Johnathon braced himself just in time to keep from being knocked over by Cheerilee as she launched herself into him. Her front hooves ended up over his shoulders and the purple earth pony ended up face to face with the startled human. "Oh Johnathon...." she started, looking deeply into his confused eyes. "Would you..."
Big Mac hit her from behind a moment later and Johnathon's legs failed, sending all three into a heap with the big red stallion on top. After several long moments of untangling themselves, they ended up sitting in a rough triangle on the ground.
"Er..." Johnathon began. "What's up, Cheerilee?"
"Johnathon..." Cheerilee started to say again.
"Cheerilee...." Big Mac said at the same time, looking at her with wide eyes.
Cheerilee glanced back at him with a slight frown before turning back to Johnathon Dwire. "Johnathon... I was, wondering..."
"Cheerilee..." Big Mac started again. "Would you... would you...?"
"Be my special somepony?" they both said at the same time.
"What? Er..." he frowned, then blinked. "Oh right." he nodded sagely. "Sure... Cheerilee." he answered with a nod. Right... we're playing a trick on the Crusaders, I guess. Might as well play along.
Big Macintosh blinked, then turned to Johnathon Dwire, his eyes narrowing. "Cheerilee...." He began, putting one hoof on Cheerilee's chest and the other on Johnathon's, then shoving them gently apart. "What are ya saying?" He took her face in both of his hooves and gently turned her to face him. "You're just joking, right? You want to be my special somepony, don't ya?"
Cheerilee blinked, then shook her head free, brushing Big Mac's hooves aside with an almost angry frown. "Big Mac, leave us alone. Can't you see we're in love?"
Johnathon blinked. This is just a practical joke, right?
Big Mac's eyes went wide with a pained expression, and he shot to his feet. "You can't mean that, Cheerilee! You and I are meant to be together, I can feel it!" He stomped, and glared at Johnathon angrily. "You... you better git out of here... now, if'n you know what's good fer ya!"
Johnathon rose to his feet as well, deciding to play along. "Or what?" He said aggressively. "Cheerilee has made her intentions clear, don't you think? She loves me. So you might as well be on your way, Big Mac." he winked at the big stallion, trying not to break into a chuckle at the horrified gasp coming from the bushes, and was barely able to react in time to dodge the hoof that nearly took his head off.
"Mac!" Johnathon snapped his head back and stepped away from the angry stallion in surprise. "Whoa... easy now big fella." Big Mac came forward, kicking out with his front hooves, and Johnathon kept stepping backwards, thankful that they were in an open area. "Big Mac!" the kicks were powerful, but Johnathon could see them coming easily. The big stallion was telegraphing his moves like a rank amateur, and for several moments, Johnathon wondered if he could still be play acting. It wasn't like he couldn't keep dodging... but.... "Alright... that's enough." Johnathon said firmly. "Somepony could get hurt." he stepped inside a wild hoofswing, tapping the big stallion's right hoof away with a strong forearm, and putting his shoulder into the middle of Big Mac's chest.
In close, he whispered to the big red stallion. "Hey... getting a bit too much into the role, aren't you?"
Big Mac just grunted, planted all four feet, and shoved Johnathon away before turning his back on the man and kicking out with both hind legs. Johnathan leaped away at the last second to dodge the double blow, but he could feel the air from the miss. He knew that if it had connected, Big Mac would have broken bones or worse with that kick.
"No!" Cheerilee's voice rang out in rage. "You won't hurt him!" There was a solid thump as Cheerilee whirled and hit the big red stallion with both of her hind hooves at once, knocking him sideways. Big Mac teetered for a moment on his left hooves, then crashed to the ground.
Johnathon stood there in shock. "What in the hell?"
Big Mac wheezed in pain as he sat up, obviously finding breathing difficult. "Cheerilee?" the pain in his voice spoke of something far more serious than the pain of his injuries. It was like something vital had broken inside him. "Why...? Why? I... I love you!"
Cheerilee, who had turned to face him, looking like she had been ready to trample the big stallion into the ground, lowered her front hooves. "I'm sorry, Big Mac. But I don't love you." she turned her face away, and moved over to Johnathon's side. "I love Johnathon. Now... if you care about me at all... you'll go away and leave us alone."
Big Macintosh's face went pale and his whole body shuddered, then he leapt up, ignoring his injuries and galloped away, a slight hitch in his stride the only evidence of his physical injuries. The devastated look on his face, and the muted cry of anguish as he raced away struck Johnathon like physical blows.
The man took a step after the big stallion, a serious look on his face. "Oh... damn." he muttered. "He wasn't acting..." he turned to Cheerilee. "We should go after him... he's hurting...."
Applebloom darted from the bushes, looking panicked, and raced after her older brother, followed a moment later by Sweetie Bell and Scootaloo.
Cheerilee was looking at Johnathon with a soft smile, paying no attention to the three fillies as they raced away. "Oh... that's why I love you so much, Johnathon... you're so kind." she said, moving up to nuzzle his chest with her head. "Big Mac will be fine. He's a grown stallion, after all."
Johnathon frowned. "Cheerilee... what's going on? You just... kicked Big Mac, and now you're telling me... I thought this was supposed to be an act?" he put a hand under her chin and raised it. "Cheerilee... you were joking, right? You... you don't actually love me... I mean, love me, love me, do you?"
Cheerilee hesitated, looking hurt. "I do, Johnathon. I really do love you. I... I know you aren't... physically attracted to... ponies, but..." she froze as a look of understanding came over her face, followed immediately by anguish. "Oh... Johnathon... I'm so sorry... I...." she raced away a moment later, tears streaming down her face.
The human just stood there, looking confused. "What in the hell just happened?" he started to go after Cheerilee, then paused in mid step. "Something weird is going on here. Cheerilee and Big Mac were both acting really off... like they were...." he slapped a fist into his palm. "Like they were being magically influenced, of course!" he wrinkled his nose. "Either that, or they're playing the world's biggest practical joke on the human... but I don't think they'd go this far for that."
He turned in the direction Big Mac and the Cutie Mark Crusaders had run. "Those three fillies do have a knack for causing trouble... I wonder if they had something to do with how Big Mac and Cheerilee were acting?"
Mind made up, he started jogging down the road toward Sweet Apple Acres, looking for the trio of blank flanked fillies.
There was no sign of either the Crusaders or Big Mac at first, and it wasn't until he had gotten onto the farm and was nearly at the Apple family home that he heard the sounds of a scuffle in the barn. Changing course, he ran into the barn. It took him several moments to figure out what was going on. Big Mac was trying to throw a rope over one of the rafters, while Sweetie Bell pushed a stool away from the middle of the barn, and Scootaloo and Applebloom tried ineffectually to restrain the big stallion. Johnathon pieced the scene together quickly. Big Mac was busy trying to hang himself, while the three fillies were doing their utmost to prevent him.
"Big Mac, wait!" Johnathon cried, moving forward. "Don't do this!"
The big stallion paused in what he was doing only to glare angrily at the human. "This is all your fault." he accused, sounding heartbroken. "Cheerilee hates me now... why shouldn't I just end it?"
Johnathon racked his brain for something to say, anything that would make the big stallion feel better, but nothing came. Big Mac went back to throwing his rope over the rafter again, and started trying to tie a noose.
"Big Mac... wait." Johnathon said again. "I don't love her." he shook his head. "She's my friend, but I don't love her, not like that."
Big Mac hesitated, looking at the man in confusion. "What... what does that matter?" he finally said. "She still hates me."
Johnathon shook his head. "She was just mad... she'll forgive you... but... but she knows I don't love her. She ran off, she was really upset." he paled a bit as he realized that what he was saying was quite possibly literally true. "What if... what if she's just as upset as you are... what if she's going to try and hurt herself?"
Big Mac froze. "No." he said softly. "NO!" he shouted, then broke free of his younger sister and Scootaloo and raced out of the barn, nearly knocking Johnathon over on the way out.
The crusaders hesitated only a moment before attempting to race after the big red stallion, but Johnathon ducked down and scooped Applebloom off the ground on as she tried to race by him. "Oh no." he told her firmly. "Not till you tell me what's going on." Sweetie Bell and Scootaloo hesitated in the barn's doorway, and he raised an eyebrow. "Well, go on, keep him from hurting himself. Try and find Cheerilee too." he ordered.
Applebloom squirmed in his arms, then sighed. "Go on... I'll... er... catch up in a minute." Sweetie Bell and Scootaloo exchanged worried glances, and then raced away, and Applebloom glanced up at Johnathon. "Er... so... what makes you think we had anything to do with this?" his eyes narrowed, and she coughed once. "Heh... er... right." the yellow filly chewed her lip lightly. "Er... well, we may have given Big Mac and Miss Cheerilee a... tiny bit of love potion." she admitted.
"Love potion." Johnathon repeated flatly. "Love potion? Really?"
Applebloom nodded, looking sheepishly at the floor. "Well... on account of Miss Cheerilee not having anypony special for Hearts and Hooves day... and Big Mac being perfect for her... so we thought..."
Johnathon sighed. "I think I can follow the thinking involved." he shook his head. "Applebloom, how could you? This is very serious."
Applebloom nodded. "I know! I know..." she sighed. "We didn't think anything like this would happen."
"You didn't think at all, it seems." Johnathon said angrily, then sighed. "Never mind that now... is there an antidote?"
Applebloom hesitated. "Er... I'm not sure. We didn't read that far."
Johnathon frowned. "OK... where did you read about this Love potion then?"
Applebloom looked up at him. "We left the book in our clubhouse. Should I...?"
Johnathon put her down on the floor of the barn. "Show me the way... and hurry."
Applebloom nodded firmly and set out at a gallop, the human racing along behind her.
"You want me to what?" Twilight Sparkle said to Cheerilee incredulously.
"I want you to use your permanent transformation spell on me and turn me into a human." Cheerilee said for the second time. "Please... I'll do anything you ask in return... just... please turn me into a human."
Twilight raised a hoof. "Wait... just... wait." she looked at Cheerilee in confusion. "Why do you want me to do this anyway? You do know that I don't have a counterspell for it, right? I can use it on ponies, but I don't know how to use it on other species yet. I wouldn't be able to turn you back... at least, not right away."
Cheerilee shook her head. "I don't care about that. I don't want to be changed back. I want to be human. It's the only way...."
Twilight frowned. "The only way what? Why do you want to be human?"
Cheerilee stepped forward, putting her hooves on Twilight's shoulders. "I love him, Twilight, but he'll never love me... not really, unless I'm human too!"
Twilight blinked. "Johnathon? You love... Johnathon?"
Cheerilee nodded fervently. "He's so... perfect. He's gentle, and kind... and intelligent... and brave... he's everything I ever wanted in a pony... only, he's not a pony, and he's not attracted to ponies... and... he'll never want to be anything but my friend... unless I'm human, like him!"
Twilight frowned again. "Cheerilee, Johnathon isn't that shallow... he..." she hesitated, realizing that in fact, Cheerilee was probably right. "Cheerilee...." she began again. "You shouldn't change who... what you are, just because you fell in love...." she grimaced, knowing at once that Cheerilee wasn't likely to accept that argument either.
"Twilight, please..." Cheerilee sagged to her knees, still holding on to the purple unicorn's shoulders with her front hooves. "I have to... I have to do this for him. I could never ask him to become a pony... I couldn't. I don't care about being a pony... being a human won't bother me at all, not if I can be with him!"
"But...." Twilight hesitated again. "But... he's going to be leaving soon... if I can finish my spell... and... I can't... I can't just..."
Cheerilee's eyes became calm. "It doesn't matter. If he leaves, I'll go with him. I wouldn't be able to live happily on his world as a pony... but as a human, I can follow him back to his home. We can be together. Please... Twilight, please. Do it now. I don't have a lot of time left... I have to let him know how I feel before he leaves."
Twilight put her hooves on Cheerilee's and gently pulled herself free, stepping back. "Alright... alright. If... if this is what you really want, I'll do it."
Cheerilee surged forward, hugging Twilight fiercely. "Oh thank you, thank you! Oh Twilight, how can I ever repay you!"
Twilight shook her head, smiling. "It's alright... you don't owe me anything. Just... just, be very sure. Are you really, really sure?"
Cheerilee stepped back and nodded. "I'm sure. I'm more sure about this than I've ever been about anything else in my life. Please. Do it now."
Twilight took a deep breath, then nodded. "Alright." she took a couple steps back. "It's lucky I haven't tried to open a portal today... this is a difficult spell. Still, I've done it enough now that I won't have any problems." she wrinkled her nose. "Are you ready?"
Cheerilee nodded firmly. "Yes. Please... hurry. I need to go find him. Tell him...."
Twilight hesitated one final time. "Maybe... maybe we should talk to Johnathon about this first? Maybe he would be willing to turn into a pony? Or maybe... maybe he wouldn't care that you're a pony? Or... maybe... maybe he... won't feel the same way about you even if you're human?"
Cheerilee shuddered at that, then shook her head. "I can't ask him to change himself. This is MY decision. We both know that he's a good man, but he won't fall in love with a pony... not romantic love...." she smiled finally. "And if he doesn't love me as a human... then so be it. I want him to know that I'll do anything for him. I'll give up anything for him... freely. This is my love for him. It doesn't matter if it wins his love or not. I have to do it anyway."
Twilight sighed, then nodded. "I think I understand." she shook her head. "I kind of thought you might be getting a crush on him... but I never suspected you loved him so much." Twilight smiled softly. "If he does turn you down, he's a moron. You obviously love him very, very much." her horn lit up. "Stay where you are... don't move. This will only take a moment..."
Twilight's horn grew brighter and brighter, and then flashed, a beam of concentrated light hitting Cheerilee, and obscuring her from view. When the light faded, a pale skinned human female was on hands and knees on the floor of the library where a purple earth pony had been a moment before. The woman raised on hand to her face, eyes going wide in awe.
"I'm... I'm human." she looked down at her body incredulously. "It worked! It really worked!"
"Looks like it." Twilight said tiredly, walking over slowly to give Cheerilee's new body a closer look. "You look a lot like I did when I turned myself human... so I think it worked." she raised an eyebrow. "Some subtle differences, but... yes, it seems to have worked perfectly."
Cheerilee smiled at her gratefully. "Oh... Twilight. Thank you, thank you so much." she started trying to get to her feet. "I've... I've got to find Johnathon. I need to show him!"
Twilight's horn lit up as she caught the wobbling biped in a telekinetic field. "Slow down... you'll at least want to put on some clothes first, remember?" she grinned. "And maybe practice walking for a little bit?"
Cheerilee frowned, then nodded. "Clothes... right." she reached a hand over to steady herself on Twilight's shoulder, and the unicorn gently released her telekinetic hold. Cheerilee wobbled, grabbing onto Twilight with both hands to keep from toppling over. Twilight winced, but said nothing as the newly minted human caught her balance. "But... I don't have any human clothes!" Cheerilee said with a grimace. "What am I going to do?"
Twilight blinked. "Well... we could wrap a blanket around you, like Johnathon did when I was human, I guess."
Cheerilee hesitated, then nodded. "Yes...."
Twilight looked thoughtful. "Oh! And then we can take you over to Carousel Boutique! I'm sure Rarity will be able to whip you up something pretty to wear."
Cheerilee's face lit up. "Oh! Yes! Yes please!"
Twilight turned her head towards her bedroom, and her horn lit up, levitating down a blanket, which she carefully wrapped around Cheerilee under her arms, remembering how Johnathon had done the same for her months earlier.
Before she could suggest they start heading over to Carousel Boutique, however, they could hear shouting from outside.
"Cheerilee!" A strangely familiar voice cried loudly. "Cheerilee, where are you?"
Twilight frowned. "Isn't that Big Mac?" she asked, uncertain. "It sounds like him... why would he be looking for you?"
Cheerilee looked slightly panicked. "Twilight... you can't tell him I'm here! He's... he thinks he's in love with me... and he's very jealous. He nearly hurt Johnathon when I told him that I loved Johnathon and not him...."
Twilight blinked. "Really?" her eyes narrowed. "Wait... Big Mac confessed his love to you today? And you want to confess your love to Johnathon too?" The purple unicorn raised an eyebrow. "That's... huh." she shrugged. "Hearts and Hooves day... I guess everypony is confessing today, huh?" Twilight glanced cautiously out her window. "Huh... well, he's getting closer." she glanced at Cheerilee. "Honestly, I doubt he'll recognize you like this."
Cheerilee looked worried. "We shouldn't take the chance. Is there a back way out?"
Twilight hesitated, then sighed. "Oh well... I suppose I can manage one more big spell today." her horn started to glow again. "Just... hold on to me tight." there was a bright flash, and they were gone. Moments later, Big Mac burst through the doors, looked around wildly, and, not seeing his love, galloped off once more.
There was a bright flash of light in the entrance-way to Carousel Boutique as Twilight and Cheerilee appeared there. Cheerilee gave a gasp of surprised and teetered over backwards, falling in a heap as she took her her new surroundings.
"Welcome to Carousel Boutique!" Rarity's voice rang out from her work room, coming closer as she spoke. "Where everything is chique, sleek, and manu..." the white unicorn blinked as she spotted her guests. "Well, hello Twilight... and... oh my!"
She stopped, then started forward again, looking at the human female, wearing Twilight's bedspread wrapped around her from the armpits down and crumpled on the floor, with a slightly puzzled expression.
"Rarity, this is..."
"No no... let me guess." Rarity said with a curious expression on her face. "Obviously this is a human." she began. "A female, if I'm not mistaken." she started walking around Cheerilee slowly, taking her in. "Hmm... light brown hair... freckles... skin tone is a light tan... and wearing, if I'm not mistaken, the sheet off your bed." she turned to Twilight. "It's either Applejack or Miss Cheerilee, and given the muscle definition... I'm going to guess it's Cheerilee!"
Twilight blinked, incredulously. "What? How did you...?"
Rarity laughed lightly, a sound that tinkled like silver bells. "Well, it's not that difficult, darling. A human from Johnathon's world would no doubt be dressed in their own clothing... and of course you have mentioned your practice with transformational magics in detail, so I had to assume you'd transformed one of our friends. Now, of all our friends, I rather doubt Rainbow Dash would agree to change to a form without wings. Fluttershy might agree to such a thing, but she'd be much more nervous... Pinkie would be bouncing around a lot more... which leaves Applejack and Cheerilee." She smiled. "And, if it was Applejack, I'd expect her human form to be a bit more... muscular." she nodded at Cheerilee apologetically. "No offense meant, dear,. you have gotten quite trim with all your running, but our dear Applejack has more of an... athletic build."
The fashionista gazed down at Cheerilee, then beamed. "And obviously, you've come to me because you have nothing to wear!" she winked. "Don't worry, my dear, we'll have you looking absolutely fabulous in no time!"
Cheerilee smiled up at Rarity gratefully. "Oh... thank you, Rarity. I'd really appreciate it." she blushed. "I... I'd like to make a good impression when Johnathon sees me like this for the first time."
Rarity positively quivered with excitement. "Oh my! I thought it might be something along those lines." she winked. "Not to worry, I'll whip you up something simply marvelous!" she frowned. "Oh dear... this may be tricky. I really have no idea what Johnathon likes...."
Cheerilee looked surprised. "But... you made nearly all of his clothing? Surely you must have some idea."
Rarity looked thoughtful. "Some... yes. I know what he likes to wear himself... but I rather expect that, like it is with us, human males and females tend toward different sorts of fashions."
Cheerilee hesitated. "So... what should we do?"
Rarity wrinkled her nose. "Can you stand upright, Cheerilee? Let me get a good look at you."
Cheerilee grimaced, then rolled over onto her hands and knees, and started trying to stand. "Give me... just... a... oof!" She got her legs tangled in Twilight's bed sheet, and collapsed to the floor again.
Rarity sniffed. "Well, that's obviously too much material, you can hardly move in it!"
Twilight's horn lit up. "Wait, wait... let me help." she levitated Cheerilee into the air, holding her upright with her magic, her feet just off the ground but still tangled in the sheet, obviously dangling several feet farther than where the woman's toes ended.
Rarity sighed. "Well, I can't do anything will all this material..." her horn flared, and the bedspread unwrapped itself and came away from Cheerilee's body to fold and drape itself on a windowsill, leaving the woman nude. "There... that's better, now I can see properly." she levitated a tape measure from a drawer and started taking measurements.
Twilight slowly lowered Cheerilee till she was on her feet again, and held her steady with her magic while she walked up closer so that Cheerilee could hold on to her back again. "I think you're going to need to practice walking for a bit." Twilight commented wryly. "You're not going to be able to hold on to me all the time."
Cheerilee sighed. "Maybe Johnathon will be willing to hold me up for awhile?"
Rarity smiled. "Oh, I dare say, if he's half the gentlecolt I take him for. I'm sure he'd be honored." she took a few more measurements, then looked thoughtful. "So... the question is... what do we make for you? A shirt and pants like Johnathon wears? Maybe with a more... elegant cut?" she frowned. "What do human women wear, I wonder?" Rarity paused. "Perhaps if I was to ask Johnathon a few leading questions?"
Cheerilee was looking slightly upset. "Oh... I would love to make a good first impression... but I... I want to see him as soon as I can. Maybe... you could make your best guess?"
Rarity grimaced. "A lady does not guess if she can avoid it." she sighed. "Well, what do we know about human customs?"
Twilight hesitated. "Well, they wear clothing all the time... except for... er... bathing, and sleeping, and er...." she blushed. "Physical interaction with the er... opposite sex."
Rarity blinked, then shook her head as if trying to think. "Hmm. Well, Johnathon wears more clothing when it's cold, and less when it's warm. He tends to bare his arms in warm weather."
"He sometimes takes off his shirt when he's hot." Cheerilee mentioned. "But never his pants."
Twilight frowned. "He made sure to cover my mammaries when I was human... he wrapped my blanket just under my arms... I had the feeling he had done it before."
Rarity smiled. "Well then... that's something. Pants are obviously important." she turned toward her supply closet, her horn glowing, and a large piece of fabric floated out. "Let's start there, and work our way up!"
As Rarity got to work, Twilight turned to Cheerilee. "Why don't I help you practice walking while Rarity works?"
Cheerilee nodded quickly, looking anxious. "Yes...." she shivered. "Just... please hurry. I need to see him... soon."
Before long, Rarity had finished a pair of pants in Cheerilee's size, and adjusted them to fit. "Hmm... perhaps a bit of a flare at the bottom? Something subtle?" she glanced up at Cheerilee's uncovered chest. "Hmm... those do stand out quite a bit... are they characteristic of all human females, I wonder?"
Twilight nodded. "My mammaries were quite large as well when I turned myself human. I think that's a characteristic of humans."
Rarity nodded slowly, thinking aloud. "Alright then, the question is, to minimize, or emphasize them?"
Twilight looked thoughtful. "Well, if she was wearing something baggy, like a sweater, she'd look a lot like Johnathon... only not as tall."
Rarity blinked. "No, no, that won't do at all, she mustn't look like a male!" she nodded. "Yes... we really should emphasize the female characteristics...." she levitated a piece of fabric, wrapping it around Cheerilee's chest under her arms. "How about this?" she glanced at Twilight. "You said that Johnathon put your blanket around your chest like this when you were human?"
Twilight nodded. "Yes... that's right. I wondered why he didn't just drape the blanket over my shoulders... but I realized if he did that, I wouldn't be able to move my arms."
Rarity wrinkled her nose. "Hmm... well, bare arms seem to be acceptable in human culture... so bare shoulders shouldn't be TOO daring..." she smiled. "Perhaps just a little bit daring? It is Hearts and Hooves day, after all." the fashionista nodded. "Let's go with that then." She pulled the fabric away and brought out her tape measure again. "I believe I have an idea!" After several more minutes, Rarity, working with her usual speed and skill finished the top, and helped Cheerilee dress.
"There now..." Rarity said with a smile, then frowned. "What am I missing?" she blinked. "Oh! Of course, footwear!"
Cheerilee was practically bouncing from foot to foot now. "I don't think shoes are that important..." she protested, then frowned. "Johnathon usually takes off his shoes after he gets home... but he does always wear them outside...."
Rarity smiled softly. "I know you're anxious to see him, but don't worry, this won't take a moment." she went back into her workroom and went through a drawer, bringing out a pattern. "Ah... here we go. I took a pattern of Johnathon's shoes a few months ago when I made him those work boots. I should be able to manage something simple for you...." she levitated the pattern over to Cheerilee, then frowned. "Why don't you sit down for a moment, dear... so I can measure your feet." Cheerilee nodded, and Twilight helped her get into a sitting position.
Rarity levitated her pattern over to one of Cheerilee's feet, and frowned. "Oh dear... this is a rather complex pattern, isn't it. And your feet are quite a bit smaller...." she took a deep breath. "No matter, no matter, I will manage. Perhaps something simple? Slippers, perhaps?"
Cheerilee forced herself to stay put while Rarity worked on a simple pair of slippers for her, but Twilight could tell she was getting nervous.
"What's the matter, Cheerilee?" Twilight asked the woman with a gentle smile, trying to project calmness and serenity. "I'm sure Johnathon will love the way you look...."
Cheerilee shivered. "I just... I ran away from him so abruptly... I need to see him... let him know how I feel." she sucked in a deep breath. "I... don't want to let Hearts and Hooves day go by without telling him."
Rarity's brow was furrowed, and she was visibly sweating, and her horn glowed even brighter as she listened to Cheerilee and Twilight. "I won't let you down, Cheerilee, don't you worry."
Rarity produced a pair of slippers that she was satisfied with after another ten minutes. "I'm so sorry it took so long..." she apologized. "But I've never been very good with footwear, I'm afraid."
"They're lovely." Twilight said soothingly. "You look great, Cheerilee." she reassured the human woman. At the least, Twilight thought, Cheerilee didn't look any odder than Johnathon himself did... and the colors were nice. The clothing seemed to fit her well enough, and without Johnathon himself to tell them, she couldn't begin to guess if they'd done a proper job of it.
Cheerilee simply nodded, still looking anxious. "Could... could you help me find Johnathon now?"
Twilight smiled. "Of course. Let's go look for him." she helped Cheerilee up until the woman could put her hands on her back and hold her up. They made their way slowly to the door of the Boutique that way, and Twilight frowned. "Maybe I should carry you? It's going to take a while getting around like this."
Cheerilee hesitated, then nodded. "Could you?"
Twilight nodded. "Sure... go ahead and get on my back."
Cheerilee tried climbing on top of Twilight awkwardly, and Twilight turned her head and helped her with her telekinesis to find a comfortable position. "Just... hold on to my neck if you feel like you're going to fall off." Twilight walked out the door with Cheerilee perched on her back, feeling just a bit silly... and more than a little overburdened. Cheerilee was lighter as a human than she had been as a pony, but not much. She was still quite a bit heavier than Spike. Still, they could move faster this way.
Johnathon finished reading the section of the book detailing the love potion for what had to be the tenth time. "So... to break the spell... all we need to do is make sure Big Mac doesn't find Cheerilee... and Cheerilee doesn't find me... for... an hour?" he frowned. "Well, I can hide in here till then... but what about Big Mac?"
Applebloom looked worried. "He could be anywhere by now!"
Johnathon sighed. "You're going to have to find him... and make sure he doesn't find Cheerilee till the hour is up, alright?" he frowned. "I'll come looking for you in.. forty minutes or so, I guess. At the least, if I stay out of sight, the spell should be broken on Cheerilee, right?"
Applebloom nodded. "Alright. I'll go find my big brother, and you stay hidden!" she raced out of the clubhouse, and Johnathon sat heavily against one wall with a sigh.
"Sheesh." he shook his head wearily. "A love potion? Really? Every time I think I can't be surprised again...."
Rarity followed Twilight and Cheerilee out into the center of town, walking side by side with Twilight and glancing around curiously as if looking for the man, but also enjoying the attention.
And there was plenty of that. As they moved through town, ponies stopped whatever they were doing and stared at the human sitting on Twilight's back. Aside from a few loving couples, too busy staring into each others eyes to look up, most every pony they passed stared at them in fascinated curiosity.
Nevertheless, Ponyville was a peaceful town, and Twilight, and to a lesser extent, Rarity, were well known and trusted. If they were with the stranger, no pony felt the need to panic. Most were polite enough not to bug them, although, only moments after they passed Sugar Cube Corner, Pinkie Pie burst out of the shop and rushed over to them.
"Hey! Who's this! Wait, let me guess!" Pinkie wracked her brains. "It's a human!" she grinned. "It's nice to meet you! I'm Pinkie Pie! Are you new in town, or are you some pony who Twilight just turned into a human? Is that it? Oh, I bet it is! Let me guess who you are, don't tell me! I know, Lyra, right? Or Bon Bon, because she wants to surprise Lyra... or wait, you're Cheerilee!"
Twilight grinned at her precocious friend. "Got it on the third try, Pinkie. How did you guess?"
Pinkie looked thoughtful. "Well, Big Mac is running around everywhere looking for her, but he can't find her anywhere... so if he's looking everywhere and can't find her, she must be in disguise, and what better disguise could there be then being a whole different species!"
Twilight frowned. "Pinkie... that doesn't even make any sense. If Cheerilee was just trying to hide, she's just... I don't know... hide someplace."
Pinkie blinked. "Well... I guess, but you know, Cheerilee isn't very good at hiding, are you Miss Cheerilee?"
Cheerilee hesitated. "Well... I suppose not," she chewed on her lip. "Pinkie... do you know where Johnathon might be? We're looking for him."
Pinkie looked thoughtful. "He's usually at your house at this time of day, Cheerilee. I haven't seen him today," she quirked her head. "Did you want to show him your new human disguise?"
"It's not a disguise, Pinkie," Twilight explained patiently. "Cheerilee asked me to turn her human because...." she hesitated. "Er... because...."
"Because she's in love with Mister Dwire, of course," Rarity said with a fond smile. "And what a romantic gesture it is, don't you think?"
Pinkie beamed. "Oh... that is really romantic! Can I plan the wedding reception? Those are parties that you have after weddings! They're super fun, with dancing, and cake... and pretty dresses... just like a regular party, really, only super special because it's celebrating a wedding, which is extra special all by itself!"
Off in the distance, they heard a faint yell. "Cheerilee, where are you?!?" Big Mac's voice was starting to sound a bit rough, as if he had been calling for quite some time, and as he called again and again, it became obvious he was coming their way.
Cheerilee looked panicked. "Twilight... he can't find me. I need to find Johnathon first!"
Twilight hesitated. "I... I don't think I'm up to teleporting again, Cheerilee... we'll just have to run for it."
Rarity frowned. "What is this? Why is Big Mac looking for you, Cheerilee?" her eyes widened. "Oh my... is it... a love triangle? Oh my! How delicious! The poor dear must be trying to confess his love to you... while you search for Johnathon to confess your love to him! Oh... how utterly perfect!"
Twilight started moving toward a side road, Rarity and Pinkie Pie following along, when Applebloom came running by from a different direction, heading towards the sound of Big Mac's shouting. As she went by, she did a double take at the sight of the human on Twilight's back, and ran a few more steps before stopping and running toward them instead.
"Miss Cheerilee?" Applebloom guessed. "Is that you?"
Twilight blinked. "How come everyone seems to know that this is Cheerilee?"
Applebloom hesitated. "Well, Cheerilee is in love with Johnathon right now... and all of a sudden I see another human...." she looked at Cheerilee hard. "You're a human now, right?" Cheerilee nodded, her eyes going wide, and Applebloom continued. "So I guessed."
Cheerilee nearly fell off of Twilight in her haste to get to Applebloom. "Applebloom... sweetie? Do you... do you know where Johnathon is? I need to find him."
Applebloom hesitated. "Er... maybe? I er... I guess I could lead you to him... but... I got to talk to Twilight real quick... private like."
Cheerilee was down on her knees, and she hugged Applebloom hard to her chest. "Oh... yes! Please, take me to him! Hurry please!"
Applebloom hesitated, then turned to Pinkie and Rarity. "This is going to sound strange... but... could you get Miss Cheerilee out of here... we don't want Big Mac to see her, OK? I'll meet you at... at Twilight's library in five minutes, I just have to talk to miss Twilight a second, OK?"
Rarity's eyes narrowed. "This has something to do with the Crusaders, doesn't it..." she began suspiciously.
Pinkie Pie just grinned, and wedged her head under Cheerilee's middle, and tossed her lightly onto her back. "Hide and seek! Got it! We'll sneak Cheerilee to the library, lickity split, Applebloom!" Rarity frowned, but followed Pinkie and the anxious looking Cheerilee away.
Twilight turned to Applebloom with a frown the moment the others were around the corner and out of sight. "OK, what's REALLY going on, Applebloom?" she asked suspiciously.
Applebloom hesitated. "Well... I do know where Johnathon is, but Miss Cheerilee can't see him for another... um... half an hour or so... and we can't let Big Mac see her either!"
Twilight blinked. "Why? What's so important about them not seeing each other...." her eyes went wide. "Wait a minute... Big Mac and Cheerilee are both suddenly crazy in love... and the potion described in the book I lent you has only one antidote..."
Applebloom winced. "Er... yeah. That."
Twilight's eyes went wide, and she gave a horrified gasp. "Oh no! I changed her into a human because she said she was in love with Johnathon! I don't know how to reverse it! She might be stuck like that forever!" she started running in small circles around Applebloom. "What will happen with the potion wears off? She'll hate me! She'll tell Princess Celestia! Princess Celestia will banish me!" Twilight grimaced. "Ack! I have to figure out the counter spell in the next thirty minutes or Princess Celestia will banish me!"
With a bright flash, Twilight Sparkle vanished from the alleyway, leaving Applebloom standing there blinking. "What just happened?" she asked the empty air.
"Cheerilee!" Big Mac's voice was getting closer, and Applebloom hesitated only a moment before heading toward the sound. She found her brother in moments, rushing through the streets frantically and calling for Cheerilee, and looked around for the other Crusaders. She soon spotted them shadowing her big brother from a distance, and she snuck back to them to bring them up to date.
"So... all we have to do is keep Big Mac from finding Cheerilee, and keep Cheerilee from finding Big Mac for... what... twenty more minutes?" Sweetie Bell said with a relieved look on her face. "Is that all?"
Applebloom winced. "Well, it might be nice if we could keep my brother from making a fool of himself at the same time..."
Scootaloo grimaced. "Tell me about it! Everypony is looking at him like he's crazy...."
Applebloom sighed. "I'll take care of my big brother, I guess... you go and check on Miss Cheerilee. She should be in the library with Rarity and Pinkie Pie. And... er... she's kind of gotten herself turned into a human in the mean time."
Sweetie Bell blinked. "She did what?"
Applebloom shook her head. "We'll talk about it later... just... keep her from going to our club house, whatever you do. Johnathon's hiding out there."
Scootaloo saluted. "Got it!" she turned to Sweetie Bell. "Come on, let's go check on Miss Cheerilee."
Applebloom watched them go, then turned to look for her brother. In the time it had taken to brief her friends, he had gotten out of sight, but she could hear him calling in the distance. "Alright...." she said with a grimace. "Better get this over with."
Applebloom raced toward the sound of her big brother's anguished calls, wincing as she ran. "I'm going to get in so much trouble after this!" she moaned under her breath as she ran. She reached him quickly, and stopped in front of him. "Er... hey big brother... I guess you're looking for Miss Cheerilee?"
Big Mac whirled on her, a crazed look in his eyes as he nodded wordlessly.
"Well..." Applebloom lied with a wince. "I think I know where she is. Just follow me, and I'll take you to her, OK?"
Big Mac nodded firmly. "Eeyup!"
Rarity opened the door to the library for Pinkie, who carried Cheerilee inside, where they found a tired, frazzled looking Twilight surrounded by books, reading them at a feverish pace, and muttering something about not wanting to be banished under her breath. Pinkie dropped Cheerilee off by the window, and hopped away and out of the library, saying something about getting a party ready.
Less than a minute later, Sweetie Bell and Scootaloo came bursting into the library, only to stop and stare at their transformed teacher, who was nervously sitting in the corner.
Cheerilee spotted them, and bit her lip. "Have you seen Johnathon? Or Applebloom? She's supposed to show me where he is!" she explained anxiously.
"Um..." Sweetie Bell rolled her eyes, trying to think of a workable lie. "Um... Applebloom... um... went to get Johnathon, and bring him here! She'll be back real soon!"
Cheerilee nodded nervously at this, and looked a bit less worried, although she still couldn't seem to keep still, fretting endlessly. Rarity, however, was not fooled.
She walked up to her sister, opened the front door to the library and nodded to the door, giving a sharp look to her younger sister. "We'll just be outside for a moment, waiting for Johnathon!" she said with a fake smile, then she sharply jabbed her head at the doorway, glaring at her younger sister again.
When they were both outside, and the door was closed, she turned her glare up a few notches. "OK, young lady... what's going on? I know when you're up to something."
Sweetie Bell hesitated. "Er... it's really complicated."
Rarity frowned darkly. "Well, uncomplicate it for me."
Sweetie Bell sighed and started telling her older sister the story.
Applebloom was panting, having led her big brother halfway around the city before he finally came to a stop, looking confused.
"What's goin' on?" he asked his youngest sibling in confusion, then winced. "And why do I feel like I've gotten bucked in the side, and then gone running for an hour?" He coughed, looking more confused. "And why is my throat sore?"
Cheerilee's reaction was different. She went from looking out the library window anxiously, to looking confused, to looking at herself, and then straight to screaming in panic and falling over.
"Cheerilee!" Rarity cried in concern. "Cheerilee, are you alright?"
Cheerilee was breathing hard, lying on her back, and staring from her hands to her chest over and over again, although she had managed to stop screaming. "I'm... not quite sure. Why does it look like I've been transformed into a... female human?"
Pinkie Pie burst back into the library, looking around curiously. "Why is there screaming? Is it good screaming or bad screaming?"
Twilight Sparkle winced. She hadn't managed to figure out a proper counterspell yet, but there was nothing to do but admit the truth, and face her punishment.
"It was our fault." Sweetie Bell said before Twilight could speak up. "We... kinda fed you and Big Mac a... tiny bit of love potion... and you both kind of went... a bit nutty."
Cheerilee blinked. "A... love potion?" she frowned in confusion. "Er... that doesn't explain why I'm... human...." her face cleared up. "Wait... don't tell me. Johnathon happened to walk by right after I drank it, didn't he?" It wasn't really a question, but Scootaloo and Sweetie Bell both nodded. "And I fell in love with him," they nodded again and Cheerilee turned to a very guilty looking Twilight. "And I came to you and begged you to change me into a human?"
Twilight grimaced. "I'm so sorry, Cheerilee, I should have figured that you weren't yourself... I mean, I was the one who gave them that book with the love potion in it in the first place! I wasn't thinking... you just... you seemed so sincere... and you begged me...."
Cheerilee sighed. "That's alright, Twilight, you meant well. It's no big deal, right? It'll wear off in half a day or so, won't it?"
Twilight winced. "Er... no. You asked me to use my permanent transformation spell. It's not going to wear off... period."
Cheerilee paled. "It's not?"
Twilight shook her head, looking very embarrassed. "I... I haven't figured out the counterspell yet. Since I cast it on myself the last time, to turn into... er..." she glanced at the two crusaders and changed what she was going to say. "Since I cast it the last time, I have a better idea about how it works... but I haven't done very much research on it since then... except to make sure I could replicate it when I need it. Which I can," she shrugged helplessly. "But the part of the spell that makes it so I can only cast it on ponies? I haven't cracked that part... yet," Twilight hung her head. "I'll keep working on it! I promise! I'm sure I can figure it out!"
Cheerilee nodded, taking a long, deep breath. "I believe you. It's alright. There are worse things that could happen to a pony," she carefully sat up, and looked down at herself. "Where did these clothes come from?"
Rarity waved at her. "That was me, dear."
Cheerilee glanced at the clothes again, then back at Rarity. "How long was I... er... under the love spell?"
"Just about an hour, apparently." Rarity explained.
"An hour?" Cheerilee blinked in astonishment, then down at the clothes. "Wow." she looked up at Rarity. "You're very fast!"
The fashionista smiled modestly. "It was nothing, truly. A pleasure. I just hope Johnathon likes them. I was trying to design to suit his tastes, and I really know so little about human culture."
Cheerilee looked at her with a flat expression. "You were trying to make me look good for Johnathon?" she said with a frown. "Oh great. How many ponies think I'm madly in love with him by now?"
Pinkie tried and failed to look innocent. "Er... it depends?"
Cheerilee winced. "Oh no."
Pinkie shrugged sheepishly. "It depends on how many ponies in town have opened their mail yet? There are really too many ponies in town for me to hoof deliver the party invitations to... so I made a quick stop at the post office."
Cheerilee put a hand to her head tiredly. "Naturally."
Pinkie and Rarity had headed for the post office, hoping to head off the party invitations, and Twilight had gone back to her research, looking overtired, but determined. A half hour passed, while Cheerilee attempted to practice walking by using the library's walls and shelves to hold onto for balance, and Sweetie Bell and Scootaloo sat quietly in a corner. Their silence was reinforced by occasional angry looks from their humanized teacher.
There was a knock at the door, and Johnathon Dwire walked into the library, followed closely by Applebloom and Big Mac. He stopped halfway through the door, causing the big stallion to run into him from behind.
"What in the...?" The archeologist stared at the young human woman on the other side of the room in astonishment. "I... damn," He shook his head. "Applebloom told me... but..." he shook his head again, as if trying to clear it. "Damn." He took a few steps toward her, one hand coming up as if to touch her, although he was still a dozen feet away. "Wow...." he finally said. "I'm... wow, I'm really sorry this happened, but... you look great," he blushed slightly. "I mean...." he shrugged. "Well, you do. You look great," he walked the rest of the way over to her, and put a hand on her arm. "I'm really sorry, Cheerilee. If I knew you were planning on doing this, I'd have stopped you."
Cheerilee shook her head, smiling slightly. "It's fine, Johnathon. I'm already starting to get used to this... body, and I'm sure Twilight will figure out a counter spell eventually," she shrugged, acting nonchalant. "There's no rush. It's not like I'm in pain. I won't have any trouble doing my job like this either. It'll be... strange for awhile, but...." she smiled. "I might not have asked for this... I probably wouldn't have, in fact, but... how many ponies get the chance to spend some time as an entirely different species? It actually might be fun, don't you think?" she winked at him. "I'm glad you think I look good though. I'll tell Rarity that she got the clothes right."
Johnathon glanced down at her clothing, and blushed again, just slightly. "Er... yeah. You should do that," He waved a hand at the tunic style tube top she was wearing. It was cinched in at the waist, almost like a short dress, and it accented her curves nicely. "I don't remember telling Rarity about anything like this... but I like it."
Cheerilee touched her bare shoulders nervously. "Am I wearing enough? I think Rarity was trying to make me look... er... a bit provocative... er... since it's hearts and hooves day, and she thought I was trying to get you interested in me."
Johnathon chuckled. "Well, if that was her intent, she did a great job."
Cheerilee blushed. "Oh... I thought it might be a bit too much... or rather, too little."
He shook his head. "No... it's really fine. You could walk down the main street in any major city in America and no one would look twice," he chuckled. "Well, they'd look, I suppose, because you're quite attractive, but not because you're inappropriately dressed," Johnathon looked thoughtful. "You'll want a light sweater... or a shawl or something to put over your shoulders when it gets colder later tonight... but you look fine," he sighed. "You look great."
Cheerilee's face fell slightly. "Johnathon... I...."
He shook his head. "Hey... don't worry about it." he looked away, his shoulders going tense, then he took a deep breath and looked at her again. "So, it looks like you're trying to learn how to walk... need any help?" Big Mac wandered over, looking at Cheerilee curiously.
The big stallion finally gave her a wry grin. "Guess I've been running all over town making a fool out of myself."
Cheerilee frowned. "Oh dear. What happened?"
Big Mac rolled his eyes. "Apparently I've been running all over looking for ya... yelling your name at the top of my lungs."
Cheerilee winced. "Oh dear. I'm so sorry, Big Mac."
He turned to glare at his younger sister. "Not your fault," he turned back to her. "Somewhere along the way, somepony gave me a bit of a kick in the ribs too, I think... but I'll be alright, I expect." He frowned at Cheerilee. "You sure you going to be alright?"
Cheerilee nodded slowly. "Oh, I'll be fine Big Mac. It'll be an interesting experience, being a human, but I'll survive," she frowned at the Crusaders, who were now all huddled in the corner of the Library, looking miserable.
"Now what are we supposed to do with you?" she said, looking cross. She glanced at Big Mac. "Well now... since Big Mac got injured thanks to your love potion, how about you three do all of his chores to make up for it!"
"For a week," Johnathon said in annoyance. "And since you got Cheerilee to turn herself into a human, how about you help her out after school every day for the next week as well, with all the cleaning and such," he glanced at Big Mac, then Cheerilee. "Does that sound fair to you two?"
Big Mac nodded. "Eeyup."
Cheerilee nodded in agreement. "It's settled then. Do you three have anything to say for yourselves?"
Sweetie Bell looked at the others, then stepped forward slowly. "It was wrong of us to give you a love potion," she began.
"Because it's not right to try and get two ponies to fall in love," Applebloom agreed.
"No pony else should decide who another pony's special somepony should be," Scootaloo finished.
"We're sorry!" they said together.
"Alright then," Cheerilee said with a small smile. "You should go get started on Big Mac's chores now, and I'll be seeing you after school every day as well, alright?"
The three fillies nodded quickly. "Yes Miss Cheerilee!" they headed out the door together, and turned toward Sweet Apple Acres.
Rarity came back into the library, shaking her head. "I swear, that mail mare is a lot faster than she looks!" she complained. "And quite stubborn. I'm afraid those party invitations will be going out after all."
Pinkie came in a minute later, panting. "She... gave me... the slip...." the pink party mare said with a gasp. "Who knew Ditzy Doo could fly so well?"
Cheerilee sighed. "So... what exactly is on these party invitations?"
Pinkie looked thoughtful. "It's supposed to be a surprise party at Sugar Cube Corner to celebrate our first human couple on Hearts and Hooves day?" she explained.
Cheerilee sighed, then brightened slightly. "Oh well. I suppose we can take the opportunity to explain what really happened to everypony. There's bound to be a lot of speculation about why I'm a human... as soon as everypony figures that out, anyway. And we can explain about Big Mac as well..."
Big Mac groaned. "Eynope," he decided. "If it's all the same to you, I'll be skipping this particular party. Ya'll mind explaining without me?"
Johnathon sighed, then nodded. "Yeah... no problem, Big Mac." he said finally. "If I could, I'd skip it as well."
Cheerilee raised an eyebrow. "And you can't?"
He shrugged. "Well, you're probably going to need some... being human lessons for the next few days, and I can't just leave you to explain all on your own," he put an arm around behind her back. "Want to practice walking a bit? I'll make sure and keep you from falling."
She put her own arm around behind his back, and grabbed onto his belt. "Isn't this going to be a little weird for you?"
Johnathon nodded. "Yeah... but I'll deal with it."
Cheerilee hesitated. "I mean... the whole thing... me being a human female... living in the same house as you, and all that." she frowned. "Ponies might talk. I mean... when we were different species, that was one thing, but we're the same species now, and we live together...."
Johnathon nodded. "Their will probably be talk," he glanced at her. "Is that a problem? I could move out... just till you get switched back, at least."
Cheerilee hesitated. "It might bother me... but I don't want you to have to move out. I like having you around," she frowned. "Is it going to bother you?"
Johnathon nodded again. "A little... not necessarily in a bad way. I'm an adult, I'll deal with it."
"We'll deal with it together." Cheerilee said softly.
Johnathon nodded firmly, grinning back. "Eeyup."