Twilight had decided to return to Ponyville to catch her friends and Sonata up rather than send a letter. As an alicorn, a flight from Canterlot to Ponyville and back was a relatively simple matter, and she felt like stretching her wings after spending so much time in the musty recesses of the Athenaeum.
What she had not expected to find upon returning to her castle was for most of the foyer to be covered in queso dip.
Her ears flattened against her skull as she looked around the castle with wide, disbelieving eyes. "What in Equestria...?!"
Spike ambled in, twirling a mop and whistling. He espied Twilight and let out an alarmed yelp. "Twilight!" he cried. "You're back...early..."
"Spike? What. Happened. To. My. CASTLE?!"
Spike jumped straight up, nearly dropping his mop. "W-well! Heheh. F-funny story, that..."
"Spiiiiiiiiiiiiike!" Sonata trilled as she soared into the room. "C'mon, cleanup can wait, we've still—oh, hey Twilight!"
Twilight stared at Sonata.
She was drenched in salsa.
"Hey girls! Twilight's back!"
Alarmed whinnies sounded from the direction of the dining room, followed by stampeding hooves on crystal. Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash charged into the foyer, skidding in congealing cheese. They were all spattered in salsa and cheese and wore guilty expressions. "Uhh...hey Twilight," Rainbow said.
"Hi Twilight!" Pinkie said cheerfully, waving a hoof.
"Girls?" Twilight said, pinning a forced, clench-toothed smile on her face. "What's going on?"
The mares looked at each other sheepishly. "W-well," Applejack said, her eyes darting around frantically. "Y'see, it's like—"
"Oh girls!" Discord's voice chimed from the dining room. "I found the refried beans! You'll never believe..." He floated into the room, then saw Twilight. "Well, hello Twilight! I had no idea you were coming home so soon!"
Twilight's eyes narrowed. "Discord," she said sourly. "Of course."
"Hey now, this wasn't his fault," Applejack said. "Well...not entirely."
"Actually, it was mostly me and Sonata," Pinkie admitted sheepishly.
"Well how was I supposed to know a lake of cheese dip would explode?" Sonata whined.
Twilight twitched. "Lake of...of cheese dip...?"
"And the salsa balloons were Rainbow Dash's idea," Applejack said, glaring at Rainbow.
Rainbow snorted. "Oh, puh-LEASE! Like you even tried to stop me!"
Twilight's eyes shrank to pinpricks, her wings flaring out and her ears folding back. "Salsa...balloons? Cheese dip lake...? Girls, what the HAY did you DO?!"
Pinkie and Sonata looked at each other and giggled. "Well," Sonata said sheepishly, "see...we decided to have a little slumber party...y'know, here at the castle, since you were gone and all and Spike needed company..."
"And Rarity and Fluttershy were busy, so they couldn't make it," Pinkie added.
"So, well...when the other girls got here, Spike and I started making nachos, and then Pinkie came in and started helping, and we made way too many," Sonata continued.
"And then I sneezed and burned all the cheese dip," Spike said.
"So there we were without any cheese dip, and I wished we could have a whole lake of the stuff," Sonata said.
"And that's when Discord showed up, and he heard, and he decided to give us one," Rainbow picked up.
"An' at first me an' Rainbow were a mite upset, but then he made a salsa fountain t' go with it, and well...dang it all, sometimes Discord's little pranks are fun if they ain't hurtin' nopony an' he promises to clean it all up later!" Applejack said.
"But then Rainbow Dash got the idea to fill water balloons with salsa," Pinkie said. "And, well...we had a salsa balloon fight." She giggled. "It was fun! But a little gross."
"And we still don't know why or even how the cheese dip lake exploded, but..." Sonata giggled sheepishly and shrugged. "Well, it kinda did!"
"And I wasn't here for that part," Discord said sorrowfully, "because I went off to find some refried beans so we could make rolled soft tacos." He looked around, tapping his chin with a talon. "How did the cheese dip lake explode, anyway? That shouldn't have happened."
Twilight's teeth began to spark from grinding together. "ALRIGHT! ENOUGH! All of you!" she snapped. "Discord? Clean this mess up. Now."
Discord sighed. "Yes, of course." He snapped his talons, and in a flash, the entire castle was spotless and sparkling. Sonata and the ponies were no longer covered in salsa and cheese. "I was hoping to have an evening free of your angry tone, especially after I just saw you and you earlier, but it is your castle."
"Lighten up a little, Twi," Rainbow said, her ears folding back. "Nopony got hurt, nothing got smashed. We were just, y'know, havin' a little fun! Makin' friends with Sonata an' stuff."
Twilight took a deep breath, then let it out as a sigh as her expression softened. "I'm sorry," she said. "I just wasn't...wasn't expecting to come home to a queso explosion, is all."
"Nopony expects the Queso Explosition!" Sonata said, laughing crazily.
"Ah...guess we'll clear out, pack it in for the night," Applejack said.
"Yeah, fun's fun, but if we're gonna be in your mane," Pinkie began.
"No, it's okay," Twilight said with a smile. "You can go ahead and have your slumber party. In fact, I might as well join you since I'm already here and don't really feel up to flying back tonight. But maybe a little less of a mess?"
* * * * *
The sun sparkled off the spires of Twilight's castle. Rarity and Fluttershy, awake bright and early, trotted up to the castle doors. "It's a shame we had to miss the slumber party," Rarity said regretfully. "I do hope at least we can have a nice leisurely breakfast with our friends."
"I wonder if they're even awake yet," Fluttershy said with a giggle as she reached out and opened the door.
A massive wave of milk gushed out, slamming into the two mares and sending them flying. They shrieked in alarm as they were washed away on a dairy tide.
Four ponies, a Siren, and a draconequus rode the river of milk, landing near Rarity and Fluttershy, who watched in confusion and disbelief as their friends rolled around on the ground, covered in soggy corn flakes and laughing their plots off.
Rarity blinked. "Did...did I miss something...?"