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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!
Upon a Wing and a Prayer
Rainbow Dash sneezed.
It was the second day of their living in the odd Genderswapped dimension, and the blue mare was bored to TEARS. The morning had dawned uneventfully, and though she had originally had the mindset to treat the odd turn of events as a vacation of sorts, she realized that remaining cooped up beneath the HEDGE was of absolutely no interest to her.
"AUGH" she groaned, rearing her back and flapping her wings restlessly for the fifth time in twice as many minutes. "I can't STAND this. I gotta do SOMETHING Twilight, or I'm gonna go STIR-CRAZY!"
Applejack glanced from her sitting spot, over to the bookfilly, who was currently engrossed in the local copy of 'Supernaturals'. "Y’all may want ta listen t' her Twi. Ah've seen her stir-crazy, and it tain't pretty."
Twilight did her own groan as she set the book down. "Look, for the last time. We are not stepping hide nor hair nor hoof outside of the HEDGE for the remainder of our stay here, unless it's absolutely necessary."
"That time may come sooner than later, darling." came the interruption. All eyes turned to the white unicorn as she strolled into their midst. "I'm pleased to say that lunch has been served. Pinkie's done up a marvelous fruit salad for every one of us." Perked ears and smiles came at the mention of fruit salad.
"However, to go about it, she's managed to use up every piece of fruit that we had left over from yesterday."
Applejack was incredulous as she glanced over to the table. "Even th' carrots?"
"I thought they made a nice touch!" Pinkie replied from her post behind a log-constructed counter.
"Oh dear," Twilight sighed, a look of worry evident on her face. "We went through that much faster than I expected. I originally thought we'd be able to stretch that one trip's worth of food out for the whole three days. H-how did we go..."
Dash rolled her eyes. "Think about it Twi. When a pony can't do anything but stay cooped up inside and have nothing to do besides reading, writing, and losing to Pinkie at twenty-three consecutive matches of Tic-Tac-Toe, what's the only other really exciting activity?"
"Eating." Fluttershy replied, from her own corner at the table, already nibbling at her bowl.
"They're right, darling." Rarity added, giving the lavender pony an imploring look. "I know Twilight, I fear for the sake of all of reality, but you must understand, I also fear for the state of all our figures if we simply let ourselves continue to gorge out of boredom! I can already feel the calories going straight to my flanks." she whined, giving her rear a small shake.
Twilight facehoofed, but then directed her eyes downward. "Sorry guys... I didn't think that the act of waiting it out would be so... hard on you..."
Applejack got onto all fours as she walked over and nuzzled the student. "It's alright Twi. We're just not used'ta stayin' indoors at all hours and distractin' ourselves wit' readin’, like you are. We're active ponies. At least, Pinkie, Dash an' Ah are."
There were sounds of agreement from all present. As Twilight gave them all gazes of gratefulness, she began working on a solution to their newest problem. "Okay... if that's the case, then here's what we're gonna do. Everypony still have some bits left?"
There were nods.
"Good. Later this evening, we'll have somepony else head into town and do more shopping-"
"I'LL GO!!" Rainbow Dash eagerly enthused, both hooves waving in the air.
"A-heh, no, you won't." Twilight stated, letting the pegasus deflate like a balloon. "Sorry Dash, but if your male self here is anywhere near as prolific and active as you were back in Ponyville, then you're going to get looks. Ponies probably all thought you were a fan when we first arrived."
"Rainbow Blitz." Dash harrumphed. "Scoots told me about him. Sure, he pulled off the Double Rainboom, but I'll bet he's not even one fourth as cool as me in person."
Applejack rolled her eyes. "Ah knew this would happen sooner 'r later." she groaned.
"Applejack." she started at the mentioning of her name. "I'm going to hand the shopping delegation to you. You know the marketplace as well as any pony, and you know how to make a deal. Stretch our bits as much as you can, alright? We're going to try and make this trip our last one, got it?" The unicorn gave an even gaze to all present.
"Okie Dokie Lokie!" Pinkie replied, bounding over to the table. "Now stop being such a buncha coiled mare-inna-boxes and get over here and eat already! These salads won't enjoy themselves!"
The fillies did just that, as they gathered round and dug in. The carrots were a nice touch.
Rarity had managed to come up with a way to keep the majority of their group busy. That way, was with a new dress. She had cannibalized some of the blankets she had brought, and asked Fluttershy to model for her, Applejack and Pinkie Pie helping out in whatever ways they could. That left just Twilight, who had picked back where she'd left off in her book, and Rainbow Dash, who was still bored to tears.
She bit back a yawn, as she stole a glance at the small concealed opening, trying the gauge the angle of what little light penetrated it. "What time is it, Twi?”
The student looked at the few sunbeams herself, thinking. "It's probably noon. Not quite time to send AJ off shopping yet."
The pegasus groaned. "Fine, whatever. I guess I'm gonna take a nap. Wake me when the world ends."
She laid her head down on the blanket she'd been resting on. It's not THAT bad. she thought to herself. Twilight doesn't mind naps. Besides, this is probably around when I USUALLY take my nap anywa-
A brainwave snapped her eyes open, as her mane and tail suddenly stood on end.
A split second later, Twilight let out an 'ackfpbl!' as a blue filly suddenly interjected herself between the unicorn and her book. "Twilight." she stated evenly. 'I need to go fly. Now."
Twilight let out a breath. "Dash, we've been over this. I'm not letting-"
"NO." Rainbow interrupted, suddenly taking the purple one's head in both her forehooves. "I need to go and fly. NOW."
Deep lavender orbs met rose-colored ones with a pinch of trepidation. "This... this wouldn't happen to be that stir-crazy stuff that Applejack mentioned earlier, would it?" she asked, the voice tinged with a touch of fear.
The pegasus let go of her head in surprise. "What? No, I'm not that bad off, yet." She then leaned in real close, touching snouts with the student. "But believe me when I say, If you want to keep me manageable, then you've GOT to LET me GO, NOW, or I'll have to stay cooped up here until this time tomorrow!"
"Why?" Twilight stammered. The commotion had gathered the rest of the filly's attention. "Why right now?"
"Because it's my NAP TIME."
Silence reigned for a few seconds. "Beg pardon?" Applejack asked.
"Well, if the other me in this world, is anything like the real me," she got out of the unicorn's face and turned to her friends. "Then right about now, and for at least the rest of the afternoon until 5, he'll be napping! And if he's napping, I'll be able to go out there and stretch my wings, and stay out of sight of everypony else! If they do see me, I'll be so high up, they'll just think I'm him instead, getting a little extra practice in!"
Rarity blinked. "Wow... my, that's... actually quite crafty, Dash. Still risky as all goodall, but crafty nonetheless!"
"Sounds plenty reasonable, if y'ask me." the farmer opinioned, before locking her green eyes with Twilight's, ones that seemed to say PLEASE SAY YES.
"Well, Twi?" Dash asked, turning back to the unicorn, bounding in place. "Whaddya say?"
For a long minute, there was no answer. On the one hoof, she didn't want to have any more damage happen to the timeline than was already done. On the other, she could tell that AJ was really leery of keeping their pegasus friend cooped up. Maybe it would be better if she allowed her out. Besides, she had to admit, it was a sound plan...
"... well... I guess-"
Rainbow Dash didn't even wait for the rest. Twilight gagged as she was suddenly hugged, then struggled to stay on her feet as a multihued tornado erupted from her sitting position, the rainbow contrail leading directly to the HEDGE's exit.
THIS WAS FREEDOM.
For the moment, Rainbow Dash cleared her mind of any weirdness that she had seen and witnessed these past few days. Right now, it was just her, the clouds, and the sky for miles around.
"Oh sweet Equestrian airspace, how I've missed you!" she yelled out, performing an Immelman loop out of pure joy. The speed and wind in her mane was all she needed. It was an essential part of her diet, much like apples or carrots would normally be. She needed flight to stay alive.
She flew and swooped and performed for half an hour, however long it took to release all of her pent-up energy. When her wings finally demanded that she take it easy, she found a stray cloud to alight onto, and nestled herself down into it. She was tempted to drop off right then and there, but she shook her head. No, if I take a nap now, I'll waste my chance to fly. Once HE wakes up, I'll have to beat a quick retreat back to the HEDGE. Why is it called the HEDGE anyways? I guess the Crusaders thought it sounded cool.
So, what can I do? Oh, I could try my hoof at the Double Rainboom! But wait, that'll draw a lot of attention. Attention that HE'll notice, and know it wasn't HIM who did it. She had to smile at herself, if there was anypony who she knew how to think like, it was herself.
Well, I suppose I could do a little reconnaissance. I AM supposed to be 'Agent D' after all. Maybe I'll check out the library, see if 'Dusk' is really as much an egghead as Twi. Or maybe I could spy on the boutique, and see if Rarity's double is every bit as prissy and fru-fru as SHE is.
"Or maybe..." she said this part out loud to herself. She knew that whenever SHE napped, she usually would do so on a cloud, or in one of the many trees of Sweet Apple Acres.
She only ever slept at her own house at night.
Grinning like a fox in a henhouse, she lifted off the cloud, and directed herself towards a far-off, familiar cloud structure.
Getting in had been easy. Dash hadn't even needed to use the spare key she knew was hidden under the doormat, her own key opened the door just fine. Apparently, doorlocks remained the same, whatever the dimension they were home to.
She trotted inside and looked around, inspecting her own sense of decor. Nothing tremendously out-of-place popped out at her, save for the photos that adorned the walls. She trotted forward and took in the image of her male self for the first time, a saluting pose from his days in the Junior Speedster's Camp.
"Heh... think you're pretty hot stuff, huh?" she spoke to the frame. The pegasus moved on over to the trophy case, where the medals and awards she had accumulated over time were displayed.
They were all present, she noted. The Mercury Cup, the Aerobatic Assault Grand Prix. She found herself comforted as she noticed the Best Young Flyer's tiara was still on the very top shelf.
Then she turned around, and saw the Wonderbolts poster. At first she stared at it in confusion, because the pegusai on the poster weren't quite as she remembered. However, she managed to identify each one after some length of time. The stallion up towards the front... in her world, Soarin' had taken that spot. In this one, it was Spitfire.
Spitfire. she found herself thinking. Now there was a pony full of life. She didn't know if the feelings she held for the yellow daredevil were romantic or not, but had never indulged her curiosity to find out. Now that she was in a world where a male Spitfire was present, she found herself much more receptive to the idea of a possible relationship.
She blushed as she looked upstairs. She knew what would be up there, and yet at the same time, she wasn't sure she wanted to know. A minute or so passed, before Dash finally set her teeth, and trotted up the steps. It was Her house after all. Well, maybe not exactly, but still.
She nudged the bedroom door open. Everything was still as she'd remembered it. The bed sat there, calling her name out to her, but she studiously ignored it's cries. There would be time for sleep later.
Instead, she turned to the chest of drawers, it's size now seemingly larger than life. Gulping, she hooked a hoof around the bottom drawer's handle, pulling it out. There were knickknacks and odds and ends in here, childhood toys that she knew, or were in forms different from her memory. Either way, they weren't the goal.
It was the black box at the back of the drawer that she wanted to see.
She knew what it's contents were... that is, she knew back in her own world. But due to the nature of this one, she was certain that they had changed, along with almost everything else. She lifted the box out, found herself taking a breath, and squeezing her eyes shut in a grimace as she pulled the top up, one eye glancing inside.
'PLAYPONY: THE COLT-CUDDLER ISSUE'
It was quickly closed, and stuffed back inside the drawer, the drawer itself making a rather loud racket as it was shoved back into the chest. NOW she fell onto the bed, the normally unflappable blue pony's face flushed a pure crimson as she considered the implications.
My... My other self's just as bi-curious as I am.
Her heart leapt in her throat. The voice was rough, but commanding. It wasn't superbly deep, like she had expected it to be, but it was still enough to give her the willies, not to mention a chill down her spine as she remembered at that exact moment that she'd left the front door SWINGING WIDE OPEN.
"Hey! Is there somepony in here?!"
They were still downstairs, that much was for certain. She could have leapt out the window, but she knew they would spot her. Hiding under the bed didn't make much sense. The closet? Like she'd fit! Maybe even-
Clopsteps started up the stairs. She bolted up into an airhole and lodged herself into the house's cooling system.
Rainbow Dash held her breath as she heard the figure enter the bedroom. There were sounds of rummaging, before another call came out. "I know you're still in here! The window's still closed! C'mon out, so I can teach you something called 'private property laws'!"
She didn't of course. The filly scooted as quietly as she could into the bowels of the house. Judging from her position, she figured she was now over the living room. A screened airhole allowed her to peer down and confirm her location.
It also allowed her a good look at the sky-blue stallion who was making his way back down the stairs, wild rainbow mane flailing about as his rose-tinted eyes searched the premises for the intruder. Snorting, he stomped a hoof onto the floor.
"C'mon, show yourself! I'm not afraid of you!"
Now that she was actually seeing him for herself, she found her body reacting in a way she hadn't expected. That was to say, she was feeling a rock in the bottom of her stomach weighing her down. The same weight that she had felt back at the Best Young Flier's competition.
But I'm afraid of YOU. she realized with shock. I don't know why. But I'm afraid of you.
Some more moments of silence passed in the house, as the colt below seemed to calm down. "You're one of those 'weird' ponies that Dusk was talkin' about, aren't yah?" he challenged the quiet. "It didn't make much sense to me at the time. Hay, it still doesn't make any sense. Whatever it is. He thinks 'Fluttershy' is one of them. Is that who's there? Is that you, 'Fluttershy'?"
The words only served to increase the sense of dread that Dash felt. So they KNEW about them? They knew Fluttershy's name? Twilight would have a fit.
"Fine." he said nonchalantly at last. "See if I care. There's ways to get criminal ponies to come out of hiding. There's the official way..." he casually strolled to the center of the building, before taking to his wings. "And then there's the PEGASUS way!"
And right then, he began to fly around in a circle. Faster and Faster he went, until a rainbow-colored vortex ring began to form. Slowly but surely, it began to expand, the cumulous making up the floor slowly dissipating, being sucked up, almost like...
...he's going to destroy his own house to get to me! she realized.
To most pegusai, this was not a big deal. Clouds were plentiful, and could easily be obtained for rebuilding the houses, or outright replacing them. However, usually a pegasus had the foresight to remove whatever fragile objects they had, off the premises before demolition.
A technicality that the Male her had apparently overlooked. Already she could hear the trophy-case rattling in the high-speed winds. All those awards, medals, the tiara itself...
And then, she realized that she was no longer in the air duct. Not because it had dissolved, but rather because she had pulled herself out, and had begun flying around the miniature tornado in the opposite direction.
As she increased her speed, she could feel the original vortex begin to slow down. She was canceling it's momentum! Enthused, she checked her own velocity, meeting with the counter-rotation at every point.
Slowly but surely, the tornado died down, the multicolored blurs fading from sight. She looked around as she slowed, glad to see that the house had only sustained minimal damage-
She collided with an object mid-air. As she backed up and hovered in place, her eyes shrunk as she stared at...
He was regarding her with as much the same shocked expression as she was. His pupils were small rose dots, his wings beating erratically as he took in his female lookalike. "You..." he stammered. "You... you're..."
She didn't stick around to hear the rest. She vanished from his sight as a sudden rainbow blur shot out the door.
Rainbow Blitz remained for only a second longer, before he gave chase.
"Ho-kay... just gotta act real natural-like. That's it! Don't need'ta make a ruckus... still wish they'd let me keep mah hat."
Applejack slowly made her way down Carrot Street, trying her best to blend into the rest of the townsfolk. For this outing, the group had decided that a degree of change to the farmer's appearance was necessary. This included the braiding of her mane and tail, the shifting of the saddlebags more towards the rear to hide her cutie-marks, and the biggest change of all, the removal of her pappy's hat from her head.
She knew it was in good hooves, but that still didn't change the fact that she felt naked without it.
She was working her way towards the marketplace, like Fluttershy before, her eyes more-or-less concentrated on the goal. Sure, every now and then she looked to the side to get a glance of a familiar face or so. She spotted Cloudkicker the pegasus, the gangly colt watching a caramel-colored mare from a distance. At the flower shop, she recognized a trio of stallions, who at the moment, were not bemoaning the end of the world. And over there was Sugarcube-
THE FRAGRANCE OF DARK COFFEE
It hit her like a ton of bricks. She found herself stopping in her tracks, and inhaling the scent. Good heavens! Ah haven't had a good cup o’ joe in days! Ah... Ah wonder if th' girls'll mind me slippin' in an' grabbin' them a tray o' muffins 'r so.
With a small amount of trepidation, she trotted inside the bakery. The familiar smells of cupcakes fresh from the oven filled the air, as her eyes roamed the piles of pastries lining the counters. Already she was feeling closer to home.
At least, up until she heard a voice go "Oh, hello there!"
She turned around and spotted Mrs Cake. Or was it? She had to do a double-take. It sure looked like Mrs Cake, save that she was a bright yellow and orange instead of blue and pink, and had a trio of brownies for her cutiemark.
"Oh, wh-why, hello!" the farmer stammered. "Sorry, ah couldn't help but smell th' coffee. Ah've... been on th' road fer a while, haven't had any inna good long time!"
"Oh my, a traveler, are you? You certainly look new." The yellow Mrs Cake replied. "Well just sit tight dearie, rest your hooves. I'll have a cup out to you in a jiffy. Oh Honeybun~!"
"Yes, sugarmuffin~?" a blue lanky head with a cap on top rose from behind the counter, pink mane sticking straight out.
"A cup of joe for our traveling pony here!"
"Sure thing, sweetiemelon!"
As Mr Cake trotted to the back to retrieve some brew, Applejack was left sitting with her mind spinning. Not what ah expected ay-tall. Those two look more like they just traded colors, rather than gender.
From beyond the door, she heard a crash. Her ears perked up and her eyes widened as she heard a boyish giggle emanate from the kitchen. "Who-hoops! Sorry about that, Mr Cake! Got a little too much baking soda in that batch!"
"It's alright, sonny." came the reply, as the blue stallion re-entered the storefront, a coffeepot in his mouth. A quick pour later, and AJ was in heaven as she let the bitter darkness cascade down her throat.
"Oh my," Mrs Cake exclaimed as she watched the orange one all but inhale the hot drink. "And with no cream or sugar! You really were aching for it, weren't you?"
"Y’all have no ah-dea." came the reply, the mare licking her lips.
Another crash sounded from the back of the store, and Applejack found herself talking fast. "Uhm, cannah also git a tray o' them blueberry muffins too? How much do ah owe you allt'gether?"
"Oh, at least six bits for the muffins. But dearie, don't worry about the coffee. That was on the house."
"Thank y’all kindly." Applejack replied, her heart warmed by the thought that the Cake's charity still remained intact, even in this world. She didn't wait very long however, after the box of muffins was handed to her. She left with another word of thanks to the couple. And a word of thanks to whatever the name of the Prince was here, that she had managed to escape meeting the male rendition of her partypony friend.
Once back out on the street, she trotted along into the marketplace proper. She began haggling with the vegetable vendors for their goods, a feat she found easier than usual, due to already knowing most of the ponies here, despite them being opposite genders. Carrot Top in particular, she found was almost TOO easy, the stallion just about giving her two bushels of the roots for free. She wasn't quite sure, but she thought she heard him sigh as she departed.
She had just managed to wrangle a good deal out of Rusty Tuber for a sack of potatoes, when she saw the next cart in line... and almost bolted from the marketplace right there on the spot.
A familiar stall was sitting there, the fresh smell of apples and cinnamon wafting from it, as fruit and pies were laid out on it's surface. Currently manning this stall was a single yellow cap-wearing colt. He was scanning the marketplace, before noticing her out of the corner of his eye.
She found herself sweating as he looked her over, his eyes lighting up in recognition. He began waving at her to come join him.
Slowly but surely, she began marching her hooves towards the Sweet Apple Acres stand.
"Cousin JayJay!" Applebuck cheered loudly as she approached. "So good tah seeya again!"
"Applebl- uh, Applebuck." she replied, her stomach performing flipflops once again. "N-Nice t' see you too."
"How's the mission goin'?!" the diminutive pony gushed, leaning up on the stall. "Ah haven't said a word t' nopony 'bout it, ah swear!"
"I-it's been doin' fine." Applejack assured, eyes looking furtively about. "S-say, ain't you a bit young t'be mannin' th' stall by yerself?"
"Ah'm not young." he retorted. "Ah'm a big pony now! Ah keep tellin' mah big brother that, but he don't believe me none!"
Oh good lawrd. the farmer pony cringed. He sounds JUST like her! Ah've... ah've GOTTA lookit this o'jectively. H-he's a boy. He's NOT Applebloom. He's not he's not he's NOT...
"...but yeah, ah'm not alone." the earth-pony continued, looking off in a disgruntled fashion. "Applejack stepped 'way fer a bit, said he'd be back inna minute 'r so. Hey!" he turned those big orange eyes back on her. "What brings y’all t' town? Trackin' down sum bad apples?"
The orange filly's mind raced. Simply excuse herself and leave, before her double returned? Stick around, and try to grin and bear it? Try to explain things? What should she do?
"Ah... ah'm onna mission.” she started, voice faltering just a tad. "A very complicat'd mission, somethin' along th' lines of 'Operation: Grocery Shopping'."
He gave her a flat look. "Grocery Shopping?"
"Hay, even us agents hav'ta eat. So, um... how much y’all want fer a bushel o' them Braeburns?"
Here, the schoolpony waved her off, as he dipped down to retrieve a bag. "Dun worry 'bout payin' nuthin’, Cousin JayJay! Yer family, an' ah insist y’all take how'ver many apples y'need, on th' house!"
Applejack found herself touched, the feeling settling her stomach somewhat. "That's... that's mighty kind of yah, Applebuck. Ah appreciate that, ah really do."
He gave her a smile, a pure and familiar grin that looked just at home on his face as it did on another filly untold dimensions away. She tried her best not to burst into tears right there, as she began picking out apples to add to the bag.
"An' a couple o’ these Smith's as well." she stated, pointing towards the bright green fruits. Quickly they were snatched up and dropped in.
"Oh, hello Applejack!"
Without thinking, she instantly replied. "Oh, hey there sugarcube. What kin’ ah do fer- whoop!"
She quickly placed her hooves over her mouth, before glancing around to see who had spoken to her. Behind her, she found a butter yellow pegasus colt with a shock of pink hair, his head low to the ground. His eyes widened in surprise as he saw her face. "Oops! O-oh, I'm so sorry. I-I didn't mean to surprise you, I thought you were somepony else."
"Hey there Butterscotch." Applebuck piped up, setting the filled bag on the counter. "This's mah Cousin, JayJay! She's visitin' fer a spell!" He hopped down and placed himself between the two grown ponies, introducing the other male. "This is Butterscotch, Cousin JayJay. He helps take care o’ all th' animals here in Ponyville!"
So THIS is Fluttershy's twin. Applejack thought to herself, easily identifying the cutiemark of butterflies. He looked up at her forlornly, his aqua eyes achieving the same effect that her friend's did whenever anypony saw her. Awww, he's cute fer a colt! No wonder she had 'er little ol’ heart go out fer 'im!
"Um, hi, Miss JayJay." he said softly. "Sorry about earlier. I really should have known better."
She waved a hoof, her mouth retrieving the bag of apples and stuffing them into her saddlepack. "Tain't nothin' t'worry about sugarcube, m’stakes happen all th' time."
"Oh, oh good." he replied, a hoof pawing at the ground. "Uhm... um, you're new around here, right? Can I... ask you a question?"
Both apple ponies raised an eyebrow, but the mare was game. "Shore, go 'head?"
"Uhm, would you happen to... to know another pegasus... named fluttershy?"
Applejack sighed, apparently that crush really WAS working in both directions. However, she relented as a kind smile spread across her face. "Maybe. She wouldn't happen t' be another yellow pony wit' pink hair now, would she?"
Butterscotch's head lifted up, eyes shining in hope. "Y-yes! You know her? We, we met yesterday at the market. I liked her, and, she said that she liked me, so, I was wondering if I could find her again, but, I haven’t had much luck..." now his head dipped down again.
The orange mare leaned down in front of him. "Y'know... ah think ah kin' send a message... if y’all would like..."
Applebuck made a face at the sappy turn of events things were taking, but he was ignored as the pegasus looked back up at the farmer. "That, would be nice... Um... could you tell her that, um... even though I might not see her again... I'll still always keep her in my thoughts?"
"Ah think she'll be glad t' hear that. Ah'll be sure t' pass it along t' her." She raised her head back up, giving the male pony a warm smile. This trip hasn't gone as bad as ah thought it would.
"Oh, thank you very much, Miss JayJay. And again, sorry about confusing you with Applejack earlier."
"Pshaw, tain't nothin' big, like ah said. Not shore how much like 'em I really look."
"It WAS rather silly of me. I mean," Butterscotch now lifted a hoof and pointed over her shoulder. "Now that I can see the both of you, he doesn't look THAT much like you."
The earlier feeling of calm she had, suddenly vanished as she heard a set of hoofsteps getting closer from behind. Applebuck's eyes lit up as he got to all four hooves and galloped out of sight. "Hey Big bro! What took 'yah?"
"Sorry 'bout that, haystack. Me 'n one o’ th clients had'ta work out a few MISUNDERSTANDINGS, if y’all catch mah drift."
Her first thought was that the voice was a key or so short of being a dead ringer for Big Macintosh. The second thought was that those hoofsteps were heavy, but again, not as heavy as her brother's. The third thought; HAYSTACK?
" 'Ey there Butterscotch." the voice continued, drawing closer. "How're you doin' t'day? Oh, and a good after'noon t' you, miss! Say... ain't seen you 'bout town b'fore. You new?"
"AJ, AJ!" the young colt chanted. "She's actually Apple family! Cousin JayJay, meet mah big brother, Applejack!"
Though every instinct that she possessed was yelling at her to bolt for the woods right that very moment, she managed, with tremendous strain, to turn her head towards the pair of males behind her.
Green eyes. Orange hide. Blonde mane and tail, only barely kept in check by bands. Tall and solidly built. Unshorn fetlocks, like her brother. Same trio of apples on his flank. A surprising addition of a yoke around his neck. And last, but not least, Pappy's hat, perched on top of his head.
He was giving her an eye of his own, the stallion peering over her face and saddlebags. "Well whip mah whiskers." he spoke, an eyebrow arched. "Ah kin' see th' family r'semblance, but ah cain't say Ah've ever seen y’all at th' reunion. You shore you're an Apple?"
At these words, she gave him a look of consternation. Of course she was an Apple, through and through! But instead of giving voice, she instead got to all fours and pulled her saddlebags up, revealing her cutiemark.
"Oooh, she IS." Butterscotch cooed. "I mean, Applebuck said she was, but, well, you can never know for sure, right?" He lowered his head again, sheepishly.
She gave him a smile. "Already said, dun sweat th' small stuff too much, alright sugarcube?"
"How 'bout that?" the male Applejack remarked, tilting his hat back. "So y' can talk too."
"What's that s'posed t' mean?" the mare retorted, turning her attention fully back to her doppelganger. "'Course ah kin' talk! Just fine too, though certain ponies tend tah disagree."
"Ah hear y’all there." he replied. "So! You say you're an Apple? Cousin JayJay, wassit? How come ah never saw yah at th' reunion last year?"
"S'like ah told yer brother. Mah farm's clear on th' other side o' Equestria. Much too far t' make th' trip."
"Even farther than Cousin Honeycrisp?"
She narrowed her eyes. Cousin Honeycrisp was the farthest relative from Ponyville. Before she said anymore, she had to make a mental rearrangement. Honeycrisp was originally a mare, so...
"That's right, 'bout fifty miles farther! Ask Honeycrisp next time th' reunion rolls around, he'll tell y’all 'bout it."
"Ah intend to..." the orange ponies were staring down each other something fierce. Applejack knew why. Though she was usually a friendly sort, she would have been suspicious of anypony she didn't know, calling themselves a part of her family. This treatment she was getting from her stallion-self did not come as a big surprise to her.
Butterscotch and Applebuck continued switching looks between the two, confused expressions on their faces, as the banter began anew. "What's yer actual name, anyways? JayJay's gotta be short fer somethin'."
Thanks to her encyclopedic knowledge of apple breeds, the answer came easily. "Jonica Johnagold."
He blinked. "Ah thought we already had one a' those."
"Yer prob'ly thinkin' o' Cousin Jonnee Red Johnathan. Ah know he makes it to th’ reunion more than ah do.”
"Applejaaaack~" the yellow pony whined to his brother "Why y’all gotta be so tough on Cousin JayJay? She's family!"
The draft horse's look of suspicion softened as he regarded his sibling. "Sorry haystack, but y' can't go believin' every word somepony says that ya hear. Ah see she's got an Apple cutiemark, an' ah kin' see th' ol' freckles, clear as day, but still..." he leveled his eyes at her again. "Ah just don't feel....right. Like there's somethin' off 'bout you, 'Cousin' JayJay."
This brought a whole new level of understanding to the orange filly's mind. The feeling in the pit of her stomach had remained throughout their entire exchange, which she had chalked up to simple fear. However, if HE was feeling it too... was there something going on here that she didn't understand? Twilight would probably know.
However, despite the words against her, she found herself stomping the ground and snorting. "Ah tain't lyin', cousin! Ah'm part o' th' Apple Family, just like you ‘n Applebuck! If y’all 'r REALLY wantin' t' get all serious about, then ah say we hoof-wrassle right here ‘n now!"
Now the orange equine found himself chuckling. "Cousin, ah hate t' say this, but it tain't mah style t' go hoof-wrasslin' mares. Ah mean, d'ya think y’all kin' really match up t' me?"
She leveled her gaze as she said "Are you sayin' mah mouth is makin' promises mah legs cain't keep?"
The stallion made as if to affirm the statement, but he paused as the words echoed through his head. His eyes widened, as her gave the farmfilly another look. "Wait... what did you say?"
Anything else that was said was quickly drowned out as the ponies about the marketplace ceased their hustling and bustling, gasps and gawking suddenly issuing everywhere, hooves pointed up towards the sky.
"AJ! AJ!" Applebuck cried out, pointing as well. "Lookit THAT!"
"What... what in the world??" Butterscotch stammered, eyes pointed up, with wings deployed as a shield.
Applejack turned around and glanced up into the deep blue, before his hat popped off his head. "Peel 'n Core me! What in tarnation-!"
Applejack lifted her head up and saw the spectacle that everypony was gawking at... and instantly knew that things had gone horribly, horribly wrong.
"GET BACK HERE!!"
She heard his cries over the screaming wind, but didn't dare to respond, to even look back. She was pumping her wings hard, so hard, harder than she had ever worked them before. She had to lose him.
She had to lose the fastest flier in all of Equestria.
Rainbow Dash's expression hardened. No. That title was hers, not some... not somepony else's! Hers and hers alone!
And yet, whatever maneuver she managed to bust out, he still kept with her trail, never gaining, but never falling back either. It was becoming increasingly aggravating. At one point, she had made as if to do a headlong crash into the ground, but he had kept on her, even pulling up at the exact same rate of incline as she leveled out and buzzed the trees.
"YOU THINK YOU CAN KEEP THIS UP!?" Rainbow Blitz called out again, the sneer evident in his tone of voice. "YOU DON'T KNOW WHO YOU'RE MESSING WITH, KID!"
Sticks and stones. the pegasus filly thought to herself. Let'em say what he wants. He can't catch you. He can't even DREAM of catching you.
"YOU CAN'T EVEN DREAM OF GETTING AWAY!"
Okay, that was freaky... but they're still words. Words can't hurt you, and neither can he. You've been called worse. Much worse than Rainbow ‘Ditz’. Man, am I glad I've never-
"YOU FILLY-FAKER! YOU'RE A GIRL!! YOU CAN'T EVEN HOPE TO-"
Dash flared her wings out in a rapid halting maneuver, her momentum still carrying her forward, but still slowing her down enough to allow her to turn her head back and see the look on her doppelganger’s face as he too tried to slow down enough to avoid collision.
It also bought her enough time to bring her rear hooves up, waiting until Blitz's face was almost at her haunches, before striking out in a buck that would have made apple farmers everywhere flinch in worry for the safety of their trees.
The blue stallion was propelled backwards, head over hooves, as the mare took the liftoff from the kick and turned it into new forward motion, resuming her escape.
Rainbow Blitz's vision swam, having a kick delivered to you in the head would do that to a pony. Yet he shook himself, his vibrant mane flopping about as he regained control, before he fixed his eyes back on the rainbow trail that his quarry was leaving.
He had seen it, for a brief second, right before she had bucked him. Her cutiemark.
A very familiar-looking cutiemark.
Dusk's words of weird ponies came back to his mind now, and he redoubled his chase speed.
She had been heading in the direction of the Everfree forest. However, she managed to spot him, and began to perform evasive maneuvers once more, diving down. It took him extra effort to come within close range once more, but he managed it, despite a throbbing head. He could see her own multihued mane flowing in the wind.
"COME BACK!" Rainbow Blitz called out again, his voice ragged for breath. "LET'S TALK THIS OVER!"
"I CAN'T!!" Dash found herself finally replying. "I CAN'T LET YOU CATCH ME!!"
"WHY NOT?!" he yelled back, a funny feeling in his throat. Must have swallowed a bug.
"I CAN'T TELL YOU!!" She looked over her shoulder, her rose eyes bleary from the windspeeds. "I... I JUST CAN'T!! PLEASE!! STOP CHASING ME!!"
He shook his mane. "I CAN'T DO THAT!!"
The mare didn't respond to that, except by turning her head forwards again, and angling herself downwards into a dive, hooves pinned together in front of her.
That must have been a huge bug, as the pegasus colt found himself choking at the sight of the maneuver she was about to pull. She's insane! She'll never make it! Quickly he mirrored her actions, as he felt the familiar push of force against his hide. His familiar enemy, the Sound Barrier.
"STOP!!" he cried out to her, his voice now pleading. "YOU WON'T MAKE IT!!"
"I CAN!!" she cried back. "I WILL!! YOU CAN'T STOP ME!!"
"WHY??!!" he outright screamed, trying to vector in his path behind the mare's. If the barrier tossed her back, he'd be able to catch her from behind, hopefully saving her from a lethal fall.
He was closing in. Just a little further...
Her tail was beginning to flap around his own sound barrier distortion. He didn't see the raised hoof.
"DONE THIS BEFORE!!"
On the ground, everypony gaped as the two rainbow trails suddenly erupted into twin discs of multicolored light, rumbles of thunder pealing through the air.
"A DOUBLE RAINBOOM!" the Doctoress cried out in awe.
"All the way across the sky!" Mayor Mustang pronounced grandly in his bass voice.
"Oh wow! Oh my gosh!" Applebuck cheered at the sight.
"WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?" a pink stallion with blonde hair cried out, hooves grasping the sides of his head.
"Holy horseapples!" an orange colt gaped, before looking around and retrieving his hat. "Looks like Blitz shore dun outdid 'imself that time!"
Butterscotch stared in wonder at the display, an inch away from breaking out into cheering. The only thing that kept him from doing so, was the odd display beforehand. "But... but what do you think the second rainbow trail came from? I-I mean, we all saw it, right? It looked like there were TWO Rainbow Blitzes!"
"Ah dunno," Applebuck hummed. "Maybe he needed 'nother pegasus t' do a Double Rainboom? Ah mean, it makes sense. Two ponies, two rainbooms at th' same time."
"Hmmm... ah reckon y’all may be onta sumthin' there, haystack." Applejack replied, a hoof rubbing his chin.
The yellow pony turned to his side as he began. "What do you think, Miss JayJay... um... Miss JayJay?"
The three ponies suddenly looked around their stall. Cousin JayJay was nowhere to be seen.
He was grateful, he supposed, that that last kick was what saved him. Had the sound barrier snapped back closed with him so close, the results wouldn't have been pretty. It still smarted though.
Rainbow Blitz hovered unsteadily, his eyes taking in the grand spectacle that was a Double Rainboom. It was amazing, spectacular, and just as beautiful as he had imagined it would be.
And yet, he couldn't take joy from it. Because it hadn't been made by HIM. The Filly-faker... SHE had pulled it off.
His eyes traced the rapidly-fading multicolored trail that stretched from the exit point of the rainbooms, over into the horizon off in the direction of the Everfree forest. By the time he had recovered his fall from the combined kick and shockwave, she had already been far out of range.
Ooooh, it smarted. He couldn't believe he'd forgotten that kicking out with the left hindhoof had been exactly what he'd done, the first time he pulled off the Double Rainboom over Applejack's estate. He hadn't been sure it would work, the reason why he had chosen such a secluded location. Obviously, somepony had been watching anyway, and saw what needed to be done. Someone with binoculars. And good tracking. Yeah, that was it. Had to be.
The argument sounded hollow in his head, and he knew it. The filly-faker... she had looked just like him, right down to the cutie mark. Blitz was more than aware of ponies who took hero-worship far too seriously, dying their manes and coats to resemble their idols. But one couldn't paint over a cutiemark easily, so sticker patches were often used.
That was no sticker-patch, he mused. And the odds of two ponies getting the exact same cutiemark were astronomical. There was also the bit of conversation that had been exchanged between them. She.... couldn't let him catch her? She had even pleaded he stop. The implications were enough to bring that bug in his throat back. Nervously, he swallowed.
The pegasus shook his head. The emotional stuff can wait. There's a filly out there who looks just like me, can fly just as fast as me, and can even perform the Sonic Rainboom. On top of that, she bucked me. Twice. If there was ever a weird pony, that one most definitely fits the bill.
I need to go see Dusk.
... right after I fix my house... and finish my nap... oooh yeah, nap sounds SO good right now.
In a few moments, the HEDGE would not a happy place to be at that evening.
Against all expectations, Applejack had managed to get back to the hiding place first. Right now, she was in the midst of telling the rest of the mares how her visit went... and of the complications that were involved.
"Fyu wenft intfo Thugarcubf Cornerf?" Twilight accused through a mouthfull of muffin. She swallowed, before continuing. "Not that I'm complaining that much, actually, but still, you took a big risk there."
"What were the Cakes like?" Fluttershy asked, nibbling away at her own blueberry-studded pastry.
"Well, it 'twere mighty odd. Imagine if y'can... the Cakes, not switched genders, but more like switched colors 'n Cutiemarks."
Rarity gaped. "You mean... Mrs Cake was... as tall and skinny as..."
"As 'er hubby in our world. That's correct." the farmer pony nodded, hat firmly secured to her head once again.
"And then y'met Applebuck again?" Pinkie questioned. She had finished her muffin minutes ago, and was now working on a pear.
"Ah did..." Applejack let her ears droop as she recalled the scene. "Ah'd fergotten that t'day was a market day fer th' Acres. He recognized me, called me over t' chat. Tried mah best not t' get wrung outta sorts. Gave me free apples."
Here, she raised her head back up as she let her gaze focus upon a yellow pony. "An' then ah ran into another pony, that Applebuck introduced me to. Right cute li'l colt. Said his name was... Butterscotch."
Eyes widened all around, as Fluttershy's head shot up. "You... you met him?"
"Ah did. Ah kin' see why y'went fer 'im too." the orange pony replied, leaning her head in close as she smiled. "He... asked me t' pass along a message."
"Applejaaack..." Twilight spoke, her voice a warning tone. It was ignored.
"He told me... t' tell some gal I prob'ly know, who's a yellow pegasus named Fluttershy... that even if he never sees yah again, he'll think o’ you. Always."
The named pony's eyes grew wide as the words entered her mind, before she relaxed, a blush and goofy grin plastered across her face.
"Awwww~" Rarity crooned, quite taken with the scene. "Isn't love such a beautiful sight? Even if it is with your own male self, I must say, it's so refreshing to see!"
Applejack chuckled as she took a bite of her own muffin. "Ah tell ya Rarity, ah can out 'n out see the two o’ them together. If they weren't already each other, Ah'd say they were a match made 'n heaven!"
"Girls, please." Twilight stamped her hoof, trying to gain control of the situation again. "Applejack, that was... yes, it was thoughtful of you to bring that message from him to Fluttershy. Thank you for that. But we can't simply treat this kind of thing as a casual love affair! If Fluttershy is any indication, who's to say we won't all be so similarly smitten the instant we spot our own doubles?"
The farmer spat a berry seed into her hoof. "That tain't likely t' happen. Ah didn't think he were all that handsome, mahself."
She continued to chew on her muffin a bit more, before she noticed the sudden silence. Slowly, she opened her eyes and turned to see that everypony's eyes were trained on her.
"Applejack..." Twilight began, her voice weary, but still warning. "Applebuck's too young to man the stall himself, isn't he?"
"Uhm... e-yeah... as it turned out, his... uhm, 'brother' had stepped 'way t' take care of some sticky business... and welp, Ah was so caught up talkin' wit' Butterscotch that ah didn't see 'im a-comin back'-"
The purple unicorn facehoofed. "You met yourself."
Rarity leaned forward expectantly. "And?"
"Turns out, ah'm a bit too much like Big Mac. Ah mean, he had th' hat, and he shore tain't shy 'bout speakin' 'is mind. But other 'n that... well, mah heart was poundin', but more in the 'ah think ah should run now' way than that pitterpat a girl gets when she sees a right-good stallion, y'know what ah mean?"
"Wow, Applejack!" Pinkie spoke. "You get pitterpats? I only get them after I’ve eaten twenty pixie-sticks in a row!"
Twilight was not so easily redirected. "What did you talk about?"
The farmer sighed before she leaned against the cave wall. "Well, Applebuck introduced me as Cousin JayJay. An' mah other self thinks that's suspicious, so he starts drillin' me wit’ questions. Sayin’ ah tain't part o' th' Apple family." She crossed her hooves and looked sorely at the nearby lamp. "Ah stood 'n argued mah case that I were too one o' th' Apples."
"O-oh, AJ." Fluttershy spoke. "You could have just, you know, dropped the whole thing, and just, um, let him have his say?"
"She's got a point there." Twilight added. "You could have been out of there a lot quicker, if you'd just let the whole ordeal slide. Your pride's been a problem for you in the past, it could have gotten you into deep trouble here too."
"Ah know." Applejack replied, curling up. "But... well, Applebuck b'lieved me... and ah didn't wanna let 'im down... Ah didn't want t' let mah... mah..."
Another bout of silence came down. "How did you get free?" the white mare questioned.
She reared back up, green eyes looking at everypony present, noting not for the first time, that one of their number was still conspicuously absent, her muffin untouched. "Welp... ah had the help of a distraction. A very unwelcome distraction."
Suddenly her ears perked, as she heard the telltale whoosh of wing-beats. "Well, speak o' th' smooze." she groaned, as she got onto all four hooves.
The bushes around the entrance parted to let in evening light, along with a very tired, and short-breathed Rainbow Dash. Her hooves had barely touched the ground, when Applejack suddenly lighted into her.
"Y'HAVE ANY AH-DEA WHAT IN TH' SEVEN HEAVENS Y’ALL WERE DOIN' UP THAR?!"
"Geeze, AJ." the pegasus groaned, rubbing at a shoulder. "Can it wait till later?"
"No Rainbow, it CAIN'T. Ah saw y’all up there t'day... ah saw the BOTH of yah!"
There were gasps all around as Dash visibly sagged. "You d-did?"
"Ah shore did. As did the majority o’ Ponyville!"
"Rainbow!" Twilight gaped, rushing to her friend's side. Her voice was a mixture of both worry, and scolding, as she asked. "What did you DO?"
"Aheh..." there was a weary shrug, before a grimace as she taxed a pulled muscle. "I kinda had a... complication."
"Dash, bein' chased through Ponyville airspace right n' plain view o' everypony in town, by yer colt-self, is NOT what ah'd call a complication!"
"How do YOU know he was chasing ME, and I wasn't chasin' HIM?"
"Yah' bucked 'im." AJ replied flatly. "An' ah'm not seein' any bruise on yer head right now. Yer other half's prob'ly nursin' a spot th' size o' an orange 'bout now though."
Color fled from the blue mare's face. "You could see that?"
Rarity outright gaped. "Dash! Tell me you didn't!"
"W-what else was I supposed to do!?" came the exclamation. "I couldn't shake him off, and he kept yelling at me! He called me a FILLY-FAKER!! Why... why that, that, COLT-CRUDDER!!"
"Did you just make that up?"
"So what if I did?" Rainbow pounded her hooves together threateningly. "I'm keeping it! It's something I can use the NEXT time I see his face!"
"There won't BE a next time, if I have anything to SAY about it!!" Twilight thundered. The five ponies suddenly found their heads ducking down at the outburst.
"We've been trying our best to not TOUCH this dimension, and what do you do? You BUCK yourself in the FACE!! This is absolutely RIDICOULOUS!! I expected BETTER out of you girls! We're the Elements of Harmony, the chosen ones of Equestria! WHY is it so HARD for you all to just STAY PUT and KEEP OUT of TROUBLE?!"
The words echoed inside even the small confines of the HEDGE's walls. Nopony dared to make a sound, after that display.
At length, the frustrated look on the unicorn's face dissipated, replaced by outright weariness. She collapsed there on the spot, kneeling onto the floor, as she tried to compose herself. Looking around, she noted the shamed and cowed faces of her friends, and instantly felt the weight of her own harsh words.
"I... I'm sorry..." she whispered, achieving Fluttershy-levels of softness. "I-I didn't... this is just... I just want this to stop..."
Nopony moved for a second. Not until the yellow pegasus got to her feet, shuffled over to Twilight, and laid down next to her, offering her presence as comfort. Slowly but surely, the rest of the mares all converged on their silent friend, surrounding her, keeping silent, but still giving her support.
With a shuddering intake of breath, she looked at everypony once more, purple eyes misting over. "I'm sorry... I'm so, so sorry... I d-don't deserve this, I-"
"Shush now, darling." Rarity spoke, nuzzling her friend. "It's quite alright. We all understand. These past few days have worn hard on all of us. But we... still are ignorant to what may be at stake here..."
"We don't think o’ it, th' way you can, Twi." Applejack added. "Ah've never been good at all that sciencey stuff. But you understand. And... and ah wish ah knew half as much as you did... if we all knew, we wouldn't be makin' as big a mess o' things as we are right now."
There were murmurs of agreement from all around. "We'll try our best from now on, to do what you say, Twilight." Fluttershy quipped, a small smile on her face.
"Twilight knows best." Pinkie added, her normal cheer returning. "If you say it means I have to NOT throw a party for a whole month, I'll do it! And that's a promise!"
This managed to drag a chuckle out of the lavender pony. "I won't make you Pinkie-promise to that." she stated, beads appearing at the corners of her eyes. "Thank you guys. Thank you for forgiving me. I'm sorry I yelled at you all, but I want you to know that I'm just worried. Worried about what might happen, to this world... our world... to them... to us..."
Here, she turned to Rainbow Dash, who had remained quiet for the most part. "And I'm sorry Dash, for... for unloading on you. I still think what you did was pretty stupid... but I'm sorry all the same."
The blue mare gave a wing-shrug. "Eh, no worries Twi. I know it was pretty stupid too... but hey, at least I managed to pull off the Double Rainboom."
A flat look. "You what?"
"She did, Twi." Applejack spoke up again. "It t'were th' only thing that managed t' shake off her other self."
"What did you do exactly, that made him chase you so hard anyway?" Rarity asked.
"Not that sure, really. I mean, all I did was visit my house. Sure, I left the front door open, but I didn't think it was that big a deal."
There were a few groans here and there. "And you didn't think to reverse the scenario in your mind beforehand to look at it from your own point of view?" Twilight asked.
This earned her a blank stare. "What? Say again, in Equestrian?"
"Ahh nevermind." the unicorn waved, turning back towards the remaining muffin. "I'm just gonna put this in the pantry for safekeeping."
"Oh? Oh hey, Applejack, you got muffins? Sweet!" The wild-maned one flew over to scoop the treat up, but it was quickly whisked out of reach by the student.
"Ah-ah! No muffins for you tonight!"
"Awww, c'mon Twi, I said I was sorry!"
"You didn't, in manners of exact wording. And besides, even saying that you're sorry, still doesn't make up for the fact that you risked letting Ponyville know of our existence!" The muffin floated over to their makeshift cupboard, the door slamming closed as it nestled on a shelf.
Twilight's words triggered a memory in the pegasus' mind however, as her hooves flailed about suddenly. "OH YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT!! Twilight, I DID overhear some important information today!"
Eyes widened all around. The purple pony's eyes changed from condescending to serious in a instant. "What was it, Dash?"
"Well, when I was inside the house, and he was looking for me... Rainbow Blitz mentioned Fluttershy. By NAME."
There was an 'eep!' as a butter pony concealed herself beneath Pinkie's tail. Dash continued, unaware. "He said that Dusk told him to keep an eye out for what he called, 'Weird Ponies'. Twilight... they're ALREADY AWARE of us."
Now a whole new silence descended upon the inhabitants of the HEDGE. The student sat herself roughly on her haunches, eyes hollow with realization... and fear.
"We're doomed." she whispered. "We were doomed the moment we left Fluttershy in the library."
To Be Continued...
The orange pony continued trotting towards the table. "Ah mean, Rarity knows what all goes inta' a relationship anyways. Sometimes, it's th' opposites that attract, an' then other times, it means findin' yer own-"
She suddenly stopped, her hat falling off due to leftover forward momentum.
Everypony stared at Applejack, rather confused. "AJ? What, did you think of something?" Twilight asked, approaching her friend cautiously.
Rainbow thought she heard a creaking sound as the blonde slowly turned her head to face the unicorn, green eyes hollow and haunted. "Twi... ah can only think o' two stores in all o’ Ponyville that sell shampoo. And one o’ dem ain't open t'day."
There was silence that was shortly punctuated by a quiet "Oh! The Luxury Lotus Spa is closed on Sundays."
Twilight 's brows narrowed. "And the only other store that I can think of is Carousel Bou-"
It hit her.
She turned back to the HEDGE's entrance, eyes as wide as dinnerplates. "RARITY!! WHY SHE-!! SHE DID THAT ON PURPOSE!!"
"Is she... is she REALLY?!" Dash exclaimed, her wings now beating in panic.
"She's goin' to th' Boutique tah meet her male self!!" Applejack cried out. "We gotta stop 'er!!"