Sunset parked her car in her usual spot at the hotel and leaned against her seat. Silent tears began leaking from the corners of her eyes. She let them trace tracks down her cheeks for a while before exiting her car. She was silent as she entered the hotel and made her way to the elevators. She didn't want her uncle to know she was skipping school.
When she finally made it to her room she collapsed onto the couch.
Maybe I should just disappear, make it easier for everyone. She thought as she grabbed a throw pillow and curled up around it. I do have somewhere I can go. Maybe I can jump into the school out where Mom lives if I move in with her.
The thought made her pause. Maybe that was the best option. She could get a new start with people who had no idea who she was or what she'd done. The one thing that was keeping her back was Twilight. She loved her so much and didn't want to leave her behind.
Over the next half hour she convinced herself that this was for the best. She picked up her phone and dialed her mother. In the middle of the phone ringing, that nagging inner voice from the night before re-emerged with questions she hadn't considered.
"Really? You're going to live with your mom? You're going to make her change her life for you because of your issues? Do you really think that's fair? How long before you two start fighting again?"
How could she do that to her mom? She had finally gotten settled in her new life at college and had even gotten an internship at the news station. Now Sunset was going to make her take care of her again?
"Hey Sunnybuns! How are you sweetheart?" The cheery voice of her mother said from the other end. "You caught me between classes."
Sunset blinked back the tears building up before answering. "I'm good mom. I just wanted to hear your voice."
There was a pause. "Is everything alright honey? Do you need to talk?"
Sunset could no longer hold them back. She sobbed and let the tears come.
"Sweetheart talk to me. What happened? Did Adagio do something to you!" She asked sharply.
Sunset sniffled and recomposed herself. "No... Twilight and I had a fight. It was really bad, I said some hurtful things and I'm worried she won't want to be with me anymore."
"Oh, sweetheart, I'm so sorry you two had a fight. But I'm sure she doesn't want to stop being with you. From what you've told me that girl loves you very much. And you know what, couples fight, it's a part of the process. I'm sure a sincere apology and some flowers will go a long way towards patching things up."
Sunset smiled and let out a phlegmy chuckle. "You're probably right. Thanks Mom."
"Of course I'm right! Moms know these things." Another pause. "Is there anything else you wanted to talk about sweetie?"
Sunset thought hard for a minute, she seriously considered telling her everything. She knew it would just cause her mother to worry more than she already did and kept it to herself.
"No, I'll be okay, thanks Mom."
"You're welcome Sunset. Let me know how it goes, and tell Twilight I say hi. You have to bring her out here, I'd love to meet her!"
"I will mom, I love you."
"Love you too Sunnybuns."
Sunset slumped back on the couch. She felt stuck. She didn't want to trouble her friends or family with her problems, but her problems were becoming too much to handle on her own. These thoughts circled around each other continuously in Sunset's stressed, irrational mind. Her heart raced and her head ached until a solid thought formed in her mind.
Twilight was a nervous ball of energy the rest of the day. She was unable to focus on any of her classes and found herself checking her phone far more frequently than normal. She messaged Sunset several more times, but still didn't receive an answer. Not even science could distract the worried girl.
Her phone wasn't silent though. The rest of her friends were texting her throughout class, asking if Sunset had gotten ahold of her. The vibrating phone was noticed one too many times by her last teacher of the day and her phone was confiscated. Although it was only out of her hands for forty-five minutes it felt much longer. Twilight's mind raced even faster when she heard her phone buzz in the teacher's desk drawer.
When the last bell rang to end school she retrieved the phone and after a brief guilt trip about silencing her phone in class, Twilight exited and unlocked it. Along with app notifications she saw that she had four unread texts.
"Has she said anything?" Rainbow asked.
"I can't concentrate, I'm so worried about her. How are you doing darling?" From Rarity.
"Goodbye Twilight." Sunset's message read.
"I was thinking enchiladas for dinner." Velvet said.
Sunset's message had come in only a few minutes ago. Twilight had never made a call faster in her life. She called Sunset's phone, but it rang through to voicemail.
"Hey! You've reached Sunset Shimmer, and I have missed your call. Leave a message and I'll call you back!"
The chipper voice on the other end seemed so strange. She hadn’t been that energetic in a while, and Twilight realized then how much she missed that side of her. She gritted her teeth and started running toward Applejack's locker.
"Sunset, it's Twilight! I'm coming to see you, please don't do anything stupid!"
She hung up the phone and picked up the pace until she saw Applejack and Rainbow Dash by the locker. She stopped next to them and struggled to catch her breath.
"Hold on now Sugarcube. What's the rush? Did Sunset get ahold of you?"
Twilight handed over her phone and said, "We have to get to Sunset's now!"
Applejack and Rainbow nodded with determination and followed quickly after her. Rainbow pulled out her phone and called Fluttershy as they made their way to Applejack's car. Pinkie Pie was walking toward the front doors when Rainbow called her name and without question fell in line behind them. Twilight filled Pinkie in as they ran to the parking lot. Applejack unlocked the car as soon as they arrived.
"Did you get ahold of them?" Pinkie Pie asked as they piled into the car.
"Yeah, they said they'll meet us there."
The drive to the hotel was quiet and tense. Each girl was lost in their own thoughts and worries about what they would find when they arrived. Twilight's leg wouldn't stop bouncing and she had to hold back repeatedly asking Applejack to drive faster. She knew any chance of seeing Sunset again would be gone if they were pulled over or crashed.
Twilight’s phone rang, showing her mom’s contact photo. She answered and did her best to keep her voice level.
“Hey sweetheart. I hadn’t heard back from you about dinner so decided to call since I’m at the store now.”
“I don’t know if I’ll be home for dinner.” Her voice shook slightly.
“What happened?” She asked, picking up on her daughter’s distress.
“Sunset’s missing. She was here this morning, but someone destroyed her art project and she left. Then we found all of these awful notes in her locker. Mom they were so cruel, I didn’t know she was dealing with so much.” Her breathing increased and she could feel panic rising in the pit of her stomach. “I didn’t know, and now she’s not answering any texts or calls and the only thing she’s sent me said goodbye. Mom what if she’s…” she couldn’t finish the thought.
Pinkie placed a gentle hand on her knee and gave Twilight a sympathetic look, her eyes shining with barely contained tears. The look said she wasn’t alone in her worry.
“Don't think like that hon. Until we know for sure, think positively."
"Please keep me up to date. If your Father and I can help in any way please let us know."
"I will... I'm scared mom.
“I know honey. Let me know as soon as you know anything.”
“I will. Thanks Mom.”
She hung up and they pulled in front of the hotel and scrambled out a short time later. Rarity and Fluttershy were waiting for them outside and followed them into the lobby. Silver Dollar looked shocked to see them so suddenly.
"Girls, what's wrong?" He asked.
"Mr. Dollar have you seen Sunset?" Fluttershy asked, barely holding back the quiver in her voice.
"Uh, no. Should I have?" The question took him by surprise.
"We have to go to her room now!" Rainbow said suddenly.
"What is going on? Why are you looking for Sunset?" He asked, coming around the front desk.
Twilight lead the charge to the elevator, pressing the call button until the door opened. The ride up was tense and silent except for the impatient tapping of Twilight's foot. She was out the doors as soon as there was room enough to squeeze through. She rapped her knuckles on the door.
"Sunset! Are you in there?" She called into the closed door. She knocked again. "Sunset please open up. We're worried about you."
Silver Dollar stepped up next to her and knocked. "Sunset, I'm coming in."
He unlocked the door and swung it inward. Twilight pushed into the room and turned on the light. The room looked as Twilight had seen it so many times before. The blanket draped on the couch, a jacket left on the back of a chair, dishes drying next to the sink.
That stuck out to Twilight. Every time she'd come over there had been at least a cup in the sink waiting to be washed. Twilight took another look around the room and noticed some more weird details. The gaming system that had been a permanent part of the living room since she'd known Sunset was missing. She walked farther into the room.
"Sunset!" She called out as she went into the bedroom.
The bedroom was a mess. Clothes were strewn around the room and the bedding lay haphazardly on the mattress. Twilight looked around the room and saw the bookshelf had a large number of the books removed from it. She heard the others looking around the living room as she inspected the closet to see it nearly bare. The reality of what it all meant hit her and she had to sit down on the bed.
She's really gone. She actually left. Twilight thought as tears pricked her eyes. Why couldn't I do more?
More questions passed through her mind as she stared forward. She looked around the room the two of them had spent so much time in, the hours of cuddling and watching tv shows. The countless kisses they'd shared as they lay on the bed watching a movie. The picture she'd given Sunset for Christmas sitting on the nightstand.
"Where's the picture?" She said aloud.
"What's that Sugarcube?" Applejack poked her head in.
"I think I know where she is!" Twilight jumped up from the bed. "AJ, Rainbow come with me. I think we can still catch her."
Her two friends nodded and headed out the door.
"Can you all wait here in case she comes back?" She addressed the others.
"No problem Twilight!" Pinkie said.
Twilight saw Silver Dollar sitting on the couch with his head in his hands. She approached him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"I'll bring her back." She told him.
"I failed her.” He said as though he hadn’t heard her. “I was supposed to watch over her, and I failed. Dawn will never speak to me again."
"You didn't fail her. Sunset didn't tell anyone what was going on." She squeezed his shoulder and repeated her affirmation. "I'll bring her back. I'll let you all know what happens."
With that she was out the door and riding the elevator with Rainbow and Applejack.
"Where are we headin'?" Applejack asked as she started the engine.
"Everfree Forest." She said.
The three of them made their way quickly to the entrance to the forest. When they arrived they saw Sunset's old SUV parked nearby. Twilight told the other two to wait for her and took off into the woods. Sunset's footsteps were easy to follow since there weren't many people taking hikes in the winter. The woods were silent except for the crunch of her shoes in the snow. She saw the tracks break away into the woods.
Twilight picked up her pace, her mind racing with all the things she wanted to say to Sunset. She pushed through the snow covered bush and saw her there. Her back was to Twilight as she stared out over the still frozen lake. She turned around and saw Twilight, and it was then that she saw the deep sadness in Sunset's eyes. Twilight marched right up to her and threw her arms around her neck.
"What are you doing here?" Sunset asked, taken by surprise.
"I'm coming to take you back home." Twilight said into her girlfriend's shoulder, refusing to loosen her hug.
"I can't go back." Sunset said quietly.
"What are you talking about?" Twilight pulled back to look her in the eyes. Those same eyes that used to light up when she saw Twilight seemed so dim now. "Of course you can come back! Everyone's waiting for you."
"No! You don't understand!"
"Then help me understand!" Twilight shouted. Her words echoing across the silent forest. "Please, help me understand what's going on. Is it the notes? We know about them and we’ve taken steps to take care of them. Adagio? What? What is it? Please, I want to help you!" Her voice broke.
Sunset's heart hurt seeing Twilight this upset. "I can't stand it..."
"What can't you stand?" She pressed.
"I can't stand being a burden." She finally said. "That's what I've become to everyone. I'm just a burden."
"No you're not! No one who cares about you thinks you're a burden."
"Tell that to Rarity! She didn't get her spot in the paper because she's friends with me! Or Rainbow Dash, who got in trouble because I couldn't say anything when Adagio showed up!" She sniffled and wiped her eyes. "Or you. I've put you through so much. I've made your life so much harder than it needs to be. That's why I'm leaving, so no one will have to be inconvenienced by my problems anymore."
"That's bull." Twilight said with a scowl. "That’s bull and you know it. You don't get to do that. You don't get to decide what we can and can't deal with and you don't get to make me fall in love with you and disappear without telling me why!" She took a moment to steady herself. "We have never seen you as a burden. You have always been someone we care about. That spot in the paper? Sure Rarity was upset, but she doesn't hold you responsible, she never has. And Rainbow has already forgiven you. As for me, the only reason my life is harder is because you weren't talking to me." She playfully kicked her shin. "I had to chase you through the woods but at least we're talking now."
Sunset let out a choked laugh followed by an exhausted sigh and sat on a downed tree. "I really messed up didn't I?"
Twilight sat next to her. "A little, but it's not too late to patch things up. We were all so worried about you."
Sunset leaned into Twilight's shoulder. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything, for keeping so many secrets from everybody and pushing you all away. For trying to do everything myself when I knew I needed help." She looked Twilight in the eyes. "For not trusting you. Can you ever forgive me?"
Twilight planted a gentle kiss on her lips. "I think I can find a way."
Sunset smiled and leaned once more on Twilight's shoulder. They sat there for a short while as the sun started dipping down lower in the sky, bathing the area in a soft orange glow. Sunset laced her fingers with Twilight's and sighed.
"How'd you know I'd be here?" She asked.
Twilight smiled. "You took the picture. The one I gave you for Christmas."
"Explain." Sunset pushed.
She chuckled. "You could have left it behind. Why didn't you?"
"Because it was a gift from you. It's important to me." Sunset responded.
"Exactly. Taking the picture told me you wanted something to remind you of home, something important. I knew this place was special to you and hoped it would be important enough to take one last look at before you left." She squeezed Sunset tighter. "I'm glad I was right."
Sunset nestled into Twilight's neck. "So am I."
The two sat a bit longer, keeping each other warm before Twilight stood and helped Sunset to her feet.
"We should probably get back. AJ and Rainbow are probably getting impatient."
"They're here?" Sunset stopped.
"They're the ones that gave me a ride." She saw the panic rising in Sunset's face and squeezed her hand. "Hey, I'll be right beside you. I promise I won't let them lay into you too hard." She teased.
"Real helpful Twi." She smiled.
The couple made the return trip easily enough. As the entrance to the forest neared, Sunset's grip on Twilight tightened. Twilight squeezed her hand reassuringly and waved at her friends in the car. The doors opened up immediately and their friends bounded towards them and stopped just short of running into them. Rainbow had a fierce look in her eyes, everyone was still, waiting for what would happen next. Rainbow threw her arms around Sunset.
"Welcome back." She said with a smile after releasing her fiery haired friend.
"I'm so sorry, I don't know what I was thinking. I just didn't want to bother you guys with my problems."
"Sunset, ya never have to worry about that with us. We'll always be there for you." She scooped Sunset in a hug of her own. "Now let's get ya home, there's some people who will be very excited to see you're safe."
"We'll meet you girls there." Twilight said. "I'm going to ride with Sunset. Gotta make sure she gets there."
"I deserved that." She smirked.
Twilight called her mom and let her know that they found her and were bringing her back home. The relief in Velvet’s voice was audible and she asked Twilight to let Sunset know she was glad she’s ok and to never scare them like that again. The drive to the hotel wasn't nearly as tense as Twilight feared. They were able to talk more about the last few weeks, Sunset told Twilight just how bad the bullying was getting and Twilight told her about going to the principal about the notes. Sunset was thankful to them all for everything they'd done, because she knew she would never have done that herself.
"Now you can stop destroying your back and use your locker again." Twilight joked.
"I dunno, I'm getting used to it." She glanced at Twilight who had fixed her with a stern glare. "Only kidding. It will actually be nice to use my locker without worrying what my peers left for me."
Sunset chewed her cheek. "I'm scared Twi. What if I've ruined my relationship with my uncle? What if he doesn't trust me anymore."
"I'm sure he'll just be happy that you're back." She squeezed her hand. "Let's get there and let everyone know you're okay."
They parked at the hotel a few minutes later. Sunset took another minute to ready herself before nodding to Twilight and opening the door. They walked together to the elevators, when they got to Sunset's floor they saw the door was open.
"Sunset!" Came a chorus of voices.
Three sets of arms enveloped Sunset before she could react.
"Don't scare us like that again darling!" Rarity scolded her.
"Oh, we're just so glad you're back Sunset. We were so worried about you." Fluttershy whimpered.
"Now we can have a welcome back party!" Pinkie cheered.
The others laughed at the ever-cheerful nature of their friend. Sunset apologized once more to her friends, her eyes brimming with tears the whole time. She scolded herself for ever doubting the loyalty and forgiveness of her friends. These girls that had accepted her warmly even after learning about her regrettable past actions. She was amazed at the patience they all had with her when she would have probably given up on herself a while ago.
It was then that she glanced up and saw her uncle sitting in her living room. Her spine tensed up as she realized what she had to do next. She looked to Twilight who nodded.
"Alright girls, let's get out of here. Sunset needs to get some rest." She said to the group.
There was some protests to Twilight's suggestion, but a few minutes later they were filing their way toward the elevator. Sunset said her final goodbyes to her friends and gave Twilight a kiss.
"Good luck." Twilight said and gave her hand a gentle squeeze.
When she turned to enter the elevator, however, she found her hand was held in place. Sunset pulled her close and held Twilight's face in her hands.
"Thank you. Thank you for not giving up on me." She kissed Twilight and held it for a long time. Twilight was blushing a bright red when they finally pulled apart. "I love you."
"I love you too."
Twilight joined the others in the elevator car. As the doors closed Sunset heard one of them give a long drawn out 'awe'. She chuckled before turning toward her room, her breath quickening the closer she got. She sighed before pushing the door open.
Silver raised his head and gave an acknowledging nod. He rose from the couch and walked forward to meet her. The two of them faced each other, neither one quite knowing how to start.
"Uncle Silver I-"
"I'm so sorry Sunset." Silver interrupted.
"Why are you sorry? I'm the one who ran away."
"Because I wasn't a good enough guardian. You should have been able to talk to me about what was going on. You act so much older than your age I forget that you're still a kid. And I'm sorry you didn't feel like you could come to me."
"I did though, I wanted to talk to you, and mom, so many times, but I didn't want to trouble you. You have enough going on running the hotel and mom with her schooling and job that my problems didn't seem that important."
He placed his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. "You're family, any problem you’re going through or anything you need to talk about is important. You are one of the most important people in my life, never forget that."
She hugged him tightly, and scolded herself again for being so foolish. "Thanks Uncle Silver."
"You're more than welcome niece Sunset." They laughed at his dumb joke before he let out a long sigh. "What are we going to do about Dawn?"
She stiffened. "You didn't tell her I ran away did you?"
"No, I wanted to see if you'd come back before I told her."
"Do you mind if we keep that part a secret?" She asked sheepishly. "I'll tell her about everything else, but she has enough on her plate without worrying about her teenage daughter making a break for it."
He chuckled and turned to leave. "Sure sweetheart. And Sunset... welcome home."
She smiled, pulled out her phone and called her mom.