Twilight Sparkle was many things. A genius in multiple fields of science and engineering. A vessel for the fundamental intelligence of the magic of her reality. A central node in the polycosmic essence of the universe. The beloved companion of the newly ascended goddess responsible for maintaining her world. Purple, with a magenta streak in her dark hair. Caretaker to a talking dog. Member of one of the more convoluted family trees out there, through no fault of her own.
And, Sunset Shimmer was beginning to realize, a chronic pacer.
One body hadn't been enough. The gem in her forehead had lit up, and enchanted copies of herself were now wandering through the house, up the walls, and across the ceiling. Every last one of them was nervously adjusting their glasses, glancing at a watch, or looking at the bed upon which rested an unnervingly serene Pinkie Pie.
"Will you stop that?!" Limestone growled. "This is terrifying enough as is without seeing random purple people pop up in my peripheral vision every ten seconds!"
Maud, gently caressing Pinkie's forehead, didn't even glance up. "Twilight Sparkle, please turn off the extra bodies."
"Wha--?" Twilight looked around. "Oh! Oh my gosh, I didn't even realize--"
The light in her forehead gem died down, each duplicate being vanished one by one.
"I am so sorry. I didn't mean to--"
"It's fine," Sunset assured her. "We're all worried, so we're all on edge." She bit her lip. "I wish I could just... snap my fingers and wake her up, though."
Marble glanced up from her corner of the room. "Mrrhm?"
"I tried, believe me! But... whatever's got her hooks in her fought back."
"Well try harder!" Limestone snarled.
"If I did I could end up tearing Pinkie's soul apart!" Sunset snapped. "I mean--I know I've gotten better control since I became this world's guardian of harmony, but that's of... physics, and, and cosmic stuff. I still don't... don't have enough delicacy to do things like that."
She slumped against a wall. "People around the world worship me and beg for miracles, and I can't even save one of my best friends... some god I am, huh?"
The room fell quiet, quiet enough to hear Pinkie's breathing. She was smiling, or rather, her lips were curved; it was a resting face, untouched by any true emotion. Still... it wasn't hard to look on that face and see some sort of faith, confidence that what would be would be better than what was. Even still, unable to move, there was a promise of a vibrant future to come.
If only, if only they could get her to open her eyes.
"...she'll wake up soon."
Twilight looked at Maud. "She's been asleep for ten days."
"And her birthday is next week." Maud gently lifted Pinkie's head, tugging her hair out to where she could stroke it. "The big two oh. She wouldn't miss that for the world."
"Mmmhm," Marble agreed.
Twilight adjusted her glasses, smiling sadly. "Yeah... Pinkie would be extremely upset if she slept through her own birthday."
"More like pissed off beyond all belief," Limestone agreed. "You hear that, Pinkimena? You're going to miss your big day!"
The sleeping girl gave no indication she heard.
Limestone groaned. "Hey, baconhorse! When did moonbutt say she was going to be here again?"
"She's just down the road," Sunset muttered. "Two minutes, she'll be in the driveway."
"And she doesn't like being called moonbutt," Twilight added. "Where did you even hear that name?"
Marble walked out the front door, glancing at Pinkie briefly as she left. In a moment she returned, followed closely by a quartet of young ladies. A taller woman entered behind them, glancing around the room solemnly.
"Principal Luna, thank you for--"
The woman held up her hand. "Please, Twilight. I'm not your principal anymore..." She approached Pinkie carefully. "...and there is no need to thank me for this. I wish... I wish I did not need to be thanked, if I am honest."
"Question." The one with rainbow hair rose an airhorn. "Does anybody mind if I blow this in her ear first? Just to check to see if it works."
"Already did," Limestone grunted. "And a noisemaker, and a kazoo, and an original recording of 'the merry-go-round broke down...' Nothing worked."
"Oh. Did you try a slide whistle?"
"Mmhmm," Marble replied sadly.
"And an otamatone," Maud added.
"How about a didgeridoo?"
"Rainbow Dash!" snapped Rarity. "Why do you keep suggesting blasting these ridiculous instruments into Pinkie's ears?"
"Because it's Pinkie! If anybody is going to be woken up from a coma by a ridiculous noise, it would be her!"
Applejack huffed. "Not that Ah don't get where you're coming from, Dash, but we've gotta be practical."
"Thank you!" Rarity cried.
"None o' us have a didgeridoo. How'd we get one in here anyway? Big hunk o' wood!"
A deep, reverberating sound caught the attention of everybody in the room. All eyes fell on Fluttershy, who was kneeling beside Pinkie's hear and emitting a bone-shaking hum through her pursed lips.
Pinkie did not so much as stir.
Fluttershy sighed, standing up. "Worth a shot."
"...anybody going to explain what that was?" Limestone demanded flatly.
"I spent a while as a tree," Fluttershy explained. "I'm mostly human now, but... well, Rainbow said didgeridoo, and I know how to... um... yeah." She ran her fingers through her long pink hair. "Sorry..."
"...it's not a problem. Just... dang. Pipes, girl. Real cathedral shit there."
"Mmmmhmmmmm," Marble agreed, the faintest of smiles on her face.
Sunset shook her head, a faintly amused huff escaping her nostrils. "Even unconscious, Pinkie's inspiring ridiculousness... let's get this crazy train back on track. Luna, if you would?"
The woman nodded, taking a position at the head of the bed. Maud looked up at her, their eyes locking in silent conversation. Eventually, slowly, the grey hands receded from the pink face, only to be replaced by a soft blue pair. The opal gem in Luna's head shone, its light spreading to encapsulate her eyes. Lines of power wove down her arms, elegantly curling in patterns both natural and eldritch; they whispered out of her fingertips, sinking gently into Pinkie's forehead.
"...yeah okay wow." Limestone nodded slowly. "A lot of what the Aztlan Institute is researching makes a lot more sense now."
Luna allowed herself an amused hum. "I am well aware how fascinating I look, ladies. But please, let me focus." Her fingers twitched across Pinkie's face, breath slow as the girl's eyes shifted behind their lids. "...hmmm."
Marble perked up. "Hmm?"
Rainbow glanced between the two. "Uh... so--"
"Shh," Fluttershy admonished, looking on nervously.
Sunset Shimmer chewed her lip, her form flickering between the various aspects humanity had been granted with magic's return. Feathers on her neck faded as a gem grew out of her forehead, only to melt into nodules on the sides of her skull and then fade away as lines formed across her face.
It was only when her forearms grew large and barrel-like that Rarity grabbed her wrist. "Sunset, darling, pick a shape and stay with it."
"Right... sorry, sorry, just..." Sunset shook her head, absently returning to an unaspected human form. "I... I want to know what's going on, at the least."
Luna sighed, pulling her fingers back from Pinkie. "I can tell you this much, at least; her mind is still there, it's just not... on, for lack of a better term."
Applejack tilted her head. "What, like she's dreaming?"
"No. A dream is still active, if not controlled..." Luna tapped her chin thoughtfully. "If the mindscape is like a sea, then people are like boats. When they're awake, the crew is directing the path they will sail--though they sometimes have to fight against winds and waves. When they go to sleep, the crew surrenders almost entirely to the will of the currents, but they're still on the boat, just not directing things. Pinkie Pie... her mind is like a boat without a crew, at the moment."
"So what happened to the crew?"
"I'm not sure. And this is a metaphor anyway, it's... me trying to describe something that I don't have words for." Luna let the light fade from her eyes. "There are memories, there is recognition, there's just no... activity. Something is stopping Pinkie Pie from thinking. And I don't know what it is."
Limestone glowered at Sunset. "You said something had its hooks in her soul, right?"
"There seems to be." Sunset ran her fingers through her hair nervously. "Or it could just be caught on something... Soul mechanics are not my specialty. I'd have to set part of my cosmic intelligence up to..." She gestured vaguely for a moment or two, before throwing up her hands. "Look, my point is there might be something causing this--there probably is something causing this, I just don't know what it is. Somebody threw an anchor down, or maybe the ship ran aground--"
"The ship is just a metaphor," Luna reminded her.
"I don't give a rat's ass what is and isn't a metaphor!" Limestone shouted. "My baby sister is lying there, unable to wake up, and you're basically god! Even if you can't do anything you should be able to tell me why this is happening!"
"I'm not a god! I'm not even that kind of--my power isn't, like, fate or anything, it's literally toying directly with physics! You want a gravity burst, fine, you want a wormhole to Ares, I can do that, except I don't because reality is still being stitched together and if I did that things would just go kaput a-a-and I can't do anything!" Sunset sagged against the wall. "I have all this power, I can snap my fingers and make... whatever sounds impressive, I don't know, but I just... She's your sister, but she's also my friend. I can't... I can't do anything."
Twilight put a hand on her shoulder. "You don't have to do this alone, Sunset. That's literally why we're here."
"Fine. Fine..." Sunset took a breath. "Thank... thank you, though. Um. So... any ideas?"
Everyone present glanced around the room, hoping for an inkling of an idea.
"...smelling salts?" Rarity offered, weakly. "I mean, if hearing didn't work--"
"We put cupcakes on her chest," Maud reported.
"...True love's kiss?" Fluttershy suggested. "If this is an enchanted sleep--"
Rainbow scoffed. "Oh come on, Fluttershy! Do you really think Pinkie Pie is the kind of person to fall in love? I mean, she's really friendly and all, but if I had to guess either she'd never go for anyone or she'd just love everyone!"
For a moment, the room was dead silent.
"...what?" Rainbow looked around. "Why's everybody looking at me like that?"
"Pinkie's crushing on Ruby Rose," Sunset deadpanned.
"The pope of the Church of the Divine Bacon Horse."
"The church that worships you."
"Pinkie's crushing on her."
"That's right. Pretty serious crush, too."
"Oh. Huh." Rainbow shuffled awkwardly. "Well, now I feel like a bitch."
Limestone snorted. "Welcome to the club, kiddo."
"Seriously, though, how did you all know?"
"She deliberately lost a food fight," Sunset replied.
"Me and Fluts heard from Rares," Applejack added.
"Ice cream counseling session," Rarity explained.
"We're her sisters," Maud deadpanned.
"Stumbled into one of her dreams," Luna offered, coughing gently. "Still trying to get a hang on that..."
"I didn't know," Twilight offered gently.
Rainbow leveled a flat look on her. "Right."
"I believe you. Just..." She shook her head. "Whatever. So... we get Ruby to come over here, plant a wet one on Pinkie, she wakes up and everything goes hunkydory?"
"Erm." Twilight cleared her throat. "See, I think that would require Ruby to be in love with Pinkie."
Rarity winced. "Well... then that might not work..."
"The ice cream counseling session I mentioned? It came about because Ruby was just that oblivious to Pinkie's feelings."
"Does it have to be romantic love?" Maud asked.
Twlight blinked. "What?"
"True love's kiss. Does it have to be--?"
"Look, I don't know if this is a love curse," Sunset interjected. "I don't even know... if it is a curse. The first thing we need to do is diagnose this, before we try to cure it. Frankly, Luna's done the most of us thus far."
Luna nodded. "Thank you, Sunset."
"So... what, we just sit here and pray?" Limestone growled.
Sunset pinched her brow. "I... I don't know what to tell you. I'd want to say 'have faith,' but... I don't think I'm qualified enough to say even that."
"Well then who the fuck is?!"
The sound of the front door bursting open caught their attention. Everyone stood up, but before anybody could react a pink-skinned girl with blood-red hair rushed into the room, her scarlet cloak billowing behind her and her silver eyes darting around wildly.
"I came as soon as I got Marble's text!"
Everyone paused, slowly turning to the corner.
"...Marble," Sunset asked, very calmly. "Why did you call Ruby Rose over?"
Marble fiddled with her hair nervously. "Mmmnnn..."
And through it all, Pinkie slumbered.