Firebird Dahlia

by The Albinocorn


Homecoming

Firebird Dahlia

Dear Twilight,

How have you been? Sorry I haven’t written in a while; midterms were crazy this year. Other than studying and tutoring some students, life is still pretty good. I think everyone in school has forgiven me for you-know-what (except for Trixie, but you know how she is), and the girls and I are practically inseparable.

Hard to believe we were enemies half a year ago, huh? I’ve come a long way from who I used to be... which actually brings me to why I’m writing this to you now. I kinda need a favor. A big one.

I’ve been doing a lot here to fix what I broke, but I still have things back home in Equestria that I need to deal with. You know that Celestia and I didn’t part on the best of terms.

But there’s even more to the story than that.

Twilight, I haven’t seen my family since before I left. It’s been ten years in Equestrian time since we’ve seen each other. I can’t even imagine what they think of me right now. I guess that depends on what Celestia told them.

But I’m rambling now; I’ll tell you the whole story if I see you. Basically, what I’m asking is for you to open up the portal again to let me come home. Spring Break is in three days, so that would give me a good opportunity to disappear for a bit. I’ve already told the girls I might do this and I’ve got their support.

Please, Twi. I’ve made up with everyone but my own family, and I can’t ignore them any longer.

Your friend,

Sunset Shimmer

******

Gaudy.

That was Sunset Shimmer’s first thought as she stumbled out of the mirror, her friend’s fond farewells and cheers of good luck still playing in her ears.

Part of her self-reformation program was to think of something positive to say about anything before making one of her usual negative or snarky comments. But this library was an eyesore: purple floors with blue walls and assorted crystals growing over the doorframes and in other random areas, while different colored tapestries hung from the ceiling.

Still, Sunset put on her best smile and stared ahead at the alicorn in front of her. She nearly fell over again when she tried to approach Twilight, her legs still wobbly after her cross-dimensional transformation. Luckily, Twilight Sparkle jumped forward and caught her before Sunset hit the ground.

“Hehe, first step’s a doozy,” Twilight said, helping Sunset stand upright again.

“Yeah.” Sunset shook her legs out and hopped up and down a few times. “All right, I think I’ve got it again. Just don’t ask me to perform any tricks.” They both stared at each before breaking into laughter and throwing their hooves around each other’s neck.

“It’s good to see you again, Twilight. Although it’s really weird seeing you as a pony again.”

“I could say the same thing about you,” Twilight said, leading Sunset away from the mirror. “I’ve only seen you in your pony form once, and it was kinda dark.”

“Heh, yeah.” Sunset looked away, her face red as her mane. “Did I ever say I was sorry about that?”

“Eleven times if we want to count now.”

Twilight sat on a cushioned chair at a waiting table, whereupon a tea set and a plate of cookies rested. “Tea?” She held up a decorated pot and two cups in her lavender glow.

“Love some.”

Sunset sat down across from Twilight and watched as the princess filled their cups, steam rolling off the top, following the rich aroma. She fidgeted in her equine body; her tail did not seem to want to cooperate. I don’t remember it being this hard last time.

“Mmm, is this Jasmine?” Sunset asked, nose twitching in delight.

“Yep, I told Spike you were coming, so he made your favorite.”

Sunset smiled. “He’s quite the conversationalist, you know—some of his letters got pretty detailed when he took over, those few times you were busy. Is he as ferocious and fire breathing as he claims he is?”

Twilight giggled. “Not quite.”

Sunset looked down at the cup in front of her and closed her eyes, feeling her dormant magic awakening and flowing through her again. When she opened her eyes, the cup was levitating an inch from her mouth. “Wow. I have to remember how to walk, but magic is still second nature.” She blew off the steam and took a sip from her tea, making a soft moan of delight as the flavor touched her tongue.

“Funny how things work like that, isn’t it?” Twilight asked playfully.

They sipped their tea in silence for a moment. Sunset’s eyes wandered around the room, steadily growing used to the poor interior design. She shuffled again, finding her current position on her haunches to be too odd for her liking, and opted to just lie on her stomach; unfortunately, that left her barely able to see Twilight.

“Uuuuuugh!” She pressed her forehead into the table.

Twilight sipped her tea with faux grace, her cheeks pudging and her shoulders shaking slightly. “Having trouble?” she asked after swallowing, still suppressing a giggle.

Sunset got to her hooves. “You know what? I think I’ll just stand.”

“Right.” Twilight set her tea cup down. “Well, I hate to pressure you into anything, but would you like to discuss the reason for your visit now?”

Sunset felt her ears pin back, a very odd sensation yet so instinctively familiar. “Right. That.” She was about to sit down again, until she remembered her recent struggle and decide to just practice walking as she told her story. “Well… it’s like I said in my letter. I’m… pretty estranged to my family by now. Time moves different between the two worlds. Two-and-a-half years human side is almost ten years here.”

Sunset stopped pacing and looked at her hooves. “Either way, it feels like I haven’t spoken to them in centuries. Once I started studying under Celestia, I kinda just… pushed them aside. Don’t get me wrong—they were great. I just felt… more at home under Celestia.”

Twilight nodded once and rolled a hoof for Sunset to continue.

Sunset resumed her pacing again. She browsed some of the books lining the shelves, finding many she recognized from the library in Canterlot Castle. “The day I ran away… it had been, I don’t know… almost two months since I had seen them.”

It hadn’t been a long visit either. Sunset remembered the short clips of conversation she shared with her parents: they had asked her how school was. She had said ‘fine.’ They had asked her if she was learning a lot. She had said ‘yes.’ They had asked if she had spoken to her sister lately. She had said ‘no.’

“Honestly…” Frost gathered in the pit of Sunset’s stomach. “I don’t even know if my parents are still alive.” Crying was something she couldn’t stand, no matter how soft she let her heart get. However, she allowed a few tears to slide down her cheeks at the idea of returning to Canterlot only to find headstones. It hung over her thoughts like the Grim Reaper himself.

She kept her back to Twilight. “Two-and-a-half years felt like a long time to me. I can only imagine how ten years have felt for them. Not seeing or hearing anything about your own daughter… not knowing if she was alive or not... I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t want to see me again.”

I’ve been a terrible student and daughter. She finally wiped the tears from her eyes and let out a disgruntled sigh. Sometimes, I wish I was still selfish. It sucks to feel guilt.

A soft clip-clop echoed through the library; Sunset stiffened at the unexpected touch of a hoof on her back.

“You know, Sunset, I’m really proud of you,” Twilight said. “You’ve come a long way from when I first met you.”

Sunset smiled weakly. “Yeah, well… I couldn’t have done it if you hadn’t hit me with a giant rainbow and buried me in a crater.”

“Heh heh…” Twilight blushed. “Did I ever mention I was sorry about the crater part?”

“Eleven times if we’re counting now.”

Both mares laughed, and a warmth flowed through Sunset’s body, melting the ice. She watched Twilight walk over to another bookshelf with larger tomes.

“I’m sure your parents are doing fine. And I’m positive they’ll be delighted in seeing you again. Family is still family no matter what.” She levitated a selection of books down and brought them over to the table. “Here’s a record of last year’s census. Just give me their names and I’m sure we can find them.”

Sunset’s smile widened, and she joined Twilight at the table, still opting to stand. “Well, my mom’s name is Dawn Glider, and my dad is Zephyr Spark.”

Twilight opened the book, then paused with a quizzical look on her face. “I’m sorry if this sounds… out of line, but those sound awfully like pegasus names.”

“They are. My parents are pegasi. Actually, most of my immediate family are.”

“But... you’re a unicorn,” she said like she was noticing for the first time.

“Umm, yeah?”

Twilight stared, wearing an expression Sunset recognized in her history teachers back on earth. “That’s so fascinating! That’s just like the Cake twins: they’re a unicorn and a pegasus but their parents are both earth ponies! Tell me, do you know where you got your unicorn traits from? How far back does it go and how many generations did it skip? Do you have any pegasi magic at all, like walking on clouds or weather manipulation? Does your cutie mark—”

“Oi! Twi! Calm down!” Sunset said loudly, flailing her hooves in Twilight’s face. “My grandfather on my dad’s side was a unicorn and so was his whole family. He married a pegasus, they had my dad and he got married to a pegasus too. That’s all I know about that.” Sunset massaged her head. “I try not to think about it too much honestly. And no, I cannot walk on clouds. That’s why we lived in Canterlot,” she said bitterly.

“Sorry,” Twilight said taking a deep breath. “I got carried away for a second. Pony genealogy is just something I’ve been exploring since the Cake twins were born. But you’re right—we have more important things to do.” She leaned over and flipped through the census with such determination, Sunset was sure she was just trying to make up for her earlier outburst.

She looked up at Sunset with a bright smile. “I found your mom, Sunset. She’s alive and healthy according to the book.”

Sunset crammed her face closer, pushing Twilight aside. There it was on the page in tiny font: Dawn Glider—Canterlot City. Marital Status: Married. “They’re still in Canterlot,” Sunset whispered. “They never left… even after I was gone.”

Twilight’s glare relaxed into a warm, empathetic smile. “I bet they were hoping you would come back.”

A lump swelled in Sunset’s throat and her eyes stung again. No. Don’t you dare. Stop being such a baby! She stepped back from the book and breathed deeply, keeping her eyes closed. “Thanks, Twi,” she said after regaining her composure. “This means a lot to me.”

Twilight picked up her tea cup. “Of course.”

Sunset looked up at the high ceiling. The thought of seeing her mom and dad again sent a warm wind through her heart.

“Umm, Sunset? Do you… have any siblings?”

The warm wind was snuffed out and replaced by an arctic gale. “Uhh, no.” Sunset shifted her gaze around the library. “No, why would you think something like that?” She laughed nervously.

“Because it says your mom has two children,” Twilight deadpanned.

Sunset opened her mouth, closed it and bowed her head. “Yeah… I have a sister.”

“Really?” Twilight asked excitedly. She frowned at the guarded stance Sunset had taken up. “You don’t want to see her?”

“No, it’s not that.” Sunset sat down, briefly pleased that she had landed in a comfortable position. “Well… I guess it kinda is. But…” She wrung her hooves together. “It’s more like she doesn’t want to see me.”

Twilight lifted the tea pot and poured Sunset another cup. “I’m sure that’s not true.”

Sunset brought the cup closer and stared into the murky liquid. “I… we tried to…. We had a fight before I left and we never made up. I mean, we had a rocky relationship while we were growing up, but that time…” Sunset raised a hoof to her cheek. “We actually came to blows.”

“Sunset...”

“I said some things, she said some things—one of them being she never wanted to see me again.” Sunset cringed, as she fought to suppress the memory. However, she could still feel the wounds on her heart, old and scarred.  

She raised her cup and guzzled down the hot tea, chasing the pain away. She coughed then said, “My parents… I can handle seeing them. But her... and Celestia… maybe it’s best if I just stay out of their lives.”

Twilight drapped a wing over her. “Sunset, that’s ridiculous.”

With the touch of feathers on her back and the warm but stern tone of voice, Sunset was certain when she turned her head she’d find Princess Celestia. Instead, Twilight smiled at her, but the resemblance was uncanny. Sunset saw so much of Celestia that she was filled with hope. It was immediately covered by shame a moment later, and she bowed her head again.

“Sunset, you should know better than most ponies that Celestia forgives and forgets.” Twilight wrapped her wing tighter. “I already told her of what you did in the human world—how you helped us defeat the Sirens, and all the hard work you’ve been doing. She’s proud of you.”

“I know, but I still messed up. I walked out on her. I walked out on all of them.” Sunset stared down the slippery slope, knowing it only ended in self-loathing. Still, her emotions outpaced her thinking, and she started to regret coming back at all.

She stood up, startling Twilight who jerked her wing away. “On second thought, this is a bad idea. They’ve all gone this long without me, they can keep going.”

She turned for the mirror, but a hoof pinned her by her tail.

“Sunset Shimmer, you’re not going anywhere until you see your family again,” Twilight said in a firm voice.

Sunset stood in place until Twilight removed her hoof. “You’re right. Sorry, I panicked for a second.” She turned and sat down again next to Twilight. “It’s just… I put so much distance between us. Physically and emotionally. What if they all just moved on?”

“Celestia is proud of you,” Twilight said confidently. “The first thing she asked me when I came back from the human world the first time was how you were doing. She never stopped caring. And if she never stopped caring, then I bet the rest of your family never stopped either.”

“But—”

“And it’s like you said,” Twilight continued, speaking over her, “ten years is a long time. Maybe you and your sister had a bad fight, but time heals all wounds. I’m sure she wants to see you again just as much as you want to see her. I bet when she sees you, the only thing she’ll want to do is make up for lost time.”

Sunset wiped away a stray tear. “You really think so?”

“I know so!”

Sunset reached for her tea again. She took one more sip to melt the ice in her stomach again and raised her head with newfound confidence. “You’re right. I have to at least try! I need to see them again. And I’ll start…” She swallowed the lump in her throat. “I’ll start with my sister. I messed up with her first, so our relationship will be the first one I fix!”

Twilight patted her on the shoulder and beamed with approval. “Sounds great. Just give me her name and we can find her.” Twilight approached the book again, pausing to take a sip of tea.

“Spitfire.”