• Published 18th Dec 2014
  • 1,968 Views, 91 Comments

Double Trouble: The Flaws Within - Masterius

Two Twilight Sparkles are not better than one, especially when each are stranded in the wrong world! With the Crystal Mirror broken, is there any way for them to find the way back to their respective homes?

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Chapter 12

Chapter Twelve

Any time Spike had questions, he usually had no trouble finding answers for them. For almost anything he needed help with, he could always ask Twilight: the Number One source of answers for her Number One Assistant. Granted, it was always a bit of a gamble asking her a question. Her answers could quickly become quite involved and rather lengthy—in fact, more often than not, they turned into an impromptu lecture or lesson.

For questions of a more personal or social nature—for instance, what would be the best gift to get somepony as a present—Rarity was always an excellent choice.

(Obviously, when it came time to select a present for her, Spike was on his own)

Between those two, he could usually find an answer suitable for whatever question he might have.

But not this time.

This time he needed to speak to Applejack, because he needed a down-to-Equestria answer, and out of all his friends, she was the most levelheaded and commonsensical of them all.

But even Applejack was having a difficult time helping him out with this particular complication.

“Ah dunno, Spike,” she said, tipping her Stetson back a bit as she gazed down at the parchment she was holding. “Ah can see why they want “Princess Twalaight” there with them…but this ain’t Princess Twalaight.” Shaking the scroll message for emphasis, she continued, “An’ they know it ain’t her, too. Thing is, Ah kin understand every one o’ their reasons fer askin’ this, but Ah think that’s because they don’t have a clue ‘bout whut’s happened here…or whut’s likely t’ happen if we go ahead an’ try this.”

She lowered somber eyes back down to the scroll she was holding.

Chamberlain Spike, the message began. We send to you most grave news. My Sister, Princess Celestia, and now Sunset Shimmer, have been most foully stricken down.

Sunset Shimmer, before her incapacitation, had informed Us as to why Princess Twilight Sparkle was unable to answer Our prior summons. This is distressing on many levels, not the least of which is Our personal friendship and relationship with her.

Without her puissant skills regarding the Arts Magickal

There was a scribble and blotch mark, then the message restarted just below.

Spike, it resumed, I have not as yet started pulling my mane out, but I fear that’s not too far away.

First off, I want to assure you that Sunset Shimmer will survive.

Spike had gasped at that, his heart almost stopping the first time he had read it.

We have no idea what happened, but as she had been examining my sister when she was stricken, I cannot help but believe it is related with what has happened to Celestia.

Secondly, I am extremely worried about our friend, Princess Twilight. Sunset Shimmer had explained that the Crystal Mirror has somehow been broken, and I must tell you that that news made me feel as stricken as has what has happened to my sister. I promise you that I will spare NO effort from my end seeking a means of returning her back to Equestria.

It has been impossible to keep the knowledge that Celestia has been afflicted from becoming public knowledge, as that occurred quite publicly in the middle of Morning Court. Canterlot, so far, has remained calm, but unless they see Celestia back on her throne soon, it will not be long at all until the citizens become restless and worried.

If the knowledge that Equestria has also lost Princess Twilight Sparkle, our newest and well‑beloved princess, I fear what the result might be.

Therefore, for several reasons, I feel that it is imperative that this Twilight Sparkle come to Canterlot. For one, she may have knowledge concerning the Crystal Mirror and the reasons behind its destruction. But, just as important, and for all concerned, simply seeing her presence here in Canterlot will do much to dispel any growing sense of fear and panic that will undoubtedly result if Celestia does not recover by morn.

I realize this Twilight Sparkle is not a citizen of Equestria and, therefore, is not subject to any Royal Summons. Nevertheless, I must most urgently request her presence here at Canterlot Castle.


Princess Luna

Taking a deep breath, Spike reached out and took the scroll back. “First things first,” he said. “And that’s to check with her doctor and see what he says.”

“So how is she doing, Doctor Horse?”

The three of them were standing just outside what used to be the door to Princess Twilight’s bedroom. At the moment that was just a yawning opening, completely devoid of door, hinges, or jambs.

Settling his glasses a bit back on his nose, he thoughtfully pursed his lips. “Well, speaking purely physically, other than the bump on the back of her head and a few very minor muscle aches, she’s doing quite well. Mentally and emotionally, however…” he trailed off, looking off into the distance for a moment or two. “I’m tempted to say she’s suffering from severe shock.”

When he paused, Applejack prompted, “‘Tempted’?”

Nodding, he toyed with the stethoscope around his neck as he marshalled his thoughts. “She seems to have acclimated extremely quickly to what must be, to her, an awkward physiology.” He paused a moment when Spike nodded.

“It took Twilight a little time, and practice, to adjust when she first turned human,” he said. “But mostly I think that was because she had no idea what had happened, or why. She also didn’t have anypony to help explain things to her. I think if she’d had any warning, or had had somepony there to help her work things out, she would have adapted much faster.”

Doctor Horse nodded. “Exactly. But, even without those helpful experiences, Miss Sparkle has acclimated much faster than I would have at first believed was possible. Which isn’t something I’d expect seeing from anypony suffering from severe shock.”

Spike blinked. Applejack softly drawled, “‘Miss Sparkle’?” she carefully repeated.

Nodding again, he explained. “That’s part of what I’d meant when I’d said ‘tempted’ earlier: she’s very quietly, but very firmly,” he stressed, “insisted she be addressed as Miss Sparkle.”

This time he softly sighed. “Please keep in mind that, for all intents, I’m actually what is considered a “G.P.” That is, “General Practitioner”. I deal with bumps and bruises, as it were: minor to major physical trauma, wounds, fractures; those sorts of injuries. What I’m not is either a psychologist or psychiatrist. Having said that, however,” he paused a moment, assuring he had their attention, “I suspect that Miss Sparkle isn’t suffering from shock, but, instead, has retreated into a comfortable, familiar and, above all, safe, mindset.”

He paused a moment for emphasis. “A mindset with which she is intimately familiar, and one that she has, most likely, manufactured over the years.”

He gazed back and forth between the two. “If I were to make a metaphor, in my opinion Miss Sparkle is very much like a diamond: extremely hard and resistant yet, at the same time, quite fragile if struck in the proper direction.” All three reflexively glanced towards the bedroom…or what remained of that.

“Actually,” he softly murmured, his expression that of somepony chasing down a thought, “a much better and more accurate illustration would be that of “Princess Celestia’s Tears1.” Seeing their confusion, his lips softly curved at the corners. “They are created by dripping molten glass droplets into cold water. This forms a tadpole-shaped droplet with a long, thin tail. The bulbous end will withstand heavy blows of a hammer without shattering,” at which point he paused a moment as Spike and Applejack both softly whistled, “but the entire droplet will explosively shatter if the thin tail is even slightly damaged.”

He paused a second time as they both softly whistled again. Then, as one, both of them turned their heads, staring at the blasted doorway before shuddering in unison.

“There is something about her history, her past, which has helped create the Miss Sparkle we have with us today. Which is why I very much suspect her insistence on the formality of address is a form of protection: some sort of emotional shielding as it were. Given that I have no idea what her world is like, or what sort of interactions she’s experienced, I can’t begin to hazard a guess what those triggers might be. But I do feel confident enough to state that, whatever those are, they are deep-seated and well-rooted, and I’d want to tread very carefully around her until we learn what those trigger points are.”

“Ummm,” Applejack began. “Y’all are makin’ it sound as if this “Miss Sparkle” is a bit loco.”

Pursing his lips at the distasteful description, Doctor Horse frowned at Applejack. “‘Loco’?” he repeated. “No. No, I don’t believe she is that far gone. But I do believe that she is, very much, a delicate, fragile creature at heart, with many fears. She seems to have developed formidable armour about and within herself. The outer shields her from the slings and arrows that life hurls her way, while the inner protects and locks away those experiences and feelings that pain and hurt.”

“And that armour,” Spike slowly spoke, reasoning as he did. “That armour is like those “Princess Celestia’s Tears”, isn’t it? Extremely strong, yet incredibly brittle?”

There was a silence that lingered, as each of them pondered what a broken soul might achieve when they had all the power of an alicorn at their disposal.

“You want me to what?”

As quiet and neutral in tone as that sounded the three of them winced, sensing the flat hardness lurking just beneath the surface. Applejack had just finished reading the message scroll to Twilight—the three of them deciding that it would be best received from her—and she struggled very hard to appear calm and composed…something extremely difficult to do when all about her were the sterile, barren remains of a once beautifully-furnished chamber.

Twilight had spent the last few hours semi-sedated with, in addition to pain medications, the magick-dampening potion. And it had, indeed, been as tasty as the mild analgesics were. But, even with her innate energies (Magic, her traitorous mind whispered) inhibited, she could clearly—very clearly, in fact—feel their ebb and flow as they gently yet insistently surged within her. She’d almost decided asking for the strongest of the doses—those concocted to completely prohibit, rather than merely inhibit—but, for all that feeling that within her made her go all over queasy, it was also strangely compelling; almost seductive…and, against all logic and rationale, something inexplicably familiar.

So she’d done exactly as her doctor had suggested: instead of suppressing those enigmatic energies, she’d used the intervening time seeking ways to control them.

But, in order to control them, she needed to, first, regain control of herself. And her usual technique for that, she quickly learned—and which almost ignited another explosive outburst of destruction—was not at all possible in her current form.

After all, Kudan rank notwithstanding, Aikido kata was not designed for ponies!

Even so, Twilight smothered her atypical fury, strangling it at birth as she pondered the matter. She had worked hard to attain her rank, not out of any misguided desire for Neanderthalic athleticism, but instead using that primarily for the centering of mind and body.

For Discipline.

Well, it’s said that Rome wasn’t built in a day, she mentally muttered as she struggled to adapt bipedal routines into quadrupedal ones. Then again, she smugly thought, they didn’t have me organizing the construction!

Poor Nurse Redheart had no idea what was going on. She was not sure if her patient was having a seizure or had been possessed. What she was positive about, however, was that somehow, one way or another, those odd, convoluted and contorsionistic gyrations were having a positive effect on her patient. Yes, there were a lot of muttered, dire oaths and imprecations, along with flashes of true temper. But Nurse Redheart could not mistake seeing that—this time, anyway—those obstacles were a challenge to be met…met, conquered, and celebrated about.

Nurse Redheart hadn’t any real understanding of what had preceded her arrival to Friendship Rainbow Kingdom Castle—then again, simply giving a sideways glance at the scoured–to–bare–walls room was enough to have her feel immense gratitude for that omission—but she was up to speed with everything since then. She knew, for instance, that, regardless of the semblance, this was not Princess Twilight, but, instead, was her doppelgänger…of sorts. The “of sorts” was—as she was slowly beginning to understand, and accept—because this “Twilight” was her own, unique and discrete, entity: a person in her own right…just not one from Equestria.

The trouble, as she was unhappily aware, was that ponies were going to instinctively react to her as if she was their Princess of Friendship. Her gaze travelled about the room, feeling ice course through her veins as she reluctantly surveyed the destruction once again. That, she shuddered for a moment before drawing the mantle of her professionalism about her once more, had been the result of this “Miss Sparkle” being pushed too hard, too fast. She needed time to recover, to get her hooves beneath her, before any more shocks were delivered.

Hearing the soft ‘tocs’ of approaching hooves, Nurse Redheart turned, feeling her stomach plummet as she spotted the funereal expressions on the two ponies and one little dragon headed her way.

Before anypony could reply to Twilight’s question, Spike held up a silencing paw. “Would you excuse us, please?” he requested. There was a moment of silence, then Applejack and Doctor Horse silently nodded before turning about and exiting the room, Applejack giving him a meaningful look as she did. Once it was just the two of them remaining, Spike turned his gaze fully on the obviously uncomfortable alicorn before him.

“Why don’t you like me?”

In a different tone that could have sounded accusatory or challenging. And, indeed, Twilight started bristling in reflexive defense. But she quickly collected herself, recognizing an honest, curious question…one, however, she did not wish to probe for the answer, nor respond with what she had already accepted.

Turning about, facing away from the little lizard—dragon…whatever—Twilight screwed her eyes tightly closed, struggling to retain the control and composure she had only very recently managed achieving. Long seconds turned into a minute…then into minutes. Oh, please, she silently pleaded, Please…just go away. Just go away and leave me alone to mourn!

At least ten full minutes passed in total silence before being finally broken by a choked exhale. Lowering her head, eyes still tightly closed, Twilight murmured, “As a person, I don’t know you well enough to either like or dislike you. I’m sorry if you feel that I dislike you. To be honest,” she paused for a moment, “It’s not so much you, as it is me.”

One ear slanted back as her confession was met with silence; Twilight struggled to determine if the little lizard-thing (Dragon, her unhelpful mind supplied) was even still in the room. Swiveling both back, she was surprised at hearing the low, regular sounds of his breathing, these ears of hers being surprisingly sensitive.

After several more minutes passed, she gusted out a deeper sigh. “Every time I see you, it’s like a punch in the gut.” Thirty seconds later, “You remind me of my Spike,” and at that, her voice cracked.

Very quietly in reply, “Is that a bad thing?”

Although Spike’s voice was quiet and steady, his heart was hammering. There was no way, ever, he could forget the cataclysmic explosion of this Twilight’s fury when Rainbow Dash had—in her own, inimitable fashion—mocked her about mismatched priorities when placing concern over her dog above that of Princess Celestia. And although he did not understand why she had exploded in such a dreadful, terrifying fashion, there was no mistaking she’d done so because her pet was involved.

And now Spike was risking setting her off a second time.

However, he was not doing so out of morbid curiosity. He needed to know. To understand. He could not forget what Doctor Horse had said:

I can’t begin to hazard a guess what those triggers might be. But I do feel confident enough to state that, whatever those are, they are deep-seated and well-rooted, and I’d want to tread very carefully around her until we learn what those trigger points are.

Spike had an uncanny feeling that her pet was obviously one of those “trigger points”. And if he was right…they couldn’t just stick their heads in the sand and pretend nothing was wrong.

“My Spike, my best friend,” Twilight began, her voice so low, so thick and clogged, Spike was struggling to hear her words, “I love him with all my heart. He’s the only person in my entire world that loves me back. That makes me feel safe. Protected. Worthy.”

She turned then, finally facing him, tears streaming down face and muzzle. “He…he trusted me. And I…I’ve betrayed him. He…he’s going to die because of me.”

There was no mistaking his shocked gasp as being anything other than genuine, she numbly realized. But piercing through her heartbreak and loss was both his instant, blazing direct focus on her and his unmistakable command, “Tell me.”

Through her tears, through her broken sobs, Twilight found herself doing just that: explaining how she’d fed Spike that morning, filling his water bowl before leaving to pursue her investigation of the mysterious energies she’d been researching, her voice thick with loathing as she finally accepted her mono-focused pursuit of her thesis and Doctorate had cost her the life of her dearest friend and companion.

“No one is going to drop by to visit, or to check up on me,” she softly weeped. “No one ever does. And I’m fine with that; really I am.” Spike was shocked, stunned to his core, understanding she was utterly sincere about that. “Being trapped here,” she sniffled, throat clogged from tears, “is his death sentence.”

Finally lifting her head, she gazed at Spike with swollen, bloodshot eyes. “Every time I see you,” she worked out past a tight throat, “is a knife in my heart, reminding me of his death.”

Opening and closing his mouth several times, Spike struggled with multiple thoughts and feelings. First and foremost was throttling back a very real desire to publicly denounce and condemn Rainbow Dash for the intense pain she had inflicted on Twilight. Granted, that was 100% pure Dash, but, this time—and like other times in the past—her actions were both unacceptable and inexcusable. Secondly, he had to choke back any of the several platitudes that had immediately sprang to mind. He did not think Twilight would happily accept bromides like “Where there’s life, there’s hope.” Nor, he was just as unhappily certain, would a gentle hug and a murmured, “I feel your loss,” work, either.

Suddenly, however, hope did swell inside him, as if a balloon abruptly inflated.

“I don’t have an answer for you,” he candidly admitted. “But there’s somepony I think does.” Padding his way to the blasted void of a doorway, Spike looked at Applejack. Very quietly, he instructed her, “Go, please, and bring Fluttershy back with you.”

Author's Note:

1Equestrian version of Prince Rupert's drops

Updated and revised 02/08/2020