Sunset's smile waned after the friendly jab. She leaned back in her seat. Above her was a clear sky, revealing nothing special to her. Something had started eating away at her inside and even her wife's suspicion of it did little to alleviate the growing unease she felt within.
"Perhaps we should take a walk as we talk?" Twilight offered. She knew her Sunset got uncomfortable if she wasn't up and doing something. She had always been the hands-on type, after all. Though Twilight didn't know if it was true of the other Sunset, she suspected it was at least likely. She could also sense a darkness emanating from her wife that no smile or pretend cheer could hide from a spouse of two decades.
The other Twilight politely agreed while the other Sunset shrugged and got up with them. Twilight led the way at a perfectly leisurely pace down the beach. She walked closest beside the other Twilight to ask what was on her mind next. She kept her own Sunset slightly behind but within her eyesight. They might need a private conversation either shortly or after this meeting of universes. What she intended to ask her doppelganger began instead as a statement.
"I wish it were night," the mature scientist remarked. "I might be able to see the stars then. There's more than an 89.3% probability that the differences between our similar realities would be apparent even as minor variations in the positions or movements of the stars."
"89.5%," the other Twilight pushed up her glasses and stared back insistently.
Twilight giggled and then pushed up her glasses as well. "I intentionally disregarded the potential 0.2% variation resulting from the possibly minor atmospheric distortion difference."
"Makes sense," Other Twilight pressed back her own giggle. Her twin knew exactly which variable she had in mind. It was pleasantly logical.
"So then," Twilight proceeded while trying to keep her ears on the conversation beginning with the Sunsets as well as their children. "If we're from differing segments of a multiverse, then what universe are we in right now? Is this the Hello Tropics from our world or yours? How did our universes even collide...?"
Just as she began to ask it, Twilight realized the theoretical implication of the potential collision of multiverse realms. Other Twilight beat her to voicing what they had simultaneously thought.
I froze, running multiple calculations through my head as quickly as I could, remembering every obscure piece of data I had ever read on the subject.
"I...I don't know," I said, mind still crunching numbers. "It looks just the same as it always has to me." I looked at my twin.
She glanced around. "Same," she said, nervously adjusting her glasses again. "I don't see any immediate out of place objects or differences to my memory."
I sighed as I finished my train of thought. "I thought so," I said, stooping down to draw in the sand as the Sunsets continued to pace a little further. Sunny always felt restless when she had nothing to do immediately in front of her and obviously the other Sunset did as well. I am sometimes amazed she sits still long enough to write her novels.
I couldn't help but linger on the two forms, seeing my slim and relaxed Sunset next to a more chiseled and toned one. I wonder...
Bad, Twilight, I thought immediately. No.
My Sunset glanced at me momentarily, an eyebrow quirking up for a moment. I blushed as I realised that I hadn't clamped down on the bond as tightly as I should have.
You have some explaining to do, she thought at me with a huge dose of humor.
Shut up, I responded. You're distracting me.
Me, or her? she thought before turning back to her counterpart, leading her away slightly.
"Marital problems?" my doppelganger asked, correctly hypothesizing about a mental conversation now that she knew of them.
"Your Sunny have a snarky side?"
"I just triggered mine and got teased for it."
"Ah," she said as she knelt down next to me as I scratched out figures in the sand.
"If my calculations are correct," I started. "The likelihood of intersection of parallel realities is unlikely if you figure harmonic resonance in." I drew a series of wavy lines. "If each reality truly begins from a single choice in the distant past, then the increasing sameness from the two means that they have very similar wavelengths to their cosmic harmonics. There may even be..."
"A sympathetic resonance!" she cried, dashing a few notes of her own. "Points that just happen to cross the quantum barrier due to the fact that it's on the same frequency of the other dimension! Like a radio picking up two stations at once!"
"Exactly!" I said. "This might be one of those places!"
I smiled as Twilight blushed and turned her back on me to talk with her twin, finger swirling in the sand as she discussed things. I turned to my doppelganger, dropping the smile and fixing what Middy had dubbed 'The Royal Look' on my face.
"What's wrong?" I asked her directly. She shifted, never meeting my eyes.
"I don't know what you mean," she said, casually looking up into the air.
"Roadapples," I said, not sparing her the tone of my voice. "Ever since my Twilight let it slip about my title you've grown increasingly distracted and moody." I toned down the glare on my face and gave a soft smile. "You know who you're talking to, right?"
“Do I?” Sunset responded after a time. She could have said that with the bitter melancholy she was feeling but instead her words were soft. Like a thought barely spoken in the wind. “You have reasons not to be happy about ascending as an alicorn but that’s because of events that happened in your timespace.”
“So what?” Other Sunset splayed her hands out with a feeling of repetition. “I already told-”
“-me that you two went through a lot along with it? Yes,” Sunset clenched her fists. The view was clear all the way out to the opening of the bay. Both opposing cliffs that formed the protected opening of the bay shielded view of the vast seas except for that spot in between. “But now I’ll always wonder.”
In some way, perhaps the closeness of their realities, the other Sunset was able to look the same way and catch the same thought. The sun shined back off of the waving water and became blinding in one corner of the bay’s relatively small opening. She felt a breeze of melancholy enter her mind as she looked hard at that spot and knew what had not yet been said.
The other Sunset gave voice to the feeling. “Wonder what it’s like to live that life you never lived. To see the world around that corner, knowing just how big it is out there. To know what's really out there.”
Sunset dropped her gaze and dragged her foot through the sand, watching how the grains moved beneath her. “You had adventures I never did. Experienced wonders I’ll never know.”
“Endured pain you never had to,” Other Sunset reminded, her own gaze shifting from the bay to her copy. Emotion began swelling up inside her. Melancholy gave way to a hundred other emotions that left her upset in a way she never thought she would be. “Yours is a life of peace and tranquility I never knew could be mine in another life!”
Sunset faced her other self fully. Her own emotions mirrored flawlessly. “You got everything I fought for when I was young! You got your wings-!”
I felt my fury cool, a cold anger coiling in my stomach as my voice lowered.
"You think I give a damn about these wings, after everything I've witnessed since I was saddled with them? In a very short span of time from when I was given those pesky appendages, I watched as Twilight recovered from being mentally tortured, witnessed an invasion of undead ponies on the Crystal Empire, was forced to not only witness the spirits of my dead parents raised to be used against me, but Applejack's as well, and in a fit of rage more fitting to how I used to be mercilessly burned a pony to death in retaliation for hurting my wife."
The anger, guilt, and regret battling within me were obvious in my eyes reflection like a storm cloud before fading. "So what if the choices made were different? Your parents pushed ambition on you, and you chose to abandon your past in favor of your brighter present and future. I may have been put to the yoke of duty by circumstances out of my control, but my real reward is that beautiful egghead and those two gorgeous girls, not the title. Things may have been different for us growing up, but regardless of that, you still have a fine life, Sunset Shimmer, a damn good one," I said. "And stars above, I don't think I need to tell you how amazing your wife is."
I looked on as the emotions still raged behind her eyes. I don't know if it was my empathic abilities or just the fact that I know myself, I could see she was still bothered by the fact that by a cosmic flip of the coin something had been denied to her. I sighed, and touched my pendant, feeling the rush of increased magic flow through me, and I ponied up, wings spreading behind me as I also grew several inches.
"I get the feeling words won't convince you of everything I've said," I said, cutting her off. I drifted closer to her, my proximity forcing her own ponification by radial magic saturation.
Damn, now I'm instantly theorizing like Twilight. What was it people said about spouses as they got older?
I reached out with two fingers and touched her forehead where her horn wold have been.
"See for yourself," I whispered and opened the floodgates.
Chrysalis and the conjunction.
The Children of the Void and their master.
I fed every memory I had to her in vivid color, each twinge relived in my own mind. I felt the Harpies claws as they dug into my side, the flash of pain as the doorway crystal exploded. The horror of having to banish my parents and the sight of Applejack sobbing uncontrollably in my embrace. The confusion and panic during the conjunction Chrysalis had caused. The sight of the risen dead and the shockwave of the mantic explosion. Neighlin burning. My childhood home burning.
Just as I felt the strain on the other end, I started sending her memories of laughter with my sisters at holidays, seeing Ebony, Middy, and Rory being born, of seeing them play on both sides of the portal with Glory's daughter Wingsong. I showed her my wedding days and getting the first check from the publisher after my first novel was released, of Twilight walking across the stage to accept her doctorate in theoretical sciences. The picnics I had with the girls and their children.
While all this was occurring, I saw her life as well, her wedding, the trips to this very resort and the lives her friends had shared with her. I felt the worry over her Twilight's difficult pregnancy and the deep bond she shared with Sunlight. I also saw her proposal, their lives as a couple, including a few more private scenes that I felt momentary flashes of guilt at seeing.
I withdrew my fingers, dropping my magic as exhaustion washed through me. I stumbled a bit and saw purple arms slide under mine, supporting me.
You went a little heavy, there, Twilight thought to me with a hint of reproach. You almost pulled me and the other Twilight in with you on that exchange.
I looked at my counterpart, her eyes still gazing forward as the glow of magic faded.
She needed it, I replied, releasing my pony form as I regained my footing.
Hoping I was right.
Sunset's eyes narrowed and remained on her other self, but she was looking past her. Deeper. Images played in her mind from their connection. It felt like chains were keeping her from blinking or even breathing, so she gathered her strength. Her gaze lifted to the bright sky, encouraging her eyes to close for a moment as she took a deep breath and released it.
"I'm also the Element of Empathy, you know," Sunset's face softened into her casual grin. She felt free again. "I just never guessed I'd ever need...well, myself to show...myself."
The Other Sunset visibly relaxed. It appeared she had been concerned over her approach.
"Don't worry about it," Sunset encouraged and welcomed her wife, who came up behind her and hugged her from behind. "I can handle me," she winked. "And I did need that. For some things, words are not enough. Knowing your experiences more directly - and knowing mine - made it easier to see. The decisions I made in life led me here and made me who I am. I'd regret it more if I had made different choices and got to see this life as an outsider. We're both lucky to be who we are."
"I couldn't have said it better," Other Sunset gave a knowing look.
"Because I just did," Sunset smirked back. The pause was quickly broken by their shared giggling that helped sweep away the last of the tension. "Feels good. Not to worry, I mean."
Twilight groaned behind her wife and stuck her head around Sunset's shoulder to look at the other one. "Please don't you start too. I don't think I can take twice my Sunset."
"No worries," Other Sunset put her hands up in defense. "We're not entirely the same."
"I don't know," Sunset narrowed her eyes and leaned forward at her double. "I mean, some of those special memories I saw in your head when we connected seemed pretty familiar. Especially the steamy ones," she added with a wiggle of her eyebrows.
"Seems fair," I conceeded, feeling a blush creep up my face and hearin Sunshine let out a sound that sounded curiously like "meep". "I did kinda get front row seats to some of yours by accident."
The other Twilight let out a similar sound as she flashed red.
"As exciting as I'm sure the talk is," Midnight said in a caustic tone from behind us, adjusting her sunglasses in a motion strikingly similar to her mother. "Could we not hear you talk about that? It's doubly weird and disturbing right now."
Aurora and Sunlight stood by her, nodding in agreement.
I flashed my twin a wicked grin, seeing it mirrored perfectly.
"Sunset Shimmer," my wife warned as she picked up on my mischievousness. "Don't you do it."
"Alright," I said. "I won't share the story of how bad your estrus was when we conceived Rory."
My daughters shrieked in disgust and walked away quickly as Twilight punched me hard in the arm. The twins of my wife and I started laughing.
"Totally worth it," I said as I joined in. Then I noticed hat their son, Sunlight, had a look of confusion on his face, eyes roving back and forth as he searched his thoughts.
"What's the matter, kiddo?" I asked.
Four faces turned bright red and Twilight grabbed my arm, leading us away.
"We'll let your parents tell you, Sunlight," she said hurredly. "We'll meet you all at the docks!"
And we fled, leaving our twins sputtering in confusion.