Sunset couldn't help but see a bit of herself in the human Twilight Sparkle. Not just the whole "I turned into a she-demon and all I got was a rainbow to the face" thing, but also how both had to learn to open themselves to others afterwards.
In Sunset's case, it had been slowly letting her shields down after years of worrying about the locals realizing she was an alien from another universe. Only five people in the school being willing to talk to her hadn't helped. For Twilight, the shields had come from defending herself against a horribly toxic environment, and the sudden shift to one where everyone wanted to talk to her wasn't helping either. It was too much, too fast. Worse, as far as she was concerned it was unearned, since far too few people understood that she wasn't her equine counterpart. She was happy to use the Rainbooms as a way to transition to the CHS social framework, especially Sunset.
As such, both were happy to hang out together at the foot of the Wondercolt statue, something neither of them would've seen herself doing a year before. (Well, the still-unrepaired remnants of the Wondercolt statue, but neither was going to say anything about that.)
Sunset snorted out a stifled laugh as she browsed the MyStable chatter. "Well, Twilight, the Internet has decided. Your sexy evil form is hereby dubbed 'Midnight Sparkle.'"
Twilight's head darted up from her own phone. "I was sexy?"
Sunset couldn't help but give a lopsided grin. "Is that really your takeaway from this?"
"This is the Internet we're talking about. I'm just grateful that no one called my dark side 'Baddie McBadface.' But I'm not used to thinking of myself as..." Twilight blushed. "You know, attractive."
After a few thoughtful moments, Sunset said, "Let's put it this way: You remember meeting Princess Twilight?"
"What, encountering my alternate self from a parallel universe, simultaneously answering and raising countless questions about the multiverse, predestination, the existence and nature of the soul, and numerous other topics?" Twilight gave her a flat look. "No, completely slipped my mind."
Sunset chuckled. "Okay, yeah, dumb question. Well, you look almost exactly like her aside from the glasses."
"That doesn't tell me much. I'm not narcissistic enough to check myself out, even if it's a different 'myself.' Besides, doesn't calling..." Twilight's face twisted. "Ugh, do we have to call it anything? It's gone and I'd rather never think about it again."
"Other than the sexiness."
"Right. That. Doesn't calling that my 'sexy evil form' imply my current form, well..." Twilight shrank in on herself. Her last word was barely audible: "isn't?"
Sunset wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Not what I was going for. I was more comparing it to my evil demon form."
Twilight paused halfway through leaning her head on Sunset's shoulder. "Your what?"
The two pulled away from each other. "I thought you'd investigated CHS for months before you built that thaumic siphon," Sunset said with a frown.
"I did, but only after passive sensors detected the first anomalous energy spike last fall, and even then it was mostly watching for a repeat of the phenomenon. That didn't happen until a few months ago."
"Well, that first spike was..." Sunset winced as she opened her phone's photo gallery. "Well, me. And the other Twilight smacking me into the pavement with the other girls' help. Before they did, I looked like this." She pulled up a picture of her own demonic state, one she kept as a reminder of both how far she'd fallen and how far she'd come since, and showed it to Twilight.
The other girl adjusted her glasses as she took it in. "I'm honestly impressed someone thought to take a picture when facing that down." She blinked. "Er, you down. Or it?" Her speech sped up as she fidgeted with one of her bangs. "I suppose going by my own logic, you'd want to distance yourself from the entity as much as possible—"
A hand on her shoulder cut her off. "Breathe, Twilight. It's okay, I'm not offended." Sunset looked at the picture, of her corrupted form looming like a Tartarus escapee, fire and madness in her eyes. "I've had a lot more time to come to grips with what I did that night, and how I've grown after it." Her gaze moved from her phone up to the school's roof. "It took me a few weeks to realize something important afterwards."
"Your past doesn't have to define who you are in the present." Sunset shook her head. "And believe me, I had a lot to put behind me."
She looked back to Twilight, who met her with a skeptical gaze. "From what I've seen from both you and others interacting with you, that's hard to believe." Twilight's expression fell. "You seem... well, perfect. Especially in comparison to what I did."
"Perfect? Me?" Sunset shook her head, trying to get visions of her unapproachable, imperious old mentor out of her head. "Trust me, Twilight, nopony's perfect. I learned that the hard way."
Twilight paused halfway through raising a finger to object. She covered her mouth as she giggled. "I'm sorry, 'nopony'?"
"Perfectly legitimate pronoun in Equestria. And you know I'm not perfect. You saw I still have quite the temper at the Games."
"You were right to yell at me for meddling with dangerous forces I didn't understand," said Twilight, mirth sliding off her face to reveal the guilt still laying underneath. Her gaze fell back to the ground as she said, "There's exploring new frontiers, and then there's banging together the funny rocks that make the Geigriff counter click."
Sunset sighed as she brushed the dust off of bitter old memories. "For years, I was a spiteful, conniving, nasty brat whose closest thing to happiness was making other people miserable. And then I turned into a literal demon, as hideous on the outside as I was on the inside."
That at least got Twilight to look up, a lopsided smile on her face. "You would've fit in perfectly at Crystal Prep."
Sunset snorted. "I bet."
"Meanwhile, I was..." Twilight's face twisted; no doubt she was reviewing the less pleasant parts of her past as well. "Put plainly, a shut-in. More concerned with expanding my own knowledge than any actual applications or benefits or even how others might expand my research. Looking back, I have no idea what I'd actually do with magic once I understood it; I just hated the idea of not knowing something. And then I became a creature who only saw value in learning. By destructive analysis if necessary. Or if I felt like it. Or because it was..." She shut her eyes. "Well, fun. At the time."
Sunset brushed a bit of hair out of Twilight's eyes. "But you were still beautiful. You were pressured into becoming Midnight. I executed a plan years in the making."
That got a sad smile. "I thought your past didn't define who you are in the present."
"Choosing to move past something doesn't wipe it away completely." Sunset slumped. "I know this sounds bad, but... you're probably going to regret this for the rest of your life. Don't get me wrong, friends help. Friends help a lot." The ache in Sunset's heart, the one she could usually ignore, grew sharp enough that she nearly folded in half. "But some nights you're going to lie awake thinking of how close you came to doing something truly irreversible."
Twilight put a hand on Sunset's. "Does that happen often?"
"Not as much as it used to." Sunset looked up and met Twilight's eyes. "And since becoming... Well, the Internet's calling that 'Daydream Shimmer.'"
"You were definitely beautiful," Twilight said with a smile.
Sunset returned it. "Thanks. Ever since I went Daydream, the nightmares tend to have happier endings." Her expression fell. "But not always."
"Do the others know about this?"
That got a shake of the head. "It's not like they can do anything about it; it'll just worry them."
"You know, I thought the same thing. I..." Twilight took a deep breath. "It's only happened once since, but it's only been a few days."
Sunset gasped. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"Why haven't you?" Twilight said with a glare. "I'd assumed no one else had ever been through that experience. Certainly not you." The corners of her mouth twitched upwards. "Who would think an angel used to be a demon?"
"Heh." Sunset looked away. "Don't know about that. I'm trying my best, but—"
Her gaze snapped back when she felt hands take hold of hers, hands lined with pits and scars from solder and electrical burns. "Sunset, you literally turned into a radiant figure of divine light that I feared on an instinctual level. You were an angel." Twilight's scowl softened to a small smile, something almost coy. "And thinking about it, if you were saying my... 'Midnight' was sexy compared to your demonic form, does that mean...?"
"I wouldn't say you're sexy."
Twilight drooped, letting Sunset's hands go. "Oh."
Sunset took Twilight's in turn. "You're not trying for sexy. You're cute. That bow tie?"
"I like this bow tie."
"It's an adorable bow tie. But it's not sexy." Sunset gave her a grin she'd last used on Flash Sentry. "You want to spice up your look, talk to Rarity."
Twilight's blank look made it clear she had no idea how to process that. "Um... Okay?"
"You know, thinking about it..." Sunset rolled a fingertip around one of Twilight's knuckles, feeling a thin ridge of scar tissue. "Midnight Sparkle did one good thing. She taught me something I'd never known."
Sunset could see the goosebumps race up Twilight's arms. "Wh-what?"
"I'd seen a confident Twilight Sparkle before. The princess has faced down multiple threats from our world. But she'd never looked so good while doing it. She'd been confident, heroic, noble..." Sunset gave Twilight a half-lidded look. "But you were sultry."
Twilight blinked, her blank stare persisting even as she blushed and her breathing grew heavier. "I am even less prepared to think of myself as sultry than I am sexy."
"Well, you are sexy."
"I thought I needed a different outfit for that."
Sunset smirked. "Consider the null set."
Twilight's mouth worked silently for a few moments. "Just to check, we're flirting at this point, right?"
Through a great exertion of willpower, Sunset managed to avoid both laughing and rolling her eyes. "Yes, Twilight. We're flirting."
"Okay. Because that was perhaps the one way you could have put that that wouldn't have made me uncomfortable." Twilight's widening nervous grin and rising pitch made that seem less than likely. "Kudos."
Sunset sighed and released the other girl's hands. "You're still kind of uncomfortable, aren't you?"
Twilight laced her fingers together, looking down at them. "I'm still recovering from Midnight and getting used to having friends. I'll need a little time before I'm emotionally prepared to respond to your... proposal."
The slightest upward curve of a mouth. A tiny tilt of the head upward. "But I do plan on offering a response."
Sunset grinned. "I see." She cleared her throat and shifted her expression to something more Braytonic. "For the record, I'm happy with just being your friend until then. And after, if that's what you decide."
"I... don't think you need to worry about that." Twilight wrapped her arms around the other girl in a possibly less Braytonic hug. "But thanks, Sunset."
She returned the embrace. "Of course."
Lemon Zest sighed and turned off the parabolic mike. She kept the headphones on, because Lemon Zest. "Welp, so much for the one good thing about Crystal Prep."
Sugarcoat patted her on the shoulder. "I'll alert the Spurned Sparkle Suitor Support MyStable group."
"'Preciate it." Lemon sighed. "Man, if I'd known you had to turn into a demon to get that girl..."
"You'd still have done it?"
Lemon snorted. "Of course I would've. One, it's metal as crap. B, this is Twilight Sparkle we're talking about. Absolute worth. I'm just trying to figure out how."
"Hey!" Both turned to the edge of the hedge they'd been hiding behind to see a scowling Rainbow Dash. "The heck are you guys doing here?"
Sugarcoat pointed towards the statue plinth. "Watching Sunset Shimmer woo our unrequited crush."
Dash blinked. "Wait, Sunset and Twilight?" She knelt down and tried to wedge between them. "Move over, Applejack owes me twenty bucks if they get together before the end of the month."
Lemon beamed as she made room for Dash. "And they say our schools have nothin' in common."