’d think once would be enough to learn their lesson.”

I nodded and felt the urge to poke a bear or a really big, angry, gray pony. Whichever was closer. “So, I really want another daughter, but I think I’m getting too old to have a healthy daughter. Do you think you could–”

“Finish that thought, and I will rip off your face and feed it to you,” she howled as she grabbed my foreleg in a vice grip. It was crazy how strong her hooves were.

“Uh, hey, lady, you alright?” the cabbie asked, as Tavi’s head swiveled around to focus on him. I was kind of happy that she wasn’t focusing on me anymore.

“I’m in labor, what do you think, you blistering idiot? You should count yourself lucky you’ll never have to go through this,” she said before shouting a very creative string of curses.

Tavi took in a few deep breaths as the cab slowed down. “Time?” she asked as the cab stopped.

“Sixty… five seconds,” I said, looking at the second hand. “Is that good or…”

“It depends on a variety of other factors like how long the time between contractions is. Remember to use the start of this contraction when determining the time. Also, why are we stopping? If it’s because I yelled at you, I apologize.”

“Look for yourself,” the cabbie said, pointing a hoof at a crowd of celebrating ponies as more ponies came out around us.

“What’s going on?” I asked the cabbie.

“Looks like the Manehattan Trotters just won the Equestria series, and the whole city is going to be celebrating.”

“Oh, bloody hell,” Octavia yelled. “Of course we win now, because otherwise this would be easy.”

Tavi called to our cabbie. “Do you think you can take another route to the hospital?”

He shook his head. “Look behind us, they got us surrounded now.” I followed his lead and saw that a mob of ponies had surrounded us as more and more came out onto the streets. Tavi looked like she was about to explode, and I figured now would be a good time to distract her.

“Whoa, whoa, time out,” I said, getting Tavi’s attention to focus back on me. “When did you start saying ‘bloody?’ I thought only ponies from Trottingham used that word.”

“Shush,” she said, hoisting herself over me and out onto the street. “Now come on, we have a long walk ahead of us, and neither of us are in the best shape.”

I hopped off to follow her as she marched out into the crowd of ponies. “Are you really going to walk all the way to the hospital? Like… I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Do you want to deliver our child?” she asked as I ran up next to her. Around us, ponies pressed close, and I found myself taking the lead to shove ponies away from my wife and prevent them from crushing her.

“Not really,” I said, pushing more ponies away as we slowly moved through the crowd. “Out of the way, pregnant mare coming through,” I shouted. The ponies near us shuffled away slightly and I pressed the opening. “So, we’re seriously walking all the way to the hospital? That’s like… a mile away.”

“Hopefully we won’t have to. Assuming this celebration hasn’t consumed the whole city, we can get out of the crowd and hail another cab. From there, we can get to the hospital and hopefully be there in less than an hour. Did you pay the cabbie?” I shook my head at her as I pressed past more ponies while Tavi followed close behind me.

“Well, I suppose he won’t be too upset, we were under some distress, and if he really wants his bits he can come to our house and request them.” She looked behind her at the crowd of ponies we had already muscled our way past. “I highly doubt we could get back there if we tried.”

“You sound better than you did earlier,” I said before giving another shout for ponies to clear the area. Tavi pressed herself close to me to keep us from being separated.

“I feel… less awful right now. Once I’m hit with the next contraction, that will almost certainly change. Have I mentioned how unpleasant those are?” There had to be a way out of this crowd, because if Tavi had another contraction out here, she… things probably wouldn’t go well.

“Yep,” I said as I tipped myself into my back hooves to look at the crowd, I could see an opening close by, but if we waited much longer, the crowd would have grown around it. “Looks like things get a bit lighter to our left, but if we wait much longer, the crowd will be as thick there as it is here.”

“Then let’s go,” she said, shoving herself into a nearby pony. “What’s our time?”

I looked at the watch. “About four minutes since the start of the last contraction, do you think you can run?”

“Run? No. Walk briskly? Maybe,” she said, frowning. “Why do you ask?”

“Bite onto my tail then, we have to get out of here,” I said, lighting up my horn and creating a telekinetic wedge in front of me. “I can’t keep this spell up for long, so we have to hurry.”

She nodded and bit onto my tail without a single complaint about propriety. I guess having our daughter in a mob of ponies was way less proper than biting another mare’s tail in public. “And we’re off,” I said as we charged into the crowd.

A minute later, I was completely covered in sweat as we pushed our way out of the crowd. Running (speed walking, really) and doing non-cutie mark related magic really have a way of taking the energy out of me. As we hailed another cab, I found myself thinking that I would probably lose as many pounds as Tavi did today.

“H-hospital,”I panted as we got into the new carriage when Tavi suddenly started screaming and cursing. I checked the watch. “Seven minutes and thirty-five seconds.” I flopped onto the floor of the carriage and didn’t bother to get back onto my seat. Floor was just as comfy, and I was already lying on it, so that was an added bonus. I kept an eye on the watch as the carriage moved away from the crowds and towards the hospital.


I sat up as the carriage slowed to a halt, peaking out from my seat revealed we were definitely at the hospital. Tavi was ready to hop off the minute we stopped. She had had another contraction on the way, and I had to endure a minute and fifteen seconds of her berating me for getting her into this mess because I had forgotten the start of her last contraction. As we got out of the carriage and I tossed a bag of bits to the driver, I heard her give another yell followed by swearing, and I checked the watch. “Six minutes and fifty seconds.”

“Get this thing out of me as soon as possible!” she shouted as we entered into the hospital, causing a guard, a nurse, and several other ponies in the emergency room to look at her. The fact that she didn’t care at all about creating such a big disturbance was… well, she must’ve been in a lot of pain. The nurse quickly trotted over to us.

“How far apart are the contractions?” the orange unicorn asked as the horn lit up and pulled a wheelchair over towards Tavi.

“Uhm… six minutes and fifty seconds,” I said, “The last one lasted almost seventy seconds.” She nodded at me as Tavi took a seat on the chair and we pushed her to the back of the hospital, while Tavi continued to curse.

“What’s the patient’s name?”

“Octavia,” I said as the nurse pushed Octavia into a hospital room. There was a bed in one corner and a large mat next to it. “What’s the mat for?”

“For her to give birth on,” the nurse said. “Ponies weren’t meant to give birth laying down, it’s easier for the mother and child if she’s crouched on the mat. Once your child is on the way, instinct will take over for her.”

“And how long should that be?” Octavia asked while I checked how long this contraction was. Seventy-eight seconds, they were definitely getting longer. “Because right now, my ‘instincts’ are telling me to curl up on that bed and wait for all this to pass.”

“Then do that,” the nurse said, nodding as Tavi got out of her chair and headed to the bed. “The doctor will be in shortly to check on you, and once the birth begins, you should be on your hooves, but until then just try to make yourself comfortable.” As she spoke, she went about preparing a shot. “This should dull the pain and help you relax, but some mares prefer a natural birth. Do you want me to give you the shot?”

Tavi nodded her head so fast I thought she was going to break her neck. “Alright,” the nurse said as the syringe pierced Tavi’s skin. “This should dull the pain for a few hours, however when you actually start giving birth, we can’t give you anything.”

“Why?” Tavi asked as I watched her entire body go limp. “This feels absolutely wonderful.”

“I know it does,” the nurse said, “but we can’t risk you falling asleep while you are delivering, and it’s safer for both you and your daughter if you deliver stan–” She was cut off by the sound of Tavi snoring. “Has she slept recently? The shot shouldn’t have caused her to pass out like that.”

“We’ve had a very busy last three days,” I said as I collapsed into a nearby chair, realizing just how little sleep either of us had during the last few days. “Sorry, do you need me for anything?” I yawned, the chair was comfy, and if Tavi was going to grab a little shut-eye, I could too.

“Actually, yes,” she said, floating several forms towards me. “We need information on the patient and your relation to her, any so we would appreciate it if you could fill those forms out for us.”

Or not, I thought as I grabbed the pen and papers with my own magic. Maybe I could catch some sleep after I filled out the forms.


“Vinyl Scratch, get your lazy flank out of bed this instant!” Tavi yelled, pulling me from whatever dream I was having. She was standing over the birth mat and hooked up to a bunch of beeping machines. I guess that was good? I don’t know. A nurse was reminding her to breathe while a doctor was staring at parts of her that… well, he was a doctor, and she was in labor, so it wasn’t that weird to see. Still a little weird though.

“What did I miss?” I asked as I bolted out of the chair to stand next to my wife. “Sorry, I don’t know why I didn’t wake up earlier.”

“Well, she’s still in labor,” the doctor said, briefly turning his attention towards me before looking back at Tavi’s backside and pulling some measuring tool out of his pockets. “The cervix is currently dilated at eight centimeters, you’re almost done, Octavia.”

My wife snarled something and bucked her leg back at him. He dodged and looked to me. “This would be easier if you could help bring your wife’s attention elsewhere.” So, he wanted me to get in the line of fire so he could work? For Tavi’s sake, I could distract Tavi.

“Hey, Tavi,” I said, smiling at her while she let out another yell. She snorted and turned to me.

“You! You did this to me, and now you have the audacity to ‘Hey, Tavi’ me? I should shove a watermelon up your ass just so you know how I feel.”

“I’d prefer it if you didn’t,” I said as the nurse reminded her to breathe. Outside, the sky was slowly turning grey as dawn approached. “Just… try not to think about the pain.” She gave another snort and stomped a hoof on the ground.

“I said calm her down,” the doctor said, clearly annoyed. “This is not that.”

“Sorry,” I said before looking back at Tavi. “Hey, have you had the name dream yet?”

Tavi nodded. “I did… the night you went to Ponyville. There was…” She gave another grunt. “There was a massive waterfall, with various things… balls falling from it.” I snickered at that. “Athletic equipment, and I remember it all made this tremendous racket.”

“So why was there so much sports stuff?” I asked.

“Probably something to do with the roll part of rock and roll. All the balls…” she rolled her eyes as I snickered again. At least my immaturity took her mind off the pain. “Were round and would presumably roll rather well. Maybe she will play at sports arenas.”

“Like in the Equestria Series?” I asked, thinking of last night’s game.

“Perhaps,” Tavi said, “I recall seeing a few baseballs in the waterfall.”

“So we’re going to have a rocker for a daughter,” I said, nodding. “We can listen to my albums together, I mean, I’m more of a techno girl myself, but a rocker would be cool. I wonder if she will be more into punk or metal.”

“I have... no idea what most of those nouns mean in that context,” Tavi said between grunts. “Would having a daughter who had something in common with me be too much to ask for? Because having to deal with two of you is going to be… taxing.”

“Yeah,” I said, nuzzling her neck, “but you’re still going to love the crap out of her. I bet you will just dote on her all the time and will wind up being one of those obnoxious mom’s who won’t stop talking about her daughter ever.”

Tavi laughed. “I thought I was going to be the obnoxious strict parent while you got to be the cool parent.”

“Oh, absolutely,” I said, nodding my head. “None of the stuff I just described is in anyway cool. It’s absolutely perfect for you.”

She gave another grunt, but she wasn’t cursing everypony in the building, so that was definitely a step up. “What do you want to name her?” I asked.

“The word ‘Racket’ has been bouncing around in my head since the name dream, but I don’t know if that’s a proper name. It feels like it needs more.”

“I get it,” I said, nodding my head. “Like, it’s one of those… familiar names. I call you Tavi, but your real name is actually Octavia.”

“It’s actually Octavia Melody,” she said. “And I think that’s the first time you... referred to me as Octavia. You didn’t even call me Octavia when you proposed to me.”

“Well yeah, but it was just for an example, so it doesn’t really count,” I said, nodding my head. “Don’t worry, my streak of never calling you by your real name remains in tact.”

“Because... that’s what I was really… concerned about it,” she said, gritting her teeth.

“So, what are you thinking then? Racket what?” I asked, trying to keep her distracted. A distracted Tavi was a Tavi that didn’t try to attack ponies near her, which made everypony’s life easier.

“I don’t know,” she said, shaking her head. “The only name I could come up with was Unholy Racket, and that… I would prefer not to name our daughter that even if she has been nothing but a pain for the past few months.”

“Yeah,” I said, nodding my head in agreement. “That probably wouldn’t be the best name in the world, so–”

“Ten centimeters,” the doctor said. “It’s time for you to start pushing, Octavia.”

Tavi nodded and grunted. I could see her whole body strain, the muscles under her fur expanding and shrinking with each push. I thought it would be nice if I was one of the first eyes to see our daughter as she emerged into the world. That was… a bad idea, and I quickly found a trash can to vomit in. Seeing something I loved being so… Nope. Definitely not a good idea. After I finished vomiting, I looked back to see the doctor holding my daughter in his hooves and presenting her to my wife, the rising sun framing the scene. She was absolutely perfect, her coat was a brick red and her mane a dark green, but the thing I remembered most was her amber eyes.

Well, that and the wings.

How the hell did she have wings?

31. Happy Endings (Octavia)

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I looked at our daughter sleeping soundly in the maternity ward. Her wings fluttered as she slept and I once again found myself wondering just how she got those. “You’re sure you didn’t accidentally have a one-night stand with somepony?” Vinyl asked, standing next to me. After the birth, we had both gotten several hours of sleep before meeting with our friends and family who had arrived to wish us well. Apparently, they had gone to several wrong hospitals due to the admittedly slap-dash nature of our pregnancy plans in Manehattan. Had this been in Ponyville, it would have been a like a well-oiled machine springing into motion.

“Absolutely positive,” I said, laughing at Vinyl’s joke. “My paternal grandmother was a pegasus, and I suppose that carried over to our daughter. It’s admittedly unlikely, but then our lives are a series of unlikely events.”

“So… no secret affairs then?” Vinyl asked as I leaned against her. After the last twenty-four hours, it was nice to have somepony to lean against while I regained my strength. Something told me I’d need it during the next two decades or so.

“None that I can recall,” I said before frowning. “We still need to come up with a name for her though. I don’t think we can just refer to her as ‘our daughter’ for much longer.”

“Yeah,” Vinyl said, nodding while keeping her eyes on our daughter. “I’m sure we can think of something, I mean, how hard is it to come up with a name.”

“It’s not hard to come up with a name, but it’s incredibly difficult to come up with a good name. I think we have something with the word racket though.” Something Racket. Winged Racket? No. Rebel Racket? Definitely not, something told me she was already going to be difficult enough. I didn’t need to encourage it in her name. Racket. Racket. Racket. Something Racket.

“Hey,” Vinyl said, pulling me out of my head. “You still worried about being a mom?”

I shook my head. “No. I’ll have you with me, so what is there to worry about? Besides, I really don’t think she can be any more difficult than you were.” It would be close, but our daughter’s mind wouldn’t be influenced by a corrupted age potion, so that was… something.

“So we’re cool right?” Vinyl asked while my mind turned over potential names.

“Of course,” I said. “I think you more than redeemed yourself yesterday.”

“Amazing how strange genetics are,” my father said as he and the rest of my family entered the room. “Never would’ve guessed we were carrying around a pegasus gene in us for two generations. Still strange that she’d have wings even though Vinyl doesn’t have any pegasi in her family tree.”

“It’s actually not that unlikely,” Lyra said. “Due to a weird quirk of pony genetics, each gene for determining race is kind of dominant. Like, the earth pony gene prevents the pegasus gene from being expressed, while the pegasus gene prevents the unicorn gene from being expressed. There are a bunch of other factors in play when determining that stuff to allow for greater pony diversity, but I’m guessing since Vinyl is purebred unicorn, her unicorn gene got cancelled out by your pegasus gene.”

I frowned, trying to visualize just what she was saying. Pegasus beat unicorn, earth pony beat pegasus, so did unicorn beat earth pony? “Does that mean we can’t have an earth-pony daughter?” I asked.

“Well, I mean, it’s possible if you have a few other genes, but… considering Vinyl hasn’t had an earth pony in the family tree for a long time, it’s really really unlikely. Like, I’d bank on winning the lottery before that happens.” Dammit. For some reason, the fact that we couldn’t have a daughter that was like me was more distressing than it should’ve been.

“Oh, she’s so beautiful,” Bon-Bon said, walking up to the window. “You two must be so happy right now.” We both nodded. “Lyra, do you think we could start working on a daughter of our own soon? We aren’t getting any younger.”

“Sure!” Lyra said, smiling. “There’ve been a few experiments on socialization that I thought would be interesting and–”

“We are not conducting experiments on our theoretical daughter.” Lyra opened her mouth to object, but Bon-Bon cut her off. “Not even experiments you insist are benign, especially since the last test you assured me was harmless involved a monkey’s paw and almost ruined our friends’ marriage.”

“Alright,” she said. “Still, I guess having a daughter would be kind of cool.”

Bon-Bon sighed at that. “‘Kind of cool’ is not a ringing endorsement for us having a daughter, Lyra. They aren’t pet rocks.”

“Wait, I’m sorry,” Vinyl said, “does Lyra actually think pet rocks are cool?”

“They are!” Lyra said as Bon-Bon just nodded. “They’re rocks, but they’re also pets. How awesome is that?”

“But–” Vinyl said before Bon-Bon shook her head.

“Don’t… don’t engage her on this, you have no idea how deep this rabbit hole goes,” Bon-Bon said. I smiled as my friends and wife entered into a conversation about the various merits of a pet rock.

“So,” my mother said, walking up next to me. “Have you two decided on a name yet?”

I shook my head. “We’re thinking of something involving the word ‘racket,’ but beyond that, we have no idea.”

“Well, her coat is a lovely shade of red. Have you considered naming her after that?”

“No,” I said, running the word around in my head. Red. Red. Red. Red Racket. It worked.

“Vinyl,” I said, calling her attention away from the conversation about pet rocks. “I think I have the name for our daughter.”