• Published 22nd Sep 2023
  • 1,064 Views, 76 Comments

Doubt Itself - Casketbase77



They're supposed to be inspiring, Sunset's stories of ponies with familiar names and faces. But to Cozy Glow, her other self is a warning she's grimly taken to heart. Too bad about the whispers still in her head. And the urges.

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4hr 15m

Sunset Shimmer missed her motorcycle. Or rather, she missed what it allowed her to do.

She'd stopped counting the years since she'd settled into humanity, since only four of them mattered: the three she'd spent so far at Canterlot High, and this last one she had left before heading off to art school. She already had a scholarship locked in, thanks to the Rainbooms. Sunset had grown a lot since joining Rainbow Dash's band, though she still made occasional mistakes. Most recently, she'd made the mistake of becoming the first member of her friend group to get a car.

Parked where she was now, on the curb outside Pinkie's house, Sunset Shimmer wondered if she shouldn't trade her biker jacket for a taxi cap. Actually, scratch that. Taxi drivers weren't late for school due to unpunctual carpool passengers.

"Come on!" Sunset grumbled as she hovered her hand over the horn. Yes, her human experience told her this was a residential neighborhood. Yes, it also was aware this was early morning on a Monday. Yes, respecting noise ordinances were important. But not more important than staying on schedule. Sunset had promised to meet and touch base with Cozy Glow before class. If Sunset failed to show up, if the most fragile person she knew suspected some sort of abandonment....

Sunset swore on her invisible Cutie Mark that her fist would pound the horn if Pinkie wasn't outside in the next ten seconds.

Nine seconds.

Eight seconds.

Sunset's free hand swept her passenger seat free of junk. Just to have a clear spot to point at indignantly after blaring her summons.

Seven seconds.

Part of the swept junk had been Sunset's unzipped backpack, and its insides spilled out. She frowned at the mess, since her Friendship Journal, her lifeline to Equestria, didn't belong on the dirty floor. Not even when that line sent data only one way these days. Sunset bent far to reach it, twisting and straining against her still-fastened seatbelt. As she did, her elbow hit the steering wheel.

"Hiya, Shimsham! Could you unlock your doo-"

HONK!

"Ouch. That's a loud unlock."

Sunset sighed and squeezed her key fob, unlocking the door for real. Pinkie Pie smiled in though the window, then grimaced down at the handle.

"Could you um... also push it open for me?"

"Please just get in!" Sunset leaned again, this time managing a quick unlatch.

"Thanks a billion! And sorry for the fumbles. Still getting used to flexing these wigglers, ya know?"

Sunset did not know. About wigglers, about flexing, or really most anything that Pinkie said to her on a day-to-day basis. But she did know the door had swung shut with her only passenger for the day safe inside. And so Sunset floored the gas pedal, burning rubber towards Canterlot High.

Pinkie, thrown back in her chair by momentum, drummed her knuckles on her stomach.

"So... whatcha have for breakfast, Sunset?"

"Huh?"

"You look grumpier than a wet diamond dog. And whenever I'm grumpy in the morning, it's usually cuz I skipped breakfast. I didn't today, though! I had oatmeal."

Sunset chuffed as she took a hard left out of the neighborhood.

"I can tell. You've still got some on your chin."

Pinkie laughed and rubbed her face. Curiously, her hands were still balled into fists.

"I had oatmeal too," Sunset reported while making another turn. "Equestrian breakfast staple. Old favorite from my pony days."

"Hey then, that's a good reason to smile!" Pinkie's face fell. "But you're not smiling..."

"Truth be told, Pinkie, I'm under the gun right now."

Pinkie Pie's knuckles stayed drumming. "I dunno what that means. You wanna talk about it anyway?"

Sunset palmed the steering wheel, turning at last on the main road to school. Right behind a very slow school bus.

"Celestia's love handles!" Sunset cursed. The school bus slowed to a stop, and consequently so did Sunset's sedan. Slow-moving students trudged aboard their ride. Sunset stewed with her face in her hands.

"Hm," Pinkie observed. "Well, now we got time now. Enough for you to explain why you don't have enough of it."

"What's there to explain?" Sunset groused. "Over the summer, I took a leap of faith with an incoming freshman Twilight tipped me off about. She's named Cozy Glow."

Pinkie's knuckle-drumming stopped. She eyed Sunset warily, not that Sunset noticed.

"She... needs help. I'm not sure what kind, so we started small. A letter sent through the Friendship Journal. But Twilight hasn't answered it, or anything else I've sent since then, and I don't know what to do! Every other Friendship Problem we've seen in this world, they were able to be fixed by either smashing some artifact or Ponying Up with everyone else in the band." Her pitch was climbing. "But whatever's got ahold of Cozy is different. I feel like I'm always a tail-hair away from losing her, and I'm going to college soon, so I can't keep a permanent eye on her. I need Twilight to answer me, but she won't answer me, and we're stuck in traffic when I need to meet Cozy, and I really need Twilight to answer me!!!"

The bus ahead belched fumes and lurched forward. Sunset's sedan crept pitifully behind.

"Wow. Okay then." Pinkie Pie was sitting up now. "If this helps at all, Twilight's been super duper busy since her coronation. Like, there was fighting and lasers and an army running down a hill the day before she got her crown. I picked up Grogar's Bewitching Bell at the end. Grew real big for a bit. Everypony was shocked."

It was fortunate the sedan was puttering slowly, because Sunset Shimmer slammed the brakes. Pinkie's balled fists that failed to open the car door. The oatmeal on her chin left from eating with just her face. That casual use just now of "everypony."

"Pinkie?", Sunset rasped.

The disguised Equestrian giggled and clapped her clumsy hands. "I'd say 'the one and only,' but that's not really true, is it? Oh whatevs. Super nice to finally meetcha, Sunset! I've heard lots about you."

Sunset Shimmer babbled several overlapping interrogative questions. They were drowned out by the caravan of cars behind hers honking impatiently. Traffic was got denser the closer it was to Canterlot high. Dutifully, like a true human driver, Sunset chugged along to catch up to the bus.

"W-what are you doing on this side of reality, Pinkie Pie?"

"Heading to the first day of school! The Last first day, since I guess this is the year you all graduate. Me and other me, we were gabbing like we do every thirty moons when the Mirror Portal is open. She was down in the dumps over catching some human disease called Senioritis. I was down in deeper dumps cuz I wanted to see Canterlot High before you all left it. So a switcheroo for the day solved both our problems! I even made my bed with pillows before I left, so other me would have max comfort sleeping off any symptoms she had from Senioritis."

"Umm.... okay. So did she leave any prep for you? I don't see you carrying her purse or lunchbox or anyth-"

"Of course she did! She set you up as my carpool because I don't know how to drive."

Sunset's tired hands gripped tighter on the sedan's wheel. "How very considerate of her."

"No need for any more prep than that! I got Pinkie Sense to help me through all of the day."

The bus ahead stopped again, so Sunset did too. Her chatty passenger did not.

"Ya know, Twilight once tried to figure out how Pinkie Sense worked. She gave up quick, but to be fair this was back before either of us knew we had parallel selves having their own parallel fun. Because us two Pinkies, we... find it real easy to share the other's vibes, fill each other's shoes. Even when the portal's closed, It's like we have this one shared Pinkie Pie soul, stretching far and strong enough to fill us both up. Make our senses both sharp. Makes both our moods match. It's pretty neat! I don't know anyone else who gets so much shared mojo from across the divide."

Sunset Shimmer eyed her dormant Friendship Journal. "I do. And I don't think 'neat' is the word she'd use for it."

Pinkie Pie rubbed her knees together, pensive. Then she perked up.

"Hey, maybe I could take a crack at reforming Cozy!"

"Reforming?" Sunset wasn't sure she liked that word. It felt... impersonal. But she had no more attention to spare for Pinkie's giddy grinning. The bus ahead was full, so their caravan was at last accelerating towards Canterlot High.

"Yeah! Like how Fluttershy reformed Discord and Twilight reformed Starlight. Ooh! I bet the fact I'm here today is all part of Harmony's cosmic plan. Come for the tourism, stay for the Friendship Mission!"

Sunset's hands were sweating as she steadied the wheel. "Humans are... more complicated than ponies," she ventured. "Not to squash your enthusiasm, but I earned Cozy's trust on complete accident. I don't think you can really replicate-"

"Aw come on, Sunset. Pleeeeease? Just a hot minute ago you were simmering at Twilight giving you the cold shoulder. You wanted help from Equestria, and now you've got it! What's Twi got in her bag of Friendship tricks that I don't?"

Sunset mulled over her response. "Magic?"

"Ha! As if the only thing prepped by Other Me was a ride in your squealy wheely automobile-y." For the first time since getting in the car, Pinkie Pie extended her fingers. She fished them into her blouse pocket like a toy claw machine, then drew them up pinching her prize: a dusty piece of glowing rose quartz.

"Pinkie left you her enchanted geode!?"

"Yes ma'am. She... actually, your own glowy rock lets you touch memories, right?"

"Hey, don't- Not now, I'm driving!" Sunset's protests were ignored as Pinkie playfully flicked her shoulder.

Mirror Portal. Hand-turned-hoof presenting the trinket. Hoof-turned-hand accepting. Interspersed were unorganized flashes of light. Somewhere in the montage, Sunset saw her sedan parked expectantly in Pinkie's driveway. Inside, the geode's new wielder had conjured a bowl of oatmeal to sloppily eat it with no hands.

HONK!

Sunset snapped to the present, righting her swerving car. Canterlot High was in sight up ahead.

"...gotta say," Pinkie's voice faded in, "that this thing is easy peasy compared to the Bewitching Bell. It's got one trick, but it's a good one: junk food out of thin air!"

"Yes, I know," Sunset shifted, the heat from her necklace's own geode fading. "I've been around it longer than you have."

"Great! Then we're on the same page."

"We... we are?"

"Yep! I'm seasoned, spiced, and ready to work Friendship magic on Cozy Glow."

Sunset could not think of a less qualified person to attempt to work friendship magic on Cozy Glow. Other than herself, of course. Her options were to appeal to Pinkie Pie's maturity and sense of reason, or state factually obvious flaws with the plan.

For sanity's sake, she chose the latter.

"School starts in ten minutes, and we're only now rolling up. Cozy's probably in class already."

"Nuh-uh, she's on the bus in front of us. I'd recognize those cotton-candy blue curls anywhere."

Sunset nearly broke her neck craning to follow the bus. "Curls..?" she fretted. The huge vehicle swung wide toward the school lot's student dropoff. Through a side window, Cozy's hair was visible, out of its bun and loose in locks that hid the wearer's face. Or perhaps the hiding was just being done by Cozy's posture. Stiff but hunched, her shoulder blades jutted behind like small wings on a pegasus. Sunset's stomach turned at the silhouette's resonance, but she choked it down while pulling into a parking spot. Human Cozy was not pony Cozy. Besides, Pinkie's remark had reminded Sunset of something very encouraging.

"Hey Pinkie, you've tangled Cozy before, right? Equestrian Cozy, I mean."

"Hm? Oh! I sure have, yes-siree." Pinkie Pie prodded cluelessly at her seatbelt, and Sunset undid it for her.

"That's good to hear. So what'd you guys do to help her?"

Pinkie Pie flinched.

"Well?" Sunset prodded eagerly. "What was Twilight's soluti-?"

"Maybe we hold off on the Twilight solution and first try the Pinkie solution." She ducked out with a haste that looked almost like fear, slamming the car door with her freshly clenched fists.

Author's Note:

Hey lookit, actual show material that supports the Pinkie swap plot.

(Fimfiction embeds don't recogonize timestamps. :fluttercry: Skip to 2:08 for the relevant skit.)