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A Twist in the Tail
An MLP:FiM fanfiction by Midnight Shadow, set in the Conversion Bureau Alternate Universe, originally by Blaze
Note: This happens more or less concurrently with "Mixed Signals".
The second day of the tropical storm was building to a crescendo, driving more cooling rains to wash the small island. Out to sea, thunder rolled and lightning flashed in a pyrotechnic display to rival anything produced Earthside. Pegasi, out of reach of the weather itself, flitted about to direct the show. This was a storm, but this was also one of the biggest events of the year, better than a movie, more powerful than a play, this was the raw energies of nature harnessed and then set loose. It was, as they say, a dark and stormy night.
Summer cuddled up closer with Vertigo. They’d chosen to watch the display from out on the beach, near a roaring fire. The rain was warm, the fire warmer. They were both soaking wet and would probably have the sniffles the next day, but it was worth it for some more time alone. Besides, thought Summer, I’m still feeling frisky. She turned, and nipped her stallion on the cheek. He whickered, folding his ears back and mock-snarling. They fought like that for a moment, until getting decidedly more physical. The nipping turned to snorting and whinnying and finally to rolling around and biting. After a few more minutes of that, Vertigo somehow ended up on top. Right where she’d wanted him all along. The lime green stallion claimed his prize, moving closer still, their motion rivalling the waves for ferocity and urgency until it peaked and, as all storms do, broke.
They rested in the afterglow, their features lit alternately by the flashing of lightning and the wavering flames of the beach-fire. Summer looked at her stallion tenderly, drinking in his form. “We should get married, you know.” Summer said, yawning.
“We are married, love.”
“No, I mean... well, you know, a proper ceremony.”
“Newfoals put a lot of stock in this marriage thing, don’t they?” Vertigo put his wing over his mare's back, drawing her closer and keeping her warm.
“Some do. I... never really cared, before. Maybe becoming a mare has changed me in more ways than just the one.”
Vertigo looked up at the sky, thoughtfully. His mate was strange, even for a newfoal, but he loved her so. “What is this ceremony about? What makes it such a big deal?”
“It's for the families, really. We exchange vows and make promises and... well, some feel a blessing from a priest is necessary. You don’t seem to have those here.”
Vertigo shook his head, “I read about them though. Humans have these... princes and princesses that made everything, like some say Celestia and Luna did, only nopony can agree which one it really was. And they don’t know where they live and they can’t go and talk to them. They don’t seem to do very much, but still there are a lot of humans who seem to do a lot of talking for them and to them. I don’t really understand it.”
“To tell you the truth, neither do I, love.”
“Do... do you want one of those?”
Summer looked down at her hooves, thoughtfully, “No, things like that are best left to humans. It would feel wrong, here. You know who made Equestria, and she doesn’t have any priests. I don’t think she likes them very much.”
Vertigo laughed, “Celestia and Luna didn’t create Equestria. We have our own legends about that, but no, there are no priests - only those who take her words on Friendship to heart and seek to spread that magic as far and wide as they can.”
“You, dearest, and me.”
“Then, can we marry?”
“I thought I told you we already were!”
Summer laughed and head-butted her lover, “I mean even by old Earth standards, we’re all kind of... priests. Ugh, I don’t think I like that idea, but what I mean is...”
“We take marriage more personally here in Equestria, love, but I think a gathering would be just perfect. Besides, it means more presents.”
“Oh you beast!”
Summer rolled away, hopped up nimbly onto her legs and wriggled her behind, flicking her tail. She looked back over her shoulder at Vertigo and grinned. He, for his part, got up and gave her a few choice nips on her haunches. It would be a long night.
Alice woke up. Her head was spinning, like she was at sea in a storm. She wondered, briefly, if that’s where she was. As her vision cleared somewhat and her memory sheepishly returned, it appeared that she wasn’t at sea, and was instead in a low-slung bed. A bed with at least one other occupant, a pony who was nuzzling the back of her neck and chewing softly, in just the right way to cause a delicious tingle to run all the way down her back to the base of her tail.
“What the hell, Alice?” she mumbled to herself, “Since when do you just jump in the sack with the first pony to cross your path?” She closed her eyes again and groaned. Tidbits of information came flooding back, something about sunlight and an estrus cycle... “Oh fuck. Is this going to happen every time I go sunbathing?”
“Mmm, Princess, last night was wonderful. I would that every night could be like that.”
Alice groaned. It figured he’d be the one without a hangover.
It had started innocently enough, but then these things usually did. The rains had come, the much needed and pre-ordered rainfall brought by the sky caravan, with a storm for good measure and as added entertainment. The sky caravan traded weather for food, carrying it to those distant parts of Equestria without its own weather service. The islanders lived a simple life, even for Equestrians - they farmed, they schooled their young, but they cared little for the trappings of civilisation. They were, for wont of a better word, in the tropics and didn’t have winter very often, only when desired. Their huts were sturdy and well-constructed, but wouldn’t be very comfortable in sub-zero temperatures. It was a good thing, then, that snow was very rare, and only delivered to order on special occasions.
Cocoa Butter had explained this as the rain had come lashing down. They didn’t even sleep inside when the weather was nice, which was most of the time. Life was one big party, and didn’t show many signs of changing. She’d asked how come a handsome stallion like him had what amounted to a batchelor’s pad, didn’t he have a girlfriend?
Cocoa Butter had grinned in that cheeky way of his that the status of stallion or marefriends were between two or more ponies that really loved each other, that night. They didn’t marry much in his village, they dallied. Love and loving was a village affair, with the whole village taking a part in the raising of whatever foals were generated by whatever unions. Cocoa Butter said he thought he had a few foals, two or three, each by a different mother. He wasn’t really sure, he didn’t mind. They sometimes had parties, he explained, on the beach in midsummer. When several stallions or mares felt especially frisky, they’d take their drums to the sands and start playing. Sometimes it would be small, but sometimes the drums would sound for miles around, and the ponies would come, be they earth or unicorn or pegasi, and unions would be had and dissolved that night as each saw fit. The drums brought new blood in, and some also left the following morning, never to return. Such was the way of things. One day, he felt sure, he would leave, but not yet.
“Teach me how to drum.” Alice had said, during the second day of the storm, “Show me.”
He’d shown her, and she’d clumsily copied. It had, she remarked to herself, been like that old movie she’d seen, the flatscreener that had eventually be tri-converted, with the clay-making scene, and every bit as erotic as she'd hoped. Cocoa Butter had somehow seated himself behind her, they’d adopted the most un-ponylike sitting position she’d ever heard of, and he’d started drumming a rhythm. When she had it down, he’d shown her the dance. It didn’t really have many actual steps, it was all animal movement and emotion. She’d joined in, the drums forgotten. Somewhere along the way he’d found something they called simply ‘punch’, and the rest of the evening had gone by in a blur. Somewhere along the line the dance had taken the only logical course. This was terrible, she wasn’t really ready to become a mom.
Worse, she had no idea where her kids were. In a village which didn’t really understand the idea of wait until you’re older.
Summer woke up, mostly because Vertigo was snoring in her ear, but also because of a curious noise... It reminded her of trains, how when the horn blows from far off the sound would sort of bunch up and rise from almost nothing to a defeaning roar, before fading away again once the vehicle had passed. This was similar, but rather than a single long note, it sounded like swearing.
Definitely swearing. In Ameringlish to boot...
Summer watched bemused as Alice ran past at a dead gallop. She turned her head and looked back up the hill. One of the villagers, looking slightly dishevelled and more than slightly put out, came galloping after her.
“Trish! Liz! LIZ! TRISH!”
Summer watched, dreadfully amused, as Alice barged into and literally through various huts until she found her adopted offspring, one at a time. Various shrieks of hither-to manly stallions could clearly be heard and no less than five stallions were sent packing, two taking to the skies, two heading into the dense jungle that surrounded the collection of huts, bars and makeshift hotels that was generally held as being the village proper, and at least one stallion leaped off a small cliff and swam for his life.
Summer watched him clamber onto one of the boats out in the harbour and peek a head very carefully above the guard-rails. Were all these ponies crazy, she wondered?
Her rhetorical question was answered when, with a screech, Vertigo was woken up by a suspiciously low-flying cloud bearing Deborah and Zephyr. The latter had positioned the cloud, as quietly as possible, and then stamped his hooves smartly. A huge bolt of lightning had split the air to slam into the ground next to the now wide-awake Vertigo. As the rumble of thunder died away, the raucous laughter of the two delinquent pegasi upon the cloud could be heard. Summer shook her head, Vertigo looked very silly, and very cute. His fur was all puffed out, his mane and tail on end and he was bouncing on the very tips of his hooves. Then he looked up at the two faces peeking over the edge of the small black cumulo nimbus.
The laughter stopped.
"Zephyr! Deborah! That's it! Get back here! I'm going to pluck your feathers out!"
Summer just rolled her eyes and shook her head as three shapes went pinwheeling through the early morning sky.
Just another day in paradise.
The storm broke. The arguments had stopped, too. Good food will do that. Summer languished with Vertigo in an otherwise empty hut that they'd borrowed for the night. The owner of the hut had apparently fled into the jungle and wasn't expected back for a few days. Summer couldn't understand why of course - what ever sort of happenstance could cause that?
She and Vertigo had laughed about it, but Vertigo had remarked on Alice's continued strange behaviour since. She'd dragged her two remaining girls with her to the hut and had turfed Cocoa Butter out. The poor stallion had sat outside mooning over her all afternoon. Inside, Alice could be heard muttering and scribbling things down on pieces of parchment - the local trees were great for raw materials - and growling at any stallions who got too close.
The biggest surprise of the day had been the morning return of the Sea Pony's Fancy, with not only a revitalized and shockingly talkative Nurse Bronze, but a new passenger - one Grey Bolt, previously known as Thomas, otherwise known as 'Debby's brother Tommy'.
"Do you think... Bronze and Bolt..?" Vertigo asked, pausing in a nibble of Summer's mane.
"What, Tommy and that nurse? Naa, Bolt's not gay, anypony could see that."
"Well... I kinda fell for you."
"Yeah, but you thought I was a mare."
"I wasn't. I mean I was. Then I wasn't. Then I was again... if I hadn't, could you and me..?"
Vertigo stopped chewing again, "I... don't know. I suppose if you'd..."
"Well, sometimes a stallion will... uh... kinda stop being..."
"Really? You mean they get rid of-"
"Would you have wanted me to..?"
"No! Yes, I mean, uh... it might have... umm."
"Pointe Vertigo! Shame on you!"
Vertigo hung his head, "I love you. I loved you first, then found out you hadn't always been... I mean you hadn't even always been a pony, so I guess sex was less of an issue than species. I had a lot of time to think, but I guess I didn't do enough of it. I was... willing to change for you. Willing to, uh, get rid of my own for you, I guess, kinda."
"I guess that'll have to do." Summer's expression was full of worry, "I didn't intend to have things move so fast, and it's a bit late to back out."
Vertigo's ears pricked up, "You know, that's it? I said to myself it's too late to back out. I loved you, as a pony, and it would've worked out, even without your little potion. It would have been harder, love, to accept myself and you. I'm glad we live in such a world full of wonder, though kinda sad that I had any second thoughts about giving myself to you..."
"I told you then, silly-feathers, that I'd do anything for you. I took that potion, with no regrets. If you tell me you'd have done the same, or that we'd have gotten by without it, eventually, then that's all there is to it." Summer turned her head around and kissed her stallion, long and hard, "Besides, it's not like I was drunk-"
The wooden door to the hut flew open, and a wild-eyed Bolt pranced in, "Quick! You gotta help me! It's Bronze!"
"What's wrong? Is he hurt?"
"No, he loves me!"
"Congra-" started Vertigo, but Summer put a hoof across his lips.
"Not gay, remember?"
"Oh horseapples. We'd better go find him."
"You just gotta help me, guys," Bolt said, "he kissed me, I told him I'm straight, he ran off... I don't want to lose him! As a friend, I mean... I just don't... I like mares, he apparently likes stallions, you gotta help me find him! He ran off, I couldn't follow him fast enough. He could be hurt or, or worse!"
Pointe Vertigo pushed past both Bolt and Summer, "You two search by land, maybe get some more help, I'll search by air, it'll be a lot quicker."
“There you are!” Vertigo yelled, as he spied the aptly-named Bronze on the beach. The unicorn stallion staggered and wobbled, eyes poorly focused, he was mumbling and shouting things. Vertigo landed, “You have any idea how long we’ve been searching for you? Grey came running to us soon after you had your argument or whatever. Said he was worried sick about you!”
“You lie!” Bronze cried, dropping his empty bottle. “He wouldn’t worry 'bout me! Lies...”
“Oh come now, you know I’m not lying. Now come on. Let’s get you back.You can settle this with him directly-” Vertigo began, but Bronze merely staggered away from him.
Vertigo followed. His attempts at calming things didn't seem to help. It was amazing, really, that Bronze could get quite that drunk - then again, he'd recently become acquianted with moonshine as the newfoals often called it, and he knew natural-born Equestrians had a sore weakness for the stuff. “Why... Why don’t we tackle all this after a good nights sleep eh?” Vertigo said, hoping it’d get the unicorn to follow him to a hut.
“Y-You think that’ll help?” Bronze asked
“Oh sure! A good night’s sleep? Why that helps anypony out. Why I remember this one time Summer had a stomach ache-” Vertigo began.
“Summer?” Bronze repeated as he began to shuffle his way toward Vertigo.
“Yeah Summer. She’s out looking for you as well you know. Why don’t we go show her you’re okay?”
“Y-yeah...” Bronze slurred.
Vertigo let out a small sigh of relief as the steaming unicorn started to follow him home.
“Summer was a colt once...” Bronze said suddenly.
Vertigo was cautious, but nodded, “Y-Yeah. She was. Funny that right?” Just keep walking there Bronze. Just keep walking...
“Did she... did she do it for you?”
Vertigo shook his head, “No, she did it for herself. I’d never have made her do it for me.”
“You love Summer as a mare right?”
“I love Summer, period. Regardless of what she is.” Vertigo replied matter of factly, "I mean... I was prepared to..."
“I bet... I bet Grey would like me if I was a mare...”
“Who knows pal. Not like you can find out. What happened with Summer was kind of a complicated matter. You’d have to ha-”
Vertigo spun around, but it was entirely too late. The small bottle was already dropping to the sands, the stopper long gone, the potion inside gurgling down into the unicorn's belly. It was quick, far quicker than ponification was supposed to be. Ponification potion took minutes. This potion took seconds.
Bronze's eyes opened, and the room swam into view. Headache, check. Dim recollections of the previous night, check. Current precise location unknown, check.
"Ohh my head..."
"Mmm? Oh, Bronze, sweetie? You may... you may want to take things-"
Bronze got up out of bed and promptly fell onto the floor, head swimming.
"My head... never again, by Celestia's bushy blue beard, never again. Summer? Where am I? What happened? I mean I got drunk, I remember that... I got drunk because... oh no, oh no... please tell me I didn't. I didn't did I? I didn't kiss Grey Bolt?"
"You did, honey, I'm sorry. That's kinda why you went and got drunk... and that's not all."
"What? What else? Did I break something? Don't say I yelled at somepony or broke something or threw up or something stupid like that? I don't think I threw up... can't taste... ugh, my muzzle is dry, my teeth are all grindy, my breath is... phew, worse... but I just seem to have a slight case of amnesia and the mother of all headaches. You say you humans get drunk like this often?"
Summer just sat there, in front of the door, silently and waiting.
"Honey, what exactly do you remember about last night?"
"Oh, horseapples. Not much... I already told you I kissed Bolt, okay? I was stupid. Stupid, stupid-"
"And then I got drunk, went for a walk on the beach..."
"And... Vertigo found me. I didn't yell at Vertigo, did I?"
Summer giggled, shaking her head, "No, or at least if you did he's not told me. You really don't remember?"
"What? Luna's mane, spit it out!"
"Can you sit down?"
"Oh Celestia, I-"
Bronze did so.
"You remember what you took from me yesterday?"
A small vial, the stopper falling to the sands, seemingly in slow motion. The strange liquid, tasting faintly of cherries-
"Oh... oh no."
"Yeah. Shall we go tell Debs her potential sister-in-law is awake?"