After the effect of the spell that converted Canterlot into the opposite sex was removed, everypony was supposed to turn back to normal. Unfortunately, Soarin isn't one of those ponies, and the reason may be as unwanted as his new bundle of joy.
After the effect of the spell that converted Canterlot into the opposite sex was removed, everypony was supposed to turn back to normal. Unfortunately, Soarin isn't one of those ponies, and the reason may be as unwanted as his new bundle of joy.
Luckily for him, he's not the only one.
Written during the events of Season 3. Future canon will be applied, but keep this in mind when reading the first four chapters.
If you like/dislike, please leave a reason why. It helps me improve the story every time you comment.
The first thing Soarin felt as his eyes fluttered open was somepony's forelegs wrapped around his body from behind. When the hot breaths on his neck registered, he felt panic well up in the back of his mind.
Then reason took over, and when he craned his neck around to look at the pony behind him, he was greeted by Spitfire's familiar flaming yellow and orange mane. Assuming she was asleep, he sighed in earnest relief and tried to slip out of her embrace. After a few minutes of wriggling and squirming, he was able to clamber onto all his legs and head for the bathroom of the hotel room they'd chosen until everything could be returned to normal.
With bleary eyes, Soarin stared at himself in the mirror. Something seemed to be off, but there was nothing that jumped out at him enough to be blatantly obvious to his half-awake thought process.
Thoroughly satisfied with his daily check-over, he started on his preparations. With two deft flicks of his wings, he had a manebrush and a bar of soap safely in the grip of his primaries. Luckily, before he could put either of them in his mouth, he realized what he was holding and switched them for a proper toothbrush and the foaming paste that were still on the sink.
As the paste foamed and bubbled, cleaning the stains from the particularly sticky apple pie he'd eaten the latter half of yesterday, his eyes drifted up to the mirror. For the second time that morning, Soarin tried to figure out what seemed so off about his appearance. Sure, his mane was a bit more feathered than he usually wanted it to be, but that shouldn't have been anything unusual.
Just as he scanned over his muzzle and nose, something clicked. Even the general shape of his face seemed too curved and smooth for some reason. Along with that, his eyelashes had grown.
The high-pitched tone of his voice sealed what he already knew. "Great... When are they getting on that?"
As Soarin spat out the foam and turned to leave, he caught sight of his slightly larger flanks and sighed. "Even as a mare I can't get rid of these..."
Despite how much he may have disliked his new proportions, Spitfire was probably up and wondering where he was. With a slightly less positive outlook on the day, Soarin slipped back into the main section of their room and tried to snuggle up against Spitfire the same way he'd woken up with her.
"Hey there," she greeted, making Soarin jump a little as she tightened her grip around his midsection. "I was wondering when you'd come back."
"Look, Spitty, I really don't feel like anything this morning."
Spitfire, using her new muscular body, flipped Soarin over easily and pinned him down to the bed. She brought her face down to his and whispered, "Don't think I can't see how stressed you are. I know what you're going through."
"But shouldn't we start getting ready?"
Though the look on her face betrayed her real thoughts, a frustrated glance at the clock revealed that they had less than twenty minutes to reach the training grounds that morning. "I guess we should. But don't think you're getting out of this so easily."
More relieved than the last time he tried to resist against his captain, Soarin practically jumped out of bed and ran over to the closet to grab his fedora from the hook on the other side of the door. Even though it didn't look quite right with his current female features, it was one of the few things he hadn't ditched when the entire team had found themselves gender-swapped. Many die-hard fans would recognize him based on the hat alone.
Then again, considering that paparazzi had yet to be banned from reporting on the results of the spell on celebrities, it might have warranted a degree of naturality.
Eventually, Spitfire nudged him in his shoulder and reminded him, "Even I didn't take this long to pick what I was wearing when I was a mare- especially over a hat."
With her point in mind - and an overly drawn out groan - Soarin flipped the fedora onto his head, shut the closet door, and followed Spitfire out into the hallway. Any doubts about his appearance soon disappeared as the two of them passed another couple on the stairs where the mare was wearing a business suit.
Nopody batted a surprised eye at either of them, to the surprise of both of them. Though everypony within the limits of Canterlot had been switched, there were still a few other couples that believed themselves better than others.
By the time they'd made it about three shops down the street, they heard a young filly's voice. "Hey! Mister Wonderbolt!"
The two of them spun around at the same moment. To make matters even stranger, the young pegasus filly ran up to them with a wide smile on her face- one that quickly turned into a confused examination. She looked up at Soarin and asked, "Aren't you Soarin?"
For a second, he almost considered messing with their confused fan, but he quickly decided against it. He put on the manliest tone he could with his altered body and answered, "I am. Who's asking?"
The filly's smile returned even larger than before as she recognized the pony behind the mare she was seeing now. "Oh my gosh, it's you! I'm your biggest fan!" Though the line she used was extremely cliche, Soarin rolled with it and smiled back at her. She didn't know there was a grown mare in Ponyville that had almost all of their memorabilia and merchandise from their various shows.
Spitfire stepped in at the last second and whispered in her coltfriend's ear. "We have about ten minutes. Let's get this over with."
As much as Soarin didn't want to end a conversation with such an eager filly that seemed to love the Wonderbolts more than anything else, practice was still more important. But he wasn't going to just leave her hanging- that would just be plain rude, and he'd been raised better than that.
"Tell you what," he whispered, bringing his head down by hers, "if you go home right now and tell your parents that I offered, I can get you a discount on tickets to our next show."
Her surprised gasp was enough to show that she loved the idea. Sure enough, she darted off in a blur, as fast as her wings could take her. Soarin couldn't help but chuckle at what he knew was the makings of another super-fan.
"Come on, mister generous," Spitfire chimed, teasing her new coltfriend the way only she could, "What happened to getting to practice?"
"You know I can't just ignore fans."
As usual, even when they'd reached the edge of Canterlot, Spitfire was still going at it. "So how many fans do you offer that to per day, hmm? It has to be at least twenty."
Soarin groaned and rebutted, "You know I try to keep it down to two."
"Down to two?" At that remark, Spitfire broke down in raucous laughter. "Most of us barely use one of ours over the course of a year, and you're giving two per show?"
"Yeah, laugh it up. I should be the public face of the Wonderbolts at this rate."
As the two of them took off in tandem, Spitfire scoffed loudly. "But they want to see someone with bright colors and a windswept mane..." she trailed off, adding a dramatic flick of her mane in mid-flight. "They want the captain!"
By the time she looked up, Soarin had taken a sizable lead, and called back to her, "You mean the captain that shows up later than her second-in-command?" As he finished, Soarin turned around and sped up once he realized the main gate of the training grounds was already open.
"Oh no you don't..." Spitfire muttered, slowly increasing her wing speed. "Nobody taunts me and gets away with it." With a sudden burst of speed, Spitfire shot forward, easily passing her second-in-command and landing softly at the gate. "What was that you were saying?"
While his face betrayed his shock, Soarin tried to put on a show of stony professionalism. "I guess it was pretty impressive, though I still could have beaten you."
"Sure, I bet y-"
The two of them ground to a halt as a mare in royal guard uniform stepped up to them. She regarded them both with a blank gaze, and instructed them, "All Canterlot residents are to report to the courtyard of Canterlot Castle. Please don't dally."
Soarin was the first to speak. "Does this mean-"
"I don't know, but I hope so. I can't wait to get back to normal."
As expected, the courtyard was packed full of all sorts of ponies, most of them dressed in suits or some sort of clothing. Considering it was already densely packed, Soarin led them over next to a white mare in a tuxedo with three crowns for a cutie mark.
She only turned around when Spitfire appeared, and that was when Soarin recognized her as Fancypants. "I say, that was a stellar performance last week, Captain."
"Thanks," Spitfire replied plainly, "Now let's hope the rookies can get just as good..."
"Hey, you know two-"
"I'm certain they'll be just as impressive as their leader eventually," Fancypants interrupted, cutting Soarin off in mid-comment.
"And as my second-in-command here was saying," Spitfire stated, giving Soarin a warning glance from the corner of her eye, "we do have two of them we'll incorporate as soon as possible."
Before Soarin had to face the wrath of his captain, Princess Celestia and her sister appeared on the stage set up against the wall of the castle. "Beloved subjects!" Luna began, using what everypony in Canterlot had grown to accept as the Royal Canterlot Voice, "A cure has been found for this strange occurrence!"
Princess Celestia's horn lit as she chose to magically amplify her voice instead. "Yes, everypony, a cure has been found. However, we must ask that you stay as still as possible while the spell is cast."
As if her voice had carried a spell with it, all movement seemed to stop as the crowd froze. A snapping sound came out of nowhere, and the spell at the tip of Princess Luna's horn swelled out into a massive bubble that began to spread over everypony in attendance.
When the wall of magic passed over the citizens in front of them, it covered each of them and lifted them into the air with glowing tentacles of pure magic. By the time it reached the back of the crowd, some of the ponies at the front had already been converted back to their normal selves. Confident in the results of the spell, Soarin and Spitfire readily let the spell shock them as it passed over and lifted them into the air.
While more and more ponies were dropped to the ground in front of them, the tendrils of magic whirled and cascaded around them like an ocean of magical energy. Then the slight buzz of the aura covering them was covered up by a shocked gasp.
"Why isn't my husband changed yet?" a frantic mare asked, pointing to the other mare next to her, still inside his magical cocoon. While nothing would be odd about that, the bubble had long since moved past him, and there was just a pillar of magic circling around him without the tendrils.
For the second time that day, Soarin found himself panicking as two more mares pointed out that their significant others were unaffected by the spell. To his relief, he soon saw the tendrils retracting into the pool of magic beneath him.
He then began to panic again when the magical shell surrounding him didn't recede.
When Spitfire fell to the ground, a look of fear passed over her face. "Soarin," she asked him, concern resounding in her tone. "What's going on?"
Though he knew he couldn't reply, Soarin tried to say, "I have no idea." The feeling of helplessness only served to make the feeling in the bottom of his gut well up. For a second, he even thought he would throw up.
Luckily, he was able to repress that feeling in time to avoid emptying the contents of his stomach - mostly a few plates of pasta and some slices of a delicious apple pie - directly on his captain. The side effect of that, unfortunately, was having to clench every muscle in his body, leaving him in an undesirable position.
When the magic aura surrounding him dissipated, he found himself looking up into Spitfire's face, and a gut full of contents ready to be ejected. With the speed of a manticore chasing prey, Soarin threw himself away from her just as he started to retch.
"Soarin, what the hay is happening here?"
Princess Celestia parted the crowd and answered her question, "That's precisely what we're wondering... What was so special about them?"
Soarin simply laid still next to a pile of his own vomit, not even lifting a hoof when Celestia came up to him. "So what do you think could have caused this?"
"I... I don't k-," he managed, before retching took over again as he felt something else coming up.
Without any remarks or awkward glances, Celestia ordered two of her - now male - guards to lift him and carry him inside. The third took up a position next to Spitfire, as if to hold her back if she tried to follow them. While she hadn't been thinking of following them before, the thought began to cross her mind.
After all, she had just relieved her tension-causing feelings with him, and he had admitted to being infatuated with her. But if the Princess was trying to keep her from following, it would most likely be best not to go against her will.
In the end, Spitfire simply sighed and watched as her new coltfriend and long-time partner was carried through the colossal doors of Canterlot Castle along with the other stallions that had failed to return to normal.
"Cheer up, Miss Fire," Fancypants suggested, "I'm sure they'll be fine. There must be a probable reason for this little scenario."
"Are you coming with us?" the guard next to her asked, nudging her forward with his wing. A bit more relieved now that she could go in with them, Spitfire eagerly followed the group inside, a worried smile on her face.
By the time the group had reached the third set of doors down the main hallway, Soarin finally felt like he could follow them the rest of the way there on his own without any adverse side effects. In a few quick movements, the guards carefully set him down and took up a position just behind them.
Another seven doors down, Celestia turned around to face the crowd following her. "While most of our suspicions are vastly unfounded, we must perform every test possible to make sure they can't be true." With a flick of her magic, the doors on their right opened, and she gave them one last piece of advice. "Try to go along with what the doctors will do. They've been given orders to restrain any unruly patients."
With that weighing heavily in mind, the seven mare-stallions entered the eerily white doctor's office that had been opened up for them. A pair of double doors farther down the wall opened, revealing a pale blue stallion with a golden mane and wiry glasses. He examined them with a curious expression and asked, "So what happened with the spell?"
A mare that Soarin recognized as the female version of Jet Set stepped forward and answered, "We didn't return to normal, and we would very much like to know why." From the upper-class tone to his voice, it was almost blatantly obvious that he thought himself better than the rest of them.
"Very well, miss. Since you're so eager, step up to the table."
Soarin and two others had to disguise their snickering at the doctor's joke before anypony noticed them. The doctor, meanwhile, smiled warmly as Jet Set clambered up onto the table. "Now let's take a look, okay ma'am?"
"Will you please stop calling me that?" Jet asked with his typical rude tone. "I am a stallion, and I wish to be addressed as such."
"Well you're not now, and since that's the case, I feel like being proper. Surely you would know about that..."
Almost all the mare-stallions in attendance were laughing outwardly by the time Jet Set yelled, "I won't take any more of this!" Turning to face the doctor in the eye, he continued, "I refuse to accept any more of this rubbish! Good day, sir." With that, he hopped down from the table and tried to walk away.
The rest of the group parted as he stormed out between them. The doctor tsk'd quietly and returned his attention to the remaining six mares standing before him. "So does anyone else have problems with me?"
A chorus of no's resounded from the group, and Soarin stepped up next. "Let's just figure out what's wrong, okay?"
"Thank you for working with me. Now if you'd get on the table?"
Like before, Soarin clambered up onto the table and adjusted himself with his wings before settling in. With a blast of magic, the doctor pulled a tray full of various instruments over from against the other wall. With another magical surge, he picked up a cotton swab from a bundle on the tray.
"Open wide," the doctor said as he swiped the cotton swab against the inside of Soarin's cheek. "I'll just need a sample for some testing later."
Next, he pulled out a stethoscope and held the end up to Soarin's chest. After listening for a bit, he usually moved on, except for the last time where he lingered a bit longer than usual. "Sorry, just thought something was off..."
The rest of the tests went by fairly quickly as the doctor took his pulse, measured his temperature and did a full body magical scan for sicknesses. However, the last test left him in wonder, which made everypony in the room worried.
"Hmm... very strange. Now the guards told me you were regurgitating outside, correct?"
It took a bit for Soarin to register that the doctor was talking to him, but he managed to answer, "It may just be magic sickness. I feel a bit weird right now..."
"Very well, mister Soarin, everything looks relatively normal. If you would wait outside please..."
Like before, the group parted to let him through to the hallway, where a very fast yellow and orange blur tackled him to the ground. After his vision righted, Soarin stared up into Spitfire's face for the second time that day.
"So what did he say? Is there a cure? What's happening?"
"Nothing, I don't know, and I also don't know that. Any more questions?"
Spitfire blushed and stepped off her new coltfriend, allowing him to get up. "Sorry, I've just been really worried about this since they hauled you off." There was a slight pause before she asked her second question, "And what was up with that mare that stormed off a little bit ago?"
"He couldn't pull his head out of his plot."
Spitfire nodded in realization, and backed up to give Soarin some room to breathe easier. Just as she was about to speak, another mare left the office and fell victim to an over-excited marefriend. Spitfire whispered, "Did I really look like that?"
"Even the giggling?"
"Well, not that, but everything else."
Once again, Spitfire's face turned a deep shade of red as she realized just how much she had embarrassed herself in front of the few ponies awaiting their significant others. A slight 'eep' escaped from her lips as she tried to hide herself behind Soarin before she could humiliate herself more.
"That doesn't help..."
"So you say," Spitfire reprimanded, "But at least this way they can't see me do stupid things."
"And now you're acting like a filly."
Though she wanted to resist his challenge, Spitfire couldn't take being referred to as a child. However, when she stepped out from behind him, Princess Celestia reappeared by the door.
"Hello, my faithful subjects. Has Doctor Cuff informed you of any of his findings?"
No's were the only response from the crowd as they replied unanimously. "Very well," Celestia said, turning her attention to the lab where one more mare was still being tested, "I'll check with him and see what we can deduce."
Minutes had passed by the time the last mare emerged from the office with Celestia and the doctor in tow, the Princess's expression had gone from hopeful to worried. Soarin gulped audibly as she addressed them, "Well, we've ruled out many things in our tests. None of you are magic-resistant, diseased, or sick in any way."
A more than anxious mare in the back interrupted her, "So what does that mean?"
Celestia cleared her throat and continued, "Since we've ruled out everything else, there is only one thing that the tests revealed. Mares and... gentle-colts, you're pregnant."
Multiple shocked gasps arose from the crowd as Celestia finished, "I know this sounds bad, but from our discoveries, after the process is over you will return to normal. Until that point, the doctors and staff here in Canterlot Castle will be presiding over your care and will help with any issues that may make themselves present."
"How did this happen though? We were only mares for three days!"
The doctor turned to the impudent mare-stallion that rudely interrupted the Princess for the second time and answered, "Well, ma'am, if you wish to re-learn what you did when you were a young filly, please turn to the royal educator."
"Doctor Cuff," Celestia reminded, "they're stressed. Please don't make a joke out of this."
"Very well, Princess."
"As it stands now, you are under the full observation of castle staff and royal guards to determine that part of the puzzle."
Spitfire leaned closer to Soarin's ear and whispered, "What happens now?"
"I don't know..." he whispered back to her, wondering just how one night together could have caused the scenario they were in now. "I guess we just have to deal with it." Though he tried to put on a strong face on the outside, the idea of motherhood and waiting to become normal again scared him more than anything else in the world.
"And so," Celestia stated, "I wish you the best of luck. Keep in mind that you'll always have dedicated staff that are willing to help here at the castle."
"This couldn't be happening," Spitfire said for what seemed like the third time on the way to the edge of town. "There's no way this could have-"
"I don't like it any more than you," Soarin interjected, cutting her off from the rant he knew was coming. "But do you want everypony in Canterlot to know?"
"But what about you? For all I know, you may not be able to perform until this is over."
Though that point had crossed his mind multiple times before, Soarin had to be strong for her to keep her mind off their strange situation. "You can work without me there; you're their captain after all."
Spitfire stormed in front of her second-in-command and stopped directly in his path, easily frightening him into listening. "Soarin, we have four shows coming up in the next few months, and if you can't be in them, I'll have to replace you in the lineup. What if Fleetfoot thinks I'm replacing you for good?"
However, the only thought passing through Soarin's mind at that point was how close they were to the stadium, and how to distract her from the argument he knew he couldn't beat.
"Look, can we just talk about this later? We really should get to practice..."
"Fine," Spitfire agreed with a humph, fluffing out her wings for their flight the rest of the way to the track. "But we'll talk about this afterwards. We have a lot to discuss."
Soarin sighed in relief as Spitfire turned back to the stadium and launched herself up into the air, furiously flapping her wings as fast as she could. While their conversation later would probably turn into a massive argument, he had managed to dodge a major bullet by keeping it out of the streets, not to mention the public eye. If fans had seen them yelling at each other, who could have guessed what they would assume.
But then he came to the second metaphorical wall facing him after the delivery of the news. As much as he didn't want to face the rest of the rookies, practice called. While he didn't have anypony asking questions, Soarin took a moment to steel his will before taking off. He'd need every ounce of willpower he had to resist revealing anything to his future teammates, assuming that Spitfire hadn't already told them.
As short as Soarin knew the flight to the training grounds was, everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. What should have taken minutes at the most turned into a journey of hours, punctuated by more anxiety building up every second, making his imagination run wild with increasingly over-dramatic images of the rookies' response to the news.
Aileron and Cross would hopefully stay quiet, but Vector would probably add some snide comment. No, he wouldn't just comment, he'd probably shun him afterwards as well.
Then Updraft would probably go with whatever Vector did, which meant he would probably make a cruel joke about the irony of the situation. And since there was no telling what Vane would do, there were so many things that could happen that Soarin simply chose to ignore the nagging thoughts lingering at the back of his mind.
"Okay, calm down," he told himself. "You can do this..."
Finally, after what seemed like forever, Soarin reached the entrance to the stadium where Spitfire and Aileron were waiting for him. "Aileron here is the only one I trust to keep a secret," Spitfire explained. "The rest think you're just magic resistant."
"So he's not just magic resistant?"
Soarin couldn't help but shake his head at how gullible Aileron could be sometimes. "No, it's worse than that."
"How much worse... ma'am?"
Soarin waited for Spitfire to go back to practice to tell Aileron anything. "First of all, it's still 'sir'," Soarin reprimanded, "And second, if the doctor's right, I'm pregnant."
When Aileron's lower jaw almost dropped to the floor, Soarin began to wonder if that was how he looked when he had received the news. "Yeah, that's pretty much it."
"Sir, how could that be? The Captain only told us one night."
"Well, I'll be honest here... I may or may not be in a relationship with her now, and may or may not have begged for extra nights together."
Aileron apparently pictured the latter part of his confession, because he exclaimed, "Ugh, too much!"
"That's nowhere close to too much," Soarin teased, taking a chance to lighten the situation before anything got too heavy. "I could always tell you about-"
"Sir, I already pictured something five times worse than anything you could tell me. Please stop."
At that remark, Soarin's curiosity peaked. "What did you see anyway?"
The blush that appeared on Aileron's cheeks seemed to give away enough, but Soarin still wanted more details: just not the sensual ones. "Well, sir... I really don't feel like sharing it."
"Oh really? What's so bad about what you did with Cross, eh?"
"I'd rather not say."
"Fine," Soarin coaxed, using his most feminine voice possible. "Be that way. I just want to know what you were thinking..." Just to layer on extra pressure, he added a sultry look at the end, with a few eyelash flickers to smother Aileron with feminine pressure.
"Sir, please stop!"
"Well, what were you thinking about?"
As if she'd planned it, Spitfire reappeared and ordered, "You two, get into formation. They've been flying with openings long enough."
The two of them gave a quick salute and flew over to the track, where they waited until the formation came around to their section. As the rest of the team passed, they wove themselves in seamlessly and switched to linear form.
Spitfire pulled out a megaphone and announced, "Alright, we're starting off with buffalo laps today."
A collective groan was heard from the back of the formation, as was typical of them when the team did that exercise. On Spitfire's whistle, Vector moved over to the side and shot forward, taking over the lead before calling out 'clear'. Thunder was next, followed by Updraft and Cross. After Aileron went, Soarin found himself at the back, and saw that he was coming up to one of the many curves in the track they were following.
By the time he called back to the end of the line, Soarin had already slid to the side and was moving forward. Using the inside lane of the first turn they were going into, he launched himself forward with such force that he had to adjust so as not to run into Cross. He then powered through the rest of the outside lane on the next turn and slid in front with barely any room to spare, two seconds later than his average time and out of breath.
"Come on, work those feathers! Only two more sets to go!"
When Spitfire had switched them from flight training to lifting, Soarin had almost been exceedingly happy. Then he'd realized just how tired his wings were from all the work he'd done so far during the day's practice.
Granted, he'd still finished before most of the new recruits, but that meant Spitfire had some alone time with him.
"Look," she said, making Soarin focus on what she was saying, "I don't want to do this to you. You're probably one of the better fliers we have, and I know for a fact that at least two other members want your position."
"So just give it to them. All you have to do is remind them that I'm not out forever."
"What if they ignore that part?"
"You worry too much." At this point, Soarin couldn't take his captain's concerns anymore. "I'll still attend practices, and I'm going back on the team after this is over."
"Soarin, you're forgetting the biggest part of this. It's not just another injury you can brush off once it's healed; we'll have a foal to take care of."
Now that it had been said out loud, the idea of raising a foal smacked Soarin right in the face. "I..."
"Somepony will need to be there to raise it, and I have to lead the team. By default, you'll be taking care of it."
"And I assume you'll be leading the team because you're the public face, right?" Soarin accused, having lost control of his emotions mere seconds before. "I won't be the only one taking care of it. A foal needs a mother and a father, and I'd rather leave if I'll raising our child on my own."
At that remark, Cross Current - who had managed to remain unseen as she gathered for the post-practice review - gave a surprised gasp. Soarin and Spitfire rounded on her at almost the same time and shushed her before she could say anything else. "You didn't hear anything," Spitfire hissed, "Are we clear?"
"Yes, sir," she answered in a panic, going rigid midway through her salute.
Soarin nudged Spitfire away from Cross and reminded her, "We're only doing the good pony-bad pony thing the first few days."
"I know," she whimpered as her head drooped, "I just... I don't want everypony knowing until I've adjusted to it."
"Neither do I, but that's no reason to treat one of our best recruits that way."
"Alright, I guess you're right. But if she tells anypony, I reserve the right to punish her."
Soarin shook his head in defeat and agreed to the deal, knowing that Spitfire would push until he did. Unfortunately, it wouldn't bode well for Cross if she decided to tell any of the others, but that was her own fault if she wasn't going to obey the captain's orders; luckily, from what he could see, it appeared she was keeping up her end of the command. Then, as if to make things better for her, she would most likely be spending the night with Aileron, who already knew and had been sworn to silence.
If there was a coincidence better than that, nopony had found it yet.
He'd also have to keep an eye on her to make sure she didn't tell anypony else. But that would be easy, considering he could still use the same shower room as her because of his 'condition'. Everything seemed to be falling into place before him.
Spitfire was kind enough to make the review a quick one while managing to point out that Vane had come up short on her lifting, and that Updraft had lost speed on formation training. After a team huddle, everypony headed for the showers, giving Soarin his ideal chance to keep tabs on his future teammate.
"Soarin, you're coming with me," Spitfire said in her gruff-leader voice. As much as he wanted to make sure Cross Current wasn't ratting out his dirty little secret, he had to do what she wanted, especially if this was about that talk that he had organized earlier that day.
"Fine... but it's your fault if Cross spreads rumors."
"Don't even get me started on that," Spitfire told Soarin, giving him a shameful look. "Just listen to me here. I don't want to become a parent right now, but that's pretty much out of the question. I'm sure you're not comfortable with this either."
"Anyway," Spitfire continued, "we'll need to figure out what we can do while you're unable to perform. And don't think we're not talking about schedules for after it's here."
Soarin let out a heavy sigh as the rest of his afternoon turned into a debate with his captain over things that - at least to him - wouldn't be important for a long time. "Can we at least do this somewhere they can't hear it?" he pleaded, worried that Cross was spreading his secret at that very moment. "I really don't want anypony else to figure it out..."
"We've already delayed it enough, Soarin," Spitfire explained as she gave one of the lightest refusals she ever had. "I just can't put this off any longer. We'll need to know how things will work when we're taking care of a foal and practicing at the same time."
"Look, I'm sure the staff at the palace are planning that right now."
"I'll bet you they're not."
"You heard what the Princess said," Soarin reminded her, trying to remember how Celestia had said it, "The staff is there for us if we need anything."
"But she never said anything about after they're born."
As unwanted as that point had been, it was true. Soarin found himself lost for words after realizing that Princess Celestia hadn't said anything about taking care of the foals after everything was said and done. To be honest, he'd simply assumed that had come with it.
"I swear she-"
"Soarin, don't you get it? Either one of us is going to have to stay with it during practice, or we'll have to hire some sort of nurse or something."
"Then let's get somepony to take care of it!"
He hadn't noticed he'd been shouting before that bit had slipped out, but he immediately covered his mouth to keep himself from saying anything else just as incriminating. Both of them gave a frightened glance to their surroundings, hoping that nopony had come out of the showers early. To the relief of them both, all the recruits were still either cleaning themselves or had left beforehoof.
"That was way too close..." Spitfire mumbled, speaking what was on both of their minds at the time. "Anyway, if we do that, we'll have to find one that knows their way around extremely young foals."
"Right..." Soarin said blankly, barely following along because of the multiple thoughts flying through his mind. He had barely been able to control his emotions throughout the few discussions of the future, and he had no idea why at all. Talking about the future shouldn't have inspired feelings like that.
For a second, Soarin almost considered explaining his feelings before he was interrupted. "Soarin, are you paying attention?"
"Yeah, of course I am," he lied, putting on his best smile for added effect. "I'm fine with almost all of what you just said."
"So you're fine with using the foalsitter my family used when I was young without seeing her?"
Considering how lucky it was that his saving line had worked, Soarin replied, "Totally. Nothing wrong with any of that."
"Good," Spitfire hinted, giving Soarin a 'I-tricked-you' look and a disappointed grimace, "Because that was what I was just about to offer. How'd you read my mind like that?"
The cheerful smile that had been on his face turned into a confused frown as Soarin realized he'd been tricked by the simplest of what the Wonderbolts called 'Attention-Catchers'. "Fine, I wasn't completely paying attention. I'm just worried about Cross, okay?"
Before Spitfire could respond, Soarin also added, "But I really am fine with that."
Spitfire shook her head in discouragement and asked, "You do realize that Cross already left, right?"
In a state of worried shock, Soarin flew as fast as he could to the shower room doors. When he flung them open, he found that nopony was left, much to his chagrin.
Spitfire sneaked up behind him and continued, "She left a while ago. I'd say the only rookie left is Vector."
"Why didn't you tell me this sooner?" Soarin asked, letting his emotions take control again, causing his vocal pitch to rise. "I could have caught her and made sure she didn't say anything!"
"Soarin, you're taking this too far. It's not like she'd go blabbing to everypony on the team."
"I guess you're right," Soarin admitted, giving in to defeat. "I'll just have to trust her."
Spitfire backed away slightly and added, "By the way, you should probably shower. I probably worked you pretty hard today."
"Care to take it with me?"
With the glare Spitfire shot at him, Soarin knew he was being turned down in the worst fashion possible. "Jeez, just thought I'd offer..."
After about a week, Soarin had adjusted to the feeling of waking up and having to regurgitate. However, as well as he appeared to adapt, he still didn't quite understand why having a foal required the mother to puke out whatever was in her stomach every morning.
Spitfire leaned up from her spot on the bed and happened to catch him that morning just after the process. "So," she taunted, "how'd dinner taste the second time?"
Soarin shot her a glare that would have shamed a cockatrice and replied, "Pretty good, actually. Gimme a big ol' smooch, would you?"
"You're not kissing me," she remarked, scooting over to the other side of the mattress so Soarin could get back into the bed. He didn't even consider it before he flopped back down onto his pillow and closed his eyes.
The next thing Soarin knew, somepony was poking him between his ribs. He swatted a hoof in the direction he thought it was coming from and found happiness when it stopped for a moment, even though a predominantly female 'ow' came out of it.
"Hey, Soarin..." Spitfire whispered, bringing her head right next to his ear, "It's time to wake up. Practice is in ten minutes."
At that remark, Soarin flipped over so he was looking right at her. "Nice try," he groggily pointed out, "but you've used that trick on me twice this week. Don't think it'll work again."
"It's not a trick this time," Spitfire pointed out, extending her hoof in the direction of the clock hanging on the wall. Contrary to what had happened the last two days, the hands were pointing to what would appear to be ten minutes before practice.
Though he didn't want to believe it, Soarin found himself panicking at the aspect of it being so late in the morning. Then a thought hit him: "Why aren't you already there if it's so late?"
"I was g-"
"No," Soarin said, cutting her off in mid-sentence as he reached a realization. "I know it's not actually ten minutes before practice, and you're just trying to get me to get up earlier. Don't try anything with me."
"Fine," Spitfire admitted, getting up from the bed and taking the clock off the wall, "I may have set it forward a bit."
"Figures. How much time do we really have?"
"I want to say... half an hour," Spitfire answered, heading toward the door while Soarin hopped out of bed. "But if you get up now, there might be a little reward for you."
He sat up and gave her an incredulous look. She had refused anything else for the last few days, and now here she was offering it? There had to be some sort of catch.
“What kind of reward?”
“One that you’ll love,” Spitfire answered, giving Soarin a sultry look.
Soarin almost couldn’t believe it. She was really offering something like that after her behavior a week ago?
“So help me, if you’re lying I-”
“Why would I lie to you?”
As much as he didn’t want to believe it, she had a good point. Trust was a major part of any relationship, and she certainly seemed just as eager.
Spitfire’s yell caused Soarin to bolt upright in the bed, throwing the sheets off to the side. When he realized that it was all a dream, he sighed and asked her, "What is it?"
"You were talking in your sleep. That's what it is."
He felt heat flush through his face, and he was sure his cheeks were a new shade of red that had never been seen before. "I-"
"Let's just forget about it," Spitfire suggested, visibly trying to forget what she had heard. "Anyway, I figured you'd like to get some breakfast before practice."
"Could we stop at Doughnut Joe's?"
Spitfire facehooved and muttered something to herself. "Fine, we can go there. I suppose some extra carbs would help with energy."
They remained in a state of tense silence as they left the room which was only broken when they reached the bottom of the staircase, when one of the ponies in the lobby of the hotel noticed them passing by. Before they could leave, he called after them, "So, how must it feel to still be a mare?"
Both of them stopped on the spot and looked over in the direction of the offending voice. They found the culprit when a burgundy unicorn stallion got up from the lounge he had been lying on and addressed them again. "Well, are you going to answer or just stand there dumbfounded?"
Before Spitfire did anything they would both regret, Soarin responded, "I guess it's okay... It definitely has its perks."
Now it was their questioner's turn to give a confused stare back at him. It was painfully obvious that he had attempted to make them react because it was the kind of thing to do in Canterlot: find something that wasn't normal and point it out the loudest.
"And why do you care?" Spitfire asked him, her tone slipping slowly toward the angry side. "What's so wrong with being a mare?"
The stallion chose to ignore Spitfire and asked again, "Doesn't it feel strange to not be yourself? To be a completely different pony?"
Soarin, as much as he hated to admit it, was getting tired of the seemingly endless taunting of this pony he didn't even know. "Personally, I can see you as a mare. I'm sure nobody would love you even if that happened."
The stallion snorted in disgust and threatened, "Take that back, ruffian! How dare you speak to me in such a manner!"
"Sorry," Spitfire interjected, ending the argument before it could start. "We have to go now." The two of them nudged the front door open and left him fuming behind.
As Vector took off from the lifting platform and flew up to where the rest of the group was waiting for the after-practice review, Spitfire looked over everypony flapping in place in front of her. Aileron and Cross both seemed relatively energetic, especially after what she had put them through that day, and so did Updraft. She simply ignored the other two rookies and flashed a concerned look to Soarin, who diverted his gaze.
She had noticed his performance loss over the past week, and she could understand why, but to say it out loud might garner suspicion from the new recruits. And yet she wanted to prove to them that the current Wonderbolts weren't an impossible standard that couldn't be beaten.
"Vector, you're still slow on formation training. Find some way to speed up." She then turned to Aileron and noted, "You took slightly longer on the formation training too, but since your time was so quick in the first place, you're still in the running."
"Captain," Vector began, before he was cut off by a biting glare from Spitfire.
"Recruit," she chastised, gaining a critical edge to her tone, "you will promptly shut your mouth and wait until I am finished addressing the group, then ask permission to speak, to which my answer will be no. Do we have an understanding?"
After ending that potential firestorm before it started, Spitfire abandoned the idea of showing that the team wasn't perfect and let Soarin be. With the lesson she had just taught Vector, they would have enough to think about without knowing that the current flight team wasn't always the best.
In fact, she gave up on reminding him of something he undoubtedly knew already. If Soarin hadn't figured out that he was slowly losing speed, he would learn it soon enough.
She flew down to the lifting floor and replaced a bar that somepony had forgotten to put back into the rack while the rest of them went over to the showers. Soarin finally sighed in relief as he realized he would have a chance to make sure Cross hadn't told anypony about his issue.
However, as he followed Cross and Vane to the locker room, they kept shooting confused glances back at him the whole way. By the time they had reached the door, Cross turned to him and asked, "Sir, why are you coming with us?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Soarin inquired, extremely confused by what Cross had just said. He was still a mare, wasn't he?
"Well... it's just that... now that we're back, it's a little creepy."
"But I'm still a mare."
Vane, who had been holding the door open since they had arrived, waiting for the two of them to get the conversation over with, spoke up. "But you're a stallion on the inside, and since we're actually mares, who knows what-"
"Wait," Soarin interrupted, "you're telling me you don't want me in there because I'm not a real mare?"
Cross stepped in and set the argument straight in one quick statement. "Basically, yes. We don't know what you could be imagining. Just think about it from our view."
"But I can't go in with the rest of them," Soarin argued, gesturing in the general direction of the stallions' locker room. "What if I don't know what they'll be thinking when they see me?"
Vane tapped Cross on the shoulder and tried to get her to go into the locker room before the conversation got out of hoof, but she simply wouldn't listen. "Sir, I really don't care what they think. I just don't feel comfortable having a stallion showering with us just because he's in a mare's body."
"Fine, I'll just go inside myself," Vane exclaimed, throwing her wings back in a show of annoyance. As the door closed behind her, Soarin realized he had lost the only voice of rationalism and common sense in the entire conversation. He braced himself for having to do the unthinkable to get what he wanted because of a sensible concern.
"Recruit Current, as a higher officer of the Wonderbolt elite flying team, I order you to let me shower in the same room as you and Vane." It was only after it had come out of his mouth that he realized just how much trouble he could get into because of the way he had worded his command.
Luckily for her future career, Cross backed down from the confrontation and stepped aside to allow Soarin access to the door. He nudged it open and immediately took a hard right, trying to get as far away from Cross as he could.
He almost couldn't believe that she would have the nerve to say something like that. She had real gall to contradict her superiors that way.
Or were they right to? Vane was the one that brought it up in the first place, and she was usually the logical one of the group.
And Soarin had to order his way in, for good reason- aside from his dirty little secret, he really was a stallion on the inside. So what if he was still in a mare's body, she made a good point.
But he couldn't be in the same room as the stallions for the same reason. They would most likely stare lewdly at him and gawk at his body. While he hadn't looked at himself that way before, he had to admit that he was at least semi-attractive. Who knew what would greet him in with Aileron, Updraft, and Vector?
"So are you gonna tell me that thing you heard yesterday?"
That had been Vane, and Cross must have been with her. "Sorry. My lips are sealed- Captain's orders."
"Oh come on, I know you-" The rest of her words were cut off as one of them turned the water on in one of the shower heads.
Now Soarin had to investigate. If Vane was prodding Cross for information, she had to have let something slip the day before. While he didn't want to, he would have to take a shower with them to hear what she was saying.
He pulled his sweat-stained uniform off and laid it out on the bench in front of the lockers so the cleaning staff could pick it up. Then he grabbed a plain, white towel off the rack at the end of the row and draped it over his back.
In less than a moment, Soarin entered the shower area, causing both mares to go silent. They both stared at him awkwardly as he set the towel on the overhead rack with a skilled flick of his primaries and turned his own shower head on.
Soarin caught their surprised looks and asked, "What? Can't a mare take a shower without being stared at?"
Vane let out a barely audible snicker, and Cross gave a dramatic 'humph'. The latter turned around shortly after and said to Vane, "You know, I could always tell you without anypony knowing."
"But I thought you said-" Soarin had taken as much as he could from Cross that day. "And if you do, so help me, you're getting assigned to the bottom of the reserves."
She seemed to be in a similar situation, because she whirled around, water flying everywhere off her wings and mane. "So you try blackmail now? What kind of leader are you?!"
Vane stepped in, nudging Cross back a bit with her forehoof. "If it's that important, I don't really want to know."
"Recruit Current, if you so much as yell at me one more time, I will have you removed from the Wonderbolt roster and..." Soarin trailed off, realizing that he had let his emotions get the better of him once again. Unfortunately, Cross wasn't quite done with her raving argument.
"You can just shove your head up your plot!" He could barely hear her normal voice through her impossibly loud yelling. "Do you have any bucking idea how hard it is to keep a secret like that? How am I supposed to not tell somepony else that the captain is expecting!"
Vane gave a muted gasp, and Soarin felt extremely conflicting emotions. He almost wanted to scold her for yelling at him and facehoof at what he had heard her assume. He didn't get a chance to do either before a new female voice said, "Both of you, outside. Now."
Soarin looked over at where Spitfire was standing, alternating her gaze between the two of them. "Come on, I said outside!"
Cross followed her superior closely as Soarin left the shower area and went over to the door leading back to the training field. Spitfire trailed behind, making sure both of them went directly outside.
Once they were out of earshot, Spitfire turned to Cross and chastised, "So help me, if you yell at your superior in that way again, I actually will have you taken out of the roster. Are we clear?"
"Yes, ma'am," she answered with a quick nod. Once Spitfire turned away from her, she relaxed a bit and gave a relieved sigh.
"And you," Spitfire addressed Soarin with a demeaning glare, "If I ever, and I mean ever, catch you using your position like that again-"
"Spits, I swear it'll never happen again. I just let my emotions get th-"
"You're to address me as Captain, Mister Windsong. Now I repeat, if I ever catch you using your rank in that fashion, you're going to be on track repair duty for a month. Do you understand?"
Finished with her rant, she looked at both of them and said, "Alright, now you two make up. I don't need fighting in the ranks, especially after everything that's gone wrong today."
After she flew off, Soarin looked over at Cross and offered, "Sorry about doing that. I swear it was just my-"
"Yeah, your emotions. Got it."
Soarin only became more confused than before. Cross had never been like this as far as he could remember, and now she was being a mule. (No offense.)
What had changed?
By the time Soarin and Spitfire arrived back at the hotel after practice, the unicorn stallion behind the counter greeted them, "Ah, the happy couple. A letter arrived for you this morning from the castle. Quite the honor, if I do say so myself."
"We'll just take the letter," Spitfire growled, obviously still angry over what had gone down at practice. At the stallion's hurt look, she added a grudging "Please?"
He pulled an envelope out from behind the desk with his magic and Spitfire grabbed it out of the air in her mouth.
She waited until they were safely inside their hotel room to rip the flap open and tear out the surprisingly simple looking letter inside. Both of them read it at the same time.
Ms. Spitfire and Mr. Windsong,
Let me be the first to apologize for everything that has happened lately. I'm sure it has been quite difficult adjusting to the idea of having a foal so early in your careers. As such, I cordially extend an invitation to join the Princesses in a private session with the other ponies affected to discuss the services that will be offered. It will start at three o'clock, but please arrive at least fifteen minutes early.
Your ticket is enclosed within this letter. Please do not misplace it, as it is required to enter the meeting.
~ Gilded Scroll
"Well, you can't say they don't care," Soarin joked, nudging Spitfire. "Still, we'd better show up."
She took a few seconds to respond. "We'll have to call off practice early for it though. Won't that give something away?"
"You heard Cross today- she thinks it's you. The most they'll think is that something came up."
The next afternoon, everybody seemed to be in a foul mood. Not only had multiple fights broken out between exercises, but, if it was to be believed, Aileron was the instigator.
Soarin couldn't seem to understand just why he would do that. He had always been a voice of passion and relative sensibility, even though Vane still had those abilities in spades.
After his shower was finished, Soarin quickly flapped himself dry, did a quick rub-over with the towel, and managed to catch Aileron just outside the door to the mare's shower room.
"You know, you have some-" Aileron began to rant, until he noticed it was Soarin he was speaking to. "Sorry..."
"Hey, what's up today?" Soarin asked earnestly, taking a few steps closer to the obviously troubled new member.
Aileron looked back for just a moment before flapping off in a huff, leaving his superior far behind.
Spitfire flew down and answered the question for the flustered rookie. "You remember how he wanted to be with Cross? Turns out she's been leading him on this whole time."
"Oh." Though he had never run into that problem before, he could sense just how hard it had hit Aileron that day. If Spitfire had done that the night they 'relieved their stress', he would have been just as angry, if not more.
"Come on, we've got twenty minutes to get up to the castle in time."
Soarin followed closely behind as Spitfire secured her saddlebags around her midsection and took off, flying in the direction of the main gate to Canterlot Castle. The flight only took about ten minutes for her, but with the slower speeds Soarin had adjusted to using, they would need a bit of a buffer.
"So what do you think this thing is about?" she asked, trying to stimulate some form of conversation between them.
"You read the letter- it's probably about what they'll do for us while this is going on."
Spitfire let a dense silence fall over the two of them as she considered the options. Though she was having just as much trouble accepting the situation, Soarin had yet to say anything directly about the subject lately. Every time, it was 'this' or 'what's going on'. Ever since she had set him straight on what was truly happening, he had been exceedingly quiet about it.
But if there was one thing she had learned from his encounter with Cross the day before, it was that he would come to her if there was a problem he couldn't solve. Intervening only made it worse.
Yet she still wanted to help, and something deep down told her that she would need to get involved soon, or he would be so set in his ways that he would actively resist whatever she tried.
"You know, Soarin, maybe we'll finally meet the other affected ponies."
"I guess so. Let's hope Jet Set has his priorities straight this time."
Soarin facehooved in mid-flight and replied, "You remember that mare that stormed out of the castle when we found out?"
Spitfire gave a nod of understanding, and went into a light dive toward the castle's main gate. Soarin followed her down, and he landed shortly afterward, a good bit of distance behind his Captain.
Luckily for him, his ground speed was still faster than most ponies, and he caught up to her after a bit. By the time they reached the gates, Spitfire pulled the tickets out of her saddlebags and flashed them at the pair of guards on either side.
They nodded to each other and pushed the large brass gate open for the two pegasi. And to their surprise, somepony shouted through what sounded like clenched teeth, "Hold on, I'm almost there!"
A pale green earth pony mare with a surprisingly short blonde mane and a frantic look in her eyes galloped up to the gate, an envelope held off to the side of her mouth. "My wife couldn't make it, but here." She dropped the envelope and rummaged through it for a few seconds, pulling out a matching ticket to the ones Soarin and Spitfire had.
She - or rather he, if she was to be believed - shoved the ticket back inside the envelope, picked it up, and followed Soarin and Spitfire through the gate.
"So..." Spitfire began, visibly nervous around this new mare, "you're here for that meeting too?"
"Yuh," she replied, the envelope still clenched between her teeth. "I gah thi lehher-"
"I can't understand a single thing you're saying," Soarin commented, biting down on the other end of the envelope and taking it out of her mouth.
"You're Wonderbolts, aren't you?"
"Well we can't really say we aren't," Spitfire answered, giving the new mare a nudge. "Think we could get a name out of you?"
"Whole Grain. And might I say, it's awesome getting to see you in real life. My daughter and I are huge fans."
Both Spitfire and Soarin silently groaned to themselves, figuring that she would go on forever about how they were their favorite group of professional fliers - mostly because the only other one in the vicinity was made up of griffons - and how they wanted to see them live or enjoyed seeing them live, going on a massive spiel about everything they did like most of their overeager fans would.
Instead, she simply said, "We loved seeing your show a few months back in Fillydelphia."
They braced themselves for the over-excited rant they were so used to hearing, but Grain seemed to be finished. Mostly comfortable with her now, Spitfire replied, "I don't think we stop near Fillydelphia much..."
"You're telling me. We've just settled for watching you whenever you come to the area." She looked at Soarin curiously and asked, "I take it you're the reason you guys are here?"
"I guesh sho..."
"Hey," Grain said, hesitantly stepping closer to Soarin, "I'm sure it's hard, but just think. After this is all over, we'll be back to normal in no time."
Though he had been worried about that for a while, hearing it from another one of the mothers-to-be seemed to calm his nerves more than anypony else could have. He offered the letter to Spitfire, who tucked it into her saddlebags in one quick movement. "Thanks," Soarin told her, stopping to pat her on the back. "I definitely needed to hear that."
"Jeez... you're awfully touchy-feely, you know that?"
"Sorry," he apologized, before Spitfire interrupted.
"We're just about late for the time they expected us to get there. Let's get moving."
It was just a short jaunt up to the main doors of the castle, which were opened by another pair of guards, then another four minutes of walking down labyrinthine halls and up a surprisingly large staircase to get to the Princesses' private dining room. When the doors magically opened for them, it revealed a windowless room with a large table, plus the Princesses at either end and three other mares sitting at various spots around it.
"Welcome," Princess Celestia greeted, prompting a bow from the three ponies entering their private dining hall. "Please have a seat anywhere you like."
"Thank you, Princess," they said at almost the same time, causing more than a few awkward glances between them and a hearty chuckle from Luna.
When she was done laughing at them, Luna turned back in Celestia's direction and asked, "Sister, would you happen to know Discord's location?"
"There will be no need, Luna." Her horn lit, and a beam of pure light shot out, stopping at the empty spot between one of the early arrivals and Grain. A large ball of light formed, and faded just as quickly, leaving a distracted draconequus behind, playing chess with floating pieces against what seemed to be a levitating lion paw.
He continued to move one of his pieces, which then proceeded to fall down to the board from midair. "Quite an interesting move," he mused, rubbing his goatee with his eagle talon.
"Discord..." Celestia said, thoroughly interrupting his train of thought.
The ornate chair spun around, revealing Discord's full form slouching in it. "Oh Celestia," he said smoothly, putting his arm back on with a snap of his talon, "you always interrupt me during my games."
"You were due here an hour ago, Discord," Princess Luna accused, throwing him a glare that could have melted even the strongest pony's heart. "Explain yourself!"
"Very well, Miss Royal Canterlot Voice. As you can tell, I was playing a perfectly interesting game of three-dimensional chess with righty here," he held up the lion paw that he connected seconds ago, and continued, "and now I'm suddenly in here with all these mares. Hardly a punishment if you ask me."
The mare sitting across the table from Soarin adjusted her top hat and asked, "What do you mean, punishment?"
"Oh, you don't know... Well I'm sure you'll find out before this is over. I'm certainly not telling."
"I am," Princess Celestia addressed them, drawing all their attention to her. "Discord is only here for one reason: to apologize. After much research into the nature of the magic that affected the city, we found it matched that of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza."
"So then why is he apologizing?"
Princess Celestia cleared her throat and continued, "Because Princess Cadenza and her husband Shining Armor are both in the Crystal Empire, far to the north. We discovered that Discord picked up on her magical frequency and cast it at that level to confuse us."
"So... Discord caused this?" All six mares at the table glared directly at the blushing Draconequus, staring a hole straight through him, as one appeared thanks to his magic.
"Oh, you wound me so..."
"We are currently unsure if he truly caused what you are here for, but it is highly probable," Princess Luna answered them, taking their attention away from the god of chaos. "However, there is more to discuss."
“Of course, there is still the real purpose of this meeting,” Princess Celestia reminded everypony present, giving a barely visible grin. “The fact remains that we have many things to discuss about the castle’s services.”
The six mares in attendance all looked toward their solar princess with anticipation. Each of them had ideas of what they would receive as benefits, and they were anxious to see just which ones they would be gifted.
“However, we must say one thing before we begin. Our services will end one month after the births of the foals, after which we trust that you will be capable of caring for them on your own.”
Soarin flashed Spitfire an ‘I-told-you-so’ look as Princess Celestia finished her introductory speech. “As such, we shall cover the major expenses that are required during your expectant period. Now then, shall we get started?”
Everypony in attendance nodded in agreement, and thus, the meeting began, soon to be interrupted by a loud sip from Discord.
He set the still full teacup down on the table and said, “Please, go on. Don’t let me interrupt.”
Celestia grudgingly attempted to start again, "They will consis-“
Discord gave a long, drawn out yawn and leaned back in the chair he had been summoned in.
“As I was saying, our services will consist of routine-“
Another sip from the god of chaos echoed throughout the room.
“Discord,” Celestia addressed, her previously serene face contorted into a grimace, “please let me finish. This matter is one of incredible importance.”
“Oh, very well.” With a snap of his talons, the teacup disappeared, leaving a floating mass of brown liquid behind, which he then proceeded to pull into his mouth and chew rather loudly. Everypony at the table stared at him awkwardly, not quite sure of what to say.
“Now that we have peace, on with discussion,” Princess Luna said with a hushed giggle.
“Our services will consist of routine health checks every two weeks, to be scheduled by the mothers; a support network meeting weekly in the interior courtyard; and coverage of any urgent medical expenses caused by the child's development. Does that sound fair?"
Everypony present agreed, except for the pink mare sitting next to the other mare in the top hat. "Does that cover any... complications that might come up?"
"We are willing to include complications with the pregnancy if you believe there will be such problems," Luna answered, cutting Celestia off just before she could say the same thing. "It would be unwise of us not to assist in such a case."
"As my sister has stated, we would be very willing to offer our support if such an occasion arises."
"Alright," the mare said with a slight quaver in her voice. It seemed pretty clear that she wasn't satisfied, but she was probably trying not to get on the bad side of the princesses while they were being as generous as they were.
That is, until Celestia asked them, "If there is something else you wish to discuss, we would be glad to hear it." After a quick scoff from Discord, she adjusted her statement, "Most of us, anyway."
Whole Grain eventually took them up on their offer. "Me and my wife will be going back to Fillydelphia in a few days. What'll happen then?"
Luna gave the stallion-turned-mare a confused look and inquired, "But did Gilded Scroll not tell us that everypony affected was a citizen of Canterlot?"
"Indeed," Celestia mused, seeming just as confused as her sister. "You say you and your wife are from Fillydelphia? Is there anypony else here that does not live in Canterlot?"
Soarin and Spitfire raised their hooves, and Spitfire answered, "We're technically from Cloudsdale..."
"It seems I will have to speak to my secretary at some point about her work," Celestia reminded herself before moving back to the point at hoof. "But now on to your question. We would prefer if you could stay in Canterlot for the duration of your pregnancy, but if you must return home, we will transport you personally."
Grain settled back into his seat, most likely mulling over what the princesses had told him. When nopony made their presence known, Celestia stated, "It seems that everything has been resolved. Your weekly meetings will start this weekend at precisely seven o'clock in the afternoon. Good luck, my little ponies."
Though she would never have done it under normal circumstances, Spitfire called out to the team racing around the track, "Alright, two more laps and we're done early today."
That seemed to cause most of the rookies to get a second wind, as they sped up and almost passed Soarin, who was currently at the front of the hexagonal formation. To prevent the imminent breakdown, she added, "And if form falls apart, that's three more afterwards."
The rookies eventually slowed, all except for Cross and Vector, who physically nudged Soarin aside, almost knocking him into the cloud wall surrounding the patch of track they were currently racing through. Cross reached out with one of her back hooves and pushed Soarin off course.
In an instant, Soarin's recovery flapping brought him out of formation, crashing into Vector and sandwiching the poor recruit between the weight of his body and the cloud wall. Aileron quickly adjusted his path upwards, his hooves barely scraping Soarin's mane as he passed overhead.
By the time Soarin backed off, Vector had already entered freefall, one wing bent badly out of shape. Aileron and Updraft dove after him as fast as they could, pushing themselves to their limits to catch him before he hit terminal velocity.
Cross flew back to the scene of the wreck, an obviously fake look of curiosity on her face. "What happened?"
Updraft and Aileron had grabbed Vector by the forelegs, and brought him back up to the limited seating area at that part of the track before setting him down on the thick layer of clouds. Then Updraft faced her and accused, "You should know, shouldn't you?"
"What?" she asked in reply, giving away her false confusion even more than before. "What are you talking about?"
Spitfire rushed over with a first-aid kit and pulled out the thick bandaging that would keep Vector's wing in place until he could get proper medical attention. But before she could start wrapping it around his barrel, Updraft addressed the issue at hoof. "Ma'am, I would like to register a formal complaint against Recruit Current."
"Very well," Spitfire responded, only becoming more confused than before. As far as she had seen, Soarin had gone off course and caused a pile-up. "State your complaint. I might consider it."
He began by gesturing to the area where the accident had happened. "All this was because of her. I witnessed her push Lieutenant Soarin off course, and I believe he can provide assistance in proving my story correct."
Spitfire turned to look at Soarin, who was currently flapping in place above where Vector had hit the wall. "I think I felt something push me over..." he mused, trying to separate the questioned stigma from the blur that he remembered. It certainly wasn't easy with the remaining panic about Vector almost falling to the ground with a broken wing clouding his thoughts.
"Can somepony just get this thing secured already?" Vector asked with an annoyed tone, gesturing to his bent wing. "Seriously, we can do this later."
"We'll get to that in a few minutes," Spitfire told Vector, turning back to Updraft. "You do realize what you're implying by doing this, right?"
"Yes," he answered confidently. "I understand completely. Sabotage of a senior officer and injury to a fellow teammate is grounds for termination."
“Well somepony’s memorized the rule book…” Spitfire muttered, taking a moment to realize that Updraft, of all the ponies there, had taken the time to learn the punishments associated with common - and uncommon, in this case - occurrences. When it finally hit her, she almost couldn’t believe it.
But then she came to an unfortunate revelation. It was almost as if he had waiting for this moment. “How do you know that?”
"If you haven't noticed, I've stayed out of trouble this whole time. How else could I have done it?"
"He's right, you know," Soarin commented, only adding to the sensibility behind Updraft's point. "He may be a jerk, but he's never broken a rule."
As Updraft gave Soarin a quick glare, Aileron also chimed in. "I guess they're right."
"But how can I trust that you actually saw her do this and aren't just trying to jeopardize her future with the team?"
Soarin could see the utter disgust Updraft had for Spitfire that moment as he replied, "What reason would you have to not trust me?"
"I think there's supposed to be a Captain at the end of that sentence, recruit."
"Soarin could tell his argument was falling apart faster than the last time somepony had attempted to file a formal complaint. It seemed like Cross would get away with it unless Updraft was able to comply with the rules that he had supposedly memorized.
"Very well, Captain..." Updraft corrected, "I promise to you that what I saw is completely true. I would have no reason to report this if my information wasn't accurate."
"Alright, I've heard enough. Current, get over here."
Cross landed in the stands seconds later and trotted over to where Spitfire was standing next to Vector, who was still gingerly nursing his wing. Spitfire stopped her in her tracks and told her, "I trust him on this. As of now, you're officially on probation, and if anything else is reported, your position on this team will have to be filled by a new recruit. Are we clear?"
Everypony could tell she didn't like it, but she grudgingly responded, "Yes, ma'am."
Vector finally saw his chance and asked, "Okay... so now that we're done here, can we get around to my wing?" He gestured to the limb hanging limply off to the side of his body and elaborated, "You know, this thing here?"
"Fine," Spitfire agreed, picking up the bandage again and pinning the bent primaries to Vector's side. She seemed to ignore the pained whimpers he gave, and after a few moments - and more than a few awkward positions - his wing was safely held to his side by a fairly thick layer of cotton-like bandage.
"There. I think we can safely call practice early as long as somepony takes Vector here to get it examined."
Updraft volunteered and trotted over next to the injured rookie, closely followed by Aileron. While they discussed something, Soarin flew over to Spitfire and quietly asked, "What happened to termination?"
She whispered back, "I can't prove it- at least not without her saying it really happened."
"But I did feel her run into me."
"We still don't know if it was purposeful or not though," Spitfire argued back, raising her voice to almost her normal speaking volume. "If it really wasn't, we just kicked somepony out on a random accusation from a pony I honestly can't believe."
Luckily, Aileron and Updraft were far too busy figuring out how they would get Vector back to the city to care what she was saying. The only problem Soarin could see in the situation was that Spitfire couldn't trust Updraft farther than she could throw him, which - even as strong as she was - couldn't be very far.
"He's not that bad," he tried to convince her, "I mean, sure he was a little bull-headed at first, but he's gotten better, right?"
"I still can't believe anything he says. He's just so... distant."
Soarin could believe that. Ever since he came in to practice the first day, he had noticed that Updraft didn't talk much; when he did, it was usually to remind the other rookies to be sensible in the face of confusing circumstances. In fact, he had almost been perfectly sane-minded when the spell had hit over two weeks ago.
Now that he thought about it, Updraft did seem rather cold when it came to his interactions with the other rookies on the team. He was never the social one, and Soarin could almost see Spitfire's point about not being able to trust him.
"Okay, fine- but maybe you should get to know him first."
While Spitfire tried to think of a way to stay away from Updraft, she glanced around at various things in the track. Walls, seats, even checking the sun, after which she came to a shocking realization. "Soarin, didn't you want to eat before the meeting?"
"Sure. We ended practice early enough for it, didn't we?"
"Yeah," Spitfire answered, trying to find one of the few clocks scattered around the training ground. "I'm pretty sure, anyway."
Soarin flew over to the mare's shower room, looking for the clock he knew was in there. He quickly found it on the far wall, and realized that they still had about an hour and a half before the meeting with the other parents-to-be that night.
"So... probation?" a female voice asked from out of nowhere. Soarin whirled around to find that Cross had either followed him in or caught him while he wasn't paying attention.
"She went light on you. Trust me, I know when I'm being pushed."
"So why didn't you say anything?"
Soarin almost couldn't believe that she wasn't understanding what he was trying to get at. "What else? You keep that secret to yourself, or I tell the Captain that you did it purposely."
"You can't be serious!"
"Look, she doesn't need ponies spreading rumors about her," Soarin elaborated. "Especially about things like that."
Cross gave her superior a confused look just as he realized his worst mistake yet. "So she's not... oh ponyfeathers. Please don't tell m-"
Soarin silently cursed his choice of words as he admitted, "So now you know what's really going on."
"Well it looks like I've been a real jerk lately. Sorry about everything these last few days."
Soarin almost couldn't believe his ears. Cross was actually apologizing for what she had done, especially after she had yelled at him, refused the following apology, and injured a teammate after trying to get revenge on him.
"Are you serious?"
"Why wouldn't I be? I had to learn what it was like back when I was still in school. If you'd just told me we could have avoided all of this."
"Well," Soarin began, trying to think of an argument as to why he couldn't have told her. "How awkward is it telling somepony you're pregnant when you're not even a mare?"
"You know what I meant," Soarin interrupted, predicting what she was about to say. "Seriously, that's about as bad as it gets."
When they both heard the door open, Cross went back to the showers. Spitfire rounded the corner on the other end and approached Soarin curiously. "What's taking so long? We don't have forever to eat, and most of the restaurants on the upper levels are pretty slow."
"Alright, I'm coming."
After a long and tiring search, Soarin and Spitfire decided that none of the restaurants they saw looked any good. While there were much more lower-class restaurants on the bottom level, that required a bit more flying than Spitfire believed her... coltfriend could handle in his condition. Since it would take far too long to walk there, they simply decided to make their way up toward the castle.
Soarin quickly took a large lead, and Spitfire called after him, "Hey, could you slow down?"
He realized that he would have to move slower, and stopped in his tracks in one of the most unfortunate spots he could have ever chosen. A little filly charged out of one of the buildings and ran up to Soarin, staring at him with wonder and astonishment.
Just then, Soarin recognized her from earlier that month. The golden-coated pegasus filly before him was definitely the one that had asked for his autograph two weeks ago- and the one whose parents he had offered free tickets to their next show. Before he knew what was happening, another pegasus mare with a similar coat to the filly ran out into the street.
"Harvest, get back here please?" It must have been her mother, because when Harvest got back to her, she started scolding her lightly. "You know it's not safe to wander up next to strangers."
The mare turned to face him, curious about just who this strange mare was. Soarin tried his best to explain, "I know I don't look like it, but I'm actually a friendly pony. I don't think I'd ever want to hurt your daughter."
"Well, that doesn't make much of a difference in the lesson," she argued back, ushering the filly back toward the door. "Though I'm terribly sorry about her bothering you. She's just an extreme fan of your performances, along with my... husband."
There was something about the way she said it that threw Soarin for a confused loop, until he realized just who this mare must have been. His suspicions were confirmed with a darker green earth pony mare with a short blonde mane appeared in the doorway to receive Harvest. Just as she looked up and saw Soarin, she waved to him. "Well, this is quite a surprise, eh?"
"Grain..." Soarin sighed to himself. Ever since the meeting three days ago, he had been trying to schedule things for them to do together during any free time the pegasus had. It had only started getting annoying, but there was always the chance that he would offer to do something, which put Soarin on edge almost every time he saw him.
Luckily, Spitfire caught up to him a few seconds afterward and helped ease the palpable tension coming from him. Otherwise, he would probably have just chosen to ignore her.
"So, you two wouldn't mind coming in and getting some dinner with us, would you?"
A rumbling sound came from Soarin's gut, betraying his desire for food. Spitfire stepped in and answered, "I'm pretty sure we could go for a little something, just as long as it's not too much to ask."
"Of course it isn't. Who would we be to turn down dinner with you two?"
Soarin flashed Spitfire an angry look, and after Grain turned around, she mouthed, "Just go with it."
He sighed and decided there was no getting out of it now. It seemed he would be eating dinner with a major fan of the Wonderbolts- something he had been trying to avoid for most of his career.
It wasn't that he didn't like his fans, in fact, it was quite the opposite. Soarin was actually one of the most social members of the team. The only problem came up when fans wanted to get too personal with him.
Nevertheless, he followed Spitfire and Grain into the house without much apprehension. Once they were inside, Grain slipped past both of them and closed the door with a quiet click. "The dining room is through the first door on your left. I think Drift will have the food ready in a few minutes."
The two pegasi entered the specified room and found a table set with three plates, glasses, and full sets of silverware. It quickly became clear that their invitation had been spur of the moment as Grain's wife came into the room carrying two extra plates in her mouth and set them on the table.
"If we're intruding, j-" Soarin began to say, trying to get out of the situation, before he was interrupted by Drift.
"It's fine. I'm just glad he's found ponies he can talk to."
"What do you mean?" Spitfire asked her. "He's been awfully open with us..."
"Huh... that's new; he's actually pretty quiet most of the time."
Soarin could tell that both he and Spitfire had trouble believing this mare on something they hadn't seen, but then again, she was married to Grain. She would know the most about him.
Somepony had to break the silence, so Soarin asked the only thing that came to mind. "So what's cooking?"
"Well," Drift chuckled, "I can see you must be hungry. It's a lemon grass casserole with white wine sauce."
"Well it definitely smells good," Soarin commented, sniffing at the deliciously scented air. Just the name of the dish elicited another embarrassing rumble from his stomach. He blushed as Drift giggled at the perfectly timed reaction.
Just then, Harvest walked into the room and asked her mother, "Mom, when is dinner gonna be ready? I'm starving!"
"Just a few more minutes, sweetie," Drift answered, leaning down to nuzzle her little filly before pushing her back toward the door. "Why don't you go clean your room or something?"
"But Mom... I'm hungry!"
Soarin couldn't help but snicker at Harvest's behavior, partly because she acted like any other filly or colt, but mostly because he used to pull a similar act himself when he was younger. Granted, he usually did whatever his parents suggested when they offered him something to do, but it still brought back memories.
"Why don't you have your dad tell you a story then? I'm sure he has something you haven't heard yet."
After she left - most likely to ask her dad for something to distract her - Spitfire commented, "You sure seem good with kids."
"Trust me, it was hard at first. She wasn't the easiest foal to take care of." She then addressed Soarin directly, "Believe me when I say it's going to take a lot of work the first few months."
"Well that's good to know..." Soarin said, letting a bit of his worry slip into his voice. "At least we're not going in blind now."
Spitfire wrapped her wing around Soarin and tried to comfort him. "Hey, whatever happens, I'll make sure to help whenever I can."
The three of them were suddenly jolted out of their trains of thought when an egg timer in the kitchen buzzed. Drift entered the kitchen, coming out about a minute later with a potholder wrapped around the handle of the casserole dish sticking out of her mouth. Once she set it down on the table, she went back inside the kitchen and returned with a sauce pan full of a thick white substance.
Soarin licked his lips hungrily as she poured the wine sauce over the already delicious looking casserole. All his inhibitions vanished when he realized that Drift seemed to be was a great cook. As long as the food was good, it wouldn't matter that they were eating with fans.
Spitfire must have picked up on the way he was looking at the food, because she nudged his shoulder and commented, "Wipe the drool off your face, okay?"
Soarin snapped out of it in an instant, wiping at his chin to remove the saliva that wasn't really there. When he realized this, he flashed Spitfire a judging look that she was sure to recognize.
"Smells great, honey," Grain said, entering the dining room with Harvest in tow. "Just take a seat anywhere," he said to the two Wonderbolts.
They sat on one edge of the table, and Grain took the end with one plate, leaving Drift and Harvest to get the opposite side. Grain dug in to the food first, dishing himself a sizable piece of the casserole, closely followed by his wife and filly. As Soarin and Spitfire served themselves some, Drift mentioned, "That reminds me, Grain told me you were practicing with some new recruits."
"We are," Spitfire replied, giving a light smirk. "But that's all I can tell you without having to kill you." The family of three all looked at her incredulously, shocked expressions on their faces. "Oh Princesses, it was a joke."
"Okay..." Drift murmured, "So anyway, what's it like not being able to fly with them?"
"I'm sorry... what?"
"Sorry, I really need to learn to speak up," Drift said, reiterating her question from before. "What's it like not flying with them?"
"Why shouldn't he be?" Spitfire asked, her tone one of obvious worry.
"Well, we were actually planning on having another foal, so I did some research. It turns out that their magic is absorbed shortly after conception." She gave Soarin an awkward look and asked him, "You did know that, right?"
"But what does that have to do with me not flying?"
"Everything," Drift almost shouted. "Flying too much can stunt the growth of your foal."
Soarin, who had a fork-full of food balanced in his hoof, almost dropped it. Spitfire simply sat there with her mouth hanging open in shock. She finally found the urge to speak after a long pause, during which the only sound was the clinking of silverware on plates as Grain and Harvest continued to eat.
"Stunted? Please tell me that's not true."
Grain finally got involved in the conversation after finishing the last bite of the food of his plate. "I saw it myself; it looks awfully official."
"But that can't be right!" Soarin denied, having trouble accepting what he knew was wrong. "Magic absorption doesn't happen until the second month..."
"That was the old view. The research department Princess Celestia has assigned to our case sent out a letter about it earlier today."
"But why wouldn't they mention that right away?"
"Mom, what do you mean?" The three older pegasi glanced at Harvest, and her mother chuckled to herself.
"You'll know in a few years, sweetie," she told her daughter. "Now finish your food so I can get the dessert out."
Harvest returned her focus to the rest of the casserole on her plate, and Drift took up their conversation from where they had left off. "It's not a new discovery," she explained, chewing and swallowing a bite of her dinner between statements. "In fact, I think it was done about a year ago. They just found it again and realized that we would need to know about it."
"You've got to be kidding me," Soarin groaned, massaging a temple with his hoof. "They just send this out now?"
Spitfire wrapped her wing around the back of Soarin's chair and tried comforting him. "Hey, at least we know about it now."
"But I've been training with them for weeks now. What if it's never going to fly because of my mistake?"
Drift leaned over the table in their direction and added, "The good news is it's only been a few weeks. If they're right, the process lasts until birth."
Now that he knew that little snippet of information, Soarin could almost relax. Sure, he would have to give up flying with the recruits during training, which might give away everything he had tried to hide from them, but it was worth it if it meant the foal could fly properly.
"Now who's ready for dessert?" Drift asked all of them, slipping out of her chair and heading in the direction of the kitchen. As she brought out a delicious looking cherry pie with one of the flakiest crusts he had ever seen, Soarin groaned to himself. As good as it looked, he just wasn't hungry anymore.