by JuneLuxray2

First published

Scales the changeling only wants to be a baker. One day he gets his wish and masks as a pony.

Most changelings only want to feed on love and serve their queen, defending her with their lives. But Scales the changeling has never seen eye-to-eye with the others. All he wanted to do was cook. He leaves the hive and finds himself in Ponyville as a baker. He finds peace, but will that peace stay?

((Being rewritten starting from chapter twelve))


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The world was dark and damp. The world of the changelings lay beneath the surface, inside their deep, complex, and humid tunnels. Resident changelings were used to the conditions and went about their business. Noises were all over, whether it be buzzing, drip dropping, or sounds of chatter. The flapping of wings, whether they be from changelings or bats, always accompanied these sounds.

One changeling sat in silence in a corner that none except for one frequented. The noise was slowly driving him mad. A drop of water fell down on his head from one of the smaller stalactites on the ceiling and he wiped it off. He stared at the moisture on his hoof for a second before rubbing the moisture over his face. The only other being in his vicinity ignored him and watched the others go about their business.

No one spoke to the silent one in the corner and only spoke of him on very rare occasions. They liked to pretend he didn't exist. Every so often a changeling would stop and gawk at him and ask the one standing guard who he was. Most of the time the guard would tell them he was nothing of interest, but if they truly persisted, the guard sighed and spoke.

"That is a creature not worth being called a changeling. He disobeyed the rules of our race for years until we caught him in the act." When asked what he did, the guard merely sighed again. "He was committing...odd behavior. Now, you may think he was just doing this to feed on love. Oh, no. He was abusing his power to change his form to cook, of all things. Instead of spending his time wisely like a good changeling and to hunt for more to feed upon for the rest of us, he ignored the rest. He ignored us for his own greedy purpose. His sick purpose. What sort of changeling wants to cook? Who could do such an un-changeling-like thing without good reason?"

This caused the listener to grimace and give the one who had so offended his people a glare before walking along. Scales, the one who was alone in the corner, didn't care anymore. He was used to those glares. All he did was dream of the next time he would be able to bake something. It was all he thought of.

When he was a child, he had found a recipe for rhubarb pie. In spite of fully well knowing changeling law, he found the ingredients and did as the recipe told him. It could not satiate any hunger, but the flavor was fabulous. He guessed he was the only changeling to ever experience the flavor of food other than love. And so he began to bake treats over and over again in secrecy, until one day he was caught. Scales had been shunned since. Eventually he forgot how long he had been stuck in the tunnels after that event; it seemed like forever. Life was monotonous and horrid. Being under constant watch, he couldn't transform himself and flee.

One day that all changed. It was the evening, and Scales was snoozing when the guard came and pushed him until he woke up. "Come along. Queen Chrysalis has requested all the changelings to meet in her court." the guard said. Scales stood up and followed him, stretching his stiff legs. Bats were flying around the room and the tunnels, confused by all the activity. The first thing he noticed was that the tunnels were extremely crowded. He and the guard had to fight their way through the crowds. When they arrived at their destination, the court of the queen, it was already filling with changelings. Yet there was plenty of space on the ground and in the air for the residents. The court was also filled with multiple glowing green sacs that were changeling eggs. The eggs glowed dimly and lit up the court. Ancient stalactites were dripping down on stalagmites, like the rest of the underground they resided in.

The two found a spot in the back and waited. Soon the room went silent. Queen Chrysalis entered from the highest ledge and stood over her subjects. The changelings on the ground all fell to their knees and bowed in respect. Those that had taken to the air had tilted their bodies into a bowing position. The queen raised her hoof and the group arose. "My dearest subjects! The time for us to become the greatest and most powerful nation in the world has come! The Royal Scouting Party has returned and reported to me a land rich in love. The native inhabitants are ponies, something most of you have seen before. It has such a large quantity of love that it could feed us forever. I went and I viewed this land of blessings myself, and it is everything my spies have foretold. It is a land known as Equestria. We have found ourselves at a prime moment to take control, starting with the capitol, Canterlot. There is a royal wedding to occur. I shall go and mask myself as the princess. Then I will feed off of the groom and marry him. From there we will be able to storm the capitol. First Canterlot and then Equestria! I need you, my loyal subjects, to be in my army. Who shall serve their people with honor and join my ranks? Who will get us out of these vile tunnels and get a castle? Who shall help us escape these bonds to the underground and allow us to fly out into the surface world permanently, free from our segregation?"

The room filled with cheers and shouts of excitement. Almost all raised their holey hooves into the air; all except for one. Scales stood back, horrified; he could listen no longer. The plan disgusted him and filled him with fear. It was then he realized that the guard he had come with was no longer paying attention to him. The guard was too excited and too busy cheering and had forgotten all about Scales in the action.

Scales watched carefully and slowly backed into one of the tunnels, into the murky darkness. He looked up at some of the bats flying around; the bats had gotten clearly startled. They were all squeaking in alarm. "This is my chance at freedom!" Looking back to make sure not a single soul was watching him, he ducked into one of the rooms. A green light surrounded him and he became a bat.

He flew out of the room and joined the crowd of confused bats and hid among them. Without taking another look back, he began to fly towards the exit of the caverns. Scales subconsciously followed the path he had known all his life, the only thing on his mind being freedom. Soon enough a splash of fresh air buffeted his face and he realized he was no longer underground. It was so late and so dark out that he could not tell the inside of the cave from the outside until he felt the night air wash him. He bathed in the night and his new freedom and carried himself a few miles further into the night.

Soon he became tired when the sun began to peek over mountains, and turned himself into a flea and hid on some phoenix who began to fly over a mountain, capped with snow and eternally white. He did not know where this bird was going, and he did not care. Anywhere away from the monsters. The changeling stayed with the bird for a few days.

The traveling was taxing. He was very hungry; he had not fed in days, but he could not stop now. The moon and stars were his only companions in the night. Scales was afraid of stopping yet wanted to stop so badly. His vision blurred and he wasn't sure how far he had gone. Soon he gave in to the conclusion if he did not feed soon, he would surely perish. He changed himself back into a bat, startling the poor phoenix in the process. He ignored it and aimed for the land. His eyes scoured for towns he could seek out love in.

Alas, he grew weaker and weaker. After only a few hours of solitary traveling, he couldn't carry on much longer. Briefly in his blurred vision, he could see a cottage in a tree a ways away from a dark forest. The cottage was dark as its inhabitants slept. He aimed for it hopelessly, figuring whatever or whoever was inside wouldn't even notice him. This was it. His vision blurred further and his eyes closed. The next thing he knew, there was a smack and a burst of pain as he crashed into a window of the cottage. He faded into the abyss of unconsciousness almost immediately after, but he heard a voice as he faded. Scales wasn't sure if he was hallucinating or dreaming or if he had gotten genuinely lucky, but the voice was soft and loving. The voice of an angel. "Don't you worry, little one...you're safe now...you'll be okay."

Chapter One

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When Scales woke up, he felt considerably better. He felt satiated, unlike the hunger he had felt the night before. His feet were hanging onto something and he looked up and realized he was hanging upside down from a post, and a small clip was on his wing. The clip was attached to a machine below that had a pulse rate on the screen, and he was attached to an IV. Other animals were running around the house cheerfully, and the same rabbit who was there last night was watching him. Soon he heard a gentle voice and he knew the reason why he felt so much better. The pegasus pony who he had seen prior came into the room.

"Good morning, little one; it's wonderful to see you awake. You're doing so much better than you were last night. Some of the owls who live around my home came and let me know there was an animal that was in need of help so late at night. You perked right up as soon as I gave you some care. I guess love is a great medicine. Anyways, I think you got dehydrated, so I put an IV in you filled with liquid to rehydrate you." She glanced at the machine he was attached to. "I put a pulse oximeter on you and you've just gotten so much better overnight. Just let me check your heartbeat and I'll serve you breakfast and you'll be able to go. Make sure to drink plenty of water before you take off, and try to take it easy today."

Fluttershy slipped on a stethoscope and placed it on his chest and listened for a few minutes. "Okay, breathe in...breathe out...good..." She moved it around a few times and finally put away the stethoscope and smiled at him. "You're healthy. Here, I got you some nice fruit and water; eat up and then you can go. Come back if you have any other problems, okay?" She removed the oximeter and the IV and then left again for a moment and returned with water and a plum. Scales was shocked; never before had he been fed so much love in one sitting.

"This must be part of Equestria, the land the queen talked about..." Though he was quite full, he still ate the plum to be a polite guest and drank some of the water and took his leave. Fluttershy looked up from another animal she was attending to and waved at him. He squeaked gratefully and left. When he left via the window, he stopped in awe of what he saw. Equestria was beautiful. All sorts of animals ran or flew or crawled about merrily, and the sun peeked over thin cirrus clouds in the sky and smiled at him. Below the pathway to the house was a creek, where amphibians, turtles, and fish lounged. He could see ponies a little ways away trotting past the home he had just removed himself from, enjoying the beautiful day.

It was the polar opposite of the gloomy and dank caverns he had grown up in. He knew that this was the best place to be and looked again towards passerby ponies. "If I'm going to live here, I need to turn myself into one of them." He flew behind some trees and landed. Scales began to doodle multiple outlines of ponies into the soil.

He played with different designs for awhile until he finally obtained an outline he liked. It was a unicorn stallion with a short mane and tail, somewhat spiky at the edges, and large eyes. He looked to the currently empty flank of the outline and thought for a second. What would be his mark? It only took a moment of thought before he doodled down a pie with a lattice top crust. Now for colors; this baffled him for a second, as he wasn't sure at all what colors he wanted. The young changeling glanced around, hoping for an answer from the world. A look that was sent up at the sky caught his attention. His eyes met the canopy of the trees with their rich brown color of their trucks and their glorious, gentle green leaves. There was a blue that penetrated through the openings between the leaves from the sky. He glanced down at the drawing and he wrote some words into the mane and coat. He wrote in the mane BROWN and in the coat GREEN and in the eyes BLUE.

Scales concentrated and got the image in his head. Within a few seconds he transformed. He looked himself over and smiled, and his hoof ran over the drawings he made and covered them up with dirt. The new unicorn stood up and walked out from behind the trees.

Another thought caught his attention. "You need a job if you're going to stay here." In spite of this, he had no idea where to go. He was still in an unknown place and didn't even know where a bakery was that he could possibly apply at. Fluttershy's house was a little ways away from him, and he began to head back to ask for directions. He reached the house and gently knocked and the owner of the home came to the door. When she realized it was a pony she was unfamiliar with, she looked towards the ground and her ears fell back. He tried to smile.

"Um, hi...I'm new to the, uh, area. Can you...can you give me directions to the nearest bakery, please?"

Fluttershy gave a tiny whimper and uttered an equally tiny "Okay." Scales racked his mind for a way to make the uneasy pony feel more comfortable, and his eyes locked onto a badger she was treating.

"Are you taking care of that badger?" he asked. Fluttershy looked back towards it and nodded meekly. "I really like animals. I hope he's alright."

Fluttershy perked up a little at that sentence and her smile returned slightly. "Oh, thanks...yes, little Honey over there managed to strain his leg. He'll be alright. It's nice to hear somepony else likes animals...um...you wanted to know where the nearest bakery was, right?"

"Right. I, uh, just moved here. I'm hoping to find a bakery that might be willing to hire me."

"Oh...now, the nearest bakery is down the road and to the right and then to keep going forward, but that one isn't hiring."

Scales sighed dejectedly. "Thanks anyways." he muttered. Fluttershy was silent for a second and then as he turned away, she spoke again.

"Wait...if you're willing to walk further, in the middle of town there's a really good bakery that's seeking out a new baker. I know the couple who owns it...they had foals a few months ago and they...they, um...need another baker to help them. Tell them, er, Fluttershy said hi. That might help you out." she said kindly. Scales's eyes lit up with new hope.

"Wow, thank you so much. That helps me tremendously."

"You're welcome. So, um...what's your...uh, name?"

Scales paused for a second, raking his mind again for an answer. The first thing that came to mind was an ingredient for his favorite pie. "My name is Rhubarb." he replied hastily. He nearly slapped himself. "That's a stupid name. She's gonna think-"

"Oh, that's a nice name," she said, "well...I've got to get back to my animals. Welcome to Ponyville."

"Ponyville..." Rhubarb absorbed the name of the town he was going to reside in. "Thanks again!"

He turned around and she closed the door. He made his way down the road and had to walk for about two or three miles to reach the bakery Fluttershy had told him about. He saw many things that were strange to him and kept him curious. One of the more interesting things he saw when walking was pegasi attending to the weather. He watched them fly and move and disperse clouds, and as he was looking, a pegasus caught his eye.

The pony had been standing on the side of one of the clouds and looked back at him. Her body was a lime green, her hair was pink, and she had three suns as a cutie mark. The two stared at each other for awhile, though neither could place why they were interested in looking at each other. Neither could say a word, and finally another pegasus intervened. "Merry May! I need you over here to disperse some clouds! What are you staring at, anyways?"

A blue pony with a rainbow-colored mane walked by Merry May's side. She looked down at Scales and smirked. "Oh, May, you can stare at stallions later."

"I...I wasn't staring!" she said, blushing.

"Neither was I." Rhubarb added awkwardly. The rainbow pony rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, yeah. So who are you, anyways?" She examined the unicorn below. "I've never seen you around here."

"I'm Rhubarb. Nice to meet you two. I'm new here, and I'm going to go apply for a job at this bakery a pegasus named Fluttershy directed me to." he said. Rainbow Dash smiled at him.

"Well, welcome to Ponyville, Rhubarb. My name is Rainbow Dash, and this is Merry May. So you're a baker, eh? Better be cut out for Sugarcube Corner. They're the best bakery in town, so good luck. So, we'll see you later, and we mean we'll see you later." she said. Rhubarb gave her a strange look.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked. Rainbow just laughed.

"You'll see. See ya around, Rhubarb." She flew off, and Merry May looked at him a little longer before smiling at him. He couldn't help but smile back, and she turned around to get back to work. He let out a contented sigh and continued walking. When he arrived at Sugarcube Corner, he was struck with awe. The building looked like a giant gingerbread house. Yet again was he amazed by this new world. On the window there was a sign that declared "HELP WANTED." Taking a breath, he walked inside.

Chapter Two

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Rhubarb entered the bakery, and a bell above the door jingled to announce a customer had arrived. He took in the interior of the building in amazement. It was not unlike the exterior; the corners of the building had candy cane styled pillars. The walls and doors followed the gingerbread house theme, brown and tan colors with white paint to mimic frosting. There was a back room he could see into scarcely, but he could spy a conveyer belt with wheels that looked like pieces of candy and the belt looked like pieces of chocolate. The building had the scent of baked goods like cake and frosting. It was heaven for the changeling.

A bright pink earth pony with curly hair was kneeling in front of the display case and putting out fresh desserts. She had not seen him yet, but heard him. "Sorry, please give me a minute and I'll be right with you!" she declared. The display case was closed and she looked up. "How can I help you..." The pony had stopped herself and began to stare at Rhubarb. He shifted nervously, thinking he had done something wrong.

"I'm sorry, did I-" He was cut off by an extended gasp, and then the pony's face transformed into a colossal grin.

"I've never seen you before! You must be new to Ponyville 'cause I know everypony that lives in Ponyville and since I don't remember ever seeing you before so that must mean you're new!" She spoke fast and excitedly and without missing a beat or taking a breath. "What's your name? My name is Pinkie Pie!" she asked, her blue eyes locking onto him. He did a double take as she practically appeared instantly in front of him. For a moment he thought about asking her how she managed to pop in front of him so fast. Rhubarb disregarded the question for the moment and responded.

"My name is Rhubarb, and yes, I'm new to Ponyville. I, uh, just moved in. And-" Another drawn out gasp escaped Pinkie Pie.

"Oh! There's so much I need to do! I need to throw a party and give you the welcome wagon and sing about how we're gonna be best friends forever and-"

"Pinkie Pie!" another earth pony chided as she came in. This pony had a blue coat, pink hair, an apron, and three cupcakes in her cutie mark. "Slow down. This newcomer may be a little frazzled by everything still."

Pinkie Pie nodded and calmed down slightly. "Okay, Mrs. Cake! So, welcome to Sugarcube Corner, Rhubarb! What can I get for you?" she asked. Rhubarb smiled back at her.

"Actually, I'm here to apply for the job you have. You're still hiring, correct?" he asked. Pinkie Pie gasped, even more excited than before. Mrs. Cake examined the pony applying.

"Of course. So, your name is Rhubarb; come with me. I'd like to have an interview with you." she said. Rhubarb's face lit up and he followed her into the back room he had been looking into earlier. Pinkie Pie watched them go back for a second before running off to get hard at work. He could see more as he entered, and it was much like the first room he entered. The conveyer belt extended from one room, which he assumed was where the baked goods were being made. The smell almost prompted him to start drooling in delight, but he restrained himself. They went through and went into the kitchen. The kitchen had multiple ovens and shelves with wheels on them with all sorts of treats cooling on them. It followed the same design as the last rooms. Rhubarb saw another pony who was yellow with an orange mane and three carrot cakes for a cutie mark; the stallion was currently covered in flour, while pushing a vat full of dough into a walk in freezer. He glanced at them

"Gimme a second." he said. He closed the freezer and looked at them. "So, who do we have with us?" he asked. Rhubarb smiled cordially, trying to look professional.

"This is Rhubarb," Mrs. Cake said, "he's applying for our job opening as a baker."

"I see. I'm Mr. Carrot Cake, and you've already met my wife, Mrs. Cupcake. Welcome to Sugarcube Corner. So, where ya from, Rhubarb?" he asked while brushing some of the flour off of him and shaking the interviewee's hoof. Rhubarb was caught off-guard by the question.

"Um..." His eyes darted around the room, looking for some sort of answer. His eyes locked onto a bag of coffee beans in the corner. The bag said Coffee Beans Grown In Fillydelphia, and he spoke. "I'm from Fillydelphia."

"Oh, how nice. Tell us about yourself, Rhubarb." Mr. Cake said. The changeling thought for a minute.

"I was born and raised in Fillydelphia." he started, "My family never really approved of my love of baking, but I persisted. They never allowed me to go get a job as a baker, so I finally left for Ponyville to seek out a job. All I've ever wanted to do was be a pastry chef." he said. The two before him looked pleased with his response, and he felt relieved; they believed his story.

"How did you hear about the job here?" Mr. Cake asked curiously.

"I heard about the job from a pegasus pony named Fluttershy. Oh, and this may seem a little unprofessional, but she asked me to tell you she said hello."

"We'll just have to say hello to her next time she comes in. She's a regular and is a very shy filly, so it impresses us she asked you to say hello for her. Thank you. Now, even if you haven't had any jobs baking, what other job experience do you have, Rhubarb?" Mrs. Cupcake asked. Rhubarb again was forced to think for a second.

"Well...I don't have any formal training, and this is my first time applying for a job." He grimaced. "But I've been cooking ever since I was a little one." he added. Mr. and Mrs. Cake frowned a little.

"Okay..." Mr. Carrot Cake continued. "So, what's your greatest strength?"

"I do my very best to please customers and I'm good at whipping up quality pastries quickly." Rhubarb replied nervously. In all truth, he wasn't sure how his pastries tasted to others; he was the only one to ever sample his own cooking. He was fairly certain that his food was good, as everything he tasted that he made after getting practice was delicious. Still, he was unsure of whether or not changelings had impaired taste buds due to the fact that they usually only fed on love.

"Alright, so what's your greatest weakness?" Mrs. Cupcake asked. The one being interviewed considered this for a second.

"Well...I tend to panic a bit if any ingredient for a recipe is missing. I can overreact to situations." he admitted with a shrug.

"What are you passionate about?" Mr. Carrot Cake asked.

"My passion is baking. As I said, I've been baking since I was a child. It's my life and it's what I know best." Rhubarb replied; he hadn't even had to stop to think about that one. Mrs. Cupcake gave a grin at that.

"An ambitious young colt, I see. So, how do you work with other employees?" she inquired. Pinkie Pie's antics slid into both her and her husband's mind. Rhubarb remembered the pony he had seen upon entering.

"I'm very patient with others. I can respect differences, since I know what it's like to be a little different. I will work hard with other employees."

Mr. Cake turned to whisper to Mrs. Cake. "Has he met Pinkie Pie yet?"

"Yes, and he wasn't fazed much by her. I like him."

"He hasn't had much experience, though."

"I get a good feeling from him, Dear. He certainly wants to try."

"I have an idea. I have some cupcake ingredients ready; why don't we ask him to make a cupcake for us so we can sample his work?"

"Okay." The two turned back to Rhubarb, who was waiting anxiously. "We have an idea, Rhubarb. Would you mind baking a cupcake for us to show us your talent? We already have some ingredients ready to go." Mrs. Cake said. Rhubarb nodded.

"Yes ma'am. What sort of ingredients are they?"

"Chocolate and strawberries aside from necessary ingredients." Mr. Cake responded. The unicorn beamed.

"I know just what to do with it."

Soon enough Rhubarb finished off the cupcake. He had filled the chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting on the inside and had gotten chocolate frosting (which he attempted to dye a reddish color) and spread it in a swirl on top. He cut a strawberry into multiple slices and spread them over the top of the cupcake in a circle. Albeit nervously, he then presented the cupcake to Mr. and Mrs. Cake.

The two examined his work for a few moments, taking in the details, and then cut the cupcake in half and each tried it. Rhubarb was trembling; this was the first ever time anyone else had tried his desserts, and he was unsure of how it tasted. He watched their facial expressions. They finished their first bite and gave a smile. "This is delicious!" Mrs. Cupcake said. "You cooked it just right, and the strawberry really compliments the chocolate and vanilla."

"Your detail work is good," Mr. Cake said, "you could use a little more practice on making the frosting even, but...we like you. You can learn. Well, Mrs. Cake, what do you think?"

"I think we have a new baker," she said, finishing off her half of the cupcake. "It would be hard to say no after trying these. We need more of the cupcakes sometime. It was scrumptious."

Rhubarb unleashed the biggest grin he ever had. As soon as she said he was hired, his heart started bumping, and to say he was excited was an understatement. This was the greatest moment of his life. "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, thank you so much, Mr. and Mrs. Cake. I won't let you down and I promise to work hard! When do I start?"

"Tomorrow morning. The shop opens at eight, but we'd like you to be here at five to start prepping the pastries. In the morning we serve a lot of croissants and bagels, so you and Pinkie Pie will be getting those ready. Welcome to Sugarcube Corner." Mr. Cake tossed him an apron and a hat, and he gleefully clung onto them.

"Of course! I'll get here as early as you need me. Thank you again!"

"Goodbye, Rhubarb!" Mrs. Cupcake said, watching the overjoyed unicorn skip out of the kitchen. As soon as he left, Pinkie Pie stopped him by popping out of seemingly nowhere.

"Hi, Rhubarb! You gotta follow me right now, 'cause I have a surprise for you!"

"Right now?" he questioned, startled. Pinkie Pie nodded her head.

"Yeah, right now!" She took his hoof. "C'mon, c'mon! I promise it's gonna be fun!" Rhubarb began to follow her curiously, despite being half frightened by the sudden prospect and not knowing what was going to happen. She took him to another room of the bakery that was shrouded in darkness when she opened the door. Pinkie Pie flipped the light on and another surprise met the newcomer's eyes.

Balloons were tied to tables and streamers hung from the ceiling. A large sign was taped to one of the walls that said WELCOME TO PONYVILLE, RHUBARB! So many different ponies were waiting, each one grinning from ear to ear. Pinkie retrieved her party cannon and made confetti burst out of it. With the explosion of confetti, everypony let out a shout.


Chapter Three

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Rhubarb stood in a shocked silence as he stared at the party. Pinkie eventually waved her hoof in front of his face. "Hello? You there, Rhubarb? See, I knew you were new to town, so that meant you probably didn't have any friends, so I invited a bunch of friends over so you can meet them and then have them be your friends!"

The changeling blinked "Wow. Sorry, I've never really had such a big party...for me...thrown ever." He said and then added as a thought, "Or a party at all, for that matter."

Pinkie gasped dramatically and threw a hoof around his neck. "Well, today's the day that that changes! Everypony, this is Rhubarb, newest baker of Sugarcube Corner and newest resident of Ponyville!" The two were met by hoof-stomping and cheering. Rhubarb was again struck into awed silence, and Pinkie led him forward. "Come with me, Rhubarb! I'll introduce you to five of my best friends and then I'll turn you loose to go socialize." As they walked through the room, he examined all the decor. It was amazing how fast Pinkie Pie had set up the party. Games like Pin The Tail On The Pony were out and punch and all sorts of treats lined the tables atop colorful, floral tablecloths. Balloons and confetti danced around the place and melted into the scenery.

Five ponies were waiting in the back, waiting for the two. Rhubarb recognized both of the pegasi as he approached. Pinkie stopped. "Rhubarb, meet my very best friends!" All the mares gave a 'hello.' Rainbow Dash came up to him.

"Told ya we'd see ya later. Ya know me already." she said. Rhubarb nodded.

"I guess you weren't lying."

"Nope. Congrats on landing the gig here."


Fluttershy peeked over at him, her hair falling over one of her eyes. "Hi. Nice to see you again..."

"Pleasure to see you too, Fluttershy. Thanks for helping me out earlier."

"You're welcome."

An orange earth pony took his hoof and shook it firmly. "Howdy! I'm Applejack. I run Sweet Apple Acres on the outskirts a' town, 'long with my family. Real nice to be meetin' ya!" she said. Rhubarb smiled.

"Oh, a place to get fresh fruit for my desserts! How nice! This Ponyville is becoming the place of my dreams real fast." he remarked. Applejack grinned.

"Sugarcube Corner frequently buys ingredients from us. We have anything you could need fer bakin', from eggs to apples. I'm lookin' forward to seein' you around."

Rarity approached and shook his hoof as well, gently and ladylike. "I am Rarity. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Rhubarb." she said. Rhubarb wasn't quite sure what was up with ponies and shaking hooves so much, but he shook it back nevertheless.

"Thank you."

The last one, a purple unicorn, came up. "Hi. I'm Twilight Sparkle. Welcome to Ponyville. I'm glad you're warming up so fast; it took me longer to get used to everything. See, I'm from Canterlot. Ponyville is quite different from Canterlot, but every bit as great. So, where are you from?"

Rhubarb shrugged. "I'm, um, from Fillydelphia. Nice place, really. Not nearly as grand as Ponyville."

"What makes you say that? I've always heard good things about Fillydelphia." Rarity said. The other unicorn shrugged.

"Well...it wasn't so much the place; it was just that my family never approved of me wanting to be a baker. I've always liked to cook ever since I was a little colt, but I actually kept it a secret from them for a long time. They caught me red hoofed one day and I never heard the end of it. So, I finally decided I couldn't live like the way they wanted me to, so I took off for Ponyville."

"I see. Well, we're mighty glad to have you." Applejack replied cordially.

"Thanks. It was nice to meet all of you. I'm gonna try to go meet some others, and thanks again."

"See ya, Rhubarb." Twilight said. Rhubarb turned and walked through the room. Guests were dancing and talking and eating. His hunger for love was so far non-existent; it was impossible to feel unloved in this town.

He introduced himself to other ponies. First he met Golden Harvest (yet another vender for ingredients for treats,) and then Dizzy Twister and Junebug, Amethyst Star and Doctor Whooves and Caramel. Big Macintosh and three little fillies known as the Cutie Mark Crusaders greeted him as well. Finally when he was talking to a benevolent couple by the names of Lyra Heartstrings and Bon Bon, a glance behind them made his heart leap. Merry May was behind them. Rhubarb ceased to speak for a moment, and the couple looked behind themselves to see what he was staring at. They spied Merry May and giggled. "We're, uh, going to get some more punch...see you later." Lyra said as she and her girlfriend walked off.

Merry May met his eyes and they approached each other. Merry smiled. "Hi. Nice to see you again, Rhubarb."

"Nice to see you, too..." He trailed off. "Why am I being so nervous? Speak up!" The unicorn cleared his throat. "So, your name is Merry May, right?"

"Right. I'm assuming yours is Rhubarb from one, I remember from earlier, and two, Pinkie Pie set up a whole bunch of banners that say Rhubarb on them. Either you have a really strange obsession with rhubarbs or your name is Rhubarb."

The changeling snorted as he laughed, and then blushed about snorting. Merry May let out a laugh at his snort and his blush. "I'm sorry, that was amusing." She giggled.

"No, it was, don't be sorry," Rhubarb replied, grinning, "I just have an awkward laugh."

"Awkward laughs are the best laughs. Because if you laugh once you keep laughing because it's awkward and then you laugh because you're laughing about it being awkward." she said. Rhubarb gave another snort and a chortle, and so did May. "I like you. Your laughs are priceless. You sound like a piggy."

"I don't do it on purpose. I can't help it. I'm not used to laughing...uh...this much, I mean."

"That's what makes it funnier, the fact that you snort naturally when laughing. It's non-intentional." There was a short pause, and then Rhubarb spoke up.

"Pinkie already told you I'm the new baker. So, uh, what do you do?"

"Weather duty," Merry May answered, "I like making sunny days, hence the cutie mark. Can't have flowers without sun."

"Flowers?" Rhubarb asked curiously. May shrugged.

"Yeah. I really like flowers. I'm terrible at growing them, so I make sunshine for the ponies that can grow them instead. Everything I try to grow dies; kind of sad. Oh well."

"Eh, I'm not a fantastic grower either. When I was a kid, I kept the fact I liked to cook a secret from my parents. I attempted to grow some ingredients for my treats, since I couldn't really ask them to get ingredients for me. Alas, I gave my best effort, but the things died on me within days. Scrounging up bits for ingredients was done by taking bottles and cans and recycling them. I wouldn't have had that problem if I didn't stink at being a gardener."

"Hooray for terrible gardeners. So why did you keep the fact you baked a secret?" she inquired. The other member of the conversation retold the same story he had told previously. Merry May listened patiently to the story and her face fell slightly. "That's sad. Well, in any case, I'm glad you're here..."

The conversation went on for a long time. Though Scales had just met her that day, he felt the most comfortable around her. The party moved along and he spoke with ponies and made friends and acquaintances, but he spoke with her the most. Soon enough, the party ended, and everypony started heading home. He said goodbye to the ponies he met and thanked Pinkie Pie for throwing the party. A sort of satisfaction with life, a feeling he had almost never felt before, settled inside him. He had friends and a job he loved in a place he was accepted. The love was enough to keep him satisfied twenty four/seven; as far as he was concerned, he had everything he needed to be happy and healthy. Just prior to taking off, Merry May met him again to talk. "This was a fun party," she said, "and I'm glad I met you."

The two had already talked for a long time, and though it had been just a day, he couldn't help himself and asked a question timidly. "Say, um, if you're not busy, do you want to hang out some time?" he inquired nervously. Rhubarb immediately wanted to slap himself for asking, but Merry just giggled.

"Sure, I would like that. I know a good restaurant in town. If you have time on Saturday, we could go get dinner."

"Of course. I'll look forward to that. You just lead me to where it is."

"Okay. Goodnight, Rhu."

"Rhu?" he asked; he wasn't expecting a nickname.

May shrugged. "Just short for your name. You don't mind, do you?" Scales shook his head.

"Oh, no, of course not. You can call me Rhu."

"Well, then, goodnight, Rhu." She flew off into the night, and he found himself watching the pegasus lift herself into the sky until the clouds had shielded her from being spotted by ground bound ponies. He then glanced around for anypony looking and hid against a wall, underneath some bushes bordering Sugarcube Corner. A flash of green surrounded him and he had become a sparrow. Lifting his wings like Merry May, he flew up and traveled the short distance of a few miles to the place he woke up in. Soon the house hallowed inside a tree came into view with all sorts of creatures sleeping inside and outside the house, whilst the night creatures were starting their day. The leaves of branches from the house swayed and waved hello to him.

One of the windows was open, and candlelight shone from inside. He flapped his wings and entered. Looking around, he saw animals settle on the floor or in birdhouses for the night. Soon a yellow pegasus came into the room and Rhubarb gave a chirp. She turned to him, her blue-green eyes alert; when she saw who it was, the shy mare beamed. "Oh, hello, little one. Do you need a place for the night?"

Rhubarb responded by chirping again and landing on a hoof she had held out for him to land on. "Alrighty then. I have just the place for you." She walked to one of the birdhouses in the ceiling and lifted her hoof up to it. "You have some neighbors in here, but they're very friendly, I assure you." Two parakeets, one blue with white feathers and one yellow, peeked their heads out of the hole and chirped at him. Scales entered the birdhouse and the two other avian creatures made room for him. He sat down and buried his head in his feathers.

"I need the sleep. For tomorrow is the day my real life begins..." he thought to himself as he fell into a blissful slumber.

Chapter Four

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The next few months passed by without incident. Rhubarb/Scales settled in perfectly. Soon enough when he started getting paychecks, he was able to get himself a nice apartment nearby the bakery. No longer did he have to pose as a bird to gain entrance to Fluttershy's cottage to sleep. He was also now in a relationship with Merry May, boyfriend and girlfriend. One date turned into two and they were quickly a couple.

The changeling posed as a unicorn fell in as a regular sight around Ponyville and a beloved baker. Life was looking up, and everything was peaceful. The quiet life with a girlfriend, a home, and real friends was all he could ever want. Occasionally he would babysit for the Cake twins and he would have parties with everypony. Life was truly good.

It was April in the afternoon on a warm, lazy day. Pinkie Pie had taken the afternoon off of working to have a picnic with her friends, and Rhubarb was busy as usual making treats and a few cups of coffee for customers. His mind drifted to Merry May; he was getting the next Saturday completely off to spend time with her, and he looked forward to it.

Absentmindedly, he was stirring a mixing bowl when a shriek of excitement tangled with the ringing of the doorbell. The sound caught him by surprise and he jumped. His elbow banged into the bowl and the mixture went flying and landed on his head. One thing had not changed; Scales was as jumpy as ever. Mr. and Mrs. Cake laughed as he blushed and hastily used his magic to get the mix off of him and get more ingredients. He thought, by now, Pinkie's sudden antics would not surprise him.

Pinkie Pie stood in the doorway, looking excited. Not that this was anything new. Almost every day there was something for her to be excited about. She rushed up to Rhubarb, pulled him away from his work, and began shaking him. "Ohmygoshohmygosh, Rhubarb, guess what happened! Guess what happened!"

"I, um...a party?"

"Yes, a party indeed!" She let out a laugh and Rhubarb rolled his eyes and smiled. "Guess what sort of party though!"

"Hm...oh, is it one of the Cutie Mark Crusader's birthdays? I swore that Sweetie Belle's was soon..." He was about to start planning a birthday cake when Pinkie laughed again and shouted.

"No, silly billy! It starts with a w and ends in a g!"

"A wed-"

"That's right! A wedding! And I get to go and plan the party in Canterlot!" Mr. and Mrs. Cake gasped in awe, and Rhubarb beamed.

"That's great, Pinkie Pie! I know you'll make that wedding reception the best of the best. Show those hoity-toity Canterlot ponies how to party. When is it?"

"That's just it! I have to pack now; it's this weekend on Sunday! Mr. and Mrs. Cake, I need to take a few days off. I know it's sudden, but it's a big wedding!"

"For whom?" Mrs. Cake asked curiously. Pinkie squealed and bounced up and down.

"Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and the captain of the royal guard! Shining Armor!" she shrieked in joy. Mr. and Mrs. Cake again gasped, this time louder. Immediately Rhubarb flashed back to Queen Chrysalis's plan to raid a royal wedding, something he had forgotten in the last few months. The mixing bowl he had started over with again overturned with his shock and coated him in chocolate cupcake mix.

"Exactly, Rhubarb! That's how I felt!" Pinkie said, mistaking the changeling's horror for awe. Scales coughed.

"Exactly." he said weakly, feeling sick to his stomach.

"And you would never guess this! Shining Armor is Twilight's older brother! Isn't that great?" Rhubarb felt even sicker and Pinkie finally noticed and investigated.

"Hey, Rhubarb, are you okay? You're looking a little green in the face. But that makes sense, considering your coat color is green."

"Just dandy." he spluttered. Mr. Cake stared at the unicorn soaked in chocolate.

"Perhaps you should take a break for a bit. It's stuffy in the kitchen. Why don't you go help Pinkie pack?"

"O...kay." He used his magic again to wipe off the chocolate and he followed Pinkie to her room, nearly tripping over his own hooves in his distraction. He could say something now. Reveal his former queen's plans. But doing so would reveal he is a changeling...and wouldn't that cause suspicion. Fear. Distrust. His entire world could come shattering down on him, his world of peace he worked so hard for could collapse.

Then again, he could say absolutely nothing. "Ponies aren't weaklings like the changeling army think," he thought to himself, "surely they'd be smart enough to notice if something is wrong. I'm sure the queen's plans will fail...everything will be okay. Just fine."

He was unaware of the fact he was now staring vacantly at a wall in Pinkie's room, folding a few things and party supplies and not looking at the suitcase he was putting them in. Pinkie stared, a little disconcerted. "Hello? Rhubarb?" She waved a hoof in front of him. "Are you still there?"

Scales blinked. "I'm here. I think." he muttered. Pinkie frowned, a rare action.

"You're acting funny today. Maybe you have a cold or something. I don't have to leave until the shop closes today, so why don't you go home? I'll take over."

"No, no. You took the day off and you have to pack..."

"You just packed everything for me."

Rhubarb looked back to the now fully packed suitcase. "Huh. Guess I did." he said, sounding hallow. Pinkie stood up and shoved him out the door.

"Go home, Rhubarb. Get some sleep. I'll take over." She beamed again and hopped off to the kitchen. He followed her and was soon shooed out of the kitchen by the Cakes, who promptly sent him home to his apartment. As it turned out, Merry May at the same time was getting done with weather duty. She peeked over a cloud as her boyfriend stepped out of Sugarcube Corner and she flew down and surprised him. He was pulled out of his thoughts and he smiled at seeing her.

"Oh, Merry!"

"Hey, Rhu." They kissed and she walked alongside him. "You bored? We could go catch a bite to eat."

"I'm fine, actually." he lied. Merry frowned.

"I know you're lying. You just got sent out of Sugarcube Corner before your shift was over."

"I'm just not feeling perfect."

"Well, no one feels perfect ever. But there's feeling far from perfect." She raised a hoof to his forehead. "You're not running a temperature. In fact, you're always cold for some reason, why am I thinking that?" He was silent and Merry's frown widened. "You're not sick physically right now, anyways. I remember when you got a cold. You were whining a lot more than this. No, something's wrong in there." She tapped his head. "What's wrong? Somepony give you trouble?"


"Well, are you gonna tell me?"

"It's nothing serious, May. Just a small case of the blues. I'll be fine."

"I understand." She said kindly. "Sometimes we're just blue. If you want to talk, you can come to my apartment. Do you just want to go home?"

"Kind of. Sorry I'm not more interesting today."

"You're interesting everyday. That's why I'm dating you. Come on, I'll take you home." Rhubarb smiled a little at her words.

"Thanks, Merry."

As night fell upon Ponyville, Rhubarb's worries got worse. At first he baked to try to release his stress. This failed and he chose then to lounge in his living room, staring at a flickering T.V. screen of the pony food channel. A knock came at the door, and he got up. Upon answering, he found Derpy with her bag of mail waiting. "Hiya, Rhubarb! Pinkie asked me to bring you a letter. She's in Canterlot, you know! Helping with that huge royal wedding."



"Thanks, Derpy. Hold on for a second." He retreated to the kitchen and came back with a plate of muffins. Derpy gasped in delight. "This is for you and Dinky. I made them earlier as stress-baking and now I can't bring myself to eat them. Let me get you a few bits for your trouble too." He placed a few bits in Derpy's hooves, and the pegasus squealed.

"Yay! Thank you!" She hugged him tight and flew off with the muffins and bits. He closed the door and opened the letter.

"Dear Rhubarb,

I'm so excited to start planning the wedding reception! Twilight seems a bit suspicious about Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, but she'll get over it, I'm sure. I mean, her brother is Shining Armor and all. She's being protective. And also there's this really pretty pink dome over Canterlot! Something about a threat being made to the city, so there's security everywhere! I'm always surprised at how serious those guards are. I couldn't imagine standing all day and not making a face! Not even a single silly one! I'll be sure to send you and the Cakes more mail about this. Keep down the fort at Sugarcube Corner for me and make sure that the twins get their required daily game of 'Where's Pinkie Pie.' I mean, it'll be 'Where's Rhubarb' instead because I'm in Canterlot, silly, but it's something! Also, enjoy your date with Merry May on Saturday.

Love, Pinkie Pie."

Rhubarb reread the letter a few times and let out a sigh of relief. Everything was going to be okay. The ponies had heard of a threat and put up a force field. No way the changelings could get in. Unless...one snuck in before the increased security. He shook his head. No. That can't be. It was plausible enough, but...he couldn't accept it.

He marched off to bed, leaving the letter on the kitchen counter. He flipped off the lights and tried to pretend like nothing was wrong. Nothing wrong at all.

Chapter Five

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The next few days came and went uneventfully. Rhubarb worried incessantly, but with some practice, managed to hide it from almost everypony. Merry May, on the other hoof, was not fooled. She knew something was wrong, but she couldn't pry the truth out of him. Eventually the mare just figured he would calm down on his date with her, and he would speak if he felt like it.

Saturday came. Rhubarb and Merry May got together and went shopping in some thrift stores around town. They got deals and stopped at Barnyard Bargains, and Rhubarb finally relaxed for the time being. Merry lamented that Carousel Boutique was closed, but that didn't put too much of a damper on the day. This was a relief for Rhubarb, though; he hated being dragged into the boutique. It wasn't because he hated the clothes. It was because May spent a long time in there and insisted on having him try on things too. She claimed it was all cute and he was too polite to say anything. He just bit his tongue and smiled.

Finally around one in the afternoon, they settled at their favorite cafe in town. "Hm...what should I get today? I really like their garlic hay fries. But the wheat lasagna is great too..."

"Whatever you want, Rhu."

"What are you getting?"

"I might have some cider and..." She clicked her tongue. "maybe...the mac 'n cheese? You should get the hay fries. I can steal some from you."

"You criminal," he chuckled. "alright, I'm getting a plate of the garlic fries and a sandwich."

"Good." They closed their menus and the waiter came. Merry made her request first and then right as Rhubarb opened his mouth to speak, the waiter looked off at something and his face fell and so did his pad he had for orders. Merry looked off at the same direction and her face blanched. The changeling blinked and looked where they were looking in curiosity when he stopped short.

In the distance, you could see Canterlot from where they were sitting. The pink dome around it was falling as black specks in the sky charged in. Scales could only recognize the black specks as changelings. "Oh my Celestia!" Merry shrieked. "What are those things?"

Rhubarb didn't have a chance to respond. He felt himself growing faint, and he fell backwards and heard his girlfriend's cries of his name fade. Everything went black and he knew not a thing more.

"Rhubarb? Rhubarb! Oh my Celestia, please, wake up..."

Said changeling blinked his eyes dazedly and his vision was fuzzy. His head pounded and he winced and rubbed it. From what he could make out, he was in the hospital, with white, sterile walls and floor and a patient gown on his hide. "Thank goodness you're awake!" Merry May kissed him over and over again. "You fell back and hit your head on a rock." she explained as Rhubarb gave her a confused look.

"I...did? Is that why I'm in the hospital?"

"Yes." A yellow unicorn doctor was in the room, writing on a clipboard. "You took a nasty fall. You saw those awful changelings--"

"Changelings?" Rhubarb blurted. Merry gave him a suspicious look, and the doctor nodded.

"Yes. You saw Canterlot getting attacked by those awful things. Thankfully, they were repulsed from the city and the wedding's going on tomorrow. You were surprised, lost your balance in your chair, fell back, and hit your head."

"So Canterlot's okay? Was anypony hurt?"

"No, not too badly. The groom apparently was fed upon for his love by the queen of those things or something, but he'll be okay with some care. The bride was a little beat up from being kidnapped, but she's alright. It's all over the news."

"Oh my Celestia. Oh my Celestia..." he trailed off, sounding a mix of relieved and guilty. The doctor ignored him.

"Yes, well, you got a minor concussion, but you'll be okay. You should be okay to go home. Call us if you have any problems. Now, don't..." the doctor rattled off for awhile as Rhubarb got ready to go. Soon enough they left the hospital. By this point the sun was setting and Rhubarb silently walked alongside May. Relief was now replaced by guilt.

"Listen, Rhubarb...I got a letter from Rainbow Dash. Apparently one of the mares who was supposed to toss flower petals as the bride and groom head off tomorrow got hurt, so she asked me if I would fill in. I can say no and stay here if you want. She offered you an invitation as well, but I don't know if you're okay to go."

Rhubarb shook his head and then winced at the action as a massive headache struck back. "No, no! You should go. You can go on without me." He paused. "On second thought, can I come along?"

"Are you kidding me? You just got your head knocked around. I don't know that it's such a good idea for you to be going to a wedding tomorrow."

"I can handle it. I'm tough." he faked a smile. Truthfully, the idea of going to the wedding made him cringe. But on the other hoof, he felt so awful that he had said nothing that somehow if he came he could keep an eye on everything to make sure his old queen didn't come back. Merry weakly smiled.

"If you say so. But I'm coming home with you tonight. I want to keep an eye on you to make sure you'll be okay."

"You don't have--"

"I do have to. So shut up and let me watch your back."

They arrived at the apartment and settled in. May turned on Rhubarb's favorite food channel and when he tried to go into the kitchen to cook dinner, she shooed him out. She made dinner for the two and watched t.v. with him for awhile. Around ten, they went to bed and Rhubarb fitfully slept. Nightmare after nightmare came.

It was all his fault. All his. Who did he think he was, anyways? A changeling that could really be different from his own race? Why was he deluding himself, trying to be a unicorn when it was all a lie. All his fault. Nopony wanted him. Not the ponies. Not the changelings. Not even the griffons. Because it's all...his...fault.

Rhubarb shot up out of the bed, sweating profusely. He looked to his clock and saw it read three in the morning. Gingerly, he got out of bed, wiping sweat off his face. He walked towards the bathroom and flipped on the lights and closed the door behind him and locked it. He splashed water on his face and stared at himself in the mirror. A green unicorn with a brown mane and blue eyes stared back at him. Suddenly, he swore it flashed to a devilish looking changeling and with a gasp of horror and a little blinking, it changed back to his reflection.

His reflection of the stallion was obviously stressed. Dark bags were under his bloodshot eyes and his hair was frayed out wildly. Finally he fell to the floor, weeping helplessly. Oh Celestia, if he could just go find the nearest cliff and toss himself off of it, it would all be over. All of it.

"I was never meant to be happy, was I?" he muttered to himself miserably. It was then a knock came at the door.

"Rhubarb? Open up."

"Merry? I..."

"Just do it for me." the pegasus's stern voice came. Reluctantly, he undid the lock and immediately the door came open. Merry stared down at the stallion for a few moments, and then she knelt down. "Rhubarb, my sweet, dear unicorn...I know something's wrong. You have to tell me. Keeping it inside is killing you."

"I...I don't know if you want to know what it is."

"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want to know. Anyways, this isn't a want-to-know basis. This is a need-to-know basis. And you know I'll always love you, every bit."

Silence filled the air for a few minutes, and finally Rhubarb nodded. "Okay. But you can't tell anyone. Not a soul." He gulped. "You know those...changelings? That attacked Canterlot?"

"Yes, what is it?"

"I...Merry May, I was never from Fillydelphia. I lied."

"Well, where are you from, then?"

"I'm not from any pony city. I'm...I knew about the changelings long before any of you did. I'm...I'm not even a...a pony at all." he said. May's eyes widened, and Rhubarb took the plunge and allowed his green magic to transform him to his true form, a thin-framed changeling. He looked away from her. "I was never like the others. I was an outcast. All I wanted to do was bake. So when the queen announced her plans months ago, I escaped and found myself in Ponyville days later. I made a pony form all my own and came in.

"I was so much happier here as a pony that I forgot all about the changelings. And then this whole wedding business comes around. I was hoping that with the force field in Canterlot the queen's plans would be disrupted." His frown deepened. "They weren't. And now all that happened up there...is my fault. I could've said something. But I was a selfish coward." Rhubarb began sniffling. "I was worried about my own little perfect world disappearing when everypony found out what I really am. A monster."

He looked down at his holey hooves in shame. "I'm sorry to have deceived you. I was just so afraid..." he trailed off. It was silent for a little longer, and finally Merry took a deep breath.

"Look. I'm gonna sit in the kitchen for a little bit and absorb all of this, and then we can talk. Just sit tight." She flew off towards the kitchen, looking frazzled. Scales watched her go worriedly. He had no idea what to do. So he did the only thing he could do.

Scales crawled up into a little black ball with holes and cried.

Chapter Six

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A cup of what was now cold coffee rested against Merry May's hoof.

The green pegasus pony stared at a wall, as if in a contest. Her eyes were tired and sagging, but her mind was racing almost as fast as Rainbow Dash. So many thoughts wrestled with one another that she couldn't pick out a particular one. Oh my Celestia he's a changeling why is he a baker why didn't he tell me wait why am I wondering that why didn't he tell me he had wings because then I could fly with him oh dear Celestia changelings feed on love don't they the poor guy's probably sobbing himself to sleep in the bathroom wait he didn't tell me but he felt so bad about it what do I do?

Eventually she heaved a groan and realized that she wasn't getting anywhere by engaging in a staring contest with a wall with a cup of coffee she neglected. Merry May shoved her cup to the side and got up. Slowly she walked back to the bathroom and found what looked like a black wiffle ball passed out on the floor. He had cried himself to sleep. She prodded him gently. "Rhu--" Merry paused. Was his name even actually Rhubarb? "--wake up."

"Hmm...huh?" He batted his eyes open and looked towards his girlfriend. He then jumped in surprised and fell backwards, legs in the air and wide-eyed. "Oh, Merry!" The changeling relaxed a little. "I...I was worried you were going to leave altogether."

"No. Just...um...answer a few questions, okay?"

"Okay." He bobbed his head up and down dazedly, and she sat down next to him.

"First off...your name isn't really Rhubarb, is it?"


"What's your real name?"




"...That's an odd name." Merry said, cocking her head. "Can I still call you Rhu?" Scales nodded his head vigorously again.

"Yes. In fact, I'd prefer you call me Rhubarb or Rhu instead of it. That name holds no meaning to me anymore. It's a wretched name I had when I was still under my tyrannical Queen Chrysalis." he said, admonishing the name. Merry frowned.

"I don't think you should toss it away altogether. A name's what you make it to be. And you made it that Scales is a good baker. You know, ponies have two words to a name sometimes, like me, Merry May. You could be...Rhubarb Scales."

"That's silly. Rhubarbs don't have scales." he said, blinking a little in befuddlement. Merry rolled her eyes, knowing this conversation was going nowhere.

"Whatever you want. Also...changelings really feed on love? Have you been feeding off me this whole time?" she asked a little more harshly than she intended, and Scales cringed back.

"I'm gonna be honest. Yeah, probably. Changelings have two main ways of feeding. We can directly suck it dry from you. We can also get it by being around and being an object of affection, which we use our shapeshifting powers to gain. The first option gets much more nourishment, but doing so, you can greatly injure the subject fed from." He scowled. "It also makes it far more obvious you're a changeling. The second option doesn't satiate hunger as well, but it makes you less likely to be detected." He looked at his girlfriend's alarmed facial expression and his ears flipped back anxiously. "But for me? The second option trumps the first. I get so much love just from living here that I almost forget I'm technically feeding off it." he finished sheepishly.

"But I don't understand. If you're...feeding...from everypony, then why aren't we getting weak like Shining Arm..." She stopped herself and suddenly she beamed. "Oh! You're not just feeding; you're giving it back to us! You love us right on back...something others like you don't do."

He nodded proudly. "They don't understand that we could be some of the most efficient creatures on this planet if they just loved back, but they're too greedy. That's their downfall." he explained. Merry's usual cheery attitude returned for a moment, when all of a sudden it was replaced by drooping ears and a frown. Scales recoiled slightly.

"Why didn't you tell me until now?"

Dead silence. After a few minutes, Scales took a deep breath. "Because...because I was afraid you wouldn't love me anymore. I never knew such happiness before I met you and I was afraid if you knew that I was a monster you wouldn't love me anymore."

"Rhubarb!" Merry sighed and kissed his forehead. "I can't believe you'd think that. I said I'd always love you, and I keep to my word. I'm still a little angry that you didn't tell me earlier...but I understand why you did it. Does anypony else know?"

"No. Only you."

"So I'm the only one. I sure feel special." She rolled her eyes. Yet another pesky period of silence came, and after a little bit of awkward silence, she spoke up. "Anyways, that was my last question...hold up." A mischievous grin crept up on her face. "Rhubarb...show me your front right leg. The one with the huge hole in the middle."

Although a little confused, he did as asked and presented his front leg. Merry May got it and then shoved her hoof through the hole. Scales looked incredibly confused as she started giggling. "Hey, Scales..." She snickered immaturely. "I'm inside of you."

He snorted a laugh and shook his head. "Yes. Yes you are..." He paused and looked at his back left hoof, and she looked down as well.

"What's wrong?"

"I could've sworn I had a hole in my hoof down there. Where did it go?...I'm certain there was a hole there."

Merry pulled her hoof out of him and looked closely at the bottom of his hoof and then pointed. "Is this it?" He looked at the bottom and there was a tiny crater in the corner where a hole used to be.

"That's odd. I've never heard of changeling holes filling in. Ah, well, I'm probably fine," he said, waving it off carelessly. "I'm sure it's fine. Anyways, we have to leave early...in a few hours..." He looked at a clock on the bathroom wall, which read five in the morning. "...one hour, actually. Um, why don't I make us something to eat?"

This comment earned a strange look. "Us? Forgive me, but don't you feed on love and not food?"

Scales changed back into a unicorn pony. "I dunno. I like eating even though I don't have to. It relaxes me, and I swear I've been craving it more and more ever since I got here. In fact, I'm hankering for a sandwich. Do you want me to make you waffles or something?"

"No. Just make me a sandwich too." May replied calmly, beginning to turn on the shower to wash herself.

"What do you want on it?"

Another mischievous grin. "Swiss cheese."

"...You're just going to keep making jokes at my expense, aren't you?"

"You bet your little changeling hide I am. Now go make me a sandwich. We gotta catch the morning train to Canterlot soon."

Chapter Seven

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It was foggy and chilly, though the sun peaked over the ground below, with Celestia's promise of a warm day. Citizens of Ponyville at six in the morning were groggy but moving around with their mornings, at least the ones that woke up early. Some ponies were not working, but huddled around T.V.s talking hours before the actual royal wedding about the royal wedding. Images of clean streets and a beautiful morning in Canterlot flashed across the screens and a unicorn mare narrated everything that was and would come.

Rhubarb and Merry hustled towards the train station (thank Celestia Rhubarb got Sundays off of work and so did Merry) and quickly got their tickets and their seats inside. The train to Canterlot they took was filled to the max; ponies of all shapes and sizes and ages sat and chattered. Many of them had newspapers that had the same headline: the royal wedding.

Merry May was so tired she ignored all of them. Almost as soon as the train took off, she fell asleep against Rhubarb and gently snored. Rhubarb looked out the window as the train rode by, watching the country slip by. Slowly he turned his head down to his snoozing girlfriend and smiled. Softly, he began to sing.

"Hush now, quiet now, it's time to lay your sleepy head. Hush now, quiet now, it's time to--"

"Rhubarb?" May whispered quietly, and she opened her eyes and looked to him. He looked back at her eyes.

"Yes, my love?"

"I love you, but you're a terrible singer and I'm trying to sleep." she said with a smile. She closed her eyes again peacefully and the stallion told to shut up looked insulted.

"I'm a bad singer? Why didn't you tell me before?" he asked, sounding hurt. Merry did not open her eyes as she responded.

"I didn't have the heart to." She yawned. "But when I'm trying to sleep is when I finally draw the line."

"I'm not a bad singer!" he protested. A mint green earth pony mare with a wavy blond mane and blue eyes sat across from them, listening to the whole thing. Her cutie mark was a heart with a paw print in the middle and two leaves, one leaf on each side of the heart. This young mare had also been trying to sleep, and she glared at him.

"She's right, you know." the observer said, trying to cover her ears with a pillow. Rhubarb shot a brief glare at her, which she ignored. Merry chuckled and laid back against her pony pillow.

"Just be quiet for a little bit."

"Fine." he crossed his hooves and spent the rest of the trip in silence watching hills and mountains slip by. Around nine in the morning, they finally arrived in Canterlot. Everypony slowly huddled out of the train, waking up from naps and stupors, taking in the majesty of the city. Rhubarb and Merry barely had a chance to get past the train station when a familiar blue and rainbow-maned mare flew up.

"Merry May, I need you to come with me. The wedding starts in a few hours and I need you. Rhubarb, I'm stealing your girlfriend, sorry not sorry." Rainbow Dash grabbed Merry's hoof and flew off quickly. Merry looked back to her boyfriend, who smiled and waved. She scoffed and rolled her eyes and began flapping her wings to not hold Rainbow down. The two sped off.

It was then it dawned on Rhubarb he had nothing to do. The shops were either closed or overcrowded with patrons, all available benches were taken, and the castle was strictly closed off. His ear and eye twitched. "So what do I do now?" he asked aloud. A moment passed by without an answer, and Rainbow doubled back, hoisted Rhubarb up, and zoomed off. She had done it so fast that Scales's head was spinning, and she spoke almost as fast.

"No time to talk! Applejack needs you in the kitchen, stat!"


"I said no time to talk!" She zoomed past royal guards and into the castle, which was beautiful and sparkling shiny, but the changeling didn't even have a moment to take it in. She dumped him by a door inside and flew off without saying anything. He blinked, and the door burst open and he was yanked inside by Applejack.

"Thank goodness you're here!" the orange mare said once she placed him down. "We need more ponies on desserts! One of the pastry chefs got sick and I got Celestia's permission to bring you in! Now go start makin' cupcakes!" she pushed him towards a wooden table full of ingredients to go and an oven a few feet away. He blinked.

"What sort of--"

"I don't care! The wedding's in a few hours and you need to get to work!" She slapped an apron on him and after a second of coming back to reality, Rhubarb did as he was told and began to bake. Applejack turned her attention to main dishes. With the help of a few other chefs, within three hours the unicorn produced hundreds of all sorts of cakes, cupcakes, tarts, and treats. He forgot the outside world and he focused on ingredients, measurements, frosting, and art. When he cooked, the outside world ceased to exist.

It worked, and he was so wrapped up in work that around noon he failed to notice Princess Celestia herself walking into the kitchen to see what was going on. Applejack stopped her work and quickly bowed to the princess. "Princess Celestia!"

"Hello, Applejack. I've just come to, ahem, 'sample' some treats beforehand, if you don't mind..."

"Oh, not at all!" Applejack said eagerly. "You know, the pastry chef's just got done with a batch of cupcakes. Why don't you go try one?"

"I think I shall." The tall alicorn walked right behind him to a table of his done confections and he didn't even notice. The other chefs watched in utter amazement as Celestia used her magic to pick out a chocolate cupcake with a vanilla-chocolate swirl. She undid the cup wrapper and bit into it. Chefs watched nervously. Her eyes widened and she grinned.

"My goodness, this is delicious! Applejack, did you make this?" she asked, turning her head to the earth pony. Applejack shook her head with a smile.

"No, ma'am; Rhubarb!" she shouted to pull said changeling out of his trance. He shook his head and turned to find the princess a few feet behind him. He nearly dropped his mixing bowl to see her. She was beautiful. Long, mult-colored mane and a white coat with a very slight light pinkish tone. Her eyes were kind as she looked to the bearer of the element of honesty. She was absolutely nothing like his old, cruel queen. "Chef Rhubarb there-- the green unicorn stallion-- is the one behind that cupcake."

The princess turned her head to the shocked unicorn and kindly smiled. Sensing his timid awe, she held out a hoof to him. "Chef Rhubarb, it's good to meet you." Awkwardly, he returned it and they shook hooves.

"The...the pleasure is mine, your majesty." he said. Celestia giggled.

"Your special talent is a blessing for Equestria. I haven't had a cupcake that delicious in awhile. Are you attending the wedding?" she asked cordially. He shook his head.

"No, your majesty. I came because my girlfriend was taking over for a mare that got sick. Something about tossing flower petals as the bride and groom head off. As it turned out, they were a chef short in the kitchen, so I came immediately to help."

"I thank you for your hard volunteered work. What's your girlfriend's name?"

"Merry May."

"I shall send her an invitation to come into the chapel where the ceremony is to be held itself. And you are invited as well." With a pop of magic, a white ticket with a heart and a crown in the middle appeared out of thin air, and it floated down to Rhubarb, who took it in further amazement. "Thank you for your effort. I hope you enjoy the wedding. And sometime I may call upon you to help at a ceremony like this again. I could do with more of those sweets."

"Yes, your majesty!" He bowed deeply. "Thank you so much!"

"No, thank you. Applejack, Rhubarb, chefs, I'll see you at the wedding." Right as Celestia was about to walk out the door, Rhubarb spoke up again nervously.

"Your majesty?" he broke out. The princess turned back to him patiently.


"I'm...I'm sorry about all that happened yesterday with the changelings."

"Don't be sorry. There was nothing you could've done to prevent it." the princess of the sun said. "Anyways, the ceremony is at two. I would advise going to Rarity to get a quick tux."

"Of course. Thank you." The princess left, and nopony noticed the look of utter guilt that fell upon Rhubarb's face.

Around twelve thirty, Rhubarb and Merry met up to go to Rarity to borrow outfits. They went outside of her room of the castle, and when they opened the door, they were not expecting to find what they found. Princess Cadence herself, along with Rarity and Twilight Sparkle, was trying on her dress. She was smiling at her reflection in a mirror as a frazzled Rarity looked proud of her work. Twilight signed off on a clipboard of some sort. The couple shared a look of embarrassment and tried to get out without being caught, when Princess Cadence spied them.

"Hello?" she called. Rarity and Twilight finally noticed them, and their attempt to sneak back outside failed. Merry nervously laughed.

"Oh, hello, your majesty...Rarity...Twilight." They looked at each other again and quickly bowed. "We didn't know you were in here trying on dresses."

"Well, what do you need?" Rarity asked politely. Merry, being the braver of the couple, spoke first.

"See, we just got invitations to attend the wedding, and we were hoping you had a dress or a tux for us..."

"...but we see we're intruding, so--" Rhubarb was cut off by a gasp of horror from Rarity.

"And you're without outfits?! Get inside here right now, I'm not letting you attend without a proper outfit!...Well, wait...do you mind, Princess Cadence?" she asked. Cadence shook her head.

"No, not at all. I've got my dress. I'd like to help. It'd be fun. What's your names?" she asked kindly.

"I'm Merry May." the mare said.

"And I'm Rhubarb." the stallion said coyly. Cadence squinted and then gave an 'aww.'

"I take it you two are a couple?" she asked. They both nodded. "That's adorable. You know, one day, Merry, you could be where I am. Getting married." she said. Merry giggled.

"I certainly hope and expect so." She nudged Rhubarb, who nodded rapidly. Twilight closed the door, and Rarity retreated to her mannequins. She looked at the ladies' and gentlecolts' outfits and pulled out a pink dress from the fillies' and a simple black tux from the colts'. With a little magic, the outfits appeared on both of them.

"What do you think?" Rarity asked expectantly. Rhubarb was pleased with his simple but elegant tux and gave his approval, and Merry squealed with joy at the dress.

"It's adorable! Thanks, Rarity!"

"Not a problem. It's my job to create fabulosity." Right as she was turning back to the bride, Merry spoke up again.

"How much is it to rent or buy?" she asked. Rarity gave her an incredulous look.

"Dear, I'm too busy with the bride to even worry about that right now. Go ahead and take your outfits for free. A gift from me to you."

"That's...incredibly generous of you," Rhubarb said, "thank you so much."

"Not a problem. You two should go get your seats soon if you want good ones." Rarity warned. Twilight opened the door for them, and as they were leaving, Rhubarb turned to the princess.

"Your majesty, I'm really sorry about what happened yesterday with the changelings."

"Don't worry about it, Rhubarb," Cadence said calmly, "it's not like it was your fault." The door then closed behind them, and Rhubarb's cringe was hidden from their sight. Merry May sighed and gently patted him.

"You know, Rhubarb, even if you said anything, I don't know if they would've listened anyways. They didn't even believe the groom's sister when she said something was wrong." she comforted. Rhubarb shook his head in dismay.

"I didn't even try though."

"Well, it's in the past now, and everything's okay. I know that probably doesn't help for me to say, but you were scared, and likely most ponies would've done what you did in your position."


Another sigh from Merry May. "Well, come along. If you think of anything I can do to make you feel better, let me know. Let's go get our seats."

Chapter Eight

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"Love is in bloom! A beautiful bride, a handsome groom..."

Screams and cheers erupted from a massive crowd as Princess Cadence and Shining Armor did their first dance as a married couple. Rhubarb and Merry watched on, cheering and stomping hooves just as much as anypony else. A few seconds later, Rhubarb was caught by surprise as Merry grabbed him and held him in her arms, leaning back to dance. Although nervous, he complied to her wishes and danced. As it turned out, he was a fine dancer when Merry May led.

Just about everypony was dancing that night. Rhubarb and Merry, Shining Armor and Princess Cadence, Rainbow Dash and Soarin', and even Sweetie Belle and Spike. At one point Rarity even gave in and danced with Spike (well, as much as they could with height difference.) Applejack played the fiddle and created sweet country music. Merry laughed in the background as she spied Pinkie Pie gorging herself with sweets. If only for awhile, Scales forgot his woes.

Finally, near the end of the night, right as Merry May was swinging Rhubarb down, her eyes caught onto a nearby clock tower. The massive clock read eleven. Alarmed, she dropped Rhubarb flat on his back and gasped. Rhubarb gave a groan and coughed. "What was that for?"

"The bride and groom are leaving in twenty minutes and I'm not even by the carriage or with my flower petals! Sorry, love you, gotta go, see you shortly by the train station," she said as she flew off. Had she flown off any faster, no doubt a trail of smoke would be following her path in the night sky. Rhubarb watched her speed off, and he turned to the tables where catering was and got himself a glass of punch. A green glow surrounded his cup as he lifted it to his lips.

He pulled it away from his face just long enough to see Pinkie Pie bouncing up to him. "Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb!" she gave him a tackling hug, which would've sent his drink flying. Had it not been suspended in midair by magic, that is. Rhubarb fell to the ground and Pinkie laughed. The changeling simply laughed as well.

"Nice to see you, too, Pinkie." He got up and brushed himself off. He began to sip from the cup again. Pinkie then bounced off to the next pony to be tackle-hugged. Slowly he looked around. Nopony seemed to notice him for the moment. He then began to walk around the castle, until he found a nice spot overlooking the city and country right along the western reach of the palace. There was a stone bench set out to sit and look out.

He took a seat and stared out at the starry sky, mingled with the leftover smoke of fireworks. The city below twinkled and shined as the festivities ran through the streets. Ponies young and old ran rampant with confetti and treats, balloons in tow. The surrounding country was mostly empty except for a train chugging along, gentle puffs of smoke rising out from it. It lay silent, an ocean of darkness with an island of light and partying. Scales should've felt amazed, awed by the beautiful sight. Instead, a different feeling came.

A deep feeling of guilt and forlorn hope returned to him. The party was over for him. As much as Rhubarb hated feeling sorry for himself, he couldn't help it. Helplessness was painful, and mingled with guilt made it worse. When he was distracted, he was fine. When he was idle and with free time to think...that was bad. That was very bad.

Woeful, he kept his feelings to himself and looked out over the city. For a moment, he swore he heard a swooshing noise behind him. The stallion shrugged it off as probably just a bat or two. When the noise was accompanied by the sound of hooves touching the ground, he looked behind himself. What he found was not what he was expecting.

Princess Luna stood behind him, meeting his gaze collectedly. He stumbled over his own hooves to bend down in a bow immediately, almost tripping over the bench to do so. "Your majesty." he remarked, a little embarrassed by his depressed display.

"Arise. What is your name?" she replied.

"Rhubarb, your majesty."

"I notice you are not partaking in merry-making any longer. What ails you?"


"Do not hesitate to tell me," Luna said kindly, "it is my duty to help my subjects when I can clearly see something is wrong."

"It's nothing you need to be concerned about, Princess Luna." he commented anxiously. "I just...I've been feeling down lately."

"For what reason?"

He stiffened. "I just...I did something bad recently. I knew something was going to happen but I didn't say anything because I was scared. And then it happened and ponies got hurt. That means it's my fault."

Luna did not ask what it was. She didn't want to make this unicorn any more uncomfortable. "Cowardly indeed." she stated. Rhubarb frowned, and she frowned as well. "But do not mistake my words. I, too, have done bad things." She shuddered and looked to the sky sadly for a moment before looking back to her subject. "Take a princess's advice. If you do bad things, it's understandable to be sad. But nothing changes if you merely mope." Rhubarb looked back to her, hoping to understand what she was to say. "You can't allow these bad things to follow you and darken the rest of your life. The best thing you can do is move on.

"I recognize this is much easier said than done, but it is possible. Be a good pony instead. Be loving and gentle and understanding, just as others might forgive you if you do wrong. If you can help others, help them, and if you cannot, help by doing something else...I notice your cutie mark is a pie. Thou art a baker? I tried thy delicious yet fattening cupcakes." she guessed.

Although a little confused by her archaic language, he nodded. "Then keep making those cupcakes and pies and keep making those sweets. Fill ponies' hearts and stomachs with love." The princess giggled a bit. "Above all, forgive yourself. What's done is done and you can't go back to fix it. Might as well learn from it and be good in the future."

Rhubarb was shocked by the princess's kind words of wisdom. Luna, the princess who had been in prison for a thousand years and separated from her sister. Luna, the princess who vowed to plunge the world into eternal night. Luna...the princess who spent a moment to help a pony in need like him. True, she had done bad things. But now? Now she was good. Luna did little things like this for little ponies like him. And it really did help.

"Thank you, your majesty." He sniffled and wiped a tear from his eye. "Those words. They help a lot."

"It is my job along with bringing the night." She smirked slightly, proudly. "Pray tell, where are you heading now?"

"I'm heading to the train station for Ponyville. My girlfriend is waiting for me there so we can go home. I have work tomorrow." he said with a yawn.

"A hard worker. Admirable. I can teleport you, if you so wish, with my magic to the train station." the princess offered.



"Thank you so much. Is there anything I can do to repay you for everything?" Scales asked. The princess was about to say no, when she looked to his cutie mark again and paused.

"Actually, yes. I tried your cupcakes at the dessert table and they were good. Can you make me a blackberry cobbler and sent it to the castle within a few days?"

"Done and done." He shook hooves with the princess, and with a flash of her magic, he was teleported to the train station. Shortly after, he found Merry May, and both boarded the midnight train to Ponyville. Within a few moments of the train taking off, both had fallen asleep against each other. They slept silently in peace, and the train chugged and puffed the way home.

Chapter Nine

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"...Again, we really appreciate you doing this, Rhubarb..."

"Not a problem. What time is their bedtime?"

"We usually want them asleep at eight-ish. But sometimes they tucker out earlier. We should be here to pick them up at ten. Again, thank you," Mr. Cake said, "with us requiring Pinkie's help as this baking competition at Sweet Apple Acres, we were worried we wouldn't find a sitter."

"It's no problem, as I said." Rhubarb said politely, taking Pumpkin Cake and Pound Cake from Mrs. Cake. "I've helped out before with your foals, I'm sure I can handle it tonight."

The changeling chattered with the parents for a little while, not noticing Merry May's dubious look from the kitchen.

As soon as the door was closed, nopony noticed as Rhubarb forgot to lock it behind them.

Merry spoke as soon as the couple left. "Rhubarb, are you sure agreeing to babysit is the greatest idea? For the last two weeks you've been working yourself nearly to death in the name of doing good. I'm surprised you aren't too tired to babysit. Babies take up a lot of energy."

"Pfft. I've helped before. I feed them, burp them, replace a few diapers, and put them to sleep. How hard can it be?" he said, sounding cocky. Merry rolled her eyes, and then a self-satisfied grin came to her as the babies began wailing. Rhubarb quickly picked them up and placed them in two high chairs Mr. and Mrs. Cake lent to him. He sped to the fridge and pulled out baby food left for them. Merry watched as he put it out.

Pound Cake began pounding on the table, nearly knocking over the bowl of squishy goop. Within seconds, Pumpkin Cake began to cry. Merry sighed and shoved him aside. "Go get another spoon. I'll feed Pound Cake, you feed Pumpkin Cake."

"'Kay." He pulled out a spoon and dug it into the food for Pumpkin, who looked at him expectantly.

"Watch," Merry said. She dug her spoon in and wavered it up and down. "here comes the pegasus train! Choo choo! Zoom....zoom..." she said, making noises. Pound laughed and happily ate the food. Rhubarb followed her lead.

"Here comes the unicorn train! Choo choo! Uh...zoom?" Pumpkin ate the food happily. This continued until the bowls were empty. The babies were burped, and then right as Rhubarb put them down to play again, Merry shook her head as she held Pound Cake.

"No, no. They should take a bath now."

"A bath?"

"No, a shower. Yes, a bath." Merry said. Rhubarb sighed and followed her to the bathroom, where she began to fill up the tub. Soon they put them in the warm water and the babies began wailing. Scales cringed.

"What do I do?"

"They're bored. Don't you have any bath toys?"

"No. I don't use them."

"Ugh...I'll go get plastic cups."

"Plastic cups?"

"Just trust me. I used to babysit for my cousins all the time." she called as she walked out. A second later she had plastic cups in her mouth. She put them in and filled one of the cups up and dumped the water over one of the babies, who laughed. Of course, then the babies didn't know what to do with the cups and began wailing again. Rhubarb gave her a cross look as she pulled the cups out. She blushed.

"Given, my cousins were toddlers by that point..."

A smirk came onto Rhubarb's face. "I have an idea." His magic surrounded him, and he changed from a pony to a duck. Immediately the twins began to laugh, and he flapped his wings. The twins flapped their arms (and in Pound's case, his wings) into the water and got clean and had fun. With a few animal changes, Rhubarb distracted them as Merry scrubbed away at their coats. Soon they were clean.

As Rhubarb when to put them down to play again, they began to wail. He sniffed the air and covered his nose in disgust. "Time for a diaper change."

"Have fun with that." Merry said, retreating to the kitchen.


"Have fun!"

Rhubarb gagged as he wrestled off dirty diapers and tossed them into the trash. He was very close to putting on new diapers without baby powder, something he had forgotten. Thankfully, his girlfriend intervened and did so for him. He then put on the new diapers and the kids finally began to play cheerfully. The stallion finally relaxed on the couch and turned on the T.V. at seven p.m. and May joined him.

"Such a tough stallion. Willing to change dirty diapers."

"I know, I'm so brave." he responded with a chuckle.

"...Reeee..." Pumpkin Cake began.

"...Burrrb." Pound Cake finished. Merry laughed.

"I think they're talking to you, Reburb."

"For what?"

"Duck!" Pumpkin shouted and squealed.

"Duck!" Pound shouted as well.

"Goose!" Merry said sarcastically. Rhubarb rolled his eyes and got off his rear.

"I think they want me to change into a duck again. Alright." He did as asked, and the twins squealed again in astonishment. Pumpkin got one of the toys left for them-- a block with different pictures of animals on the sides-- and presented it. She pointed at a cow. Rhubarb got the hint and changed into a cow, sending the babies into giggling fits. Pound Cake pushed it and it fell on a side with a picture of a turtle.

Merry nodded her head at him, and he turned into a very large tortoise. He changed back into a unicorn. "Is this all I'm going to be doing all night?"

"You bet." The kids whined in disappointment as Merry spoke. "And I think you should be an owl now or something, because I think they like it."

"I'm getting paranoid. I changed into a duck earlier because I figured they wouldn't remember me being able to change anyways."

"And they won't. They're too little." The babies began to cry loudly, and Rhubarb cringed.

"Okay, okay!" He changed into an owl and the tots stopped crying.

Mr. and Mrs. Cake approached Rhubarb's apartment door early. "...I really can't believe that the contest was cancelled. How many times how has Applejack's barn been destroyed?" Mrs. Cake asked her husband. Her husband smiled.

"Well, look at the bright side. It gives us more time to plan for the contest next week. And we take the twins off of Rhubarb's hooves early. Celestia, that colt is a saint, but he works himself too hard. I felt awful being forced to leave the kids with him after work."

Mrs. Cake lifted her hoof to knock, but the hoof bumped into the doorknob, left accidentally unlocked. The door opened, just in time for Mr. and Mrs. Cake to witness Rhubarb changing into a pig to satiate the children's desire for his changing ability.

Immediately Rhubarb changed back to his pony form and stared in mortification at the gaping parents.

Chapter Ten

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Rhubarb's first instinct was to run. And that's what he did. He ran towards the nearest window and opened it. The changeling was halfway out the window too when Merry bit onto his tail and yanked him back inside. She closed the window and glared at him. "You won't solve anything by running."

"I did once!"

"That was different!"

"...Rhubarb?" Mr. Cake asked slowly.

Rhubarb cringed and closed his eyes and then peeked back behind himself. "...Yes? Please, please, please don't freak out, just let me explain." He began hyperventilating. "Oh dear, this wasn't how I wanted you to find out. Is the room getting hot or is it just me?" Sweat fell down his face profusely.

Merry shoved him aside. "Mr. and Mrs. Cake, Rhubarb's a changeling."

"Yeah, I think we got that." Mrs. Cake said, still blinking in confusion.

"See, he's...he's much different than the other changelings. He left them months ago. And--"

"I got this, Merry..." he sighed heavily. "Listen to me, Mr. and Mrs. Cake. I know I lied to you..." He picked up a confused Pumpkin and Pound Cake and gave the babies back to them. "And I know you don't have to trust me, but...please. Can you just let me explain?"

Mr. and Mrs. Cake shared a look, and then Mr. Cake nodded. They then walked to his couch and sat down, looking to him for answers. Their eyes were large and shocked, but they were willing to listen. Rhubarb closed the door and turned to them. With another breath, he changed himself into his true form. He heard the couple gasp and Pound and Pumpkin giggle.

"I was never from Fillydelphia. I came from the dark recesses of the changelings' lair...for all I know, though, the queen could be residing in a castle right now. She always mentioned to the hive how she wanted a castle." He shook his head, scoffing. "That's beside the point. Anyways, I...never saw eye to eye with the others. As a kid I tried baking and loved it, and when the others found out, they just about lost it." He shuddered with memories. "So when the queen announced her plan for Canterlot, I fled, masked as a unicorn, and finally found a job and a very special somepony." He looked to his girlfriend, who nodded proudly. "I didn't tell anypony because I was worried my perfect little world of peace would shatter. Merry May found out only weeks ago."

After a couple minutes of extremely awkward silence, Mrs. Cake sadly frowned. "Oh, dear, all this time? I would ask why you said nothing, but I think I know why."

"I know." Rhubarb rubbed his head. "And please, please don't fire me. This job and this life in Ponyville means everything to me. Please--"

"Rhubarb, why in Equestria would we fire you?" Mr. Cake asked. Rhubarb's eyes burst open, making his girlfriend giggle. He had what could be called a surprised deer face. "I, for one, don't care," Mr. Cake continued, "you make good food fast, and the bakery has benefited from your help. In spite of the fact you lied about where you came from, we understand why you did it."

"Oh my Celestia," Rhubarb said, practically dropping to the ground in relief, "Oh, my Celestia...I was so scared." Mrs. Cake then got up, approached, helped him up, and hugged him. Although a little surprised by the hug, he returned the hug warmly.

Outside the front door, Pinkie Pie was waiting impatiently for Mr. and Mrs. Cake to finish up and get the fillies. She was waiting below the apartment building, when finally she went up the stairs to find out what was going on. The earth pony heard soft murmurs inside she couldn't make out, so she planted her flank down and waited.

Finally, she lost her patience and opened the loose door to find Mrs. Cake hugging Rhubarb as a changeling. Rhubarb pulled back from Mrs. Cake in more shock. "I...Pinkie Pie!"

"Now, Pinkie, listen--" Mr. Cake was cut off by a excited squeal and the door being closed.

"Finally, somepony comes out of the changeling closet! About time, Rhubarb!" Pinkie exclaimed, not looking shocked at all. Rhubarb's eye twitched.

"You knew?" he asked. Pinkie nodded.

"Of course I knew! Now, I may be a party girl, a baker, and...a party girl, but I'm not stupid. I saw all the signs. When I saw you at the wedding, I noticed your magic had the very same tint of green that a changeling's magic had." she said, pulling a detective hat out of his chimney and puffing into a pipe she pulled out of her hair that exuded bubbles.

"I hardly see how that's proo-"

Pinkie ignored Scales. "So, to make sure it wasn't a changeling that had taken over your spot or anything, I tackle hugged you. You reacted as only Rhubarb would react. Not to mention you were all sad before and after the wedding. When I noticed you walking off at the end of the party, I asked Princess Luna to talk to you. I knew you wouldn't say a darn thing to me if I asked you what was wrong." Pinkie puffed into the pipe, pushing more bubbles out of the end of it.

"Really, Pinkie, I--" Rhubarb had not a chance to speak.

"She then told me how you were feeling a bit guilty. But she wouldn't say over what. The princess was respecting your privacy. Perhaps if you heard about the wedding from the changelings months ago before you met us, then you would feel guilty for not saying anything. And I know you. You work yourself to the bone so you don't think when you're upset." Proudly, the pink pony grinned. "Not to mention when you came here for the first time, you had nowhere to sleep. Fluttershy distinctly mentioned how a strange sparrow flew into her house every night. Then it stopped as soon as you got an apartment."

"That doesn't--"

"So right then at the party when I tackled you I was positive you were a changeling! Ta-da!" Pinkie declared. Everypony stared at her silently, not exactly sure how to react. Pinkie clapped her hooves together. "And now you're coming out to us! Woo-hoo!" She tackle-hugged Rhubarb again.

The changeling coughed and when she let go, he got up. "And you knew all this time and said nothing?"

"Uh, duh!" Pinkie rolled her eyes. "It's your secret. I'm not gonna force a friend to talk about something they're not comfortable about. And to tell anyone would betray the trust you put into me. And betraying a friend's trust is the fastest way to lose a friend! Forever!"

Rhubarb said absolutely nothing as everypony else laughed. Merry May stopped all of a sudden and began examining her boyfriend's legs. Rhubarb gave her a strange look. "May, what are you doing?"

"Your legs! You hardly have any holes at all now!"

It was true. An examination proved that there were almost no holes, a maximum of one per leg at this point. And those holes were getting smaller. Merry whimpered. "Rhubarb, I'm worried about you! What if something's wrong?"

"I'm sure nothing's wrong!" Scales exclaimed, throwing a hoof into the air. "I feel fine, and I can change just fine too."

"But honey, I'm worrying about you. We need to get you examined by a doctor."

"Merry, I don't know if they'd know what to do any--"

"I don't care. Listen...Pinkie and the Cakes know and they still love you. I know and I still love you," Merry said frantically, "listen, Twilight Sparkle and her friends are the bearers of the Elements of Harmony. Twilight herself is the personal student of Princess Celestia. Let's tell them and ask them to take us to the princesses for help. Maybe they have a doctor or something that can look at you."

"She's right, you know," Pinkie said, "I can guarantee the others will love you just as much as we do. I don't know how holey you used to be, but your lady is worried and I won't stand for it!" she shouted.

"And we can't afford to have a baker sick." Mr. Cake said. The babies nodded in agreement, though they didn't understand a word that was said. Scales was overwhelmed.

"I...you're really all that worried? I'm fine, I'm sure."

"Please. For me?" Merry said, making large puppy eyes. Scales was quiet and gave in.

"Fine," he said in resignation, "But I'm not at all happy about this...hm..." he thought for a minute. "Alright, here's the plan..." he began as everyone huddled up to listen.

Chapter Eleven

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As soon as Sugarcube Corner closed, Pinkie went out, got the bearers of the elements of harmony, and began leading them to the bakery. With a lot of effort, Pinkie whispered quietly enough to the others to explain the situation as best she could. "...And so, Rhubarb's a changeling and he needs our help!" Pinkie exclaimed, "With everything I just told you being a compilation of my proof, it makes sense, right?"

"Uh...no." Rainbow Dash replied.

"Uh-uh." Applejack said.

"Not really..." Fluttershy murmured.

"Oh, heavens, no." Rarity replied.

"It's simply illogical." Twilight finished. Pinkie pouted.

"You'll see. We're almost here." A few more steps towards the bakery. Pinkie stopped short at the door and looked around suspiciously. "Were we followed?"

"I don't think so." Twilight said, looking around the darkening plaza. "Does Rhubarb even know we're coming?"

"Uh-huh. He even came up with this plan himself." Pinkie said as she fiddled with the lock.

"He...did?" Rarity asked dubiously. "Now, he's claiming he's a changeling of all things. What in Equestria is going on?"

"You'll see, Rarity." Pinkie pulled the door open and ushered everypony in and slammed the door shut melodramatically. "To the back room for parties away!" she rushed towards the back, and with a shared look, her friends followed.

In the back, Pinkie rushed in first. The windows had been closed and the lights turned on bright. Rhubarb stood in the center with Merry while Mr. and Mrs. Cake hung back for support. The changeling was visibly shaking in fear while Merry held one of his hooves and stroked it gently. She kissed his cheek and he smiled weakly. Everypony looked to Pinkie, who stepped aside for the other mares.

"It's your turn, Rhubarb." Pinkie hopped off to Mr. and Mrs. Cake's side.

"Rhubarb, what's the meaning of all of this?" Applejack asked, befuddled. "Pinkie's saying you're a changeling. That can't be right."

"Yeah," Rainbow continued, "she gave us this whole story about how you left the queen months before the wedding."

"So what's going on exactly?" Twilight asked. Rhubarb shared a look with Merry, who nodded and let go of his hoof. Rhubarb looked at the element bearers straight in the eyes and changed, leaving him in his changeling form. They heaved and he grimaced.

"Pinkie Pie is right. I am a changeling." he looked to them. Rainbow Dash had fallen from her hovering position and was flat on her flank gawking at him. Applejack was blinking over and over again, Fluttershy was hiding behind Twilight, and Twilight's head was cocked in confusion and a touch of fascination. "Before we go over this, I know I lied. I'm sorry. One does not simply walk into Ponyville as a changeling." he explained.

"I...I don't know what to say..." Applejack uttered. Pinkie bounced to them.

"I trust him," she said, "Mr. and Mrs. Cake trust him. Merry May trusts him. And you can too!"

"Rainbow Dash, you and I work together." Merry cut in. "Surely you can trust my judgement. I've dated a few stallions..."

"...but none that got your interest quite like him." Rarity pointed out. "Oh, young love...he's been siphoning love for months. And you're still healthy. How?"

"Because I love her back." Rhubarb said simply. Rarity looked down at the ground for a second and then smiled weakly.

"Rhubarb's a good coltfriend. He goes into my shop with you and waits patiently, and he bakes well and is friendly. The colt even puts up with when I try to put a new gentlecolt's outfit on him..." A nod. "I trust him."

"Rarity! Thank you!" Rhubarb said, sounding a little relieved. Rarity had a devious smile at this point.

"Really, now, a changeling is perfect when I need a volunteer so I can get a real demonstration of how a dress might like on somepony...surely you wouldn't mind, Rhubarb?" Scales very much wanted to protest, but he knew better than to do so at the moment and merely nodded.

"I guess...I guess he's okay." Rainbow flapped her wings and lifted herself into the air again. "Though I am still gonna be getting used to this for weeks. You have a strange taste in stallions, Merry."

"Well, shoot. He's always doing business with the farm for ingredients. Darn nice changeling to boot." Applejack added shakily. "So...alrighty then."

Fluttershy peeked at him. "You...you were that sparrow? That bat that needed help?"

"Yeah. And I really owe you one for helping me those nights. So...thank you." Rhubarb thanked her. The pegasus said nothing more and gave a tiny smile. Nothing more needed to be said from Fluttershy.

Attention then turned to the still-gawping Twilight Sparkle. As soon as she moved out of her reverie, she cleared her throat. "So, um...what's your real name? I doubt a changeling was named Rhubarb." she said, awkwardly beginning to pace. Scales frowned. He didn't like that question.

"My name was Scales. It shouldn't mean anything anymore."

"Why? I kinda like it." Rainbow asked curiously.

"It's a reminder of a time I didn't miss. A people I don't miss." he explained. Merry shoved him aside finally, looking frantic.

"Listen, girls, if you haven't noticed, Rhubarb's hardly got any holes on him anymore. I'm worried there's something wrong with him. Please, can you contact the princesses for help?"

"Of course," Twilight's tail swished. "Princess Celestia should meet him anyways. Oh, I forgot Spike. One moment." Her horn flashed a reddish pink color and Spike fell out of the air with a grunt. He glared at Twilight.

"Geez, I asked if you wanted me to come and you said no. And I was so ready to take a nap and now I'm awake again. What gives--" Spike turned his head and stopped short at seeing Rhubarb. The dragon then screamed in horror and tried to run when Twilight stopped him, holding out a hoof to block his way. "What are you doing?! We have to run!"

"Spike, it's me!" Rhubarb exclaimed. As a changeling, Rhubarb's voice was slightly distorted, but it was enough like his pony version's voice to cause Spike to turn around. He squinted his eyes and then they widened.


"Yes, Spike, it's me. Rhubarb." He changed to his unicorn form. "I suppose you want an explanation..."

"...to say the least." he confirmed. The story was explained all over again, and Spike, although still confused, began writing a letter to the princess explaining the situation. Twilight dictated the letter. As soon as they were finished, Spike sent it off. Nopony had to wait very long. Within ten minutes, Spike burped up a letter. Twilight picked it up and quickly read it. Finally she closed it and looked to the changeling.

"Princess Celestia wants to see you immediately. Go pack lightly. Us, you, and Merry are all headed to Canterlot."