By Saddlesoap Opera
PART ONE – Mirror, Mirror
Pinkie Pie bounded down the lane on the outskirts of Ponyville without a care in the world, humming cheerily and bobbing her pink frizzy-maned head.
She'd spent the early part of the afternoon visiting Rainbow Dash on her flying cycle-copter-majig, but now that her Pegasus friend had left to take care of some cloud-busting, Pinkie was looking forward to getting back to Sugarcube Corner – specifically, to the wide array of delicious treats lurking inside the shop. And with today's special event, there would be even more treats around than usual.
Thoughts of frosted fresh-baked delights shaped her tuneless humming into snippets of a little ditty for which she was well-known around Ponyville:
"…Hmm-hm-hm-hm-hm…And you count to four, hm hmm hm-hm hmm hm hm hmmm…Cupcakes–"
"So sweet and tasty!"
Pinkie skidded to a halt. The voice – which sounded very much like her own – had come from somewhere above her. She looked up and around, her pale blue eyes darting to and fro. Nopony was there. She perplexedly scratched the side of her head with a front hoof.
She soon lost interest in the mystery, however. She shrugged and bounced back on her merry way, picking up her song where she'd left off.
"Don't be too hasty!"
This time, Pinkie stopped in an instant and jerked her head upwards. What she saw made her eyes widen.
A bright white Pegasus was leaning over the edge of a low-hanging cloud, her deep purple eyes shining with mischief and her golden-yellow mane a riot of untamable tangles. If not for her colours and her wings, Pinkie could have sworn that she was looking up at an identical twin.
"Cupcakes…?" Pinkie sang hesitantly.
"Cupcakes!" the Pegasus sang back, hopping off the cloud with a flap of her wings and landing before the pink Earth Pony. Even her Cutie Marks were similar to Pinkie's; where Pinkie had a trio of blue and yellow party balloons, the Pegasus was Marked with three identical purple balloons.
"Cupcakes!" Pinkie belted out joyously.
"CUPCAAAAAKES!" they both sang in unison, spreading their front legs out to the sky.
Both Ponies collapsed on the sun-warmed grass, giggling and snorting and kicking their legs.
After a good long laugh Pinkie Pie rolled onto her belly and wiped a tear from her eye. "You're fun!" she said to the Pegasus. "I thought I knew everypony in Ponyville, but I've never seen you before – what's your name?"
"That's 'cause I'm not from P-Ponyville," said the Pegasus, still somewhat out of breath. "I live in Cloudsdale! My name's Surprise." She offered Pinkie a front hoof.
"Neat! I'm Pinkie Pie!" Pinkie slapped a hoof against Surprise's.
Pinkie and Surprise suddenly convulsed as an electric shock ran through them both. When they managed to break contact, they revealed their joy buzzers to each other and fell into another fit of helpless giggles.
Rainbow Dash reclined on the pillow-like surface of a small low-hanging cloud and folded her front legs behind her head. She sighed a self-satisfied sigh.
With the exception of her current napping spot, the skies above Ponyville were totally clear and cloudless – and in record time, as always.
She was a minute or two from dozing off completely when she heard the familiar sound of a certain pink Earth Pony's cheery giggle rising up from the streets below and echoing down off–
Rainbow Dash half-opened one eye and took in the view of the utterly empty skies. Off…what?
Suddenly, a snickering rush of white and yellow swooped past barely six inches above her. Rainbow Dash yelped in shock and nearly tumbled off the cloud. She clung to the underside of the cottony mass, and looked "up" at the ground below.
Pinkie Pie was there, meeting her gaze with a bright-eyed smile…but Pinkie's giggle was coming from the top of the cloud.
"What the…?" Rainbow Dash frowned in confusion and then scrambled back up over the edge of the cloud, where she bumped nose-to-nose with a near-perfect Pegasus double for her Earth Pony friend.
"SURPRISE!" said the Pegasus.
Rainbow Dash was, indeed. She jerked back and dropped off the cloud. She landed safely on her back in a small haystack – which, for some reason, was sitting in the middle of the street.
"Hi again, Dashie!" said Pinkie, excitedly bouncing out from behind the haystack. "I made a new friend – her name's Surprise! Isn't she fun?"
Surprise flipped off of the cloud and twirled down to land in front of the other two Ponies. She folded her wings and waved a front hoof friendlily. Pinkie waved back in an identical gesture.
"Cool!" said Rainbow Dash. "You two got me good, there! Pleased to meet ya – I'm Rainbow Dash."
"Oh, I know," Surprise replied. "It's hard not to know about you – you're the one who pulled off the Sonic Rainboom! And at such a low altitude…! I mean, how awesome is that?"
Rainbow Dash looked away and chuckled modestly. "Oh, well, I mean…" She giggled and trotted in place, her grin almost wider than her head. "I KNOW, right? I never thought I could do it again, but then…POW! Polychromatic Vapour Cone!"
"Poly…whah?" said Pinkie Pie, tilting her head to one side.
But the two Pegasi continued despite her confusion, their chat peppered with complicated aerodynamic shop-talk. Pinkie quickly lost the thread of the conversation entirely.
After a minute or two more she simply cut in, pushing the Pegasi apart with her hooves. "Hey, you guys! We should introduce Surprise to the rest of the gang – we can throw a welcome party!"
"Good idea, Pinkie!" said Rainbow Dash. "C'mon, Surprise – I bet they'll get a real kick out of you!"
"So, Dashie," said Pinkie Pie as the three of them trotted off deeper into town, "didya hear the one about the…" She looked to her side, but Rainbow Dash wasn't there; she and Surprise were hovering above and ahead, continuing their conversation. "…Oh. Um, okie dokie – I'll tell you later!"
Pinkie bounded along as eagerly as always, but her ever-present smile shrank just a tiny bit.
"My, my, my!" said Rarity, eyeing her Pegasus visitor up and down. "How do you keep your coat so white? You simply must tell me your secret!"
Surprise, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie had stopped in at Carousel Boutique to introduce Surprise to their fashionable Unicorn friend. Breaking the ice, it seemed, was not going to be an issue.
"Aww, it's easy," said Surprise, waving a front hoof dismissively. "A rain-water shower and a quick scrub with a piece of cloud every morning keeps me bright and shiny!"
"You use clouds instead of sponges?" Rarity sighed at the thought. "They must be so wonderfully soft."
"I could bring you down some – I bet you could use your magic to hold them!" Surprise grinned.
"You could? Oh, why that would be simply marvelous! How kind of you!" Rarity clopped her front hooves together excitedly.
"Nah, it's no problem!"
"Now, now, don't be modest. And speaking of that – I love what you've done with your mane. So daring!"
Pinkie Pie's eyes darted from Surprise's frizzy locks, to the reflection of her own identical mane in a nearby mirror, to the industrial-strength hairdryer under which Rarity had insisted she sit for ages and ages before the last Grand Galloping Gala, and back again. Her brow knitted in confusion. "But, you said my mane was–"
"Pshaw!" said Surprise, cutting off Pinkie's quiet objection. "This ol' mop? I can't do a thing with it." She nudged a springy forelock with a front hoof. "You want to see a great mane? Check her out." Surprise pointed to Rainbow Dash, who was standing nearby idly balancing a tower of thread spools on her outstretched back leg.
"Oh, don't bother," Rarity lamented. "I've tried again and again to get her to let me style her, but she won't have it."
"Really?" said Surprise with some, well, surprise. "I'd a' thought you'd be right on board with a slick 'do, Dashie!"
"Dashie?" said Pinkie Pie. "That's m–"
"Who, me?" said Dash, leaving Pinkie cut-off once more. The spools dropped to the floor. "No way! I keep things natural." She mussed her already-unruly mane with her front hooves.
"You know…" said Surprise airily, "A smoother mane and tail could reduce your drag coefficient…"
Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. "I hadn't thought of that…!"
"Makeov-ee-ee-er!" sang Rarity gleefully. She started hustling her rainbow-maned friend toward the Boutique's cosmetology room. "Pinkie," she added over her shoulder, "could you keep an eye on the front door until we're done? I don't want to miss any customers."
"Splendid! Thanks so much!"
The trio headed off to work on Rainbow Dash's coiffure while she was willing, and soon laughter and delighted chatter echoed out from the adjoining room.
Pinkie sat down heavily in front of one of the shop's many, many mirrors and felt her smile lose another few degrees of width. She looked up at her dangling, frizzy pink forelock and blew up at it. It flipped aside and then quickly bounced back into place.
Twilight Sparkle surveyed the perfectly-tidied interior of her library home with pride. The re-organization had taken the better part of the day, but now every book was properly filed according to the Dobbin Decimal System.
And then a blue Pegasus smashed in through a window and crashed into the largest shelf.
"RAINBOW DASH!" Twilight bellowed angrily once the dust had cleared, "…did you change your mane?"
Dash pulled free from a large pile of tomes and shook out her wings. Her mane was swept back into a tight multi-hued braid and her tail was similarly bound, with the tip styled into a fin-like flare. "Yup! Sorry about that, Twilight – I'm still getting used to it." She ran a front hoof over the smoothed hair and chuckled.
"Since when do–"
Twilight yelped and leaped back as a white Pegasus burst in through her front door. Rarity and Pinkie Pie brought up the rear behind her.
"Hi!" said the Pegasus. "You must be Twilight Sparkle! It's just great to meet you! I'm Surprise!" She took Twilight's hoof and shook it energetically and then jerked her head to and fro, taking in the library's interior. "Ooh! Books! This is so neat!"
"It is…?" said Twilight, still somewhat dazed. She shook her head. "I mean, yes – I suppose it is!"
"We mostly just have scrolls in Cloudsdale." Surprise trotted over to the pile and hoofed at one of the fallen books, flipping its pages. "Hee hee! Cool! How do the pages stick together?" She closed the book. "And what are these holders made of?"
Twilight grinned. "It's usually a combination of resin and thread." She magicked up the book, angling it to show its bottom edge. "And the covers are wood or layered paper coated in cloth."
"Oooohh…" said Surprise, clearly fascinated. "Tell me more!" Flattered to the point of blushing, Twilight obliged.
"Really?" said Pinkie doubtingly. But with Rainbow Dash experimentally streaking to and fro near the ceiling and Rarity busying herself with magicking the fallen books into neat piles, nopony answered. Pinkie turned, hopped up on a nearby stool, and rested her front hooves on the damaged windowsill. She looked out at the town and sighed.
As the group of five Ponies approached Sugarcube Corner an outdoor display came into view. Banners and pennants marked with bright red apples hung everywhere, and tables covered with freshly-baked desserts covered the area in front of the cake shop.
Pinkie Pie had been lagging at the back of the group, but she perked up when she saw the decorations. "Oh wow!" she said. "The promotion with Sweet Apple Acres! I forgot all about it!"
"Howdy, y'all!" said Applejack as the group approached the tables. The orange Earth Pony tipped her Stetson at Surprise when she saw her. "Well hey there, stranger. I'm Applejack!"
"This is Surprise!" said Rainbow Dash, surging up next to her fellow Pegasus and friendlily wrapping a front leg over her shoulders. "She's visiting from Cloudsdale."
"Heya!" said Surprise. Applejack nodded and smiled. Behind her, near the cake-shop's front door, Applejack's massive red brother Big Macintosh copied her nod.
"Isn't she lovely?" asked Rarity. "I do love a well-kept coat."
Twilight Sparkle trotted up as well, and soon the afternoon's festivities were in full swing. Passers-by came to buy the bakery- and farm-made snacks, and everypony mingled and enjoyed themselves immensely.
Pinkie Pie sat at one of the farthest tables, watching a party from its edge for the first time she could remember. She was so preoccupied that she almost didn't notice when a pink-maned pale yellow Pegasus crept over and sat down next to her.
"Oh hey Fluttershy!" said Pinkie. "What's up, bestest buddy?" She pulled Fluttershy into a somewhat possessive sidelong hug.
"*oof!* U-Um, I'm…I j-just thought I'd…I was going to…I…" Fluttershy trailed off, squirming in Pinkie's grip. She let out a tiny squeak and then angled her head so that her mane drooped forward and hid her face.
"Aww, don't be nervous!" said Pinkie, giving Fluttershy a harder squeeze. "All our friends are here–"
"C'MON, you two!" said a sudden voice from above. "You can't enjoy a shindig like this by sitting it out!"
Surprise dropped down like a hawk on the hunt and snatched Fluttershy out of Pinkie's grasp. Fluttershy squealed in dismay.
"HEY…!" said Pinkie, hopping to her hooves.
Surprise twirled in a midair pirouette and then let go of her panicking fellow Pegasus.
Fluttershy flapped her wings desperately in an effort to slow her fall, but she couldn't stop herself in time as Big Macintosh's broad crimson hide filled her vision. The impact tipped the hefty stallion over like a startled cow.
"What's the big idea?" Pinkie shouted up to her winged doppelganger. She pointed over at the tangled pair. "Look what you–"
Pinkie stopped and stared.
Big Macintosh was gently helping Fluttershy to her hooves, a warm but anxious smile on his face. Fluttershy was meekly smiling back. Both Ponies' cheeks positively glowed with a bashful blush. They shared a long, soulful glance, helplessly drawn to one another, their lips mere inches apart…before they both turned away and chucked nervously.
Pinkie's jaw dropped. "H-How…?" she said incredulously.
"Well, it was pretty obvious the way she was lookin' at him, you know?" said Surprise with a grin. "I figured she just needed a little bump in the right direction!" She swung her hips out at the air.
Before Pinkie could continue, Mr. and Mrs. Cake, the owners of Sugarcube Corner, stepped out of the front door.
"While we've still got the ovens hot, would anypony like to try their hoof at a little baking?" asked Mrs. Cake.
Yes! Baking! thought Pinkie. Just what I need to get back in the groo–
"OOH! I do!" shouted Surprise, raising a hoof. "I'd love to try out this fruit mousse recipe I learned – I bet it would work great with these farm-fresh apples!"
"Did somepony say…apples?" asked Applejack, streaking over to stand next to Surprise in a split second.
Pinkie Pie growled in frustration and stomped her front hooves. While her bosses and her friend went off to go and make mousse-whatever, Pinkie stalked off to a different part of the cake shop.
She stormed up the stairs at the back of Sugarcube Corner and headed to her room. She kicked the door closed with a back leg. The sounds of cookery and laughter from the kitchen downstairs were only partially blocked out.
A tiny, toothless alligator popped up from between the pillows on her bed and regarded her blankly with its staring purple eyes.
Pinkie trotted over to the bed and flopped down on her belly facing her pet. "Oh, Gummy," she lamented, "what am I gonna do? Everypony likes Surprise more than me! They're treating me like I don't even exist!"
Gummy smiled widely, displaying his empty pink mouth.
"But I already tried to just keep smiling!" said Pinkie desperately. "It didn't work!"
The alligator blinked his eyes slightly out of sync.
Pinkie gasped in horrified shock. "Do you really think so?"
Gummy yawned and curled up for a nap.
Pinkie Pie's expression grew stern. "You're right…! I'm not gonna take this lying down!" She hopped off her bed and struck a determined pose.
Just then, Pinkie's door swung open and a familiar blonde Pegasus stuck her head into the room. Pinkie Pie scowled.
"There you are, you silly filly!" said Surprise. "I've been looking for you!"
"Oh? Why's that?" asked Pinkie sarcastically. "Wanna know if I have any more friends you can steal?"
"What?" said Surprise in disbelief. "B-But…I'm not–"
"SAVE IT!" Pinkie barked. She trotted up to Surprise until she was almost nose-to-nose with the Pegasus. "I felt like there was something sketchy about you, and now I've got you figured out! You think you can just flap in here and take all my friends away! WELL YOU CAN'T!"
Pinkie shoved Surprise back with a front hoof. "They're MY friends! I made them all by myself, and you can't have 'em!" Pinkie's eyes were stinging with tears now. In her fury, she failed to spot the same thing happening to Surprise. "I'm the Party-Pony here, and you're just a mean ol' friend-stealer! So why don't you just BUZZ OFF!"
The force of that final shout blew the Pegasus' mane and tail back, and left them straight and drooping in its wake.
Surprise's features twisted with distress. She backed out of the room until her rump hit the far hallway wall, and then she turned and galloped down the stairs, sobbing all the way.
Pinkie Pie was still standing in her doorway, panting in anger through clenched teeth. But as the sounds of Surprise's cries echoed from the lower floor, from out in the street and then from the open sky Pinkie felt her rage draining away. Soon it was all but gone, and all it left behind was an icky weight in the pit of her stomach.
"Uh-oh…" she said softly.