Rarity stared at herself in the mirror, prodding the horn sprouting from her forehead with a finger. "I feel as though I've just gotten the worst pimple in the history of pimples," she complained.
Sunset frowned. "Okay, the rest of this? I should've seen coming. Rarity growing a horn? That's unexpected." She tilted her head. "Wait a second...I think the Rarity in the other world is a unicorn..."
"So...are we stuck like this?" Applejack asked, flicking an equine ear. "Like, for good?"
Sunset shrugged. "At least until Princess Twilight figures out what's going on and finds a way to fix it." She sighed. "At least you girls are still human..."
"I wonder...can I do magic with this thing?" Rarity asked.
"Probably," Sunset said. "I can teach you basic levitation if you want."
"How come Fluttershy, Rainbow, and Rarity get cool extra stuff like wings and horns and me and AJ just get ears and tails?" Pinkie asked.
"Just a guess? Your pony counterparts are earth ponies," Sunset said. "Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are obviously pegasi, Rarity's apparently a unicorn, but earth ponies, well..."
"They're jes' regular ol' ponies?" Applejack guessed.
"Well, no," Sunset said. "They're more connected to the land, they're better at hard physical labor, they're a lot stronger and sturdier..."
"So they're th' farmers," Applejack said.
"And miners and blacksmiths and gardeners and stuff," Sunset said. "They're also pretty good at cooking and baking, if I remember correctly." She snorted. "There used to be this whole big caste system and the earth ponies always got shafted, but that was before Equestria was founded and the three pony tribes realized they were equal." She sighed. "Still, the unicorns in Canterlot can be pretty snobby sometimes and look down on earth ponies...it's just one of those things that never completely goes away."
"Umm...Sunset Shimmer?" Fluttershy asked. "If...if we can't go back to normal, are...are we going to have to leave too?"
"I don't know, Fluttershy," Sunset said. "I just don't know." She bowed her head. "I'm sorry, girls. None of this would ever have happened if not for me."
"Big deal!" Rainbow said. "So things got a little weird and we all turned part pony. You know we all love havin' this awesome pony magic!"
"Yeah but...do you really wanna be stuck that way?"
"Are you kidding?" Rainbow cried, flapping her wings. "It'd be awesome!"
"Shoot, it ain't that big a deal, sugarcube," Applejack said. "We'll get used to it."
"So...what do we do now?" Fluttershy asked. "I mean...aren't we all kind of in the same boat as Sunset Shimmer now?"
"Eh, I think the rest of us can manage," Rainbow said. "I mean, the ears and wings and stuff, it's all in our videos and they're all over the web, right? Sure, it might freak people out a little, but we can get through it."
"Lucky you," Sunset muttered. With a sigh, she said, "I guess...for now, we need to call Principal Celestia..."
Fluttershy yawned. "I don't know about you girls, but...I'm getting tired..."
"It is rather late," Rarity said.
"You girls can sleep over if you want," Sunset said. "I think I've got enough extra pajamas for everyone." She sighed. "Not like I'll be needing them anytime soon..."
"Buck up, sugarcube," Applejack said. "Twilight'll git all this sorted out. You jes' gotta have faith."
Sunset smiled. "Yeah. You're right..." She smiled at her friends. "You girls go get ready for bed. I'll call Principal Celestia and ask her to...to come over tomorrow." She grimaced. "This...is gonna be really embarrassing..."
* * * * *
Fortunately for all concerned, the next day was Saturday.
After the girls had all settled in for the night, Sunset had made herself a bed out of throw pillows and blankets in the living room, having surrendered her own bed to Rarity.
When Sunset awoke the next morning, she wasn't alone. Slender, strong arms were wrapped around her, and her face was buried in a wave of cottony-soft, cherry blossom pink hair.
She rolled her eyes. "Fluttershy," she said. "Wake up."
Fluttershy blinked her eyes open, smiled dreamily, and hugged Sunset tighter, moaning sleepily.
Sunset groaned. "Great. I'm a living hug pillow."
The quiet beep of a cameraphone, followed by muted giggling from Pinkie Pie, drew Sunset's attention. She looked up in alarm to see Rarity and Pinkie standing over them; Rarity had her phone out and pointed at her. "GAH!" Sunset cried. "Rarity, you didn't!"
"Sorry, darling, but I simply couldn't resist," Rarity said, covering her mouth and laughing daintily. "It's simply too adorable a scene to have stumbled upon."
Sunset rolled her eyes. "That better not end up online..."
"I wouldn't dream of it!"
"Good." Sunset wriggled around and groaned. "So...you just gonna stand there, or would one of you like to get her off of me?"
"Get Fluttershy to let go of a critter? Are you loco in the coco?" Pinkie shook her head. "We're just gonna go make breakfast for everybody." She tilted her head. "Do ponies eat eggs?"
"Yes. Yes we do."
"Okay then." Pinkie padded off to the kitchen, Rarity right behind her. Fluttershy made a happy cooing noise; Sunset sighed and smiled.
"Alright, five more minutes," she said. "Then we're having a talk about personal space..."
Ten minutes later, the smell of breakfast drew Fluttershy awake, but not before the others had walked in on the spectacle and had a good chuckle (or deranged cackle in Rainbow's case) at Sunset's expense. For her part, Fluttershy was absolutely unapologetic about the entire thing, having decided that Sunset required cuddling and that it was her duty to oblige. After breakfast, Sunset's phone rang. Using her magic and the voice answer, she spoke to Principal Celestia for a few minutes. "She's coming over at around ten," Sunset said. "Vice-Principal Luna is coming with her."
"The rest of us better hurry and get cleaned up, then," Applejack said. "Why don't you shower first, Fluttershy? You spent all night huggin' a horse, after all..."
"HEY!" Sunset cried. "Are you saying I stink?"
"Sunset Shimmer smells lovely, Applejack!" Fluttershy protested. She paused, then sniffed herself. "But I don't. And I do have a lot more hair to wash..." She sighed. "I'll be as quick as I can..."
As Fluttershy padded off to the bathroom, Rainbow Dash shook her head and turned on the television. "Man, I wonder what Luna and Celestia are gonna think when they see you like this..."
* * * * *
Celestia sat across from Sunset Shimmer, blinking rapidly, one hand covering a small, silly smile as she fought not to giggle.
Luna wasn't making it easy.
"Who's a silly pony?" Luna cooed. She sat beside Sunset Shimmer on the floor, scratching the little unicorn behind the ears. "Who's a silly pony? Yes you are! Yes you are!"
Sunset twitched an ear in irritation. "Could you stop that?"
"Luna, please stop, we need to be serious now," Celestia said mildly. She coughed delicately. "So, Sunset Shimmer...about this...condition..." She glanced around the room at the other girls, frowning mildly at their magical modifications. "Is this something I need to be worried about?"
"I honestly don't know," Sunset said. "I mean, I'm from Equestria, and these girls have Equestrian magic after that whole thing at the Fall Formal." She frowned. "And the Dazzlings...I wouldn't be surprised if something like this has happened to them too. But I don't think anyone else should be affected by this." She gestured with a hoof. "We'll have to wait and see what Princess Twilight has to say, of course. She's researching all this back in Equestria."
"So these girls aren't going to turn all the way into small equines?" Celestia asked.
"They shouldn't," Sunset said. "They're not from Equestria. This is my true form. The portal turned me human when I first came here." She shrugged. "Whatever's going on broke something and changed me back into a pony."
"I think I like you a lot better this way," Luna said.
Sunset smirked at her. "You're just saying that because I had way bigger boobs than you," she said.
Celestia exploded with light, musical laughter. Luna crossed her eyes and stuck her tongue out childishly at Sunset. "Well, I certainly hope this doesn't turn into something like the Fall Formal or the Battle of the Bands," Celestia said once she sobered up. She tapped her leg with a long finger. "The last thing we need is an outbreak of horse fever or something. I do think it might be better if the students and faculty at CHS are made aware of the details of your...present condition..."
Sunset's ears wilted. "Please no," she whimpered. "I'll be a laughingstock..."
"Alright," Celestia said. "We'll keep this secret for now, and simply make certain your teachers provide you with your schoolwork. Girls, do you mind taking care of that for her?"
"Not at all," Rarity said. "We've already agreed to do precisely that, as well as her shopping and errands." She frowned. "Provided, of course, our own transformations don't become...problematic."
Celestia nodded. "Well then. If you need any help with anything, be sure to give me a call." She stood. "Come on, Luna. We need to give these girls some space."
Luna pouted, but stood to join her sister. As they walked to the door, Luna paused. "One last question, if I may."
Luna looked around the apartment. "How can an unemployed full-time high school student with no parents afford this place?"
Sunset chuckled. "The money I brought with me from Equestria had an obscenely good exchange rate. Once I knew how things worked here, I made some investments."
"Most enterprising," Luna observed.
Sunset shrugged. "A bag full of real gold coins can get you pretty far here if you're smart about it."
"Indeed," Luna remarked.
With that, the two sisters left. Sunset exhaled heavily.
After a long moment, Applejack frowned. "Ah thought you said you conned some rich old guy inta adoptin' you right before he croaked an' changin' his will to set you up for life?"
Sunset gave her a half-lidded stare. "You think I actually want to admit that?"
Applejack shrugged. "Ah see yer point..."
"Sunset," Rarity said suddenly. "You mentioned the Dazzlings. Do you...do you think they'll..." She grimaced. "Do you think they'll get their magic powers back?"
Sunset frowned. "I hope not," she said. "We destroyed the source of their power, so I honestly don't know what this'll do to them." She grimaced. "We'll probably find out sooner or later, whether we want to or not."
The others looked at each other uncomfortably.
"Anyway, for now, you girls just...do whatever you were gonna do today," Sunset said. "I'll be okay, really."
"Shoot, sugarcube. Ah ain't jes' gonna leave ya like this."
"Yeah, I'm stickin' around a little while longer," Rainbow added.
"I'm not going anywhere," Fluttershy said with a silly smile.
"I do need to stop by home and get my measuring tape and my sketchbook," Rarity said. "I'll be back right after, though."
"I'll do any shopping you need!" Pinkie said.
Sunset smiled gratefully at her friends. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you all..."
"Hey, what're friends for?"
* * * * *
In a run-down townhouse on the other side of the city...
Three girls with pony ears and translucent, fin-like wings stood in a loose circle in the living room.
Adagio Dazzle narrowed her eyes and smirked wickedly.
"It's a start..."