Tuesday brought Sunset much more cheer than her first day back to school. Twilight shared her new AP Economics class. And, due to budget cuts, the two AP Chemistry classes had to be combined into one, not that they were very big separately to begin with. Combined with their final period of AP Trigonometry, Sunset and Twilight had a whole day of classes together.
The best part? Moondancer wasn’t in any of them.
She may be pretty, but I bet her head’s mostly full of hot air. Even as she thought it, Sunset knew it wasn’t true. Moondancer may not have been her and Twilight’s level of smart, but she was far from dumb. Still, petty insults were how Sunset relieved her frustrations. That and enjoying her quality alone time with Twilight.
They leaned over their high-powered microscope, examining the chemical reaction to their isotope. Though only one of them could look into the lense at a time, they kept their cheeks pressed against each other. As Sunset pulled away to fill in their chart, Twilight cleared her throat.
“So, uhh, Sunset… do you like science?”
“Obviously, Sparky, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Because I have my ion you.”
“What?” Sunset looked up at her, finding Twilight face red. She twisted a finger through her tress and stared at the floor.
“Get it?” she asked meekly. “Because… ion… eye on… I...umm…”
Sunset pressed her lips together, trying not to burst into hysterical laughter. “Twilight, are you trying to flirt with me again?”
Twilight looked up. “Is it working?” There was a hopeful gleam in her eye.
“No, sweetie, it’s not. You’re still terrible at it.”
Twilight slumped her shoulders and groaned.
Sunset reached for Twilight’s hand under the table and gave it a squeeze. “But the fact that you’re trying is adorable as hell.” She leaned to give Twilight’s blushing face a kiss, but remembered that public displays of affection were frowned upon in the classroom setting. The fact that they were at the front of the class where everyone could see them didn’t help either. So she settled for pushing her cheek against Twilight’s while she looked into the microscope again.
Twilight’s pout continued even when the period came to an end. She and Sunset headed for their lockers to put their books away before heading to the cafeteria. “I don’t get it. Cadence makes flirting look so easy.”
“It’s all about timing and delivery, Sparky,” Sunset said, pushing her book into her locker. “And honestly, asking me if I liked science? You should have known you were going to get a snarky answer.”
Applejack came over, sack lunch in hand. “Howdy, girls. How was class?”
“It was fun,” Twilight said, perking up. “We studied isotopes and their reactions to certain chemicals and other stimuli.”
Sunset wrapped an arm around Twilight’s waist and whispered into her ear, “You must have eleven protons, ‘cause your butt is sodium fine.”
Twilight locked up, her face turning red again. “S-Sunset!”
She laughed and kissed Twilight on the cheek. “Consider that a lesson.” She let go and sauntered away, smirking at Applejack’s confused head tilt.
“That’s not fair!” Twilight shouted.
At home, dinner had been a relatively calm affair. After Sunset had helped clean up the dishes, she retreated toward her room, pausing in the living room to look at the picture of Moondancer. With her was a woman who looked like, simply put, a female version of Artemis. She had longer hair and lacked a goatee, but they shared a childlike smile.
Sunset made another detour to her room, stopping at Trixie’s and knocking on her open door. Trixie looked up from the magazine she was reading and took off her headphones. “What do you want?” It wasn’t said unkindly. Trixie’s natural tone just made everything she said come out as snappish.
“How are you and Moondancer related?” Sunset knew the answer but wanted to make sure she was right.
Trixie rolled herself into a sitting position. “She’s my first cousin, the daughter of my father’s sister. Why?”
Sunset leaned against the door frame. “Just curious, really. Artemis never talks about his sister.”
“Well…” Trixie looked away, a grim shadow over her face. “She… she isn’t around anymore.”
The shadow from her face spread over her words as well. Sunset decided to leave it alone. Whatever the story behind it, it wasn’t her place to know. “So, what’s Moondancer like?”
Trixie rose her head to the light and shrugged. “We used to play together a lot when we were little. Honestly, Trixie thinks she was a little full of herself.”
No one in this family understands irony.
“She loves the stage, like every Lulamoon before her. She’s a pretty good actress and can dance very well.” Trixie sat up straight and stuck her chest out. “Unfortunately for her, she did not inherit the amazing, mind-blowing magic our family is capable of! So, it’s up to The Great and Powerful Trixie to continue on the legacy of magical feats of wonder and amazement!”
By now, Sunset had turned her back and retreated to her room, ignoring Trixie’s indignant shout of, “Hey!” She closed the door and greeted Spot who had taken up residence on her bed.
“I thought you weren’t going to collect information on her to prepare a diabolical plot?” Princess Twilight squeaked.
“I’m not,” Sunset said defiantly. “I still want to know more about her. Apparently, I’m going to be spending an… unfortunate amount of time with her.”
“You could always use more friends in your life.”
“I’m happy with the amount I have, thank you very much.” Sunset may have accepted love and friendship, but she was no social butterfly. Besides, something about Moondancer irked her.
“You’re just jealous.”
“I am not!”
Saturday arrived, much to Sunset’s displeasure. She wasn’t sure which was worse: going to Moondancer’s house for tea, or going there with Trixie. She and Trixie didn't dislike each other anymore, but any time they were in the car, an odd silence hung over them that Sunset could never quite hurdle over.
She followed Trixie out the door, hands in her pockets. The air was chilly, but the sun was out and shining, occasionally covered up by a puffy cloud. Sunset kept her leather jacket zipped up, thankful for the thermal interior.
Artemis walked the girls to Trixie’s little blue buggy. “Give Moondancer all of our love. I’ve tried to go over there, but they always seem to be away. Lord knows how busy her father is.”
Sunset waved goodbye as they pulled away and took off down the road. The drive to the Upper Villa would take an hour and a half with good traffic. She had never been to that side of Canterlot, but according to the stories, it was supposed to be their version of Beverly Hills.
Trixie turned the radio on the break the silence. As usual, it was set to Cadence’s radio station. Sunset made a small noise in the back of her throat but said nothing. It didn’t bother her as much as it used to.
When the song came to an end, Cadence popped on. “And that was Ambrosia’s ‘Midnight Love’ one of my new favorites! Now, I’ve been getting a lot of requests recently to play songs from the Dazzlings. Guys, you should know better,” she said in a fake scolding voice, “I only play love songs, so when they write one, I’ll play one.”
Trixie shook her head. “Trixie doesn’t understand what people see in them. They’re okay at best. She can’t figure out why half the country is going gaga over them.”
Sunset shrugged. “I’ve never even heard of them.”
“They’re just the next girl pop band. In a year, no one will even remember who they are.”
They fell back into silence, though Sunset got some satisfaction that they had held a conversation, however short. She watched the suburban scenery fly by before they got onto the freeway heading north. Moondancer had offered to pick Twilight up herself, and in a limo no less. To Sunset’s unspoken chagrin, Twilight had said yes.
Sunset resisted the urge to smash her forehead against the window. Who wouldn’t say yes to riding in a limousine? And what could Sunset say: no, Twilight couldn’t go and spend time with her best friend? Although Sunset was sure Moondancer was doing it to prove some point, she had no counter for it.
Well, nothing legal at least. She shook her head. She was past that stage in her life. The easy and grown-up thing to do was sit down and have a calm talk with Moondancer. Or punch her in the face, but Sunset was sure Twilight would resent that action.
The hour ticked by, filled with love songs accompanied by Trixie’s humming, and Cadence giving love advice on the air. Sunset found that desperate lovestruck idiots asking for help on live radio was more entertaining than she would have thought.
“...And he always makes it up to me with expensive gifts, but I don’t know if I can handle coming home to find him in bed with someone else again,” a forlorn woman told Cadence, sounding close to tears.
“Sweetheart, once is a mistake, twice is counselling. He’s done this to you seven times. You should have dumped him a long time ago.”
There was a loud sniffle. “You’re right. Should I give back the puppy then?”
“Oh no, keep the puppy. Dogs are more loyal than men anyway. Love you, Shiny!” she quickly added. “But… you might want to leave the knife sharpener.”
Sunset scoffed. “Should keep the knife sharpener.”
The road elevated and began to zigzag and curve up the mountain side. Sunset could see the pricey homes and luxurious condos sitting on the cliffs, surrounded by the limbs of dead trees. Still, these mansions were beautiful to behold, and Sunset could only imagine how much they cost.
Trixie pulled up to the community gate, where a bored looking security officer sat in his booth, playing his radio. Sunset could hear a trio of voices singing.
“We’re here to see Moondancer,” Trixie said.
The guard simply nodded, barely looking away from the radio. He pressed a button, and the gate creaked open. “Very top, you literally can’t miss it.”
As they drove on, Sunset made out some of the lyrics to the song.
You didn't know that you fell.
They continued to drive upwards, passing mansion after mansion, fountain after fountain, sculpture after sculpture. The community parks even had play structures painted ivory and gold. It reminded Sunset of Equestria’s Canterlot.
A three story manor sat at the top of the Upper Villa, with its own open gate and a marble wall surrounding the property. Trixie pulled into the roundabout driveway and stopped.
Stepping out of the car, Sunset had to tilt her head back to see the top of Moondancer’s mansion. There were four pointed spires at the corners of the arched roof, giving it a castle like appearance. Large windows decorated the front, and four stone columns flanked the entrance. Another fountain sat in the middle of the rotunda, this one painted gold and with three cherubs spitting water.
Sunset turned around and looked at the view of the city. She could see everything, even the Everfree Forest miles off on the other side. She crossed her arms and looked away. “All right fine, I’m jealous.”
Trixie let out a longing sigh. “Trixie wishes she had enough money to buy a house like this. I always loved it when we got to come over.”
A tall man with salt and pepper hair and an expensive looking suit stepped out from the oak front doors. “Ah, Miss Lulamoon, how nice to see you again.”
“Hello, Mr. Porter, it’s nice to see you too.”
Mr. Porter turned to Sunset. “And you must be Miss Shimmer. Lady Moondancer is awaiting you both in the back garden; please, allow me to escort you.”
She even has a butler, Sunset thought bitterly. In essence, Moondancer had everything Sunset did before she ran through the mirror. She’s like Princess Twilight… Sunset stopped at the threshold, eyes wide with smoldering fury. They narrowed to dangerous slits. Congrats, Princess. You have competition.
Upon entering the manor, Sunset looked down at the polished floor only to stare at herself in an immaculate reflection. Above her reflection’s head hung an enormous chandelier with hundreds of mini crystals dangling off its arms. Caught in the light, they shone in a spectrum of colors.
Porter led them past the grand staircase, with its rich red velvet carpeting and bronze handrails. Instead, they went down a large corridor, passing the kitchen, where a maid was setting out porcelain tea cups, and the dining room, with a black table large enough to sit twenty people comfortably. They finally reached the back door and exited into the garden.
It was impossibly full of life! Roses, lavender, honeysuckle, snapdragons. Azaleas and orchids and firebird dahlias—flowers of every type were in full bloom, releasing heavenly fragrances that numbed Sunset’s brain upon first contact. Hummingbirds and bumblebees lazily drifted from flower to flower, taking in the sweet nectar of the floral paradise. Perfectly trimmed green hedges ran along the garden walls, where ivy hung in abundance. A stream ran through the garden, splitting it in half and wrapping around the gazebo in the center where Twilight and Moondancer waited.
Sunset approached, keeping her arms crossed. “How on earth are you keeping this garden alive in the middle of winter?”
Moondancer spun in place and stuck her thumb out. “I’ve got a green thumb!” She paused, then shrugged. “A professional gardener doesn’t hurt either.”
A loud shriek of delight made all four of them jump. Fluttershy stood with Rainbow at the front of the garden, the former covering her mouth with her hands, her cheeks as pink as her hair. “Sorry… I just… I got excited.” Fluttershy took her time down the path, stopping several times to smell the flowers are watch the hummingbirds.
Rainbow cut straight for the gazebo and took a seat at the glass table. “Nice garden, Moonprancer.”
“Um, it’s Moondancer,” she said, “and thank you.”
Fluttershy took a seat next to Rainbow. “Oh yes, it’s absolutely lovely! I can’t believe it’s flourishing like this in the winter time! You even have honeybees! My mother keeps a garden in our backyard, but it’s nothing like this!”
Moondancer flicked her wrist. “Oh, Fluttershy, you have such kind words, you’re embarrassing me. But do go on.” Twilight pinched her shoulder and she giggled. “I jest, of course.”
Rainbow leaned over to Sunset and whispered, “Seriously, who uses the word ‘jest’?”
Rarity, Pinkie, and Applejack were the last to arrive, each marveling at the miniature Eden. “Whooweee,” Applejack said, “that’s a lot of flowers. Ah tip mah hat to whoever keeps this place lookin’ perty.”
Everyone gathered at the table, and Moondancer’s maid Lemon Fresh brought out the tea, served in a silver teapot, and an assortment of cookies on a silver plate. Pinkie quickly snatched three cookies and shoved them into her mouth. “Manks fer the cookes, Moomrancer.”
Moondancer grimaced. “You’re welcome, love.”
Rarity tutted. “Pinkie, do not talk with your mouth full. You know better.”
Pinkie made a loud swallow. “Sorry, they just looked so tasty!” She reached for another one, but Rarity smacked her hand.
“Let everyone else have one first.” Rarity relaxed herself, taking a careful sip of her tea. When she finished, she pressed her hands to her face and squealed. “I can’t believe it! I’m having tea in the Upper Villa, the height of Canterlot high society!”
Moondancer waved a hand. “Oh, it’s not that special. We just have a nice view.”
“And a giant house,” Rainbow said, eyeing her tea with a scrunched nose.
Moondancer brushed her bangs over her shoulder. “Well, that is a bonus.” She raised her cup to her lips, keeping her pinky out as she took a dainty sip.
Sunset took a sip of her own tea, surprised to find it a rich cinnamon flavor. It was so well-blended, Sunset didn’t feel the need to add milk or sugar. All right… that’s one point for her.
“So, Moondancer, Twilight told us you did some modeling in France,” Rarity said, leaning forward excitedly. “You must tell us how that went.”
“Well, there isn’t much of a story to tell really,” Moondancer said with an airy laugh. “I originally went there for some cosmetic and hair care products.” She gave her hair a light fluff. “Then, they were so enraptured by my natural talent, that they wanted me to model a few dresses, so I stayed a bit longer than I thought I would. In between shoots, I got to tour the country—it’s beyond lovely, you should really see it for yourself.”
“Did you see Paris? What was Paris like?” Rarity bounced in her seat.
Moondancer raised a hand to the sky. “Absolutely stunning! There are no adequate words to describe the sheer beauty of the City of Lights!” She turned and cupped Twilight’s cheeks. “I promise, I’ll take you there myself someday, my little star.”
“That’s really sweet of you, Moony,” Twilight said between her squished cheeks.
Sunset gripped her cup extra tight, wondering if she could break it with enough force. If that didn’t work, she could always try beating it over Moondancer’s thick head.
Composure, Sunset. She took another sip of her tea. She’s lucky it tastes so good.
Applejack spoke up. “So, Moondancer, got any hobbies or pastimes?”
“Well, theater is my pride and joy. Gymnastics, ballet, piano,” she said, counting off her fingers.
“Don’t you play any sports?” Rainbow asked. She had pushed her tea away and focused squarely on the cookies.
“I just said gymnastics.”
“Pfft, barely counts,” Rainbow muttered, leaning back in her chair.
Pinkie waved her hand. “Ooh, ooh, do you have any embarrassing stories about Twilight?”
Twilight bolted upright. “No!” She looked at Moondancer. “Of course you don’t!” She looked back at Pinkie. “Why would you even ask that?”
Sunset brushed against Twilight’s arm. “Your strong denial tells us otherwise, Sparky.”
“You stay out of this!”
Moondancer wrapped her arms around Twilight and pulled her into a hug, eliciting a mental hiss from Sunset. “Oh, I would never dream of embarrassing you, Twilly.” Her lips curled upwards. “Buuuuuuut… there was this one time in tenth grade—”
Twilight struggled against Moondancer’s grip, raising her hands to try and cover her mouth. “Moony,” she whined.
“—I convinced Twilight to try out for the school play with me. I thought it might help her come out of her shell and shine like the pearl she is! Naturally, she landed a role—”
Twilight struggled harder now, but it appeared Moondancer was stronger than she looked. Then again, Sunset thought, caught between amused and thoroughly annoyed, Twilight isn’t very strong to begin with.
“—So, being the adorable, studious bookworm she is, Twilight memorizes the entire script. She’d make any true thespian proud. Come—mmmph! Peh…” Twilight had finally gotten a hand near Moondancer’s mouth, but still couldn’t silence her. “Come opening night, Twilight gets up on stage for her first speaking line and—mmmhmmph! Poor dear was so nervous, she accidently says the other actor’s entire speech before realizing her mistake.”
Twilight went limp and pressed her face into the table. She let out a loud muffled groan. “It was so embarrassing. The other kid didn’t know what to say, so we were both just standing there while the audience stared at us. I had to start all over again, and I was even more nervous then. I tripped over every word.”
Sunset pet Twilight’s hair bun. “Come on, Sparky, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.”
“Indeed,” Moondancer said. “I found it comically delightful. Besides, not everyone starts off a master of the stage. Many great actors have terrible first experiences.” She brushed her hair back again. “Except for me; my debut was perfect. But that’s beside the point.”
Sunset rolled her eyes. She leaned over and whispered into Twilight’s ear, “So between that and fondling me, which was worse?”
Twilight shot up, her cheeks Sunset’s favorite shade of red. “I didn’t fondle you!”
Trixie raised an eyebrow. “You fondled Sunset? Is this before or after you starting dating?”
“I didn’t fondle her!”
Rainbow whistled. “Wow, Twilight, I didn’t think you had it in you.”
Twilight pulled at her bangs and let out a pained whine.
“Tell the story, tell the story!” Pinkie said, hopping in her seat.
Sunset smirked, catching Moondancer’s eye as she began. “Well, Twilight and I went to the mall a little before Halloween last year. She bought me a strawberry milkshake, and while we were sitting down, she knocked it all over my chest and tried to clean—Mmmmph!”
Twilight shoved a cookie into Sunset’s mouth. “Sunset cuddles and makes baby noises at the puppies in the animal shelter!”
Sunset nearly spat her cookie out. She forcefully swallowed the part she had bit off and dropped the rest into her lap. “How do you know that?” she asked over her friends' loud snickers.
“Fluttershy told me.”
Sunset tried to lock eyes with Fluttershy, but she had already retreated behind her wall of pink hair. My justice shall be swift and merciless, Fluttershy.
Pinkie snorted. “Come on, Sunset, that’s not that embarrassing. Not like the time you turned in—”
Pinkie pressed her face into the table while she held her shin underneath. Sunset sat up straight, trying her hardest to play off her lightning quick kick. She took a bite of her cookie and asked, “You okay, Pinks?”
“Uh-huh,” she said in a higher pitched voice. “I meant to say the time you turned your paper in late. Ha… ha.”
Moondancer tilted her head. “Is she going to be all right?”
Sunset nodded. “Yep, she’s just being Pinkie.”
“Well then…” Moondancer crossed her fingertips. “That was certainly more entertaining than I thought it would be.” Lemon Fresh came out and restocked their tea and cookies while everyone waited for someone to start the next part of the conversation.
Surprisingly, it was Rainbow who spoke, looking a little more relaxed than when she had first came in. “All right, I gotta know, how the heck are you so rich?”
“Rainbow!” Rarity chided.
“What? We’re all thinking it.”
Moondancer just made a throaty chuckle. “It really isn’t anything too glamorous. No rags to riches story. My father already came from a well off family. He just took their fortune and made it even larger. He now owns a multi-million dollar conglomerate. Simple, really.” She pointed off the mountain. “The headquarters is actually downtown. You’ve seen Canterlot Tower, yes?”
Applejack whistled. “That’s the tallest building in the city.”
“Again, we just like the view.”
Sunset quietly sighed through her nose. While this wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be, she had grown quite bored, and her leg was starting to cramp up. “Where’s your bathroom?” she asked, standing from the table.
“Down the hall, across the foyer—” Moondancer stopped and hummed. “You know, it might be easier if I show you.”
Sunset fought to keep her face straight. “You really don’t have to.”
“Oh it’s no trouble, really.” Moondancer got up. “You girls talk amongst yourselves, we’ll be right back.” She led Sunset back into the house and across the entrance hall. They crossed through a large sitting room with shelves stacked with books and atlases, and a fireplace. Moondancer pointed to the door on the other side. “There’s the bathroom. But you don’t actually have to use it, do you?” The pleasantness never left her voice.
With a small harrumph, Sunset said, “So I just wanted to stretch my legs. That’s not a problem is it?”
Moondancer just continued to smile at her, but it was the intelligent kind of smile Sunset knew all too well. She had given it to her opponents whenever she knew more than they did, which was most of the time. “Sunset, as an actor, I’ve learned to read people quite well, and I have the distinct feeling you don’t like me.”
Sunset looked away. She supposed she hadn’t been doing a very good job to hide that fact, though Moondancer didn’t seem torn up about it. Sunset shoved her hands in her jacket pockets. “Don’t take it personally, I don’t like a lot of people.”
“Oh, it’s quite all right. I have reservations about you as well.”
Sunset looked back at her with a smirk. “Is it because I stole your best friend?”
For the first time, Moondancer’s smile fell to a thin line. “That’s a vast proportion of it, yes.” She walked over to the window and stared out at the front lawn. “Twilight Sparkle is one of the few true friends I have. She’s pure and honest and sweet.” Moondancer let out a dreamy sigh. “And her eyes…. Simply cosmic!”
Moondancer looked over her shoulder. “Right. My point being, I was enticed by her very aura the moment I saw her. But she was an introverted and shy soul. I could never force myself upon her. So, I made myself content to just be near her, making her happy whenever I could, cultivating and tending to her like a delicate flower.” She fully turned to Sunset. “And the moment I leave, she blossoms for someone else. Do you know how that makes me feel, Sunset?”
With her voice neutral the entire time, Sunset found it hard to tell. “I’m gonna go with furious.”
“Beyond all measure,” Moondancer said in clipped tones. “However…” She took a step forward. “As I understand it, you saved her from a fate most vile. You were there for her when I could not be, and she speaks of you in such a high regard.”
Sunset’s cheeks heated up. “She does?”
“Of course she does!” Moondancer threw her hands up. “She looks at you the way I wish she had looked at me for four years!” She took a deep breath and brought her hands down. “But… it is not to be. I am angry… and jealous. And I hate having these dark emotions outside of my acting roles.” She took another step forward. “But, I am also thankful. Without you, my beautiful flower would have been sullied, and I would have to tear the world asunder in retribution.” She crossed an arm over her chest and bowed. “So, Sunset Shimmer, you have my deepest thanks.”
“Err, you’re welcome.”
Moondancer straightened up. “However…” She pointed a well-manicured finger at Sunset. “I find your character dubious at best. Twilight deserves only the finest, and I will always be there to make sure she has it.”
Sunset narrowed her eyes. This was honestly the sort of conversation she expected to have with Twilight’s parents. “Are you sure you’re her best friend and not her mother?”
“I’m whatever she needs me to be. Above all, I am her guardian angel, and I shall be watching you, Sunset.” Her smile returned. “In the meantime, I will endeavor to further our… acquaintanceship.”
Sunset smirked again. “What’s the matter, Moondancer? Don’t want to be friends with me?”
Sunset paused. Then threw her head back and laughed. “Huh, maybe you’re not as bad as I thought. Too bad the feeling’s mutual.” She crossed her arms. “But sure, I’ll play along with our ‘acquaintanceship’ for Twilight’s sake, on the condition that there are ground rules.”
Moondancer raised an eyebrow. “Such as?”
“One: stop touching her face.”
Moondancer pouted for a second, sticking her bottom lip out, then perked up like nothing happened. “Fine, no touching—”
“Or the rest of her body.”
She pouted again.
Sunset raised a finger. “You get her arms and her shoulders. Touch her anywhere else, and I might be forced to hit you.”
“Rule two,” Sunset continued, “no trying to sabotage our relationship.”
Moondancer smiled and closed her eyes. “Oh, I won’t have to. You’ll screw it up eventually. And when you do, I’ll be waiting for my little star with open arms.”
Sunset growled. “We’ll see about that.” She struck her hand out. “So, do we have a deal?”
“Very well.” Moondancer gripped Sunset’s hand. “I find your accords acceptable.”
To Sunset’s surprise, Moondancer had a very strong handshake. Sunset increased her own pressure, and Moondancer responded in turn, trying to crush Sunset’s hand.
Both girls continued to smile at each other with false pleasantness.