Sunset Shimmer’s shoulders heaved as she let out a choked sob. On her hands and knees, tears falling down her face as pain racked through her body, she reflected on where everything went wrong. How could she have ended up here, broken and defeated by Princess Celestia’s new favorite?
She could hear the whispers, the murmuring, of those that had been under her control seconds ago. She could hear them talking her, about how she lost. But she never lost! Except this time she did. She was supposed to be strong and powerful. She would have marched up to Canterlot and shown Celestia that she was meant to rule!
But there she laid, broken and beaten.
Sunset began to crawl forward. Every bone in her body screamed as she did, but she pressed on. The rainbow had burned - burned as the evil inside had been forcefully extracted from her being - and by Celestia she felt it. She pressed on despite the pain, crawling through the crater until she had to climb. By the time she reached the top, her limbs felt so heavy she could hardly move them, and she slumped over limply.
The grass felt cool against her skin in the chill of the night air. It felt almost peaceful in a way. As she lay on the ground, half out of the crater, she could still hear the whispers. Whispers of contempt, of hatred. But there were others that were different. She weakly lifted her head and looked around, and her eyes fell on them.
The ones who defeated her.
Twilight Sparkle stood in front of them all, her back to her friends as she looked at Sunset. The rest of them - Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash - were whispering amongst themselves frantically as Twilight began walking forward. Sunset felt the tears coming again. Of course she would want to gloat. She would gloat, then haul her off back to Equestria. She would probably be locked away.
Sunset looked Twilight straight in the eyes as the princess finally reached her. For a few tense seconds, neither of them said anything. Sunset sobbed again and blinked away the tears, only for them to immediately return. She opened her mouth to speak, but her throat closed and she only sobbed more. Everything she ever worked for... gone....
Suddenly, something broke through her wall of self-pity. She felt a hand take her own, and she opened her eyes to see Twilight looking at her with a warm, friendly smile. Sunset grasped Twilight’s hand with everything she had as more tears began to fall.
“I’m sorry...!” She choked out as the princess helped her to her feet.
What a heartwarming sight, he thought, looking on as Twilight Sparkle stretched out a hand towards Sunset Shimmer. The beaten girl looked at it through her wet eyes, before gingerly grabbing it with her own hand. Twilight pulled Sunset out of the crater in the ground and gave her a smile.
Time Turner stood at the entrance to the school, before the ruined wall. Students were gathered around the grass, gaping at the girl who had caused them all so much trouble, it must have been gratifying to see her finally brought down to Earth. But Turner had never cared for grudges. It looked as if Princess Twilight was going to forgive Shimmer. Turner supposed he should do the same...
Twilight’s friends stood around her, all with their eyes glued to Sunset, who looked as if she wished to fade away. He didn’t envy her. Hell, he couldn’t imagine being in her shoes at all - she was an alien, for God’s sake! An alien! Who in the world can honestly say they’ve met a being from another dimension?!
Technically, the entire populace of Canterlot High School, he reminded himself. The fact that he had to share the delight of meeting an alien with the entire school mellowed his excitement a bit. Only a bit. He was still very giddy. Brilliant! Aliens! With magic! I really should ask her about it when I get the chance.
Turner chortled to himself, but stopped when he remembered the events of the night and the shape that Shimmer was in. Her clothes were tattered and her hair was matted and singed. Even from this distance, he could make out scrapes on her face and scratches where her clothes had torn. Maybe I should keep my distance for now.
“Time?” A voice sounded from behind.
Turner turned in the direction of the voice and saw Vice Principal Luna walking towards him with a smile on her face, which he returned happily.
“Ah, Ms. Luna,” he greeted warmly. “This has certainly been a Fall Formal to remember, eh?”
She laughed softly. “You are quite right. I doubt any of our students will forget this for weeks to come. Possibly years.” The two of them stared at the crowd of students. Some were talking amongst themselves, but most were staring at Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle.
Turner nodded and stuffed his hands into his longcoat’s pockets as he turned to look at the gathering of students. “Aliens...” he whispered under his breath. “I simply cannot wrap my head around it. Two aliens have visited our school.”
Luna crossed her arms as her face fell flat. “Yes. Makes me wonder about our admission process,” she said dryly. “Though Sunset Shimmer did provide an address for her file, so she obviously has some sort of life here outside of school.”
“And what of the dance?”
Luna looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “Hm? Time, the front wall of the school is destroyed. There’s a giant crater in the middle of the grounds. I do not think anyone will have the dance on their minds after tonight.”
“Ah, on the contrary.” Turner said with a smile. “I think everyone will wish to dance. Yes, there was a bit of unpleasantness-” understatement of the year, Turner “-but everyone made it out okay, and the decorations are still up! Besides, I think some may wish to celebrate now that Sunset Shimmer is finally... dealt with.”
“Is she though?” Luna asked.
Turner shrugged. “After tonight, everyone knows that she can be defeated. She’ll never hold the same power here again.” He watched as the six friends began to converse amongst one another, huddled closely so as to prevent eavesdropping. Turner frowned slightly at Shimmer, who stood just off to the side of the group with her head down.
Luna crossed her arms and scoffed. “I do hope you’re right, Time. That girl has caused enough trouble and I am tired of giving out detentions that are never served.” Her stern look turned soft. “How do you think she will fare moving forward? Kids can be cruel, and even if punishment is in order, I fear there may be some students who will take it too far.”
Turner hummed and scratched at his chin. “Oh, I imagine that she'll have a rough go of it. But...” He trailed off, gazing ahead. Luna followed his gaze and saw Sunset Shimmer with a small, hesitant smile on her face as Princess Twilight gestured to her friends.
“... I think she'll have a little help. With those girls with her, she'll be just fine.” He couldn't stop a small smile from making its way onto his face. And it only widened when he saw Flash Sentry making his way through the crowd towards Twilight.
Luna saw him too and let out a laugh. “It seems the dance will go on, after all. It's almost like you know the future, Time,” she joked, looking at him with a twinkle in her eye.
Turner rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “Ah, no, nothing of the sort. I just-”
“Yes, I know, Time. I was joking.”
“Well, I believe I'll be needed in the gymnasium. Will you be rejoining the dance as well?”
Turner shook his head as he sat on the steps. “No, I don't think so. I'll just stay out here — I've had enough excitement for tonight.”
Luna frowned and briefly looked back to the students. “Are you sure? I think some socializing would do you some good. You don’t get out much.” She looked at him softly. Turner felt a pang of guilt in his chest, but shook his head.
“No, no... I think we’ll need someone out here to help any students who stay behind.” Even though we both know there won’t be. Some students began making their way into the school with the widest grins Turner had seen in a long time, but the one at the back of the pack gave him pause. Well, maybe one student will need my help.
This had to be a joke. There was no way in Equestria they seriously expected this from her. Principal Celestia had handed her a trowel and pointed her in the direction of the destroyed wall, and actually expected her, Snips, and Snails to fix the whole thing? Not a chance. Sure, she promised to turn over a new leaf and be nice, but this was just straight up impossible.
If only she had magic.
She had been so close... so close to victory. But Princess Twilight had thwarted her. Her, Sunset Shimmer, the ruler of Canterlot High School and former student to Princess Celestia herself. How could she have been beaten?
She knew it was for the best that she hadn’t been allowed to succeed. Honestly, now that she thought about it, she was pretty sure that Celestia could have beaten her no matter how many teenagers she mind controlled.
That just rubbed more salt into the wound.
What did Princess Twilight have that she didn’t anyway? Aside from magic, and power, and friends, and... everything else. Other than that, who even was she? From what little she could gather in her short return to Equestria, she was a nobody. A librarian, for Celestia’s sake! But... but now she was a princess. She was...
She was everything I could never be.
Sunset turned to the Wondercolt statue just in time to see Twilight and Spike disappear in a shimmer of white light. And the moon seemed to glow a bit brighter, followed by Pinkie Pie ramming herself face first into the now solid portal. She fell back and landed on her rear. “Aw, bummer...” She said sadly as the other girls crowded around her. These promised to help Sunset see the light — the long, long road to friendship. She wasn’t entirely sure she deserved their help. After everything she did to them... was she even worth helping?
“Penny for your thoughts, Ms. Shimmer?” Someone asked.
“Gah!” Sunset turned on her heel, the puny trowel raised in defense, but instead of an angry mob like she was expecting, it was simply one of the teachers. Mister Time Turner. He taught two classes — physics and psychology, if she remembered correctly. Her shock at seeing the teacher was beaten only by the realization that she'd have to do her own homework from now on.
“M-Mr. Turner!” she spat out, realizing she had been staring at him in silence. “What are you doing here?”
Turner tilted his head to the side slightly. “Well,” he began, “after the events of tonight, I felt that there was enough excitement to be had tonight, so I declined to go back to the dance. And then everyone else went home, except for you three.” He glanced past her, towards Snips and Snails. Sunset turned and followed his gaze and felt the pit in her stomach grow wider.
"They're good kids, just... slightly misguided." Mr. Turner said. Sunset felt inclined to agree. She had enlist their help because she knew they'd be easy to manipulate. Sunset started to sigh, but was cut off by Turner continuing. "You, however, knew exactly what you were doing, Ms. Shimmer."
Sunset flinched back. "Y-yeah, but-"
He raised a hand and cut her off. “I admit that I don't know the full story. However, your actions in all this time have given me no reason to trust you. I want to be wrong about this, Ms. Shimmer. I want you to grow and to be a better person. That is the only thing any teacher wants out of their students. But you will need to give me and everyone in this school some proof that you are taking this second chance seriously.” Turner tried to keep his voice firm but steady. It wouldn't do to scare her too much.
“And.. and how can I do that?” she asked. “Everyone here hates me. There’s no way they'll trust me! So... how can I let them know that I’ve changed?” She looked at Turner with wide, wet eyes, the same ones that had been so full of scorn and malice only a few hours ago. But there was no trace of those things now, only fear and helplessness.
He knew those feelings all too well.
Turner took in a deep breath, his chest rising, before letting it out slowly. He spoke deliberately, “You can start... with those two.” He gestured towards Snips and Snails, who by now had stopped to look at the two of them. “I think, right now, they are the only ones who can understand you. If there’s anyone who will make a difference, it’s those two.” Turner gave her a small, reassuring smile, even if she could tell it was slightly forced.
Sunset turned to look at the two boys. She could barely meet their eyes — oh, the irony in that — but she sighed and nodded. She knew she had to do this. She turned back to Turner and returned his smile, just as slightly forced as his. “Okay... I’ll apologize to them. I guess it’s the least I could do.”
Turner nodded. “I imagine you’ll be giving out plenty of apologies in the coming days. Good luck, Sunset Shimmer.” Turner gave her a nod and made to leave, but stopped halfway. “Oh, and I’ll have a word with Principal Celestia regarding your punishment. She doesn’t seriously expect you to clean this mess up all by yourself, does she?” He looked at the destroyed wall and rolled his eyes.
Sunset laughed quietly and genuinely smiled for the first time since her defeat. “I... I think she just wants to make sure I’ve learned my lesson. She’s not that cruel.” I should know...
Turner hummed, eyes scanning the destruction. “Yes, well, goodbye, Ms. Shimmer. I will see you in class.”
Sunset waved as he turned and left. She saw him climb into his beaten up blue car and drive away into the night, leaving her alone with Snips and Snails on the stairs. She dropped the trowel with a clang and sat on the steps, burying her head into her knees.
Tension she didn't know she'd been holding suddenly left her body all at once. Her shoulders sagged as she suddenly felt exhausted. The events of the last few days had been so much. Sunset took in a breath but found it lacking. She tried for another breath. Then another. She couldn't get enough air. As her chest heaved, her throat suddenly closed and she found herself choking on a sob. Suddenly the corners of her eyes were wet with tears.
Sunset didn't know how long she sat there crying until she felt someone place their hand on her shoulder. She looked to her left to see Snips, and to her right to see Snails, both with hesitant smiles on their faces. What the hell? she wondered. What are they doing?
She expected them to be angry. Sunset wanted them to be angry. But through her blurry vision, she failed to see any trace of anger on either of their faces. Her chin wobbled as her mouth opened and closed, looking for the right words. But in the end, Sunset could only manage a whispered “I’m sorry...”, putting her head back onto her knees after she spoke.
They simply nodded and sat down with her. The three of them sat together in the cool night as Sunset cried.