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By Conner Cogwork
Twilight and her five friends are transported during a botched spell, across dimensions to... Ponyville, Equestria? But not the same one that they knew. Sitting on a bench is Harpsy and Babar. The Doctoress avoids apples from an aspiring Applebuck. And in a library across town, six stallions join their forces as they try to decipher the appearance of filly look-alikes of themselves around Ponyville!
Image credit to KtKat! Thanks SO much!
Across the Horizon
"Y'mind tellin' me what this's all 'bout?" Applejack questioned, as he looked around the library walls and its piled tomes of knowledge.
"Beats me." Spines replied. "I woke up this morning to find Dusk gone. That alone worries me, he's not usually up until way later. Then, I find a note from him. It said to bring you guys all together. Sorry about the early wake-up call, but he said it was urgent."
"Oh my~" Elusive stated. "If it's managed to get our librarian friend out of bed at such early hours, then it MUST have been important!"
Butterscotch pawed at the floor, looking around uneasily. "I... I wonder what it could have been? Oh I do hope it involves Angela. I've been worried sick since she went missing yesterday..."
"Don't worry guys." Rainbow Blitz assured, hovering on his back. "I've got a few ideas on what it could be..."
The farmer rolled his eyes. "Blitz, ah shore dun hope you're gonna say what ah think you're 'bout t' say..."
"Bliiiitz..." the white stallion added, cocking an eyebrow. "You're not going to talk about our 'doubles' again, are you?"
"You've all met them." the pegasus retorted, righting himself in the air. "At least two of you have gotten crushes on them. I'm kinda sorry I missed out on seeing Berry's double though, that would have been fun to see."
"It WAS fun!" Berry cheered, bouncing in place. "We had a good time together! We WERE gonna throw a party, but then Cousin JayJay ran away with Pinkie Pie and then Dusk said no."
The remaining colts all shivered at the thought. "Ugh... two Berry Bubbles. I can still see it." the unicorn stuttered. "They bounced right in front of me on their way to the bakery!"
"Ah-HAH!!" Blitz shouted as he zoomed and pointed a hoof at Elusive's face. "So you DO believe!"
A snort and a polite shove out of personal space. "Rainbow Blitz, please. While it was... unsettling, there's still no reason to believe that Ponyville has been invaded by opposite-gendered versions of our very own-"
It was right then that Berry's eyes shot open wide, as his hind legs kicked out. They all stared at him, as he proceeded to spasm right in front of their eyes. Hindleg spin. Foreleg spin. And then finally, a violent full-body tornado. The display was enough to make Butterscotch cower behind Applejack's flank.
At last, the party pony's motions came to a halt, body descending lightly to the floor. He stared blankly into space for a second, before leaping into the air and splitting it with a squeal of "She's HERE!! She'shereshe'shereshe'shere~!"
Before Applejack could open his mouth to ask the question on everyone's mind, the library's door swung open. Stepping into the threshold came the familiar form of Dusk Shine.
"Dusk!" the suitmaker changed his own question. "Where have you been? What exactly is this all..."
Any further words that he had, died on his lips as a SECOND Dusk Shine followed him into the room. The only differences between this one and the original being a delicate snout and the presence of additional curves. She was unmistakably a young mare.
As was the orange hat-bearing cowpony that came in right behind, who was also followed by a cyan, rainbow-maned filly. The males all continued to gape as a yellow pegasus followed close behind, their eyes especially going wide at the sight of a glamorous white unicorn. And heading up the rear, to eliminate any remaining doubt in their minds, was a bouncing, perky, pink pony.
Said pony was the first to speak as her blue eyes took in the room, resting them on a familiar face. "Berry Bubble!" she called out, breaking away from her group and leaping towards the colts.
"Pinkie Pie!" the aforementioned equine replied, jumping to his own hooves and bouncing forward. The pair met half-way in the middle, simply bouncing around in circles for the sheer fun of it, chanting "You're here!" over and over again.
Blitz broke his eyes from the scene to focus on his librarian friend. "Dusk... you DID it! You caught our weird doubles! I KNEW you could do it!"
"Hey!" came a brash, femme voice. The blue stallion suddenly found his face full of vibrant mane as his own doppelganger zoomed up to him. "He didn't 'Capture' us! We came WILLINGLY!"
Now face-to-rosy-eyed face with his female alter-ego once again, he had to pause to fight down the lump in his stomach, before rounding about on her. "Oh yeah? I bet he made all you an offer you couldn't refuse, eh, Filly-Faker?"
There was a honk as a pair of blue noses were squashed together. "Oh yeah? I didn't see YOU coming up with any brilliant options, Colt-Crudder!"
Oh, NOW he was mad. His nostrils flared as he pressed his head against hers. "COLT-CRUDDER?! That sounds a bit TOO close to Colt-Cuddler if you ask me!"
She pressed back against him with equal force, wings beating rapidly, rainbow-hued manes becoming tousled as they all but wrestled. "Whaddya think 'Filly-Faker' sounds like to ME?!"
They then both yiped in unison, as they were yanked to the ground by their tails, a pair of southern voices admonishing them. "Dash/Blitz! Stop harassin' th' man/lady, it tain't proper!"
The two country horses looked up from their friends at the same time, and caught each other's faces. An awkward silence descended between them, as green eyes went wide.
She gave him a sad smile, as she shook her head. "Ah'm sorry cousin. Mah name tain't JayJay... and it tain't Jonica Johnagold either..."
The orange stallion felt his knees grow weak as he took in her form for real this time. Unadorned. Plainspoken. And so very similar to himself. He spied the hat upon her head. An eerily familiar hat. "Cousin... where'd you get that?"
She took her hat off, and held it in her hooves. "Mah... mah pappy gave me this hat. When he did, he told me... 'AJ, fer as long 'as you wear that hat... th' farm b'longs t' you. Make them apples grow big 'n strong, sugarcube..."
Tears were gathering in her eyes. Ones that reflected his own as he recalled the exact same speech. "You... yer not just mah cousin, are yah?..." he stammered. "Ah didn't want t' b'lieve it... but Dusk was right, wasn't he?..."
The blonde mare tossed the hat back onto her head, before reaching a hoof up to wipe at a tear. "No... ah'm not just yer cousin. You already know what mah name is, ah bet. But you know... ah'm still an Apple. Ah'm still family. Even in this world... Ah'm still Applejack."
In the background of this exchange, a yellow filly scampered from her place in line, towards a certain pegasus. His face lit up as he saw her, and the little rabbit running by her side.
"Butterscotch!" Fluttershy exclaimed, diving right at him with a shameless nuzzle. "Oh, I'm so sorry about making you wait so long!"
"I-it's okay." he assured, though he showed no signs of backing down from her affection. Indeed, he appeared to be attempting to return it. "I'm just glad to know that you're alright. I must admit, I'm... I'm rather confused about everything going on here..."
"Ooh," the female pony found herself blushing. "Well, um... I may have... gotten you into trouble earlier. You see, um, when we first came here, I... I had to pretend to be you."
Eyes widened. "You did? But you don't really sound like me..."
"Well, when you *ahack* pretend to be *ahack* coughing, it becomes a bit more believable..."
"Ooooooooh..." Butterscotch slowly nodded. "So that’s why Dusk came to my place, thinking I was sick."
Before the two could say anything else, there was a thumping on the floor between them. The butter colt's attention was swiftly directed downwards to an impatient-looking white lapine. "Oh! Angela Bunny! I'm so glad to see you're alright! What happened?"
"We did." came the reply from his female counterpart. She rubbed a hoof in embarrassment. "Twilight didn't want us found, so when Angela found us, we had... we had to... lock her up..."
At this, his face took on an expression of outright surprise. He looked back down at the rabbit again, and softly asked "Did they treat you okay, Angela?"
To both ponies' surprise, the little rodent leaned over to Fluttershy and hugged her hoof, before returning a smile and nod to the pink-maned male.
Towards the edge of the library floor, near the stairs, Elusive merely watched the ensuing interactions with a slack jaw. Two Applejacks. Two Dusks. Two RAINBOWS. It was all so much for the stallion to take in! For a second he thought to pinch himself to double-check and make sure if he was awake or-
He was startled out of his stupor by that voice. That WONDERFUL voice. He looked off to the side, and found nopony else standing there, but the beautiful mare who had visited his shop those short few days ago, her sapphire eyes staring into his soul with an inquisitive look. And, he noted, a lip set in trepidation.
"Rarity..." he breathed. "All... all of this... are you..." he bit his own lip. "Are you... really?"
The white mare bowed her head down with a look of shame, before turning her torso slightly to the side. "You... you did say you wanted to see my real cutie-mark someday, didn't you?..."
Gracing those curved buttocks, was a familiar trio of gems that he easily recognized as his own cutie-mark. This was the genuine article. He nodded his head before opening his mouth again.
"So it's true then. It all makes sense now, how you knew of my shame at the Gala. How you knew that those carrots were Silver's favorite. How you knew how to cook the perfect Broccoli Almondine..."
She looked back up and nodded. "Yes Elusive, it is true. I know not if you'll accept me for who I am, or if you will never wish to see me again... but even then, know this truth for what it is. For I... am YOU!"
Hearing her actually SAY it was enough to set him on his haunches. "Oh Rarity! Then why?! Why visit me, when you knew that the same blood runs through our veins?! While I must admit that the whole thing is rather kinky, now that I think about it, STILL! Were you merely attempting to play with my heart, as so many mares have tried before?"
The unicorn held a hoof to her chest as she gasped. "No, Elusive! I was... DRAWN to you. Even from our hiding place in the Everfree forest, I could feel the tugs of your presence in my heart!" She dared to take a few steps closer to the stallion, her eyes pleading and open. "Know that, though I had kept my identity hidden from you, the passion that I felt for you within my heart of hearts was nothing but true and genuine! I never meant harm for you! Indeed, if not for my own sister... if I didn't have Sweetie Belle waiting for me in my world... I would gladly stay with you by your side, forever!"
He stared at her, eyes brimming with unshed tears. "Oh, my Lady Rarity... you truly mean every word, don't you?"
"I do!" she squeaked, "Oh Elusive, I truly do!"
"Oh... oh RARITY!"
There was a scrambling of hooves, as the two white ponies suddenly became entangled with one another, hugging and kissing each other once more, tears of joy being shed by both parties.
From a distance, another pair of unicorns watched the scene. Twilight found herself tearing up, as the dressmakers continued their affectionate display.
"Well?' Dusk asked, watching the scene with a smile on his own mouth. "Good idea, or bad idea?"
"Good idea." she replied, before letting herself lean up against him. "I'm sorry again for doubting you. It's a bad habit of mine to second-guess myself."
He chuckled. "Why sis, I'm shocked. And here I thought only I did that."
The both of them turned at that voice, glancing down. Spines was standing at their feet, her eyes glancing back and forth from her adoptive brother, to the lavender mare who looked just like him. "Wow..." she breathed. "You two really are... wow. I'm... I'm not sure I... am I still asleep?" She took a moment to pinch her tail, yipe, and then look back at Dusk and Twilight. "Huh. Guess not."
"Spines." the stallion began, before placing a hoof on his double's shoulder. "This is Twilight Sparkle. She's... well, she's me. She's my female alter-ego from that parallel dimension to ours. Twilight, this is Spines. You... you already know." he gave a chuckle.
She gave him a nod, before lowering her head. "It's nice to finally meet you, Spines. I would say that you remind me of a certain someone, but at this point, it's rather cliche." She held out a hoof for a shake, which was nervously accepted.
"I... I hope that's a good thing." the dragoness replied, before taking another look around at all the ponies conversing in the library proper. "Not to ruin the mood or anything... but I've read about this in some of those Nann-gas Scooteroll lets me borrow. Shouldn't there be lots of... exploding, right about now?"
They laughed and chuckled at that for a few seconds, before looking at their friends again. Rarity and Elusive continued to hold and cuddle each other, while Fluttershy slowly and patiently explained to Butterscotch what had happened. The Apple farmers had managed to strike up a steady, if uneasy dialogue between themselves, while Pinkie and Berry leapt around the room, cheerfulness unabated.
And on top of one shelf, a blue filly pegasus sat, studiously ignoring the rainbow-maned stallion on the other side of the room, though the both of them kept trading looks and glares back and forth between each other.
"Those two were the only ones I was really worried about." the male magician admitted, looking over at Rainbow Blitz. "The ones with the uncompromising egos... They probably won't be able to stay in the same room for too long without getting into a fight of some sort."
The filly let out a breath, before nodding. "Then let's go ahead and get this over with." she stated, her horn lighting up and levitating a white vase out of her saddlebag. "I'm ready when you are, brother."
He nodded, before turning his eyes back to the restive, uneasy scene. "Let's hope that they’ll be ready too."
"So... Applebloom, eh?"
The magicians had gone upstairs to perform fine-tuning of the spell. There was nothing left to do but wait. And talk.
Each double had paired off with themselves, with the exception of the two speedster pegusai. The two fashionistas had not separated once, the both of them still holding hooves, even as they proceeded into small-talk. Pinkie and Berry had found and dug out an old game called Twister, and had managed to talk their animal-loving friends and the one lone dragoness into playing with them. This left the two orange equines on the sidelines, sitting next to each other, as they tried to sort out the conflicted feelings amongst themselves.
"Yeah, that's right." the female Applejack replied to her male half's question. "When ah first saw Applebuck, ah done near had a heart-attack. It t'were just so... weird, seeing mah li'l sister as a colt. Ah dun think Rarity had it any better 'n me, but still. An' then ah... well..." here, she bowed her head down a few inches, as she recalled the first day in this dimension. "When we all first arrived here, ah had thought t' mahself, ah'd best not get attached t' anypony over here on this side... but then yer brother comes 'long, and th' next thing ah know, ah'm thinkin' o' him th' same as Applebloom back home. He's not mah sister... but he's so much like her..."
"... An' ah guess mah bein' suspicious didn't help matters none, did it?" the stallion added, a sheepish look on his face.
She waved a foreleg in reply. "Dun worry 'bout that none, AJ. We both know ah would'a done th' exact same thing, were th' horseshoe on th' other hoof."
He was slow to nod back, the gears in his head obviously churning. "Yeah... y’all're prob'ly right. Just... just thinkin' 'bout it is givin' me a headache."
"We tain't exactly thinkers, are we?" the mare gave a dry chuckle. "We tend t' feel things out first, you 'n me. Not like Big Macintosh an' his fancy mathematics."
Ears instantly perked up. "Big Macin-?... oh, oh, I see. He's your big brother, ain't he? Red Gala's double. Ah... ah have t' admit, ah'm havin’ a hard time imaginin' her as a stallion..."
"Well, if it helps y'all any, ah cain't rightly picture 'im as a mare mahself." she assured. "Though if y' really want a comparison, look in a mirror an' imagine yerself red wit' short hair. Say..." the filly lifted her head to look in her double's face. "Does Red Gala happen t' look like me, any at all?"
The male farmer tilted his hat back, as he inspected his female reflection. "Hmmm... ah can see th' resemblance. Save she wears 'er hair loose all th' time... an’, well, she's a good bit taller."
Applejack nodded back. "Makes sense. Ah can only guess she's every bit 'a good at buckin' dem trees as y’all are, eh?"
"Oh yeah. Ah do as much as ah can, but sometimes ah wonder if Red Gala don't carry half th' farm on her back... heh." He then faced her with an apologetic look. "If y' fell intah our world 'bout five days ago... then y’all got some buckin' t'do when y’all get back. Ah'm awful sorry 'bout that."
HAS it been 5 days? It feels like it's been longer. the apple mare pondered to herself. "Neh... tain't nothin' ah haven’t done b'fore. Hey, least it's been an adventure an’ a half."
"That also reminds me... Ah done apologized fer bein' rude at th' market place, but ah haven’t said sorry fer chasin' you n' Miss Pie yet. So... sorry fer scarin' y’alls tails off."
She gave him a warm smile. "Ti's prolly a bit late fer th' scarin' part... but ah fergive yah, sugarcube."
He nodded back to her, before they both lapsed into a silence. From a corner, Butterscotch tripped trying to put a forehoof on a green spot, resulting in him falling on top of Pinkie Pie, who reacted with a giggle. The laughter filled the library, easing the overall mood somewhat.
"Say..." the orange stallion began again. "How much did our world scare you? Ah don't think Ah'd've handled it very well mahself..."
The green-eyed female tilted her head as she thought. "... well, at first? Yeah, t'was freaky as all git-out. But now that we've been here a while... ah kin' see it's just like any other ol' place y' would travel to. It tain't bad. Just... different."
"Yeah..." he nodded, before turning his head to focus on something else. "Real... different..."
For a second, Applejack was confused by the shift in tone in her other half's voice. But that didn't last long, as she moved her head to the side and found the object of his focus. The sight gave her a smile.
"Say... we know we're both feelin' types, right?"
"Uh-huh?" Male AJ replied, not looking back.
"So tell me... is it a pitterpat fer you, or is it more a thumpa-thud?"
That caused a reaction, as he suddenly turned away from staring at Rainbow Dash, a thick blush on his snout. "Uhm.. er, uh..."
She gave the colt a smile before blushing herself and turning to look at the other pegasus on the far side of the room. Apparently having made up her mind, she got to all four feet and stretched before whispering in his own ear.
"Ah dunno how long'll take fer them t' get the spell goin'. Now's as good a time as any. Her name's Dash. G'luck!"
There was a scramble of hooves as the draft horse shook his head, turning to see his filly-self trotting away to meet with his pegasus friend.
"Hmmm... do you think this strip here would look too gaudy?"
"Let me see... ah, I can see why you would think that. Just make it a bit thinner, that should do the job."
"Riiii-tiiiyyyy.... aha! Correct as usual, my sweet! Oh, this will undoubtedly be the crux of our lines, love! I have SO much to thank destiny for, these past few days!~"
Rarity allowed her smile to widen as she leaned into her masculine self. It was amazing how much could be accomplished within a short amount of time. Whatever reservations the pair had about their true identities initially, they had been swiftly put to rest. The couple had more important things to take care of, such as an impromptu interdimensional Co-venture between the two clotheshorses, one that was bound to make quite a mark on BOTH their worlds.
"Such exquisite work~" she crooned, taking a look at the sketch between her own hooves. "And just think. Once we've returned, it's almost guaranteed that any modifications that I make to any of these, you'll also be making!"
Elusive turned to her and flashed that charming grin. "You know what they say, my love. Great minds, think alike!"
She giggled at this, before leaning in and planting a kiss under his chin. "Never before has it been more true~!"
They shared yet another intimate moment between each other, putting their eventual separation far from their minds. There were no words, simply snuggling and cuddling. And drawing.
At length, the stallion finally spoke. "So... Sweetie Belle, was it? Tell me... what's she like?"
At the name, the mare found her heart tightening. "She's... she's... well, you should know how it is. She's precious, and I could never trade her for anything in the world. Sure, she can be... clumsy, and annoying, and over-energetic..."
"Especially when her friends are around, right?"
"Oh most definitely. They're all such darlings, even when I can't wait to get them out of my mane. Still. I don't think I've ever... spent as long a time away from my sister as I have, these past few days..." she directed her eyes downward towards her hooves, as she sighed wistfully.
The white colt leaned in to nuzzle her cheek. "You must miss her terribly. I can only imagine what it would be like, to be separated from Silver for so long..."
"I do... I really do..." she sighed, nuzzling back. "I can't wait to see her again... but it's balanced out with how much I wish to remain by your side... How can I choose, Elusive? How can I choose between you... and her?"
There was a bout of silence between them, before it was finally broken by his voice.
"Choose her." he said, tilting her head up to look into his eyes. "Though I equally wish for us to remain together forever... I've even considered asking Dusk if I could be in on your 'return trip'... I realize that there's no way I could leave Silver Bell on his lonesome. Not willingly at least." He gave her an imploring look, gazing into her deep blue orbs. "Only promise me, even if you meet another stallion of your dreams in your world... you won't ever forget me. Will you?"
The unicorn felt fresh tears spring to her eyes as she realized that he was resigning himself to their fate. Something that she had yet to do herself. Even though his words rang true, she was still reluctant to admit that, despite how perfectly matched the two of them were, it could never truly work.
Her horn lit, and her saddlebag opened up, a pair of the rubies she had packed coming out into the open. She sat one in front of Elusive, before directing her eyes towards the gemstone in front of her. Her expression narrowed in concentration as her horn began to glow brighter. A sparking began to come off her jewel, a carving slowly making its appearance.
The stallion saw what she was doing, and instantly turned to his own ruby, his own magic going into effect. The pair remained silent in their tasks, gemstones flickering as their surfaces were etched, sparks flying every now and then. At long last, they finished, holding up their works for each other to admire.
The male had carved his name and signature eye into his. Rarity, with hers, had also signed her gem with a stylized flourish.
They looked at each other, and their horns briefly flared as holds were exchanged. The mare took her lover's gem, and placed it back in her bag, while the colt stowed hers away into his tail.
"I'll never forget you." Rarity finally spoke, her voice heavy. "We'll never forget each other... will we, love?"
He shook his head, before leaning in once more to nuzzle with her. "No, my love... we'll never forget."
Drawings forgotten, the two white unicorns simply laid there, enjoying their last few moments of togetherness, for however long it would last.
"I still don't want to go..."
"I know, dear... I know..."
"I love you."
"I love you too."
The vase hummed with a steady glow, as a pair of magicians combined their forces to look into the voids unseen by mortal eyes. Though their eyes were closed, they still conversed, as their consciousnesses weaved around, studying and probing the dark-matter ball of yarn that made up what they knew now to be the multiverse.
“Y’ know…” Dusk stated, as he mentally prodded a dark purple coil. “I’m still a little bit perturbed that you took so long to come out. Who knows what we could’ve done while you were recovering your energy?”
Twilight felt her head bow, as she looked over another dimensional thread. “I know… Still, I wasn’t exactly eager to test out some of those interdimensional travel theories. Imagine if they had been correct? We’d all probably have been wiped from existence several times over by this point.”
The stallion chuckled uneasily. “You got me there. Still, my point stands. There’s a lot of stuff we could have accomplished together.”
She found herself mulling the words over. “Yeah, I know… we probably could have caught up on our studying in half the time, if we really worked at it.”
“Or have tried out a few of the lesser arcane spells.”
“Or have tried our hoof at painting? You know that’s always interested me.”
“Hehe, true. We could have painted each other!”
“Now that’s something the Princess would love to read about….”
A silence suddenly fell over the two. In the waking world, Twilight opened her eyes to gaze at her other half.
“What’s Solaris like?”
Dusk opened his own eyes, as he found himself smiling. “He’s… he’s an absolute inspiration to me. I… I’m not sure there’s much more that I could say, that you wouldn’t have to say about your own Princess Celestia…” he paused there, and his eyes seemed to widen, as a blush came across his face.
The purple filly couldn’t help but share his blush. “You’ve seemed to have come to the same realization I did… it seems weird, doesn’t it? To think of our mentors as opposite genders… and then realize that the love and respect that we give them, can so easily bloom into something more…”
“Perhaps…” he gave a nod before continuing. “Perhaps that tells us something about our own selves, doesn’t it?”
The silence from before washed over them again, and their horns ceased glowing. The vase stood inert, as they tried to marshal their thoughts.
“I’m going to miss you.”
The filly’s ears perked. “But… we’ve barely known each other for a few hours.”
“Does that really matter?” The colt gave her an imploring gaze. “You’re like the sister I never had. I’ve only just met you, and we’ve only barely gotten to know each other. And now, we’re working on getting you and your friends back home… we’re going to be separated again.”
Twilight worked her jaw, trying to think of something to say. Nothing was coming forth. He was right. They weren’t going to see each other again.
… and I don’t want that. she suddenly realized. I want to be with him now. I want to paint those paintings. Research those spells. SO many things I want to do with him… I miss Spike, but I’m also going to miss Dusk just as much…
“I’m… I’m sorry,” she stammered. “I-I didn’t think this through. But you’re right… we’re siblings now. And that’s just going to make this whole thing so much more… painful…”
Her eyes cast themselves to the floor, as the other unicorn fidgeted slightly in his seat. Uneasily, he got to his hooves and trotted over to her, looking at her face. When she looked back up to his, he sat himself and opened his arms wide… an invitation to a hug.
One that Twilight did not turn down.
They sat there for a minute or so in silence, listening to the hubbub coming up the stairs from below. Hooves wrapped around each other, they both shared their last few moments of siblinghood in peace.
“…hey.” The stallion suddenly let his ears perk up. “I’ve got an idea…”
The mare felt her own ears perk in curiosity at the words. “Oh? Let’s hear it.”
He bent down his head to whisper. Soon, the unease was dissipated, as a smile played over Twilight’s face at what she was hearing. I may not be with Dusk for much longer… but that may change, with time.
And that prospect, gave her hope.
Blitz had been in the process of dozing off, before the voice had interrupted that endeavor. Blinking, his rubbed his eyes and tried to focus. "Yeah? Who's there?"
"Down here, sugarcube."
The voice was southern, but it wasn't Applejack. At least, not the Applejack HE knew. He stuck his head over the bookshelf, and found himself face-to-face with the farmfilly. She was looking up at him with a kind and friendly smile... one that was familiar, but still wasn't quite the same, coming from a girl.
"Oh, um... hi." he replied. Not quite sure how to handle this. "Can... can I help you with anything?"
She kept staring, only blinking once or twice. "Actually hon, I was wonderin' if ah could do somethin' t' help you."
He stared at her. "What?"
"Ah mean, you're kinda off in th' corner all by yer lonesome. Y'coulda joined in on yer friend Berry's games, y'know. Twister's yer fave, ain't it?" The apple pony allowed a knowing expression to cross her face.
The pegasus found himself stuttering. "W-well, yeah, but... I just know that the instant I join in, SHE'S going to join in too. And I just..."
"Aww, c'mon, don't be like that!” The orange equine was giving him a pair of bright-eyes now. “If nothin' else, I could give y’all a bit o’ company."
Dammit, he thought to himself. Those have no right to look so cute on AJ's filly-faker.
"Look." Blitz began, his hooves coming up in a placating gesture. "Listen here, Miss... wait, your name's the same as AJ's, isn't it?"
"EeeeYep." she replied. "Y’all kin' call me JayJay though, if y'want."
"Fine, JayJay. I um... appreciate your concern. But I'm fine. Really. I'm just waiting for you all to... y'know, go back to wherever you guys came from."
At this, Applejack had to chuckle. "Really now? Then why're you hanging around? Nopony's stoppin' y’all from flyin' out 'n doin' that trainin'."
"It's because of her." He pointed a hoof over to the other side of the room, where his other half was currently undergoing a similar chat from his farmer friend. "If I let her out of my sight, who knows what she'll do? She might... I dunno, go out and do another Sonic Rainboom. And Ponies'll mistake her for ME. That ain't happening. Not on my watch." He finished this with a snort.
The blonde mare rolled her eyes, before looking back behind her. "Ah know she didn't exactly make a good first impression on y’all, but honestly. Ah'm a bit surprised y' haven't challenged Dash to a race yet. You'd think she'd be th' perfect challenge."
Now he found his ears perking up, despite his attempt at keeping an aloof attitude. "D... Dash?"
"Yeah, that's right." She turned to look back up at him. "Her name's Rainbow Dash. And you're Rainbow Blitz, am ah right?"
"Well... I won't say you're wrong..." The blue colt put a hoof to his chest. "I mean, besides... her... do you know of any other pegasus as quick, maneuverable and awesome as this one?"
She gave him a grin. "Or as inflated an ego an' as big a blowhard?"
That was pure Applejack. It just stunned him that it had come out of the mouth of a GIRL. He stared at her for a long few seconds as she smirked.
At length, he finally shook his head. "That was freaky. You sounded just like AJ."
"Well, ah kinda am him, sugarcube."
A groan. "What do you WANT from me?"
"Ah just wanted t' be neighborly." She offered a shrug. "Y’all looked like y'could use some company, an' ah thought Ah'd come on over ‘n say hi. Really Blitz, just cause Ah'm a girl, y'don't have t' lookit me like ah just stepped off th' moon. Ah'm still Applejack!"
No, you're not! he nearly bit out in reply. Instead, he drew in a breath, before composing and speaking his answer. "Sorry, miss. I know that, up here in the noggin, you're supposed to be him. But... well I just can't see it. I mean... for one, your eyes are big."
The farmer blinked. "Uhm... Well yeah, got me there..."
"And secondly you're... well, you're all... curvy."
She couldn't help but giggle at this, as she shyly swayed her flanks. "Why, thank'ya kindly, sugarcube."
"And finally, you're... well, you're SMALL. You look frail."
Her expression instantly shifted into a stern look. "Frail?! Ah'll show you who's a frail pony! You pegasai tain't made o' nothin' but twig-fer-bones all 'round! Git down here, y' featherduster, hoofwrasslin' time, now!"
He was quickly learning to associate this filly-faker's image with that of his friend. That outburst was pure concentrated Applejack right there, and he had already gotten to his feet, fully prepared to accept the challenge, when he suddenly remembered Oh yeah, this is a GIRL. WHY can't I keep that straight?
"Erhm... ah... sorry, 'JayJay'." he replied nervously. "Ah... I-I usually don't make it a point to hoof-wrestle mares..." His eyes darted nervously about the room, trying his best to focus on anything BUT her.
AJ merely raised an eyebrow. She took the moment of silence to look about the room herself, a small rabble from behind her grabbing her attention. Her eyes and ears alighted on another spectacle, and she couldn't help but grin as she gave her reply.
"Then wouldja mind tellin' me what Dash's doin' right now?"
Rainbow Blitz blinked, and then looked over to the other side of the room... where he saw his female self and his REAL farmer friend caught up in the midst of their own contest of wills, grins set tight as forelimb struggled against forelimb.
"Wouldja lookit that." the apple filly stated in that tone of voice she KNEW frustrated her blue companion usually. "Looks like Dash tain't afraid of lettin' a li'l ol' thing like gender git in th' way of a bit o' friendly competition. Ahh well, so much fer' y’all bein' equals." She then turned her body away from the bookshelf, as if to trot off. "If y’all really that insistin' on bein' alone, ah guess Ah'll just mosey on then. Sorry t've wasted yer-"
"Okay. Okay. Wait."
She hid a grin as she heard the ruffle of feathers, accompanied by the clop of hooves alighting on the floor. When she turned back around, the rainbow-maned male was standing behind her, his eyes steeled, his pose trying its best to project a full aura of confidence. He took a few steps forward, before sticking his snout in her face. "You and me. Hoofwrestling time. Now."
Applejack nodded back, scoring this small victory in her heart, as she tried to keep the pitty-pats from coloring her face. As they walked towards a nearby desk, she noted the stallion looking over towards the other wrestling pair. Both parties seemed to have tired themselves out and were resting... Dash in particular, seemed to be looking straight at her doppelganger. But not with an expression of frustration like before.
If anything, she seemed... thoughtful? Whatever it was, it mirrored the look on his own face.
"Got any aces?"
"Hmmm... nope! Go Graze!"
"Darn." Berry sighed, as he drew a card. "So close, and yet so far."
Fluttershy couldn't help but giggle, hiding a smile behind her hoof of cards. "That's how the story of our stay here has been so far!"
There was a shared chuckle all around the four seated ponies, plus one dragon. After having finally tired themselves on the multicolored mat, the Pink and Yellow pony group had moved onto something more sedate. Pinkie and Berry so VERY much wanted to hold a party, but they had been continually vetoed every time the suggestion was aired. So, Go Graze it was.
“Aw gals, I can’t say how much of a blast it’s been!” Spines cheered as she leaned up against Pinkie. “Nothing against Dusk or the rest of you guys, but it feels good t’ have a little girl time, y’know?”
Butterscotch smiled over at the scaled one. “It’s not a problem, Spines. You’re certainly not hearing me complaining!”
The balloon-marked filly snorted as she laughed. “I’m SO glad you’re having a good time, Spines-sy! Even if this isn’t a Pinkie-Berry Spectacular, if ponies are having fun, then that’s good enough for me!”
“You said it!” Berry bubbled, bouncing in place and yet managing to keep his cards firmly secured. “Hey, if we still have time, maybe we can get AJ and AJ to join in! Twice the number of ponies makes for twice the fun!”
“Oh yeah, why not? The more gals, the merrier! I mean, not that there aren’t… some complications…” Again, the dragoness’s green eyes flickered not for the first time over to the corner where two white unicorns chatted, a dark expression on her face. “But still! I wish you girls had come out sooner! Who knows what we could’ve done?”
The pegasus mare among followed her line of sight, before smiling softly. “Oh, I would have loved to have done that, believe me. Uhm… though I don’t know if you would-“
“Hey, I know!” Pinkie suddenly exclaimed. “If we ever come by here again, we should bring Spike with us! I bet he’d love a little ‘guy’ time himself!”
“Sp…Sp-Spike?” Spines stuttered, her reptilian brain already making the connections, and shutting down as a result.
“Yeah, Spike! Cutest little boy-dragon I ever saw! Well, he’s the ONLY little boy-dragon I’ve ever seen, but I think he’s still the cutest. We could bring him along and have the two of you meet and then maybe you won’t be so jealous of Rarity being with Mister Pony-who-looks-just-like-Rarity anymore! You two should have a lot of fun, eenie-meenie-speenie-Spinesie! Oh, that’s MUCH more fun to say than Spikey-wikey!” She gave another giggle, before returning her eyes to her cards.
There was no reply to that. The assistant’s face wore a completely blank expression, the only hint of cognitive function going on inside being the rapid widening and shrinking of her slitted pupils, as she attempted to process what exactly the pony was insinuating.
"Hmmm... Hey Berry, can I ask you a question?" the pink filly spoke up, eyes still riveted to her hoof.
"Sure thing Pinkie!" The male perked his head up. "I think carrots in fruit salad should make a nice touch."
"*giggle* Crazy Colt, I already found that out earlier this week. No, I wanna ask. Do you know Blues?"
His eyes lit up. "Oh, the jazz-mare? Of course! Oh, wait, well, I guess she'd be a he in your place."
"Yeah, he is... so." She looked up at her double, face unusually serious. "Do you think we should?"
Berry thought long and hard, before looking back at Pinkie. Finally, they both nodded at the same time. "Yeah. We should." he answered.
The yellow pegusai exchanged confused looks between each other. Pinkie simply smiled as she replied. "Okie Dokie Lokie. Hmmm... got any 3s?"
"O-oh dear." Butterscotch sighed, picking out three cards from his hoof. "And I was SO close to a full set."
"Awww, it's okay." the filly sitting next to him reached her head over and nuzzled him gently. "Not even Pinkie can win every time. O-oh, by the way, would any of you happen to have any Queens?"
Angela made a noise, as she stuck out a card from her own hand. Fluttershy took the queen with a smile and a ‘thank-you’.
“You know…” the male pegasus started. “I’m still… a bit shocked. You, and Pinkie Pie, and all your friends…” he raised his head and looked back at the remaining ponies in the room. “You’re all… us. Except as girls?”
He got a nod back. “That’s right, Butterscotch. It’s rather… strange, for me too I have to admit. But we never meant any harm, I promise!”
“O-oh, I believe you Fluttershy. Angela wouldn’t have… well, I suppose you would know… um, but still. You knew that I was you. And… and yet, you… like me?”
She returned his gaze, a blush going over her cheeks as she fidgeted with her cards. “Well… you liked me. I mean… now that you know who I am… do you still like me?”
Butterscotch opened his mouth to answer. “Fluttershy… I… uhm, what I mean to say is… how could… t-that is-“ He closed his mouth and stared into her aqua-green orbs, before simply nodding, a likewise redness going over his own features. Berry and Pinkie simply grinned from ear-to-ear while Spines suddenly snapped out of her trance, as they watched their friends begin to lean into each other, eyes slowly closing, lips puckering…
It was at that moment however that the library suddenly got very quiet, save for a pair of hoofsteps. Twilight and Dusk were descending the stairs.
The atmosphere changed. Gone was the moment of boredom and camaraderie, instantly replaced by a sense of excitement... and reluctance. Elusive and Rarity, who had so far kept to themselves, suddenly wrapped their hooves around each other again, as if the approaching unicorns were about to bodily rip them apart. Fluttershy, now knowing that the time was near, suddenly dropped all her cards and launched herself at her double, giving him affection that he was not likely to forget very soon.
Rainbow Dash glided towards her bookfilly friend, an air of indifference around her. "So? How'd it go?"
The lavender pony gave a smile. "I think we've nailed it. It was hard, but Dusk and I both managed to find our original dimension. Girls... we can finally head home."
That sealed the deal. All six fillies got to their hooves, before each one turned to their doubles.
Fluttershy blushed heavily as she disentangled herself from the yellow colt. "When Applejack gave me that message from you... did you really mean it?"
He nodded shyly, a blush of equal proportion to hers on his cheeks. "Y-yes... I did. I'll always think of you... Fluttershy."
"And... I'll always think of you too." She smiled back at him, before darting her mouth forward to steal one last kiss from his lips. While he was frozen in shock, she used the moment to turn and dash away.
Applejack watched her race past, before turning to her own stallion-self as he walked up to her. A sly smile spread across her face. "So? How'd it go?"
He returned her smile with a raised eyebrow. "She's every little bit like Blitz. Kept comin’ up in ties, neither one o’ us managed to out-wrestle th’ other. You?"
The farmer filly tilted her hat back. "'Bout th' same, unsurprisingly. Yer Blitz's as stubborn as they come. Ah think ah managed t' get him thinkin' though. Ah kin' only guess y’all did th' same?"
"EeeeYup. Though ah gotta admit, ah t'was not expectin' her t' be so cute when she t'were frustrated... ah, erm, ah mean.." his snout turned red as he ducked his head down at his slip.
Fortunately, he was with his own self, who simply chuckled as she blushed alongside him. "Neither was I, t' be honest. Glad we had this chance, aren't you?"
They stared at each other for a long while, before they both extended hooves and shook.
"Take care o' th' farm, Cousin." the mare spoke. "Raise Applebuck right. He needs his big brother, whether he says he do 'r not."
"You too, Cousin." the colt replied. "And don't fergit t' give Cousin Honeycrisp a call. Ah bet they'd like some company sometime." He tossed her a wink.
With a shared chuckle, and a tip of the hat, the applebuckers parted ways.
The pair of pink ponies stared at the farewells between their friends, before they faced each other. They then exchanged a series of complex hoof-maneuvers and body gestures that could have been translated into oaths in some arcane sign language or another. Towards the end, they crossed their hearts, flapped their forelimbs, and then each closed an eyelid as they stuck a hoof into it. Their farewell ritual ended with a clopping of hooves, and the exclamation "Until Next Time!"
With that, Pinkie Pie departed her colt self, bouncing to rejoin the rest of her friends.
She continued her humming, as she passed a scene of reluctant drama between two white unicorns. They were holding hooves... and it was obvious that neither one was willing to let go anytime soon.
"Oh Elusive... it looks like this is it!"
"Oh Rarity! I... I can only wish that this moment would never pass!"
"As do I! But... Sweetie Belle! Silver! We can't leave them be, can we?!"
"No... no we can't! Oh, the cruelty of obligations!"
"To have met, and then to never meet again!"
"To only know perfection in love for such a short time!"
The last word shared between them was not a word, but another kiss, the likes of which they'd never shared before. It was held to a depth so deep, it would have made bathyspheres implode, before they finally wrested themselves from each other. Rarity took to her hooves and galloped away, tears flowing, as Elusive distanced himself from her, lest his heart cause him to entangle with her once more, and prevent her reunion with her sister.
That just left Rainbow Blitz. The blue pegasus colt wound up joining the rest of the men along the walls of the library floor, eyes searching out and then trading yet another look with his female alter-ego. Dash looked back at him, face now sharing more surprising emotions with his own. Those of panic and regret.
Twilight's horn lit up, as she levitated an already-prepared vase into the middle of the floor. Dusk spoke to the group of mares. "I'll be assisting Twilight in making contact with your dimension. Once you all get started, I'll get out of the way, and you all will be on your own way home."
"Thanks, brother." the magician thanked her other self, before looking over her friend's faces, taking in the variety of expressions everypony was wearing. "Are you... all ready to go?"
Applejack bit her lip. "Twi... Ah... ah think ah'm ready."
From the dressmaker, a heavy dramatic sigh. "Oh... if we must, we must."
"Uhm... I'm ready to go, if you all are." their yellow friend chimed in.
"A party waits for nopony!" Pinkie cheered.
"Yeah... yeah, let's go ahead and blow this joint already." Dash finally added, trying to sound more indifferent than she actually felt.
There were nods all around, as they sat themselves down around the ritual machina. The blue pony found enough time to direct a glare at AJ and whisper "Your colt-self's got a crush on ME. Care to explain that?"
While the farmer filly whistled in innocence, Dusk and Twilight turned to each other, closed their eyes, and lit their horns in tandem. "We're going to find the thread first, before casting the spell proper." the lavender mare told her friends. "Just give us a second."
"I marked the thing with a harmonic tag." the stallion spoke to his other self. "Keep your eye open for anything orange."
The prepared vase was enveloped in a familiar light. All the ponies in the room, male and female alike, fidgeted. You could cut the tension with a knife.
"Okay." Twilight spoke, her eyes still closed. "I think we have it. Is this it?"
"Maybe." he replied. "Give me a second to get a good look at-"
Something DID begin to cut through the air. A low hum that steadily increased in frequency, from a tinny noise, to a very prominent buzzing sound.
"Oh no." Rarity's eyes grew wide as her ears perked. "Um... did anypony leave behind a note at the HEDGE before we left?"
"Oh! I did." Fluttershy replied. "I wrote 'Thank you Crusaders for your help. We couldn't have finished our mission without you."
"The Crusaders?" Spines stared from the sidelines with a shocked expression. "The Cutie Mark Crusaders? The same ones?"
"They HID you?!" Now Dusk had his eyes open, though his horn was still aglow. "I could've tracked down Applebuck or Scooteroll and ASKED them where you were, this whole time?!"
Twilight gave an apologetic grin, before her expression changed to one of joy, her inner eye spying the tag her other self had left. "I see it! This is the right one!"
"Quick, git 'er movin'!" Applejack spoke, raising her voice over the steadily increasing volume of buzz. "A'fore they get here ‘n see us!"
The unicorn nodded, and bent her head down. The glow of the vase began to extend outwards, and Dusk quickly got to his hooves, nuzzling Twilight and whispering ‘good luck!’ before he cantered away, leaving his sister's side as it enveloped all six females. The golden effluence began to intensify, the wind picking up around its edges...
And then the library door exploded OFF its hinges, as a scooter and wagon mowed down the offending obstacle in their path, before skidding to a stop. The three sets of eyes on-board the Crusader-mobile widened as they took in the sight in front of them. Six stallions. Six fillies. And a whole lot of glowin' and blowin' goin' on.
"Cousin JayJay?!" Applebuck cried out, spying the orange pony inside. He leapt out of the wagon and galloped as if to join her, but as he encountered the perimeter of the field, he bounced off. It had become solid, preventing anypony from leaving or entering. "COUSIN JAYJAY!!" he yelled, getting back onto his feet and pounding against the glow.
"Miss Rarity!" Silver yelled in turn, running up short of the field, even though his elder brother hurried in to pull him back. "MISS RARITY! BIG SISTER!!"
"Silver Bell!" Rarity called back, getting onto all four hooves as she fought back tears. "Silver! Elusive! Take good care of each other!!"
"Applebuck!!" Applejack herself cried out, locking eyes with her otherworldly sibling. "Ah'm sorry, but Ah've got t' go!"
"Go WHERE?!" he replied, his face bunching up in confusion. "Ah want'd y’all t' stay! Ah wanna git t' know you better! Ah wanna be FAMILY wit' you!"
"Ah'm so sorry!!" Her own eyes were tearing up as well, at the realization that she wasn't going to be seeing him again. "Ah'm SO sorry, sugarcube! Ah wanna be family wit' yah too! But Applebloom's waitin' for me! I can't... I can't leave..."
The field's glowing began in increase in magnitude. Unsecured papers began to flit about in the steadily encroaching winds, books flapping open and closed in the breeze. All the present ponies began to duck their heads down, shielding their eyes from the brewing maelstrom. As the farming stallion closed in to sweep up his younger brother, Scooteroll sat back, his purple eyes wide at taking in the scene.
Hey... I never noticed before... but that lady's got the same hat as Applejack! And that pink one... she looks just like Berry! And... And... Agent D... she really DOES look just like-!
The next thing that happened, NOPONY had been expecting. There was a whir of blue wings, before two pegusai suddenly appeared on opposite sides of the field, their faces wide and regretful, eyes hiding tears, rainbow-hued manes flapping in the wind.
“This isn’t over!” both Dash and Blitz yelled at the same time. “Don’t you even PRETEND this is over!”
“Y-you’ll see!” The filly stammered, hooves pressing into the field as she tried to touch her other self. “We both know who the best flier in Equestria is!”
“Don’t think for a SECOND that’s you!” the stallion boasted in frustration and false bravado. “Next time… Next time, I want a REAL race!”
“You-! You’re on! Maybe next time, you won’t be so slow to face me!”
“Oh yeah!? Well maybe YOU won’t be so stubborn when I kick your flank!”
“Hah! Well maybe YOU won’t wait till t-the last minute to tell me how you feel!”
"Is that so?!" Blitz shook his mane as he tried to shrug off the increasingly heavy weight of regret off his back. “How... how do you THINK I feel?!”
"I think you feel pretty LOUSY!" Dash bellowed back, her own face a picture of frustration. “You’re letting a pretty filly like me slip through your hooves!”
"Well maybe I AM! And I bet you feel the same way!" He looked up, and pressed his face as close as he could, rose irises locking with her own.
"So what if I do too?!” she pressed her face forward as well. She swore she could almost touch him. “J-jerk! You should’ve TOLD me sooner!”
Tears finally escaped from their eyes as Blitz yelled at the top of his lungs. “You-! You’d BETTER come back someday! I mean it, you Filly-Faker!”
“Same to you, you Colt-Crudder!”
"I think I love you!!"
"I think I love you t-!!"
Suddenly, everything turned white. Those who didn't shield their eyes, found themselves blinded as the vase erupted in a pillar of light, piercing straight through the library's ceiling. Blitz found himself tumbling away as the field began to contract, compacting its occupants. Applebuck yelled at the top of his lungs, fighting against his brother's grip, while the rest of the stallions grimaced at the brilliant light display.
The last thing any of them heard, was the dull clap of thunder as the ball of energy leapt out of the great tree, and into the summer sky.
TO BE CONCLUDED...