If there was one thing Twilight Sparkle had learned since ascending to alicornhood and becoming a princess, it was that ponies talked.
Well, saying she’d learned it at that exact moment wasn’t entirely true. Twilight had always known that ponies talked; they were a social species, and they thrived on being able to communicate with each other on a regular basis. Talking among each other was a common thing, and talking about other ponies in power or of higher social standing came as naturally as breathing.
What Twilight had learned the day she earned her wings was that quite suddenly, ponies were talking about her.
They hadn’t talked about her before. She’d been known throughout Equestria as Celestia’s student, and had been something of a small celebrity in Canterlot before she had left, but the princess had kept careful watch over her over the years, and had been quick to silence any talk of her before it really began. Some murmurs had rippled through when she had traveled to Ponyville and been named a bearer of one of the Elements, but Twilight had expected that. And even then, the talking hadn’t been, well… noticeable. It had been like whispering. Something quiet, something easy to ignore.
But then Twilight had become a princess—a single princess, unmarried and approachable. And quite suddenly, the purple alicorn learned a new fact about ponies: they really liked talking about the love lives of other ponies. More specifically, the love lives of ponies they considered celebrities or minor gods.
And the talk about love lives, well, it wasn’t the whispering like before. It wasn’t quiet; it was loud, and insistent, and it seemed to come from every direction. This wasn’t whispering. This was shouting.
The whispering, Twilight had been able to deal with. Had even been able to ignore most of the time, if not all the time on a good day.
The shouting? She was still trying to figure out how to handle that.
Sometimes, it felt like she was never going to figure it out at all.
“Look at this! Look, look, look at this!”
Sunset didn’t groan, mostly because she knew the purple girl with her wouldn’t appreciate the sound. She pulled herself away from the textbook she had been reading and her half written homework, pushing her hair out of her eyes as she glanced at Twilight. “What is it?” she asked, half curious and half cautious. The last time Twilight had come through the portal all worked up over rumors and gossip news, it had been easy enough to calm her down when she had been reminded that all of her friends loved her regardless, and they weren’t competing to win her affections in some kind of battle to the death.
She sounded genuinely upset this time though, and so Sunset knew to take this slowly and carefully.
Sprawled out on the redhead’s bed—she had claimed it for herself when it became obvious her girlfriend intended to stay on the floor and finish up her homework—Twilight scowled and picked up the newspaper she had brought across from Equestria, thrusting it into Sunset’s face. Cyan eyes blinked a few times, and she took the paper from the other girl and shifted so she was sitting up, leaning against the bed as she read.
She was silent for a few moments, reading the whole story before she commented. Finally she handed the paper back to Twilight, and took a quiet breath—biting back a laugh when her fellow unicorn threw it against her pillows like it had personally wronged her somehow.
“So,” she said at last when she finally trusted her composure enough to not collapse into giggles over the small fit. “Was everything with Nightmare Moon all leading up to you ultimately marrying Luna?”
Quick as lightning Twilight reached out, grabbed one of the pillows—the newspaper got dislodged during the process and fell off Sunset’s bed, but by this point both girls had thoroughly forgotten about it—and threw it at the redhead in one smooth motion. It caught her in the back of the head and she fell over onto her side, snorting as she tried to keep from laughing. She rolled over onto her back, peering up at the purple girl who was glaring at her, and held her hands up innocently.
“I-I mean,” she managed, “the alternative is that Celestia was grooming you to be her bride, and since I’ve personally known her, I kind of doubt that—I mean, she didn’t do that for me when I was her student, so...”
That did it.
Deciding that using another pillow wouldn’t get her point across, Twilight launched herself from the bed and tackled Sunset, who finally lost her internal battle and started squealing with laughter the moment her girlfriend collided with her. The momentum of it knocked the air out of her slightly, and her giggles finally started to quiet as the purple-haired girl settled down on top of her and continued to glare, crossing her arms over her chest and waiting for the fit to pass.
Sunset sighed when the fit passed, gently resting her hands on Twilight’s hips. She was light, waiting to see how her girlfriend reacted to the touch; if she didn’t want it, she would pull away immediately and keep the distance between them. For a moment, the princess of friendship actually considered pulling back, but looking down at her fellow student’s face--
Well. Sunset looked apologetic, at least.
Twilight sighed and relaxed, placing her hands on Sunset’s shoulders to steady herself. “You’re lucky you’re pretty,” she muttered, leaning down to press a light kiss to the tan girl’s lips.
“I was hoping you’d notice,” the former unicorn sighed against her lips. “But this really bothers you, doesn’t it? I’m sorry I laughed, the whole thing just sounds… totally ridiculous to me. I mean, we both know Celestia. We know neither of those… theories were actual ideas she had.”
That drew another sigh from the princess, and she nodded as her shoulders slumped; now that she was actually thinking about it rationally, she could admit how stupid the whole thing was. She knew that was a fundamental aspect of gossip magazines and newspapers, especially ones that discussed the private lives of both people and ponies, but actually reading it had made her so angry that she’d burst through the portal shortly after finding it on one of the stands of Ponyville to rant to Sunset about it.
Now, though, with her anger cooling, she could see why her fellow Equestrian found the story so funny. The sheer lack of logic just to tell a crazy story to fuel gossip was something that normally, Twilight herself could laugh at if she had read it in a fictional story. It had been harder to see the humor of it when it involved her and her personal life, her relationships.
“I hate it when you’re right,” is what she said to try and get that all across in only a few words. She wasn’t entirely sure it worked, but something shifted and softened in Sunset’s gaze, and she got the feeling she understood. “Um, do you want me to get off? I must be heavy.”
The redhead shrugged and smiled up at her. “You’re fine, princess. I got my breath back and everything.”
“I said you’re fine. It was only a little bit of a shock, believe me. I saw it coming, since I brought it on myself and all.”
Twilight gently pinched Sunset’s shoulder, giggling when the former unicorn squeaked at the sensation. “You didn’t totally bring it on yourself. The story’s pretty funny.”
That made the other girl quiet for a moment, and one hand slid up from the purple-eyed girl’s hips to her back, rubbing gently. “It is,” she agreed. “But I stand by my apology. It made you upset.”
“… Well. Yeah.”
“Do you want to talk about why?”
Now it was Twilight’s turn to be quiet and she shifted on top of Sunset, shrugging awkwardly after a moment. “Because it was a story about me,” she sighed at last. “It was a story about someone I care about, someone I consider family. It was completely untrue and they made it all up just so they could sell copies. And I know I should be used to that, it comes with being a princess. I’m pretty much used to everything else that came with it.”
“But?” Sunset coaxed, continuing to rub her girlfriend’s back. It was nice; the princess could feel herself slowly but surely relaxing.
“But I’m just not used to that part yet, I guess. It feels strange to go from someone nobody in Equestria really cared about to someone they all want to know every detail about.”
That got a small smile from the young woman under her. “Including your love life.”
“Including my love life,” Twilight agreed.
“Well.” The cyan-eyed girl slid her other hand up her girlfriend’s back, then used the grip she had to pull herself up and shift them so that the princess of friendship was settled on her lap. It was Twilight who squeaked this time at the sudden movement, and she wrapped her arms around Sunset’s neck to keep herself steady, aided by the hands that were still warm on her back. “As someone in a human high school, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.”
Intrigued by her words and always obliging when someone or somepony clearly wanted to share something that was supposed to be kept secret—something of a bad habit she had picked up with her Rarity—Twilight eased back a little bit so that her ear was close to Sunset’s lips. It was silly perhaps, they were the only two in the room, but there was something fun about the closeness.
“What’s the secret?” she asked, even though she knew she didn’t need to. It was more that she wanted to, and it was worth it to see that smile on the other girl’s lips when she glanced at her out of the corner of her eye.
Sunset hummed, brushing her lips against a purple ear; her smile became a smirk when the princess shivered. “In high school? All we talk about is the love lives of other people.”
Twilight groaned and slumped back into the tan girl’s lap. “Seriously?”
“Seriously. Even helped spread some of those rumors myself, back when that was the sort of thing I was into. Flash and I definitely created a few just by being a couple, and then we created even more with our break up.”
“No one talks like that any time I visit. At least, not since the Fall Formal.”
“Yeah, because you went and made everyone act nicer by being yourself. You kind of have that effect on people. And ponies, if what you tell me about the other side of the mirror is true.”
That made an eyebrow lift, when dark purple eyes met cyan again. “Are you saying I should just go and sit with these reporters and be myself to try and kill the stories with kindness? Because these stories are being told by a lot of reporters. I would need to make a list to make sure that I know all of them, first of all. Then I’d need to start making a schedule so I could handle meeting each one of them face to face.”
Sunset snorted and kissed her nose. “It’s your call if that’s how you want to handle it, princess. I’m just making an observation of what I saw after you worked your magic in school. People still talk, but not nearly as much as they used to.” She paused, meeting Twilight’s gaze cautiously. “Kind of surprised you come here to get away from all of it back in Equestria, honestly. You’re a bit of a minor celebrity here in your own right. I can’t imagine that’s very relaxing to deal with, either.”
That made Twilight quiet, and she chewed her bottom lip for a moment as she thought of how to answer the obvious question that her girlfriend was asking without actually asking it. When a few seconds passed and nothing immediately formulated in her mind, she sighed quietly in defeat and cupped Sunset’s face with her hands, kissing her.
It was slow, and gentle, and it calmed her down like nothing else could.
Sunset’s eyes were still closed when Twilight pulled away, and she laughed softly. “Come on,” she said. “I’m in the mood for something sweet after talking to you about this.”
Sunset’s eyes slowly opened, and she blinked a few times. After a moment, she smiled. “I think I know just the place, princess. If you don’t mind a bit of a walk.”
Twilight gave her another kiss, because she wanted to. “I don’t mind at all.”
There were two things that Twilight knew, after that visit. Or well, one thing that she knew and one thing that she started trying to do, after that visit.
What she tried to do was basically follow Sunset’s advice, as best she could. She was already used to the idea that for some reason, ever since she had become both a princess and an alicorn, other ponies were suddenly fascinated by her life. Her life was still her life; nothing about it had changed now that she had a crown and a pair of wings, and yet now she had fans and they wanted to know where she had born, and… and…
Well, she didn’t think she would ever fully understand it. Ponies talking about her accomplishments? Yes, that made sense. Ponies suddenly be into her life because of a change in her life station? No. It didn’t make any sense. She didn’t understand it, but she was used to it. Or getting used to it, depending on the day and her mood. She could get used to the stories, too. Could see the humor of all of it, instead of becoming angry by the fiction.
She preferred laughing to losing her temper.
So that was nice. She was doing that, and it was going reasonably well. It helped that with the relative lack of an obvious coltfriend or fillyfriend, the speculation on her love life had died down some over time. It seemed that the most obvious routes—her friends and both of the princesses—had dried up, at least for now. She would take any break she could get.
As for what she knew, well—she knew that when Sunset had said that escaping into the human world to escape her fame in Equestria was a little odd, she wasn’t wrong. She knew it was odd, because Twilight was well aware of her personality at Canterlot High School. It was nowhere near close to being the Princess of Friendship, but she was still well known. She was someone humans talked about, but…
At least they were quieter about it than ponies were. Humans asked her about her life and living in another world, sure, and some of them had asked if she had a romantic partner before she had started dating Sunset, it was true. But perhaps because they didn’t truly know her—at least, not the way ponies did—rumors and speculation about her had never truly taken off the way it had in Equestria. When she came into the human world and become a purple girl with long hair, it wasn’t the same level of gossip and popularity.
It was just whispering, in the human world. Twilight could handle the whispering. She had been handling the whispering her entire life. It was when the shouting started that she had a hard time coping with it.
And of course, on some level, she did have enough of a sense of humor to appreciate the irony of the whole situation. Pony tabloids loved discussing her romantic life and theorizing about it, and yet to get away from it all she went through her portal and into the world where her actual girlfriend lived. Her occasional disappearances certainly generated speculation all on their own, and there had been some murmurs of a secret or hidden away lover, but that had died away quickly because it apparently wasn’t considered interesting to readers.
It was even better because unlike Equestria, her and Sunset being a couple was public knowledge. It had been enough that once, Twilight had wondered if maybe that was the true solution to all of this, the best way to quiet other ponies; to bring her girlfriend over to the world of her birth and show her off as her partner, and put an end to all of the rumors. If nothing else, it would change the stories from speculation about who she was dating to speculation about how her relationship was going.
She was still trying to decide if that would actually be an improvement or not.
In the end, though, Twilight knew that no matter how much she thought about it, it wasn’t a viable option to be open with the Equestrian press about her relationship with Sunset—at least not yet. Even after reconciling with Celestia, the former unicorn was reluctant to go back to the other world often. There was simply nothing on the other side for her, beyond occasional visits from time to time to talk with the princess of the sun. Maybe eventually she would come back to Equestria full time, when she was done with school and ready to move on with the rest of her life, but she wasn’t there yet.
So for now, it was easier to keep things quiet. And taking the redhead’s advice, Twilight found she was actually doing pretty well with the stories that were still published about her from time to time. She could laugh at them now, especially since there weren’t as many of them as there used to be.
But of course, they still existed. And eventually, with all of the logical (or at least, semi to somewhat logical) stories drying up from a lack of gossip, sooner or later somepony was going to start dipping into the territory of complete and utterly wild speculation.
And stories that weren’t true—stories that dug into her personal life to make up stories about ponies she cared about, all because somepony somewhere wanted to make some bits as fast as possible—that was something Twilight found that she couldn’t laugh at, no matter how hard she tried to.
Especially when those stories involved her family.
There was no verbal outrage this time, when Twilight came through the portal with an Equestrian gossip magazine in her hands. She didn’t seem angry at all when she walked through the portal and kept walking, right into Sunset’s arms, and hugged her and held on tight. That was somehow worse than the purple girl not being able to shut up about how much a story had angered her, and the princess of friendship didn’t say a word as they walked back to her apartment.
Sunset found she definitely preferred verbal outrage to this strained, exhausted silence.
When they got to her apartment Twilight dropped the magazine on her dresser and threw herself face first onto Sunset’s bed, burying her face into the pillows with a drained groan. Wincing quietly to herself, the redhead picked up the magazine and flipped it to the place her girlfriend had bookmarked. She sat down on the edge of her bed next to her, silently reading as she absently stroked long strands of mixed purple and pink hair with her fingers. Slowly but surely, Twilight sighed and relaxed under her touch, and Sunset finished the story with a sigh of her own.
Well. Now she understood the silence.
After a few moments passed and the former unicorn hadn’t said anything, the princess peeked at her from her pillows. “Nothing to say?” she asked. “You usually find something about these stories I bring over amusing.”
Sunset glanced down at her as she set aside the magazine, never removing her fingers from Twilight’s hair. Her lips twitched upwards slightly, though she didn’t quite smile yet; she wasn’t sure if it was appropriate, considering her girlfriend’s mood. “You bring these over to make me laugh? Always thought you just liked listening to yourself rant.”
Twilight shrugged, and this time she did smile; something that was small and kind of subdued, but it was still a smile, and she seemed to finally be fully relaxed, at least. “What can I say? Sure, the stories annoy me and make me angry sometimes, but they also make you laugh when you can find the humor in them. I like it when you laugh, and I like making you laugh.”
“Do you now? Always thought making someone laugh was more of Pinkie’s thing.”
“Yeah, making people laugh is Pinkie’s thing. I like making you specifically laugh. I like your laugh. You have a pretty laugh.”
That did make Sunset smile and she shifted a little closer to the other girl, leaning down and kissing her hair. When she pulled away her hand found Twilight’s and their fingers laced together, and for a few moments longer they fell once again into silence, only briefly letting go as the alicorn turned human shifted and rolled over onto her back so that she could look at the tan girl properly. Even then, as soon as she was comfortable, she was reaching for her hand again, holding on tightly and warmly.
“For what it’s worth,” Sunset said at last, since Twilight did seem to want to hear her opinion on the story she had just read. “I’m pretty sure that Princess Cadance didn’t marry your brother just to try and get close to you for an affair, and I’m definitely pretty sure that Flurry Heart isn’t your...” she trailed off and picked up the magazine again, rereading the specific phrase the author had used to describe the foal, “… magical lesbian spawn.”
Twilight grimaced, rubbing her eyes. Her grip on Sunset’s hand subtly tightened, almost to the point of pain, but the redhead didn’t say a word about it. “And the other theory they proposed?” she asked, a mixture of exhaustion and sarcasm dripping from her every word.
Sunset winced, glancing at the magazine again. “I mean, again, I’m pretty sure that you aren’t having a torrid incestuous affair with Shining Armor that he tried to keep quiet by marrying Cadance. You’d think that would put more eyes on that kind of thing, actually, since he married the Princess of Love and Celestia’s niece. And… again, I’m definitely pretty sure that Flurry Heart isn’t your incestuous love child.”
“She doesn’t even look that much like me,” Twilight muttered. “I always thought of all of us, she looked the most like Cadance. She has Shining’s eyes, even. I don’t see a lot of myself in her, which… you know, makes sense, considering I’m her aunt. You’d think somepony would realize that just from looking at her.”
It wasn’t the proper term and they both knew it, but the princess of friendship didn’t bother correcting herself for the slip. She was talking to a fellow Equestrian about a story written in an Equestrian gossip magazine; Sunset understood exactly what she was saying. When it was just the two of them like this, she didn’t need to watch her language. It helped in moments like this, when she couldn’t summon the energy to care.
Sunset shrugged, meeting her gaze. “You know these things aren’t usually based on fact, right? They’re just trying to make sales numbers by being as shocking as possible with their stories and their headlines.”
“I know, I know. And I was doing so well with dealing with this, too. I was even starting to see what was so funny with all the stories about my friends and I.”
“Not so funny though when it involves your family, I take it?”
Twilight sighed. “I know how that sounds,” she said. “There really shouldn’t be a difference for me, emotionally speaking. My friends are like my family. It doesn’t make any sense that how I feel about differently about the stories just because of who they’re about.”
That got another shrug from the redhead, and she waited to see if she was allowed to speak; she didn’t want to talk over her companion during a time that she needed someone to listen to her. A glance from dark purple eyes confirmed that she was, in fact, allowed to speak now.
“I don’t think it sounds weird,” she said, giving a purple hand a gentle squeeze. “I mean, you love your friends, I get that—I love my friends, too. The fact that these stories get a different reaction from you doesn’t change that. It just means it’s different. You love your friends, but...”
“… But I can also imagine in another world yeah, what those stories are describing could have possibly happened,” Twilight murmured. “Maybe not exactly the way they describe them, of course--”
“I would hope not,” Sunset cut in with a grin. “Considering how some of those stories describe your supposed love life, I’d be worried if it could play out exactly like that.”
Twilight released her hand and sat up, smacking her shoulder with a laugh. “You’re terrible.”
“Got you to laugh, didn’t it? You have a pretty laugh yourself, you know.”
“Maybe not exactly the way they describe them, of course,” Twilight managed between a minor fit of giggling. “But in another world, with a different me, I can see those stories happening. I can’t… you know. I can’t see that with my brother. Not even Cadance, really. I’ve known her since I was a foal. She’s like a sister to me.”
“Not your sister by blood, if you want to be technical about it.”
“Okay, I’ll buy that when you read a story pairing you off romantically with Princess Celestia.”
The look on Sunset’s face was the exact mix of revulsion and confusion Twilight herself had felt when she’d first read the stories mixing her family with her love life, and it was exactly the reaction she had hoped for. She smirked and rested her hands back behind her to support herself, letting her long hair fall back behind her. “Doesn’t feel so good when it’s you, does it?”
“I… no, that’s… she was like a mother to me, that….” Sunset shook her head, holding up both hands in surrender. “Okay, princess. Point made. It was a badly made joke.”
“I know. I couldn’t resist.”
“I opened myself up for that one.”
“You did, but I appreciate that you can admit it.” Twilight straightened up and reached out, taking the magazine from her girlfriend’s hand and looking back over the story. She didn’t really need to reread it—she had the word practically burned into the back of her eyelids at this point, for better or for worse—but she found it comforting to go back to stories with a different mindset.
The story was still terrible, but at least she didn’t feel anger burning in her gut anymore.
“… It seems silly that it made me so upset, now that I’ve explained it,” she murmured, flipping through the pages without seeing the words. “I feel like it was something I should have been able to figure out logically just from reading it.” She closed the magazine and passed it back to Sunset, who placed it on the dresser next to her bed.
“Maybe,” the former unicorn said. “It sounds silly when you say it out loud like that, sure. But we all like to talk, especially about how we feel. Ponies really like to talk, and we’re both unicorns. I’m pretty sure we’re the pony race that never stops talking.”
“You haven’t been around enough earth ponies or pegasi,” the princess muttered. “They talk just as much as unicorns do, believe me.”
“True, but with unicorns you get all the talk about bloodlines and family history and the whole argument about who is better than who because you’re related to some unicorn with slightly more magic than the other unicorn. I imagine pegasi and earth ponies mostly just keep it to simple gossip.”
“Oh, I have some stories for you about Applejack and her family that will convince you otherwise, believe me. Earth ponies can hold grudges like you would not believe, from what she’s told me.”
“Okay, okay, back to my point—but yes, I have to know these stories, they sound fascinating and I never talked with many earth ponies before I left Equestria—sure, when you put it like that, it sounds silly. And yeah, maybe logically you should have realized all of that right from the start instead of coming over to see me and talk about it. But we like to talk. We like saying how we feel to others and being told that what we feel is valid. I mean, you feel better now, don’t you?”
“Well, yeah. But only because you didn’t tell me how I feel is stupid.”
“Okay, you know what--” Sunset gently bumped their foreheads together, her hand resting on the back of Twilight’s neck. “I’m really trying to make a point here, and you keep distracting me from it.”
“It’s a good point,” Twilight agreed, trying to fight back a smile and knowing she was failing miserably; she could feel her lips twitching. “You could make a whole friendship lesson out of it. I could write a letter to Celestia like old times.”
“You’re just trying to make me say how you feel is stupid so you can say you were right all along.”
“Or maybe I just really like distracting you! I do find it cute how you’re so focused on the point you’re trying to make--”
She didn’t get to finish her sentence this time, a fact that delighted her entirely. If there was one thing she’d gotten good at since officially becoming the Princess of Friendship, it was using her way with words to get what she wanted. Sunset might have rubbed off on her in that regard as well—she wasn’t sure exactly which it was, or if it was a combination of the two facts.
Either way, the payoff was always good when she was alone with her girlfriend, and this time was no exception.
The only warning she had was the small spark that lit up Sunset’s eyes, and before Twilight knew it she was being kissed; the rest of her sentence was very quickly forgotten as the redhead took full advantage of the grip she had on the back of the purple girl’s neck. All in all, this was far more enjoyable than continuing to talk, and it kept them both distracted for a little bit.
“You did that on purpose,” Sunset murmured when she pulled back enough that they could both catch their breath, bumping her forehead against Twilight’s again.
Twilight kept her eyes closed for a moment, simply enjoying how that kiss had felt, before she opened them and smiled. “Like I said, you make a very good point. And more seriously, I do feel a lot better.”
“I’m pretty sure the kiss helped more with that part than the pep talk I was trying to give you.”
The princess gave her another kiss, this one staying short and chaste. “They both helped in different ways. And you aren’t wrong in what you said, either.” She trailed off for a second as a thought crossed her mind, then chuckled and bumped their foreheads together again gently. “It’s almost funny, really. Talking about all of this helps me feel better, but all of the problems start in the first place because ponies back home are always talking.”
“Humans talk here too, you know. I’m still a little surprised that doesn’t bother you as much as what ponies say about you back in Equestria.”
Sunset wasn’t going to drop this point, it seemed. If nothing else, she was still dancing around it; it seemed like she wanted Twilight to broach the subject herself, when she felt comfortable about it.
One day Twilight would. She knew that. But today wasn’t that day.
“Well then.” She gave her girlfriend one more kiss, this time pressing her lips to her forehead as she pulled back. “Since humans like to talk as much as ponies do, let’s go give them something to talk about while I’m here. I didn’t eat anything before I came over—that story kind of killed my appetite—but now I’m feeling hungry.”
A single eyebrow lifted in amusement. “You know, princess, just a guess, but I have a feeling the fact that you didn’t eat anything before coming over here made your bad mood worse.”
“I won’t deny it. So are you actually going to help me do something about it, or are you going to keep teasing me?”
“As much as I would enjoy getting my revenge on you for your last few comments...” It was Sunset’s turn to kiss Twilight’s forehead now, something the princess leaned into happily. “I’d much rather make you happier, so we’ll get you something to eat. A new place opened up in town, figured it would be fun for us to go check that out and see how it is.”
That made the alicorn turned human smile and she got to her feet, taking her girlfriend’s hand and tugging her up. “Sounds like a plan. Lead the way.”
Sunset gave her a little mock bow, smiling at the giggle the action prompted from Twilight, and did just that without letting go of her hand.
It really should have been easy for Twilight to answer Sunset’s unspoken question.
She knew that logically, and deep down she also knew that she should have been able to answer it long before this point. The former unicorn had been very patient with her, and was clearly keeping from outright asking, probably because she could tell she didn’t know how to answer it. At some point, she would owe her an answer, and the worst part was she knew that the answer wasn’t that complicated.
All she really needed to do was say it, and she could be done with it. It wasn’t even like it was a stupid answer. At the very least, she didn’t think it was, and she’d spent a lot of time thinking about it back when it hadn’t come so easily to her.
And yet even when Sunset danced around it and gave her the chance to say it any way she could think of, she also kept her wording vague enough to give Twilight a way out of the conversation; and so far, both times the question had been implied, she had chosen to take the way out instead of giving a simple answer. Because even though it was a simple answer and she knew what she wanted to say and how she felt…
She didn’t know exactly how to say it. She knew that Sunset was right to ask; while the human world was certainly quieter than the pony world in terms of popularity because of her slightly lower social standing, it still happened. Coming over to the human world didn’t quiet the talking entirely. All it did was lower the level from shouting to whispering.
Whispering was certainly preferable to shouting, but noise was still noise. It was basically the choice between having a headache so painful and intense that it felt like it was going to split her head open, or having a headache that was dull and throbbing but refused to fade away completely. One technically felt better than the other, but a headache was still a headache.
Or to be more accurate to Twilight’s specific situation, noise was still noise.
There was no good way to describe the situation, not in words. Not in any kind of way that would make sense. Maybe it really was as simple as saying “People don’t talk the way ponies do and also your presence helps a lot” and Twilight was just overthinking it (as she was often prone to overthinking things, she could admit), but on the other hoof—hand, whatever—maybe it wasn’t. Maybe she could say it that way, and Sunset would still be confused.
If there was one thing that Twilight could confidently say she had learned over the years, it was that some things couldn’t just be said. There had to be other ways to express what she was thinking, how she was feeling. Trying to put it into words didn’t feel like it was enough.
It probably was enough. She was probably overthinking it. She probably should have just gone through the portal and said what she was thinking and how she was feeling to Sunset, and then she would be done with it.
But Twilight had been overthinking herself in every aspect this whole time, and for the most part it had all worked out in the end anyway. Overthinking herself one more time wouldn’t hurt.
Maybe she really was overthinking this.
It felt oddly liberating to come through the portal that day without a story in her hands, with her mood already clear and light instead of annoyed or angry from the latest gossip that had wormed its way into her mind. She still wanted to address Sunset’s question once and for all during this visit, but she was definitely planning to do it at some point during said visit, and not immediately after crossing to the human world. For once, she wanted to just start out enjoying her time with her girlfriend before she got onto a serious topic.
It was a little selfish, and definitely a little bit of a delaying tactic. Twilight knew that, and yet she still did it anyway. It gave her more time anyway to think of specifically how she wanted to answer her fellow unicorn’s question, anyway. She already knew the method that she wanted to use—Sunset had been very open with her about the fact that she and her human friends now had special powers, unique even compared to the magic used by ponies in Equestria. She had been especially open about her own abilities—being able to sense someone’s emotions, memories, and thoughts through touch.
A unicorn could read the mind of another pony, but only via the use of a spell that required time and careful preparation. As a former student of all things magical, Twilight had practically started drooling when she had learned about the fact that this ability came so easily to her girlfriend; and then her emotional thinking had kicked in and reminded her that this was a power very much attached to a living, breathing being that she happened to care about a great deal. As a result, though a part of her had always wondered and wanted to, she had never asked Sunset about running any kind of experiments to test the extent and limitations of her mind reading. Sunset likewise had never shown any interest in having those experiments run—probably because they would have involved her as the test subject, with everything that implied—and so the matter had never come up between them beyond some discussion.
She was sure, of course, that Sunset had tested her powers and experimented with them to the extent she was comfortable with when left to her own devices, but she never asked and simply hung off of her every word whenever she decided to share the results of her little field tests. The important thing of course, was this: from listening to Sunset and discussing her tests and results with her, Twilight had a pretty decent grasp of the redhead’s abilities. What she wanted to do was certainly more than possible.
She was probably overthinking it again, but in this case especially, well—better safe than sorry. She wasn’t the only subject involved in today’s experiment.
Horse feathers, that just makes it all sound so unromantic. As if I wasn’t already nervous about this.
Twilight viciously pushed that thought back to the darkest corner of her mind, and tried her best to think of her plan in more romantic terms—if only to boost her confidence high enough that she knew she wouldn’t back out of it when the moment came. And to be fair to her thoroughly scientific heart, the rest of the day was absolutely lovely once she crossed over to the human world.
They couldn’t spend all day out, alas; Sunset still had requirements for school, and she was every bit the dedicated student that Twilight was. All too soon they had finished their walk through the city and were saying goodbye to their friends to go back to to the former unicorn’s place, and the princess of friendship knew this was the moment she had been waiting for. All she had to do now was bring it up, gradually ease the two of them into it, and go from there.
“So um, you keep… kind of asking me about why I’m always coming here to get away from the reporters in Equestria.”
So of course, the moment she actually opened her mouth and tried to put her perfectly logical thoughts into words, she ended up shoving it so far down her throat she was amazed she didn’t immediately start choking on it.
Sunset paused mid sentence on her assignment, lifting cyan eyes to meet Twilight’s nervous purple. After a moment, she carefully set down her pencil. “I was trying to be subtle about that,” she said at last.
Twilight laughed weakly and dropped down from where she had been settled on the redhead’s bed, choosing instead to settle on the floor next to her and lean back against it. “You found a way to bring it up every time I was here. I wouldn’t exactly say it was subtle, just… polite of you to not ask outright.”
Her fellow student’s quiet laugh was warm, at least. “That’s why I said I was trying. I knew I wasn’t exactly being good about it.”
“Good effort, though.”
“It was a terrible effort, and you know it. I know it. You saw through me every time.” Sunset paused, looking Twilight over, before she lifted a brow. “And you’re trying to get me distracted again.”
Twilight smiled nervously. “It only counts if it’s working?”
“And if it’s not? At least not this time.”
“… Do I get points for trying?”
The tan girl chose not to even reply, simply resting her chin in the palm of her hand and continuing to look her girlfriend over with a raised eyebrow. Twilight couldn’t say she entirely blamed her for the look she was giving her, either. She’d pretty much completely brought it on herself.
“Right, so.” She swallowed and began playing with her hands, if only to give them something to do and to try and keep her nerves at bay. “You were kind of asking me about why I’m always coming here to get away from the reporters in Equestria.”
“You said that already.”
“I know, I know, I’m using it to ease myself back into this conversation. And you’re right to ask to, because, well… like you said, I don’t really get away from any of the talking in the human world. I mean, I might have once, but...”
“Not anymore,” Sunset finished, thinking of Twilight’s minor celebrity status and how it had been growing with each one of her visits.
“Yeah. It keeps happening, and… well, you know, you’d think I’d want to get away from that entirely.” She paused, rubbing the back of her neck. “Which is my way of saying I agree with your question. And I have an answer for why I keep coming back here.”
The redhead chuckled. “If you say it’s because I’m here, princess, I swear I’m never going to live it down.”
The princess of friendship paused, then frowned at the former unicorn. “You know, I’m pretty sure most people or ponies would find that romantic.”
“And it is romantic. Also just incredibly sappy.”
This time it was Twilight’s turn to chuckle. “Right, and you aren’t the sappy type at all. Got it. Also, you’re the one distracting me this time.”
“It doesn’t count when I’m the one doing it, princess.”
“Sure it doesn’t. Anyway—I have the answer to what you’ve been not asking me, and it’s not just that you’re in this world, because apparently that’s too sappy for you. And I haven’t really gone into it because I’m not really good at like… putting it into words? What I want to say to you? Besides saying the obvious, and you don’t want to hear that. And honestly, I don’t think it’s entirely true, even though it’s a large part of why I like coming here.”
Another chuckle and Sunset shifted, her eyes softening slightly. “Well, that’s good to know. I think it would make our friends sad if I was the only reason you came over.” She paused, then met Twilight’s gaze. “But since you can’t say it… I assume you already have a plan?”
Twilight didn’t say anything. She simply smiled.
“… Right. Forgot who I was talking to for a second.”
“I’m not going to say it to you. I don’t know how much you’ve tested your mind reading abilities beyond what we’ve discussed….”
“Don’t worry, princess. Haven’t kept anything from you in that regard.”
The former alicon let out a quiet breath she hadn’t known she was holding. She had already known all of this, of course; at the very least, she had reasonably suspected it. Either way, the confirmation of it was nice. It put her mind at ease and silenced some of her lingering doubts.
“Then what I have in mind should be possible.” She finally willed herself to stop playing with her hands. “I’m not going to say it to you. You’re going to… read it from me? I don’t know what’s considered the proper term.”
Sunset took a moment to think about it, then shrugged. “Normally I just touch someone and I see their thoughts and their emotions. Sometimes their memories, if I’m focused enough. I don’t have an actual proper term for it yet, I just do it.”
“So.” Twilight scooted closer to close the distance between them. “You’re going to read my emotions.”
“Because you’re bad at putting them into words and don’t want to sound sappy?” The redhead smirked at her girlfriend’s snort, watching as she finally settled down across from her. “Not going to say I mind the idea, though I’m curious about what you have in mind. There’s a lot of ways we could do this. Anything works once I focus. … Early on I didn’t even have to do that, it was completely accidental the first few times.”
“Good thing I’ve already thought of the perfect way that I want to do this.”
“I’m just going to say it now, Twilight. Kissing me to trigger a reading is still considered sappy.”
Twilight rolled her eyes, trying really hard to resist the smile she could feel tugging at the edges of her lips. “Just come here before I change my mind and you don’t get your answer.”
Sunset was smiling in comparison, and she wasn’t even trying to hide it. At this point they were close enough that she could reach out and touch the purple girl however she wanted with no problems, completely closing the distance between them. She gave Twilight a few moments to compose herself and settle down on her thoughts—it made the whole reading process easier and less muddled, even if it wasn’t exactly required.
Twilight held out her hand, finally, and Sunset took that for the sign that it was. Already in the mindset that she would be reading the moment she touched her, the tan girl reached out to close the distance and took her hand, lacing their fingers together.
And then, because the whole concept of this thing was already incredibly sappy (no matter how much Sunset seemed set on trying to avoid it) and Twilight had always been one to simply embrace the feeling or idea of a moment when she realized it was the best option, the princess of friendship pulled her fellow student in, cupped her face with her free hand, and kissed her.
The rest of it, despite her worries, happened far easier than she expected. That seemed to be a common theme for her.
In truth, all of the research that had been done on Sunset’s mind reading ability was all one-sided; the only thing that had really been consistently tested was everything on her end, in regards to how she used her powers and how they worked once she triggered a reading. For the person she was reading, it was more of a mixed bag. She had certainly spoken to her friends that she had read from, and from anyone else that she had triggered accidentally, but all of that talk hadn’t established anything specific. Each experience, at least on their end, seemed to be unique in how it happened and how it felt. As a result, as the one being read in this case, Twilight didn’t know what to expect. All she knew was she’d willed all of her emotions and memories into this one moment, and whatever happened next would happen.
There was a flood of warmth that started from her lips and spread through her whole body, a familiar jolt of Equestrian magic danced through the air and across her skin, and despite herself the princess of friendship smiled into the kiss.
Oh, something was definitely happening.
In hindsight, Sunset really should have realized that Twilight was going to kiss her anyway. It was the kind of thing she would do, regardless of how sappy it would be, for the simple fact that it was sappy at all. Maybe a part of her did realize it, because the moment purple hands grabbed her and pulled her in she could feel the laugh rising in her throat, and she closed her eyes.
At the same time though, subtly, she braced herself for whatever she was about to see or feel. Or see and feel, as sometimes happened in some particularly intense cases.
The truth was, she had learned that she never truly knew what to expect. Even when she went in knowing that she was going to read someone’s mind—Wallflower Blush immediately came to mind—that only meant that she knew why she was doing it and what to try and look for. When her mind was made up, it was much easier for her to come away from the reading with what she wanted, and not to be swept away by the tide of thoughts and feelings.
Even then, though, it wasn’t always that clean. She could get what she wanted out of a reading if she was doing it for a specific purpose, but there were still…. pieces that clung to her like a second skin. The sensation of faded memories pressing against the edges of what she wanted to see, blurring the image slightly so it wasn’t completely clear. The remnants of another emotion still clinging to something she wanted to feel, like ghostly hands.
Even in the most controlled situation that she could manage, mind reading was often risky and sometimes messy.
So even though she knew that Twilight was doing this with an exact purpose in mind, and even though she knew that meant that she would probably get exactly out of it what the princess wanted her to see and feel, Sunset still braced herself regardless.
Even with someone she loved and trusted, it was better to be safe than sorry.
So she braced herself for anything, and expected nothing. Which also in hindsight, was also a mistake. She knew Twilight. She knew Twilight as well as their friends did, and in many ways knew her in some ways better than they ever would. From that, she should have known that the best case scenario was to expect anything.
The moment their lips met, she felt her abilities trigger—she’d long accepted it was something that just happened, and she opened her mind to whatever she was about to see or feel. As it turned out, this was a reading where she would both feel emotions, and see memories. That one was easy to figure out, on account of the fact that she was basically flooded with things Twilight remembered and things she had felt.
If there was one thing that stood out about it, though, it was all of the memories and emotions she felt were all linked to her.
The memories were by far the most straightforward part of the whole experience: times she had met Twilight at the portal, with or without a story in her hands, to spend time together in the human world. The few but slowly increasing number of times the redhead had crossed into Equestria and become a unicorn again (to the princess’s ever present delight) to explore everything she had missed and spend even more time together. If there was one thing that stood out about those memories, though, it was the fact that they were completely, utterly clear. They weren’t faded, and there was no blurring around the edges that she so often associated with memories when she was doing a reading.
That wasn’t the only thing, either, though it was odd enough that it stood out all on its own. Flashing through several memories wasn’t strange for Sunset; it happened often enough any time she read a person that she had long ago accepted she would never be able to see one specific memory, at least not right now with her level of control. As a result, flashing through several of Twilight’s shared memories of the two of them was expected. What wasn’t expected was that each memory she saw, besides being completely clear and crisp like she had just lived through it, was also the only memory she felt at that moment in time. There was no sensation of another memory pressing against the edges of her mind, no distortion to remind her that there was more to see. It showed naturally and it flowed smoothly, and it was a completely new experience for her.
Of course Twilight would be the one to introduce her to an entirely new reading experience. And that was just from the memories; it wasn’t even getting into the emotions.
The clarity of the princess’s memories had (not surprisingly) passed along to her emotions as they washed over her girlfriend; there was no chill of another emotion clinging to it, the nagging sense that even as she soaked in the sensation there was something else she should be feeling, something else she should be bracing herself to feel next. It gave her something rare indeed: a chance to actually enjoy what she was feeling, to let it soak through her and into her skin, to really savor it in a way she had never been able to before on previous readings.
Well, she’d done it once, with Pinkie Pie. But like most things regarding Pinkie, that whole reading hadn’t made any sense. Considering that, Sunset was pretty sure it didn’t count.
It was a good comparison point, though. If Pinkie’s reading of emotion had been—well, to be blunt, it had been an absolute explosion of color and laughter, a massive wave of emotion that had swept through Sunset and had left her a little confused and dazed in its wake. She knew she’d felt something from that reading, but even now she couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
Reading emotion from Twilight, on the other hand, was the exact opposite of reading emotion from Pinkie. Not exactly a shocking revelation, but true nonetheless. If Pinkie had been color and laughter to the point that Sunset couldn’t feel anything else, Twilight was a steady pulse of light, gentle against her eyelids and low enough to be present without being overwhelming.
And the emotion itself…
Well, it certainly wasn’t laughter.
It was love, Sunset knew that. Even if she hadn’t immediately known that just from her past experience with dating Twilight, she couldn’t mistake the feeling of it for any other emotion. All emotions were distinct, even the ones that she felt through her readings, and this overwhelming sense of affection and attachment was definitely love. There were modifications to emotions, of course; every emotion was distinct, but there were different forms of love. She was familiar with the subtle differences, and felt those differences through a reading as well.
Love was warm. Love was like the sunlight, constant and gentle and never wavering even during cloudy times. It might not have always been the dominant emotion, but it was always there, and Sunset certainly felt love warming her from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. And if love generally felt like sunlight (and she was pretty sure she wasn’t biased at all with that comparison due to past experiences), romantic love was like a fire. At its worst, it burned its way through a person and left nothing but ashes in its wake, not caring about the rebuilding that would need to be done after it was gone.
At its best, though, it was a gentle spark that sent off warming embers, blazing gently and constant whenever you were in the presence of that one person who prompted it in you—and often times (all the time) when you weren’t, just to remind you of their presence. Sunset was very familiar with that sensation, and had been for some time.
She’d always felt that emotion in herself though, aimed at the people in her life. And she knew that her friends loved her; she knew that Twilight loved her. She felt it every day, in gestures and words and actions. She’d just never actually felt it, the emotion itself, purely from another person. She’d never read the emotions of a person that was in love with her, after all.
Twilight was in love with her. It was an obvious statement, but it was something Sunset knew. Her words, her actions when they were together—especially when it was just the two of them—made that more than clear. For someone (somepony) that occasionally worried about not being affectionate enough in a romantic relationship, she went well above and beyond on almost every occasion. This whole moment more than cemented that.
It was a weird thing to say, considering Sunset knew Twilight was in love with her and had felt that fact many times before this moment of mind reading. But even with all of that, the redhead realized that while yes, she had always known the princess loved her and she had always felt that love, well…
She hadn’t actually literally felt that love, as in the emotion of Twilight loving her, until this exact moment.
And as cliché and, dare she say it, sappy as it was, actually feeling the emotion of Twilight’s love for her was both everything she had expected and nothing like she had imagined.
If romantic love was fire and Sunset wasn’t burning, then it felt like something pretty close. It was gentle, a pulse that started from her (Twilight’s) chest, burning its way through her blood and throughout all of her body with every beat of her heart. It wasn’t painful—quite the opposite, actually. It was a gentle burn, the sensation of sparks warming her from the inside out, and the redhead had never felt anything quite like it before in her life.
And she felt it—just that love, just that one emotion. It was an entirely new experience and one she suspected she might never feel again on another reading. The scientist in her was trying to stay focused enough to take notes on everything, so she could ask her girlfriend about it later once they parted from the kiss.
For the moment, though, she was going to just lose herself in the reading and enjoy every second of the memories and emotion that flowed through her.
Inevitably, the kiss did need to end; as reluctant as they both were to consider it, breathing through their noses could only get them so much oxygen, and they were beginning to get rather short of breath. Ever the logical one, Twilight was the one who pulled away first, and she couldn’t quite swallow the giggle when Sunset’s brain took a moment to catch up with what was physically happening. The former unicorn lingered longer for a few seconds, eyes closed, before she opened them again and blinked several times.
The purple girl waited. Her fellow student had been the one doing the actual reading, absorbing everything that she had seen and felt throughout their time together. It was understandable that she would need a little longer to process all of it and shift back to her normal mindset. And on top of that, Twilight had done her fair bit of research before suggesting the reading, and had done everything in her power to try and make it as focused as possible. She’d wanted to deliver her point as thoroughly as she could; that was the whole reason for this, after all. If she couldn’t begin to think of how to express all of what she had just shared in words, she shuddered to think about how utterly distorted it could have been if she had let other emotions and other memories seep into it.
As the seconds passed though and Sunset remained silent and contemplative, the princess began to worry that maybe—just maybe—she’d gone a little too far and overdone it.
“Sunset?” she asked, when the worry began to become a little too much. “Are you okay? Was that too much? Oh, jeez, I overloaded you, didn’t I? I didn’t even think about that, you’ve never had a reading like this before.” She scooted a little closer and reached out, brushing mixed strands of red and gold out of slowly sharpening cyan eyes. “I am so sorry--”
Her words morphed into a yelp as those cyan eyes locked with hers, and then Sunset pulled her into another kiss. Compared to the last one, it was short but just as intense; no reading this time, but Twilight didn’t really need a reading to get the message behind it.
“You,” Sunset breathed when they finally parted for the second time, “are a total sap, princess.”
“Uh...” Twilight cleared her throat, trying to clear her mind. “Um. Thank you? I think?”
“That was literally the sappiest thing you could have possibly done to make your point.”
“… It worked though, right?”
“Of course you would ask that.” It came out as a laugh, as the redhead nuzzled into her neck. “It worked perfectly, Twilight. You dork.”
“And—and you’re okay? Because again, I’m really sorry, I should have considered before I tried this that you’d never had a reading like that before.”
“First of all, once I come down from this emotional high, I’m going to ask how you managed to pull that off at all. Second of all, I’m fine. Really, I promise. It was a bit of a shock, but nothing I couldn’t recover from.”
That made the princess smile sheepishly, and she finally started to relax; one arm wound its way around her girlfriend, gently playing with the red and gold strands at her back, as she turned her head slightly and pressed her lips against her hair. “I’m still sorry,” she said. “But when I thought about it, I just really couldn’t find a way to put all of it into words. Nothing felt right to me when I said it out loud.”
“Well, I’ll tell you this, you certainly don’t do anything halfway.” It was another laugh against her skin, warm and gentle, before Sunset finally pulled back a little so their eyes could meet. She bumped their foreheads together gently, smiling. “Also, Twilight?”
“I love you too.”
Twilight smiled, and this time she was the one leaning in for the kiss. “Even though I showed you how I felt in the sappiest way possible?”
“I think I can live quite happily with you being a sap, princess.”
If there was one thing Twilight Sparkle had learned since ascending to alicornhood and becoming a princess, it was that ponies talked.
If there was another thing she had learned, it was that they talked about her and they always would. She would never fully get away from that, even in the human world. It was part of who she was now, and she was finally starting to get comfortable with that fact. The volume might be different—shouting and whispering—but it would always be there.
But at least, when she was with Sunset, she could forget about it for a little while and think about something else.
And for her, that was more than enough.