by Tungul

Chapter 4 Part 1

When Sunset Shimmer awoke the next morning, she felt… surprisingly good.

Yesterday, after a delicious lunch, courtesy of Spike, Twilight had dragged her to the library and needled her for every bit of information that Sunset could give her. A detailed description of the whole Anon-A-Miss incident, as well as explanations on how MyStable worked, how smartphones were operated, student dynamics before and after the initial accusation, everything she knew about her attackers, the exact nature of the blackmail material Sunset had released, and all the reasons Sunset could name as to why her friends would be resentful of her. By the time they were done, Sunset was utterly exhausted and a small forest’s worth of paper had been filled with notes.

In celebration of having her insatiable need for information satisfied, the Princess of Friendship had declared a sleepover for the two of them. While the idea of a sleepover stirred up some bitter memories in Sunset, when she actually settled down in bed with Twilight it felt...nice. There was something pleasantly nostalgic in laying there beside Twilight, one purple wing draped over her back and listening to the excited Princess detailing all the fun things she was envisioning to help Sunset settle back into life in Equestria. It took Sunset back to when she was just a little filly and Princess Celestia would do the same with her lesson plans, filling Sunset’s head with all the marvels of magic they’d soon be exploring together.

And so, cuddled up against her best friend in the world, Sunset felt some of the numbness that had taken root in her body give way to cautious optimism. As long as she had Twilight at her side, Sunset felt, she could get her life back in order. Closing her eyes and soaking in the warmth radiating off Twilight’s body, Sunset fell into a deep, relaxing slumber.

It was the glare of the morning sun, that roused Sunset from her sleep. A particularly annoying ray of sunshine seemed to have chosen her eyes as its target and no matter how much she turned her head and squeezed her eyelids shut, she could not escape it. Her old childhood curse, no doubt cast upon her by Celestia to get her to wake up on time for the early morning lessons, was acting up again. Groggily grumbling a colourful multitude of curses under her breath at the Princess and her infuriating morning pony ways, Sunset tried to prop herself up, only to be held down by an unfamiliar weight around her neck. Slowly opening her eyes, Sunset turned her head towards the direction the weight seemed to be coming from and came muzzle to muzzle with Princess Twilight Sparkle.

‘Oh right,’ Sunset thought to herself. ‘The sleepover.’

That also explained why she felt so warm on one side. Somewhere during the night, Twilight seemed to have decided to take cuddling with her friend to the next level. Lying on her side, facing Sunset, Twilight had her arms wrapped tightly around Sunset’s neck and one purple wing draped over her barrel. Feeling her cuddle buddy trying to slip away, Twilight mumbled something unintelligible and tightened her grip with Earth Pony strength, pulling Sunset closer to her, where she nuzzled into the crook of her neck with a happy noise.

Deciding against a another, equally futile, attempt to escape the clutches of Princess Twilight Cuddlebug, Sunset simply settled down and closed her eyes again. While Celestia’s curse might have prevented her from sleeping beyond the wee hours of the morning, the part of Sunset that was definitely not a morning pony was determined to at least doze a few more hours away. If nothing else, then to stick it to the Princess and her insufferable, caffeine independent early day cheerfulness. Plus, if Sunset was entirely honest, being cuddled like that felt really nice.

Dozing next to Twilight, Sunset enjoyed the warmth and closeness to her best friend, but, as the minutes trickled by, a fun little idea entered her mind. When Twilight awoke, groaning and bleary eyed, Sunset was ready to enact her plan.

“Good morning, beautiful,” Sunset whispered, giving a Twilight a peck on the nose.

“S-Sunset?” Twilight’s bleary eyes widened and her muzzle scrunched up adorably. “W-what are you doing?” She stammered, blushing brightly.

“What am I doing?” Sunset giggled and gave Twilight a teasing look. “Can’t a mare kiss her own wife anymore?”

“Wife!?” Twilight squeaked, her blush intensifying. Staring at Sunset in shock, she tried to back away.

“Oh Twilight…” Sunset sighed affectionately, wrapping an arm around her neck she pulled Twilight closer and nuzzled her cheek. “You really are hopeless without your morning coffee. We’ve been married for five years now, silly. Do I need to get the baby to prove it to you?”

“Married? Five years? Baby!?” Twilight’s expressen grew more confused and panicked with each word.

“Yes!” Sunset chuckled, then paused, a worried you look on her face. “I mean, you do remember it, right?”

“Sunset, I…” Twilight tried to say something.

“Are you te-telling me, that you don’t remember?” Sunset cut her off. Her lip was trembling and tears began to well up in her eyes. “You don’t remember it? Our love? Our daughter!?” She cried in anguish.

“No no no no!” An entirely new kind of panic rose up in Twilight, and she hurried to comfort her wife. “Of course I remember it, Sunset, honey,” she said, pulling Sunset close again and began to stroke her mane. “How could I ever forget…” She trailed off as she noticed the mirthful look in Sunset’s eyes. “You’re just messing with me, aren’t you?”

Sunset managed to squeak out a ‘Yes!’, before dissolving into a mess of laughter.

Sunset was still snickering by the time the two made their way towards the kitchens for breakfast.

“Alright, alright,” Twilight finally chuckled, giving Sunset a look of mock annoyance. “I admit it, you got me good.”

“Right?” Sunset giggled, playfully bumping her rump against Twilight’s. “Like you could ever forget being married to all of this.”

“Yes yes, you’re the prettiest filly at the Gala.” Twilight smiled, rolling her eyes. “And I am glad to see that you’re feeling better today.”

“Me too,” Sunset smiled mischievously, pushing open the door to the kitchen. “We should do this more often. Sleeping with you clearly does wonders for my mood.”

Smirking at the blush spreading across Twilight’s face, Sunset walked into the kitchen. There, on the breakfast table, sat two plates of steaming pancakes and a bottle of syrup waiting for them..

“Well, breakfast is ready.” Sunset sat down at the table. “I wonder where Spike is though,” she said, looking around the room.

“He’s already off to Canterlot,” Twilight replied, sitting down opposite of her. “Princess Celestia sent him a letter yesterday. Apparently she needs him for some Royal Business again.”

“Hm, weird.” Sunset eyed the delicious looking pancakes. “What sort of Royal Business would the Princess need a baby dragon for?”

“I don’t know.” Twilight shrugged. “She summons him like that every once in a while, but they’ve never disclosed exactly what it is they’re doing together and I don’t wish to pry into their private activities. I assume she has her reasons for not telling me.”

“She usually has.” Sunset shrugged. “So what do we do today?”

“Well,” Twilight said, pulling the plate of pancakes closer, “what I’m doing today, is going through the portal and trying to fix the situation over there.”

“Why bother?” Sunset replied, reaching for her own plate. “With me gone, Anon-A-Miss loses its target. The situation will fix itself.”

“Maybe.” Twilight began pouring syrup over her pancakes. “But have you considered that you might not be the target, so much as the scapegoat? Whoever is behind Anon-A-Miss might not give up, just because you’re not there to take the blame.”

“Hm. Maybe.” Sunset frowned. That was indeed something she had not considered. The initial posts and their effect seemed very deliberately aimed at her. “But what’s the point then? Who benefits from humiliating the Rainbooms?”

“Maybe not just the Rainbooms.” Twilight cut up the first layer of pancakes. “Was anyone else targeted?” she asked, shoving a piece of pancake into her mouth.

“I dunno, maybe?” Sunset shrugged, cutting up her own stack. “I already told you, I didn’t bother checking my feed for updates, after my friends ditched me.”

“Then we can’t discount the possibility, that this isn’t just someone with a grudge against you and the Rainbooms, but an attack against CHS as a whole,” Twilight concluded, eating another piece of pancake.

“Hm.” Chewing on her piece, Sunset just gave a noncommittal grunt. “You still haven’t answered my question Twilight. Why bother? This isn’t some sort of magical threat from Equestria, it’s just some jerk messing around with a blog. Fixing the bullying problem at CHS isn’t your job.”

“Actually,” Twilight replied, with just a shade of smugness in her voice, “as the Princess of Friendship, fixing this sort of problem is exactly my job. And also, because these people are still my friends. They may have stumbled, but I’m not giving up on them yet.”

“They didn’t just stumble, Twilight!” Sunset snapped. “They spat on everything you taught them! They lied about having forgiven me, they called themselves my family!” She stared down at her plate. “They don’t deserve your friendship, or your help.”

“Maybe,” Twilight said, calmly looking at Sunset. With everything Spike had told her about their little heart to heart, Sunset expressing some anger towards the Rainbooms was a good sign. “But without them, I wouldn’t have been able to save you. Without them, we wouldn’t have managed to stop the Sirens. Even if they’ve truly turned their back on the Magic of Friendship, I still owe it to them to give them a chance.”

“Fine,” Sunset grumbled. “I suppose I can’t talk you out of doing the friendshippy thing.”

She sighed. “Then what am I supposed to do all day? I don’t exactly know this corner of Equestria.”

“Yeah, about that,” Twilight said, cutting up another layer of pancake. “I asked my friends to show you around Ponyville today.”

“Do you really think it’s a good idea to leave me alone with them?” Sunset quirked an eyebrow. “All things considered?”

“It is a necessary idea,” Twilight replied. “They’re my friends, Sunset, and they’re not going to go away. I’m not asking you to be friends with them, I’m just asking that you give them a chance as their own ponies and try to get along with them. Please? For me?”

“Fine…” Sunset sighed. “I suppose it would be silly of me to just hate them for something their counterparts did. I probably won’t like them either way, but I’ll give them a chance.”

“Thank you, Sunset.” Twilight smiled warmly.

Sunset returned the smile with a confident nod. “I can do this.”

Sunset took a step back and shook her head. “I cannot do this.”

After breakfast, the two had settled down in the library to wait for Sunset’s tour guides and Applejack, punctual early riser that she was, didn’t keep them waiting for long. Immediately upon seeing Applejack however, a wave of mixed emotions began to bubble up in Sunset. Regret, longing, betrayal and a whole lot of anger; everything she had tried suppressing surged through her, vanishing the good mood the morning had set her in.

“Sunset…” Twilight began gently, but Sunset cut her off.

“I mean it, Twilight! I just look at her and…” Sunset gestures towards Applejack, who awkwardly scratched the back of her neck. “...and I don’t even know what I’m feeling right now, but I’m not feeling ready to spend a day with them all!”

“Sunset, please.” Twilight placed a hoof on Sunset’s. “You can do this. Just give them a chance.”

“No, Twilight!” Sunset swatted her hoof aside. “I can’t! I just can’t deal with them all right now!”

“Okay,” Twilight said softly. “Maybe it’s still too soon for that. It’s okay, we’ll just spend the day together then. I can deal with Anon-A-Miss some other time.”

“No,” Sunset shook her head. “You go ahead and fix that moronic school.”

“Are you sure?” Twilight tilted her head. “I’d hate to leave you alone like this.”

“Twilight, it’s okay. I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself for a day.” Sunset smiled reassuringly. “And besides, the sooner you’re finished worrying about them, the sooner you can focus on fixing this hot mess here.”

“Alright.” Twilight nodded. “If you’re absolutely sure.”

“Twilight, I’ll be fine.” Sunset gestured around the room. “I’ll just spend the day catching up on some reading. That should keep me occupied.”

“In that case…” Twilight’s horn lit up and a purple book came flying from one of the nearby bookshelves. “This journal documents all the Friendship Lessons me and the girls have learned over the years. Maybe learning a bit about how they are on this side of the portal will help you sort out your feelings.”

“You want me to study up on your friends?” Sunset let out a snort of amusement and grinned at Twilight, who smiled sheepishly.


“That’s an incredibly you thing to do.” Chuckling, Sunset grabbed the book with her magic. “Alright, I’ll give it a look and hey, maybe I’ll learn some more friendship lessons while I’m at it.”

“That’s the spirit!” Twilight smiled broadly. “If you’re really okay with this, then I’m gonna go now.”

“Yeah, go and give them all a good lecturing.”

After a quick hug, Twilight put on her serious face, squared her withers, and marched off through the portal.

After watching Twilight disappear through the portal, Sunset settled down on one of the comfortable reading couches, that dotted the castle library. With a sigh, she opened up the Friendship Journal to the first lesson. Twilight had told her about a few of her adventures during their conversations through the journal, usually when Sunset wrote to her about a new friendship lesson she had learned, and she was rather curious to see the path that had shaped Twilight into the embodiment of Friendship that she was.

“So....” Applejack’s voice pulled Sunset back out of her thoughts. “Since ya called off the tour fer now, Ah guess I’m just gonna go…” She said, awkwardly scratching the back of her neck. She turned around and made a move towards the library door.

“Wait!” Sunset voice rang out, halting Applejack mid-step. “Can I… ask you a question first?”

“Sure thing, sugarcube.” Applejack turned back around towards Sunset. “Ask away.”

“If…” Sunset gulped and took a deep breath, her eyes fixed on the pages of the journal. “If you found out that a member of your family had been spreading embarrassing secrets about you, how would you react?”

Applejack winced, a look of sympathy appearing on her face. “Ah got so mad, Ah refused ta even talk ta Apple Bloom.”

“Huh?” Sunset replied rather dumbfounded, looking up enough to throw a glance towards Applejack..

“Ya see,” Applejack said. “Something like that happened here once, when mah sister an’ her friends tried ta earn their Cutie Marks in journalism.” She described the events of the Gabby Gums incident, how Diamond Tiara had blackmailed the Cutie Mark Crusaders into gathering all sorts of hurtful gossip and the eventual fallout. “It should be somewhere near the end of the first half in the journal, if ya want ta look up the details.”

“Huh.” Sunset frowned flipping forward through the Friendship Journal until she found the appropriate page. “Maybe the... Other Applejack, wasn’t lying about me being family after all…”

“Maybe that’s what’s going on over there?” Applejack offered, with a nod towards the mirror. “Twilight said that this human world has got a version of all of us. Maybe Anon-A-Miss is that worlds version of Gabby Gums?”

“That is possible.” Sunset hummed thoughtfully. “If one version of Diamond Tiara had access to that sort of blackmail on your sister, then the other version might too.”

Her eyes widened up in sudden realisation. “Applebloom was the one to bring up Piggly Wiggly in the first place. And Sweetie Belle was there during the sleepover, so she could have taken the pictures from my phone. I didn’t even keep a pin to unlock the screen, because I never kept anything important on my public phone…

“But…” Sunset made another thoughtful humming noise. “I can’t think of any reason why Diamond would do it. Anon-A-Miss isn’t a gossip column in a newspaper, it’s a MyStable blog. She’s not selling any copies with it, or otherwise earning anything, not even any kind of positive reputation. She can’t take credit for getting me to leave CHS, without exonerating me.”

“Maybe she just got it out fer ya personally?” Applejack shrugged.

“Maybe…” Sunset furrowed her brow. “But I can not for the life of me remember ever doing anything to her, or her little girlfriend. The freshmen as a whole were pretty inconsequential to any of my plans… And I can’t think of anything that she would gain out of anonymously ruining my reputation either. It doesn’t fit.”

“Somepony else then?”

“Probably.” Sunset shrugged. “In the end it doesn’t really matter.”

Applejack gave Sunset an incredulous look. “O’ course it matters! Don’tcha wanna know who did this ta you?”

Sunset sighed deeply. “On the one hand, yes, I want to know. On the other hand, I just want to leave this whole thing behind me…”

“Even if it means that ya can never go back ta yer life there? Yer home?”

“Pft!” Sunset scoffed dismissively. “Equestria IS my home, Applejack. That place? It was a prison I was foalish enough to get myself trapped in. I never wanted to make a life there. Let Anon-A-Miss have her little victory. Ultimately, all she achieved was to get me out of my self-imposed exile.

“Besides,” she added. “It’s not like I could go back even if I wanted to. The police will be looking for me sooner or later.”

“Whaddaya mean?” Applejack asked. “Because of the fights ya got into?”

“Potentially,” Sunset sighed. “Assuming they try to press charges. But more because of the post I sent the night I left. I revealed all the students’ crimes, I was privy to. A good few of which I blackmailed and extorted over those crimes. They’ve got nothing to lose in letting the cops know about that now.”

“Oh…” Applejack said, looking uncomfortably to the side.

“Having second thoughts about the whole ‘showing me around’ thing by now?” Sunset gave her a sardonic smile. “You don’t have to try and be friendly with me just because Twilight asked you to, you know? It didn’t go well with the other Applejack either. And I am fully aware of how bad I look right now. I won’t hold it against you if wanna leave now.”

“Sunset,” Applejack said slowly, after thinking for a long moment. “If ya had shown up at mah farm that night and told me that whole story? Ah would’ve taken ya in. Ah don’t need Twilight ta be neighbourly. Ah admit, Ah had some doubts when Twilight told me what happened, but Ah know now that you really have changed.

Applejack reached out with her hoof to touch Sunset’s shoulder. Sunset flinched slightly but relaxed after a moment. Something in Applejack’s words had struck a chord in her.

“Ah know yer scared that dealing with us will turn out the same way it did with our counterparts, but it won’t, Ah promise.” Applejack’s voice was gentle and reassuring. The kind of voice you use when talking to a hurt foal. An honest voice.

‘Maybe I can actually trust them…’ Sunset looked thoughtfully at Applejack. ‘They are the people Twilight thought their counterparts were.’

‘And what if they’re not the people Twilight thinks they are either?’ Her doubts answered unbidden.

‘Well what if they are?’

‘What if they aren’t?’

‘Then it’s not like we can sink any deeper, than the rock bottom we’ve already hit.’

‘Twilight could abandon us too. They could turn her against us.’

‘Do you really believe that Twilight would ever abandon us?’

‘We didn’t believe that any of the others would ever abandon us either. Fact is, we have no guarantee that this will end any other way than with any of them.’

‘We have no guarantee that it will not either.’

‘If you’re wrong, we’ll regret this for the rest of our life.’

‘So will we if you’re wrong. And right now, I’d rather make the mistake of trusting a friend too much, than not trusting one enough.’

“Maybe...maybe you’re right,” Sunset finally said. Her voice came out a little hesitant, but she managed to give Applejack a small smile. “I think I feel a bit better now.”

Applejack returned the smile with one of her own, broad and confidence inspiring. “Feel like going on that tour now after all?”

“I…” Sunset hesitated again. “If it’s alright, I’d rather just...follow Twilight’s advice and study up on you a little for now.”

“Alright.” Applejack nodded. “Ya just give the word when ya feel ready, okay?”

“Okay.” Sunset's smile turned a little wider now. “And thank you, Applejack, I really needed to hear that.”

“Yer welcome, Sunset.” Applejack gave her a gentle pat on the shoulder and turned to leave. “And if there’s anything ya need, just ask.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Sunset nodded. “Thanks.”

After watching Applejack leave, Sunset turned once again back to the Friendship Journal. These mares had inspired so much confidence in Twilight, that she hadn’t thought twice about entrusting her into the care of their counterparts after the Formal. It was time to find out, just why that was.