• Published 7th Apr 2020
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Consonance and Dissonance - applezombi



After an unfortunate injury while hiking, Pinkie Pie accidentally sets into motion of a chain of events that leads to new friendships, romantic encounters, and even the salvation of an old enemy.

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Chapter 6

“Stop pacing. You’re freaking me out,” Sunset said.

I’m freaking you out?” Twilight replied incredulously. “I’m freaking you out?!” Her voice rose an octave. “Well I’m so sorry Sunset that this situation is making you uncomfortable!” She was nearly shrieking by the last word. Sunset’s eyebrows raised, and she held her hands up in a calming motion. Twilight realized she was breathing heavily. “Um…”

“Twilight, are you going to be okay?”

“Do I look okay?” Twilight asked. “Sunset, she’s me. Except from another world. Except she’s a genius, and a sovereign ruler of her nation. A position, remember, that she earned through both scholarly and heroic achievement, not one that she inherited. She’s literally the perfect physical reminder of every missed potential, every mistake, every bad choice I’ve ever made!”

“Twilight, you’re hyperventilating. Please, can you sit down? I’ll go get you a drink of water.”

“And leave me alone for her to show up?” Twilight panicked. “And then she’ll be here, and I’ll be here, and we’ll be all by ourselves, and it will be so awful…”

“Twilight, calm down, please. I won’t go anywhere if you’ll just please sit down.”

“Sit down? Uh, okay. Okay.” Twilight muttered, plopping down on the cement that surrounded the plinth where Canterlot High’s mascot statue used to stand. She nearly leaned against the stone side of the plinth, remembering at the last second that this was the side that contained the magical portal to Equestria. With a start, she jerked away, rising to her feet again before taking a few steps then plopping down on the cement again, this time facing the portal.

“Twilight, I’m sorry. You know she’d feel terrible that she’d made you feel that way.”

“Of course it’s not her fault,” Twilight spat. “She’s so perfect.” She felt awful as soon as the words slipped out of her lips. “Sunset, I’m sorry I’m being like this. I really thought I’d be more okay with all this.” Sunset crouched down next to her best friend, resting a hand on her opposite shoulder and pulling Twilight into a half hug.

“Hey. Hey. It’s completely okay. I didn’t really think how hard this would be for you,” Sunset said as one hand rubbed Twilight’s shoulder comfortingly.

“I didn’t realize either,” Twilight said. “Really, we both should have. You may have noticed I have a propensity for panic attacks and overthinking things.”

“It is part of your distinct charm,” Sunset agreed, and Twilight looked up at her and laughed. It was a wan thing, maybe a little forced, but Sunset joined in. “Twilight, really, if…”

Whatever she was going to say was washed away in a flash of bright white light from the portal. Twilight’s heart caught in her throat as her double stepped through. She wore the same clothing that she had the last, brief time Twilight had seen the Princess; a pale, button down blue blouse with puffy sleeves, a pink bow tie, and a purple skirt with a pink star motif on it, completed by knee-high argyle socks. Twilight felt a twinge of jealousy that the Princess didn’t seem to need glasses like she did; her minor nearsightedness had never bothered her, not really. Not until she found out her absolutely perfect alternate reality double had perfect eyesight. Just one more insecurity to add to the list, she thought disparagingly.

“Sunset!” the Princess beamed. “And, uh, Twilight! Good to see both of you!” The sincerity in her voice was not feigned. Jerkily, Twilight jumped to her feet. Sunset rose with a bit more dignity, though she did dash forward to catch up the slightly shorter girl in a tight embrace.

“I missed you, Princess,” Sunset breathed, and Twilight looked away from the private moment, tugging at the hem of her own skirt in order to keep her hands from wringing. She tried not to hear when they kissed. “Oh. Twilight, uh. Sorry.” She looked up to see that the two of them had separated, though they were still clinging to each other’s hands. Their faces both had the flushed, rosy sort of look of new lovers, and their eyes kept darting back to each other. Oddly enough, that bit didn’t make Twilight feel guilty. She had a second date coming in less than a week, after all. Absently she reached up and touched the spot on her cheek where Sonata had kissed her just a few days ago. It was completely unscientific, and completely illogical, but she imagined she could still feel the warmth of Sonata’s lips.

“I’m so glad to see you too, Sunset,” the Princess said. She glanced at Twilight. “Um…”

“Oh! Right. Well, Twilight here,” Sunset began, pointing to human Twilight, not the Princess. “Twilight has the address for Pinkie’s house if you don’t remember where it is. I’ll meet you both there when you two are done talking? I think all the girls are coming over for a sleepover.”

“That sounds like fun. I’ll see you in a bit, okay?” the Princess said, her eyes on Twilight. Sunset nodded, and let go of the Princess’ hands so she could walk over to Twilight. Briefly, Sunset hugged her. “It’ll be okay. She’s nice.”

“I know that,” Twilight hissed. “This would actually be easier if she weren’t, you know.” Sunset laughed.

“Oh! I forgot!” Sunset exclaimed. Sitting on the ground, draped over Sunset’s backpack, was a coat. The Princess was already beginning to shiver. The coat was the same color as the Princess’ blouse, a light blue. It was a trench style coat that Rarity had selected, complete with a knit scarf that had been embroidered with the same pink star motif that was on the Princess’ skirt. Sunset snatched them up and handed them to the Princess. “These are from Rarity.”

“Ooh, they look warm,” Princess Twilight cooed. “I always forget how cold it can get without fur.” Somewhat clumsily, she managed her arms into the coat. The Princess stared at the buttons for a few seconds, as if waiting for something.

“Fingers, Twi,” Sunset said, her voice light and teasing. The Princess went crimson, fumbling at the buttons with her fingers before muttering something uncomplimentary at her girlfriend. “What? You know you deserve it, princess, after all the teasing you gave me about my telekinesis last time I was on the other side.”

“Okay, okay,” Princess Twilight muttered. “Now shoo. Twilight and I need some time by ourselves, okay?” The dismissal was not subtle, but it was kind and given with a smile. With one more quick hug to her girlfriend, and an encouraging smile for Twilight, she jogged off in the direction of the school’s parking lot. Twilight wanted to beg her not to go.

“Do you have somewhere you’d like to take a walk?” Princess Twilight asked, her voice full of kindness and patience. “Somewhere quiet, maybe?” She suddenly shivered as the wind blew by in front of the school. “Ooh, and maybe somewhere a bit sheltered from the wind?” Twilight laughed. It helped, somehow, to see the Princess as somebody who was able to experience cold. It made her seem more real, more vulnerable.

“Would you… like to see the school garden? Nothing’s blooming right now, but most of the leaves are still on the trees. It’s beautiful, the colors are fantastic, and there’s a nice little nature trail that’s only about a mile long.”

“Sounds nice. When is your Running of the Leaves?” Princess Twilight asked, as Twilight began to lead them to the wooded garden behind the parking lot.

“Running of the Leaves?” Twilight asked, which launched the Princess into a detailed description of the active role ponies took in changing the seasons in their world. It was incredible and odd at the same time; when Twilight explained that these were completely natural processes in this world, the Princess seemed just as shocked and intrigued as she was. The conversation took long enough to reach the packed dirt path that led to Wallflower’s little garden.

“We’re avoiding the issue, aren’t we?” Princess Twilight asked wistfully, as she looked around the fall palate painted on the trees and the forest floor.

“Yeah, uh, maybe,” Twilight responded. She didn’t know what more to say.

“Okay,” Princess Twilight breathed, stepping out onto the path, enveloped by the thick canopy of trees and leaves above her. The few that had fallen upon the path gave off a satisfying crunch, and the entire forest smelled of fall. “So to start with, I wanted to apologize.”

“Princess, you don’t need to…”

“No, please, let me finish,” the Princess said. It was a polite interruption, but it was clear that this Twilight was growing used to the trappings of power, to the people, or ponies, around her sitting up and listening to her, waiting on her, deferring to her. “I won’t say I regret what happened, because I don’t. But I do wish it could have happened without hurting you. So for that I’m sorry.”

“Um, thank you? For saying so?” Twilight said, flinching that she’d made it a question. She stuffed her hands in the pockets of her own jackets to hide them from the cold, trying not to shrink into herself.

“What can Sunset and I do to make this less difficult for you?” Princess Twilight asked, after they’d walked nearly a quarter mile of the loop that led through the forest.

“Be less perfect,” Twilight muttered, before she could stop herself. The Princess looked back behind her, her eyes full of shock and confusion.

“Be less… you think I’m…” the Princess stuttered. “How could you possibly think…” It was very strange to be the witness to a ‘Twilight panic attack’ from the outside, and it was both an uncomfortable reminder of her own insecurities, and a stark example of the very similarities between her and her double that so terrified her. It was confusing. Then the Princess rolled her eyes slightly and lifted her hand, fingers curled up to her chest as she inhaled slowly, lowering her hand as she exhaled. It was a gesture she’d seen a thousand times from Cadence. Of course there would be a Cadence on the other side as well, teaching her same calming techniques to Princess Twilight. “Right. Sorry. You think I’m perfect?”

“I guess not?” Twilight said. The princess raised her eyebrows, and Twilight flushed with frustration. “Okay, maybe a bit, yeah. Do you realize how hard it is to live up to the benchmarks you’ve set? You’re… impossibly perfect, Princess, and I just happen to share your name and look exactly like you.”

“Do you think your friends feel that way?” Princess Twilight speculated. “Do they treat you poorly because of it?”

“No, of course not!” Twilight insisted. “They’ve been nothing but kind and accepting.”

“That’s what I expected. So who is making these expectations, Twilight?” the Princess asked. There was a serene maturity in her voice that Twilight wanted to hate her for.

“I know what a leading question sounds like, Princess,” Twilight grumbled. “I get what you’re trying to say. That doesn’t make it any easier.”

“You and I have had different experiences, but at our core, we’re very similar,” the Princess said. “I know how you feel, because I’ve been where you are. I know who sets those expectations, because it’s the same pony who sets them for me.”

“Don’t try to put us on the same level, princess,” Twilight said. “Look at what you’ve accomplished. I’m just… a teenaged girl.”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” the princess said. “You’re a different pony… er, person than I am, but maybe that’s a function of time and opportunity than it is achievement.”

“What do you mean?”

“I began my path to where I am when another princess, Princess Celestia, discovered my potential and took me aside as her personal student. It led me to meeting my friends, to finding my destiny, and to eventually becoming the mare I am today. I’m not saying you’ll develop in the same way I have; that’s impossible. Your world doesn’t have alicorn princesses, after all.” The princess gave an awkward laugh. “Things don’t work the same over here, but I’m guessing that there was an event, comparable to my discovery by Princess Celestia, that has occurred to change your life profoundly. And my guess is that it has happened much more recently for you than it has for me.” Princess Twilight’s eyes were intense as she searched Twilight’s face, and she couldn’t look away. “You’re not inferior to me at all. You’re just at an earlier stage in your development. And I’m betting that whatever you become, whatever you turn into, will be something beyond what even I can imagine.”

Twilight blinked. There was a fervor and a passion to the princess’s tone that was impossible to ignore. The Princess believed in her, and it was impossible to doubt the sincerity in her voice. It made her eyes a bit misty.

“I-I didn’t know,” Twilight stammered. “I didn’t think of it that way.”

“Of course not. You and I always jump to the worst case scenario. My mom has an entire shelf full of psychology books on anxiety-ridden teenagers.”

“Mine too!” Twilight exclaimed. They shared a familiar laugh, but the same exact sound and mannerisms, coming from the both of them, made Twilight remember the real reason for this conversation.

“Tell me honestly, Twilight. Honest to Applejack,” the princess smirked as she invoked their friend. “What’s the biggest problem, or complication, you see to me and Sunset being involved in a relationship?”

“Writing a checklist?” Twilight teased, and the princess colored. “Only because that’s what I’d be doing. ‘Once you list your obstacles, you can break down your goals into easily manageable individual tasks.’”

“’That way’,” the princess finished the quote, “’overcoming the difficulties and complications between you and your goals becomes simple.’ I didn’t know you had Haycart in this world, too. He’s one of my favorites.”

“Mine too. Okay, Princess. I’ll help you write your checklist. Item one. It’s incredibly weird that my best friend is dating somebody who looks exactly like me. It creates all sorts of implications that are uncomfortable.”

“That’s fair,” the princess mused. “Do you want to talk about that one?”

“That’s not how this works, Princess. We have to make the whole checklist first. Item two. While I’m not really interested in my best friend that way, it is a bit of a blow to the ego that she picked somebody exactly like me, except much better in every way.”

“I believe we covered that at least a bit,” the princess said.

“Item three,” Twilight pushed forward. “If I have to think about it, I’m a bit worried about my best friend being hurt because she’s in a completely irrational and bizarre interdimensional relationship with somebody of a different species.”

“Technically, we’re the same species,” the Princess said. “She was born on the other side…”

“That’s not what I meant,” Twilight cut in, embarrassed that she’d cut off royalty. She went on anyways. “You’re not a unicorn any more. You’re something else, right? Basically an immortal deity? Of course I’m going to be worried. I care about Sunset.”

“It does you credit,” the Princess sighed. “Item four?”

“Um, that’s it, I guess,” Twilight said, taken aback by the sudden melancholy in the Princess’ tone. “Did you want to start with item three, then?” The Princess’ eyes were worried, and they pierced Twilight with an intense gaze.

“I’m worried about item three, Twilight. I’m terrified. I’ve been talking to Princess Luna and Princess Celestia about it. They’ve been alive for centuries, and they’ve taken lovers. They’ve had experience with that sort of thing.” Her voice was fervent, deep with emotion and worry. “Twilight, I have no idea what it feels like to watch ponies you love grow old and slip away. I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle it when my friends pass, let alone a lover. But I know that I’ll regret it more if I let this opportunity pass.”

“You sound determined,” Twilight said. “If you haven’t yet, you can always talk it over with Cadence. I go to my Cadence with all my love woes.” The princess paled.

“I couldn’t talk to Cadence about this,” Princess Twilight said, sounding horrified. “Twilight, she’s in the same horseshoes as me. Oh, you don’t know… Twilight, on my side of the portal, Cadence is an alicorn princess too.”

“What! Oh, so you mean…” Twilight’s face fell. “Oh. Poor BBBFF. Poor Cadence. You should talk to her anyways. You may be in a unique position to…” she trailed off. The princess’ face was grim, and Twilight had no desire to continue this line of conversation. “I guess I’m worried for my friend, you know? Your relationship can’t exactly be normal.”

“Thanks, Twilight. I mean it. It’s actually a comfort to know that she has somebody as amazing as you looking out for her,” the Princess said. She turned around and continued their walk down the path, ostensibly tired of waiting in one spot, but Twilight saw the twinkle of tears in her eyes before she turned. “Okay then. Item one?”

“I kinda think Sunset might have solved that one. A bit. I’m curious about something, though. And it’s a very personal question, so feel free to tell me off if you have to. Sunset mentioned that you and Flash Sentry briefly had a thing for each other. Can I ask… what attracted you to him?” The last few words came out in a rush. Princess Twilight froze on the path in front of her, and Twilight assumed it was in shock. She was just about to apologize when the princess spoke again.

“I think I see where you’re going with this. Okay. Twilight, for me, physical appearance only goes so far. There has to be something more, something engaging, below the surface. When Flash and I were together, even if it was brief, I was impressed by his kindness, his insight, and his moral strength. The other things that typically enter into an infatuation, the physical details, didn’t really enter into it for me. Mostly because, well, I’m attracted to ponies, not humans.”

“Is there a pony Flash Sentry?” Twilight asked, to curious to stay silent.

“Yes,” the princess replied, her voice falling. “Like my theory about you and me, I thought that maybe pony Flash Sentry is at an earlier stage of his development then Flash Sentry over here. Pegasus Flash just doesn’t seem to have blossomed in the way the Flash on your side has, maybe because he hasn’t experienced the same things. He’s a guard in the Crystal Empire, at Cadence and Shiny’s palace. I spoke with him a few times, and nothing ever sparked. Certainly not the way they did with the Flash in this world.” The Princess sounded disappointed. “How is he doing?” Twilight knew that the princess was asking about Flash’s love life.

“He’s rebounded nicely,” Twilight said, grinning despite herself. “I don’t know how much Sunset has told you about the school I used to go to. Those girls could use a heavy dose of friendship magic, and I think Flash has taken it upon himself to fill that role. With one specific girl in particular.” Sugarcoat and Flash Sentry certainly made an odd couple, but she had been learning to filter herself recently, and behave more kindly, so maybe he was having a good influence.

“Oh. Well I’m glad he’s doing well,” the Princess said idly. “But you were wondering about me and Sunset.”

“Sunset already mentioned that the reason she’s attracted to you and not me is because you’re a pony and I’m not,” Twilight said. “I guess… it’s just hard to understand.”

“Are you dating somepony right now? Er, somebody?” Princess Twilight asked.

“Um, kinda,” Twilight said. “We have a second date on Wednesday, but the first date went exceptionally well by all reasonable standards.”

“And if you met your date in a different form, would you be any less attracted to him or her?” the Princess asked. Twilight was already shaking her head.

“Her. And no,” Twilight said. She felt like she had to tread lightly; she knew Sonata and Princess Twilight had a history.

“Now think about it this way. Say you kept dating your special somep- um, somebody, and after several dates, happened to meet her double on the other side of the portal. Would you find it confusing who to give your affection to?”

“I think I see your point,” Twilight said, ignoring the impossibility of meeting another Sonata. As far as she knew, there was no double for Sonata because she came over centuries ago, and had never been a pony to begin with. But that conclusion may have also been based on an incomplete or faulty premise. Either way, it was immaterial to what the Princess was trying to say. “But knowing something logically and knowing it emotionally is two different things.” She went silent, not really having the words to continue.

“It’s frustrating, isn’t it?” Princess Twilight said sympathetically.

“Sunset said basically the same thing,” Twilight said. “I think she really does see us as two completely different people… er, beings. I’m the one that’s the problem. That’s why our earlier conversation may have helped. Sunset sees us as two different people. I guess I’ve been looking at you as just a better, smarter, more perfect version of me who didn’t make all the same terrible choices I did.”

“Would it help if we became closer friends?” the Princess asked. “So you could see just how different we are?”

“That’s your solution to everything, isn’t it?” Twilight laughed.

“I am the Princess of Friendship,” she replied, turning and smiling at the other girl.

“Sure. Okay. I’d like to be able to say you’re my friend, Princess.”

“Normally at this point I’d insist you simply call me Twilight, but for the sake of our sanity, I think ‘Princess’ might be okay in this context,” the Princess said, and both girls shared a laugh. “So now that we’re friends, tell me about this mystery girl you’re seeing.” Twilight’s breath froze in her lungs, and she felt the onset of panic. The Princess’ eyes were open and inquiring, without a hint of the minefield she was steering the conversation into.

“So, if we’re friends, you promise to be understanding, right?” Twilight said shakily. The Princess’ gaze turned confused, and she nodded. “Good. Great. Because I’m dating Sonata Dusk.”

“Oh. Oh!” the Princess exclaimed, and Twilight watched as a gaggle of emotions blew across the Princess’ face. “Um… great? How is Sonata doing these days?” The question was perfectly awkward, exactly the uncomfortable thing Twilight would have asked herself. On the other side of the mirror, looking at her own quirks reflected back at her, it made her giddily amused.

“Better than she was, I think,” Twilight answered, after a moment’s thought. “We’ve only been on one date, but I think we really connected. She told me all about trying to mind control the school, and getting beaten by you guys. I even saw some of the videos. She’s been in a bad spot because she lost her music. When I met her, she was crying her eyes out at a concert.”

“I see,” the Princess said mournfully. “I wish they’d’ stayed after the Battle of the Bands. I would have liked to reach out to them, make sure they were okay.”

“They weren’t,” Twilight said, maybe a little bluntly, and the Princess flinched. “And they’re not now. But Sonata’s trying hard. I haven’t met the other two yet, but it sounds like they’re doing poorly.”

“Well, at least there’s a silver lining there,” the Princess said. She glanced at Twilight. “I assume your other friends don’t know yet?”

“No. Not yet.” Twilight shuddered at the thought of what her more volatile friends might do or say about her dating an old enemy. She hoped they’d understand.

“Well, at least you’ll be able to empathize with them when you do tell them. After all, you’ve just come out the other side of one of those same conversations, haven’t you?” the Princess beamed. “And, once you do tell Sunset, do you think I could get updates on how Sonata and the other Sirens are doing? It’s something I worry about sometimes.”

“I’ll want to ask Sonata about that first, to make sure she’d be okay with that,” Twilight warned. “She doesn’t exactly have the best opinion of you, Princess. No offence.”

“No, I understand totally,” the Princess said, though she did sound a little disappointed. “Can you tell me about how you two got together?”

This was something Twilight was more comfortable with. The two of them continued their walk through the natural canopy of orange and red leaves while Twilight told the Princess the story of the crying girl on the balcony. The Princess seemed genuinely interested, commenting in all the right places and asking clarifying questions when necessary. She was even amused by the story about the Indian restaurant; apparently the Tasty Treat existed on both sides of the portal, and the pony Pinkie and Rarity had helped save their Tasty Treat from closure, as well.

“Ready to go see Pinkie?” Twilight asked, when she reached the end of her story. The Princess nodded, and the two of them left the forested path for the back parking lot of the school. It was almost entirely empty, though Twilight did see the Vice Principal’s sedan sitting by its lonesome in the faculty parking lot. Twilight led the two of them over to her car.

“I can’t say I’ll ever get used to riding in vehicles powered by controlled gas explosions,” the Princess muttered as she slipped into the passenger side of Twilight’s car. Twilight smiled; of course the Princess, a consummate scholar, would have learned the basics of internal combustion vehicles.

“Vehicles in your world are powered by magic, I’d guess?” Twilight asked. She put the key in the ignition and turned, and her humble little car rumbled to life. The Princess shook her head.

“Not really. We have trains, hot air balloons and chariots. The chariots are usually pulled by pegasi, but I haven’t needed that form of transportation since I got wings.”

“Flying must be amazing,” Twilight said softly, and the Princess nodded.

“Next time you come visit, I know a spell that can give you wings, briefly,” the Princess said.

“Next time I come visit?” Twilight asked, and the Princess smiled.

“Of course. We’re friends now, right? I’d like to spend more time with you. I feel like I’m learning more about myself the more time I spend with you.” The Princess hesitated, then continued. “When Sunset let me know about some of your… concerns about our relationship, I was curious about the different paths our lives have taken. I did a bit of research and spoke with my parents, and I found out something you might find interesting.”

“Oh?” Twilight asked, wondering where this was going.

“When I applied to Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, my parents had a backup plan for me, in case I didn’t get in. I had already been accepted to an elite magical academy in Canterlot. Somewhere called the Crystal Preparatory Academy, with a stuffy, stuck up noblepony named Abacus Cinch as the headmare. I thought you might find that interesting.”

“So Sunset told you about…”

“Yes, Twilight. She told me the whole story. I’m so sorry you had to put up with that monster. Where is she now?”

“Early retirement,” Twilight smirked. “Cadence is now principal there. It’s going to take several years to change the school’s momentum, but I can’t think of anybody more suited than my sister-in-law.”

“Cadence is great,” the Princess agreed. Her expression suddenly brightened, and with a silly grin she looked over at Twilight. “Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake…” Twilight laughed. She couldn’t help herself; the goofy nursery rhyme brought back a wave of delightful memories and happy times with her old babysitter.

“Clap your hands and do a little shake,” Twilight finished. She put the car into gear and pulled out of the parking lot to drive to Pinkie’s house for their sleepover. After a moment, the Princess reached out and gently brushed her hand on Twilight’s shoulder, squeezing her companionably. “Thanks for this, Princess.”

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