Equestria was fun. Not in the polite use of the word Principal Celestia used to describe Luna’s video games, or that punk rock concert Sunset took her to. No, Equestria was fun.
Certainly, their royal accommodations contributed to the enjoyment. As did the physical prowess of their alicorn bodies, making even the most disastrous flight a thing to be brushed off. The principals had much to be grateful for, and Celestia was grateful.
So was Luna, of course. She didn’t say it out loud, but her joy flowed more easily every day. While Celestia shopped and took in Equestria’s culture, Luna spent hours each morning aloft on her alien wings, though she landed each afternoon to touch base. Often they gathered for lunch, then took off somewhere for a minor adventure.
Today, a full-service trip to a beachfront massage spa. Alicorns had a great many more muscles than humans, resulting in a three-hour sojourn.
The results spoke for themselves. The displaced humans barely managed to stagger out to the beach – tropical heat, and perfect sand in all directions – and collapse onto alicorn-sized chairs in a puddle of smiles. Helpful ponies brought non-alcoholic drinks and their bags, leaving the duo to recover, giggling with residual bliss.
“We’re… what, two-hundred kilos?” Luna murmured upwards. “I have never been so fat, and never felt so glorious. Gaze upon my moonbutt and know my beauty.”
Celestia let her head bob in sleepy approximation of a nod. “Those wing rubs...”
They shivered at the memory. Pony feathers had sensation, and the goddesses at the spa tended to every plume.
And now? Seven in the evening, still balmy as a Florida sunset, and fifteen days until duty called them home. The first vacation of Principal Celestia’s adult life was going swimmingly.
Actually, “After we’ve pulled ourselves back together, want to find out how terribly these bodies swim?”
“It will not be terrible. We shall flail with utmost magnificence.” Luna sipped noisily at her drink then flopped like a beached whale, presenting her underside to the sky. “Hunky pony peasants shall keep watch, and kiss us to life if we sink.”
Celestia flinched from her sister. “Luna! Roll back.”
Celestia flushed and raised her book between them. “Because your gross pony tits are showing.”
“My pony tits are majestic, thank you very much.” Luna thrust them upwards, but then obliged, rolling over to a comfortable pony-loaf position. “Huh. Remember how we wondered why ponies wore swimsuits at the beach even though they’re always naked? I think there’s our answer.”
“Very astute. I’ll jot that down.” Celestia hoofed a notebook from her bag and lipped it open to a blank page. With a resigned sigh, she took a pen in her mouth and began to write.
...Not perfect, this Equestria. She had become acquainted with the taste of doorknobs and pens, and found a new dislike for soup. Perhaps tonight she’d ask that nice unicorn for a second magic lesson, ideally with fewer explosions.
Still, Equestria was an experience worth recording. Even if today’s record now went:
“At Appls foR bkfST (Rely Good)
Shop beech sTORe got souveneR fr dtr
MeT Kirin (CUTE TALK FIRE thinG) Gave belly Rub
(SWImsuits Bcus Ponytits?)”
She spat the pen back into her bag. “I shall never criticize Sunset’s handwriting again.”
“And that’s why I leave the journalism to you.” Luna took another noisy drink. “Hey, what book was that?”
Celestia sipped more daintily, grateful the ponies thought to put in a straw. “I picked it up at the port, ‘Daring Do and the Eternal Flower.’ I’d call it an Indiana Jones knockoff, but well, you know how it works here. Given how fantastic this land is, I’m surprised they still have fiction.”
Luna perked up at that. “Cool. If you see a vampire story or like a Pony-Twilight, snag it for me. There’s got to be a… a Braym Stoker out there somewhere.”
“I’ll keep watch,” Celestia said. “Back to Sunset: how do you think she’s doing?”
Luna laughed. “Are you kidding? College high-life, twenty four-seven. How much you want to bet she borrows the house for a party?”
“To be honest, I hope she does.” Celestia gave a small, honest smile. “She’s far too responsible to trash the place, or let good times get in the way of her studies. She should have fun.”
“Don’t you worry, O sister-mine.” Luna tried to lift her glass with magic, sending a crack down its middle. Better than her last try. “She’s having the time of her life.”
Sunset fumbled for the handle and flushed. Her head dipped close enough to the toilet rim that draft from its suction ran along her face. No matter. The third long, intense upheaval in as many hours, each lasting a good chunk of that hour, wasn’t done yet.
The first time had been so terrible she called Redheart, and immediately regretted it. “No problem, that’s how you know the wolfsbane’s working. The wicked shits come later.”
Her whole body ached, except for the stomach where “ache” didn’t quite cover the feeling of claws and razors inside. An ominous belch emerged and she let more vomit fly before thinking to hold up her hair.
Awful. And the most awful thing was having another twoish days of this to come. All to maybe not become a werewolf… painting the porcelain as she was, Sunset doubted it was worthwhile. And now she had puke on her hair, and…
No, no she didn’t. Latex-clad hands had pulled back her bangs, saving them from the wolfsbane’s fury.
“Don’t try to fight it,” Twilight coached from her position behind Sunset.
“Can’t you taze me or something?” Sunset moaned. “Knockout gas? Something to let me sleep through this?”
Twilight held firm. “No. We need you to stay hydrated. After this we are sitting you at the table with a juice box, and I’m heating up some of the soup my mom made for you. And then you are going to drink it.”
“So I can barf it out later.”
“Which is why we need to maintain your intake. We talked about this.”
“Easy for you to fucking say,” Sunset growled more harshly than intended. One last burst removed the last of her stomach’s contents and she rose unsteadily, accepting Twilight’s wordless offer of mouthwash. She turned to lean on her shorter friend, and saw dampness on the girl’s cheeks.
The claws in her stomach were back at work, but they vanished from her voice. “Whoa, you okay?”
“I’m sorry,” Twilight said dejectedly. Sunset wobbled, but a gloved hand caught her and they headed to the table. “I didn’t mean to lecture. I’m the last person who should. I was worthless against the werewolf, I was out of touch before then... you know how I am. When I go home today I’ll try to invent something to help with this.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Sunset croaked. “I, uh, don’t want to be a guinea pig right now.”
Twilight cringed. “Sorry.”
Sunset shook her head as she sat heavily on the bench. “I’m not going to lie, this sucks. But I’m thankful you’re here putting up with me. I really am, so don’t apologize.”
Twilight poked a straw into the juice box and settled it in Sunset’s hand. “I texted the girls, they all send their best. Be ready for a party when you get better, because Pinkie mentioned something about scoring tickets to an indoor water park.”
“Cool.” Sunset accepted the offering and took a drink. “Don’t invite them over, I don’t want anyone to see me likeURP!”
Bed, bathroom, drink. Bed, bathroom, drink…
...Weird, Sunset didn’t feel so bad now. Definitely didn’t want to go back in her increasingly-odorous bed. She puttered in her bathrobe and sweater pajamas, brushing her teeth and then washing out her dishes. Still shaky and wan, but vastly improved from before.
Humming, curious if the worst was really over, Sunset meandered to the common room and sipped gingerly at a mug of hot chocolate. It stayed down fine, so she sipped again. Strange how it had appeared on the table with no one else home…
Oh, right. “Thanks, Wallflower.”
As if summoned, the short green girl materialized next to her with a sunlight grin. “Look who’s up and about!”
Sunset chuckled weakly. “Yeah. Nurse’s orders, I think I’ll turn on the Gamestation. Something easy.”
“So not Smash, um...” Wallflower tapped her chin, then raised a finger. “Simple, cooperative, let’s play Dora The Destroyer!”
She caught herself and shrank behind her bangs. “I-If you want to play with me, that is.”
“Of course I do, you’re a friend.” Sunset stretched an arm, but retracted it without contact. “This seems like a hug thing but I’m super grody right now. But you are my friend, and I want you to know that. I like spending time with you.”
Especially now that Wallflower showered regularly. No need to say it out loud.
Sunset went on as they readied the controllers. “I know your, uh, side-effect makes it rough, but definitely, one-hundred percent, we don’t want to ignore you. No choice but for you to speak up, and maybe the memory effect will fade with time.”
“I hope it doesn’t.”
That got Sunset’s full attention. Wallflower caught her eyes and blushed, half-smiling before looking away. “I have eleven brothers and sisters. I’m not the oldest or youngest. I’m not the smartest, strongest, prettiest, or anything. I’m not even the quietest – everyone knew Frazzle was the quietest so they all made sure she was heard. I got so used to no one paying me attention that after a while it really scared me when they did. That’s why I used the memory stone… reset, reset every time I thought I got it wrong, which was every time. I think part of your mind remembered me, because after a while I stopped being a stranger, or someone new. I was just there, in the background, and no one had any memories to make them care. A wallflower.”
Sunset watched her, but the smile grew. “Back with the ghouls… I walked out right behind their leader. Right past the guard. No one notices a wallflower. No one else knows there’s something I’m the best at. Something I can do to help my friends, and that’s awesome. It’s pretty specialized, but I’m doing other things, too. I’m studying first aid, and there’s this big used van I’m saving up for. The more I do, the more useful I can be.”
A red eyebrow rose, and Sunset grinned beneath. “Rain check on that hug, because we’ll need one later. But Wallflower, you don’t have to be useful to be my friend.”
“I know.” Wallflower turned on the television. “But I want to be. Now would you like to play as Dora, or Panzer Monkey? Panzer Monkey’s my boi, but you’re sick so I’ll let you choose.”
The worst wasn’t over. Sweet Celestia, it wasn’t. Now Sunset was freezing on top of everything, not that it stopped her stomach’s unnatural progress in both vertical directions. She laid curled in her bed, shivering, panting, and sweating. A bucket sat next to her that she never managed to get up and empty, yet always proved clean for her next round of vomiting. It was only on her fourth deposit that her poison-addled mind realized someone was emptying it for her.
That someone leaned into view, their face blurred in her vision. “Hey, Sunny. I won’t ask if you’re okay, but tell me what’s worst right now and we’ll fix it.”
Sunset focused her vision, picking out Applejack’s green eyes and freckles. “Too bright. Turn off the lights.”
“Lights are off, Sunny.”
“Then close the blinds.”
White entered Sunset’s glazed vision as Applejack gave a gentle grin. “It’s three in the morning.”
That got a hard blink as reality jolted Sunset to full wakefulness. The view of Applejack crystallized, kneeling down to put her head on level with Sunset’s. Light pollution from the outside illuminated her enough to see the look of concern, and bags beneath the eyes.
How long had Sunset been in bed? No idea, but a great deal of moans, noisy tosses and turns, and regurgitations had marked the time. “Aw, shit. Have I been keeping you up?”
“Don’t you worry about me,” Applejack said, which Sunset had the presence of mind to understand wasn’t a ‘no.’ “Tell me what you’re feeling now. Hungry, nauseous, cold...”
‘Guilty’ came to mind until that last part. “Cold. Tirek’s teeth, I’m freezing.”
Applejack laid a hand on Sunset’s covers, then immodestly felt beneath them and ran her hand along the pajamas. “No wonder, everything’s soaked through. Let’s get these changed.”
“My extra sheets are still at Mom’s house,” Sunset groaned.
“Then we’ll wash these.”
“The laundry room closes at nine.”
Somehow, even the shadowed room felt too bright for Sunset’s eyes. She closed them and rolled over, irate and done with the conversation. Folding herself into a cannonball helped with the damp chill, though her shivering remained.
“Sunny, we have to do something about this.”
“Let me sleep,” Sunset groaned. “Forget I said anything.”
“No can do.”
She felt Applejack peel off the covers, and curled up tighter. “Leave me alone.”
“You’ll thank me later,” Applejack said. Two strong arms slid beneath Sunset and hoisted her to a sitting position.
Sunset grumbled, but proved too lethargic for an active defense. Applejack fetched her fresh pajamas, but accepted a deathly glare’s statement that no help was needed with the actual change. She turned around as Sunset got to work, then turned back with the next words.
“These will just get wet in those sheets anyway.”
“Yep.” Applejack nodded, then offered her arm. “Here, stand with me.”
Not sure where this was going, Sunset obeyed, but stopped rigid as they crossed the few steps to Applejack’s bed. “No. I can’t make you do this.”
“You’re right, you can’t.” Applejack pushed Sunset gently to a lying position on the bed, then pulled an apple-themed quilt over her.
The effect was immediate. Thick, fluffy sheets cradled Sunset, and when the blanket followed she could feel dry warmth engulfing every limb. The constant shiver was ended; without it, she felt drowsy and content.
She opened her mouth to thank Applejack, but a yawn interrupted.
“You’re always so good to me,” Sunset managed, rapidly falling into sleep.
Applejack settled herself on the chair. “I got your back, Sunny. Always have, always will.”
Two… three days since the fun began? Hard to tell. Sunset awoke feeling markedly improved, but past experience guarded her optimism. Deciding to take the good time for all it was worth, she rolled over and laid comfortably for another hour in the warm, apple-scented sheets.
No unnatural bodily functions interrupted. Actually, she was hungry. She slowly got out, still weak, and wandered to the common room.
Nobody home. Nothing but a note on the table, which Sunset picked up and surveyed.
“I totally have a thing going on today. Give a text when you’re well enough to shower because damn, girl, this place is getting stanky.
“Wow, cool.” Sunset tossed it without another look into the trash, then paused as a knock came from the front door.
“I’m sick,” she called.
“I know,” came a voice from the other end. Familiar, yet Sunset didn’t place it until she opened the door and found a freckled yellow face.
“Sour Sweet, uh, hi.” Sunset ran a hand uselessly through her frazzled hair. “Sorry I’m like this.”
The former preppie took a few seconds to find Sunset’s eyes. “Well… I’m sorry for everything leading up to you being like this.”
“Not your fault,” Sunset said.
“Sure, but the way I acted is.” Sour shrugged around the paper bag in her arms. “I’m a mean girl, and I was in the middle of a high-key freakout. Not a good combination.”
She fidgeted in place, bringing her eyes to the floor. “So, yeah. Thanks for saving me in spite of myself. Thanks for believing me when my friends wouldn’t, thanks for basically sacrificing yourself for me. I know your cafeteria doesn’t get bakery cookies, so I stole all of ours and have them here. I can’t think of anything else I can do for you.”
Cookies were the last thing Sunset wanted right now, but she smiled all the same. “Thanks, we’ll enjoy these. And don’t worry about the rest, just a day in the life, you know? Crazy for you, Wednesday for us.”
“Somehow I feel this one wasn’t just Wednesday,” Sour said in a tone that wobbled between friendliness and snark. “But anyway, how are you feeling? Your yellow friend asked me to check in.”
Sunset accepted the cookies and retreated, beckoning Sour to follow. “Better than I’ve been since starting the medication. Gonna take a shower, then eat something besides soup for once.”
Sour sniffed at their bedroom and recoiled, but put on a determined look. “Cool. I’ll get your sheets in the laundry.”
Mercifully, the shower marked the end of that particular part of the adventure. No more symptoms, smelly or otherwise. Redheart said Sunset had a short and easy time of the treatment, an observation Sunset didn’t care to think about.
All that remained was not becoming a werewolf.
Three days later, night of the full moon, they made an evening of it at Applejack’s request. Adagio grumbled and Twilight was late, but they arrived at the Pies’ house ready for a sleepover.
Maud showed them the accommodations: Sunset would sleep in a horrible concrete basement, within a thick cage bolted to the ground. Not for the last time, if the wolfsbane didn’t work. Applejack protested the lack of comfort, and won from Maud an inflatable mattress and sleeping bag for the cage.
They changed to their pajamas in Pinkie’s room – the girl herself absent on a sleepover with Fluttershy. Sunset wondered if Maud arranged it that way.
A low whistle from Adagio caught her ear. “Hubba, hubba, get a load of this.”
Figuring that a little sexy teasing from their resident siren was inevitable, Sunset turned slowly with a wry smile. Applejack was the target, as ever, but she always seemed to enjoy it.
The smile caught on her face. Yes, it was Adagio and Applejack, the latter stripped to her underwear. No skin Sunset hadn’t seen before, although Applejack had always been the shyest of the Rainbooms with exposing herself. Sunset once presumed it came from a conservative upbringing, and it took longer than she liked to realize it was body-shame. Applejack spent her high school days taller than most boys, but thin, gangly, and awkward. She also had a roughness to her edges the others lacked – combined result of more hard work and fewer beauty products.
That was the Applejack of high school. She was still tall, but not beanpole-built anymore, oh no. Late puberty had painted over bony limbs with muscles, strengthened and reinforced by hard work and hearty eating. Sunset’s eyes drifted over the awesome girl-abs, feeling a grin come on and unexpected heat rise in her stomach.
Adagio’s fingers ran down a toned arm, tickling giggles out of Applejack. “Sunset, I thought we were friends! You’ve been rooming with all this, and never told me.”
“She always changes in the bathroom,” Sunset said, fighting down her smile. But it kept creeping up, leaving her face in a leer. “Damn, AJ. Looking good. Looking...”
Sunset coughed, catching something less appropriate and swapping in another, “good.”
She tore her eyes from the muscles to probe Applejack’s face, searching for fear or humiliation. Applejack blushed freely, yes, but wore a laughing, liberated grin. “Not bad, eh girls? Twenty hours of farm work a week and you can have a body li-EEK!”
She squeaked and recoiled as Wallflower poked her abs.
“How does it feel?” Sunset purred mischievously, closing in opposite of Adagio.
“Rock-hard,” Wallflower said, looking up with shining admiration. “I thought I was the one with super-powers.”
Caught up in the flow and red to her ears, Sunset brushed her fingers to Applejack’s belly, then arm. Hard, strong.
Always helping, always there for her…
Applejack interrupted the uncomfortable thoughts. “Y’all ain’t seen nothing. Here!”
She flexed both arms, raising miniature apples inside. Sunset and Adagio obligingly touched them and cooed, slowly sending all three into gales of laughter. Adagio snuck a kiss on one bicep and tried for the face, though Applejack gently warded her back.
For her part, Sunset retreated, and discreetly looked away as Applejack finished changing. For the best – Sunset needed a moment herself. She’d gotten a little too silly, laughed a little too hard. Opened up a bit too many questions.
Adagio leaned over to catch Sunset’s gaze, with one raised eyebrow and one knowing smirk. She smacked her lips in a faux kiss and then moved to continue dressing.
They ate popcorn. Watched a movie Sunset couldn’t even remember. Shot down Adagio’s idea to spin the bottle. Pried Twilight from her laptop long enough for a few Smash matchups, mostly to give Wallflower a challenge. Sunset had only played one round when Maud came to collect.
Applejack went with them to the basement, bringing her pillow and blanket. She was good like that… she was always like that.
No heat down here. Sunset shuddered as she entered the cage. “What will be the first sign if I turn into a werewolf?”
“You’ll turn into a werewolf,” Maud said, and locked her in.
They settled down. Maud on a wooden chair facing Sunset, her war-pick close to hand. Sunset tried to relax, but the whirlwind through her mind soon set her to frantic pacing. Applejack talked her down, sharing stories and gossip, but that left Sunset even more agitated when she went to bed. Of course Applejack helped. She always helped. She was great, sexy, and, “Tirek’s teeth, I could be a werewolf in the next hour!”
Her brain stormed from one topic to the next. Applejack. Maud’s silver pick. The chain on the werewolf they killed. What Mom would say. Sexy muscles. The damn, irregular water drip echoing through the basement. Maud’s endless stare, locked and unblinking every time Sunset dared to look.
Her nose itched – was that a sign? No, of course not. Maybe.
“You’re having trouble sleeping,” Maud finally said.
Sunset checked her phone. “Midnight. Doesn’t this mean I’m not a werewolf?”
Maud shook her head. “It can happen any time until dawn.”
“Damn it!” Sunset snapped, then noted Applejack’s snores and went on quietly. “I’m dying here, Maud. I keep thinking about… you know, being a werewolf and everything.”
“I understand.” Maud nodded solemnly, reaching into her backpack. “If you like, I can do what I do for Limestone when she has trouble sleeping.”
“Please,” Sunset said, not knowing or caring what she was signing on for. She watched curiously as Maud produced a notebook and flipped it open.
“My family says my poetry has a very soothing quality to it.” Maud cleared her throat and selected a page. “This one is called ‘Rocks.’”
Rocks are my friends.
They come in all colors.
Rock salt is useful for banishing demons.”
“This is stupid,” Sunset grumbled, too low for Maud to hear. She gazed upwards, brain still flying. Werewolves, Applejack, Mom…
“Salt is also useful for preserving food.
And for adding flavor.
Although my dad shouldn’t eat table salt anymore.
Salt was very important for much of human history.”
Sunset bounced her knee. Was she really gay for Applejack? Maybe she just got caught up in the moment, and the emotion. Would Sunset still be attracted tomorrow? If no, status quo, if yes… better call Rarity, she was good with that stuff. And what about Adagio? That smirk wasn’t for nothing, would she use this against them?
“But back to rocks.
Most are gray.
And my sister Limestone.
And my sister Marble.
And my mother.”
Sunset’s head fell to the pillow, her mouth opened to an uproarious snore.
Maud never left anything half-done. She continued reading aloud until all forty-eight stanzas were complete, then folded the notebook and resumed her vigil. Staring, silent, patient. Never moving until dawn’s light crept through the grated window and fell on Sunset’s sleeping form, to which Maud smiled gently.