The Best Laid Plans
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
It is often said among ponies that there are few places as quiet and peaceful as a library. Actually, this isn’t true; it is very seldom said at all, but if it were it would nonetheless be an accurate idiom. Some would attribute this abundance of peace and quiet to the invariably draconian methods of the librarians, others would cite the inherent silence of the sort of activities that normally take place within a library, while still others would declare this all to be a moot point on the grounds that hardly anypony really visits libraries anyway.
On this particular Saturday afternoon however, the Ponyville library was neither silent nor peaceful. Tomes, scrolls, and codices alike trembled upon the shelves as a series of booming hoof-beats pounded their way up to the front door. A moment later the door burst wide open, revealing a very upset white unicorn, followed closely by her yellow pegasus companion. The scorned mare strode furiously into the library, fully intent upon regaling all those present with her tale of woe, only she couldn’t because there was nopony there. At least not at first.
Within seconds, the door to the library’s basement flew open as Twilight Sparkle and Spike hurried into the room.
“Rarity, what’s wrong?” asked Twilight.
“What’s wrong?” repeated a distraught Rarity in a distraught voice so that it could be made abundantly clear just how distraught she was. “What’s wrong? I’ll tell you what’s wrong! It’s those two! This time they’ve gone too far!”
Twilight did not immediately answer, but instead shifted her gaze to the timid face of Fluttershy. Given Rarity’s penchant for melodrama, it was usually best to gauge the actual severity of the situation by observing the state of those around her. True to form, Fluttershy did not appear distraught in the slightest, although Twilight did notice something odd about the way she kept sucking on her tongue.
“Okay, you got me. Who’s gone too far?”
“Who do you think?” hissed Rarity. “Who else would assail me with such mischief?”
“Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie then?”
“The very same!”
“What did they do this time?” asked Twilight, trying her best not to smile and failing.
Rarity flared her nostrils in indignation. Normally she considered this to be a vulgar habit, but in this case she elected to make an exception.
“I’ll tell you what happened. Fluttershy and I were enjoying a nice relaxing cup of tea at my place when we heard the chime of the doorbell. So I answered the door, and what should I find upon my front step but...” she paused mid-gesture. “A lovely box of chocolates.”
“You didn’t.” said Twilight, with a roll of her eyes.
“But of course. I simply cannot turn away such gifts just because they are sent anonymously. What if I actually do have a secret admirer?”
Twilight opened her mouth to argue, but decided against it. Best to pick her battles.
“I suppose I can’t argue with that logic.”
“Anyway...” continued Rarity. “I brought them inside and opened them, and then of course I had to share them with Fluttershy...”
“And let me guess.” said Twilight with a smirk. “Hot-sauce?”
“Oh that’s putting it mildly, darling.”
“I think Pinkie Pie’s been experimenting.” said Fluttershy, her usual soft tone rendered hoarse by Pinkie Pie’s volcanic confectionery.
“Are you laughing at me, Twilight?!” shrieked Rarity.
“You make it too easy. Seriously, how did you not see that coming?”
“Um, I kinda saw it coming.” said Fluttershy sheepishly. “But then Rarity offered me one, and I just couldn’t say no...”
Twilight could restrain herself no longer. Collapsing into a nearby chair, her peals of laughter filled the room. Spike however, remained serious as he hurried to comfort the slighted Rarity.
“Twilight, how can you be laughing at a time like this?” said the young dragon. “Can’t you see that Rarity’s upset?”
“I’m sorry.” giggled Twilight. “But come on, you two walked right into that one! Besides, it’s just a prank, all in good fun right? It’s not like Rainbow and Pinkie are hurting anypony.”
At that moment, the front door to the library burst open for the second time that afternoon, permitting entry for the stoic orange figure of Ponyville’s premier apple farmer.
“Hello, Applejack.” said Twilight, cheerily ignoring the serious expression upon her friend’s face. “What brings you over?”
“Rainbow Dash n’ Pinkie Pie are what brings me over!” said Applejack rather loudly. “They’re on another of their little prankin’ sprees!”
“And so now you’ve come to either warn me or to vent your frustrations at me...” said Twilight, with a good-humoured roll of her eyes. “So which is it?”
“Er, to be honest, a bit o’ both I guess.”
“Well I’m afraid Rarity has beat you to the punch on both accounts.” said Twilight.
“Oh, they got you already?” said Applejack, turning to the other unicorn.
“Me and Fluttershy.” nodded Rarity. “Got us both with a thoughtful box of hot-sauce filled chocolates.”
“Well that don’t sound too bad.”
“Oh trust me, Applejack, I doubt even Princess Celestia could’ve handled them, and she works with a big ball of burning gas every day, if you’ll pardon my vulgar language.”
“So what did Dash and Pinkie do to you, Applejack?” asked Twilight with a smile.
“Well, me an’ Granny Smith were in the kitchen workin’ on a batch of apple pies an’ listenin’ to the radio. Suddenly the music just stops and this live news cast thing comes on, goin’ on about how the police’ve tracked down a gang of apple smugglers and how they’re just about to bust in and round ‘em all up!”
Rarity, Fluttershy, and Spike leaned in closer as Applejack told her story. Even Twilight was intrigued despite herself.
“It sounded mighty interestin’, so I turned up the volume, and suddenly they’re shoutin’ over the loudspeaker that they’ve got the place surrounded and for them crooks to come out with their hooves to the sky. But it ain’t just comin’ from the radio, it’s coming from right outside!”
There was a collective gasp of disbelief at this development in the story.
“I kid you not, girls.” said Applejack. “So naturally, Granny Smith gets all up in a panic, so it was up to me to tie my apron around a broom handle and head on out to let ‘em know there’s been a huge mistake. But when I got out there, there weren’t no police; just Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie with a big ol’ radio-microphone-thingy and me lookin’ all stupid.”
Twilight started laughing again.
“T’ain’t funny, Twilight, they darn near scared Granny Smith half to death!” shouted Applejack angrily.
“I’m sorry.” giggled Twilight. “But come on, I’m sure they didn’t mean any harm.”
“I don’t doubt it, girl.” said Applejack. “But that don’t make it any less harmful.”
“Somepony needs to teach those two a lesson!” huffed Rarity.
“Oh come on, Rarity.” said Twilight with a shake of her head as she turned to a nearby bookcase. “Those two? Pinkie Pie’s almost impossible to reason with, and as for Rainbow, well, frankly she’s as stubborn as you are, Applejack. No offence.”
“None taken, I know what you meant.”
“I’m sure they’ll come around and apologise later on.” said Twilight as she magically summoned to herself a particularly unremarkable old tome. “But for now it’s best to just let them have their fun. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some studying to-”
Before she could finish, a great bang like a gunshot suddenly rent the air, followed by a violent ripping noise as a startled Twilight magically tore the book she was holding in twain. The purple mare wheeled around just in time to see Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash quivering in hysterics outside a nearby open window. Rainbow was holding a red and white striped megaphone, while Pinkie was clutching the ruptured remains of a brown paper bag. In horror, Twilight looked down upon destroyed book that now lay on the ground before her, then back to the two pranksters, and then back to the book, before resorting to a tried-and-true anger management technique of bursting violently into flames. The two mischievous mares yelped at the sight of Twilight’s sudden immolation and promptly fled the scene.
“Oh my...” squeaked Fluttershy.
“Now that’s just bad luck.” sighed Applejack.
Rarity cautiously approached her still smouldering friend.
“I’m not the sort to say ‘I told you so’, Twilight...” she murmured as she magically picked up the two torn halves of the book.
After perusing the damage for a moment, she gently pressed the two halves together. After a moment’s concentration the destroyed volume was engulfed in nova of white light and made whole therein. Satisfied with her magical handiwork, Rarity passed the book back to Twilight.
“Thank-you Rarity.” seethed Twilight as she gingerly took the repaired codex.
“Not a problem, my dear.” said Rarity with a cautious nod.
Twilight’s enraged inferno seemed to have served its purpose, for as she leafed through the restored book her features shed their mask of anger and formed anew into a wide, thin-lipped grin. Applejack suddenly found herself feeling rather uneasy; she had seen that look on Twilight’s face before. She hadn’t much cared for it then, and the passage of time had done little to improve its appeal.
“Rarity...” Twilight said at last. “What was that you were saying before? About teaching Rainbow and Pinkie a lesson?”
“Now hold on there, missy!” interrupted Applejack. “Just what’re you thinkin’?”
“I’m thinking the same thing you and everypony else is, A.J.” grinned Twilight. “I’m thinking we ought to give Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, Ponyville’s Premier Professional Pranksters, a taste of their own sweet medicine!”
“Pardon me, darling, but isn’t that just escalating the conflict?” asked Rarity.
“Not at all.” said Twilight sweetly. “We just need to show those two that while pranks can be a lot of fun, sometimes they can take things a teensie bit too far. Which is why I propose we pull off a little prank of our own... You girls interested?”
For a moment, the four onlookers exchanged nervous glances. Finally, Applejack broke into a wide grin and stepped forward.
“What the hay. Y’all know I just can’t pass up a chance to show up ol’ Rainbow, now can I?”
“Count me in as well, Twilight.” said Rarity eagerly. “Just because I am a lady doesn’t mean those two should have all the fun.”
“Well, if Rarity’s in, then so am I!” declared Spike.
The rest of the group now turned to the timid holdout.
“Well Fluttershy?” asked Twilight.
“Oh, well, um... sure, why not? I’m in.” Fluttershy finally conceded with a smile.
“Right, so what now, Sugarcube?” asked Applejack.
With a flourish, Twilight magically swept her book high over her head before leveling it in the direction of the basement door.
“To the Book-Cave!”
* * *
Moments later, the four ponies and one dragon were gathered around a polished steel table in the centre of Twilight’s basement laboratory. All around them was the hum and whir of various machines and electronics, many of which served absolutely no practical purpose whatsoever other than to shield the library from potential budget cuts. Even the monolithic computer that dominated the room was of dubious value to the public, despite the long sleepless nights Twilight had spent trying to program basic software onto it with varying degrees of measurable success.
“Right...” said Applejack. “You got a plan, Twi?”
“That I do, Applejack.” smiled Twilight, still holding her book aloft. “Ironically, Rainbow and Pinkie have inadvertently suggested to us the means for our little... prank. For behold!” She slammed the book upon the table. “The Big Book of Experimental Alchemy!”
“Er, what’s alchemy?” asked Applejack.
“It’s like chemistry, but magic!” explained Twilight. “You know, magic potions and such.”
“I thought that stuff was all a load o’ hooey?” said Applejack quizzically.
“Most of it is.” conceded Twilight. “But as our dear friend Zecora has shown us time and again, there do exist naturally occurring substances with inherent magical properties that can be combined to produce various effects. This book contains some of the less... conventional formulae. And I just so happened to have noticed one that should work out very nicely indeed...”
Twilight flipped open the cover and magically rifled through the pages before settling on a recipe about halfway through the book. Spike leaned over the table to read the title aloud.
“Draught, Spike, ‘Doppelganger Draught’.” corrected Twilight, briskly reading through the description opposite the formula itself. “Essentially it’s a potion that causes the imbiber to take on the appearance of somepony else.”
Rarity reacted to this revelation with visible revulsion.
“Look like... somepony else? Somepony who isn’t yourself? Why, how horrid... anypony you wish?”
“Well, you do need a ‘sample’ of the pony in question to mix into the potion, y’know like hair or blood or-”
Fluttershy suddenly let out a horrified squeal.
“Well, ideally not blood.” continued Twilight. “Also, it only affects the really superficial things like hair and eye colour, so it’s not like an exact match.”
“And just what’re we supposed to do with somethin’ like that?!” asked Applejack.
“It’s simple.” said Twilight. “We’re going to make two batches of the Draught; one of Rainbow Dash, and one of Pinkie Pie. Then, we swap ‘em up!”
A short pause followed.
“I’m not sure I follow, Twilight.” said Rarity at last.
“Well let me put it this way.” said Twilight. “How would you react if you woke up in the morning, went to look in your bathroom mirror, and saw Pinkie Pie staring back out at you?”
“I’d assume Pinkie Pie was in my mirror.” said Fluttershy matter-of-factly.
“Okay, bad example.” admitted Twilight. “How would you react if you saw Rainbow Dash staring back out at you, then?”
Applejack, Fluttershy, and Spike remained at a complete loss, but Rarity’s face suddenly lit up with a look of realization, which quickly reconstituted itself into a mischievous grin.
“Why Twilight Sparkle, you devious filly, that’s brilliant!”
Realization soon dawned on the rest of the gang.
“Oh I get it now, the ol’ switcheroo!” smiled Applejack.
“Oh Rainbow is going to freak out!” giggled Fluttershy.
“Very nice, Twilight, very nice.” nodded Spike.
“Well, no sense in wasting time.” smiled Twilight. “Let’s get to mixing!”
* * *
Preparing the Doppelganger Draught took the rest of the afternoon. Under Twilight’s direction, Spike had been sent to gather outstanding materials, while Applejack and Rarity were enlisted to acquire the all-important “samples” that would allow them to turn Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie into “Pinkie Dash” and “Rainbow Pie” respectively. Fluttershy was to remain behind and assist Twilight in mixing the potion itself.
Rarity had taken to her task with great enthusiasm, believing that the experience would be akin to her favourite romantic detective novels, in which the private-eye protagonist would triumphantly discover evidence of the suspicious dame’s passing upon her used hairbrush, at which point the dame herself would arrive on scene and the situation would subsequently become rather steamy (beyond this point, Rarity suddenly became rather embarrassed and refused to say any more on the matter, though the blush on her face did much to undermine her in this regard). She and Applejack had insisted they would be gone for merely thirty minutes; as it occurred, it was well over two hours before they returned.
“What kept you?” asked Twilight.
“We ran into some... complications.” said Rarity. “As it turns out, neither Rainbow Dash nor Pinkie Pie are much in the habit of brushing their hair.”
“Well shucks, I coulda’ told ya that, Rarity.” said Applejack. “But in the end we figured out a ‘plan B’, so it all worked out.”
Rarity magically placed two glass phials upon the table, each one containing several strands of hair. The first sample was a uniform shade of hot pink, while the second was a nonuniform shade of every colour but pink.
“Uh, where did you get these, exactly?” asked Twilight, noticing now that the hairs were invariably tangled and clumped and seemed rather damp as well.
Rarity hesitated to answer.
“Well, it was Applejack’s idea, you see, so...”
“We pulled ‘em outa their shower drains.” said Applejack briskly and without shame.
“Oh quit the drama, girl, it’s not like ya had to touch ‘em or anything.”
“It’s not so much that I had to touch them, Applejack, it’s more the fact that I had to get anywhere near them that’s bothering me.” said Rarity.
“What matters is that you got the samples, girls.” said Twilight, eager to prevent an argument before it began. “Now come over here and see what Fluttershy and I have cooked up.”
Twilight led them over to where Fluttershy was carefully attending to two small cast-iron cauldrons, each filled with a bubbling cream-coloured sludge. Twilight carefully emptied the contents of each phial into a cauldron. The boiling brews bubbled violently for a moment, before their colours suddenly changed to suit the subject of their effects; the first cauldron’s contents became a vibrant shade of pink, while the other’s changed to a rich sky-blue.
“I been meanin’ to ask, Twilight, but how are we gonna get ‘em to drink this stuff?” asked Applejack.
“Funny you should ask, A.J.” answered Twilight. “Turns out it isn’t a potion you drink after all. It’s actually a candle.”
“A... candle?” responded Rarity incredulously.
“Yeah, apparently you just light it up and it works by inhaling the fumes.”
“But then why is it called a draught if it’s not something you drink?” asked Rarity.
“I guess they meant like a draught of air or something. It’s funny, I know. But we followed the recipe, and this is what it said. Anyway, the good news is that now all we have to do is set them up somewhere next to them, and then sit back and enjoy the fireworks.”
“Twilight, it’s ready.” announced Fluttershy, gesturing to the two cauldrons.
“And now for the final step.”
With the utmost caution, Twilight magically poured their mixtures into a duo of candle molds that Spike had acquired earlier from the local candlestick-maker’s shop. Almost immediately the enchanted wax began to set.
“Right, now that that’s done, we need to start planning for phase-two.” said Twilight. “I believe our best course of action will be for somepony to sneak into their houses tonight after they’re asleep and light these candles by their bedside. They’ll inhale the fumes while they sleep, and when they wake up the next morning...” Twilight permitted herself a giggle. “Ideally, we want somepony who’s very good at keeping quiet...”
“Yes, somepony with grace and subtlety...” added Rarity.
“Somepony who won’t have any trouble gettin’ into both a cloud house and an upper story apartment...” continued Applejack.
“Yeah...” said Spike. “Somepony who can... uh... ah, to heck with it, I vote Fluttershy.”
“Oh come now, Fluttershy, it’ll be fun.” said Rarity sweetly. “And you are the best pony for it.” The glamourous unicorn suddenly gasped in faux alarm. “But you’ll need a disguise of some sort, some stealthy raiment to help you remain unseen in the darkness of the night. Perhaps one of my Mare-Do-Well outfits would work... No, too garish; that particular shade of purple is simply not suitable for such delicate work. I suppose I’ll just have to whip up a whole new outfit! Come, Fluttershy, we haven’t a moment to lose!”
Before Fluttershy could protest, Rarity had already dragged her out the front door of the library, leaving Twilight and Spike to see off Applejack.
“Well, I’d better mosey on off.” said Applejack. “See y’all tomorrow mornin’, okay?”
“Be here around five o’ clock.” said Twilight. “I want us in position first thing in the morning. I just hope that Fluttershy delivers.”
“Don’t worry about her none.” smiled Applejack. “She wants to see this just as much as we do. Anyway, g’night, Twi.”
* * *
“Do you really think this’ll work the way you said?” asked Spike later that evening, after Fluttershy had collected the candles.
“Why wouldn’t it? We followed everything according to plan.” said Twilight. “Absolutely everything. What can possibly go wrong?” Twilight suddenly shuddered. “Woah, did you just feel a chill?” she asked.
“No.” answered Spike.
“Huh, weird. Anyway, let’s get you to bed, Spike. We have a big day tomorrow...”
To be continued...
The Best Laid Plans
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
Twilight Sparkle prided herself on being a morning pony. Ideally she liked to be awake, washed, fed, and washed again just in time to watch the summer sun rise, and if all that could come after a solid hour of early-morning study, then so much the better. Being up early meant getting ahead in the game, and Twilight was very far ahead indeed. Rainbow Dash, however, was not a morning pony. Where Twilight endeavored to be up at the crack of dawn, Rainbow much preferred the crack of noon. Normally this wouldn’t have bothered Twilight so much, were it not for the fact that she and Fluttershy had been camped outside Rainbow’s house for the past five hours.
The two ponies silently observed Rainbow Dash’s cumulus abode from a carefully selected strategic position behind a nearby bush, eagerly awaiting the culmination of their mischievous efforts from the previous night. Rarity, Applejack, and Spike, for their part, were maintaining a vigil of their own over Pinkie Pie’s place. By her own account, Fluttershy had been successful in her mission to plant the Doppelganger candles by Rainbow and Pinkie’s beds as they slept, a delicate operation to be sure, but no problem at all for a world-class “shhh” champion. All that remained now was to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labours.
“Okay, I think I see movement!” said Twilight at last, as she scoped the house with a pair of binoculars.
The two ponies listened eagerly for the telltale screams of a certain otherwise rainbow-haired pegasus discovering an unexpected reduction in her visible spectrum, but no such sound escape the house. In fact it was well over an hour before they saw any further sign of activity at all. It was then that the vapourous door to Rainbow Dash’s house swung open, and Rainbow Dash herself appeared on the veranda, as sky-blue and rainbow-haired as ever, if not more so. Without even the slightest hint of awareness as to the mischief she had been apparently spared, Rainbow spread her wings wide and took off on the morning breeze, leaving two very confused mares in her wake.
“What the... How did...? But she should be...”
Twilight suddenly turned to Fluttershy.
“Fluttershy, what colour was the candle you planted here last night?”
“I-it was pink.” stammered Fluttershy, who cringed under the Twilight’s inquisitive glare. “Just like Pinkie. That’s how it was supposed to go, right?”
“Right... and you’re sure you actually lit it?” asked Twilight with narrowed eyes.
“Oh, yes, absolutely.” answered Fluttershy with a nervous nod. “I really don’t know what went wrong. Maybe it went out sometime last night? Cloud houses are kind of drafty.”
“I guess.” said Twilight with an exasperated sigh. Her first and most brilliant prank ever, and already things were going pear-shaped from square one. “Why don’t you fly up there and check it out.”
With an affirmative nod, Fluttershy softly propelled herself to Dash’s bedroom window and peered inside for a moment before returning to Twilight.
“It’s still lit!” exclaimed Fluttershy. “Just the way I left it!”
“Huh, well that’s weird.” muttered Twilight. “I wonder why it didn’t work. We followed the formula... Do you think we missed a step or something?”
“I don’t know, I was just following your instructions like you told me.” said Fluttershy with a weak smile.
“Well, it might not be a total loss.” sighed Twilight. “Maybe A.J. and the gang are having better luck with Pinkie Pie. Though now that I think about it, I don’t think Pinkie will be quite as freaked out as Rainbow would’ve. Heck, she’ll probably enjoy it actually.”
* * *
Applejack, Rarity, and Spike were already waiting for Twilight and Fluttershy outside the library. Any hope of their success Twilight may have once harboured was swiftly dashed by the disappointed expressions on their faces as they exchanged anxious whispers.
“Hey girls.” said Twilight flatly. “Any luck?”
“None whatsoever, Twilight.” said Rarity. “Pinkie Pie is just as, well, pink as she ever was. I take it you girls fared the same?”
“Oh yeah.” said Twilight glumly. “So much for our big payback prank.”
“So wait, neither of them were affected?” asked Spike. “But then, where did we go wrong?”
“No idea.” said Twilight. “But I guess the prank is off.”
There was a collective groan of disappointment from all those present.
“Yeah, I know.” said Twilight. “Don’t worry, we’ll come up with something else later, maybe something a bit less complicated. Anyway, I have a library to run, so I’ll see you girls later. C’mon Spike. Let’s get things opened up.”
* * *
The rest of the morning passed uneventfully for the Ponyville librarian. In between organizing the card catalogue, Twilight had taken to perusing the formula for the Doppleganger Draught in the hopes of discovering any errant step that may have contributed to the failure of her revenge-driven attempt at mischief. She found none. Again and again she replayed the events of the previous afternoon in her head, and again and again she came to the same conclusion; that their production of the Draught had been utterly and completely flawless, apart from the irritating fact that it incidentally didn’t work.
“I don’t understand it...” said Twilight frantically to herself. “It should have worked. We did everything the book said. Everything! So why didn’t it work? Somepony, anypony, send me a SIGN!”
At that exact moment, the front door to the library burst wide open and a distraught white unicorn hurried into the room.
“Oh for crying out- WHAT NOW?!” yelled Twilight.
“Twilight, you have to come with me.” said Rarity urgently. “Something’s... happened.”
“What do you mean ‘something’s happened’?” asked Twilight.
“Honestly, you have to see for yourself.” said Rarity. “Come now, we haven’t a moment to lose!”
“Have no fear, Rarity!” declared Spike. “We’ll help you with whatever it is you-”
“Actually, Spike, you’d best remain here.” said Rarity, rather awkwardly.
“But... don’t you want me to...”
“Now Spike.” cooed Rarity. “If I dragged both you and Twilight off to deal with my problems, then Ponyville would be left without a functioning library, and that would be just selfish of me. You wouldn’t want me, Rarity, bearer of the Element of Generosity, to have to do something selfish, would you?”
“Uh... well no, but...”
“Splendid! Come now Twilight, you must see this!”
The two mares hurried out of the library as Rarity led Twilight through the streets of Ponyville.
“Nice job with Spike, Rarity.” said Twilight as they ran. “But what’s the real reason you didn’t want him along?”
“Decency, Twilight, decency. Spike is a baby dragon after all, and I simply don’t think he’s... mature enough to handle this situation.” said Rarity bluntly.
“Why, what’s happened?” asked Twilight. “Is it something bad?”
“No...” said Rarity hesitantly. “Not bad per se. Again, you have to see for yourself.”
“But where are we going?” asked Twilight.
“The park.” said Rarity.
“Yes, the park. Applejack and Fluttershy are already there.”
“What about Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie?”
Again Rarity hesitated. Realization suddenly dawned on Twilight.
“Oh no, it’s not about them is it?”
“I’m afraid it is...” said Rarity quietly. “But like I said, it’s not bad, it’s just... never mind, you’ll see soon enough.”
* * *
The Ponyville park was rather sparsely populated for a Sunday afternoon, but this was hardly surprising given the weather. The sky was clear and blue, and the warmth of the sun was complimented by a soft breeze. The verdant flowerbeds were in full bloom, and the crystal waters of the fountain sparkled happily in the sunlight. In short, it was so nice out that only the most valiant of ponies were actually able to bear it for more than an hour or so before suddenly feeling the need to pop back inside and close all the shutters for a while.
Twilight and Rarity ignored all that and made directly for Applejack and Fluttershy, who were standing beneath a large oak tree.
“Okay, we’re here.” panted Twilight. “Where’re Dash and Pinkie?”
With a have of her hoof, Applejack indicated in the direction of the oak tree before them. “Take a look.” she said without doing so herself.
“Where, behind the tree?” asked Twilight.
Twilight did so. Her eyes went up.
Her jaw came down.
Upon one of the tree’s stout lower branches sat Rainbow Dash, resting comfortably with her back to the trunk as was her custom. What was not customary, however, was that Pinkie Pie was up there with her; more accurately, she was lying on top of her with her arms wrapped tightly around the pegasus’ neck as she peppered Dash’s face with sweet rapid-fire kisses, while Dash tenderly stroked the earth-pony’s candy-floss mane.
It was, simply put, the spitting image of a classic schoolyard jeer made manifest.
For several moments Twilight stared up at the arboreal spectacle, her mind bereft of any tangible thought, and her mouth quavering as her brain clumsily attempted to shift gears without first depressing the clutch, with predictably poor results.
“Er, Twi? You alright?” asked Applejack.
Twilight was at a complete loss for words. Nowhere in the vast and fertile plains of her vocabulary could she even begin to find the language that could properly form a reaction to the sight before her. So she decided to use some of Applejack’s instead.
“WHAT IN TARNATION?!” she shouted.
A soft giggle from behind followed her outburst. Two giggles in fact. Fresh spectators had arrived in the form of two mares, one a cream coloured earth-pony, and the other a spearmint-green unicorn, both of whom gazed upon the tree-borne couple with indulgent smiles.
“Aw, isn’t that sweet?” cooed Bon-Bon as she watched Rainbow and Pinkie’s public display of mutual affection. “Remind you of anypony we know, dear?”
“Perhaps.” said Lyra.
“Y’know, I always thought she would end up with Fluttershy.” said Bon-Bon dreamily.
“Yeah, me too.” answered Lyra. “But I guess Pinkie Pie is more her speed.”
“Yeah... wait, hold on. Who are we talking about?” asked Bon-Bon, suddenly confused.
“Uh, Rainbow Dash.” said Lyra. “You just said you always thought that Rainbow Dash would end up with Fluttershy, and I said-”
“Rainbow Dash? I was talking about Pinkie Pie!” said Bon-Bon.
The two mares stared at each other in disbelief for a moment before suddenly bursting into laughter and continuing on their way. Temporarily forgetting the situation in the tree, Twilight and company turned to Fluttershy, who had now curled herself into a tight ball with every aspiration of sinking unseen into the earth below.
“Fluttershy...” asked Twilight, suppressing a smirk. “Is there something you’d like to... tell us?”
Fluttershy peered up and shook her head, avoiding eye-contact, but nonetheless imparting the gesture with a sense of weight and purpose that transcended mere denial.
“Because you do know that we are your friends...” offered Rarity with a grin.
Fluttershy nodded slowly.
“And we won’t judge you, or anything if you-”
“I’m not with either of them!” shouted Fluttershy before curling back into a ball and hiding behind her mane.
“Now calm down, sugarcube, we was just teasin’ ya.” said Applejack softly.
“I-I know.” said Fluttershy. “It’s just, a lot of ponies have been saying things lately and I, um...”
“Are they saying anything hurtful to you dear?” asked Rarity firmly.
“Oh no!” answered Fluttershy quickly. “Not like that. It’s just that I’m not really that into... um, you know...”
“I got you, Fluttershy.” said Applejack with a comforting smile. “My barn door don’t swing that way either. How ‘bout you Rarity?” she added with smirk.
“Applejack!” cried Rarity in indignation. “I fail to see how that’s any of your business... Though I will say, for the sake of argument, that while I have naught but appreciation for feminine beauty in all its forms, my preferences do tend to lean towards the... male element.”
“How ‘bout you, Twilight?” asked Applejack with a chuckle.
“I think we’re getting off topic here, Applejack.” said Twilight, gesturing at the couple in the tree.
“Oh, uh, right. Sorry.” mumbled Applejack.
“Just let me do the talking.” said Twilight. “Pinkie Pie! Rainbow Dash! Come down here, we need to... we want to ask you something!”
Pinkie Pie poked her head out over the side at the sound of Twilight’s address, broke into a wide smile, and leapt off her lover’s chest to the ground, provoking a pained grunt from Rainbow Dash as she did so.
“Ooh, ooh, Twilight, Twilight, I really, really, really need to talk to you!” exclaimed Pinkie Pie in traditional Pinkie-Pie fashion.
“You do?” asked Twilight, visibly taken aback by this sudden reversal of roles.
“Uh-huh, I wanted to talk to you yesterday, but I figured you were still mad, and maybe still on fire, so I thought I’d wait until tomorrow, which is now today, but then I got sidetracked again because I was up here in the tree making out with Rainbow Dash all morning, so I never got around to seeing you, but now you’re here and you’re not on fire anymore, so now I can tell you I’m sorry!”
“You’re... sorry? For what?”
“For making you flip out and wreck your book, silly!” said Pinkie.
“Yeah, that pretty bad of us.” said Rainbow Dash, who had just descended the tree to join her friends. “Like, even by my standards.”
“So like I said, we’re really, honestly, truly very sorry we indirectly ruined your book.” said Pinkie with a cheerful nod of her head. “In fact, we’re also sorry about you girls too!” she continued, turning to the rest of the gang.
“Yeah, sorry if we freaked out Granny Smith, Applejack.” said Rainbow with visible sincerity.
“S’alright, Rainbow, I forgive ya both.” smiled Applejack. “And don’t worry none about Granny, she’s made of sterner stuff than I give her credit for.”
“We’re also really sorry about you, Fluttershy.” said Pinkie. “We didn’t mean for you to get pranked as well.”
“Oh, that’s okay, Pinkie.” said Fluttershy gently. “I know you didn’t mean any harm.”
“What about me?” asked Rarity.
“What about you?” said Rainbow. “Nothing went wrong with you. We’re just apologising for the... uh, what’s the word I want, Twilight?”
“Yeah, what she said.”
“Well, that’s very good of you to own up and apologise girls.” said Twilight brightly. “Sounds like you’ve got your next friendship lesson to send to the Princess.”
“Yeah, I guess we do.” said Rainbow.
“Well, I guess we’ll see you two later then.” smiled Twilight. “Say hello to Princess Celestia for me, bye.”
And with that said, Twilight took leave of her friends and set out for home.
“Hey, Twilight?” called Applejack after her.
“Ain’t we forgettin’ somethin’?”
“Oh, shoot, hold on you two!” yelled Twilight as she spun around to rejoin the group. “I have to ask you something.”
“Okay, what is it?” asked Rainbow Dash.
“When did... this... happen?” asked Twilight, waving an awkward hoof in the direction of the two apparent lovers.
“When did what happen?” asked Rainbow with a raised eyebrow.
“No no, both of you.”
“Twilight, you’re not making any sense.” said Rainbow.
“What Twilight’s tryin’ to ask,” said Applejack bluntly, “Is when did you two suddenly get in on the whole tongue-wrasslin’ scene?”
“Oh... that.” smiled Rainbow with a sudden blush. “This morning.”
“It’s kinda a funny story.” said Pinkie Pie. “I had the most wonderfullest dream last night. It was all about Rainbow Dash, about how awesome she is, and how fast she is, and how much fun she is to be around, and how she has the coolest mane and the cutest tail-” Rainbow Dash blushed violently at this remark. “And then I woke up and I couldn’t stop thinking of Rainbow Dash. Everything reminded me of Rainbow Dash, it even smelled like Rainbow Dash, and that’s when I realised-” she paused for breath, “I LOVE RAINBOW DASH!!!”
“How... romantic.” deadpanned Rarity.
“Uh-huh.” nodded Twilight. “How about you Rainbow?”
“Pretty much the same story, actually.” shrugged Rainbow as she put a fore leg around Pinkie’ shoulder.
“Including the part where it smelled like Pinkie Pie?” asked Twilight.
“Yeah, now that you mention it.” said Rainbow, who proceeded to punctuate this statement by burying her muzzle in Pinkie’s mane and taking a long sniff.
“Hooo-boy.” muttered Applejack as she averted her gaze.
“Ooh, ooh, what do I smell like, Dashie?” asked Pinkie eagerly. “Please say ‘cotton candy’, please say ‘cotton candy’...”
“Actually, Pinkie, you kinda smell like strawberries.” laughed Rainbow Dash.
Nopony had ever seen a more disappointed Pinkie.
“Right, well, that’s all we need to know.” said Twilight with feigned cheerfulness. “You girls have fun now, and we’ll catch up with you later.”
“Okay, see you later.” said Rainbow before turning to her new girlfriend. “Hey Pinkie, what say we head over to the lake for a little... dip?”
“Okay, Dashie.” giggled Pinkie Pie as Rainbow gently nipped her on the ear. “I’ll even race you there! Ready, one, two, three, GO!”
And she was gone.
It wasn’t until Rainbow saw the pink streak hurtling over the next ridge that she suddenly realised what had happened and promptly took off in hot pursuit, leaving her four remaining friends to discuss the day’s latest developments.
“Right, we definitely screwed somethin’ up with them candles!” began Applejack. “I mean, she woke up and it smelled like Rainbow Dash? Ain’t no question about it!”
“B-but I don’t understand.” squeaked Fluttershy, who was clearly not accustomed to the rigours of argument. “How could we go from making them change colours to making them fall in love with each other?”
“Now Fluttershy, magic is hardly an exact science.” said Rarity in a level tone. “Even the slightest deviations can have far-reaching consequences.”
“No, Fluttershy has a point.” said Twilight. “I’ve seen spells go wrong, and this is way too clean-cut to be an accident. Plus I’ve been looking over the recipe; as near as I can tell we followed it perfectly.”
“So what, it’s all just a coincidence?” snorted Applejack.
“Maybe, maybe not. But something is definitely not right. Come on girls, back to base!”
* * *
Within minutes, the four friends had arrived back at the library with every intention of immediately investigating the sudden infatuation that their two most colourful friends had so unexpectedly developed for one another. Alas, that noble purpose would have to wait. At that moment, the library currently had a visitor; a lone pegasus mare whom the four ponies recognised immediately, partially because of her grey coat and straw-coloured mane (a distinctively dull combination among the pastel populace of Ponyville), but mostly because of her eyes, which were large, yellow, and each of which had very much its own ambitions concerning how it wished to behave.
“Hello there, girls!” said the mare cheerfully.
“Hey Derpy.” they all answered in unison.
“How are things going?” asked Derpy Hooves.
“Bad.” answered Twilight before she could stop herself.
“Er, never mind, forget I said it. So what brings you over, Derpy?”
“Oh, nothing much.” said Derpy. “I wanted to do some baking this afternoon, but then I remembered I don’t have a cookbook anymore, so I figured I’d come and borrow one from you guys.”
“Well that is what libraries are for.” said Twilight. “What happened to your old cookbook?”
“The pages are all stuck together. That’s the last time I use an electric mixer.”
“Okay, Derpy, you’re good to go.” said Spike, who had been quietly processing Derpy’s request during their conversation. “It’s due back in a week.”
“Thanks Spike.” said Derpy as she placed the book in her saddlebags. “You have a good day. Oh, Twilight?”
“Er, yes Derpy?”
“There’s a piece of paper or something under that chair over there. See you later, bye!”
Twilight smiled sweetly as she saw the grey mare out the door, then made for the chair, which was indeed sheltering an errant piece of paper.
“Not a whole lot gets past Derpy.” chuckled Applejack. “Gotta give her that.”
“Hardly surprising seeing as her field of vision is probably half-again as wide as everypony else.” answered Twilight as she magically lifted the paper from the floor. “Though it must be tough for her to read like that. Now let’s see what we got here...”
It was a thin and aged sheet of paper, clearly a page from a book. Printed upon it was a recipe for what Twilight swiftly deduced was very likely the most disgusting potion she had ever seen. Many of the ingredients caused her stomach to turn at the very thought of their name. It was the final and most important ingredient however, that caused the unicorn to stop dead in her thoughts.
...Finally, apply a physical sample of the pony who is to be subject to your mixture...
“Spike...” asked Twilight with a barely discernible shake to her voice. “Is my alchemy book still open?”
“Uh, yeah. Just the way you left it.” answered Spike diligently.
“What’s the page number for the Doppelganger Draught?” asked Twilight.
“Just a minute... Doppelganger Draught, page 183.” said Spike.
“And the recipe itself, what page is that on?”
“Uh, 184 obviously.”
“Of course it is!” answered Spike impatiently. “It’s right here on page... 186... Now that can’t be right, where’s page 184-and-5?
With a trembling horn, Twilight turned over page 184 to view the other side. The first thing she saw on page 185 was the title.
The second thing she saw was the anxious face of Spike hovering over her as the purple dragon shook her back to consciousness.
“Twilight! Can you hear me? Say something!”
“Ihwazzaluvposhun!” slurred Twilight, her mind still swirling from her sudden swoon.
“Uh, say again, Twilight?” asked Spike.
“A love potion!” cried Twilight. “We made a freakin’ love potion!”
“We know.” said Applejack flatly. “We can read too, y’know.”
She motioned over at Rarity, who was herself reading the page, her expression growing steadily graver as Fluttershy attempted to read over her shoulder.
“Oh dear me Twilight, this is all my fault.” she said sullenly.
“Your fault? How is it your fault?” asked Applejack.
“I should have checked to ensure I had all the pages before I repaired Twilight’s book. Then none of this would have happened!” moaned Rarity in her typical melodramatic fashion.
“There, there, Rarity, you mustn’t blame yourself.” said Fluttershy gently.
“I didn’t notice there was a page missing either.” offered Twilight. “Neither did Spike or Fluttershy.”
“Besides...” said Applejack. “We all make mistakes. It’s what makes us equine. I’ve made my fair share of dumb moves, I can tell ya.”
“Yes, Applejack, but I highly doubt any of your ‘dumb moves’ have had consequences quite as dire as this.” said Rarity glumly.
“Oh yeah? How ‘bout the time I roped a tree into Twilight’s bedroom?”
Rarity’s lips formed into a reluctant smile.
“I’d forgotten about that.” she said with a good humoured chuckle.
“In any event, this is actually kind of a good thing.” said Twilight. “I mean we didn’t really screw anything up, we just... did something entirely different from what we thought we were doing.”
“That sounds a lot like screwin’ up in my book.” muttered Applejack.
“Yeah, I guess. But now we know exactly what we did and, more importantly, we can figure out how to fix it!”
“Hold on!” shouted Spike. “Back up. What did we screw up? What are we fixing? And what was that thing you were saying about a love potion?”
The four mares suddenly became very quiet. Rarity was the first to step up to the plate.
“Perhaps I should explain all this to Spike while you girls work on fixing our little... problem.” she offered.
“Good idea.” said Twilight. “We’ll be in the basement when you’re done.”
“Excellent. Come now Spike.” said Rarity in an orderly tone. “You and I are going to have a little chat... in private.”
The three other mares giggled at the great red blush that crossed the dragon’s expectant face as they descended the stairs to the basement. While Applejack and Fluttershy gathered about the steel worktable, Twilight began a thorough perusal of the Burning Passion missive. A great laugh suddenly erupted from upstairs. A moment later, Rarity came hurrying down the steps, the young Dragon’s peals of uncontrollable laughter still resonating across the ceiling.
“As I feared, he is simply not mature enough to grasp the gravity of the situation.” sniffed Rarity.
“Well the situation’s about to change.” said Twilight eagerly. “I’ve got the solution to our problem right here on this page. Listen: ‘As long as the flame of passion burns, so too will the fires of the heart. But should that flame be snuffed, so too will die the flame of love’.”
“Was that supposed to be poetic?” asked Rarity with a grimace.
“So all we gotta do is put out them candles?” asked Applejack.
“Pretty much.” shrugged Twilight. “Snuff the flames, and Rainbow and Pinkie are back to normal.”
“Well then what’re we waitin’ for?!” yelled Applejack. “Let’s get on over to Pinkie’s place right now! Just make a wish and blow ‘em out!”
“Uh, Applejack, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.” stammered Fluttershy.
“Oh? And why not?” asked Applejack.
“You want to end up like Pinkie Pie?” said Rarity sardonically.
“Ah, good point.”
“Nothing’s really stopping us, A.J.” said Twilight. “We just need to take a few precautions... SPIKE!”
The grinning face of Twilight’s number-one assistant peered down from the basement door.
“Yes, Twilight?” he asked, suppressing a snicker.
“Get me... the box.”
The dragon’s eyes widened in alarm.
“The emergency box...”
To be concluded...
The Best Laid Plans
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen-Name)
Mr. Cake was in a very good mood. Perhaps it was the excellent weather, perhaps it was the smell of cinnamon that wafted in from the pantry, or perhaps it was simply the mischievous way his wife was smiling at him, as she was wont to do after a long day of baking. Yes, today was indeed a good day.
His blissful ruminations were suddenly interrupted by the sound of somepony knocking on the back door of Sugarcube Corner.
“Darling...” called Mrs. Cake. “There’s somepony at the back door.”
“I hear it, Honeybun,” answered Mr. Cake. “Now who could that be?” he pondered aloud to himself.
With a shrug, Mr. Cake trotted across the kitchen, opened the door, beheld two ponies in gas-masks, and reacted accordingly by emitting a high-pitched yelp and slamming the door in their rubber-clad faces.
“So much for not makin’ a scene,” deadpanned Applejack, her voice muffled by the heavy charcoal filter.
“Yeah, I was afraid that might happen,” wheezed Twilight.
Reaching out with her magic, Twilight gently eased open the door.
When she received no immediate answer, Twilight cautiously peered inside just in time to see two heavily serrated, ludicrously-sized kitchen knives flying at her in rapid succession. The first one whirled past her head, missing her ear by mere millimetres before loudly embedding itself in the wooden door frame behind her.
The second one did the same thing, only harder.
“Stay back!” yelled Mr. Cake from behind a nearby counter. “Stay back! You’re not turning me into one of those things! I’ll-”
“Mr. Cake, stop! It’s me, Twilight Sparkle!”
“Pinkie’s friends?” added Twilight.
“Oh my sweet mother, they got you too?!” cried Mr. Cake.
“What is going on in here?!”
Mrs. Cake had suddenly appeared in the doorway, wearing exactly the sort of expression one would normally be expected to wear upon finding their frantic husband desperately hurling cutlery at hazmat workers in the kitchen.
“Twilight Sparkle? Applejack? Is that you?” she asked.
“Mrs. Cake! Finally, somepony rational,” said Twilight with a relieved sigh.
“Yer husband here just about took Twilight’s head off!” exclaimed Applejack.
“Yes, I can see that,” said Mrs. Cake as she shot a sideways glare at her husband. “But what in the world are you wearing those masks for?”
“It’s... complicated,” said Twilight, with obvious discomfort. “We think that Pinkie Pie might have something... hazardous in her room.”
“Something hazardous? But what-”
“It’s complicated,” repeated Applejack tersely. “All that matters is we’re here to get rid of it.”
“Oh, well that’s good... I guess,” said Mr. Cake, still shaking from his sudden fit of violent overreaction.
“Have either of you been in Pinkie’s room at all today?” asked Twilight curtly.
“Er, no, I can’t say I have,” answered Mrs. Cake.
“Me neither,” said Mr. Cake. “We’ve both been down here all day. Why, is Pinkie alright? Is she in some sort of trouble?”
“Oh she’s fine,” chuckled Applejack. “In fact, I reckon she’s in very good hooves right about now...”
“Speaking of which, what are your thoughts on a certain Rainbow Dash?” asked Twilight.
“Rainbow Dash?” repeated Mrs. Cake. “Well she’s a bit rambunctious, but she seems like a good pony. Pinkie certainly likes her. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, no reason,” said Twilight. “Anyway, we’ll just head upstairs. Don’t you worry your pretty pony heads, we’ve got everything under control.”
Taking their leave of the Cakes, Twilight and Applejack made for Pinkie’s apartment. Only when they were sure they were out of earshot did they begin to review the situation.
“Okay, the Cakes haven’t been affected, so I guess the fumes haven’t spread beyond her room. That’s good. The last thing we need is a crazed mob of Rainbow Dash-lovers on our hooves,” said Twilight as they ascended the rickety spiral stairway that led to Pinkie’s bedroom.
“Probably also means we didn’t have to be wearin’ these masks when we knocked on the door,” said Applejack sternly.
“Hey, better safe than sorry!” retorted Twilight. “Besides, you weren’t the one who almost had her head cleaved off, so you’re in no position to complain! Why the heck would Mrs. Cake have those kind of knives in her kitchen anyway?”
“Dunno,” muttered Applejack. “And it really don’t matter none right now. Let’s just get this done so we can all get back to our normal, not-so-lovey-dovey lives.”
At length the two ponies crested the top of the stairs and were, as usual, taken aback by the state of Pinkie Pie’s lodgings. The Pinkie Pie they knew never stood still for longer than two seconds, always had a pack of confetti secreted away somewhere on her person, habitually employed light artillery in her party preparations, and had absolutely no qualms about smashing a pie on her face and sticking her head in a fountain of chocolate fondue. As such, the fact that her bedroom floor was spotless, her furniture in perfect order, and her bed made in such a manner that even Rarity would be unable to fault was, to say the least, somewhat unnerving. Nonetheless, the two mares steeled themselves for the task at hand, for there perched atop the nightstand was a single flickering sky-blue candle.
“Okay...” said Twilight in a hushed voice. “Let’s do this quick and clean... Applejack!”
“Uh, right here, Twi.”
“Pass me the hermetic cylinder!”
“Y’mean the pickle jar?”
“Yes, Applejack,” said Twilight with a derisive sigh. “Pass me the pickle jar.”
Applejack deftly reached around and produced an empty pickle jar from her saddlebags.
“Don’t you have a spell for this sort o’ thing?” she asked.
“Yes, but it’s meant for big fires,” explained Twilight. “For putting out a candle, it’s just not worth the effort. Besides, it pretty much works the same way, only it uses magic instead of a jar. Now then...”
By dexterous use of magic, Twilight opened the pickle jar, slipped the lid underneath the candle, gently placed the inverted vessel over the whole affair, and twisted shut the airtight seal.
“Right, now we wait.”
So they waited...
“How long’ve we been sittin’ here?”
Without relinquishing her position on Pinkie’s bed, Twilight glanced over at the nearby wall clock.
“And how long does it normally take to snuff a candle?” asked Applejack.
“Like, two seconds,” said Twilight with a shrug.
“Alright that’s it, time for plan B!”
Leaping up from her chair, Applejack reached into her saddlebags and pulled out a red compact fire-extinguisher. As she tore the tag off with her teeth, Twilight hurried to unseal the jar.
“Stand back, Twilight, this could get messy!” said Applejack.
Without further ado, Applejack leaned on the trigger and unleashed an unrelenting stream of sweet fire-extinguishy goodness upon the hapless taper. Within seconds, half of Pinkie Pie’s apartment had been coated with the frigid grey foam.
Yet still the candle burned.
For a brief moment, all the two ponies could do was stand there blinking in disbelief.
“What in tarnation is that candle made of?” gasped Applejack?
“I don’t know, it must have something to do with the spell,” answered Twilight. She bent down to examine the candle further. “Hey Applejack, Fluttershy lit this thing last night, didn’t she?”
“Yeah...” answered Applejack with a slow nod.
“Then why hasn’t it burned down at all?”
Applejack just stared at Twilight for a second before moving in to see for herself. Just as the unicorn had stated, the candle was absolutely pristine. None of the wax had burned away or even melted at all. Even the wick was seemingly untouched by the flame; where it should have been shrivelled and blackened, it was instead clean and white. It was almost as though the candle wasn’t actually burning at all...
“Hold on a minute...” said Applejack. “Lemme try somethin’...”
Before Twilight could say anything, Applejack rolled up her non-existent sleeve and stuck her right fore-leg into the flame.
…for about a split-second, at which point Applejack suddenly found herself bouncing around the room howling in pain as Twilight yelled at her to run her hoof under cold water. To this end, Applejack bounced her way over to Pinkie Pie’s bathroom, where she frantically spun open the faucet and plunged her agonized limb into the sink, only to find that it was already occupied.
“Aaarrrggghhh!!! Getimoff, getimoff, getimoff!!!” cried the unfortunate farmer as she flailed her leg about in a vain attempt to force its reptilian captor to relinquish his hold.
“Applejack, calm down!” shouted Twilight. “It’s only Gummy!”
“I know it’s only Gummy!” snapped Applejack. “But he happens to be chewin’ very hard on somethin’ I just burned a second ago, so how ‘bout you quit pontificatin’ and HELP ME!!!”
* * *
About fifteen action-packed, but otherwise inconsequential, minutes later, Twilight and Applejack bade the Cakes “good evening” and set off for the library in uncertain spirits. At a loss for an immediate solution to the issue of an everlasting candle, Twilight had finally resorted to resealing the amourous aromatic in the pickle jar, which she then nestled carefully in the bottom of her saddlebags. Her intent was to bring it back to the library, where it could at the very least be safely contained while she explored alternative methods of extinguishing it. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Cake had bandaged Applejack’s burns, whilst assuring her that Gummy was not usually so “chewy”, and that in all likelihood Pinkie had simply forgotten to feed him that morning.
“D’ya think Pinkie often forgets to feed that gator?” asked Applejack as she limped alongside her friend.
“I don’t know, but I hate to imagine what that might imply,” said Twilight. “If the effects of the candle can make Pinkie neglect her own pet...”
No further discourse was exchanged from that point on. Before long, they had returned once again to the library and headed directly for the basement in what was fast becoming a tiring habit. Both were silently relieved to see Fluttershy and Rarity already waiting for them. Much to Twilight’s pleasant surprise, they too had brought back their candle in the jar.
“I take it we’re all on the same page then?” mused Rarity when she saw Twilight place her candle jar on the table.
“I guess so,” sighed Twilight. “At least that saves us some time. Right, so the candles can’t be snuffed or extinguished, and apparently don’t burn down either,” recounted the purple unicorn. “Any other suggestions?”
“Rarity and I already tried a few things,” explained Fluttershy. “We tried burying ours in dirt, dunking it in the lake...”
“We even tried snipping the wick off below the flame,” added Rarity.
“And how’d that work out?” asked Applejack, ignoring the fact that it obviously didn’t.
“It ruined my best pair of scissors!” sniffed Rarity. “In the end we decided it was best to bring it back here for you to work on Twilight. I trust you have a few ideas?”
“Honestly, I really don’t,” sighed Twilight. “I’m drawing a complete blank here.”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something, Twilight,” said Fluttershy softly. “By the way, what did you do to your leg, Applejack?”
“I, er, well I kinda stuck it in the flame,” muttered Applejack sheepishly. “On purpose.”
“What? Why would you do a thing like that?” asked Rarity.
“Well, I figured that since it didn’t look like it was actually burnin’, then maybe it wasn’t actually burnin’. Like it was an ill-lusion or somethin’, y’know? Like the flame wasn’t really there.”
“Well, I... I suppose that is a valid theory...” conceded Rarity. “But couldn’t you have at least used a piece of paper or something instead of your leg?”
Applejack said nothing. Under normal circumstances, Rarity would have relished in her victory, but as has been made abundantly clear, the circumstances were less than normal. Finally, Twilight broke the silence.
“Y’know, you may be on to something Applejack,” she said slowly and cautiously, as thoughts coalesced within her head. “The book talks about ‘fires of the heart’. But there is no real fire, just the candles, just an illusion. Well, what if that’s what we’re meant to put out? Not the candles themselves, but what they represent?”
“I’m not sure I understand where you’re going with this, Twilight,” said Rarity.
“I’m saying we break the illusion. Tell those two what’s really going on, how they really feel about each other, or rather how they don’t feel. It’s a long shot, I know, but if we tell them the truth, we might just snap them out of it.”
For the longest time, nopony spoke as each privately ruminated the implications of Twilight’s suggestion. As usual, it was Applejack who was first to step forward.
“I’ll be honest Twilight, I don’t rightly know if that’s gonna work. But I do know it’s way past time we told those two the truth. They have a right to know, even if they don’t accept it...”
Applejack suddenly seemed to shrink at this comment, as if beset by the memory of an altogether similar experience.
“What about you girls?” asked Twilight to the other two.
“We trust you, Twilight,” said Fluttershy with barely concealed trepidation. “If you think this will work, we believe you.”
Rarity nodded in solemn agreement. Satisfied, Twilight turned around and steeled herself for yet another sojourn into the town of Ponyville.
“Alright then,” she said nervously. “Let’s go break some hearts.”
* * *
It did not take long for Twilight and co. to locate Rainbow and Pinkie. There were a number of places in Ponyville that were generally recognised as ideal venues for young couples, and by good fortune, the young couple in question happened to be at the first venue they checked. The two ponies were seated at a small table in an isolated corner of a cafe patio, their salads overlooked quite literally as they leaned, hoof in hoof, towards each other across the table, not quite close enough to kiss, but nonetheless making it very clear to anypony still harbouring lingering doubts that they were, to the extent of their knowledge, very much in love. And now their best friends had arrived to shatter that illusion.
“Alright girls, I’ll take it from here,” said Twilight, the words coming slow and uncertain. “There’s no need for all four of us to be there making a scene.”
“As much as I am inclined to agree with you, Twilight, I must insist that I accompany you,” declared Rarity. “After all, I started this whole mess, it is only right that I see it through to the end.”
Twilight made as if to argue, but a sudden green-eyed glare from the side made it very apparent that she really had no say in the matter. With a relenting nod, she and Rarity turned and approached their love-struck friends with grave faces.
“Hey Twilight! Hey Rarity! What are you girls doing here?” asked Pinkie, who was first to notice them. “Oh, oh, are you having dinner here too? Are you two on a date? Are you two dating? Are you-”
“Pinkie Pie, listen,” said Twilight. “Rarity and I have something important to tell you. Both of you.”
Pinkie and Rainbow exchanged curious glances.
“Okay, Twilight,” said Pinkie. “What do you need to tell us?”
Twilight gulped. It suddenly occurred to her that she had absolutely no idea how she was going to break the news to Dash and Pinkie. Fortunately for her, a gentle hoof on her shoulder quickly absolved her of that burden as Rarity calmly pushed her aside and stepped forward.”
“Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash...” began the white unicorn, her voice quavering ever so slightly as the addressed ponies leaned forward in nervous anticipation. “I’m afraid that you... you’re not... you aren’t really in love with one another,” she said at last.
Both ponies stared blankly at her before Pinkie Pie suddenly burst out laughing.
“Oh silly Rarity, of course we’re really in love! I love my Dashie!” she squealed, drawing
scandalous stares from the rest of the cafe patrons.
Rainbow however, remained silent and brooding.
“What do you mean, ‘we aren’t in love’?” she asked quietly.
“What you two are feeling, it isn’t real,” explained Rarity after some hesitation. “It’s... it’s-”
“Rainbow, do you and Pinkie remember seeing a candle on your bedside tables this morning?” interrupted Twilight, having decided that Rarity had shouldered enough of the blame for now.
Rainbow and Pinkie nodded, the latter with notably more excitement than the former, who was beginning to entertain the impression that she was not going to enjoy the remainder of this conversation.
“Well, I’m afraid that those are, well, love candles essentially. You’re both under the influence of a magical aromatic substance,” explained Twilight matter-of-factly.
“Okay...” said Rainbow, her voice smouldering with aggressive suspicion. “And might I ask what a magic love candle is doing on my bedside table?”
“It was a prank,” said Twilight with visible embarrassment. “We wanted to get back at you two for all the pranks yesterday, so we tried something out of one of my books. But the recipe got mixed up, and we ended up making the love candles by mistake. We didn’t realise until it was too late. What you two have been feeling for each other all day is just the effects of the candles. I’m sorry.”
Nopony said anything for a long time. Finally Rainbow Dash spoke, her words slow and heavy with suppressed anger.
“Okay, where are these candles now?” she asked.
“A-at the library,” stammered Twilight. “We’re trying to find a way to put them out so you two can... can go back to normal.”
“Well it doesn’t look like you’re trying very hard, are you?!” retorted Rainbow, her eyes flashing. “So this is your idea of a prank, huh? Brilliant, Twilight, absolutely brilliant! I can’t stop laughing, ‘cause I think I’m totally in love with my best friend, only I’m not and it’s sooo funny!”
Rainbow’s enraged rant was suddenly cut short by a high pitched squealing sound not unlike that of air being let out of a balloon. Across the table, Pinkie Pie had suddenly reverted to a wretched shade of her usual self, her candy floss mane now limp and heavy, and her great blue eyes brimming with tears.
“You... you don’t... love me, Dashie?” she asked, her voice cracking under the terrible weight of her new-found sorrows.
Pinkie’s pathetic words struck Rainbow like an iron bar.
Words were not Rainbow Dash’s forte, least of all words of consolation. But that mattered little. A single mutual look into Dash’s eyes bore all the answers Pinkie Pie needed. With a final heaving sniff, Pinkie fled sobbing from the restaurant, all eyes following her with silent sympathy as she tearfully retreated to the comfort of home. Trembling, Rainbow rounded furiously on Twilight.
“Nice going, Twilight Sparkle, you made Pinkie cry!” she yelled, fighting back her own tears. “You made Pinkie cry!”
“Rainbow, I-I’m sorry, I really am, I-”
“No you’re not!” shouted Rainbow, all pretense of public sensibility forgotten as tears of sorrowful rage streamed down her face. “Just go away! All of you! I don’t ever want to see you again! Ever!”
“Y-you don’t really mean that...” pleaded Twilight.
“Just leave me alone, Twilight,” croaked Rainbow.
Turning away from the sullen unicorns, Dash spread her wings and flew forlornly into the night sky, leaving her four friends with heavy hearts. In the solemn silence that followed, an earth-stallion waiter with oiled blue hair and a pencil mustache approached Twilight.
“I’ll send you their cheque by mail, madame,” he said coldly.
If Twilight was feeling down now, it was nothing compared to her disappointment when she returned home alone, went downstairs, and found the candles burning bright as ever within their sealed jars. With a resigned sigh, Twilight turned back to the stairs.
“Spike!” she called. “Put on a pot of coffee and turn off my alarm clock; I’m pulling an all-nighter.”
* * *
Rainbow Dash couldn’t sleep. Her tears had dried up hours ago and she felt terribly tired, but still she could not sleep. As soon as she would close her eyes, her mind would fill with rose-tinted images of her best friend, and her heart would fill with a terrible empty longing. But unlike that morning, Rainbow felt no desire to satisfy these urges. The butterflies that had been using her stomach as a dance hall all day had long since passed out from their excesses, and the thought of holding Pinkie in her grasp no longer gave her the same comfort it had that morning. Pinkie Pie was Rainbow’s best friend, Rainbow enjoyed her company always and cared deeply about her. But she knew now that she did not love her, not like that anyway. No matter how much she lusted for the presence of the pink pony, Rainbow could not escape the fact that none of these feelings were real.
Which now presented another problem, albeit a less emotional one. The fact remained that despite the best efforts of her friends, the candles continued to enact their enchantments upon Rainbow and, presumably, Pinkie. Something had to be done, and the more Dash thought about this, the more she began to think that she was the one who had to do it.
So be it.
Without further ado, Rainbow leapt from her bed, shook herself awake and dove out her bedroom window to catch the midnight breeze beneath her outstretched wings. Her first thought was to head straight for the library, but before long, another thought emerged from the part of her mind that dealt with logic, reason, stop signs, and all the various other things she tended to ignore in the heat of the moment. True, this was her problem to deal with, but not hers alone. She was going to need some help...
* * *
Pinkie Pie’s bedroom window had been left mercifully open, allowing Dash to silently land on the sill and slip into her room. All was quiet and dark, and Pinkie was lying quietly in bed, the pink pony’s depressed locks spread like a fan across the pillow. Dash’s first impression was that Pinkie had succeeded where she had failed and managed to cry herself to sleep, but as she approached, the forlorn earth-mare suddenly spun over to regard the pegasus with wide, fearful eyes.
“D-dashie?” she asked.
“Hey, Pinkie,” said Dash quietly. “Uh, how are you feeling?”
Pinkie did not answer, but instead reached out and pulled Rainbow into a soft hug and buried her face in Dash’s mane.
“Dashie...” she sniffed, tears flowing freely onto Dash’s shoulder.
“Uh, there, there, Pinkie,” said Dash, permitting herself an awkward kiss on her friend’s head. “It’s alright... sort of.”
“You... you don’t love me, do you Dashie?” said Pinkie, her face still pressed against her friend’s shoulder. “I don’t really love you, do I?”
Rainbow shook her head gently. “No... neither of us do.”
“B-but it felt so real...” sobbed Pinkie.
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that. And you know what? Maybe some of it was, in a way,” said Rainbow. “I really do like you a lot, Pinkie, and I honestly care about you, even if you are kinda annoying sometimes.”
Pinkie gave a little snort into Dash’s mane, provoking a relieved smile from the blue pegasus.
“But all the stuff we did today? That really wasn’t us was it? I mean, all that sitting around and holding hooves and kissing. I don’t think I even did any flying today!”
Pinkie gasped out loud.
“You’re right, you didn’t! And I didn’t feed Gummy today either! And I bet you didn’t feed Tank!”
“Eh, don’t worry about him, he doesn’t eat that much,” said Rainbow. “But the point is, even if you’re not my girlfriend, Pinkie, you’re still my best friend. And no magic candle is ever going to change that.”
“You really mean all that, Dashie?” asked Pinkie.
“You know I do.”
Immediately there was a sudden explosion of energy as Rainbow’s head was engulfed in a nova of curly pink hair. Pinkie Pie was no longer sobbing quietly into her shoulder, but giggling with good-humoured glee.
“Oh Dashie, you’re my most bestest best friend in the whole wide world!” cried Pinkie.
“You bet your wings, I am!” answered Dash.
“But I don’t have any-”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Listen, Pinks, I’ve been thinking about those candles. I think you and I are the ones who have to put ‘em out. Don’t ask me why, I know it sounds like some trashy romance novel, but it just seems like the sort of thing we have to deal with ourselves, y’know?”
“I’m with you Dashie!” she said, springing to salute. “Let’s do this!”
* * *
Twilight had never put in a more exhausting night, and that was by no means an uncontested honour. She had pored over every spell tome in her library in search of a counter-spell, and when that search proved fruitless, she had resorted to pulling out every book that explored the subject of fire or the subject of love. She had even discovered a few that managed to combine the two, including a short novel about two Manehatten firefighters that she was quick to discard after perusing the first few pages, but secretly resolved to examine in greater detail at a later date.
Ultimately, she was fed up. Fed up and tired. Five hours of high-impact research and not a single possible solution to the problem had revealed itself. Before her, the two candles flickered within their inverted pickle jars, mocking her with every second they cast their light.
It was at this point that Twilight felt her gaze drift over to a certain book that stood on the shelf to her left. She had been hoping to avoid this particular book all night, but in hindsight that seemed hopelessly optimistic. Reaching out with her magic, she carefully floated the codex over to the table. It was a large volume, bound in aged leather and clasped with bronze. Gold letters upon the spine and front cover conveyed the title, An Exhaustive and Detailed Study of the Buoyant Qualities of Small Rocks. With a trained flick of the snout, Twilight flipped open the cover to reveal a hollowed out interior, in which was nestled a shallow drinking glass and a clear bottle filled with murky amber-coloured liquid and adorned with a cheap label that displayed the name Berry-Shine beneath the grinning portrait of a mulberry mare with short puffy hair. Clearing a space on the desk, Twilight uncorked the bottle, poured a small amount of its contents into the glass, and downed the whole thing in one shuddering gulp.
Twilight’s first thought was that she had just swallowed a mouthful of something that was probably better suited for the removal of carpet stains than for equine consumption. Her second thought was that she would very much like to have another.
* * *
Rainbow Dash and Pinkie stood outside the front door to the library. All the windows were dark, save for a soft glow that could only be the magic candles. Taking a deep breath, Rainbow stepped forward and tried the door.
“Locked! We’ll have to find another way inside,” she said in a harsh whisper.
“Couldn’t we just knock?” asked Pinkie with a raised eyebrow.
“I’d... rather not talk to Twilight right now,” admitted Rainbow. “I kinda told her off back at the restaurant.”
“But you’re going to apologise later right?” asked Pinkie, with an imposing glare.
“Right, later. Okay, wait here, I’ll fly around and see if any windows are open.”
Rainbow quickly lifted off and performed a swift fly-around of the library. Much to her consternation, every window was closed and latched, and the balcony doors were all locked as well. Defeated, she landed back beside Pinkie.
“No go. I guess we do have to knock. Unless you can pick locks,” muttered Rainbow.
Pinkie raised a hoof to her chin.
“Hmmm... give me a minute, Dashie.”
Pinkie trotted up to the door and peered into the keyhole for a few seconds before taking the end of her tail and running it through her mouth. She then bent her slicked tail into a fine hook and inserted this into the keyhole. After a few minutes of intense tinkering, she finally turned back to Rainbow and declared:
Rainbow cocked her head at her friend.
“Nope, I can’t pick locks,” said Pinkie with a shake of her head. “I wasn’t sure if I could, so I gave it a try, and now I know for sure that I can’t pick locks. Also, I think I’m stuck,” she added, illustrating this point with a few short tugs at her tail.
“Oh for crying out-”
“But don’t worry, I’ve got a better idea! Grab on Dashie!”
Before Dash could react, Pinkie reared up and pulled Dash into a one-legged hug and held her tight, while she wound her other foreleg around her entangled tail.
“You might want to close your eyes,” she told Rainbow as she planted a kiss on the pegasus’ cheek for luck.
“Close my eyes, why would I-”
Before Dash could finish, Pinkie pulled hard on her tail, and the whole world came with it. In a split second, Dash felt her insides bottom out as the universe shattered into a kaleidoscope of light, colour, sound, scent, and taste. Reality lost all meaning as black became white and white became polka-dot, and she beheld the glorious entirety of all creation in a single ray of light.
A split second later, the two of them were suddenly back to the way they were, the only difference being that they were now inside the library, with Pinkie’s tail now stuck in the other end of the keyhole. As Pinkie cheerfully untangled her tail from the stubborn tumblers, Dash’s brain synapses held an emergency summit concerning how best to deal with what had just occurred. It was decided almost immediately that her best course of action would be to simply forget all about it, so that’s just what she did.
“Right!” said Dash, ignoring the fact that she was slick with a cold sweat. “Where’re those candles?”
Conveniently, the candles were actually right in front of them, the prized centrepiece to a table laden with numerous codices, scrolls, charts, and also a sleeping purple unicorn and an empty liquor bottle. While Pinkie pulled a blanket over their slumbering friend, Rainbow twisted open the protective pickle jars (no small effort on her part) before turning to face her friend.
“You ready Pinks?”
“Okay then... here goes.”
Pushing aside the final desperate images of her burning passion for the pink pony, Dash closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and blew out the flame on the pink candle that stood before her.
* * *
The light of the morning sun shone through the library windows, alighting upon the sleeping visage of a purple unicorn. With a groan, Twilight’s eyes fluttered open and she instantly hated them for it. With great effort, she lifted her pounding head from the table, noted an overturned pickle jar, rubbed the sleep from her eyes and-
“The candles!” she gasped suddenly. With a sudden burst of magic, Twilight tore the pickle jars from their resting places and was simultaneously relieved and confused to note that the candles were not exposed after all, but completely missing.
“What the- Where did they go?” Twilight wondered aloud.
“We threw them out,” said a casual voice from behind.
“Oh, okay... wait...”
Twilight wheeled around to see Rainbow Dash slumped in a large and very comfortable armchair, idly flipping through a large picture book from the foals’ section. Twilight simply stared at her for a while until Rainbow finally glanced at her over the top of the page.
“Can I help you?”
“Sorry, you say you threw out the candles?” asked Twilight incredulously.
“Yep, just tossed ‘em out and done,” said Rainbow as she casually licked a hoof to turn the page. “Don’t bother trying to dig them back out, though. They kinda, uh, what’s the word, disintegrated after we blew them out.”
“Hold on...” said Twilight. “What do you mean, blew them out?”
“We blew them out,” repeated Rainbow slowly. “Sheesh, for an egghead you can be pretty slow sometimes.”
At that moment, Twilight’s disbelief was shattered by the sudden appearance of a very happy pink pony balancing a large platter of chocolate chip waffles on the tip of her nose.
“Breakfast time!” chimed Pinkie. “Eat up, Twilight, you had a loooooong night.”
“Uh, thanks,” said Twilight, who felt like she might throw up just looking at the impressive stack of pastry that towered before her. “So, when did you guys...”
“Last night,” said Rainbow coolly. “And before you ask, we’re perfectly normal again, so you can relax now.”
“Oh... okay,” mumbled Twilight, who suddenly longed to return to the comfort of her bed. “Where’s Spike?”
“He ran off to tell everypony else,” said Pinkie cheerily.
“Oh, that’s good. So... are we cool now?”
Rainbow stared at Twilight for a moment, and then grinned.
“Yeah we cool.”
* * *
Having inhaled the entirety of Pinkie Pie’s excellent breakfast, Rainbow and Pinkie took their leave of Twilight and her library.
“So, what do you want to do today, Pinks, now that that’s all over?” asked Rainbow.
“Actually Dashie, I kinda have to bake a big order of muffins today. Sorry,” said Pinkie, genuinely so.
“Oh,” said Dash, visibly disappointed. “Well, I guess that’s okay. I mean, I should probably make up for all the flying practise I missed yesterday so... yeah.”
An awkward silence descended gracelessly between the two ponies. Suddenly Pinkie perked up.
“Hey, I know! How about you come help me bake, so we can be done twice as fast, then we can take the afternoon off and I can cheer you on while you practise!”
“I’d like that.”
And so they set off, side by side, down the main street toward Sugarcube Corner.
~ FIN ~
“A big thank-you goes out to all those who enjoyed this fic, as well as to those who didn’t but took the time to read it anyway.” -the author