• Published 28th Jun 2017
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Comparing Notes - Rose Quill

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Exploration

Twilight stepped off the Hydro Star. She knew this tiny private dock well. So did her son for that matter. With several more years behind them, they could even boast a quarter century of visits. But it was the warm familiar atmosphere that soothed her more - even sharing it with others who apparently knew it just as much.

The sun was well filtered out of her eyes and indeed their group. They had just started down the path towards the villa, though Twilight was the last one off the small ship. The shading even covered the ship, since the jungle-like trees stretched out from their watery roots on the shore to a good thirty feet or more over the water. It almost felt like another world if not for the similar vegetation that littered the beach they came from and the undisturbed jungle environment on the far north side of the resort.

She hefted her son's duffle bag on one shoulder while the other was used for her own. "Lighty!" she called out after him and over the song of the tropical birdlife living all around them. "You forgot something!"

The teenage boy was pulled out of his own world he had become lost in while keeping up with the girls of the mirrored couple. His look of confusion as he turned to see his mother was turned to embarrassment when he realized he had just walked out without his things. He jogged back to relieve his parent of his burden while his alter-dimensional sisters waited for him.

“Sorry, mom,” he winced.

“Having too much fun, Lighty?” Twilight adjusted her glasses.

He blushed at that. “Rory was thinking we could go around the island. It’s more interesting off the paths.”

“Your mother and I were going to relax. Probably the spring, judging by the favorable temperature of the water-”

“So we can go?” Sunlight jumped a bit as he shifted the weight of his duffle bag on his shoulder.

Twilight giggled. “You know the island at least as well as we do. Just make sure the girls have permission as well.”

“Will do!” Sunlight leaned forward and hugged his mom tight before jogging back to his fellow explorers.

Twilight gave a gentle sigh and smiled as she saw her own Sunset stop ahead as well to wait for her.

I found it difficult not to laugh as my sister made the case to our parents for going and exploring the island. She may be somewhat oblivious to just how much she was smitten by our ersatz brother, but Mom and Mother could tell. I could tell, and I'm usually the dense one when it came to romances.

Mom furrowed up her face, tucking her sunglasses up in her fiery hair like a headband, glancing at Mother. I knew they were discussing things over mentally, the process being faster than talking out loud. It was kind of cool, but it had come to play against us as kids. It's hard to play one parent of the other when they are linked at the subconscious level.

"Rules," Mother said, pushing her glasses up slightly. "You and Midnight are to stay together at all times."

I blinked, startled. I loved my sister, don't get me wrong, but I had t expected to be roped into this expedition.

Mom cut off her protest before it started. "She knows the island better than you and actually paid attention when we tried to teach you navigation skills when you were little," she said, shooting me a soft smile. "Second rule, be back to villa by sundown."

"Final rule," mother said, pulling her into a hug and nuzzling her. "Have fun, but not too much fun."

Rory smiled and almost skipped out to the porch to let Sunlight know we had permission to go hiking. I stayed back a minute to look at my parents.

"Rory knows this island fairly well and I'm sure Sunlight does too," I said posting my hands on my hips. "I'm going along to play the unwitting chaperone, aren't I?"

Mom laughed and nuzzled me, a wave of joy and love flooding my senses.

"Of course not," she said. "Do you really think we're that devious?"

I smirked.

"I had to have gotten it from one of you two," I said as I settled my glasses back over my eyes before turning to follow after my sister.


Sunlight uncrossed his arms when he saw the two girls come back out of the villa their parents had gone into, where he had only dropped off his bag inside. He had some fresh lotion on but doubted it would be needed, since just about every spot on the island was heavily shaded by the close-knit tree canopy. It was hot and humid enough that he considered ditching his white open-front overshirt altogether. It had inner pockets, however, that hid a few items he wanted to bring along. They were bulky enough to be obvious since the rest of the shirt was rather thin and wavy in the breeze.

Aurora was first out to greet him with a skip in her step. He knew his parents were okay with it and was happy theirs were as well, since it might have been rather boring otherwise.

"Welcome back to nature, my little explorer," he spread his arms out to indicate the jungle crowding in towards the villa's cleared lawnspace.


Rory took the proffered arm with a sigh and I rolled my eyes. Clearly, Aunt Rarity had been the major influence on her. Neither of our parents were that dramatic about romantic gestures.

At least in public. I bit down a snicker as I remembered Sunlight's look of confusion over Mom's quip over estrus earlier. Lucky, I thought. I wish I could be oblivious of that particular bit of knowledge, but two X chromosomes denied me that bliss.

"So, Lighty," I spoke up to end the silent trek. "Got any special places on this rock you want to show us? I know one Rory and I used to go when we were kids."

The young man thought for a moment, eyes going distant beneath his two-toned hair.

He is cute, I thought as he glanced around to get his bearings. Shame he's related to us. Rory is not going to take leaving well.

Sunlight pointed off to the southeast.

"This way," he said, leading us to a small and somewhat overgrown trail. "You're going to love the view."

"Lead on, little brother," I said with a smirk.

Sunlight's step faltered slightly when he registered the comment.

"Little?'" he sputtered. "But I'm five foot eight!"

And I'm five six," I smirked at him, tying my silvery hair back. "But I'm talking age wise. You're older than Rory but younger than I am. Kinda makes you my little brother, if you ignore the minor genetic variance and quantum harmonic frequency occuring between the dimensional thresholds."

"Celestia, you sounded like Mother just then," Rory piped up.

"Mini-Mom," chimed in Sunlight, which prompted all three to laugh.


Shrugging it off with a joyful skip in his step, Sunlight pulled Aurora along. He liked the idea of having siblings since he always wondered what it would be like and he had a good impression of these two. His close friendships at CHS had him well used to joint adventures to mention nothing of Sunset's playful influence on him.

He thus quickly led them off the villa lawn and into the off-path wilderness of the island. Well, off-path might have been a stretch since something of a faint animal trail had been paved this way as a result of his countless excursions here over the years. It wouldn't take them long to get to one of his favorite spots: the stepping waterfalls.

"So that makes you my little sister?" Sunlight hopped ahead and turned to face Aurora while walking backwards. It was somewhat of a gamble but he knew the path well enough not to trip easily.

"Just don't call me the baby sister," Rory retorted with what was clearly a rehearsed toss of her hair and a grin I recognized from Mother, the one she used to project innocence when she played at mischief. I personally liked Mom's better, as it didn't bother hiding the mischief.

"I wouldn't dream of it," Sunlight said in that quiet and earnest way of his. He turned to face the trail for a moment and missed Aurora snapping a brief frustrated frown his way.

I smiled, trying to decide if I should be amused with how Sunlight was either missing or ignoring her advances or wanting to console my sister. We were blood, after all, and both had some interesting adventures of our own with Ebony and Wingsong in Equestrian.

But this was different than running with the girls. There was something...peaceful about it, familiar despite the new.

My thoughts were interrupted by the growing sound of rushing water.

The island was not terribly large. Just large enough to have a variety of interesting places. This was one of Sunlight's favorite and the fern-ridden trail opened up to one of the island's many tiny coves. This one, however, had a smaller pool than most at the bottom and a series of rocky steps on the opposite side of the cove's mossy wall. A small stream fell from the top lip of the wall, rushed down to one step, and then flowed sideways onto another. It went back and forth like this somewhat chaostically until he fed into the pool at the bottom. The waterfalls were small and gentle, not threatening at all.

Sunlight minded the drop at the end of the trail and stepped down first since it was a good foot and a half. "Careful getting down here," he told the girls he turned back to. "I think the drop gets a little worse each year."

Since Aurora had been the closest to him so far, he stretched his arms out to her to help her down.

I smiled as Aurora took his hand. That's adorable, I thought.

"Oh, come on, Rory!" I exclaimed, stepping to the side of my siblings and leapt across to the next lowest 'step' in this waterfall. "We've cleared longer jumps than this!"

"Middy!"" She sighed, turning to Sunlight. "Sorry, shes impulsive and doesn't know the meaning of restraint."

I blew a raspberry at her and hopped down tbe next step, the water splashing up and soaking the lower hem of my swimsuit coverup.

"Don't mention it," Sunlight shook his head as he helped Aurora down. "I didn't mean to imply either of you couldn't just hop dpown on your own. I was just trying to be nice. Now that I think of it, though..."

They got down to a middle part of the steps and Sunlight took off his overshirt so he could put it on the usual rock that made for an excellent clothes hook. His swim trunks he had on were as bright and cheery as the yellow and pink locks of his hair. Shapes of suns and beaches were printed on them not too unlike Hello Tropics itself.

"...you two are technically princesses, right? Since at least one of your moms is one in Equestria?"

Rory had to catch her breath before replying. Even I found his bare chest worth a second glance, though he was a bit lanky for my tastes.

"Only in the loosest sense," Rory said. "And mostly because Mom wants us to make the choice ourselves."

I nodded. "She's never been fully comfortable with it," I said, leaning back against the rock face. "Says it cost too much. But every time we visit, she's always smiling, that smile that you can't fake."

"It's just as much her home as here is," Rory said, eyeing the distance down to the next step. "The atmosphere, the sense of adventure around the bend, the magic..."

"Magic?" Sunlight said, a cloud passing over his features momentarily.

"Our pony forms are both Unicorns," I said. "Horn and all, down to the tattoo on our flanks. Those were surprises, no doubt."

"I still can't believe both parents let you get yours tattooed on your leg," Aurora said with a huff.

"Why?" I asked, pulling the cover up aside to reveal the three magenta stars on my left thigh. "We both wear them all the time when we go over, why not keep a bit of it wih us here? Or is it because yours is so complex you're afraid of the artist messing it up, or the pain perhaps?"

Rory laughed and jumped down next to me, grabbing me up in a hug.

"I prefer to make my statement in other ways," she said, her arm sliding over my shoulder in a casual way. She glanced up at the young man standing above us.

"Come on down, already," she said. "We don't bite!"

"Hard," I stage whispered, a wicked look on my face.

Rory gave me a gentle shove, laughing.

"You're impossible!" She giggled.

"Unicorns, huh?" Sunlight had an open mouth. The tattoo on Midnight's bare thigh surprised him, but he found it fitting. He jumped down a step and then clambered to the final rock before the pool of water at the bottom. "Cutie marks too...I've always wondered what I'd be and what mark I'd have if I went over."

He put his legs in the water as he watched them and enjoyed the warmth of it in spite of the equally warm and humid air.

"Still, a tattoo. Mom would kill me if I got one," he giggled and spalshed up some water on himself. "Though, I don't think I'd ever want one unless I really like my cutie mark. What's yours, Rory? Can I call you that? Oh and, for the record, I don't bite either," he added with a wink.

"Rory is what everyone calls me, unless I'm in trouble," my sister said as she slid off her sundress to reveal the surprisingly modest swimsuit underneath and climbed softly into the pool. Once she had secured her footing, she submerged for a second and pushing her hair out of the way on surfacing.

I started untying the sarong and stretched out on the warm stone.

"Her cutie mark is a flute on a music staff," I said as the warm stone eased some tension from my back. "It sort of appeared when we went through the weekend after she scored straight ones in the State Music assembly." I winked at my sister as she ducked her head with a proud smile.

Sunlight tilted his head. "Nice," he said. "What about yours?"

I closed my eyes and rolled onto my side.

"I was visiting Aunt Sparky - tbe Twilight from across the mirror, that is - and we were watching a celestial alignment of some of Princess Luna's stars when I thought I saw something. It turned out to be three shooting star that werent visible to anyone else yet." I winked a jade green eye. "Turns out that I can see better at night than most ponies outside of thestrals. My cutie mark appeared that night. And it was a weird sensation."

"Aunt Pinkie's party was fun, at least," Rory said, gliding through the water.

"Both of them " I agreed, wistfully.

Rory came to a stop near a partially submerbed stone and perched on it.

"But, as to what you'd be, Sunlight," she said as she wrung some of the water from her multicolored locks. "It's going to be hit or miss. You've got Unicorn heritage, and given that Twilight's counterpart is also a Unicorn - or was, rather - you have a better than averave chance of being one too. The tribes usually breed true, though there is an exception in, what was it?"

"I think Mom said one in five thousand or so," I said. "Nopony keeps records on it, really."

"And as far as a cutie mark, well, what are you good at?" She asked, turning her sky blue eyes on the youth.

The boy slipped carefully into the water, cautious not to let the natural rock scrape him. The pool was deep enough even though it was smaller than many of the others on the island. He swam leisurely towards Aurora, since she was the one he was replying to.

"I'm not sure," he half-shrugged in the water as he drifted along. "I mean, high school doesn't have a lot of specialized courses. At least not CHS anyways. I've always done really well in science but I haven't decided which direction I want to go in. Mom and Ma both think I would be best off taking an apprenticeship rather than university, since they both know several people who would take me on. Astrophysics and solar engineering interest me the most, so maybe one of those might be my cutie mark."

Sunlight's swimming had led him over to Aurora's partially submerbed stone. He had taken to floating on his back and glided to a slow halt next to her. That's when he finished his inner musing about his future decisions and oberved something about the girl. Perhaps it was the lack of the glaring sun or the way her wet hair had changed her look. He turned upright in the water and held onto the rock for balance.

"I just noticed," he said while leaning in closer and peering into Aurora's eyes. "Your eyes are just like mine," he gave a gentle smile while trying to contain his excitement. "I'd say they're pretty but I wouldn't want to sound like I was saying that about my own eyes. I mean, it looks really good on you."

"Oh, Luna's Moon," Aurora said, blushing and glancing coyly away. "You are too kind."

I smiled as I slid into the water as well, having sunned myself enough for one day. Compliments were the one thing Rory didn't know how to properly field, though she got them all the time.

"I mean it," Sunlight said. "They're rather lovely."

Rory fidgeted some more and I piped up.

"She doesn't think you're being too kind," I said. "She's never been good on taking compliments. I think she doesn't know how to respond to them."

"It's not that," she said softly. "I never expect them. And usually I'm always hearing about my hair and how fitting it is. It gets old."

I glanced at her hair. While the water had darkened it's hues, the orange, white, and purple variegation were reminiscent of the Aurora Borealis, just as the blue and magenta in my silver locks made one think of a nighttime sky filled with stars.

"Rory," I said with a sigh. "You're a pretty young lady. And if you two don't kiss already I'm going to think I've slipped into some bad RomCom."

The shocked look on their faces were completely undermined by the scarlet blush that swiftly spread across heir cheeks and the subtle quick glance to each other.

"Honestly!" Rory said, sounding like Aunt Rarity again.

"Stow it, Aurora," I said gently. "I'm dense as can be when it comes to relationships and even I can see you at least have a crush on him. And, consciously or not, he's been deferring to you with his speech and gaze this whole trip."

He felt flushed, which of course he was. "I-it's j-just," he stumbled and sunk lower in the water. "T-this is so new to me. I've never had siblings before and Rory's eyes just made me really think how we're related and all..."

The last part of his embarassed mumblings were muffled nearly to the point of incomprehension as he continued lowering into the water so that the surface met his lips.

"...and you're kind of scary."

Both of the girls burst out laughing.

"Aww," Sunlight pouted at the surface of the water. "C'mon..."

It was true that he found Midnight a little intimidating, but then he hadn't known her for long. She was older than him and he had no idea how to deal with someone who was essentially an older sibling. Aurora, on the other hand, reminded him enough of Cookie Frosting back at CHS - perhaps his closest friend. That and there was the matter of the girl's name.

"They named you Midnight," Sunlight fidgeted under the water. "Just like mom's magic form. I mean, when she does it these days she's still just mom to me, but Midnight used to scare me a little when I was younger."

"Fair enough," I said. "Though, truth be told, they named me that because apparently when Mother's water broke and the first contraction hit, she changed instinctively to Midnight Sparkle. The color doesnt help." I ran a hand through my hair, its bright colors standing starkly from my darker skin tone.

I smirked. "Besides, she's the one with a temper," I said, gesturing at my sister.

"I do not have a temper!" she called, splashing water in my direction.

"In comparison, you do," I said before sticking out my tongue in her direction. "Even Mom has commented on it!"

She crossed her arms and pouted for a second before reaching down and mussing Sunlights hair as Mom often did hers.

"Get up out of there," she said. "Middy may be a little fierce amd intense, but she never uses it against family. Only against bullies."

"And Diamond Dogs," I added, rubbing the back of my head as an embarassed blush creapt up my neck.

"And since you'neither," Rory continued. "I think you are quite safe from the horrible big sister." Her eyes betrayed the laughter she held back.

Sunlight pressed his lips together and forced himself to relax again. He pulled himself up and onto the rock next to Aurora before messing with the pink in his hair to get it out of his eyes. When brushed aside, he looked directly at Midnight's eyes.

"You know, when I was really young - like a toddler or something - my ma would often transform into Daydream because she could somehow stop me from crying when she did that. I don't know why but I guess it worked. The problem was that she had to transform with my mom at the same time so mom had to hide as Midnight to keep me from getting upset."

He let his gaze drop when he caught sight of a tiny colorful fish darting about in the water near them. It wandered aimlessly before hanging around the nearest waterfall.

"When I got older I started to realize that mom was staying out of sight and it made me feel bad. I got over being scared because nothing about her changed besides her looks - well, there was the whole magic thing too. She seemed really happy that I eventually wanted her to be included with whatever I was doing with ma. I guess it's just really cool to know how your Midnight has been a part of your lives," he finished by turning back to Aurora. Then a new thought came to him and his gaze returned to Midnight. "You know, there's lots of other awesome spots besides this one we could check out if you're interested. There's this huge sea turtle that lives only a couple pools over."

"She hasnt been, really," I said. "Nothings come along that's made Mother require the form. Mom hasnt even needed her Daydream form since..."

I looked at Rory, who shrugged.

"Well, at least since we were born," I said, climnbing out of the pool and rummaging in a pocket of my sarong that Au t Rarity had helped me add. I pulled my phone free and started searching pictures.

Rory recognized what I was doing and pulled Sunlight over just as I found pictures of us from Halloween when we were kids. Our parents stood behind us in their powered up forms while I was dressed as a unicorn. I cringed at the memory. Rory had gone as a princess and was wearing Mom's tiara.

"This is how we remember them," I said, smiling at the softer lines of Mothers Midnight form, none of the menace that our aunts or uncles had described from her first appearance.

Then Rory reached over and swiped a finver across the screen to reveal a picture of us in our pony forms with Ebony and Wingsong that I had taken from the hard copy.

"Hey!" I squawked in surprise.

"Whoa!" Sunlight marveled at the photo. "You two are really cute! I mean as ponies...but as humans too..."

Rather than feeling uncomfortable, Sunlight gave Midnight a hopeful if somewhat shy look. As an afterthought he wondered if she preferred being called "cool" or "strong" or something else. He wanted to get more comforable with her but was so nervous about a response that he wound up dropping his gaze back to the pool and the fish within.

"You probably wouldn't look half bad yourself," Rory said. "You should see Mom and Mother!"

I nodded, reaching over and putting an arm around his shoulders. "I wouldn't mind seeing that myself," I said, giving him a warm smile. On a whim, I leaned down and touched my forehead to his.

Rory and I had inherited a portion of the bond our parents shared. While we couldnt hear thoughts, we could do the simple emotional channel that out Aunts Dew and Glory also did, though it was harder without the horn.

I relaxed and sent a wave of contentment and some snarky mirth through the link, reaching out and taking my sisters hand as I did.

And as the emotions flowed out, I felt a resonance.

The emotional wave was less like a surge and more like a gentle push of the water upon the beach. Sunlight felt his nervousness fade and he relaxed again. It felt serene, like the many nights he stayed up and stargazed with his mother, Twilight. A red streak formed under his eyes, however, when his mind returned to the face that was so close to his. Midnight filled all of his view, her eyes seeming to sparkle.

"Do this often?" he decided to remark with a forming grin as a somewhat snarky feeling bounced back out of him.

"Quite often," I returned, feeling Aurora's hair brush my shoulder as she leaned in to share. As her unique feel joined the wash of feelings, I smiled softly and gently. "This is how we were quieted as kids. Mom and Mother can actually talk through a bond like this, but we never learned that trick."

"If we even can," Rory added. "They got that under some special circumstances."

I sighed, closing my eyes and just felt the closeness of my sister and the wave of wonder flowing from Sunlight. His emotions were interesting, less shy than Ebony, and more than a little like Rory and I, though considering tne shared parentage that was to be expected.

What wasn't expected, though, was the wash of feeling I suddenly felt as I wrapped my arms around them both.

Sunlight felt a rush when Midnight put her arms around him and Aurora. The love they shared as family ignited a flame in his heart as his own love was added in the connection along with unsettled feelings of mutual attraction. His eyes glowed and then dimmed to normal, a band of orange now across his upper face from ear to ear. A super bright glow then emanated from his forhead. Even he knew something was there because of the light, though it was above and angled away from his eyes.

Midnight leaned her forehead away from his when she saw the change in his countenance and the glow between them. This only caused Sunlight to look back and forth between Midnight and Aurora.

"What is it? What's that light?" he asked, trying to read their surprised expressions and not aware of the glowing yellow spire on his forehead. It was shorter than Daydream's but no less real or bright.

I blinked, shocked. At his question, Rory leaned back and then gasped, hand going up to cover her mouth.

"What?" Sunlight asked.

I grabbed my phone and snapped a photo, turning the device so he could see his new appearance.

"You ponied up," I said, following suit along with Rory.

Ours were slightly different from our parents and aunts, for reasons we could t explain. When we ponied up, not only did our ears and horns grow, our cutie marks manifested.

And I grew a tail as opposed to extra long hair.

And strangely, I always felt more comfortable like this than I did most other times. I kept meaning to talk to Mom about it, but things kept getting in the way.

"How do you feel?" Rory asked.

The boy waved his arms a bit. "Kind of warm, to be honest. Like there's a fire inside of me but not burning. More like a hot bath that's cool enough to get into? It's so weird..."

But then just as he cautiously reached up toward the light above his eyesight, it popped out of existense. The orange band faded from his face along with the extinguished horn. He hadn't felt any other changes and the picture showed only facial transformations. He knew what his mothers turned into and thus couldn't help wondering why he didn't have some full transformation like them. The trigger, though...had it been these girls and the special connection they shared? It couldn't have been the thick humid jungle air mixed with sea breeze.

"Awww," he pouted and then got an idea along with a big smile. "Maybe unlocking the mysteries of my magic involves special hugs!"

"That's normal," I said. "The warmth, that is. It's your body turning latent mana into observable reactions. Now that you've done it once, it will be easier next time, until you barely even think about it."

The boy mused over it as I pulled myself out of the water. I swear to Luna I didn't intentionally flick my tail against his chest as I did.

I think.

I glanced up to hide the slight blush on my cheeks.

"Looks like we still have four hours before sunset," I said casually. "That enough time to see that sea turtle?"

Sunlight nodded. "And some to spare."

Rory climbed out behind me, both of us de-ponying almost in unison.

"What are we waiting for?" She asked, pulling her sundress back on over her swimsuit.

I snuck a glance at Lighty as he climbed out as well.

What indeed?