by Estee

First published

Superstition claims that if you do certain things while having sex, your first foal will arrive as your desired race and gender. One rather naive newlywed couple has just decided to try for mixed triplets. (They may even survive it.)

Everypony knows that if you want your first child to be a colt, the bed has to be aligned towards sunrise. A filly? Eat this kind of hay two hours before sex. Earth pony, pegasus, unicorn... there's a myriad of superstitions which promise the guarantee of a chosen birth, along with ponies gullible enough to believe all of them.

Barnum and Bayleaf, mere hours removed from their wedding, are kind, gentle, and loving ponies. They want to raise a large family, they'll probably be great parents -- and for reasons known only to Sun and Moon, they've just decided to go for the trifecta: a mixed triplet birth. Something which will be achieved by following every necessary superstition, all at the same time.

...well, maybe they'll live.

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Decidedly Not An Alicorn Origin Story

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There was a certain joy in watching his spouse (who had held that status for all of three hours) trotting in front of him as they entered what would be their first official bedroom. It was the happiness that came from witnessing the shifting of pearlescent white hips, a movement which sent the light green tail into a slow sway: movements which were perfect for framing buttocks, at least during those moments when they weren't temporarily concealing that beauty and making him wait for the next reveal. It was the knowledge that for the rest of their lives, anypony else who found that view to be just as wondrous could do nothing more than look, for she had chosen him -- and this was his wedding night.

There was also a certain pain to be found in that bedroom, and it was currently trotting in behind him.

"This," Barnum's new dam-in-law pushed out from between gritted teeth, "is temporary." Her blunt horn rudely prodded at his backside: something she would undoubtedly claim as accidental, despite her very open desire to do so much more. (The daughter was perfectly happy with her choice. The mother was... not, because there wasn't a pony in the world who was good enough for that daughter. Barnum, as a pony, had failed that test at birth.) "Strictly temporary."

Bayleaf turned a little at that, and the many gift-wrapped packages held within her shimmering yellow corona swayed with the movement. "It's just for a little while, Mom! A moon at most. You know how things are..."

The older unicorn tightly nodded. Barnum was, in certain ways, a rather old-fashioned sort of earth pony, especially when it came to what he saw as the duties of both courtship and proposal. Despite the increasingly-desperate urges which had arisen from both heart and loins, he'd refused to offer a forehoof in marriage before fulfilling what he saw as the requirements -- and chief among those had been the ability to give his bride a home of their very own: something which had required careful saving, one risky investment which had just barely paid off, and three hours of dripping flop sweat onto the stone floor of the bank.

But there were many ways to describe Ponyville in the Bearer era, and one of the most constant was Under (Re)Construction. Barnum had scrimped, sweated, and ultimately paid for what would be their first home -- but that house currently existed as a half-finished frame. The town's construction crews had once again been delayed by the need to put everything else back together -- something which currently included his spouse's old apartment -- and so the newlyweds (who had postponed the post-wedding trip in favor of furnishing the eventual kitchen) would be spending their first moon as husband and wife in Bayleaf's old fillyhood bedroom -- which lay within the very angry domain of her mother.

The more recent bed -- a much larger specimen -- had been moved into the space, where it was currently taking up most of it. A bright pink nightstand, still half-covered in stickers showing once-beloved film characters, had been shoved aside to make room.

Bayleaf's mother was staring at that bed, and her expression was much less than happy.

The daughter's corona was beginning to lower the packages, placing them in the scant places where space could still be found. A flicker of yellow tugged against a lid.

"No!" her mother said, just a little too sharply: a tone which managed to briefly focus her daughter's attention. "No opening the wedding gifts! Not in here! Not in... not in..." and with galloping desperation, "...this was your bedroom, Bayleaf..."

The lovely unicorn just smiled. She responded to so much of the world with a smile. Some of it was simple kindness, and a little of the rest was not having thought about any other reactions.

"Oh, come on, Mom," Bayleaf gently said. "Everypony knows that if you don't open gifts right after the wedding, you'll open them for the first time when you split them up during the divorce..."

Her mother's expression now suggested that the second half of what 'everypony knows' was her personal ideal result -- but it was Bayleaf, and so a tiny bit of that resolve collapsed. "One," she half-huffed. "You can open one. There's barely enough room in here for much more, especially with that thing --" which could have been either the bed or Barnum "-- taking up space. Just one."

Bayleaf nodded, and her corona eventually got the lid open. Her magic delved into the box, and...

"Oh!" It was a happy sort of gasp, along with being a rather surprised one. "I didn't know Uncle Wander had gone that far north! Is it really like they say? That if it comes from the Empire, it'll be unbreakable?"

"I'm sure I don't know," her mother tensely stated, refusing to look at any of the lazy rainbows which were now shifting around the room. "Set it down, Bayleaf."

The vase was eventually put on the nightstand, and Barnum personally placed some of their wedding flowers inside it. High-calorie ones, which would be good for replacing energy later.

They unpacked, as much as they could, with that angry red glare watching Barnum the whole time. Made something of a show of getting the bedsheets in order: a state which was guaranteed to break. And when that dam still didn't move, Bayleaf openly yawned, stretched out kinks in a way which took all of Barnum's control to merely watch.

Finally -- finally! -- the older unicorn trotted towards the door --

-- turned around.

"No sex."

Both newlyweds blinked.

"What?" Bayleaf asked, confusion suffusing her voice. "Mom, it's our wedding night --!"

Just barely keeping the fury down to a level where it would pass for the mere orders of a known control freak: "-- not under my roof. Not with him. I took the lock off the door, Bayleaf. I'm up at all hours, and... no sex! Not in my house! Maybe you... do it, maybe it's already... but... no sex!"

She marched out, with the newlyweds staring after her for a few seconds. Then they looked at each other.

"No sex?" Bayleaf worriedly asked her new husband. "But... we're married! It's our wedding night! We put off the trip until summer, and... we don't even get to have sex? When we've been talking about getting our family started while we're still young, not waiting like our parents did and losing the chance for having a big family, I wanted to try tonight, Barnum..."

"She said no sex," Barnum sadly shrugged. "You heard her."

Bayleaf miserably nodded.

"Of course," he added, dark eyes starting to take on a light twinkle, "she also told you not to marry me..."

Love usually found a way. So did hormones.

Not only was Bayleaf fairly familiar with her mother's standard routine, but she was used to the lock being off the bedroom door: a certain breed of control freak had trouble with the idea of not being able to storm in on her offspring at any given moment, and so Bayleaf had developed rather good hearing. It went nicely with her carefully-mastered skill for masturbating in a fashion which could effectively finish at just about any time, and had often needed to.

So she had advised Barnum on just which hours were the safest, the two had waited -- somehow, they'd waited -- and now it was truly their wedding night, even if the delay had made it into more of a wedding technically-the-next-day.

"I love you," Barnum whispered as he got into the first of what would be many positions. "I'll spend my life showing just how much I love you." And because he was a little old-fashioned in many ways, "With my body, I thee worship..."

She giggled, and did so as softly as she could. "Did I marry Princess Luna?"

"In the dark of the night," Barnum smiled, "bright deeds may be performed under Moon..."

More giggling. She wriggled her hips, pressed herself against him, and began to show just how much she loved him too.

It was like that for a few minutes: just the two of them loving each other. And then the sound hit.

Both froze, momentarily paralyzed by what had seemed like a tremendous crash. (Well, mostly paralyzed: Barnum lost his concentration, and so one portion of him nearly finished up right there. It took a moment of desperate focus to keep what felt so much like a flood inside.)

"What?" Barnum desperately whispered. "What was that? Should I pull --"

-- and then Bayleaf softly giggled again. "It's the storm! Just the storm. We both forgot..."

They had. Most of the concerns for newlyweds in checking the long-range weather schedule was in picking a day without rain, and so neither had paid much attention to the Bureau's arrangements for the night: a simple storm.

"We'll have to be more careful," he said. "We might not hear her over the thunder."

"I'll take the chance," she decided. "Move, my stallion."

Barnum smiled, thanked Moon for having retained control, began to shift his body again --

-- and then his wife giggled for the fourth time.

"But," she merrily asked, "do we want our firstborn to be a pegasus?"

He stopped.


She stared up at him.

"You don't know?"

He shook his head. Drops of sweat fell off the blue snout, pattered onto the rumbled bedsheets as raindrops ran down the windows.

"Everypony knows," Bayleaf educated him, "that if you have sex during a storm, your foal will be a pegasus."

Barnum thought about that. And because he was a gentle, loving, and kind stallion, one without a single fur strand of prejudice about his person, he pictured his son performing swoops and rolls against a clear blue sky, all of which took place with Barnum laughing below, rejoicing at the sight of the everyday miracle as his son sculpted clouds into the words I LOVE YOU DAD.

"A pegasus," he smiled. "A pegasus..." Began to thrust --

-- and then he stopped.

There were many things which could be said about Barnum and if those words weren't emerging from his dam-in-law, most of them would probably be accurate. You could say that he was loving, kind, and had real trouble with the idea of even disliking anypony. You could call him gentle, for he was. It was possible to say that he was rather pleasantly endowed and if you did so, you wouldn't be talking about his intellect.

In talking about his best qualities, Barnum could be described in many ways. If you wanted to discuss his worst, it would probably be best to start with this: he was somewhat gullible. He was the sort of pony who would make a purchase from the Flim-Flam brothers -- twice. If there was, on average, a sucker of strictly typical strength born every minute, then the numerical gravity resulting from Barnum's birth had protected every other newborn in Equestria for the better part of an afternoon.

And if you were going to talk about Bayleaf, you might want to consider that in multiple aspects, the two of them were perfect for each other. In kindness, love, their mutual desire for a large family, and the simple fact that the couple which falls for a con together, stays together. Because Bayleaf hadn't done all that well in exams and when it came to intellectual exercise, was completely unsuited for heavy lifting -- but she held multiple doctorates across the non-academic fields of Things Everypony Knows and the much more uncommon What Some Donkey Said, along with having a hobby-level focus in Did You Hear The One About?

So Barnum stopped, because Bayleaf's words had made him think.

"Barnum?" his spouse worriedly inquired: the current pursuit was a two-pony activity and half the workforce had just gone on break. "Is everything okay?"

He gazed down at his beautiful wife.

"How do you get a unicorn?"

She blinked.

"A -- unicorn?"

"A unicorn foal," his next whisper clarified. "If having sex during a storm means a pegasus, then how do you get a unicorn?"

She prettily frowned. "Everypony knows you have to be under some kind of spell, silly! Or at least within a corona. Come on, let's --"

"-- and an earth pony?"

The frown was still pretty, even with the intensity steadily ramping up. "You're an earth pony," she reminded him. "Why don't you know? Everypony knows."

He tried to remember, failed to come up with anything, and picked the wrong conclusion. "I guess they just didn't talk about it in front of me," Barnum decided. "Come on, Bayleaf. Earth pony foal. How?"

She concentrated. "Um... you need to do it -- underground? Or in the middle of a farm, or..." Memory ran out, allowing imagination the chance to pretend it could substitute. "...while you're covered in mud?" Thoughtfully, "Actually, that sounds like it could be kind of fun..."

"And if you do all of them at the same time?" Barnum softly asked. "You get an alicorn?"

"I think," Bayleaf eventually concluded, "you might just need to buy a lot more diapers. Barnum, what's this about?"

That was when she noticed that his sudden smile just about went from ear to ear, which for a pony is especially hard to do.

"We always said," he reminded her, "we wanted a large family..."

She blinked.

And then, by mutual agreement, all attempts at sex ended for the night, because some plans are best worked on under Sun. After all, the world has an easier time recoiling in horror at something it can see.

In one view, both newlyweds had bodies perfectly suited to sex: her lithe in all the proper places and cushioned everywhere else, he sturdy and just about always ready to try for the long haul. However, neither was particularly suited to research. Barnum's successful investment had been produced by a stroke of luck resulting from I Heard This Nice Zebra Talking, and Bayleaf had once found any number of teenage stallions and mares willing to do her homework for her, which had struck her as being awfully nice of them. But now they needed to plan. And oddly, it turned out that things which everypony knew didn't seem to be written down in scholarly works, which did sort of bring up the question of just how everypony knew them.

"Oral tradition," Barnum whispered. (They were in the library, and so whispering was now a matter of basic politeness.)

Bayleaf automatically giggled. "Well, that's something we can still do while we're working this out..."

The slightly-built purple unicorn behind the checkout desk briefly glanced up at the sound of mirth, then went back to her catalog.

"Not that kind," Barnum smiled, just barely holding back the rest of his amusement. "And not here! It's just stuff ponies tell other ponies. Mouth to ear. Well -- city ponies, I guess." He'd grown up in the country, and was suddenly beginning to regret the loss of certain educational opportunities. "But even so, it has to be in some book, right? We could ask the librarian about a different section."

"We should probably leave her alone," Bayleaf replied. "You just got here last year, Barnum. I was born in Ponyville. There's a lot of things she knows, and this isn't one -- ooooh!" Her bright eyes seemed to light from within as the corona's yellow glow put highlights onto a just-discovered sentence. "I found something!"

He leaned in. "What is it?"

"The name for our goal. It's called a trifecta! Three foals from a single birth, consisting of one pegasus, one earth pony, and one unicorn!" The corona's light was growing more intense with excitement, which made the underlying words harder for Barnum to read. "And since there's a name for it, that means this has happened before! And here's some of the dates, and the families..."

"Bayleaf?" She glanced at him. "You're a little... worked up..."

She blinked, then looked down at the page. "Oh." Lightly (and prettily) blushed. "Sorry." The corona dimmed, and they both read on.

"It's really rare, though," Barnum eventually said. "This says it happens every other generation or so. That means the things we'll have to do must be pretty complicated."

"We could talk to the Cakes," Bayleaf innocently proposed. "They might have done two-thirds of it."

Barnum pictured himself trotting up to the main counter in Sugarcube Corner and placing an order for a dozen dinner rolls, two loaves of multigrain bread, and one comprehensive breakdown of the proprietors' sexual activities.

"I... think they might have some issues in discussing that,"

"Maybe if you started by telling them just how beautiful their children are?" Bayleaf considered. "Because the twins are adorable. If we have any mares in our trifecta, I'm going to hope Pound's into very slightly younger girls." More thought. "But I don't think our bed is facing the right way for a filly."

And now not only did Barnum have new information to consider, but he was starting to seriously wonder just how much more of it there was going to be. "Bed orientation matters?"

He'd raised his voice a little on that one, and so the rather cute librarian glanced up again: they waited until her attention subsided.

"Towards sunrise for a colt," Bayleaf finally got to tell him. "Moonset for a girl. Everypony knows that!"

"But what if you're trying to have a mix? We could wind up with three fillies or three colts. It's probably better for the boys to have a sister immediately."

She thought about that.

"Maybe the bed should -- spin?" she eventually proposed. "I think I can get it levitated for a little while, even with us on top of it."

He glanced at the librarian again.

"I think," he reluctantly admitted, "we really need to ask for help on this. I'll just go over there and --"

A beautifully-manicured forehoof touched his right shoulder, and it made him sit down again.

"Twilight," said the mare who had moments ago been prepared to smilingly confront the town's premiere bakers on their bedroom habits, somepony whose mind was so open to new sexual experiences as to have concepts occasionally just fall out, "has... problems with sex stuff. Or stuff that even sounds like it."

He took another glance at the librarian. Admittedly, you would pretty much have to be into small and slender, but if that was your taste...


"Last year, Pinkie asked her for help with --" the search for words was not only visible, but eventually doubled back to collect an extra light source "-- labor to clear up a giant backlog of balloon inflation."

Utter confusion. "And...?"

"That's what she meant. But it's... not how Pinkie said it."

He gave himself nearly a minute before admitting surrender. "I don't --"

"'Twilight,'" his spouse quoted, with her voice just a little faster and higher in pitch, "'could you please help me with a huge blowjob?'"


"The library was closed for a week."

They remained within the tree for some time, and none of the research bore fruit -- at least, not while they stayed in the non-fiction section, which was just full of boring theories like how having a pegasus child required that a pegasus have married into your family at some point over the centuries, and how was that supposed to make any sense? Somepony had slept with somepony else hundreds of years ago, and that meant your own foal might look a little bit like them around the wings? It was clearly, and just about self-evidently, stupid. It was much more likely that the deed had been committed outside during a gentle spring rain while facing roughly northwest, with climax coming at the exact moment a fallen leaf drifted down and landed on your snout. And given the requirements for the Running, the leaf was the hard part.

But then Bayleaf had been through a brainstorm: if the secrets to having the foals of your choice were passed down through Things Everypony Says, then it was possible that if they opened up a story, they would find a character who was Saying Them! And with that light of what Barnum could only see as genius setting her features aglow, she'd gone to the Romance section and trotted off with most of it, taking special care to select those books which were designated as being for Adult Ponies Only. After all, not only did the romance novels seem to be the best place to find ponies discussing sex, what was more adult than taking the first step on the road towards parenting?

It eventually found them settled in the tall grasses at the base of Ponyville's main hill, reading as quickly as they could, skimming for key words and ignoring little details like Plot, Character, and Complete Disconnection With Reality unless they happened to go past something good, like a new sexual position which looked completely intriguing on the page and, unknown to them, would actually require all participants to be double-jointed or, if at all possible, bipedal.

Every so often, each would stretch out their necks and take little bites from the surrounding greenery, along with carefully feeding each other the choicest blades. Reading was hungry work.

"Found another one," Barnum eventually announced. "The foal will definitely be a pegasus if you have sex on a cloud."

The unicorn looked at the earth pony for a few seconds.

"Well, that would explain how they keep doing it," Bayleaf decided. "I'm not sure it really helps us, though. Even if I asked somepony for help, the best we could do is have sex in the middle of some fog. And that's kind of cold, plus it's damp, and everything just soaks into your fur and doesn't dry out for hours. Also, we might not be able to see what we're doing. That one book where they had the unicorn filly said you really had to be able to look into each other's eyes the whole time, especially since if something goes wrong with the harness, you can only blink for help."

There was a progressively increasing pile of notes being stacked up on the right. Quite a few of them came with total guesses regarding the cost of the required items, and absolutely none of them recognized what an engineer would have immediately spotted as the potential for a rather distressing demonstration of torque.

"You should really write your parents and ask what they were doing when they conceived you," Bayleaf suggested. "We want to make sure there's an earth pony foal. And they clearly did something right, because here you are!"

Barnum, who really didn't want to write that letter (in part because his impression of his parents' sex life had previously been a lifelong question as to whether they had one), quickly considered that set of bedroom arrangements.

"Well, they're on the ground floor."

"Closer to the earth," Bayleaf nodded. "Makes sense."

"And their bed faces... huh. South. I think." It wasn't really something he'd ever asked himself before.

"It sounds like we're really going to need to be rotating," Bayleaf mused. "I'll have to practice when we get back. See how long I can keep the bed up with both of us on it. If it comes crashing down in the middle of everything..." She shuddered. "That'll get Mom up if anything will."

In one sense, it could be said that there was an option to wait: a single moon and then there would be nopony looking in on their activities, unless Bayleaf's mother crept up on a window or her daughter decided it might be fun just to have a pony watch. But they were both lone foals. Each of them had grown up watching other children gallop and fly alongside siblings, playmates in perpetual availability, always somepony you could talk to, forever ponies who would guard your tail. Many things had deepened the connection between Barnum and Bayleaf during their first dates, and little had done more than the mutual revelation that each wanted to have a large family. The mare and stallion watching over their herd. And in time, when the grandfoals came...

For both, their parents had waited, and that delay had consumed years: enough that after each, there had been no others. They had made themselves wait until their wedding oaths had been sworn. That was enough.

"We'll have to get a lot of this into the house past her," Barnum considered.

"I have windows," Bayleaf smiled. "And I have a horn. We can use saddlebags for the smaller --" paused. "No, she might decide that living with her for a moon gives her the right to search my room again." A slow head shake. "You don't know how hard it is to keep smuggling the same picture around, moon after moon... It'll all have to be outside until we're ready. Maybe we can hide it in the toolshed. She never goes in there while Dad's away."

"Are there ropes in the toolshed?" Barnum asked. "Six of these said we're going to need ropes."

She nodded. "We can take apart the hammock if we need extra." Her eyes briefly shone. "Or we could just string up the hammock! -- no, that's going to be really hard to keep steady. They sway. A lot. Plus there's a chance for rope burn." Embarrassed, "I should have remembered about the rope burn."

"Rope burn?" her husband inquired.

"I," Bayleaf announced, "had a perfectly healthy teenage sex drive. Also, Mom couldn't barge in on a hammock."

Barnum recognized the wisdom of that, nodded, and went back to looking at their notes. "I'm worried about putting some of these together," he said. "Everypony seems to agree that it's facing sunrise for a colt, and moonset for a filly. But what if it happens at the wrong point in the rotation? If close to the ground is an earth pony, and elevation is a pegasus, then having the bed too high or too low could ruin everything. Your corona could wipe off some of the mud. And if you get tired and the bed comes down..."

"We're trying," Bayleaf firmly said. "There hasn't been a trifecta in a generation. We'll be the next parents to trot through their town, proudly pulling our carriage along and showing our miracle to the world."

He was still looking at his own shaky mouthwriting: something which normally wasn't all that legible due to lack of practice, now rendered worse by nerves. Because you couldn't be high and low at the same time. There was no way to simultaneously face south and east, plus he didn't know what southeast did and until this moment in his life, had never concerned himself with the direction at all. He had also learned that there was such a thing as south-by-south-by-southeast, and had already decided it was an abomination.

They would try. It had been his idea, and Bayleaf wanted to try, wanted it so badly that there were times when he could see her fur vibrating from the concentration she was putting towards getting it right. But some of the things they were writing down, the stories in the books, the things everypony knew... it felt like they contradicted each other.

He was afraid of what could happen if they got it wrong. He was afraid for their children (and it was one of the reasons he would, in less than a year, be a truly outstanding parent). It meant he had to speak.

"But what if it doesn't work?"

His spouse looked directly at him.

"Then whatever foals we have," said the mare who would soon be an equally devoted mother, "we'll love just the same. Pass me a copy of the weather schedule."

He nosed it into view for her, and the yellow corona seized it.

"All right," she eventually declared, her gaze fixed on a specific point among the columns. "I found the next storm. Start to stop. And we'll want to start about three minutes before it does, and finish the same amount after, because we may need a bit of dry for an earth pony." She sighed a little. "I wish we could get thundersnow. Thundersnow is supposed to be great for unicorns. But when it comes to the cloud problem..."

He waited.

Bayleaf nodded to herself. "I think I know where I can borrow a humidifier." Thoughtfully, "And possibly the ball gag. Sun bless Golden Harvest. Do you think she was trying to set up for a unicorn in advance?" Her corona took up a quill, jotted a few more notes down. "Oh, and we can't have sex until then. At all."

Barnum blinked, which was the most succinct way he initially had for expressing the sheer degree of horror.

"...we can't?"

"I'm not happy about it either," Bayleaf sadly told him. "But you need to build up enough for three. So you can't do anything for the next ten days."

He didn't know what was worse: that he'd just been denied the right to do anything for over a week, or the fact that he would be making her mother happy. But it was for their children.

"I'll manage," he assured her.

She smiled. "I'll masturbate for both of us."


"Well, my hormones have to be really high. According to the book where they had the pegasus and unicorn foals, I basically have to be aroused the whole time, like that mare was. So I'm going to trot around having sexual thoughts and fantasies, and I'll spend a lot of time in the bathroom, because that probably still locks. If not, the toolshed. And when I sleep, I'll try to have sexy dreams." In a burst of inspiration, "Maybe we'll get lucky, and Princess Luna will help me! But if she doesn't, then I'm probably okay with just looking and acting extra-sexy every single minute between now and then. For ten days."

She mischievously struck a pose. Blood instantly shifted inside Barnum's body, heading towards a location which was no longer permitted to do anything with it.

"What do you think?" Bayleaf inquired, moving her hips just so.

He thought it was going to be the longest ten days of his life. But because even the most gullible find certain wisdom arriving at the moment of wedded union, he carefully didn't say so, instead turning his mind to hoofball stats. Unfortunately, that quickly put him at picturing Bayleaf in a referee's uniform, which really didn't help.

Ten days.

Each had scheduled an absence from work for the day of the wedding, and that had been followed by a weekend. But on the fourth day, with their celebratory trip postponed, both had to head back to their respective jobs: Bayleaf ran the extremely finicky projector at the cinema (and had the privacy to do certain things in the booth), while Barnum offered training at reasonable rates to performance acts of all kinds: his price advantage kept a steady flow of such ponies commuting in from the capital. Both needed to go back to work. There were financial considerations for newlyweds who were now fully committed to a triplet birth. Bayleaf's replacement had already torn two filmstrips, and that employer was openly despairing about not having her around for a summer fortnight. But when it came to Barnum... he had to go back to work, and do so as quickly as possible. Work was where he didn't have to look at his extremely attractive spouse, whose dreams had already put an interesting series of wriggles into her sleep. A mare he was no longer allowed to touch.

He'd already put a board down the middle of the bed, and loathed the very first look of faint approval he'd ever seen in his dam-in-law's eyes.

"All right!" he announced as he trotted up to his building, looking over the short line which had already built up outside. "So who's first today? I see a new ventriloquist, you four have to be acrobats, and..."

Two absolutely gorgeous earth pony mares blinked at him from the very front of the line.

"...I've never met you two," Barnum said. "I'd remember." There wasn't a sighted pony in the world who would have been able to forget.

They shyly nodded.

"So what's your act?"

"We're exotic dancers," the slightly taller said.

"We need a little help in our choreography," declared the shorter.

"Our manager says we rub up against each other too early," relayed the first.

"And maybe too often," the second stated.

Barnum desperately wished for the day to be about forty degrees colder, then counted the number of pegasi in the line and considered asking for the favor.

"So can you help us?" they chorused.

As it turned out, he could, for that was his mark: the coordination and refining of other talents. And as it also turned out, the repeated drenchings he requested from the acrobats worked perfectly.

For about fifteen minutes each.

It was not unfair to call Bayleaf's mother a control freak, for that older mare was the type of pony who liked to watch the Running not for the competition or the festivities, but to make sure all the leaves came down exactly in the designated zones. It tended to make her hate some of the things she couldn't directly reign over. And at her age (for she had waited a truly long time before having her lone foal), that list included her bladder: something which had started shortly after Bayleaf had first left home.

Admittedly, the last several days had provided a good run -- better than she'd seen in moons: night after night of just sleeping under Moon, without having to get up once, twice, whatever number her body insisted on, a count the doctor hadn't quite stabilized yet. It had been starting to feel like the right medication had finally been found -- but anatomy twinged, and it woke her.

She grumbled as she got up, began the four-legged slow shuffle out of her own bedroom and down the hall. Well, in some ways, it was probably best that she was up. There was an argument to be made that she'd been sleeping too much. That... 'stallion' was as polite as she was internally capable of being... could have been doing anything to Bayleaf, a mare whose mother still somehow saw her as being somewhat innocent even when that daughter had a sex drive which was potentially capable of going cross-continent on a single charge. Anything which happened was always the stallion's fault because Bayleaf was her only foal, and so that assigned aura of purity had never fully dimmed.

It would be easy, to pass by their -- no, not their, her bedroom. To peek in and make sure the Rules were being followed...

...which was when she heard the creaking.

It came from ahead. From her daughter's bedroom -- and also from somewhat overhead. It was as if the very joists of the ceiling had just complained.

"Other way!" his desperate voice hissed -- but just barely. It sounded as if he was trying to talk around something.

"I'm sorry!" her daughter gasped -- and that sound had something else in it. "I didn't think about how they would just wrap!"

There was now intense yellow light streaming from the edges of the door, shining through where the lock had once been. Her daughter's corona was active, and channeling more magic than her mother had ever seen her use. There was also something very much like wisps of fog.

"Better?" her daughter asked, with the word still mostly gasp.

Barely comprehensible, "You... keep going... up and down..."

She giggled. "That's part of the idea! And... you're making it kind of hard to concentrate... to think about the bed when I just want to think about... oh, put that all the way back in! We can't lose that part! Not when we're so close!"

"So... close..." the stallion grunted. And then words stopped.

There was a moment when the mother couldn't move. And then there were seconds when she did nothing but, charging down the hall, kicking the door open to see --

-- the bed was surrounded by corona. Floating in the air. Turning, with light playing about the pearlescent horn to suit. Bayleaf, fur soaked with sweat, was... on the bed, something which was just barely visible through the fog which had been created by the borrowed humidifier. That sweat, along with the humidity, was turning the dirt she'd streaked across her body into mud, staining the sheets. And she was wearing... things. There were straps. Metal studs. A bell had gotten involved on the left hind hoof, albeit one where the clapper had carefully been removed.

There were candles in the room, just barely staying lit within the onslaught of moisture. A selected group of jewels had been arranged around them: others were scattered among the bedsheets, at least where there weren't any pieces of torn-up weather schedule. Plants were everywhere. There were also some small devices that glowed under their minor enchantments, in hues other than that of her offspring. That shade was currently around the stallion, but it wasn't trying to bear his weight. Instead, it was trying to keep him stable relative to Bayleaf's constantly rotating, rising and dipping position. The actual weight was being taken by ceiling-hung ropes which passed through a central eyelet: they tended to get twisted up with each other. And he was streaked with dirt, there were things on him, his eyes were half-closed and there was something in his mouth like he'd just bitten down on a canine's plaything and her daughter was under him and going up and down and up and down and up and down.

The matriarch screamed.

"What are you doing to her?!?" she demanded from the stallion whose fault it had to be. "What are you doing to my daughter?"

He didn't answer. Strictly speaking, it would have taken a few seconds before he could, the same seconds during which her daughter would react to her mother's presence. But his dam-in-law didn't want to hear from him anyway. She just wanted it to stop, and her horn ignited, corona lancing through the fog until it found something it could seize.

Furious red magic sent the vase up, and it thudded into Barnum's head.

His eyes rolled back. He grunted. He, having just been lightly concussed, naturally and completely lost his concentration.

Eventually, after the echoes of Bayleaf's orgasm had faded, the bed thudded back to the floor.

Eleven and a half moons later

"She's beautiful!" Twilight beamed. "The two of you must be so proud!"

"We are," Bayleaf smiled, adjusting her shoulders as she did so: it was her first day pulling the carriage, and she wasn't quite used to the harness.

"We couldn't be any more proud," Barnum sincerely declared. "And she'll have a sibling just as soon as we can manage it. She's going to be part of a big family."

Spike was trying to get a look inside: Twilight's corona finally boosted him up. "Wow..." the little dragon breathed. "She is beautiful..."

The proud couple happily nuzzled each other as they stood outside the town's post office on that warm day, listening as their filly was welcomed by the world.

"I'm just a little surprised," Twilight finally said as she stepped back, a bundle of glowing envelopes swaying at her side as she did so.

"By what?" Bayleaf asked.

"Well," Twilight declared to the ponies she hadn't seen in nearly a year, "I didn't even know the Empire was allowing Equestrians to adopt!"

Mare and stallion stiffened.

"She's our daughter," Barnum abruptly declared.

"I know she is!" Twilight hastily replied. "Adoption creates a real family! Spike is adopted! He's been my brother for all his life!"

"She's my daughter," Bayleaf stated, corona starting to flare. "She's..." and visibly gave up. "...oh, come on, Barnum. Let's take her over to the cinema. I want to introduce her to the staff. Maybe they won't say something annoying..."

And with tails mutually flicking, the couple trotted away. Their infant sleepily shifted in the carriage, soothed by the motion of the wheels, and her refractive coat sent lazy rainbows floating through the air.

The siblings watched them go.

"They're a little touchy," Twilight observed.

"They have the right to be," Spike decided. "You remember what it was like, the first few times it was you and me out with Mom and Dad."

She reached back for the memories -- then sighed and nodded. "Some ponies just never stop staring, do they? I'll make sure to drop by their house and apologize later. I really should have understood. That's probably going to be another scroll..." Her corona began to shuffle through envelopes. "But right now, I really need to finish sorting our mail before I try sending any."

Spike nodded. "So what's the next one?"

Twilight pulled a red envelope out of the stack, looked at the angry words scrawled across the front. "A --" and blinked. "-- collection agency?" A tiny flare of power desperately opened the missive.

"We owe somepony money?" Spike quickly asked. "Who?"

Twilight was already reading. It only took one paragraph to collapse desperation into exasperation. "Not us." She softly groaned. "This happens sometimes. A collection agency gets a mouth grip on an old debt and just starts sending it out to anypony in the same family. Even debts which have been paid, figuring I won't know and I'll pay it again. Sometimes it's a debt which doesn't even exist, Spike: same reason. They can be horrible ponies..." A sigh. "I may just kick this letter away."

"Well..." He was naturally curious: a sometimes-welcome trait. " said family. Who are they saying owes them?"

"Mom and Dad. Can you believe that? Them of all ponies?"

"For what?"

She read on. "It's an old hospital bill... oh, they have to be making this up. But it's a really good con, Spike, because they sent copies of the medical charts! According to this, they were supposedly..." and stopped.

It didn't get past Spike. "Twilight?"

"Um... they had injuries to their... no, that's impossible, the only way they could have both gotten hurt there and there is if they were... having... when it..."

Patient green eyes stared up at her, waiting. Young, innocent eyes.

"'s nothing, Spike," she finally said. "Anyway, they're clearly making it all up."

"Making what up?"

She had to give him something. "They want me to believe a bookcase fell on them."

"When?" It was a natural question. "I don't remember them ever going to the hospital together."

"Neither do I." Back to scanning the pages. "And I never would, which is why they tried to con me instead of Shining. This supposedly happened eleven and a half moons before I was even born."

Spike sighed. "You know the worst part? The con artist is probably somepony they know."

She blinked at him. "What makes you say that?"

"Well," he casually explained, "they would have seen that crack in the bookcase. The one in the study -- Twilight?"

Eventually, "...what?" arose from the depths of horror.

"You've got a weird look on your face."

A burst of corona crumpled the letter, slung it towards the nearest trash bin. "Just -- frustrated, Spike. Everypony knows con artists are the worst!"

He nodded. "Everypony says so."

They headed towards the library. And Twilight did her best to never think about it again.

She failed.