"Spike, this telescope is filthy, where's the cleaning cloth?"
"Spike, have you seen my yellow dress anywhere?"
"Spike, could you bring me the Astonishing Almanac of Alternative Astronomy?"
"Spike, can you find my sapphire earrings?"
This was too much. Spike loved Twilight like a sister, but there are some times in any sibling's life when you just need to put your foot - or hoof, or claw - down.
"Twilight!" the baby dragon snapped. "You might be two ponies, but I'm still just one dragon. Unless you're planning on copying me too, you're going to have to tone it down a bit."
Both ponies halted what they were doing and looked at their assistant with startled expressions. They simultaneously tilted their heads to the side in a gesture that Spike had come to recognize as "what an interesting idea", and then exchanged a glance.
"Do you think we could?"
"I don't know, the spell might be different for dragons."
"We'd have to do some more research."
"There's no time for that now, though."
"We're sorry, Spike."
"We'll try to be more patient."
The two mares trotted over and nuzzled Spike on either cheek. The little dragon blushed at the show of affection as he watched them return to their respective tasks, then he shook himself. "This isn't going to be, uh, a permanent thing or anything, is it?"
The Twilight who was now busily cleaning the lens of her telescope glanced over at him. "Permanent? Oh, no of course not. After the party's over, we'll just reverse the spell, and everything's back to normal." The mare returned her attention to the telescope with a smile.
"Best of all, I get to keep both sets of memories when it's over. I told you, it's the perfect solution!" The other unicorn had come down from her sleeping area while Spike was distracted, and now stood at the door. She was attired casually for the party, wearing the simple yet elegant dress that she had received from Rarity for her birthday, and a pair of sapphire crescent moon earrings. "How do I look?" Spike opened his mouth to give her his approval, but the Twilight at the telescope answered first.
"Like a million bits!" the other mare said, grinning. Her twin returned the grin, then they both giggled.
"Enjoy the stargazing for me!"
"Have fun at the party!"
Spike watched the lavender unicorn with a growing sense of unease as she left the library. He couldn't quite put his claw on why, but he had a really bad feeling about this.
The party was in full swing by the time Twilight arrived at Sugarcube Corner. The game of Pin the Tail on the Pony had devolved into Pin the Pony in the Punch Bowl after a blindfolded Applejack had mistakenly pinned the tail onto an unsuspecting Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie was animatedly trying to convince a near-hysterical Rarity of the aesthetic value of purple cake smears on white coats, and Fluttershy had taken up residence on the ceiling following a mishap with a particularly large party popper. The action ceased immediately when Twilight stepped inside, as every pony in the room turned to greet their friend.
"Twilight!" Rainbow Dash was, perhaps unsurprisingly, first. She released her headlock on a sputtering Applejack and darted over to her unicorn friend. "We were getting worried you weren't going to make it!"
"Yeah, and a party's no fun if the guest of honor isn't there!" Pinkie piped up. "Although it was pretty funny when Gummy climbed into the confetti cannon while nopony was looking. I was expecting confetti, but instead it was like, wham! Alligator!"
"I'm just glad the poor thing was okay." Seeing that the chaos was calming down for the moment, Fluttershy righted herself and floated down from her place on the ceiling. "Oh, um, and that you made it, of course."
"You look wonderful, Darling," Rarity put in. "If I do say so myself," she added with a hint of modesty.
"Like we ain't used to you tootin' yer own horn by now." Applejack, mane sopping wet with most of the contents of the punch bowl, came up beside Rarity and elbowed her familiarly, much to the unicorn's chagrin. "Seriously though, Twi, ya look great."
"Thanks, girls," Twilight answered with a smile. "You know I'd never miss a chance to hang out with you all. Especially since you threw this party with me in mind."
"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's party!" A blur of pink streaked over to the confetti cannon and pulled the lever, releasing an explosion of color and a small, toothless alligator. "Oops, there's Gummy!" Pinkie jumped forward and caught her pet in midair, giggling. "Gotcha!"
Twilight chuckled and shook her head at the pink pony's antics. "So, Rarity, that's an... interesting statement you're making there," she teased her friend with a playful grin. "Is that cake? Very, uh, avant garde."
The other unicorn's expression turned sour. "Don't remind me. Our dear Fluttershy sent it flying when one of Pinkie's noisemakers went off."
"I-I'm sorry," squeaked the embarrassed yellow pegasus from behind her mane.
"Hey, don't worry about it." Twilight's grin widened. "I've got just the spell for that. You wouldn't believe how many stains I had to get out of my coat after I got my first chemistry set. Just hold still."
Rarity looked a bit nervous at her friend's enthusiasm, but nodded slightly to give her permission. Twilight lowered her horn, recalled the form of the spell, reached for her magic, and-
Emptiness. A sense of falling.
The purple unicorn staggered as a wave of fatigue washed over her. She was vaguely aware of voices raised in alarm around her. Her mind raced. What had just happened? She hadn't overexerted herself that badly since she was a filly, and the spell had been a simple one, hardly more difficult than lifting a stack of books.
"Twilight? Hey, anypony in there?" A cyan hoof was waving in front of her face, interrupting her concentration. She lifted a foreleg to push it down with a scowl.
"She moved! See? I told you she didn't get turned to stone!" Pinkie's excited voice filtered through Twilight's thoughts, and she sighed heavily. She had been friends with the hyperactive earth pony long enough to know that focusing on a problem was more or less impossible with her around.
"I'm fine," she reassured them, lifting her face to look around at their worried expressions. She noted with some pride that, despite the difficulty she'd had with the spell, Rarity's coat was once again clean. "I guess I've just been working too hard lately."
"And after ya'll gave me such a talkin'-to for doin' the same thing," Applejack shook her head in exaggerated disappointment. "You just take it easy, alright sugarcube? We don't want ya collapsin' at yer own party, right girls?"
A chorus of "Right!" and "Exactly!" answered the farmer. Twilight gave them all a grateful smile. Maybe she really had just been pushing herself too hard. Her mirror spell had been a pretty tough one to cast, after all. The little party resumed around her and she let herself relax. Somewhere behind her, Pinkie had put one of her old records on and was singing along.
Equestria girls, we're kinda magical...
"So Twilight, what've you been so busy with anyway? Reading?" Rainbow Dash had sidled up next to her, smirking. Twilight rolled her eyes and filled a glass from the nearby punch bowl.
"Among other things, Rainbow. I'm not married to books, you know."
"Oh, so you mean you are on the market? Or are you still hot for teacher?"
Twilight choked on her drink. "Rainbow! How can you even say... the Princess... I... that wouldn't even be..." Her face turned a deep shade of maroon as she coughed and stammered. The pegasus rolled on the ground with laughter, only furthering her embarrassment.
"Wow, Twi, you shoulda seen the look on your face! Did I strike a nerve there?" Dash grinned up at her friend, sitting up as she recovered from her bout of laughter. "I knew you were a total teacher's pet, but oh pony."
"Yer one to talk about shootin' for the stars, Dash." Applejack trotted over to them, attracted by the commotion, and grinned at Twilight. "Ah keep tryin' to hook this filly up with some of the nice colts in town, but she's still holdin' out for that one Wonderbolt. What was his name? Or was it a her?"
"Hey, hey! Just because I've got a rainbow mane, you can't assume..."
"I ain't assuming anythin' I ain't seen with my own eyes. You start drooling like a pig at feedin' time when that Spitfire gal flies by in that tight little flight suit."
"I... I don't drool!"
"To be fair," Twilight put in, sipping from her glass, "she gets that way around any of the Wonderbolts." She paused and frowned down at the glass, then looked back up at the pair, suspiciously noting Applejack's still-damp mane. "Does this punch taste like apples to anypony else?"
The stars were truly beautiful that night. There was a chill in the air, but the sky was perfectly clear, ideal for stargazing. Twilight settled down by the telescope on her balcony, pulled up her notes and sky charts, and draped a warm blanket over herself. She hoped she was having fun at the party. She was certainly going to have fun here.
"Need anything else before I hit the hay?" Spike's voice came from the top of the stairs.
"No, I don't think so. Thanks for all your help today, Spike."
"Hey, no problem. That's what number one assistants are for, right?"
"Yes, and you'll always be my number one assistant." Twilight turned to smile at him. "Have a good night, Spike."
"Night, Twi," the little dragon said with a yawn. He disappeared back down the stairs, and Twilight soon heard his soft snoring coming from below. She turned back to her telescope and peered into it, preparing her magic to start the delicate adjustments needed to bring it into focus.
Instead of the expected field of stars, a single huge eye stared back at her.
"Gwah!" Twilight shot to her hooves and scrambled backward with a terrified exclamation. She looked up to find a blonde, grey-coated pegasus curiously inspecting the other end of the telescope, a small package held under one foreleg.
"I don't see any stars..." The pegasus's other eye swiveled to look at Twilight, and she straightened quickly, apparently remembering her purpose there. "Oh, right! Special delivery for Twilight Sparkle!"
"Jeez, Derpy, you scared the hay out of me. Uh, isn't it a little late to be delivering the post?"
"Uh huh, but this one said 'overnight' on it."
Twilight stared at her flatly for a moment before resigning herself to the fact that the innocent mailmare was completely serious. "Alright, give it here," she sighed. Derpy happily landed and set the package down, then twisted her head to pull a clipboard out of her saddlebags.
"Pleafe fign here," the pegasus said, her teeth clamped firmly on the board. Twilight lifted her quill, only to realize that she hadn't brought any ink up with her.
"Oh, darn it. I knew I should have made a checklist," the mare muttered to herself. "Sorry, one second." She knew right where her ink was, it would be a simple matter to teleport it to herself from here. She concentrated on the mental image of her desk with the ink pot on it, reached for her magic, and-
"Are you okay? That wasn't my fault, was it?" Twilight became dimly aware of Derpy's concerned voice speaking to her, and the feeling of the floor against her side. She sat up, shaking her head to clear it.
"I'm fine, I think." The unicorn looked around and saw her ink pot next to her. Wanting to recover quickly from the embarrassing situation, she lifted her quill again. The feather wavered in her telekinetic grip, but she gritted her teeth and forced it steady. Derpy picked her clipboard back up, and Twilight quickly signed her name.
"Fank you!" the mailmare chirped brightly before stashing the board back in her saddlebag. "Have a nice day! Er, night!"
Twilight waved as the pegasus flew off, her mind already elsewhere, and the package already forgotten. What the hay was that? She wasn't getting sick, was she? Hopefully her other half wasn't coming down with the same thing. Come to think of it, she wasn't entirely sure how having a cold would work when she used her mirror spell again. If they both had the cold, would she end up with twice as much cold? If she split herself again, would she end up with half as much...
Ah. The light bulb of sudden realization was nearly visible over the lavender unicorn's head as she made the connection. Conservation of energy! How could she have been so silly? First she'd tired herself out casting the spell, then she'd immediately divided what magical reserves she still had between two ponies. Splitting her power like that would have left her weak even if she'd had a full night's rest before she stepped through the mirror. As it was, she probably had no more capacity for magic than she'd had as a little filly, albeit with significantly more control over what she had.
The purple mare sighed heavily and returned to her telescope. Well, it wasn't so bad. It wasn't like she would really need much magic tonight anyway, unless something crazy happened.
Come on everypony smile, smile, smile,
Fill my heart up with sunshine, sunshine...
Pinkie Pie was still going, and Twilight couldn't help but do as the song suggested. Even as the party was winding down, its host seemed to be an endless wellspring of activity and enthusiasm. Twilight sipped at her last glass of punch, watching the energetic mare quietly, her mind already back at her tree home. Her musings were interrupted by Rainbow Dash coming back for another round of friendly ribbing.
"So Twi, about ready to go home and cuddle up to your favorite book?" Dash poked her unicorn friend with a wing, snapping her at least partway out of her thoughts.
"Hmm? Mhmm," Twilight answered vaguely.
"Maybe a warm fire, a few glasses of sarsaparilla, your hoof tracing lovingly down its spine..."
"I'll walk you home."
"Mhmm. Wait." Twilight blinked and looked at her friend questioningly. "What?"
"I said I'll walk you home. Seriously, Twi, you're like totally zoned out. You'd probably get lost on the way and end up in Canterlot or something. Besides," Dash rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly. "I gotta borrow the next book in the series I'm reading."
Twilight's mind was immediately filled with visions of her friends following her home and finding her double. What would they think? Would they be angry that she had cheated them by sending half of herself out stargazing while they thought she was at their party? Would they be upset that she had done it without telling them? Worse, would they want her to cast the spell on them? She couldn't imagine a world with two Rarities or two Rainbow Dashes. She could imagine a world with two Pinkies, but she pushed the thought out of her mind as quickly as possible. She had to prevent them from finding out, at any cost.
"Can it wait until tomorrow? I'm really, really beat. From all the partying." Twilight flashed her friend a wide, unconvincing grin.
"Aw c'mon, Twi, you hardly even partied. I think I saw you dancing, like, twice!" Dash's ears drooped and she gave Twilight the saddest, most pleading look she could muster. "Please?"
"Sorry, Rainbow, I really just want to get home and sleep. I'll see you in the morning, okay?" Twilight set her empty glass aside and trotted toward the door. Her friend followed.
"Alright, but I'm still walking you home. Just to make sure you go the right way... and stuff."
"Fine," Twilight grumbled. Dash could be impossible to distract once she truly set her mind to something, as evidenced by the rate at which she was burning through the fiction section of Twilight's library. Hopefully she could convince her to leave once they were near the tree house.
Twilight nestled sleepily into her warm blanket, the eyepiece of the telescope pushed aside, and just gazed up at the wide expanse of the night sky. It had been a wonderful night. Perfect peace and quiet, not a single interruption after the incident with Derpy. Nothing but her and the stars and the planets. It was getting late, though, and she was starting to worry that she wouldn't get home before she dozed off. Actually, maybe that wouldn't be a problem. She could just wake herself up, after all.
"Spike! I'm home!" She jumped slightly at the sound of her own voice from below. Immediately, she knew something was off. It was the middle of the night; Spike would be sleeping. He probably wouldn't even wake up from the shout. The only reason she would have done that would be... to warn herself of something.
A shock of adrenaline jolted her fully awake as she heard a second voice, saying something she couldn't make out, and the sound of the front door opening. Rainbow Dash! She couldn't let her friend see her. That was obviously the reason she had called out the warning, and she trusted her own judgement. She had to get out of sight, but where could she go?
Her eyes fell on the branches of the tree above her. With no time to consider other options, she shot upward in an adrenaline-fueled leap that would have made any athlete proud. Her forelegs grasped a branch and she lifted herself into the obscuring foliage. Mere moments later, she caught a flash of rainbow mane as Dash flitted up to the second story.
"Are you sure there's nopony here? I swear I saw something move up there. And what's with the mirrors?"
"I'm sure, Rainbow, now can you please go? I really need to get to sleep."
"Alright, alright. Hey, since I'm in here anyway..."
She heard herself sigh. "Yes, Rainbow, you may borrow Black Bag versus the Everfree League."
"Thanks, Twi, you're the best!" The sounds of a pegasus carelessly rummaging through a shelf full of books were soon followed by the opening and closing of the front door. After a minute or so to make sure her newly-book-obsessed friend had left with her prize, she heard hoofsteps coming up the stairs.
"Hey, uh, me? Are you out here?" Her twin trotted outside, looking around with a frown.
Without warning, the branch she was on cracked and bent to the floor, sending her sliding headfirst down onto her twin with a startled yelp. The mare below her cushioned her fall, letting out an exclamation of her own. A confused tangle of legs and flailing hooves ended with her staring down into her own somewhat bemused face, her double pinned beneath her.
"Sorry about that..."
"Don't worry about it. Nice, uh, hiding spot?"
"It was all I could come up with on such short notice..."
"Well, you know how Rainbow Dash is."
She couldn't help but notice that she had beautiful eyes.
Twilight suddenly became sharply aware of hot breath against her lips, and the feeling of a soft coat of fur pressed against her own through the thin material of her twin's dress. The other mare seemed to notice the same thing, because they both fell silent, faces reddening slightly as they glanced down at themselves, then back up to meet each other's eyes. They gave each other an almost apologetic half-smile of embarrassment, but their muzzles gradually drifted closer together as the moment dragged on.
"Twilight?" Both mares froze at the sound of Spike's voice. "What's all the racket up here? Some people are trying to sleep, you kn- holy Princess!" The two Twilights separated with lightning speed, both stammering and blushing furiously.
"It's not what it looks like!"
"We were just-"
"She fell, and I-"
"The branch broke-"
Spike looked between the two flustered unicorns, shook his head, and turned to go back inside. "...I don't even want to know."
The sounds of the shower being run reached the two fillies' ears as they stared at each other, cheeks still flushed a deep maroon. Finally, her twin broke the silence.
"I guess I'd better get out of this dress so we can reverse the spell."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"C'mon, I'll just change in the main room. It's not like it's anything you haven't seen before." They shared a nervous giggle before trotting down the steps together. Her double's horn glowed when they reached the bottom, as she carefully unhooked the earrings and set them aside. She resisted the urge to ask if she'd had any trouble with her magic too. If the spell went as planned, there would be no need to compare notes after it had been reversed. Instead, her attention was drawn inexplicably to the sight of herself removing the yellow dress.
Despite the fact that the majority of ponies, especially those in more rural towns like Ponyville, walked around most of the time without clothing, there was something undeniably risque about dressing and undressing. Twilight let her eyes roam idly over her body as she undressed, pursing her lips in thought. She'd never really thought of herself as attractive. To be honest, she hadn't really done much thinking about her looks at all, beyond making sure that she was appropriately well-groomed for her classes at the School for Gifted Unicorns.
Seeing herself from the outside, though, she had to admit that she actually had a pretty striking figure. She was small, or petite, to use a more flattering word, and had an unabashedly... well... bookish look to her. She was admittedly a bit on the thin side, and her proportions weren't perfect; she looked like she had never quite finished growing out of her awkward adolescent years. Still, the mare she saw now carried herself in a way that spoke to her of unassuming confidence, of hidden potential, and of long hours spent trying to make everything of herself that she possibly could. In short, she saw in herself the pony she had always dreamed of being. She blushed again as her twin caught her staring.
"Shall we?" the other mare asked, trotting to one of the mirrors in the center of the magic circle. Twilight went to another, noting with some curiosity that it held no reflection as she approached it, then caught her double's eye and nodded.
"Three!" Both unicorns stepped into the mirrors, and after a moment, one unicorn stepped out of the one opposite them.
Twilight Sparkle looked down at herself. She lifted her hooves, one by one, and set them back on the floor, satisfying herself that everything was in working order there. She lifted a nearby quill in her telekinesis and then released it, nodding in approval as her magic was proven still functional despite her earlier setbacks. She looked herself over in the mirror, which once again reflected her image, and verified that there had been no noticeable changes to her appearance. Hooves, check. Horn, check. Cutie mark, check.
Next, she cast back through her memories of that evening. She remembered the party. She remembered a quiet evening spent stargazing. She remembered Rainbow Dash walking her home, and she remembered hiding in the branches of the tree while she waited for the nosy pegasus to leave. She remembered Derpy delivering a package... which she had promptly forgotten all about and left on the balcony. Oh well, it could wait until tomorrow. It was probably just the rebinding supplies she had ordered for the library.
The lavender unicorn trotted happily upstairs to her bed. Today had been a good day. No, today had been two good days. And with her new spell, tomorrow could be even better.