Twilight Sparkle woke to the smell of pancakes. With a yawn and a stretch she rose from her bed and looked around the room from her loft; Spike's bed was empty, and so was Sunset's. “I guess they're already awake,” she said to herself. Then she caught what she'd said, giggled, and added “Obviously. Spike's making pancakes!”
She descended the stairs off the loft and out of the bedroom at a happy trot, and headed for the library's small kitchen where she found Spike hard at work. “Good morning, Spike,” she greeted, making a beeline for the teapot.
“Morning, Twilight,” he replied, gingerly turning the berry-laden flapjacks over on the griddle.
“I take it Sunset's in the lab?” she asked filling the teapot with sink water.
“Actually,” Spike said, “she left like right after she got up. Haven't seen her since.”
Twilight stopped where she was, teapot floating impatiently nearby, and frowned. “Did she say where she was going?”
“Nope!” Spike said, his eyes fixed on a pancake he'd just flipped into the air. It landed on his spatula with a smack, and sizzled when he placed it back on the griddle. “But you know how she is. Probably just picking up some more supplies for her experiments.”
“You're probably right,” Twilight said, her every expression still filled with concern. She set the teapot down on the stove, and sighed. “It's just that she's been acting strange around me recently. It's almost like she's avoiding me or something! Oh, I hope she isn't tired of living in Ponyville with us...”
“Nah, I doubt it,” Spike said, finally taking his eyes off the pancakes. “But if you're so worried, why not try talking to her about it or something?”
“I guess,” Twilight said glumly, her ears drooping. “If she even wants to talk to me...”
Sunset Shimmer was feeling a lot of things as she walked through Ponyville: Excited, because she was approaching the date of an important experiment she had planned. Hungry, because she'd foolishly left the library before getting breakfast. Annoyed, because four of Twilight's friends had been shadowing her for the past half-hour in an almost comically inept manner.
But mostly she felt nervous, because she was running out of things that would keep her away from the Golden Oak. She'd already bought everything she needed and several more that she didn't, talked to several ponies, and crisscrossed most of town taking in the morning's sights; all that was left was to work up the nerves to finally talk to Twilight.
It had been a couple months since Sunset had moved to Ponyville, and slightly longer since that day in Canterlot when Twilight had come back to her. And though the move had been reluctant, done only because Sunset sorely wanted Twilight in her life, she had come to appreciate the town. It was quaint, and she was no longer simply being polite when she said that. Getting so far away from the bustle of the city and the machinations of the so-called 'nobility' had done wonders for her health, her mood, and even her research, and she couldn’t deny that she could see herself spending most of the rest of her life there. The scenery was nice too, especially at this time of year. As a filly in Canterlot she had always looked down from the tall towers of the mountainside castle and imagined that the sprawling forests she saw were changing colors as a tribute to her; all the reds and gold and oranges made it her favorite season by far. And now, in Ponyville, she got the opportunity to watch the change up close and personal.
On another personal note, she'd finally caved to Twilight and Princess Celestia's wishes and started opening herself up to friendship. The five mares that had stolen Twilight away from her had been the first, of course. It had taken some time for she and they to get past their...differences...and start seeing eye-to-eye, but Sunset now counted them among her friends. True, she wasn't nearly as close to them as Twilight was, but she neither wanted nor expected that – it was hard to top a shared magical destiny as the basis of a friendship, after all. But she'd made up for it with several new friends of her own – Bulk Biceps, Vinyl Scratch and Octavia, even that insufferable Time Turner!
But none of them would ever be as special to her as Twilight was. She still kicked herself for not realizing it sooner, and even more for how poorly she'd treated Twilight early on, but at some point in the past couple years she'd become one of the most important parts of Sunset's life. Her love of knowledge, her dedication, her talent, her little quirks; just about everything about Twilight she found endearing, and it didn't hurt that she was cute too. If Sunset didn't know any better, she'd say she was smitten.
Since she did know better, Sunset was confident she'd left smitten behind a few months ago and was now galloping head-on towards love. The visions she sometimes saw in the magic mirror she was studying had made that clear enough. Particularly the more recent ones, which had been surprisingly detailed...
Sunset shook her head and cleared her thoughts, realizing that she'd been standing in the middle of the street for at least a couple minutes now. She smiled bashfully at the passersby who were giving her strange looks, then raced off and didn't stop until she was at one of the bridges that arched over the town's river.
She stared wistfully down at her reflection, and sighed. For all her social acumen, Sunset had no experience in asking a pony out. Sure, she herself had been asked out several times, and she'd summarily rejected all of them, but that was hardly the same thing. At best she knew the theory of it, but the very thought of actually putting it into practice made her more nervous than she'd ever been in her life. It had even reached the point where she found it hard to even be in the same building as Twilight, and she felt more and more guilty every time she avoided her.
“I just have to...get it over with,” she muttered under her breath, still looking down at herself in the water. “I've done way harder things.” But even as she spoke those words she knew how hollow they were; she'd faced more dangerous tasks, yes, but none of them involved taking a risk that would permanently damage her most important friendship if it failed.
The sound of a pony falling over snapped her out of her depression, her ears perking up and swiveling to her right. She turned her head just in time to see Pinkie Pie, who looked to have leaned too far forward and paid the price, get dragged back behind the cover of a tree by Rarity and Rainbow Dash.
Sunset's expression fell into a deadpan stare. “I know you're there, girls. You might as well just come out so we can get this over with.”
Rarity, Pinkie, and Dash immediately came out of hiding, though only the first of the three looked at all embarrassed. “Ahem. Yes,” she said. “Our sincerest apologies, darling, but you-”
“Fluttershy too,” Sunset added, still staring.
A squeak came from behind the tree, and Fluttershy meekly slid out a moment later. “...sorry...,” she said in a voice so soft that Sunset could barely make it out.
Rarity cleared her throat again. “As I was saying, we happened to see you looking so lost in thought, as it were, but simply didn't want to disturb you.”
“You've been following me since at least the quill store,” Sunset countered. “Also, where's Applejack?”
“Oh, she's way too busy with her apples,” Pinkie quickly and enthusiastically replied. She giggled and waved a hoof. “You know how it is.”
Sunset raised an eyebrow. “Sure.” She looked back at the others expectantly. “So, anypony wanna explain why you've been tailing me all morning?”
“Well, Sunset,” Rarity began to say, “I assure you there's a perfectly reasonable reason as to-”
“You've been acting weird all week and we wanted to know what's up,” Rainbow Dash finished. Rarity glared up at her, and she shrugged. “What? It's true!”
“Be that as it may,” Rarity said, “you could have used more tact. It's obvious that our dear Sunset here is suffering from some manner of emotional distress,” she continued, walking confidently over to Sunset's side. “One must be sensitive to such matters.”
Rainbow Dash just rolled her eyes.
“So,” Rarity said, putting her forehooves up on the side of the bridge, “tell us, Sunset Shimmer, what is it that's bothering you?”
Sunset stared at her for a moment, then sighed. “I'll probably regret this, but...” she said under her breath before raising her voice and adding “it's Twilight.”
Pinkie squealed in excitement and leaped into the air. “I KNEW IT!”
“Uhh, knew what, exactly?” Sunset asked, taking a wary step back as Pinkie darted in close to her face, pushing Rarity out of the way in the process.
“That you're crushing on Twilight, silly!” Pinkie answered with an unnecessary amount of glee.
“N-no I'm not,” Sunset said reflexively, inwardly cursing herself for it even as her cheeks turned red, her ears folded back, and her eyes started darting around. “I-I'm just, uhh...”
“Totally crushing on your best friend who you've always had a rocky relationship with so you're worried that things will be ruined forever if she doesn't like you back but you can't not ask her out either because it'll drive you crazy?” Pinkie finished, bugging and spinning her eyes where appropriate.
Sunset held her stare for a moment, then sagged. “So you all figured it out, huh?” she asked Pinkie and the others.
“Oh, darling,” Rarity said, moving past Pinkie to but a foreleg around Sunset's shoulders, “when you've read as many romance novels as I have – and believe me, I've read every one I could get my hooves on – it's hard not to see the signs.”
“Even I saw it,” Rainbow Dash added.
“It was pretty obvious,” Fluttershy admitted from the back of the group. “Oh, but we're very supportive of it.”
“You... are?” Sunset asked, looking between the four mares.
“Why of course we are!” Rarity said, tightening her hold on Sunset. “Why wouldn't we be supportive of a friend wanting to find love with another friend?”
“Yeah, even if the first friend is kind of a jerk!” Rainbow added. Rarity promptly gave her a Look, causing Rainbow to shrug. “What?”
Rarity sniffed and looked back at Sunset. “That aside, we are happy to help you with this.”
Sunset sighed and looked back down at her reflection in the river. “Thanks, but I don't think I really need help. I just need to do it and get it over with.”
“Well, if it helps,” Fluttershy offered with a hopeful smile, “I'm sure Twilight will say yes if you ask her out. Or at the very least she won't be mad at you.”
“Really?” Sunset asked, perking an eyebrow. “What makes you so sure?”
Fluttershy froze for a moment, then shrunk back and blushed. “Umm... just a hunch? Sorry...”
Sunset's face fell. “That's what I figured.”
“Nevertheless,” Rarity grabbed Sunset's attention once more, “we all share Fluttershy's confidence that things will work out. And before you ask-” she placed a hoof on Sunset's open mouth- “it isn't entirely baseless. After all, you are the pony that Twilight specifically wanted to live in Ponyville with her, are you not? And I dare say you know her better than anypony else, do you honestly think she'd go that far if she simply wished to remain friends with you? Hmm?”
“I...,” Sunset began, searching her reflection as she thought. “I think you're right,” she concluded, lifting her head as her smile grew and her confidence swelled. “I can't believe I didn't see it before! Thanks, girls,” she said, whipping back around to the other four. “I think that was just the push I needed.”
“Then go to her, Sunset Shimmer!” Rarity told her in one of her more melodramatic voices, thrusting a hoof in the general direction of the Golden Oak. “Run!”
Sunset nodded, then turned tailed and galloped off... only to stop after a few yards and turn a stern gaze back to them. “Don't follow me. I don't want anypony interrupting this, got it?”
“Got it!” Pinkie replied immediately, frozen in mid-step. Rarity, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash murmured in agreement, backing off from the chase they too were about to give.
“-and that's reason thirty-five why it could end up being a total disaster,” Twilight said definitively, unfurling her list even more.
Spike rolled his eyes and propped his head up in one hand.
“Reason thirty-six why bringing it up to Sunset could be a total disaster is-”
The front door of the Golden Oak suddenly slammed open by magic, startling Twilight and Spike at the central table.
“Twilight, we need to talk,” Sunset said with an intensity that made the other two nervous.
“Ohmygosh I'm so sorry,” Twilight said, forcing her list into Spike's claws and trotting forward with a worried expression. “Whatever I did that's made you pull away recently, just tell me so I can fix it!”
“Wha?” Sunset said, taken aback by the sorrow in her eyes. She shook her head quickly, though, and said “Oh, wow, no, Sparkle, I'm sorry I made you think you did something wrong when you really, really didn't.”
Twilight blinked, her worry rapidly replaced with confused relief. “I didn't?”
Sunset shook her head. “Of course not. Once again, this one's all me,” she admitted, her cheeks flushing. Then she sighed sadly, and hung her head. “I really have a lot to apologize for, don't I? I've treated you pretty badly over the years...”
“I've already forgiven you,” Twilight said, hugging her around the neck. She let out a pathetic giggle as she stepped back, legs still around Sunset as she added “And it's not like I've been perfect, either.”
Sunset laughed too. “Even so, I feel guilty. Like... I don't deserve you sometimes.”
“Oh, Sunset,” Twilight said, nuzzling her and making her blush, “of course you deserve to be around me! Is that what's been bothering you recently?” she asked, pulling back and looking at Sunset with just enough concern to make her blush even harder.
“W-well, yeah,” Sunset answered, averting her gaze. Then she took a breath and looked back at Twilight with an intensity that made her blush. “And... I've also been worried.”
“Worried?” Twilight asked as Sunset looked down. “About what?”
“About... how you'd react when I told you that I wanted to be more than best friends,” Sunset replied looking into her eyes as both their blushes grew. “That I wanted to be your..." She gulped. "Marefriend.”
“You do?” Twilight whispered, her eyes wide with disbelief.
Sunset nodded. “Will you go out with me, Twilight Sparkle?”
She was utterly unprepared for the strength of the hug Twilight hit her with. “Yes! Yes yes yes yes yes! Of course I will, Sunset!” she said, breaking the hug to dance around with Sunset hoof in hoof.
Sunset cracked a smile at her marefriend's exuberance. “Well... okay then!”
Twilight sniffed and wiped away a tear. “I can't believe I was worried for nothing! Of course you feel the same way I do!”
“Yeah, same here,” Sunset said with a light laugh, before Twilight surprised her with a kiss that turned her muzzle redder than her hair.
She broke it after only a few moments with a sharp and panicked gasp. “Oh no, I was so happy that I did things out of order! Spike!” she turned her head and called. “Fetch me Head-Over-Heels' Guide to Romance and Dating, please!”
“On it!” Spike replied, snapping off a quick salute before he scurried off to the stairway.
“What did I just get myself into?” Sunset murmured dreamily, still reeling from the kiss.