Rainbow Dash was standing there, looking down at her. Not the pony one. That one was still inside Cadance’s barrier. It was the human one. But how could she be in Equestria? Had she come through the portal too?
“Look, Sunset!” she said, “I’m the coolest and most powerful around, but even I know that I can’t do everything alone.”
“That’s right!” said Pinkie Pie, who appeared just as mysteriously. “You need us, just like we need you! That’s what friends are for!”
“So stop beating yourself up, darling,” said Rarity, “because that’s just what that monster wants you to think. It tried to make you think that you were all alone, but we’ve always been here, even if it made you forget with its dark magic.”
“You’re not alone, Sunset!” said Fluttershy, smiling down at her. She put a hand to her chest. “Before you left we all gave you a piece of our hearts. We’ve always been here beside you, cheering you on.” Bending down she put a comforting hand on Sunset’s head, gently rubbing it. “There’s still time for redemption. It’s all up to you.”
“But… but I,” started Sunset, “I’ve done so many terrible things today. There’s no way they’ll forgive me!”
“Whether they will or won’t ain’t the concern here, Sugarcube,” said Applejack. “There are ponies in danger, ponies who only ya'll can help. Like Rarity said, givin’ up is what that thing wants. We’re all here fer ya ta the end.”
Fluttershy nodded. “Applejack’s right. You can’t give up now. We won’t ever let that happen. You fought past all the anger and the hatred and the cold stares of the others to make yourself into a new person once before.”
Rainbow smirked down at her. “Now just do it one more time, and kick some monster butt!”
Rarity said encouragingly, “Being afraid of not being forgiven is what got you into this trouble in the first place, but it shouldn’t stop you from doing the right thing now, not now that you finally got your heart back.”
Pinkie put a hand on her shoulder as well. “Go get him, Sunset! Show him the real power of the magic of friendship.”
Sunset felt tears coming down her eyes. “You’ll stay by my side? You won’t leave me? Even after the things I did today?”
“Of course not!” said Rainbow. “You’re never alone so long as you have us. Stop letting those heavy thoughts weigh you down. It’s time to take action! Now MOVE IT!” She got one of her confident grins on her face, pointing towards the Element on the ground.
Sunset could feel their reassurance, their words melting her despair away. They were right! It was all up to her. Whatever happened in the aftermath could wait. She could feel their hearts alongside hers. A measure of strength returned to her. She wasn’t alone now. Her friends were with her all the way, even through her very worst behavior.
She lifted one of her front legs, pulling as she used one of her back legs to facilitate the movement. When she tried to do the same with the other set she winced in pain as her injured leg throbbed. Ignoring her one bad leg she focused on her three good legs.
She strained her body to its upmost, ignoring the pain as she crawled, inch by inch, toward the Element.
“Come on, Sunset!” “You can do it!” “Don’t give up!” “Just a little further!” “Keep fightin’, Sugarcube!”
She heard the voices of her friends egging her on, making her struggle on despite how much she wanted to just pass out. Before it had felt like it was ten miles away. Now it seemed so much closer.
With one last burst of strength she reached it. Reaching out her hooves she grabbed it. She giggled drunkenly. “Got you!” She tried to use her magic to move the Element but couldn’t get a reaction from her horn. Stymied, she asked, “What should I do now?”
“Put it on,” said Pinkie, “and borrow some power from it.”
Fear overtook her. “I-I can’t! It won’t accept me. The last time I put it on it changed me into a monster!”
Fluttershy said kindly, “The Elements are a reflection of our own hearts. You were a monster inside when you first put it on. Now you’re different. Don’t be afraid, Sunset. Our hearts are with you.”
She lay down on the grass, holding a hand out toward Sunset. The rest of them followed suit, sitting down on the grass as well. Each of them were holding hands, Fluttershy and Rarity each holding a hand toward her. “Six of us, just like it should be. Do it now, Sunset!”
Sunset looked at each of them for a few moments before she extended her two hooves to them, completing the circle.
“It will be alright, Sunset,” said Pinkie encouragingly. “Don’t be afraid.”
Sunset glanced over toward the conflict, seeing Cadance was close to giving out, the monster almost through her barrier. There was no time to debate. Using her magic she lifted the Element of Magic onto her head.
She grimaced, waiting to see what would happen. If she turned into a monster again it really would spell the end of Equestria. The seconds ticked by, but nothing happened. She remained a pony. She let out a long sigh of relief. She looked around to her friends, tears coming down her eyes again. “Thank you, everyone!”
She closed her eyes, focusing her attention on the Element. “Please!” she begged. “Please help! Give me the power to help my friends. I don’t want it for myself. I only want it for them! Please! Just a tiny bit. I don’t want to see Equestria destroyed by that darkness.”
Nothing. There was absolutely no reaction from the Element. Her heart sank. To the end, it seemed she was destined to be a failure. Couldn’t it feel her determination? Her drive to protect others? What was she doing wrong?
“Sunset!” said Applejack. “Yer doin’ it again. Yer not alone, remember?”
“There is no ‘you,’” said Fluttershy, “Because all of us are one.”
“You’re still too much in your head,” said Rarity. “All of us are here too.”
Sunset heard their words, glancing around and seeing their conjoined hands(and in her case, hooves) and was reminded of how she was defeated the first time. She had attacked Twilight, but all Twilight’s friends protected her, unintentionally embodying their Elements despite not actually having them.
“We’re your friends, Sunset!” said Pinkie. “And you’re never alone so long as we’re around.”
“Now do it properly this time!” said Rainbow Dash. “The Elements are all team players. They only show their true power when they work-”
“TOGETHER!” all of them said simultaneously.
She had lost to their unity back then. And now she was in the exact same position as the sixth member. She could feel their unfailing support lifting her up, giving strength to her heart.
A feeling of calm fell over her. She felt she knew what she had to do. She filled her mind with the feelings she had for her friends, letting their love fill her up. Her panic and fear ebbed away, leaving a strange calmness. With her friends in her heart and by her side, what did she really have to fear from Stardust? “Please,” she said quietly, “give us the power to win. There is much more than myself at risk. We’re all fighting as one here for the same goal.”
Her composure suddenly broke as she began to cry. “Please! I’ve lived as a monster, selfish and stupid and evil, betraying the one’s that really cared for me. I don’t want to die a monster too! Give us just a little bit of power. Just enough for us to win! Please…”
It felt like a miracle. She could feel a small trickle of energy going into her body. She got a strange, dazed smile on her face, hardly daring to believe it. “I… WE did it.”
She gathered up the energy inside her, looking towards Stardust. If she attacked him now he would never expect it. Her excitement rose, but quickly fell. She shook her head. That was wrong. As she was just reminded the Elements were team players. They only showed their true power when they were together. It wasn’t her place to claim victory here. Twilight was the true wielder of the Element of Magic, and only she could use the Element to its full potential.
She didn’t need to be a hero in the spotlight. It was enough to know she had done what she had hoped to all along: to help Twilight defeat an evil monster. They didn’t fight side-by-side as she would have liked, but she had been the one to give that final push, to help save the day just when things seemed their most hopeless.
Her horn began to glow. She struggled to concentrate. There was a flash, and the Element disappeared, appearing right near Twilight.
Sunset laughed giddily, her eyes half-lidded. “We… we did it, you guys!” She suddenly noticed the feeling of being held had vanished. She looked around, but her friends had disappeared as mysteriously as they had appeared. “Guys? W-where’d they go?” she mused, but she didn’t have much chance to mull it over.
A feeling of exhaustion passed over her, and her head flopped down, the need to sleep becoming overpowering. She wanted to watch the end of the battle, for Twilight to crush Stardust, but that wasn't in the cards.
‘Thank you… my friends,’ she thought weakly. She had no idea if she was going to wake up again, but she had made her dent. She had delivered the Element back to its true wielder and ensured Equestria would be safe again.
‘Please… Twilight. Stay… a… live.’ With a sigh she closed her eyes, unable to stay awake any longer.