Looking Glass

by Krickis


20 – Pushing Boundaries

Chapter Twenty

Pushing Boundaries

On some level, Sunset knew she should be excited for the evening. It would be her first time going to a concert, and Flash had been right about the band being good. It wasn’t like she had any other plans, and even if it did mean hanging out with Flash on a Saturday, he wasn’t that bad.

But still, Sunset just couldn’t bring herself to be interested. She had thought about cancelling, but she knew it was more important than ever to do something to keep herself preoccupied. And so she found herself lying on her bed, staring blankly at the ceiling but otherwise ready to go.

She resisted the urge for as long as she could, but inevitably Sunset turned her gaze to the bedside table. All of her belongings from Equestria sat on top of it. The only person she had even needed to hide them from was herself, after all, and Sunset was done hiding.

Her eyes settled on the journal, ignoring everything else. She tried to ignore it, but could never manage to do so for long. Sometimes she would flip through it, making sure to be careful around the pages that had been torn out. She had carefully smoothed them over and placed them neatly back in the book, but she was constantly worried they would fall out and be lost.

Today, however, she simply stared. The journal remained motionless, as it had every day since Sunset started at CHS. It was kind of funny. For years, she had been terrified every time she imagined that the book was vibrating, which was a frequent occurrence. Now she would give anything for it to vibrate, for some sign that someone on the other side of the mirror was reaching out to her.

The journal did not vibrate, but eventually there came a knock on the door. “Sunset? It’s me. Uh, Flash.”

“Come in.” Sunset used the moment it took him to open the door to roll her eyes. Even if she didn’t recognize his voice, he knew she didn’t have any other friends. How many guys did he think came to her room?

By the time he opened the door, she was sitting up. He smiled and blushed. “You, uh, look nice.”

Sunset hadn’t exactly planned her outfit out too much, honestly. It was just jeans and a hoodie, which she figured would be appropriate for a concert. But the compliment was hardly a surprise, so she just shrugged and smirked. “Thanks. Let’s get out of here.”

“Sounds good.” Flash didn’t show any signs of being upset that Sunset hadn’t complimented him back. Perhaps he just knew better than to expect it.

They left Sunset’s room and made their way outside, stopping only to assure the caretaker at the front desk that Sunset would be back before it was too late.

Outside, Flash’s dad was waiting for them. Flash opened the passenger door, folded down the chair, then waited for Sunset to get in before climbing into the seat next to her.

“Hey, Sunset. Feeling better?” Bottled Lightning asked.

Sunset nodded. “Yeah, feeling much better now.” It was true, so long as persistent anxiety counted as ‘much better’ than overwhelming dread.

“That’s good. Wouldn’t want to miss more guitar lessons.” Lightning grinned as he pulled out onto the road. “At the rate you’re going, pretty soon it’ll be you two up on the stage.”

Sunset chuckled. “I don’t know about that. It’s fun and all, but I can’t really see myself joining a band.”

“Why not?” Flash asked. “I think it’d be kinda fun.”

“You mean besides the fact that I’m still learning? I already have school, journalism, and job hunting to balance. Adding band practice and shows is probably a bit much.”

“You really want a job that bad?” Lightning asked.

Sunset nodded. “I need one to get my own place.” And, of course, to give her a reason to spend less time with her thoughts.

Lightning shook his head. “I think you’re rushing things, but I guess I can’t blame you. I wasn’t a hell of a lot better when I was younger, and at least you’re sticking with school. Tell you what, my brother-in-law owns a grocery store near the school. If you put in an application for an after-school job, I’ll go ahead and put in a good word for you.”

Well, look at that. Keeping Flash around was worth it after all. “Thanks, Lightning. That’d be perfect.”

“Well, what can I say. You’re a good kid.”

It was nice to see she was doing a good job of fooling people into believing that, and even better that it was paying off for her. The less time she had to herself, the less time she spent around the journal, the better.

That was the main reason she wound up accepting Flash’s invitation to the concert, after all. The band was good and she was interested in seeing a live show, but she really just wanted to fill up time. And what better way to do that than with music blaring in her ears, making it impossible to think about anything else?

After a short drive through the city, they pulled up to a small concert venue. It was attached to a bar, which was getting more of a crowd than the venue was. They could already hear music coming through an open door.

“I’ll see you two in a bit then,” Lightning said. “Text me once the concert’s winding down so that you’re not waiting out here by yourselves.”

“Will do,” Flash said as they exited the car. “And thanks again!”

After one final wave, Bottled Lightning drove off. They walked together to the concert venue, where a bouncer drew X’s onto their hands to signify that they were too young for alcohol. Sunset wondered how hard it would be to remove them, but decided it didn’t matter anyway. Even if Flash would be okay with drinking – and that was a pretty big ‘if’, considering he was the golden boy – she doubted that the bartender would believe they were twenty-one, X’s or not.

They entered into a small room that served as a foyer. There were bathrooms to one side, and it was separated from the stage area, thus allowing for people to talk. Still, it was noticeably louder than it had been even just outside of the door, and Sunset was surprised at the amount of people still trying to talk over it.

They moved through the crowd of people slowly, and made their way to the main room. It was significantly larger, with both standing room directly in front of the stage and seating surrounding that in a U-shape.

A few people moved about the stage, but the first band still hadn’t come on. The music was a playlist of popular artists that sounded similar; a mix of some artists that Sunset knew and some she didn’t.

There was no way they could find seats. Even though they showed up half an hour early, every seat was taken. So they found a place near the seating where they could stand and wait. They were near enough to the stage that they’d be able to see most of it clearly.

“It’ll get better once the band is on,” Flash said, speaking loudly to be heard over the music.

There were so many people all around them, and everything smelled of sweat and spilled beer. They had to stand uncomfortably close, and people still barely squeezed past them to get to the bar. And since people kept filing in, that would all only grow more true as the night went on and the audience grew drunker.

And Sunset loved it. The commotion in her head had no room due to all the commotion outside of it. “No, this is great.”

Flash grinned at hearing that. “Do you want to be on the ground or in a seat when the band comes on?”

Sunset’s laugh couldn’t be heard over the music. “I don’t think we’re getting a seat.”

“No, we can. We just need to be quick.” Flash gestured around to a few seats where people were anxiously watching the stage. “Once the band starts, a lot of people are gonna try to get in front of the stage. If we’re quick, we can fill in an empty spot.”

“Good thinking. Let’s try to do that, then.”

They kept their eyes open for an empty spot while they waited for the band to start, but no one was moving. Sure enough, however, once the lights dimmed and the music cut off, a fair amount of people tried rushing into the already overcrowded area in front of the stage. Flash quickly led them to a booth, and not a moment too soon. They were clearly not the only ones who had the same idea, as every seat was filled as quickly as they were opened.

“The hard part’s getting onto the floor,” Flash said once they were seated, and Sunset could see exactly what he meant. It had already been packed in front of the stage when they arrived, and now people were just compressing together even more. Everyone who had waited for the last minute to give up their seats was stuck in the back, barely able to see the stage.

Sunset was about to point that out, but she was cut off by the whole band starting in unison. The sounds of the band’s instruments all sort of blended together, making it difficult to decipher the individual member’s contributions, but it didn’t matter. Suddenly, the music from before seemed quiet in comparison, as the live music was loud enough that Sunset couldn’t hear herself think. It was perfect.


“I can’t believe you went in the mosh pit!” Flash said after the second band finished their set.

“I can’t believe it was so much fun!” Sunset was still beaming. Despite the fact that she normally didn’t like to be touched, it had been oddly thrilling to jump into the chaos. Even more so once she got the hang of it and stopped just getting pushed around at the whim of everyone else.

They were lucky enough to find a couple open seats as everyone shuffled around. “I’ll go get us some drinks,” Flash said once they secured their spot.

“That’d be great, I’m pretty much ready to drop dead.” They had quickly run to the floor as soon as the first band finished up, filling in empty places while others made for the bar, merch tables, or to look for empty seats. On the plus side, they had great spots for the band they had actually come to see. On the downside, they hadn’t had the chance to actually get anything to eat or drink since they arrived.

There was one more band before the night was out, and neither Flash nor Sunset had heard of them before. Apparently they were kind of a big deal in the local scene, judging by the way most of the audience were talking about them.

Sunset sat back and watched the crew on the stage as they reset it for the next band. She kept herself uncomfortably stretched across the seat next to her, making sure no one tried to take it as she wondered what was taking Flash so long.

By the time he returned, the third band was already setting up. “Sorry it took so long.”

“Get lost on the way to the bathroom or something?” Sunset asked as she sat up properly.

“No, I stopped to get you something.” Flash handed her a bottle of water, then pulled a shirt out from under his arm. He unfolded it to reveal it had the logo of the band they had come to see on it.

“Hey, that’s pretty cool! Thanks, Flash.”

“No problem. I just hope I got the right size.”

Sunset took the shirt and held it up to her torso. “I think it’ll be a good fit.”

“Good.” Flash took a drink from his own water bottle then looked around. “So, how do you like your first concert?”

“It’s been a lot of fun.” Sunset wasn’t sure why he needed to ask, since she’d pretty clearly been enjoying herself. “I’m glad I came.”

“Cool. ‘Cause I was thinking, well, maybe we could do stuff like this more often.”

And then it hit her. He was blushing and looking around nervously, and she knew exactly why he was making sure she was enjoying herself. He was setting up a topic Sunset did not want to touch. “Yeah, well, maybe. We’ll see how things go with work and stuff.”

“Yeah. I know you’re busy a lot of the time, but I was thinking. Maybe, well…”

Fuck. He was really going for it, and there was nothing Sunset could do. Why couldn’t the band just start playing at the perfect moment to cut him off? A glance to the stage revealed someone was currently tuning the bass, but Sunset didn’t even think he was a band member.

“Flash…” Sunset turned back to look at him, and he failed to make eye contact.

“Would you… want to go out with me?” Flash’s blush reached full force and he fidgeted in his seat. “Like, uh… dating?”

Sunset looked away and bowed her head. She had known Flash was infatuated with her, had even encouraged it, but she didn’t actually expect something like this. “You don’t want to date somebody like me…”

After a moment in which neither of them spoke, Sunset looked up to see he was still smiling, albeit very nervously. She realized he didn’t hear her and spoke up. “Flash, come on. You don’t even really know me.”

“Of course I do!” Flash insisted. His expression shifted towards being similar to the usual dopey look he got when trying to flatter Sunset, but more focused. She could tell he was determined to get his point through. “I think I know you better than anyone, Sunset. We see each other pretty much every day, and you’re… you’re incredible!”

Sunset just shook her head. “You don’t know the real me. Trust me on this one.”

Flash stared for a moment, and Sunset expected him to disagree again. Instead, he nodded and leaned closer. “Then I want to learn. Who is the real Sunset Shimmer?”

Sunset smirked. “Look, if I don’t want to talk about that normally, why do you think I’m gonna do it here? I have to practically yell for you to hear me.”

Flash looked disappointed, but seemed to accept her point as he leaned back. “Alright, but just… think about it.”

Thinking about it was the last thing Sunset wanted to do. That was the point of the whole night, that Sunset wouldn’t have to think about things. But once the thought took hold, it was hard to get rid of.

She thought that once the third band came on, she’d be distracted once again. Not so. It helped quiet her thoughts a bit, but they bounced back every time she caught a glimpse of Flash.

Maybe it was just because she found herself unable to focus on them, but the band seemed less impressive than the two before had been. She waited until she finished her water, then she got Flash’s attention and leaned close to his ear, cupping her hands and speaking up so he could hear her. “What do you say we get out of here?”

Rather than try to answer with words, Flash gave her a bewildered look and shrugged. Sunset grinned and leaned in towards his ear again. “You wanted to see the real Sunset, right? Come on.”

Sunset stood up and, after a moment, Flash followed. Although she was kind of interested in seeing the last band, the feeling was gone, and she wanted Flash to see that she wasn’t the perfect girl he thought she was.

“Where are we going?” Flash asked as Sunset led them out of the building.

The fresh air was welcome after the stagnated smells within the concert venue. “I saw a store on the way in that I want to stop at.

It was getting late, but thankfully they still had a little time before it looked too suspicious for teenagers to be out. Also thankfully, they were far away from Sunset’s side of town, so it was unlikely that anyone in the store would recognize her.

After a few minutes of walking in awkward silence, they reached the store. “Wait out here,” Sunset instructed. Flash looked like he was going to protest, but Sunset walked in before he could.

It was too crowded. Sunset walked to the drink aisle as usual, but there were people there. So, keeping her eyes fixed ahead to make it look like she knew where she was going, she meandered around the store for a bit.

She was about to give up when she saw a display with six packs of beer. It was hardly her first choice, but there was no one around and the bottles could be taken out of the package without having to open anything. Lacking her usual purse, Sunset slipped a couple of bottles into her jacket pocket and kept walking, barely slowing her course.

She stopped to grab some candy from a nearby display, then backtracked to get some soda from the cooler before making her way to the front counter.

“Evening, miss,” the cashier said as she set the stuff on the counter.

“Hello,” Sunset said warmly.

“Don’t you think you’re out a bit late?”

He wasn’t scanning any of her items. Sunset knew what was up immediately – he had seen her in the mirror that was set up to monitor the store.

If it hadn’t been alcohol, Sunset could probably get away with it easily enough by just letting them kick her out. But as it was, she knew they’d want her to stick around until an adult picked her up.

Since that wasn’t happening, she wasted no time in bolting for the door.

“Wait! Get back here!”

Sunset ignored him and ran outside, then kept running.

“Sunset, what are –”

“Run! Now!”

Thankfully, Flash quickly jumped into action and ran alongside her. Unfortunately, so did the cashier. He must have hopped the counter, because he was already behind them.

The cashier had longer legs than either of them, but they only needed to make it to the edge of the parking lot. Sunset reached into her pocket and grabbed one of the beer bottles. She tossed it behind her as hard as she could, and was relieved to hear the cashier’s steps falter as the bottle broke.

It wasn’t long before he gave up completely. Sunset and Flash kept running, heading down a small neighborhood street. Only after they had rounded a corner did they slow down, although they didn’t stop completely.

“What… was that?” Flash asked as he tried to catch his breath.

Sunset laughed. “Well, he probably realized they don’t pay him enough to deal with shit like this.”

“You know what I mean.”

Sunset took a good look behind them to make absolutely sure that they weren’t being followed before turning down another side street just in case. They found themselves in front of a small field, which seemed as good a place as any.

“Are you gonna answer me?” Flash asked. Frankly, Sunset was a little surprised he was still following her.

Choosing a spot near a tree, Sunset sat down and pulled the remaining beer bottle out of her pocket. “You wanted to meet the real Sunset Shimmer, right? Well, this is me.”

Flash looked at her with a mixture of surprise, disappointment, and maybe something else. Sunset got the impression that he himself didn’t know what he felt about what just happened.

It had been stupid to show Flash this side of her. If he told anyone and word found its way back to Violet Dusk, Sunset would never get emancipated. But there wasn’t helping what was already done. Besides, did it really matter anyway? Once the portal was open, Sunset was leaving this world for good.

“Don’t suppose you got a set of keys on you?” Sunset asked. That was one part of the plan she hadn’t thought through. “Belt buckle could work too, if it’s the right kind.

Flash sighed and took a seat next to her. He held out his hand and she handed over the bottle. She half expected that he’d just throw it out, or do something even stupider, like try and return it. Instead, he pulled out a multitool, folded out a bottle opener, and popped the cap off. He handed the bottle back to Sunset.

“Nice.” She took the bottle and drank from it. Beer would probably never be one of her favorites, but she liked it well enough. She offered the bottle back to Flash. “I tried getting one for each of us, but, well… you know.”

Flash hesitated a moment before accepting, and didn’t drink right away once he did. “Do you… do stuff like that a lot?”

Sunset shrugged. “Not as much as I used to. I got caught with a wine bottle a couple years ago, so I don’t usually bring it back to the orphanage anymore.”

After a few more moments of staring at the bottle, Flash took a swig. Probably too much at once, as he started coughing. “God, it’s so strong.”

Sunset laughed as she took the bottle back. “Easy there, golden boy.” Sunset took another drink, leaving about half the bottle. She smirked and nudged Flash playfully. “And hey, you can’t date a girl that out drinks you. Might damage your poor masculinity.”

Flash laughed and took the bottle back. “There’s no hidden Flash Sentry, you know. You should realize by now that I don’t care about stuff like that.”

“I dunno about that. I mean, I never thought the Flash Sentry I knew was gonna be the kinda guy I could drink beer with.”

Flash frowned at the comment, but drank some more. He handed the bottle back to Sunset. “Well, this isn’t exactly normal for me.”

“Not surprised.” Sunset drank some more and held up the bottle. It was almost empty.

“So, tell me more about the ‘real’ Sunset. Anything else I should know besides drinking?”

Sunset was going to give Flash the last of the beer, but changed her mind as the focus of the conversation fell on her. She finished the rest of the bottle and set it down. “There’s… it’s hard to explain.”

“Like I said before –” Flash set his hand on top of hers “– I want to learn.”

Someone else had wanted to learn about her before. Someone Sunset had trusted, and who had then betrayed that trust. But Sunset wasn’t five years old and foolish enough to tell her whole story to the first person that seemed trustworthy.

“The real me is a fucking mess.”

“Anyone ever tell you that you don’t have to do everything alone?”

“More than once.”

Flash squeezed his hand around Sunset’s. “Look, I don’t want this to be about, you know, us dating. Because if you don’t want to then that’s okay, we can just stay friends. But either way, I’m here for you. So… talk to me.”

Why did he have to go and remind Sunset of Applejack? Why did she need two stubborn idiots who just couldn’t leave her alone? And who was Sunset, anyway? The real Sunset Shimmer was a unicorn and magical prodigy, but she couldn’t say that. She was the gifted student of Princess Celestia, her personal protégé and brightest pupil.

“Have you ever… wondered what someone thinks about you?” Sunset asked, bowing her head and staring at their shoes. “But you can’t ask because they’re not around. So you just… wonder if it’s because they thought you weren’t good enough. And you start to think that maybe… maybe they were right. And no matter what you try, you’re never good enough, because you just don’t get it.”

Flash waited to make sure she was done before speaking hesitantly. “I… I know I’m not even close to being in the same situation as you since my dad’s still around. But I do kinda know what you mean. I think about that all the time, actually. I wish my mom was still here to see me now. I wish I could know for sure that she’d be proud of the person I become.”

Sunset took her hand from his to pat his shoulder. “Hey, come on now. I don’t call you golden boy for nothing, you know. I know your mom would be proud of you.”

“Thanks. And I think yours would too, you know.”

“Heh.” Sunset shook her head. “She was always… trying to teach me something. And I tried, I don’t think she ever knew that, but I really tried for a while. I just… never understood what I was supposed to do. I don’t think I ever really felt what she wanted me to feel so eventually… I just gave up. And now she’s gone.”

Slowly, Flash moved his arm around Sunset’s shoulder. “Sunset, you really are amazing. You’re so talented, you’re like the smartest person I know, you never stop working. I mean, how many people our age are working towards getting their own place? There’s no way your mom wouldn’t be proud of you.”

Sunset shifted her position and wound up partially resting on Flash. “Yeah, right. Stealing and drinking beer. She’d be real proud.”

“No one’s perfect, Sunset.”

Sunset sighed and fully leaned against Flash. “She was.”

They sat together for a while without talking. Sunset didn’t know how she felt about what was happening. She didn’t like to be touched, and yet Flash had his arm around her. She didn’t want to get close to people, yet she was resting against him. She didn’t want people to know about her, yet she had opened up to him.

“How much longer until your dad starts to wonder?”

“I should probably text him.”

After waiting another few moments, Sunset stood up, with Flash following behind. They started making their way back, while Flash texted his dad.

“Hey, Flash?”

“Yeah?”

“Yes.”

Flash glanced up from his phone to show a puzzled expression. “Yes?”

“The question you asked at the concert. Yes.”

“The question… Oh!” Flash broke into a grin. “You mean… about dating?”

Sunset nodded. Why not? If anything, it would give her something else to fill her time with. He was popular, which would in turn make her more popular as well. And besides, even if she knew there was someone else she’d prefer, she knew that would never happen.

“Sure. I mean, you’re a pretty great guy. I still think you’re fucking crazy, but that’s on you.”

“Yes!” Flash threw his arms around her, causing her to tense up.

Sunset pushed him away. “You… should know I’m not really great with being touched.”

“Oh!” Flash stepped back and held up both his hands. “Sorry.”

Sunset sighed. “It’s fine.” They started walking in an awkward silence. Although she wasn’t sure if she really wanted to make the leap, Sunset held out her hand.

Flash took it, and they walked the rest of the way back in silence. At least Flash seemed content with how things were going. Sunset just tried not to think too much about abandoning him once the portal opened.