With editing by SerenityViewer
Twilight Sparkle awoke to find her head throbbing in misery. Fearing for the state of her mouth, she attempted to reclaim her tongue with a cursory probe. Nothing happened. No amount of effort could peel the dried-up sponge occupying her throat off the lifeless roof of her mouth.
A blurry star sat in the center of her vision, in open defiance of her firmly clenched eyelids. Opening them was unthinkable, it would only expose her sensitive pupils to more terrible, burning light. If a hang over felt like this, she couldn't imagine why anypony ever drank.
Shoving that thought in the back of her mind, Twilight gradually realized she was lying awkwardly on a cold wooden floor. She put all of her efforts into remembering why.
The day had started off wonderfully enough. Princess Celestia was coming to Ponyville on a casual visit! Twilight had spent nearly a month putting together a casual royal welcome, which meant preparing for every contingency. She had been ready for anything.
Nothing had gone wrong. No matter-eating swarms, no Fluttershy picking the wrong day to abduct the royal pet, just Twilight and her friends having the times of their lives with their wonderful ruler.
But what had happened after that?
Her heart sank into the pit of her stomach when she realized that she had no answer to that question. For a month she'd been dreaming and planning that morning to the point where she had excluded all her other interests, and now the memories she yearned for were gone.
It was the day she had hoped to tell her Princess everything. She might not have gone through with it in the end; after all, she hadn't the last time, or the time before. But now she'd never know.
Her memories seemed to cut off sometime in the morning, so Twilight focused on finding the exact moment her recollections stopped, and perhaps discover why her memory was foggy. If nothing else it would delay opening her eyes for another few moments.
Lets see . . .
She remembered waking up. After that had come the morning rituals accompanied by a 'snack' breakfast, in order to to save room for brunch with the princess. She had then consulted her checklist to remind her which sub-checklists she was supposed to consult, and then consulted each of them to review the preparations she had already completed the night before.
If only she could start every day of her life that way.
Then Celestia had arrived, and everyone in town had crowded around to greet her. Twilight had gotten so sidetracked upon gazing at that radiant beacon of perfection, that they were nearly ten seconds behind schedule by the time she recovered.
She hadn't cared.
As a group, Twilight and her friends had chatted and walked with the Princess to Le Gourmet De Prance. Twilight had already booked a reservation, double-booked a reservation, and called in every day for the past month to confirm both of her reservations, so she knew a table would be waiting for them. Even though the establishment was usually deserted in the morning, it never hurt to be prepared.
After they were seated, Princess Celestia had ordered tea for the group. She remembered blowing on it to cool it down, taking her first sip, and then feeling extremely . . . drowsy? The world had swirled and darkened, and that was her final moment of consciousness until now . .
That's when everything clicked for her.
She had been ponynapped. Princess Celestia had likely been ponynapped as well, no doubt the primary target of the attack. She was suddenly very glad that she hadn't opened her eyes, as her only hope now lay in that her abductors wouldn't realize she was conscious. She had perhaps one chance to surprise them, escape, and rescue Celestia. The two of them could then aid the rest of her friends, if they had also been targeted by the attack.
Already Twilight could imagine how the two would bond over the countless scenarios of danger and excitement, growing close in ways that they never could in their respective roles as teacher and student. Just as Twilight's thoughts returned to the familiar debate of whether she and the princess should first make love under a freezing waterfall, or in the royal bedchamber atop a mattress sprinkled with rose petals, her abductor made its presence known.
A hoof rested on her shoulder, a sure prelude to some thug or minion hefting her over brawny shoulders to carry her elsewhere. It would be a perfect, yet fleeting opportunity to overpower her captor and free herself. She held her breath, waiting for her imminent abduction, but the hoof did not grip her body. Instead it slid along her barrel, fondling her skin until it rested on her flank. Then it began to creep towards her haunches.
Her captor wasn't taking her anywhere.
A muzzle pressed against her own. Adrenaline powered through her body, fueled by shock and disgust. Twilight abandoned her plan of waiting for the right moment to strike. She was going to make her stand right here, right now. Win or lose, there was no bucking way that she'd let some lackey take her maidenhood when it had been reserved for years for another special pony.
After all, one day Celestia would finally open her eyes, see what they had together, and throw Twilight Sparkle to the ground and ravish her. Celestia willing (or very willing as the case may be), Twilight would either see that day a virgin or a corpse.
Given the choices, remaining a virgin sounded much less creepy.
Twilight opened her eyes and immediately screamed.
"AAAHHHHHHHHH," replied Fluttershy. Her wings and hooves were tangled with Twilight in a yellow and purple mess.
They both tried to break away at the same time, which only made their position even more compromising as Fluttershy slid forward unto Twilight's back. At last Twilight seized Fluttershy in a telekinetic field, jerked her away, and then respectfully deposited her in front of the unicorn.
Twilight's cheeks were flushed and her mouth hung half-open. "Fluttershy! WHAT. THE. HAY?!"
Fluttershy crouched down and hid beneath her mane, managing to blush even redder than Twilight." Oh my, I'm so very sorry, I really didn't mean that, it's just that I didn't know you were sleeping next to me, and sometimes when I'm in bed with somepony else I get... just a teeny bit grabby."
"Grabby? Fluttershy, your tongue was halfway down my throat!"
"I'm so sorry Twilight, but I also get tongy. Umm... that's perfectly normal, isn't it? You've probably read that in a book somewhere?"
Twilight blinked. "As it happens, I've researched sleepwalking and unusual nocturnal behavior during the six years that I suffered from it, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that tongy isn't a word."
"It's not? Well I was just trying to put it concisely Twilight. How are you supposed to describe it when a mare gets a little too adventurous with her tongue? Com-completely by accident of course."
"Well maybe nobody has needed a word like that, because nobody has orally violated their close friend often enough to need one!"
Fluttershy raised her head up and frowned. Though usually a timid mare, she could always tap into a reservoir of assertiveness when she needed it.
"Look Twilight," she said flatly, "can you stop for just one second to think about how I might feel about all this? I mean, if I really wanted to, I think I could do just a teeny bit better. Not that I umm... don't think you're... nice..."
"You could... what?" Alarm bells blazed through the unicorn's mind. "What's that supposed to-—"
"You heard her!" interrupted by Rainbow Dash, who had awoken after being disturbed by the quarrel and now stood protectively before Fluttershy. "So whatever's got a twist on your horn, just lay off it ok?" It was only then that Dash began to examine her surroundings. Twilight did so as well, curiosity replacing her shock and eager to see just where they were.
There wasn't much to see. The floor was polished mahogany, illuminated by the high-powered lamp that acted as a spotlight overhead. The bright light revealed that all of her friend were accounted for, and in various states of consciousness. She saw Rarity half-asleep and murmuring. Lying beside her was Applejack, cradling the white unicorn and using her stetson hat to fan her. Pinkie was...
On closer examination, Twilight didn't see or hear Pinkie Pie anywhere. Normally, the sugar-coated mare was noticeable even from outer space. Just as her reeling mind wrapped around this worrisome fact, another light came on. It revealed Pinkie Pie, and one of two ponies that made Pinkie easy to ignore just by her presence.
"Hello my little ponies," the princess said, each word gentle and comforting.
"Princess!" cried everyone but Rarity, who was still on her back and muttered something along the lines of 'prenshush.'
Twilight rushed over to Celestia's side and began nuzzling her chest (one of the few platonic areas she could reach on the huge goddess). She moved around her, showering affection on the royal alicorn even as she inspected every inch of the powerful mare's toned physique. She stood on her hind legs and unfurled Celestia's wing with her hooves, inspecting each feather.
"Are you alright?" she demanded. "Did they hurt you? Oh, if they hurt you I swear I am going to buck them to the moon myself!"
"Woah there bronco," said Applejack, clamping onto Twilight's neck with her mouth and dragging her gently away much, as if she were a kitten. "I don't know what sort of 'they' you're referring to, but if you're thinkin' we've been ponynapped, then I don't need ta know how to count to see that it don't add up. And do you mind simmering down a bit? I ain't worked out what kind of setting we're in exactly, but a lil' royal dec . . . dac-—"
"Thanks Fluttershy. A little decorum wouldn't hurt." Applejack turned to the alicorn. "Now Princess, can ya tell us exactly what's going on?"
Princess Celestia nodded. "You've been ponynapped."
"As I thought," said Twilight, unable to contain her smugness.
"By me," finished Celestia.
Rainbow Dash stepped forward beside Applejack. "Princess, why would you ponynap us?"
Twilight nodded as well. "If you needed us for something then you could have asked, Princess. I mean, you know that I'd do anything for you right?" Celestia raised a brow at this. "We," she corrected quickly, "I think I can speak for all of us here when I say that we'd do anything for you. I mean, whisking us away like this without our consent, it almost makes it seem like you're planning on doing something naughty, Princess." Twilight blushed and giggled. "Which is ludicrous of course, since I know you'd never do anything of that nature. Not to say that I'd be totally opposed to the idea on the off chance you were..."
Princess Celestia cleared her throat and interrupted Twilight's ramblings. "I apologize for the unorthodox method of bringing you all together, but after Princess Luna's visit to your village on Nightmare Night, we both began to suspect, and have recently confirmed a suspicion. Each of you needs to be treated at once."
At this Pinkie began hopping around with joy. "Yippee! I love treats!"
"Treated as in 'treatment,' Pinkie Pie. It's the kind of treat you're not going to like."
Pinkie landed and tilted her head in confusion. "Huh? Why wouldn't I like a treat?"
"Now hold yer Apples," said Applejack, lifting her head up high. "If what you're implying is that any of us are sick, then I'm proud to inform you that I'm as hale as a Honeycrisp tree, thank's for askin.' Now if that's all, I'll just be headin' back to-"
"No no, I wouldn't say that any of you are sick, per se. That would be too harsh. I'd just suggest that you girls are at a stage in your lives where it's easy to be confused about your values and direction. You're susceptible to certain influences that I fear put you at risk of failing in your duties as the Elements of Harmony. As your Princess, I'm taking it upon myself to personally see to your counseling."
Applejack looked from Rainbow to Twilight, both of whom just shrugged at her. "What in tarnation's that supposed to mean?" She asked, turning back to the princess.
"Means shthinksh wegey." Everyone turned to Rarity. Applejack moved to help her rise but Rarity touched her hoof to Applejack's mouth and pushed her back. "Water," she breathed as she stood under her own power.
Princess Celestia turned a faucet on in the darkness and levitated a glass to Rarity. She splashed it on her face, wetting her mane.
Complying with the request again, Celestia levitated a small hand mirror to the unicorn. "Much obliged, your majesty. Now, comb, mouth wash, liner, and eyelash curlers please."
Applejack let out a snort of exasperation even as Celestia produced each requested object. "Land sakes! You're already fit enough to talk, tell us what you were tryin' to say!"
"I was tending to a fashion emergency," lectured Rarity, fussing over her hair as she studied her reflection in the mirror. "I cannot go the whole day with ponynap hair, now can I? But I apologize for keeping you waiting darling. As I was saying, Princess Celestia is suggesting that we are all filly-foolers."
"WHAT?!" cried everyone, except for Pinkie, who instead leapt into the air and shouted "YIPPEE!"
"Umm, Rarity, don't you think you're jumping to conclusions?"
"No, she's right Fluttershy," interjected Celestia. "I'm never sure whether or not I should just be direct in these situations." Celestia's horn glowed and the lights flickered on, revealing that they were in a well-furnished office sized for an alicorn. The walls were decorated with cheerful, yet ominous posters of colts and fillies holding hands, skipping around, and otherwise engaging in otherwise innocuous activities as the stern caricatures of Celestia and Luna loomed over them. Many were emblazoned with catchphrases such as 'Stay on the Straight!' and 'Cuddling is for Colts - NOT Stallions.'
"I know," said Rarity with a glum sigh, "because I've heard those words before. Back when I first came to... Straight Camp."
Everyone gasped, except for Pinkie who bounced up in joy again. "We're going to camp together? This is going to be so much fun!"
"No Pinkie," said Rarity with a mixture of apology and apathy. "It's not the kind of camp you're going to like."
Pinkie looked at Rarity as though she were crazy. "Why wouldn't I like camp?!"
Fluttershy approached the Princess humbly and bowed once more. "Princess, I hope you don't mind, but I'm finding all this a little confusing. I mean, even if I were a filly fooler, that wouldn't be a problem would it? Haven't you taught everyone that love is beautiful and should never be shunned, no matter what form it takes?"
"That's right Fluttershy, and I'm very glad you thought to point that out. Love is a beautiful thing, no matter what form it takes. Mare, stallion, or even a non-pony—the joining of two souls should be embraced by the entire community, and is one of the most joyous signs of harmony throughout the land."
Rarity cleared her throat. "Then why, exactly, are you taking an interest in the matter?"
"Because the Elements of Harmony don't work for fags. I've got to set each of you straight or Equestria is doomed."
Twilight looked very much like she wanted to say something, so of course she did. "Princess. Don't think that I'm disputing your expertise on the magic of friendship, but I've researched it very thoroughly as well, and I'm pretty sure that what you're saying is complete—"
"So," said the Princess, expertly cutting Twilight off. "Shall I show you around?"
Rainbow Dash immediately did a wing-assisted leap that placed her upon the desk, puffing out her chest and glaring at the princess. "Hold on one moment. You've got to prove it!"
Celestia smiled quizzically. "Prove what, Rainbow Dash?"
"The whole reason why we're here is because you're saying we play on the all-filly team. But what if I told you that I'm straight?"
Pinkie Pie and Rarity giggled, while the others tried to keep straight faces with mixed success. Only Celestia was able to maintain absolute serenity.
"I'm serious!" Rainbow's gaze flattened. "Prove I'm gay, or I'm leaving."
Celestia replied demurely, but with a subtle warning in her voice. "Are you sure this is a path you wish to fly down, Rainbow Dash? The consequences could be difficult to bear."
Dash looked the ruler of Equestria dead in the eye. "Do your worst."
Celestia sighed, as if to say 'this is going to hurt me a lot more than it's going to hurt you,' and trotted around the desk, opening a middle drawer with her magic. She beckoned the group of friends closer as she produced a photograph and revealed it to her audience.
It was a picture of Rainbow Dash lying on top of the welcome sign at the entrance to Ponyville. She was giving the camera an enticing stare while holding a bunch of grapes in her hoof, flashing her teeth as her preparation to take the first delicate nibble was frozen in time. In contrast to her typical rough appearance, Rainbow's mane and hooves were expertly manicured and polished, and she was wearing a hot pink swimsuit.
There was a caption beneath the photo. Ponyville: Gay Capital of Equestria.
Rainbow Dash contemplated the flyer for a few moments, the color draining from her face. She tried to speak a few times but only half-formed words came out. Eventually her head drooped and she slunk away, shamefaced. "Featherweight..." she whispered hoarsely as a tear fell to the floor. "H-he... said... THAT IT WAS A CALENDAR SHOOT!" At that she lost all semblance of control, and Applejack gave her a tight hug to comfort her as she bawled. "I just wanted to be Miss April," she murmured sadly against her friend's embrace.
"Well," said Celestia somberly after Dash had been given some time to calm down. "As much as it pained me to do that, the evidence was conclusive. Does anyone else care to challenge their sexual status?"
"Actually," said Twilight, "your evidence doesn't really-"
Celestia cleared her throat with a note of authority. "As inconclusive as my evidence was, the petitioner no longer wishes to dispute her status. Anyone else?"
Pinkie hopped forward, oblivious to her friends' reluctance. "Ooh ooh! Pick me! Me me me!"
Celestia looked thoughtfully at Pinkie. "Hmm, this might be a challenge. I don't believe I brought any evidence suggesting that you're gay, Pinkie Pie."
Pinkie grinned. "Of course I am silly!"
Twilight cleared her throat nervously. "She's using the word in the modern sense Pinkie, not the archaic."
"Yep! This Pinkie's a homosexual!"
Celestia leaned in until her snout was inches away from Pinkies, a devious smile unleashed on her lips. "Prove it."
Without hesitation, Pinkie bounced over to Fluttershy, seized her hooves, and kissed her full on the lips. Fluttershy's wings shot out in an instant, though her eyes widened and she pulled away as soon as she had recovered from the initial shock.
"Ooh my," Fluttershy said weakly. "You taste like Bubblegum and also umm... that was tongy."
Twilight's eye twitched at that last word, while Rainbow Dash recovered from her melancholy long enough to wrap a protective hoof around Fluttershy and give Pinkie a simmering glare.
Celestia seemed oblivious to the tension, her gentle expression the same as always. "I think that's settled then. Who do we have next? How about... Rarity?"
A terrified smile quivered on Rarity's face and she furiously began shaking her head, but Celestia was having none of it. The imposing alicorn whipped out yet another piece of parchment from her desk, unfolding it and presenting it to the group.
It was a sketch of a corset and one-piece skirt. The margins around the drawing were dotted with scribbles of hearts and apples, and the notations made little secret about which details of the female pony anatomy the clothing's designer wanted to emphasize in every lurid detail.
"Ah don't get it... shouldn' that piece have a bottom?"
"Wow, those garters are flankless!" Pinkie bounced with excitement.
"Oh... oh my!" Fluttershy covered her eyes with her hooves, though it was rather obvious she was peeking.
Rarity's faced flushed red with fury and she tried to snatch the design away with her own magic, though the princess's mystical grip wouldn't budge in the slightest. "Princess!" she cried. "This is an outrage! I demand to know who revealed my private work to you!"
"That would be teeellliiing," sang Celestia while tucking the sketch back in the desk. Then she coughed loudly—a strange gesture since her divine lungs were free of imperfection—and whispered even louder, "Sweetie Belle."
"That. Foal. Is. Dead," growled Rarity, stalking back and forth while Celestia's eyes roamed over the rest of the group, selecting her next victim.
"And how about sweet little Fluttershy?" asked the Princess, stepping toward the quivering pegasus. Fluttershy backed up until she smacked against the wall; the princess's advance left her cornered. "Do you have anything you'd like to admit, dear?"
"Oh, no your majesty! I mean, if that's alright. I can certainly understand why everyone else is here, but maybe you abducted me just a teeny tiny bit too hastily? As it happens, I'm already straight as an ironing board. I think I'd like to go home now..."
"I noticed your wings did a little salute when Pinkie kissed you, hmm? What was that all about?"
"Oh, that was nothing Princess. See, when you drugged me and deposited my unconscious body on the floor, I was sort of lying on my wing and got a cramp. And right when Pinkie kissed me, it sort of woke up from when it had fallen asleep, so I decided to give them an innocent little stretch to make sure there wasn't another cramp later."
"A cramp you say? Will you be alright Fluttershy? I can have a medical professional look them over, if you want. Your safety is of the highest priority while you're here."
"Thank you very much Your Majesty, but I'm sure I'll be fine. I wasn't injured at all, and nothing like that will happen again."
Celestia nodded. "You are certain it won't happen again?"
"Absolutely Your Majesty."
Celestia continued nodding, and then, without warning, seized Fluttershy and kissed her full on the lips. Her friends could only stare in shock as she continued the kiss, forcing Fluttershy's wings straight into the air once again. This continued long after Celestia's point had been made, before she finally dropped Fluttershy back onto the floor. Slow to recover, Fluttershy wobbled and tried to pull her wings back down, growing more and more frantic as they refused to budge. Celestia trotted back to her desk with a swagger, tail swishing in obvious excitement.
The moment they had recovered from the sheer audacity of Celestia's assault, Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash were on the scene.
"Princess!" challenged Rainbow with fiery indignation. "How could you just jump on her like that?! Fluttershy's feelings are very delicate and she deserves better than to be toyed with!"
"Fluttershy!" said Twilight sternly. "I expected better from you. How could you just sway there like a vixen and tempt our pure, innocent Princess to jump on you like that?! I think as our ruler she deserves at least a modicum of respect!"
"Oh Rainbow, I didn't mind, really! She umm... tasted like coconut, and that's my favorite ice cream. Well... now it is, funny I don't remember liking it much before... but anyway, I don't mind if she didn't."
Celestia looked like the cat who had eaten the canary. "I don't mind either. Given that she didn't have prior written permission to grace my lips, I think that offense carries at least a dungeon sentence. But don't worry, she's pardoned."
Twilight's frown vanished and she looked over at Fluttershy, biting her lip. "So... mint coconut or classic coconut?"
"Oh. Definitely mint. Maybe even more mint than coconut come to think of it..."
A tear ran down Twilight's cheek as she listened to Fluttershy. "To think the heaven that's graced your lips. I may never know such glory, but at least I can touch the lips that touched the lips—" As Twilight leaned forward to a now cowering Fluttershy, Rainbow doubled back and yanked her away. "No more kissing Fluttershy!" The light blue mare decreed, depositing Twilight back amongst the group of bewildered friends.
That seemed to pull the unicorn back into the realm of sanity. Twilight steeled herself and resolved to confront head on the moment she had been dreading. Clearing her throat, she addressed Celestia. "Well, if we're going to do this I'll go next. I mean, if you didn't already know about me, I guess you do now. All I can do is hope you realize that naive as I was, for I had the best-"
"Applejack," said Celestia crisply and with pointed obliviousness, rolling out another parchment. "Can you tell me what this number is?" Unlike all the other pieces of 'evidence,' this was merely a scrap of note paper with the number '314' written on it.
"No I can't Your Majesty," said Applejack proudly. "I got four hooves and I've never needed to count higher. But if you're tryin' to muddle the issue with yer fancy numbers, let me say right now that I am not gay in the slightest." She glanced at her friends sheepishly. "Not that there's nothin' wrong with that."
"Well," said Celestia amiably. "Let me refresh your memory then. This is the number of showers you took with your all-mare hoofball team in your days at Bale University."
"Per term," Celestia added with a touch of somberness.
"Now hold on," retorted Appledash angrily. "However many showers I took or didn't, there ain't nothin' filly-foolin' about that. My teammates were my fellow warriors, and we were perfectly comfortable gettin' sweaty and muddy together to take our minds off school and hardships. And furthermore, it's perfectly natural to begin and end a session of hard play with a cleansing group shower. We trained together, we fought together, we were equals!"
Rarity scrunched her brow in confusion. "But... three-hundred and fourteen? Per term? That would scarcely give you any time to play the game, darling!"
"Rarity, you take yer fancy equations and leave them out of this conversation. All they ever produce are lies!" Applejack gulped and ran her hoof across the ground. "Though now that you mention it, it does seem we took one or two more than was strictly necessary."
Twilight cleared her throat. "I think the bigger question is, how did Applejack graduate from Bale if she never even learned how to count?!"
"She had a sports scholarship," sang Pinkie, bouncing around with every word. Twilight grumbled in response but didn't dispute the point.
"Now that that's taken care of," said Celestia, "shall I show you around camp?"
Twilight tensed her miserable shoulders and cleared her throat, trying to harden herself for what was to come. She did not wonder what a condemned mare walking over Equestria's border to a permanent exile felt like. She was that mare.
"Princess..." she said hoarsely. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
Celestia tossed a side-glance Twilight. "What could that be, my Faithful Student?" Everyone else stared at the princess as though she were blind, crazy, or both.
"Well you... showed us... why... everyone needs to be here. Everyone except me. Aren't you going to pull out some proof concerning my orientation too?"
Celestia looked shocked. "Twilight, are you suggesting that you're also gay?"
Twilight looked at the ground, fighting back tears. "That's why you brought me here, isn't it? Because you... err... might have reason to believe... that I'm in love with another mare?"
Celestia almost laughed, but when she saw the hard time Twilight was enduring, she rushed over and enveloped the unicorn in a beautiful white wing. "Oh, Twilight. You've got nothing to be ashamed of!"
Twilight's eyes widened and she stared up at Celestia, trembling. "Really?" The seeds of hope were in her voice.
Celestia nodded. "Absolutely. I've known you since you were a filly, Twilight. I practically raised you myself, and I daresay I did a decent job of it too. You're a smart, capable, and well-adjusted heterosexual mare, and I couldn't be more proud of you."
"What?! I mean... but... why did you drug me then?!"
Celestia kissed Twilight on the brow, causing her to shiver. "Is that what this is all about? The reason you're here is because having a straight assistant to provide an example for your friends is going to be essential for the curative process! I didn't drug you on purpose. You did see me wink at you and tilt my head, right? That means 'Don't drink the tea, it's poisoned.' Then I looked to your left to let you know you were to keep it to yourself."
Twilight looked completely bewildered. "You umm... I don't remember you ever teaching me that, Princess."
"That's funny, your friend Pinkie Pie noticed immediately."
Seemingly out of nowhere, Pinkie sprouted up between Twilight and Celestia's loose embrace with a wild grin on her face. "Yep! I got to ride shotgun!"
Rarity looked aghast. "You mean you weren't drugged? Then why did you go along with it?!"
"And miss out on camp? I can't wait for the tour!"
"Speaking of which," said Celestia, "we'd better get started before it gets too dark."
"Now hold yer apples, Princess!" said Applejack, trotting in front of Celestia with a stubborn gleam in her eye. "Flimsy evidence or no, you're askin' us to put an entire week of our life on hold just to go through yer hair-brained therapy session. I'm sorry, but not even Royalty can do that with no advance notice!"
Everyone began talking at once.
"Good heavens, that reminds me! I've been invited to Canterlot for Lord Fancypant's latest soiree! I was going to show all his guests my Fall line! I simply can't pass up an opportunity like that!"
"And in case y'all have forgotten, I've got a buckin' farm to run! It ain't the kind of thing that ya can just up and leave without some preparation!"
"I've got to look after Spike! Does he even know where I am?"
"There's a Wonderbolts tryout in two days! I've been training all Summer for it!"
"And whose going to take care of my animals?"
"Maybe I should have had the drugged tea. Was it tasty?"
Celestia straightened up and cleared her throat, silencing everyone. "I understand your concerns, and I assure you I've attended to them. Fluttershy, my own royal fauna specialists are staying at your cottage as we speak, making sure your animals are being tended to. Applejack, I've contacted your old hoofball team and asked them to help out at the farm in your absence. Several of them were available and delighted to help. That will be especially important with your brother's—Big Macintosh—absence. Rarity, unfortunately Lord Fancypant's party will have to be rescheduled, I can hardly imagine that it can go forth without the host. Likewise the Wonderbolts tryout will have to be suspended while the team searches for their missing teammate, Soarin'. Twilight, there's no need to worry about Spike since he's not at the library anymore. And Pinkie, of course not, the tea was horrible as usual. And if you're curious, which I suppose you aren't, I did inform the Cakes of the situation and get one of the royal guards to fill in at the bakery for your absence."
There was silence as the girls tried to process this bizarre slab of information. Twilight spoke first.
"Princess Celestia, you're not saying you don't like tea are you?"
Rainbow Dash cleared her throat. "I think the bigger question is, what exactly happened to Spike, Soarin', Fancypants, and Big Macintosh?"
"Don't forget Shining Armor, Rainbow Dash," said Celestia. "He's missing too."
"And Shining Armor. Is this all related?"
"I'm glad you asked! It just so happens that I've also abducted the gentlecolts, and dragon, in question so that they can begin their straight therapy too."
"Wha-huh?! My brother isn't gay! He's happily married to your niece!"
Celestia coughed and muttered "Beard!" very loudly.
"Excuse me, Princess?"
"Sorry Twilight. I just have a habit of saying the word beard whenever someone mentions a stallion who obviously married to conceal his homosexuality."
"As interesting as this is," said Rarity sourly, "for what purpose could you possibly have to victimize these fine stallions, and poor helpless Spikey-Wikey too? You told us that our treatment was specifically to ensure we'd remain in tune with the elements of harmony, and that there's nothing wrong with variant sexual lifestyles besides that!"
"And it is. And there isn't. For mares anyway. Gay stallions go to Pony Hell, Rarity. In my wisdom as Princess, I decreed this long ago."
"Right," muttered Rarity sarcastically. "Pony Hell. Makes perfect sense."
"Don't worry little ponies. I can't oversee their treatment personally, since even with Twilight's help, my time will have to be devoted to you completely. And I can't allow you to visit them just yet. Because of the well-documented effectiveness of my treatment, any one of you might suddenly become heterosexual at any moment, and if it happens in the presence of a stallion..." she giggled girlishly. "I wouldn't want something to happen that you'd later regret. Nonetheless, I've sought out the foremost expert in the field of pseudo-scientific conversion therapy, so rest assured that the boys are in capable hooves."
One by one they groaned and rose. The powerful and ruggedly handsome red earth pony. The sleek and agile wonderbolt. The dashing, sophisticated white unicorn. The tall and determined guard pony. And the chubby little purple and green baby dragon.
"Wh... where are we?" asked Soarin' in confusion. They seemed to be in a tiny clearing in the middle of a night-darkened forest. They could barely see anything in front of them. The wind whispered ominously through the trees.
"Lands sake," said Fancypants, squinting into the gloom. "If I didn't know better I'd say that we've all been drugged and dumped unattended in the midst of an untamed forest!"
"Eeeyup," agreed Big Macintosh somberly. A twig snapped in the distance.
"Wh-what's going on? Did anyone else hear that?" Spike was shivering, so Big Macintosh gave him a quiet look and patted him on the top of his spines. It seemed to calm him down a little.
Shining Armor's steely gaze ran across the perimeter of the clearing. "I hate to say it fellas, but there's pretty much only one explanation for this. One of my bosses is pranking me again, and decided to drag all of you into it."
The rustling of the undergrowth grew louder, and seemed to be coming nearby. Spike jumped when he noticed. The others looked nervous as well. "Sh-should we be... frightened?"
"Oh buck yes," said Shining Armor wryly. "But we'll probably be fine once she's had her fun." He cleared his throat. "Alright Princess Celestia! Or Princess Luna! You got us good, now come out and rib us like you've been dying to!"
There was no response. They heard heavy hoofsteps, and the loud snapping of bushes that could only come from a massive creature.
"Alright," said Shining with a frown. "Not even they would go this far. I'm beginning to think we could actually be in danger. Everyone, get behind me!"
Fancypants and Spike both seemed happy to do just that, but Soarin' stepped to Shining Armor's side with a devil-may care grin. "I think it's do or die, guard. And when you're a wonderbolt, you always do!"
Big Mac stepped to Shining Armor's other side with a determined look on his face. "Eeyup."
The crashing sound grew closer and more frantic. The three brave stallions prepared themselves for whatever ghoulish devices the forest might have to throw at them. Soon they could see the barest silhouette of a horned and bestial monstrosity, larger than any of them. Steeling themselves, the three stood their ground.
With a terrible rumble, the beast spoke.
"Iron Will has a plan... TO MAKE YOU A MAN!"
The tour was brief enough, though few ponies paid any attention to it, either trapped within their own murky thoughts, or, in Pinkie's case, trying to capture fireflies. Princess Celestia suggested they all go to bed early to get the drugs out of their system, and retired back to her office with Twilight in tow.
"I'm afraid there was a little mixup at the delivery service," Celestia explained after they had prepared for their slumber. "I ordered a bed for you but it never came. In the end I decided not to complain about it since my bed is easily big enough for both of us."
"Wha- really?!" Twilight's mouth lit up with delight, but then she forcibly swallowed her enthusiasm. "Princess, I wouldn't want to impose on you. We're both grown mares now... and we need our privacy."
"Oh nonsense Twilight! Remember when I used to read to you to in my bedroom when you were a filly, and you'd doze off in bed with me? Give an old mare a bit of nostalgia, at least until we get this sorted out."
"Haha, yes Princess, of course." Twilight giggled rather nervously, and skittishly approached the bed, right up until Celestia nudged her in. In another moment she felt the Princess's heavy mass beside her, while strong hooves embraced her and brought her to rest against a snowy white chest.
"I should warn you though, recently I've gotten a bit grabby in my sleep."
In the next moment Twilight felt the Princess's heated breath against her ear, sending a chill down her back despite the incredible warmth. "And tongy."
The night was sleepless and awkward for exactly one pony.