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A Mirror Brightly - Ch. 4

By Guest
Created: 2023-06-02 16:58:23
Expiry: Never

  1. The salad tasted…fine. Just fine. Disappointingly fine.
  2.  
  3. Paul had been expecting something…different. Oh, he liked leafy greens well enough, especially when well prepared, but tonight’s meal was anything but.
  4.  
  5. Paul’s spring mix came prepackaged from the store and had laid a little too long in his fridge to be considered fresh anymore. The dull, flaccid leaves of spinach and lettuce lacked any bite as his pony teeth tore into them with ease, and the store-brand ranch dressing which doused them smothered any flavor they otherwise might have. The croutons, at least, added a bit of desperately needed texture.
  6.  
  7. Paul tried to keep his dissatisfaction off of his face, but it was a Sisyphean effort. If his lack of opposable thumbs (or any fingers at all, for that matter) forced him to lap his dinner off a paper plate with his tongue like a dog and to endure the flush in his cheeks at the barely constrained giggles of his girlfriend every time he did so, the least his meal could do was taste good.
  8.  
  9. He had imagined that with his altered physiology would come altered taste buds, or at least an altered digestive system. While horses could apparently eat meat (thank you, Google), and he didn’t outright gag at the sight or smell when Lucy added canned chicken to her plate of greens, he was not terribly eager to test the omnivoracity of his new form. In any case, even if his palate had changed, it hadn’t changed enough to turn subpar salads into gourmet meals.
  10.  
  11. It was little wonder, then, that even after his tongue swiped the last shred of spinach off his now-spotless plate, Paul’s plush tummy cried out, yearning for something more. Something…sweet. Yes, that was it. He’d valiantly suffered through his sorry excuse of a dinner, so he deserved a truly tasty reward, didn’t he? Something like…
  12.  
  13. Like a steaming tray of gooey brownies, yes, that’s it, paired with heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream. He could almost see the platter of rich chocolatey goodness as he pulled it fresh from the oven, its heavenly aroma filling an imaginary kitchen. His tummy grumbled again -- better make it two scoops of ice cream, with just a dash of cinnamon on top to really bring it all together.
  14.  
  15. A dopey smile pulled at his muzzle, daydreams of delectable deserts dancing through his mind. Goodness, he needed to get his hooves on something sweet ASAP!
  16.  
  17. “Yoohoo, Earth to Paul?”
  18.  
  19. “Hmm?” he hummed belatedly, sweeping his unfocused gaze over to his girlfriend sitting beside him -- his very amused girlfriend, if the cheeky smirk was anything to go by.
  20.  
  21. “Just wondering what’s got you all spaced out and drooly, hun,” she said, poorly hiding a titter behind her hand. Paul’s ear flicked, only half-registering what Lucy had said.
  22.  
  23. ‘Drooly’? Still somewhat in a haze, Paul wiped absently at his muzzle with a foreleg, and sure enough it came away slightly damp. He stared mesmerized at the wet spot on his fur, blinked heavily once, and suddenly the spell was broken, visions of chocolate decadence chased away by the intense heat blooming in his cheeks.
  24.  
  25. Paul couldn’t believe he’d literally been drooling over the mere thought of sweets. He didn’t even particularly like sugary stuff; he couldn’t even remember the last time he had a craving for a candy bar, let alone something as frightfully saccharine as brownies a la mode!
  26.  
  27. He quickly turned his head in an attempt to hide his embarrassment, wiping his snout furiously to clear it of any lingering saliva. Lucy giggled at the sight, tousling his cream-colored mane. Paul shivered and subconsciously leaned into the touch despite his flustered state.
  28.  
  29. “Let me guess: you were imagining chowing down on a big bushel of apples instead of this rabbit food?”
  30.  
  31. Apples did sound nice, actually, all tart and crunchy, or better yet baked into a crispy, flaky pie--
  32.  
  33. He shook his head, both in reply and to clear the intrusive thoughts of dessert. “...Brownies and ice cream,” he admitted sheepishly, casting a sidelong glance at his girlfriend from behind his bangs.
  34.  
  35. “Really?” Lucy asked, genuinely surprised. She’d lived with Paul long enough to know his distaste for such confections, after all. She seemed to consider the revelation for a moment before taking a not-so-surreptitious glance at his barrel and flanks, her grin turning sly once more. She gave his flank a poke, right on the cinnamon bun mark. “Guess we know why you’ve got so much bump in the rump, then.”
  36.  
  37. “N-no, I don’t!” Paul’s new voice made his indignant retort sound too much like a whine. He scooted away from the offending digit with a huff. He wasn’t fat! Just…fluffy. Yeah, that’s it.
  38.  
  39. “Aww, don’t be like that, Paul,” Lucy cooed, wrapping an arm around his shoulders while her other hand patted his belly. “So what if your new body’s got a sweet tooth? Just means there’s more of you to love~”
  40.  
  41. Paul’s whole face was on fire all the way up to the tips of his ears. He couldn’t think of a good reply, so instead he squirmed in his girlfriend’s grip and grumbled wordless displeasure.
  42.  
  43. “A shame we don’t keep any sweets around, hm? Maybe I’ll bring you something back from the diner tomorrow.”
  44.  
  45. Oh, right. Lucy had a shift tomorrow, and an early one at that. She’d be back sometime after lunch, but that would leave Paul the whole morning alone and stuck as a pony. He almost considered asking her to call in sick, at least until he turned back to normal, but he held his tongue. They badly needed every dollar they could earn, and he could handle a few hours by himself. He was a big mare--er, man.
  46.  
  47. Paul glanced at the clock on their oven. It was only a quarter after eight, but he could feel the Sandman beckoning him anyway. He’d had a long day to say the least; as if hours of miserable tedium at work wasn’t enough, having his entire perception of reality shattered by magically transforming into a pony had left him yet more exhausted, emotionally and physically. He couldn’t quite stifle a cute, drawn-out yawn, which sent Lucy into another round of giggles.
  48.  
  49. “Getting sleepy, hun?” She lightly booped him on the snout, then released him from her hold. “I’m pretty tired myself. What's to say we get to bed and wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, literally in your case?”
  50.  
  51. Paul rolled those so-called bright eyes as he pushed his chair away from the table and hopped the short distance down onto the floor, hooves clopping against the fake hardwood. “That was awful.”
  52.  
  53. “Don’t worry, got plenty more where that came from~”
  54.  
  55. Paul really hoped that wasn’t true.
  56.  
  57. ---
  58.  
  59. Two hours later and despite his exhaustion, Paul still couldn’t sleep.
  60.  
  61. Was it the bed? Maybe. The king-sized mattress comfortably fit him and Lucy, but now that he was at least three feet shorter than usual it felt far too big, like the sheets would just swallow him up. He also couldn’t quite figure out which sleeping position he liked most. Normally he slept on his back, which he found he could still do, but he also kept shifting around, sometimes laying on his side, other times on his front with his legs tucked underneath him. Nothing felt quite right.
  62.  
  63. Did he have to pee? No, thankfully. He’d been apprehensive about relieving himself with his new, ahem, ‘equipment’, but he also couldn’t hold it in forever. After a minute or two of carefully balancing on the porcelain throne, he’d managed just fine. It was certainly a novel and slightly unnerving experience, but like with his sex change in general, as long as he didn’t think too hard about it he was okay.
  64.  
  65. Maybe that was his problem: he was thinking too much. He knew he’d resolved to not freak out, maybe even try to enjoy his new equine body, but now, in the dark and alone with his thoughts, he couldn’t help but fixate on his doubts and fears. Lucy may have taken his transformation in stride (an understatement, considering how much praise she’d been showering him with), but what if he really was stuck like this? What about work? Even if he could somehow convince his bosses that he was in fact Paul, it’d be a miracle if they let him into his cubicle instead of turning him into the government who, if fiction was to be believed, would ship him off to a secret lab to be poked, prodded, and dissected. Assuming he escaped that grisly fate and was allowed to do his job, it wasn’t like he could type on a keyboard with hooves, at least not efficiently. He’d have to resort to pecking at the keys with a pencil in his mouth or something equally impractical.
  66.  
  67. Forget work; without hands, how was he supposed to do much of anything at all? Using his mouth all the time would not only be unsanitary, but a massive hassle. Without Lucy, he wasn’t sure he could even eat breakfast tomorrow unless she made something before she left, which she probably wouldn’t have time for.
  68.  
  69. Paul sighed, rolling onto his side with his back to his girlfriend, whose breathing was soft and steady. He closed his eyes and listened to that rhythm for a while, hoping it would help lull him to sleep, but several minutes passed and slumber still eluded him. It was no good; his thoughts kept galloping in circles, and the more he tried not to think, the more he spiraled.
  70.  
  71. Just as he was about to throw off the stifling covers and try to walk off some of the restless energy, he felt the mattress shake as Lucy shifted in her sleep. Suddenly, an arm snaked around his barrel and pulled hard. With a very dignified, masculine “meep!”, Paul slid across the sheets until his back pressed against Lucy’s stomach and her chin rested on top of his mane.
  72.  
  73. “L-Lucy?” he whispered, unsure if his restlessness had woken her. His girlfriend replied with a sleepy murmur, hugging him even closer. For the first time in his life, Paul was the little spoon, and just like when Lucy cuddled with him on the couch, any objections he may have had melted in the face of the feelings bubbling in his chest, that tantalizing warmth that set his heart aflutter.
  74.  
  75. This time he didn’t even try to fight against his new instincts. Instead, he snuggled against Lucy even harder, yearning for her touch, and as he did everything else seemed…unimportant.
  76.  
  77. He’d said he’d stop worrying, didn’t he? Wasn’t it enough to know that despite it all he was still loved, that he didn’t have to face this alone? Everything would be okay. He could rest now.
  78.  
  79. He could rest now…
  80.  
  81. He could…
  82.  
  83. At last, smiling softly, Paul slowly exhaled, and sleep claimed him.
  84.  
  85. ~~~
  86.  
  87. She’d just finished arranging the donuts when a tinkling bell from the front of the shop alerted her to the arrival of the first customer of the day. Ears perked, she looked up from the display and smoothed out the apron covering her chest, beaming cheerily as a very familiar stallion trotted through the door.
  88.  
  89. “Good morning, Mr. Decimal!” She waved at the aging unicorn as he approached the counter. He peered at her behind a thick pair of horn-rimmed spectacles, though not unkindly; Dewey Decimal may have carefully cultivated his image as the stern, no-nonsense head librarian for the Fillydelphia Public Library, but he seemed to let the act drop just a smidge whenever he entered her shop. “It’s always great to see you! Here for the usual?”
  90.  
  91. “Of course,” he nodded, not even bothering to peruse the wide assortment of pastries, confections, and goodies proudly on offer. Dewey was a stallion of habit; ever since she opened her bakery a few years ago, he’d come in every morning and order the same exact thing. He’d once told her it was simply because the store happened to be on his usual route to the library, but even when a chain coffee shop opened up much closer to his home, he kept coming here.
  92.  
  93. She grinned brightly and got to work preparing his order: a plain bagel with extra cream cheese and chives and a large espresso black as Luna’s night. Sure, since she could set her watch to the punctuality of Dewey’s visits she could just have his order prepared in advance, but she loved being able to chat with her customers when she had time -- or in this case, when she made time.
  94.  
  95. So, as she made small talk -- about the weather, about Mr. Decimal’s wife and foals, and about his ongoing conflict with the director of the local history museum over the rights to host an exhibit on ancient Saddle Arabian literature -- she started the espresso machine, then grabbed a still-warm bagel from the display counter with a hoof. With practiced ease, she used a knife to slice the bagel cleanly in half, spreading a generous helping of cheese and chives on the exposed middle. Easy peasy.
  96.  
  97. A few minutes later, she waved goodbye as the unicorn trotted past the dining area and out the front door, a small paper bag and cup of coffee levitating alongside him. Whistling a nameless tune, she scooped the hoofful of bits he left into the cash register. She looked out through the large windows that made up most of the storefront, giving her a view of Fillydelphia’s busy streets and potential customers a view of all of the delicious treats that awaited them inside.
  98.  
  99. With the bakery momentarily bereft of hungry ponies seeking a quick and delicious breakfast, she allowed herself a small, dreamy sigh as she leaned against the counter. Even after all these moons since she’d served her first customer, seeing other ponies enjoy the fruits of her labor never ceased to swell her heart with pride. Every frosting-smeared smile, every satisfied gulp, every time somepony wanted one of her treats to be the centerpiece of a birthday, an anniversary, a wedding…
  100.  
  101. Honestly, if she didn’t need bits to pay rent and buy ingredients, she’d bake purely for the joy of it and to see everypony’s happy faces as they chowed down on her creations.
  102.  
  103. ‘...and, heh,’ she thought, rubbing the chocolate-colored swell of her paunch through her apron self-consciously, ‘maybe also to snack on myself.’
  104.  
  105. She glanced at the donut display she’d been fussing with earlier, the glistening golden-brown rings of doughy, sugary goodness suddenly seeming so very alluring. She bit her lip, feeling her tummy rumble under her hoof. Sure, she’d already eaten a hearty breakfast, and the donuts were meant for the customers, but she ‘was’ the one who made them in the first place, and besides, just one--
  106.  
  107. She had to stifle a yelp when the door chime rang. Hurriedly, she straightened up and put on her best smile, strained as it was by her embarrassment at getting caught in the middle of her nearly succumbing to her gluttonous urges.
  108.  
  109. “W-welcome! How can I help you today, miss?”
  110.  
  111. Despite being reasonably confident she’d never seen the pegasus mare who had just sauntered into her shop before, she couldn’t help but feel an odd sense of…familiarity, just on the edges of her mind.
  112.  
  113. Bright emerald eyes with a mischievous glint. A charming cherry-blossom coat. A boyishly handsome navy blue mane. A strikingly slender and athletic physique. A whirling cyclone emblazoned on her toned flanks. Not to mention the most dazzlingly winsome smile she’d ever seen in her life…
  114.  
  115. Her blush deepened as she caught herself staring a little too intently at the new arrival. Heart beating just a little quicker, she cleared her throat and brushed an errant lock of mane out of her eyes. If the mare noticed her mild distress, it didn’t seem to phase her. The pegasus trotted up to the counter with a natural, captivating confidence, gaze flitting over the confections before locking firmly on the mare behind the counter.
  116.  
  117. The pegasus smirked.
  118.  
  119. Her heart fluttered.
  120.  
  121. With bated breath she watched as the pegasus leaned over the counter, a conspiratorial gleam in her eyes that kept her utterly enthralled. This close, that sense of recognition was stronger than ever, yet the pegasus’ identity remained frustratingly elusive. She tried to say something, anything, just to break the tension, but the words stuck in her throat. The other mare drew closer, closer, close enough to tickle her ears with her snout. She was forced to breathe in the pegasus’ scent: vaguely floral with just a tinge of ozone.
  122.  
  123. The fire in her cheeks was becoming unbearable. At last, she managed to squeak out a breathy, “M-miss…?”
  124.  
  125. The pegasus huffed, apparently amused at her distress. Then, in a teasing, husky voice that dripped like honey into her perked ears, the other mare finally spoke.
  126.  
  127. “Time to wake up, hun.”
  128.  
  129. ~~~
  130.  
  131. She blinked.
  132.  
  133. The bakery was gone. Instead, she opened her eyes to a sparsely decorated bedroom illuminated mostly by the morning light filtering in through the blinds, motes of dust dancing midair to a soundless tune. She shifted sluggishly under a blanket and let out a yawn which wracked her whole body.
  134.  
  135. She heard a familiar giggle from the other side of the bed. “C’mon, wake up, sleepyhead!”
  136.  
  137. With a groan, she rolled over and saw Lucy’s beaming smile and pretty blue eyes staring back at her--or rather, at ‘him’.
  138.  
  139. Paul blinked.
  140.  
  141. Apparently Lucy found that amusing, devolving into laughter once more before suddenly planting a quick smooch on the tip of Paul’s snout. “Morning, hun. Gosh, you’re so darn adorable it’s downright criminal! How’d your first night as a pony treat you?”
  142.  
  143. That was something Paul was still trying to figure out himself. He could still remember that exceptionally vivid dream…well, the broad strokes of it, at least. Already the finer details were starting to grow fuzzy, but what he could recall left Paul with a complicated cocktail of emotions that he was too sleep-addled to really process at the moment. Add to that the sudden spooning right before he lost consciousness, the mere memory of which notched Paul’s heartrate up a few ticks, and he was, frankly, a mess. A warm, cozy, eminently cuddleable mess, but a mess nonetheless.
  144.  
  145. Rather than try to unpack any of that, he instead asked the first question that popped into his mind: “...Were you watching me sleep?”
  146.  
  147. “For a bit, yeah,” she admitted coyly, reaching out to scratch behind Paul’s fluffy ears. He had to bite back a groan--why did that have to feel so darn good? Her smile lost some of its playfulness, and affection welled in her kind blue eyes. “You slept right through my alarm, and you looked so…peaceful, I guess, that I thought it’d be a shame to disturb you. I’m about to head out, though, and I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye.”
  148.  
  149. Lucy ran her fingers through Paul’s mane, parting his cream-colored bangs and kissing his furred forehead tenderly. “Now while I’d love nothing more than to spend the whole day curled up on the couch with you, I gotta get going before traffic gets too bad. Will you be okay on your own?”
  150.  
  151. Paul needed a moment to reboot after that kiss. After a beat, he replied with his usual acerbic wit: “Uh-huh.”
  152.  
  153. “Good!” Lucy rolled off the bed and onto her feet, already dressed in her waitressing getup. “Then I’m off. Stay out of trouble, hun!”
  154.  
  155. With one last wave and a blown kiss goodbye, she departed from the bedroom and, a few moments later, from the house altogether. Paul heard the engine of her car rev, hitching just long enough to be concerning before it started in earnest. The sound faded shortly after, and then the house was quiet, and he was alone.
  156.  
  157. He debated going back to sleep, but he doubted he’d actually get any more. Free from any external distractions, the memories of his dream had free reign to occupy his thoughts. Normally he wouldn’t put much stock into the jumbled images his mind conjured up while he slept, but this dream was awfully coherent.
  158.  
  159. A small slice of the life of a little pony baker in the big city…it sounded like the plot of a children’s book. He remembered serving that unicorn stallion, talking with him, being interested in the details of his life. He remembered, too, taking pride in his work and relishing how much joy he brought others through his culinary delights.
  160.  
  161. Paul snorted derisively. “Can’t relate.”
  162.  
  163. Still, that image stuck with him: a mare who followed her passions and loved her job, a mare whose smile (and sugary confections) brightened the day of everyone she met. A mare who wasn’t haunted by looming bills, or being replaced by AI, or…
  164.  
  165. Sighing, Paul banished the thoughts with a shake of his head. A nice fantasy, maybe, but while the magic of the mirror may have changed his species and gender, it didn’t change who he was on the inside: plain old Paul Jensen, with all his problems, troubles, and conundrums.
  166.  
  167. Lastly, that pegasus mare…of course he recognized her now as Lucy’s pony form. Even now, he felt a blush blossoming as the sight of pony-Lucy sashaying into the store, her brilliant emerald eyes and delightfully impish smirk, her immaculately preened feathers, her breath hot in Paul’s ear--
  168.  
  169. “Oh God, please tell me I’m not getting horny over a freaking pony,” he moaned, burying his face into his pillow in an effort to smother the shameful heat that the memory of pony-Lucy had stoked. That was a can of worms that would remain firmly shut, thanks very much.
  170.  
  171. Desperate for any kind of distraction, he reached out to his phone on the nightstand beside the bed. He fumbled around for it, but eventually his hoof landed on it. He grabbed it and brought it to his face. The mare in the screen’s reflection stared back at him, still somewhat flushed.
  172.  
  173. Paul then noticed that he was somehow holding his phone with his hoof. With quiet fascination, he tilted the device this way and that, the phone stubbornly sticking in place no matter what he did.
  174.  
  175. “That’s…new,” he mumbled, still rotating his hoof around. “How--”
  176.  
  177. ‘With practiced ease, she used a knife to slice the bagel cleanly in half, spreading a generous helping of cheese and chives on the exposed middle.’
  178.  
  179. Huh. That…well, that created many, many more questions that begged for answers. How was that possible? Was this something he could always do? How did his dream self know she could do that? And, most important of all:
  180.  
  181. “Uh, how do I let go?”

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