Why Do You Love Me?

by Princess Platinum Blonde

Dinner and a Question

The dozens of candles that lit the restaurant, especially the one in the centre of their table, combined with the mood lighting to create an atmosphere almost as picturesque as when using the Romantic filter on SnapGab. But while some other social media queen might be able to capture the same ambiance (pronounced the French way, naturalement) at the touch of a button, they couldn’t hope to replicate the subject of the picture: the girl sitting opposite her, beyond the candle, in a dress most girls would give anything to be able to pull off – in both senses of the phrase.

Lowering her phone, Vignette caught the detail of the candlelight dancing in Sunset’s eyes (#4k4real). Or was that their natural sparkle, when Sunny had something intriguing on her mind?

“Why do you love me, Vignette?” she asked. “I would never have expected to be your type.”

Being on her second glass of wine, Vignette gave a head laugh at the serious question.

“Oh, Sunny, babes, there’s so much people love about you.” Vignette clasped her hands to her chest. “You’re kind, you’re smart, you’re humble…”

Sunset pushed her sundae glass, now empty of banoffee and ice cream, off to one side of the table. “That’s sweet of you, but that’s not quite what I asked. Why do you love me?”

Doing the same with her own pudding plate, Vignette flashed a smirk. “I told you. There’s so much about you that people love.” A bolt a jealousy gave her pause as she thought how Sunset’s follower count compared to her own meagre four million, but she stopped it from showing on her face. She’d been over that, she’d dealt with it, and she’d found a way to make it work for her. “It means you’re very popular, honey.”

“I never really understood why,” Sunset blushed. “I’m nothing special.”

Vignette let a pointed, disbelieving look form the first part of her answer. “Have you even seen what the internet thinks of you? ‘Dream girl.’ You could not be more adored.”

Sunset’s fingers crept across the tabletop to grasp the delicate stem of her wine glass, not picking it up but making little movements to swirl its contents around, which she kept her eyes on as she replied. “Yeah, I have to say that hasn’t really escaped my notice either.”

Vignette allowed herself a little nod of relief at the confirmation that her girlfriend was not blind.

“It’s kind of awkward,” Sunset continued, her eyes raising to Vignette’s once again. “What do you say when someone’s spilling their heart out about how perfect you are, and you barely know them? When they’re explaining how you’re the perfect girl, and you kind of doubt they’ve ever known another to compare me to? What do you say to that?”

Making a half-hearted effort to conceal a grin, Vignette suggested, “‘Hi Twilight, how are you today?’”

WIth both elbows on the table, Sunset buried her face in her hands. “Oh, not the Twilight thing, I can’t handle it.” She reached for her wine glass again, this time taking a sip. “Half the internet thinks I should hook up with her. And, just to confuse it all, they’re among the same people who think I’m wonderful and want to marry me themselves. I just, I…” Sunset broke off, and took another, bigger sip of wine. “I try to be humble and stuff, because it helps me think of myself as a good person – they all love that too, of course, which makes the slip-ups doubly awkward – but also, it’s like, ‘Fuck you, I’m Sunset Shimmer. And if I’m half as great as you for some reason think I am, then surely I can do better than the nerd girl who acted like a victim the whole time she was draining my friends of their magic, like she couldn’t see that she herself was to blame and to maybe therefore leave her spectrometer on the bus or something? The geek with no social skills who lived in a cupboard at school and loses bladder control when she gets excited?!’”

Shorter of breath and more red in the face than she’d probably like to think, Sunset set down her glass. Vignette reached out and covered Sunset’s hand with her own.

“You already did, honey.” She patted Sunset’s hand smugly. “You did much better than that.”

Sunset snorted and rolled her eyes, but she smiled too, taking any sting out of it. Then she seemed to disappear into thought, eyes unfocused. “And the other half, of course, want me to hook up with one of my other friends, or with Celestia – either of them – or some fictional character of their own invention.” She shrugged, but then her eyes widened, and she added, “Or, Celestia-forbid, with Adagio.”

Anyone who got that kind of introduction had Vignette itching to pull out her phone and look up the name in question. “Who’s Adagio? Should I be jealous?” She flicked her hair back over her shoulder.

Pursing her lips, Sunset looked to the ceiling for a few seconds before coming out with an answer. “You know that thing you say, ‘be yourself, but better’? And the way you look before and after your do a bit of photomart magic with some SnapGab filters?”

“Uh-huh.” Vignette narrowed her eyes, not sure where Sunset was going with that line of thought.

“That’s who Adagio is. She’s me, but better.” Sunset picked up her wine glass, this time cradling it in her hand as she swirled it. “Or, no, perhaps that’s not quite right. She’s me back then, when I was bad, but done right. I’m the ‘before,’ and she’s…” After trailing off, she took a sip of wine, closing her eyes and smiling as she did so, afterward putting off resuming to give the glass an approving look. “Yes. Yes, to answer your question, you should always be jealous of her. You and me both, and the rest of the world too.”

“Why? What is there to be jealous of in someone so unknown that I don’t recognise her name?” Vignette reached for her wine, sipping it and knowing she appeared the height of not bothered.

“She got to leave on a high,” Sunset replied. “Not a success, but on her own terms. She failed in achieving her goals, but didn’t stick around long enough for us to see if she regretted trying. We never dragged her through the dirt, and we never saw her hit rock bottom. Whether she’s nice now or nasty, rich or poor, I don’t know. But she got to take control of whatever happened after. To make her journey from that point in whatever direction she chose, at whatever pace she set.

“You kind of got off fairly easy in that way too, I think. Didn’t have your nose ground in how you needed to change everything about you.”

“Yeah, I tried,” Vignette said, changing her seating posture so one arm lay along the top of the chair, “but after about a week I realised I was just a bit whatevs about the whole thing. I know what you all meant, that there’s a difference between someone liking your picture and someone making a deep connection with you, and that even a thousand of one aren’t worth one of the other.”

Sunset nodded encouragingly, and Vignette wet her lips with wine before continuing. “But if your friends are online, you have a pool of the whole world to choose from. If they’re not, you’re stuck with the people you happen to live near, and finding friends with the same niche interests is less likely. I don’t think there’s anything saying online friendships can’t be just as meaningful as IRL ones.”

Looking off at something, Sunset appeared to ponder Vignette’s point. “Yep, that sounds fair to me. Again, you had the freedom to think it over yourself and decide how you wanted to respond. Whereas my journey was overseen for every step. In fact, how can I talk about the journey I’ve been on with a straight face? I haven’t changed, progressed or really done much at all since 2014!”

When Sunset tasted her wine after that pronouncement, it was more of a swig than a sip. Vignette filled the silence that stretched by more gently doing the same, but was interrupted after a few moments by the waiter who had served them through the evening taking their dessert glasses or plates and asking if there were anything further he could get them. Vignette requested the bill, and Sunset stared down into her wine the whole time, apparently lost in its depths.

“You know who I really envy?” Sunset asked, looking up at last. “Starlight Glimmer. She gets to forge her own friendships, rather than just hang around with Twilight’s friends. She’s not always having to vy with the others to be the centre of attention – you’d expect Rarity and Rainbow Dash to be hard work, in that respect, but it turns out that if you’re a parallel world version of the Princess of Friendship, everyone wants you to be centre-stage, like something earned by a different person – pony – in another world actually has any bearing on this one.”

Vignette nodded slowly, almost hypnotically, as she listened, hands folded neatly on the table in front of her.

Sunset suggested, “Maybe it’s because I cleaned my act up all at once? Where for Starlight it’s been much more of a gradual thing, so it feels like she’s been on more of a journey? Whereas once I helped beat the sirens, and the school accepted me, I was kind of all out of journey to go on. It just feels like I’ve been treading water ever since then, you know?”

“Character growth?” Vignette grinned, making a show of checking her phone, “What’s that?”

After another drink of her wine – during which Vignette clicked how sensible they’d been to go for the largest glasses available, because they each still had plenty left, and the need for it showed no signs of stopping – Sunset said, “Maybe she’s just braver than me. I’ve been so paranoid about backsliding into my old ways, or at least being perceived as doing so, that I guess I kind of internalised the definition of ‘nice’ and made that who I am.

“And that’s so dull!” she added, gesturing with an outraged hand. “Even I know that! ‘Nice’ isn’t enough. That’s what the whole ‘nice guys of SnapGab’ thing was about.” Vignette’s palm seemed to rise to cover her face all by itself. “It’s not a selling point,” Sunset said, sneering, “it’s a minimum requirement. I can’t let myself do half the things Starlight can, because they don’t fit into the cookie cutter nice-girl mold I’ve made for myself.”

She snorted, looking down for a second, and Vignette spotted a blush on her cheeks. “Sometimes it gets too much,” Sunset sighed, “and I bubble over and yell about something. But that’s the kind of flaw people can forgive. Some in our class call it being fiery or passionate, and go so far as to say they like it about me.”

Sunset shook her head.

“Whereas Starlight’s much more relaxed about it all,” she pressed on, “so her past kind of just became one side of who she is now. She still has an edge that her friends don’t.” Sunset snorted again, but much more genuinely. “She was telling me in her last letter about when she had to go ‘sort out’ a few ponies who were bothering Rarity over some things in the friendship journal they released. Another time she even told the princesses to sort themselves out!”

“You tried to tell Celestia what to do once, right?”

“Yeah,” Sunset’s eyes widened. “Didn’t end well. I guess Starlight isn’t afraid to be different. She isn’t just another one of Twilight’s six friends, she hates the idea of talking about her feelings, and her friends are misfits and outcasts rather than those Twilight would have chosen.”

Feeling a little guilty about bringing up Sunset and Celestia, Vignette tried to steer the conversation in a more positive direction. “Ok, so, do you think there’s anything you can do about that, now you recognise the problem?”

Closing her eyes, Sunset gave a little nod, which changed to a shake of her head as she said, “There was, actually, but I only realised it too late.”


“Do you remember that girl I told you about, Wallflower Blush?”

Vignette’s immediate predecessor as friendship threat to be defeated, if she recalled correctly. “Permanent Account Deletion Girl? But in real life?”

“Yeah, that’s her.” Sunset’s face became a little tighter. “Well, she took away my friends’ memories of my reformation, and everything I’d done since then. At the time it was scary, of course, but, looking back now?” Sunset took another sip of her wine. “That was like stepping back to the time when I still had a journey to go on. Back to when I was interesting and actually had something to say, and wasn’t stuck as an idealised template. And that time now feels like such a breath of fresh air.”

Maybe redemption was one of those things for which the chase was better than the catch. A wry smile into her wine glass summed up Vignette’s feelings on the how she’d dodged that bullet. #redeemthis. “So what should you have done?”

Sunset’s eyes didn’t lift higher than her hands on the table while she hesitated before answering, or even when she spoke. “Let her keep the memories. I should have just sat in that classroom with Trixie while the clock ran out, paying more attention to the one person who wanted to be friends with me instead of the six that didn’t.” Then Sunset looked up, which clearly took some effort on her part. “But I didn’t. I used her own ego to manipulate her into helping me, and smirked about it while her back was turned.”

The part of Vignette that was totally cool with banishing people using phone magic smiled. “There might be another solution coming to mind…”

“I wouldn’t worry, the people on the internet don’t pick up on that bit.” Sunset scoffed as she said it, mocking it while still taking advantage of it.

“So you can’t be bad even if you try? They won’t believe that your old self might still be buried in there, deep down?”

“Nope.” Sunset pinched the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes. “Or if they do, it’s fine, because it’s me. And striving continually to be better is oh-so-adorable, so…” She switched to rubbing her fingertips on her temples, massaging around in tiny circles.

Then she opted for wine instead, draining a little more of her glass. “But yeah,” she said after putting it back down, more relaxed again, “imagine if my friends had never got their memories back. And if, instead of magic returning everything to normal but with Wallflower as yet another new member of the redemption clan, I had to spend the next year at school winning my old friends back, proving that I wasn’t the bully I used to be, through the wondrous feat of being a decent person.

Remembering some early-2000s teen movie a Throwback Thursday had thrown up, Vignette recited, “I dunno, man, that sounds like a lot of work…”

“It does, doesn’t it?” Sunset laughed. “It took me six months before – those five believed me at once, but it wasn’t until the sirens turned up that I was really forgiven by everyone. But I could have set out, just Trixie and I against the world, determined to prove to those guys, and the rest of the school too, that I wasn’t the person I had been before.”

Sunset put on an excited and shocked face, with wide eyes and a loud breath in. “Imagine that: me, with a purpose!” She waved a hand in the air in front of her, like she was seeing her words written out in lights on a bridleway billboard. “With a direction, and an arc!” Then Sunset spread her hands before her, palms up, elbows resting on the table. “From their perspective, I’d gradually shift from enemy to friend, instead of it happening all at once. And, likewise, knowing what I know now, I could probably stand to end up a little rougher around the edges, too; I could get away with having a bit more bite. Something that might set me apart from the one-dimensional box I’m stuck in now.”

Would that have meant that Vignette never met Sunset? That she was stopped by the other six without her? Or maybe even not stopped at all? Oh, what could have been… “But how would the internet survive without its flawless princess?”

“You don’t think they’d be hopelessly drawn in by me being interesting again, like I was when they fell for me in the first place, back with the sirens?”

Vignette started weighing up the pros and cons, but before she could finish, Sunset groaned and slumped forwards onto the table. Vignette put a hand on her shoulder, alarmed, but was reassured when Sunset said, “No, they wouldn’t be able to deal with that, because I just remembered the Anon-A-Miss thing.”

“The what?”

Sitting back up, Sunset reached for her wine and, instead of the refined, conserving  sips she’d been making all evening, tipped her head back and downed the rest of it. “Anon-A-Miss,” she ground out, setting the empty glass down hard on the table and wiping her lips with the back of her hand. “It was some story someone wrote about me, and it got out on the internet. Not a good one, I should add. Couldn’t even decide when it was set. Anyway, some person wrote that all my friends turned their backs on me and didn’t believe me when I protested my innocence for a slight I didn’t commit. Well, you can imagine how the internet reacted.”

Yes Vignette could, and her jaw dropped steadily more open as the thought sank in. “Hashtag-slaughtergate…”

“Exactly. Apparently a killing spree is a good solution to a friendship problem now. That or suicide. There were so damn many response stories – like that doesn’t just make the problem worse! I’ve never even read the original, but those it inspired are so hard to avoid that I could tell you the whole plot.” Sunset covered her eyes with one hand and shook her head. “It’s like, guys, it wasn’t true. It wasn’t ‘canon’ to my life. It was just a story someone wrote, and it should have been forgotten just as quickly as the many others.”

“What do you want me to tell you?” Vignette shrugged. “People on the internet are weird.”

“Clearly.” Sunset gave her a sly look. “Yet these are the people you’re trying to impress with all those perfect salad pictures.”

“Oh, totes, yeah.” Vignette enjoyed more of her wine, which shifted Sunset’s expression from devious to envious. “But that’s the advantage of collecting followers rather than friends – you don’t need to like them for them to ‘like’ your pictures.”

“But if you want to make that deep human connection, you have to identify the tolerable ones to separate them, by engaging with them.”

“Hmmm.” Vignette had to admit Sunset had a point there, one that brought a problem with it. “So you’re saying the only way to know if someone’s good to make friends with or not is by making friends with them?”

Wearing a big, sheepish grin, Sunset turned her hands up helplessly. Before any further answer could be made, though, the waiter at last arrived with their bill and the card machine. Which was a relief, since they’d ordered it sometime back near the dawn of time. With that in mind, Vignette promptly sorted out paying – it was her turn – while Sunset dug out her purse for a tip.

Business concluded, they both stood, hesitating before leaving so Vignette could polish off the rest of her wine. While savouring that last mouthful, Sunset gave her an appraising look.

“I guess that last one is a friendship question for next time, then.” Sunset slipped her arm through Vignette’s, where it was familiar and comfortable. “Better take me out again soon!”

“Guess I’d better do, yeah,” Vignette said, kissing the tip of Sunset’s nose before they strolled for the door. “Wouldn’t want to have to stick with ‘people on the internet are weird’ as the conclusion for long.”