• Published 21st Oct 2017
  • 4,907 Views, 337 Comments

Sparks Catch - Tale Swapper



Sunset Shimmer has emerged from the events of Anon-A-Miss with deeper bonds with her friends- and a proper home for the first time in a decade. The fires of friendship burn brightly within her. But Friendship is magic, and fire tends to catch...

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Flaring Cinders

As Twi descended the stairs, she heard the laughter slowly cease, quickly followed by the sound of clapping from a pair of mismatched hands. Rounding the corner, her gaze landed on the two figures watching the snowman outside construct a second snowman. As it finished, it bowed to its new partner, and started a waltz.

One of the two Discords was still dressed in a ratty overcoat , whistling cheerfully, but the other was dressed in a patched suit, paired with a golden gauntlet on one hand and a fuzzy glove on the other. More striking, however, was that the suited Discord was-

"Discord. Why are you a girl?" Twi found herself saying.

Discord spun, turning a pair of laughing eyes (not literally, thank goodness) towards Twilight. "Well, there's a few reasons, of course. First, it makes me much more distinct from my brother, here." She motioned with one hand towards the human Discord, who turned, grinning. "Second, I've always enjoyed thumbing my nose in the face of authority. In Equestria, all the really important leaders are female, so I'm male in opposition. Here, the opposite is true, thus-" she motioned to her beardless chin and subtle curves. "-I am female in opposition."

"That... almost made sense." Twi said. "...but you need to complete the third statement." As Discord tilted her head, Twi continued. "People never use first and second without using third."

"Now, now, Twilight. Don't ever use the "n" word around me. "Never", just like "impossible" is a challenge, not a fact. But if you insist on asking for a third reason..." Discord leaned forward. In a low whisper, she continued. "I've heard rumors of your... preferences for a mate. I wanted to see if I could fluster you." She reached up and patted Twi's rosy cheeks. "And in that-"

Twi jerked back. "You could have asked!"

"But where's the fun in that?" the chaos goddess crowed. Spinning about, she looked back out the window, where the snowmen were breakdancing. "By the way- call me Bedlam, as long as I'm here."

Sunset, watching from the doorway, raised an eyebrow. "Not "Eris?"

"Hmph." Bedlam grunted. "I considered it, but she asked me not to steal her name."

"Wait, what-"

"So! Sunset!" Bedlam crowed, cutting the former unicorn off. "I've heard you've also had a taste of the firehose of friendship, hmm?" Popping out of existence for a moment, Bedlam reappeared beside Sunset, now wearing a shirt emblazoned with "I was turned to stone by a rainbow cannon, and all I got was this t-shirt." "We're much the same, you know. Made mistakes, betrayals, failings- but reformed now! What do you say- wanna be reform buddies together?"

Sunset glared at Bedlam, then quirked an eyebrow. "Maybe. But I've got questions first. If you want to be any sort of buddy, you can start by explaining why you're here."

Discord coughed, the interruption in his music causing the boxing snowmen to pause just as one was hit by a right hook. "Bedlam told me she was curious about my powers. She told me she's been to this dimension before, and wanted to take another look."

Bedlam grinned. "I keep forgetting that you all love change much more than ponies ever have. In a millenia, Ponies went from farms to small cities. Humans, in the same time period, left their world behind." Her grin widened until the edges crept off her face. "And then there's the internet! Oh, Twilight!" Bedlam swooned "Just a few minutes browsing the great wide web and I've already come up with loads of new tricks!"

Twi blinked, then glanced at the horrified expression crossing her friends' faces. "Um, I saw the internet last time I was here. Isn't it just a means of sharing information? I mean, just how bad-"

Applejack cut her off, face haunted. "Sugarcube, don't go there. Really, just- don't."

Sunset nodded. "I'll explain later." Rounding on Bedlam, she cocked an eyebrow. "Have you learned anything important? Anything useful?"

"Just that my counterpart has quite the fun magic- but that it's not Chaos magic." Bedlam sighed. "Which only makes sense; after all, he's constrained by the silly notion of what's possible, while I am not. You need to be quite mad to use the powers I wield. Pity; I would have liked to meet another dracoequus."

Discord looked askance at the chaos goddess. "Really? I thought you said you were all-powerful. Couldn't you just make another?"

Bedlam frowned. "No. Life- and any sort of normal mind- is incredibly difficult to create. I was born of chaos, and as a result, I can't order my magic enough to create life that's stable, or a mind not irrevocably broken. I can copy myself, but it's just a copy, not a unique individual. I'm a fluke, a once-in-a-million creation, and those sort of chances usually only happen once."

Discord gave a small grin. "So... you happen to be one in a million?"

"Exactly!"

Twi sighed, running her hand through her hair. "Alright..." Glancing around, she frowned. "You know, I could have sworn I heard Aria yelling..."

Bedlam smirked. "She was." She pointed up, to where the purple girl was adhered to the ceiling, her mouth covered in sticky cloth. "I asked her to hang out for a bit."

Twi proved that her ability to yell at chaos dieties was not at all impeded by Bedlam's new gender. "BEDLAM!"


Shining Armor glanced up as he head another round of yelling echoing from the front rooms of the house. "Huh. You know, this is very weird."

Twilight glanced up from the notes she'd been pouring over. "How so?"

"Well, you're here. I know that you're here, and that the voice I'm hearing isn't yours." He shook his head. "But for the life of me, I can't help but start whenever I hear the Princess' voice. I have to resist bolting up and going to find out what's wrong."

"Hmm. Apparently her brother is the same way." Twilight looked back down at her papers. However, as she looked down a the spell circle on the paper, she slowly raised her gaze. "Shiny? Is- is it okay if I feel- overwhelmed?"

Shining Armor looked up at his sister. "By the magic? I mean-"

"Not the magic." Twilight's shoulders fell. "By the people. I mean..." Twilight's voice got quiet. "I knew that I was going to discover something amazing about the world when I started my research. I was delving into a new world of energy and interaction between fundamental forces." She curled forward, resting her chin on the table. "And I assumed- no, I was certain- that I would need to hide every step from my peers at Crystal Prep."

Shining connected the dots. "And you assumed that Sunset, or anyone that you met, would be the same. That explains your... aggression when you confronted her the first time."

"Yeah." Twilight looked up at her brother. "I mean- I knew, intellectually, that Crystal Prep might be an outlier. That other organizations, other schools might be different. But after two years of being there..." She trailed off, starting at her hands, her chin still resting on her desk. "I assumed the worst of them. Of all of them." She shuddered. "And then I met Sunset. I- I was horrible to her, and she forgave me. All of them are willing to work with me; she's even shared her thoughts, her old spellbooks- how broken am I, to assume that everyone's looking out only for themselves? To automatically assume the worst of someone I've never met?"

Shining was silent for a few moments, then sighed. "You know, as a police officer, I normally see the worst of people." His sister looked up as he continued. "Everyone we interact with is on guard; we meet people who have lost something, or are guilty of something, and all of them want leniency, or for us to make an exception to solve their problems. When I tell them I have to follow the rules, or can't help them immediately, I get yelled at." Shining sighed. "The issue is that, I've met some of them in other situations. They're usually reasonable, normal people. People's disposition, their attitude- it changes based on the situation."

Shining grimaced. "Cinch wasn't nearly as bad as she seems to have become since I left school, but she always cultivated a strong sense of competition. By the sound of things, Crystal Prep has become toxic- and you've spent most of the last two years there. You're not broken, Twilight; you're just carrying the expectations of the situation you've been in for two years."

From behind the siblings, a new voice spoke up. "Eeyup." A sandy-haired figure sat down beside Twilight, placing a glass of cider in front of her. Big Mac smiled at the girl, gesturing to the cup.

Twilight sat up, taking the glass in both hands. As she took a long pull, Big Mac leaned back. "There's another thing too. One thing you and mah partners oft' forget." He looked at Shining, and raised a hand. "Hold on, Shiny."

Looking down at her, he lifted his hand to tap the paper in front of them. "The others may be busy, but here y'are, workin' away. Lemmie ask, Twilight; when was the last time you took a break?"

Twilight blinked. "Well-"

"Ah don't mean sleepin', or eatin' with your folks, or even takin' a few hours to read. What ah mean is, when was the last time you got away from your research, your work, your problems- if only for a little bit?"

Twilight opened her mouth- then hesitated. As she sat, she slowly closed her jaw, brow furrowing.

Mac snorted. "Not over break, right? Shining told me you were tryin' to get back to yer lab as much as possible. An' from the sounda things, Cady's boss has been runnin' you ragged at school." He reached forward, and slid the papers out from under Twilight's hands. "These girls here- mah sisters and their friends- they work hard, but hey know when to quit. Ah had to teach AJ that lesson a while back. You? You haven't had anyone to tell you to slow down, and it shows."

Mac stood. "I'll give these here papers back to you tomorrow. AJ and the others should be done with Mr. Discord soon- and when they are, ah've asked Sunset to help you take some time off. Until then-" He turned, walking towards the living room room. "Rest your mind a bit. No one expects anything of you here."

Twilight and Shining watched Mac leave. As he departed, Twilight blinked. "Shiny?"

"Yeah?"

"Is he always like that?"

"Insightful? Quiet? Able to get his way all the time?" Shining nodded. "It's why Cadance befriended him, actually. He's one of the few people who can calm her down when she gets into one of her excited fits." He smiled. "Cadance and I work really well together, but he's a stabilizing influence. When we start feeding each others' mania, he's the one to center us."

Twilight smiled. "...I wasn't sure what to think about him, but he seems like a nice guy." As Shining smiled, she turned back to him and continued. "He'll make a great brother-in-law, I think."

Twilight grinned as Shining's face contorted into shock, then began sputtering. There we go. Still got it...


Sunset sighed as she walked out of the living room. Twi needs to learn to unwind a little bit. I mean, I don;t like what Bedlam did, but Aria's not hurt, and hearing her yelling I can understand the urge to shut her up. Sunset shook her head. Poor impulse control on Bedlam's part, I suppose. Then again, I was no better, once upon a time-

"Sunset?"

The girl in question turned on her heel. "Oh. Hey, Rarity. What's up?"

Rarity bit her lip. "Sunset, I know this might not be the best of times, but did you ever open that package I gave you yesterday? I know Twilight is planning on staying until tomorrow, but I need to meet with a couple of clients tomorrow at the boutique. I can't stay the night, and If there are any alterations I need to do..."

"Package?" Sunset blinked, then searched her memories. "Oh, the one you gave me in the principals' office. No, I haven't had a chance to open it yet." Walking over to the pile of bags near the front door, she quickly seized her own backpack. Wrestling it open, she removed the wrapped bundle from the bag.

Tearing open the wrapping, Sunset's gaze widened. Long, dark leather hung from her grasp. With a slight tremble, she pulled on the overcoat.

The leather coat stopped just past her knees, unbroken leather hanging perfectly to frame her form. Soft red cloth lining the upper half the coat matched the dark red etchings like curling flames rising from the cuffs and up each arm. Similar etchings ringed the bottom edge of the coat, while her cutie mark was carefully integrated into the breast pocket. Bronze clasps and a long zipper allowed the coat to be either left half- open as a fashion statement, or closed up entirely to turn away the elements.

Sunset swallowed. "It's- wow." Looking down at the coat, she frowned. "I love it, but- Rarity? I know the leather has to be kind of expensive..."

"It was. But- I had to do it." Sunset frowned, then glanced back up at her friend. As her gaze caught Rarity's, she was shocked at the welling tears in Rarity's eyes. "It shouldn't have taken this long, you know."

Sunset reached forward, guiding Rarity to a seat. "Are you okay? And what do you mean, it shouldn't have-"

"Yes, I'm fine, darling. Mostly, anyway." Rarity sniffed. "It's just- I started this jacket before Anon-A-Miss. When- in those few days I thought you might have caused it, I started to seek out new buyers. Yes, leather is expensive, and I thought I would need to recoup costs." She shook her head. "When we talked- in here, a month ago- I realized how little I'd bothered to get to know you. This coat was a sign of that." She pulled in a shaky breath. "When I took you shopping, I watched. When I started the coat, I meant it to accompany a skirt and blouse." She shook her head. "Not entirely to your tastes, as I discovered. You didn't just want an accessory; you wanted something useful."

"Oh." Sunset let a note of confusion come though her voice- then focused her magic on Rarity. From the fashionista, she felt shame, regret- and a growing sense of pride.

Rarity looked at Sunset, and smiled. "My magic let me fix that jacket, but I should have given it to you as a Christmas gift. If I hadn't doubted you, if I gotten to know you better before Anon-A-Miss, you would have received this far sooner. Afterwards, I could no more bribe you with something not your style than I could wish away my actions." She sighed. "We may have fixed things, Sunset, but I still realize just how much I failed you. That jacket- there's a lot of feelings mixed up in it."

As Rarity opened her mouth to explain, Sunset raised her hand. "I can feel your emotions, Rarity. And I think I know what each means." She held up a finger. "Regret- that you ever doubted me, that you ever felt like selling something which should have been a gift." She held up a second finger. "Shame- that you only sought my opinion on what I would want after giving me so much." She raised a third finger "Pride- that you were able to fix your mistakes and finish the coat." She looked down at her hand. "Still wondering why you feel that you need to apologize, though. I mean- oh." She glanced up. "Rarity- I've forgiven you, You just need to forgive yourself."

Rarity smiled. "I already have, mostly."

Sunset smiled, then glanced down. "I love it, I really do. I'm just- kind of wondering about the design choice, though. You usually don't go for the understated look."

"On Wednesday, I saw a side of you for the first time, I think." Rarity smiled. "Not Sunset the bully, or Sunset the student- I saw Sunset the Sorceress, darling. And any good sorceress need the proper attire."

Sunset looked down at her arms, and let a glow of red magic ignite around her fingertips. As she watched, the red etchings in the sleeves began to glow, tracing a pattering of red flames up her arms. As the magic spread, the lower edge of the coat also came to light, causing the coat to billow in an unseen wind. "...yeah. I think we do." She smiled. "Are you going to make one for yourself?"

"Perhaps- though I think I'm more an enchantress than a proper mage, dear." Rarity grinned. "You've inspired me, Sunset. I more ways than I thought possible. And with this magic-" A blue glow formed around her own fingertips. "-anything is possible."

Sunset grinned back, then looked back at the pile of bags in the corner. "... speaking of possible, did you ever figure out how you fit this coat in your backpack?"

"I seem to have enchanted it to hold more than it should be able to. Unfortunately, trying to replicate the spell has been... difficult."

"Oh. Is that why that sleeping bag sack disappeared? What happened to it anyway?"

"It ate itself. And I'm not entirely certain how..."


Granny looked up at the two women sharing the den with her. "Celestia, ah cain't thank you enough for getting that paperwork to me. We haven't had a chance to talk yet, but if you hadn't gotten that paperwork to me..."

Celestia glanced down at the letter sitting on the table. "I'm actually surprised that people are already making inquiries into your family." Peering down at the typed script, her face darkened. "Steyn. I thought that he knew better than to try stuff like this."

Luna scowled. "Why should he know better? It's never been his head on the chopping block when his schemes backfired. Even this-" motioning to the letter "-is just asking for confirmation that things were handled by the book. If anything untoward happened, it wouldn't be his fault- or at least, that's how he'd spin it."

Celestia read through the letter again. "The wording here, though; "unusual circumstances," "specific needs," "impressive abilities;" I get the sense that he's trying to provoke a reaction." She glanced up from the paperwork.

Granny nodded. "I've seen letters like that before, though most of them were a little more threatenin'. If we didn't have the paperwork filed, it mighta spooked Sunset. As it is, she doesn't even know this letter exists."

Luna frowned. "We will have to tell her, the sooner the better. He obviously doesn't know where she comes from or what she's really capable of, but considering his connections, it's plain that he's figure out we're hiding something."

Celestia frowned. "We did have to do a rush job on the damage Sunset did last year. Some videos or pictures probably slipped through the cracks, even with Chrysalis' help." Celestia closed her eyes. "We can't afford a second occurrence of that, either. Chrysalis' aid doesn't come cheap, and I've run through the last of the favors I owe her."

Luna's brow furrowed, then she grinned. "We may be out of favors, Tia, but I think we might be able to get her assistance. Chryssie hasn't really believed anything that's been going on, but she's never questioned her old tutor."

Granny looked back and forth between the sisters. "Do Ah wanna know what yah mean?"

Celestia's brow furrowed. Then she grinned. "Agatha. Do you think she'd agree to Blueblood's request?"

Luna's smile grew viscous. "A chance to stick it to Stayn? A chance to put her real skills to use? She'll agree. And if she backs up Blueblood's request..."

"Chrysalis will at least extend her own investigations." Celestia nodded.

Granny's confused look vanished. "You're gonna sic Harshwhinny on this bastard?" As Celestia and Luna both nodded, Granny burst into cackling laughter. As it trailed off, she crowed, "Oh, this'll be fun! She'll tear him a new one!"


Bedlam ducked out of the front door, moving to rest her arms on the railing of the front porch. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw the girls begin to scatter, Applejack and Apple Bloom dragging Aria away from the front door. Turning back to the snow-covered field, she absently let her magic fade, causing the snowmen to collapse as physics reasserted itself.

Glaring down at her gloved hand, Bedlam frowned. Magic is so much more difficult here. Sure, I 'm epochs ahead of what Shimmy can do, and even Twilight won't have power near mine without a lot of work. Sighing, she glared at the horizon. With an absent wave, she pulled a little extra energy to observe the creation of the new magical field. Shimmy dumped Equestrian magic into an artificial field- then Scootaloo gave it a proper imprint to finalize its shape. Bedlam watched the development, and a wide grin spread across her face. Raising one hand, she snickered. "So, dump a little magic, see an expansion. Well, what would a lot of magic do?"

Feeling her energy gathering, she prepared to snap her fingers, and invest her energy into the new field. Oh, this is going to be so great-

Her thoughts were cut off as something wrapped around her hand, untangling her magic and stopping her mid-snap. Oh, and here's sparklebutt again. Turning, she readied her response to her normal spoilsport. "Twilight, I must say, this isn't a-" She stopped, confused as her gaze met her own yellow eyes.

"Do you never think through your actions, sister?" Discord snapped, yanking the gauntleted hand down with his scarf. Unwrapping it with a quick whistle, he coiled it around his neck.

Bedlam paused, then spoke softly. "Never had a reason to, before recently." She turned to look out over the snow again. "...why did you stop me?"

Discord raised an eyebrow, then stepped up to the edge of the porch. "Sunset's trying to get a grasp on magic now, before things get out of hand. We can't stop it, but we can be ready for when it starts spreading." He shook his head. "Supercharging it? Spreading it across everything? A lot of people would get hurt in the process."

Bedlam blinked, then turned to look back at the horizon. "...oh."

Discord stared at her a moment, then walked up to lean next to his dimensional counterpart. "You know, there's a television show- you can probably find it online, if you're of a mind- in which a group of bold explorers ventured into the great unknown. They ran into a lot of strange adventures, and often came into contact with someone with great cosmic power." He grinned. "I actually relate a lot with one of them." His grin faded. "But- a lot of those powers were little more than children, mucking around with people because they didn't think of them as people." He spat into the snow.

Bedlam glanced at Discord, then hung her head. "That sounds... a lot like what I am. Or what I was, until very recently."

"Yeah." Discord looked down. "Aria described you as such. You never intentionally broke anyone- but if someone got hurt? Who cares, always more where they came from." He shook his head. "I love pranks. Love upsetting people. But- if someone gets hurt-"

"You can't fix it. I can." Bedlam looked up. "But I'm starting to learn that some things are difficult to fix. If someone's hurt, I can wish away the wound. But the mind, friendships- so easy to break, so difficult to fix." She stared into the snow. "You're right. I didn't think through releasing my magic. If someone foul-" She shuddered. "I- I did this just recently, you know. I let someone who shouldn't get power gain far too much. In the name of fun and games. It nearly ended- everything."

Discord glanced at her. "Everything?"

"He- he got strong enough that as soon as I objected to what he was doing, he was able to steal my power." She shook slightly. "I don't want Twilight to think too hard on that one. If he'd ever tried to use his power as anything more than a club, my power would likely have started wrecking the world."

"Oh."

"Yes, oh. I nearly ruined the world. And then, I nearly ruined this one." Bedlam continued to stare out at the snow. "What happens if there's no one who can stop me next time?"

Discord cocked his head. "Twi would claim that the power of friendship would stop you before you went that far, but you and I know better. I think- you don't just need a friend, you need someone you can bounce ideas off of., check your actions against. Someone who understands your drives without being ensnared by them." He turned to look through the bay windows into the living room. "Twilight is getting one in the form of Sunset. Who might serve as yours?"

Bedlam paused, then gave a small grin. "Well, Luna might work... but considering our conversation, I think I know of two." She turned to point at Discord. "You're one. The other, lives in my world, named Schadenfreude."

Discord blinked at the finger pointing at his chest, then started at the second name. "Wait, Schady's counterpart is still- well, him? I would have thought being a pastel pony would have cost him his spark."

"Nope, if by "spark" you mean excellent sense of humor." Bedlam chuckled. Growing serious, she frowned. "If I can't talk to you-"

"Do what I do." Discord motioned through the window. Bedlam turned, watching as Sunset and her friends set up a large board game, both Twilights gathering around. The glasses-wearing girl smiled as Rainbow gave her a nudge, handing her a pair of dice. "Remind yourself of this- is what I would do interrupt this moment permanently? Would I ruin something fun with my actions? If so, can it wait? Is there a better time?" He turned back to his sister, who watched the interactions of the girls with thoughtful eyes. "Keep that in mind whenever you act. Just ask yourself the question- what could happen?"

Bedlam frowned, eyes watching the figure start the game. "I'll keep that in mind," she murmured, then turned to gaze over the empty snow. Her eyes suddenly narrowed. "Wait, how did you stop me from acting, earlier?"

Discord grinned. "I may be no chaos mage, but I've got a few more tricks than I showed the girls. After all, what kind of prankster would I be if I showed all my cards at once?"

Author's Note:

I'm not going to have a whole spiel on partner preferences for each of the girls, but suffice to say that I'm a firm believe in the Kinsey Scale. (Look it up sometime) Princess Twi would rate at about a 4. Discord/Bedlam rates themselves on the scale as "Orange, with slight teal shades" so their sexuality is a mystery. I think they were just messing with Twilight.

Probably.

I didn't even realize that I was going to create a secondary antagonist until I wrote the scene with Celestia, Luna, and Granny. Whyte Steyn is an old nemesis of Celestia's family. We'll see more of him in one of the epilogue chapters.

The last full chapter in this story will be released soonish. Up next: Twilight goes back to school.

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