The Wooing of Sunset Shimmer

by Rose Quill

Chapter Sixteen - Christmas Eve

The day was fast approaching, and I was petrified. We had decided to come clean Christmas Eve to the Sparkles and Cadence after dinner, but I had started to dread the season entirely.

Twilight, conversely, had seemingly regressed the closer Christmas got, every event being given joy of an almost child-like variety. We had gone out to the local island of lights the night before - the outer walking path of the park had been decorated with strands of light, decorations, and interesting scenes. The horse-drawn carriage took us around the park slowly, allowing us to appreciate the spectacle of luminosity as we sat together under a warm blanket. After the trip, I stepped forward and gave the horse a pat on the neck, eliciting a whicker of approval. The bay gelding seemed to recognize a kindred spirit as he leaned forward and tried to nuzzle me.

"Whoa, there," I said with a laugh. "I'm taken, I'm afraid."

Throughout the entire week, Twilight had slowly started bouncing in excitement, seeming more like Pinkie Pie than the studious bookworm I loved at every family tradition. This was a side to her I hadn’t seen before, and I loved the child-like wonderment she portrayed. Even her scientific ramblings took on a more innocent joy to them as she spoke on the history of some of the customs or books that a movie was based on. Not even the looming prospect of telling her parents about my origins seemed to bother her anymore.

I, though, had been having dreams about it. Not the terrible, angst-ridden ones I had following my mother’s death or the laying awake listening to the voices that ridiculed me. Normal, scared-to-death dreams that all people have.

I mentioned it to Applejack when I went and picked up Twilight’s gift. I had given it to the farmer before we left for Hearth’s Warming, knowing out of all our friends she would be the best to hold it and not open it. I knew Twilight would have looked for it out of curiosity - she had an overabundance of that - and Fluttershy would have been too nervous about it. Rarity and Rainbow Dash would have opened it to see what it was and ruined the surprise, be it through excitement or wanting to lord it over Twilight. Pinkie would have been a good keeper, but she tended to be a little over-zealous about secrets at times. The whole whispering of 'forever' whenever a Pinkie Swear was made in her presence was evidence enough of that.

“Thanks for holding this, AJ,” I said as I tucked the green-wrapped package into my coat pocket.

“T’weren’t nothin', sugar cube,” she said, twisting the cap off a bottle of cider. “Ah just wish Ah could be there when she opens it.”

I gave her a suspicious look. “You didn’t peek, did you?”

The blonde girl shook her head. “Naw,” she said. “Ah wouldn’ do that, ‘specially after you told me how important it was.” She gave me a wink. “Ah just want to know what it is, is all.”

I smiled back at the girl. “You’ll find out at the bonfire, if not sooner,” I said. “I don’t know if Twilight is comfortable sending picture messages or not. But she’s also acting like a big kid lately, so maybe she will.”

Applejack laughed. “Ah reckon your right,” she said. “Ya’ll have fun, now.”

My smile faltered a bit. “Yeah,” I whispered. "Fun."

“Merry Christmas, Sunset,” Cadence said as I came into the house. She gave me a warm hug after I hung up my coat. I returned it readily and handed her the package in its green wrapping paper. She gave me a curious look after seeing its size and shape but didn’t say anything, just put it on a pile of gifts in the living room. Shining Armor came in from outside, shaking snow from his hair. He came over with a hug and ruffled my hair.

“Welcome to the insanity, Sunset,” he said. “Twilight’s in the backyard and dinner’ll be around six if Mom and Dad have made it by then.”

After retrieving my jacket, I stepped outside, looking around for the purple-haired girl. “Twilight?” I called, turning around…

Just in time to take a snowball to the face. I slipped on a patch of ice from the impact and landed flat on my back, groaning as the air flew from my lungs..

I wiped the snow from my face as I lay there, a look of disbelief shining through as a grinning Twilight popped up from behind a bush, a dusting of snow on her coat and toboggan. Her face paled when she saw me on the ground gasping.

“Sunny!” she gasped as she rushed over. “Are you ok?”

“Just my pride, Twi,” I groaned. “My pride, and maybe a hip.”

She helped me up, brushing snow off my coat. “I didn’t think I threw that hard,” she said.

I pounded my foot down, cracking the hidden patch of ice. “World hazards,” I said. “Did your brother send me out here just to take his place in the snowball war?”

“Probably,” she said. “Cadence also asked him for help with the cooking.”

“What’s on the menu?” I asked.

“Ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and Mom’s homemade biscuits,” she smiled. “I made dessert.”

I grinned. “Cookies?”

She shook her head, grinning. “Just wait and see,” she said.

I looked around for a moment. “This is a really nice place,” I said. “Peaceful, even.”

She looked around too, sliding an arm around my waist. “Shiny and Cadence moved here not long ago,” she said. "Gave them some space to plan the wedding away from Mom and Daddy, some autonomy.”

I looked at her as her face went from the childlike glee to serious again.

“You’re forgetting something, Twilight,” I said as I slid my arm across the small of her back.

She turned to me, a curious look on her face. “What?”

I locked my hands together and heaved, picking her up and aiming for the deep drift of snow I had spotted during my gazing around. “Never let your guard down in a snow war!” I laughed as I dumped her shrieking into it.

She burrowed up from the snow, scooping it together into a snowball. “I’m going to get you for that!” she laughed as I skipped away, dodging for cover and ammunition of my own.

We both huddled next to the fireplace, warming up from the snow battle. Shining Armor had poked his head out to let us know that the Sparkle parents had arrived and narrowly dodged a snowball lobbed by his sister. Despite a chill that had seeped into my bones from the frigid temperatures, I felt warm.

Could have done without the bruise I felt forming on my left hip, but them’s the breaks in winter.

There were a few clattering sounds from the kitchen and Cadence swept out to the living room, a large porcelain bowl in her hands. “Dinner is served,” she said, smiling as her fiancé and Twilight Velvet followed with other dishes.

Twilight scrambled to her feet, pulling me up with a solemn declaration.

“Cadence makes the best mashed potatoes,” she said. “They’re so good.”

“No love for the main course?” Shining Armor said as he set the baked ham down.

I raised my hand. “Vegetarian by allergy,” I reminded him. Twilight had related the tale so as to make meals I was invited to feel less restricted.

“It’s a baked ham, Shiny,” Twilight said. “It’s hard to make a bad ham.”

He frowned at her, and she stuck her tongue out in reply.

“Ok, you two,” came the gentle tone of Night Light. “Don’t make me separate you.”

Dinner was a lot like the last one i had been to, a lot of jokes, catching up and stories. Twilight and I gave a carefully edited version of our trip to Equestria, limiting it to our times with my sisters and the trip to a local dance. We didn’t want to drop anything bigger until after dinner. I caught Cadence giving us a sly look a couple times during our story, but I didn’t think anything of it.

The food was delicious, and the mashed potatoes were a delight. Fluffy without being too loose, there was a hint of garlic and something I couldn’t quite put my mind on. I looked towards Cadence, swallowing the fluffy mouthful.

“What did you put in these to make them like that?” I asked, preparing a mental note.

“Besides milk, potatoes, and butter? Garlic and sour cream.” She took a bite of green beans before asking her follow-up. “Good?”

“Heavenly,” I said, helping myself to another forkful.

"I'll jot the recipe down for you then," she said with a smile.

To be honest, all the food at the table that I tried was exceptional. The biscuits had been baked with a bit of honey in the dough, the green bean casserole had the perfect balance of creamy base and beans. I was honestly surprised that none of them had a cooking cutie mark in Equestria.

After we had all finished eating the main courses, Twilight hopped up and brought out a large casserole dish with what looked like a three-layered confection within. I would have called it a parfait if not for the dish it was in. She served out squares of the dish and I looked at my serving. It consisted of layers of crushed pretzels, whipped cream, and orange fruit gelatin on top.

“This looks…interesting,” I said.

“Wait till you try it,” Twilight Velvet said. “This is one of her specialties.”

I took a bite and was pleasantly surprised. The pretzels gave it a nice crunch while the whipped cream and fruit gave it a sweet and tangy taste. I finished it with satisfaction, my belly feeling sated, possibly a touch overly so.

We retired to the living room, the same situation as before, hot chocolate and soft couches. Twilight started to get fidgety, realizing that we were running out of time for our reveal.

“Um, Mom, Daddy,” she started, tapping her index fingers together. “There’s something we have to tell you.”

Her parents turned towards us with curious looks, Night Light's involving a slight frown. I felt the bottom drop out from my heart as my fear shot up and I felt Twilight’s fear echo off mine.

“It has to do with me and where I'm from," I said hesitantly as Twilight took a deep breath.

Twilight took up the conversation again. "Please, let us finish before you ask any questions, and…”

“She’s an exchange student from a world with magic. A pony, if I recall correctly,” Night Light said as though discussing the weather. “Isn’t that about what you said, Cadence?”

The lithe woman nodded, a smile creeping up on her face.

My girlfriend and I sat in shock, dumbfounded.

“How?” I stammered.

“You didn’t think Twilight’s transferring was as easy as just moving schools, did you?” Twilight Velvet said with humor in her voice. “Cadence told us what happened at the Games when she suggested we let you transfer to CHS.”

“We thought it best that you be close to someone that would be able to help control your…enthusiastic magic research,” her father added in.

Twilight was sputtering in confusion. “When did you find out?” she finally asked.

“About a week after I brought it up,” Cadence said. “Total disclosure of what I knew.”

I leaned forward, head in my hands. Twilight was still in shock, but I started laughing, a weight flying from my shoulders. All the tension, all the worry just started to leak out in rueful laughter.

“We’ve been worrying about telling you for weeks!” my special someone squeaked out. "I've been worried sick over you finding out and how you'd react!"

“Which is why we didn’t bring it up,” Velvet said. “It was for you to relate when you were comfortable enough.”

I couldn’t help but lean back and smile. Twilight was still upset, her cheeks puffing up in frustration. I rubbed her back and smiled. “Breathe, Twilight,” I cooed.

She sat back with a “hmmph” and folded her arms.

“If I could ask, is that why the insistence on my coming to dinner?” I inquired of the elder Sparkles.

“To a point,” Night Light said. “I mainly wanted to see this girl that was able to save my daughter from herself.” He looked at said daughter. “She's always had a tendency to go too far in her search for knowledge.”

“Do not!”

“You broke your arm when you were seven because you just had to know what the squirrels were hiding in that dead branch, even after we told you it wouldn’t hold your weight,” Velvet said. “Being told something never sated your curiosity.”

The simmering bookworm next to me looked down in embarrassment, her arms crossed sullenly. I looked at her with a smirk.

“So that wasn’t the only time you messed with things you didn’t understand,” I joked, giving her shoulders a rub.

“Oh, the stories we could tell,” Velvet said.