Firebird Dahlia

by The Albinocorn


Afterburn

Three loud thumps against her door disturbed the quiet sanctity of Sunset’s castle bedroom. She looked up from her book, wrinkling her nose in annoyance. Three-thirty in the afternoon on a Saturday; who could be bothering her?

“Yes?” she asked testily.

“Miss Sunset,” came the deep voice of one of the castle guards. “Your sister, Miss Spitfire, wishes to see you. Shall I send her in?”

Sunset sat up in bed and cleared some of the papers littered about. She rolled off, landed on the carpet, and started to pace. “Let her in… or keep studying?” Sunset rolled her eyes. She supposed it had been a while since she’d seen her sister. Though she was ready to bet five bits Spitfire needed something.

“Sure, let her in,” Sunset called.

The door opened up, and Spitfire sauntered in, racing goggles sitting on her forehead. “Hey, dodo, you remember me?”

“Yeah, you’re that one pony that shared a bathroom with me at my parent’s house. Hold on, your name’s on the tip of my tongue.” Sunset paused, pretending to think.

Spitfire punched her shoulder. “You know, you could come home once in a while. Just so Mom will stop flipping out.”

“I come home all the time,” Sunset said defensively. “I was there for Spring Bloom Day.”

“That was a month ago,” Spitfire deadpanned.

Sunset looked at the calendar. “Really? Are you sure?”

Spitfire walked over to the bed. “You have problems.” She shuffled some of the papers around, lazily eyeing them. “So what’s this, your Starswirl the Bearded fanfiction?”

“No! And stop touching it!” Sunset rushed over and swatted Spitfire away. “I’m doing some very important research.”

“Yeah, sure.” Spitfire gave an absent nod.

A growl rose in Sunset’s throat, but she pushed it down. She put on a smile and faced her sister again. “So, any particular reason you’re here?”

Spitfire wrapped a hoof around Sunset. “What, I can’t come and visit my baby sister?”

“Only when you want something.”

She put a hoof over her heart. “I am offended. I came here to see how my sister is doing since she neglects to come home or write letters to me. I wanted to make sure you were healthy, your grades were up, see what was going on... you know, if you had any colts in your life or anything like that.”

Sunset gave her a lidded stare.

Spitfire’s smile fell. She floated into the air and crossed her hooves. “Oh all right, fine—I wanted something.”

“Big surprise.” Sunset summoned her rolling chair and fell into it. She steepled her hooves. “So, what services do you require of me?”

A draft picked up as Spitfire beat her wings excitedly. “Ace is retiring from the Wonderbolts!”

Sunset didn’t react. Like she was supposed know who Ace was and why his retirement was a cause for celebration. She waited for her silence to clue Spitfire in.

Spitfire slapped a hoof against her face and groaned. “Which means they need to move up one of the reserves to a full time member! And I’m at the top of the list!”

Sunset laughed and clapped her hooves. “Congratulations, you’re finally going to be a Wonderbolt! Took you long enough.”

“Weeeeell, not yet,” Spitfire said, stopping in the middle of her loop. “See, I’m at the top of the list, but to make it, you know, ‘fair—’” she made air quotes with her hooves “—they’re going to have official tryouts for the top five. I’ve got an edge because I’m number one, but I still need to put on the best performance ever!”

Rolling to her desk, Sunset asked, “So, what does this have to do with me?”

Spitfire landed on top of her chair. “Well, I was hoping you could help me design some cool new ariel techniques for tryouts. You know, use your nerdy brain to make up some maneuvers and stuff.”

“What’s in for me?”

“Helping your sister become the youngest Wonderbolt in history!” She leaned over and smiled at Sunset.

Sunset pushed her out of the way, then leaned on the chair’s arm. On one hoof, this was Spitfire’s dream. Everypony knew how badly she wanted to be not just a Wonderbolt, but the youngest one ever. This would probably be the only chance she got.

On the other hoof, if she got in, Sunset would never hear the end of it. ‘Our oldest daughter is so amazing! She’s the youngest Wonderbolt in history! Look at me, I’m Spitfire and I’m Captain of the Wonderbolts!’ Of course, if everything went according to plan, Sunset was going to become a princess.

Which meant she would be an alicorn. With a horn and wings.

Sunset smirked. Sure, she could help Spitfire with this. Either way, she, Sunset, was going to win in the end.

“Fine, I’ll help you, Spits.”

Yes!” Spitfire started loop-de-looping. “I knew I could count on you! You’re the best, Sun!”

Sunset leaned back. “Yeah. I am.”

******

The pencil balanced between Spitfire’s hoof and her desk. Spitfire focused on it rather than Rainbow and Soarin sitting across from her.

“We were like any other pair of sisters.” Melancholy dripped from her voice . “Sometimes we fought like cats. Sometimes we leaned on each other for support. But we always had this rivalry going. Trying to outdo each other, see who could get the most praise from our parents.”

She dug the pencil into the desk until it stood upright. “Yeah, we didn’t always play fair.” She looked up at the rotating ceiling fan. “But we never tried to hurt each other. Was I jealous? Sure, maybe a little. Hard not to be when your baby sister is a prodigy.” Spitfire slid deeper in her seat.

“Come on, Spitfire,” Soarin said confidently, “you’re amazing too. Look at everything you’ve done.”

“I know, I know. I was young and dumb. It’s just… everytime I came home, my parents were always gushing about Sunset.” She knit her brows. “No matter what I did, she always tried to upstage me.”

******

Spitfire touched down on the porch and wrangled the house key from her saddlebags. As she inserted it into the lock, she could hear talk and laughter from the other side.

She beat me home. Great, maybe I’ll have missed the part where Mom and Dad gush over her.

The door creaked open, and Spitfire stepped inside, dropping her bags by the door. “I’m home!”

Dawn floated in from the kitchen and wrapped her hooves around Spitfire. “Hi, sweetie! How are you? How’s life at the academy? Oh, come into the kitchen, your sister’s here too!”

“Life’s good, Mom,” Spitfire said while Dawn pulled her into the next room. “I actually have some big news to tell you and Dad.”

“Really? Well, today’s just full of good news then!”

Spitfire raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

They stepped into the kitchen, already occupied by Zephyr and Sunset. Zephyr stood up to hug Spitfire and give her a good pat on the back, while Sunset just waved, flashing a knowing smile.

“How’s my little speed demon?” Zephyr’s voice boomed through the house. “Those drill instructors giving you a hard time?”

Spitfire laughed, remembering the scolding she and Soarin had gotten for being, quite literally, two seconds late for line up. “A little bit.”

“Good!” Zephyr clapped her back again. Not too long ago, the force would have made Spitfire buckle. “You rugrats need a little discipline.”

Both Sunset and Spitfire rolled their eyes.

Everyone sat down at the table, and in a few seconds, a cup of hot tea sat in front of Spitfire.

“Thanks, Mom.” Spitfire wouldn’t say it outloud, but she had become more of a coffee mare since joining the Wonderbolt Academy. Taking a sip, she remembered why: every tea tasted like bitter dirt compared to her mom’s. “So, what’s the good news Mom mentioned?”

Sunset lowered her cup and smiled. It was the devious smile that signaled to Spitfire they were about to start another match of ‘who can make Mom and Dad prouder?’

“Well, I’ve been talking to Princess Celestia, and as it turns out, I’m so far ahead in my advanced studies that if I keep it up, I could graduate a whole year early.”

Dawn clapped her hooves. “I’m just so happy for you, Sunny! All that studying is really paying off!”

Zephyr tapped his hoof on the table. “Of course, you still haven’t said what you’re going to do after graduation.”

Sunset’s smile slid into a mischievous grin. “The Princess said she has something ‘very special’ planned for me. I’m sure it’ll be something extremely important.”

Oh no, I will not let you top me this time!

Spitfire cleared her throat. “I have something very important to say as well. Dad, I’m sure you know Ace announced he was retiring soon, so the Wonderbolts need a new full-time member. Well, I’m one of the top picks!”

Zephyr threw his hooves into the air. “Yes! That’s my girl! Future Wonderbolt right here!”

“We’re so proud of you, Spitfire!” Dawn pulled her into a tight hug.

Spitfire’s eyes shifted to Sunset. “Yep, I’m going to be the youngest Wonderbolt ever!” She broke into a confident smirk upon seeing Sunset roll her eyes and return to her drink. Ha! One more point for me!

The family chatted for another hour before Dawn started on dinner. Spitfire and Sunset excused themselves upstairs to work on Spitfire’s upcoming routine. They entered her room, decorated with Wonderbolt posters and flags.

Spitfire closed the door, then rounded on Sunset. “What the heck was that?”

“What was what?” Sunset asked, looking as innocent as a wolf in a sheep’s pen.

“Don’t play stupid with me—I don’t care if you are the world champion—” Sunset scowled “—you really just tried to steal my moment down there!”

“What, I can’t come home with good tidings?”

Spitfire rolled her eyes. “Oh please, you just made that up to try and top my good news.”

“No I didn’t.” Sunset climbed onto Spitfire’s cloud-shaped bed. “Princess Celestia really thinks I could graduate early, and she has something special in mind for me.”

Spitfire rubbed her forehead. “Of course. The first time you come home in a month is just to rain on my parade. Do you even really want to help me do this, or are you just going to make me look bad?”

Sunset put a hoof on her heart. “As much as I love showing you up, I swear, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you get that Wonderbolt spot.”

“Really?”

“Really really. Besides, what Celestia has planned for me is far better than a flight jockey.”

Spitfire trotted over to her desk and pulled out some pens and paper. “You hold onto that pipedream, Sun.”

“Oh, I will.”

******

Sunset absent-mindedly nudged her coffee mug. “I shouldn’t have tried to outdo her that night,” she said, resting her chin on the table. “Maybe if I hadn’t, things might have turned out differently.”

Zephyr ran a hoof through his greying mane. “I don’t understand why you tried to outdo each other in the first place. Both of you know we don’t pick favorites. We were proud of both of you.”

“I know, I know. I was young and dumb. We both kinda were. I just thought I…” Sunset swallowed the rising lump in her throat. “I had to work harder to make my accomplishments mean something… since I wasn’t…”

Zephyr reached over and squeezed her hoof. “How many times do I have to tell you: it never mattered that you were born a unicorn. You’re still our daughter—we’re proud of whatever you do.”

Sunset released a puff of air through her nose. “I did mention how dumb I was, right?”

“You’re not dumb. And if you call yourself dumb again, you’re grounded.”

As tempting as it was to challenge the notion of whether or not her father could still ground her, Sunset kept her mouth shut. The answer was probably yes anyway.

Twilight nodded in agreement with Zephyr. “All siblings have some sort of rivalry going. Even Shining and I would compete sometimes. Yours just… escalated a little more than others.”

“That’s an understatement,” Sunset mumbled.

“Well, what happened next?”

Sunset straightened up and stared into her coffee. “We started drawing up ideas for stunts Spitfire could perform. She wanted something that could really impress the judges. She even wanted to try and pull off the Sonic Rainboom, but I told her that was nearly impossible.” Sunset grinned. “Guess Rainbow made me eat my words.” Her smile faded. “Instead, we went with the next best thing: our own modified version of it. We were going to create a couple of artificial explosions that Spitfire would come out of. It would look like she moved so fast, they exploded into life behind her.

“So naturally, we named it after our favorite disgusting flower.”

******

“The Firebird Dahlia. I love it!” Spitfire swooped over Sunset’s head, grinning from ear-to-ear. “If I pull this off, I’ll be in for sure!”

Sunset grunted. She lay on her belly in the middle of the wide, grassy field, a sheet of construction paper in front of her. “Yes, they’ll sing your praises for generations to come. Just don’t forget who helped you in the first place.”

Spitfire hoovered over Sunset and gave her a noogie. “I’ll try not to forget you during my acceptance speech.”

And I’ll try to remember you during my coronation speech. Sunset grinned to herself. Someday, I’m going to be your boss. Can’t wait to see the look on your face when your baby sister is the superior one.

Spitfire pointed to the calculations and diagrams Sunset was finishing up. “What’s with all the numbers and junk?”

Sunset rolled up the parchment. “Magic isn’t all just pointing and blasting. It requires thought.” She patted Spitfire’s head. “Not that I’d expect you to understand thinking.”

“Ha, ha, ha.” Spitfire slapped Sunset’s hoof away. “Are you ready or what?”

“Pretty much.” Sunset wagged the parchment in front of Spitfire’s face. “I should probably warn you that this could get dangerous.”

Spitfire pounded her chest with a hoof. “You know who you’re talking to, right? I do dangerous stunts all the time and ace them with flying colors!”

“Right, I forgot who I’m dealing with. Anyway listen up—here’s how this is going to work.” Sunset’s horn glowed; three red rings the size of a bit appeared between her and Spitfire. A fourth larger one appeared on Sunset’s end.

Curiosity overtook Spitfire’s confident smirk as she ran a hoof through one of the rings. It turned green at her touch, and the ring at the far end mimicked it. “Cool. What are these?”

“They’re like alarms.” Sunset gestured to the first three. “These are for you. When you pass through them, they glow green and send a signal to mine.” She pointed to the last one.

“Pretty sick.” Spitfire waved her hoof through one a couple of times, watching it light up. “Why do we need them?”

Sunset slapped her hoof. “Because, I need to know when you pass certain points in the air. The Firebird Dahlia works like this: I’m going to line the rings up in the sky, placing them about fifty feet apart. You’re going to fly through the rings at a downward angle of about forty-five degrees.” She unrolled the parchment and floated it over to Spitfire.

Spitfire examined it, rubbing her chin. “Mmkay. So what do the rings do?”

“Nothing. I’m doing most of the work.” She pointed to what looked like a firework. “Each time you pass through a ring, I’m going to set off a firework: red, then yellow, then orange. It’ll make a bloom effect, so when it’s done, you’ll appear to be—”

“Flying right out of a Firebird Dahlia.” Spitfire grinned. “Sounds great to me.” She looked at the schematics again. “But, with the velocity I’ll be going at, plus the momentum the fireworks are going to give me, shouldn’t it be more like thirty degrees?”

Sunset stared at Spitfire, looked at the plans, and blinked. “Wow, so there is a brain in there.”

Spitfire socked her in the shoulder, earning a laugh from Sunset. “Come on, dodo, let’s do this.”

“Right, right.” Sunset sent the rings off into the air. “And since you mentioned momentum, you should also know the fireworks might push you a little off course. If my calculations are correct—and, let’s face it, they usually are—you’re going to want to lean to the left a little after the first ring.”

Spitfire slipped her goggles over her eyes. “Roger.” She dropped into a takeoff position.

Sunset summoned a pencil, paper, and binoculars. “Firebird Dahlia test number one. Ready…”

Spitfire fluffed her wings.

“Set... “ Sunset looked through the binoculars to make sure the rings were in place. “Go!”

Spitfire took off like a bat out of Tartarus, ripping the grass from its roots. She arched into the air, reaching for the sun at breakneck speeds. She looped back and twirled around before lining herself up with the rings.

Sunset split her attention between Spitfire and the red ring beside her. She charged her horn and tensed every muscle in her body. In order for this to work, she had to be spot on with her magic, lest Spitfire get caught in one of her explosions. She raised her binoculars and found the first ring, with Spitfire closing in fast.

Sunset had designed the rings to be small to keep the judges from noticing too much. She knew how much presentation meant, and wanted the fireworks to appear to have been created by Spitfire’s raw speed.

The ring turned green, and Sunset flashed her horn, lighting off a red firework. Even in the daylight, it was incredibly bright.

Aaaaaagh! Hooooooot!” Spitfire screeched.

From the ground, Sunset could see a trail of smoke curling from Spitfire’s behind. She zigzagged through the air before coming in for a hard landing, kicking dirt up and running around in a circle.

“Tail’s on fire, tail’s on fire! Hot, hot, hot!

A jet of water poured from Sunset’s horn and doused Spitfire. She stopped flailing about and looked back at her burnt tail. “Thanks.”

Sunset nodded and picked up her paper and pencil. “Attempt one: failure. Slow reaction time leading to a burnt tail.”

“I wasn’t slow! You just surprised me!” Spitfire shook the water out of her wings. “Come on, let’s go again!”

“Fine.” Sunset scribbled on her paper. “Firebird Dahlia test number two. Ready? Set… go!” Sunset’s mane whipped across her face as Spitfire took to the skies once more.

After a few fancy moves, Spitfire dove for the rings again. Sunset’s ring flashed green, and she lit up the first firework. Spitfire made it through, but teetered to the right too much. She came in through the next ring crooked, and Sunset left it alone, not wanting to blow Spitfire sky high.

Sunset set off the last one once Spitfire passed through, creating an orange and red flower in the sky. Spitfire landed and admired her handiwork for a moment before frowning.

“Attempt number two—” Sunset said as she wrote in her notes, “—Two-thirds successful. Target came in crooked for the second ring.”

“Do you know how much force your fireworks have?” Spitfire protested. “Kinda hard not to get blown off course.”

“Sounds like whining to me. I didn’t think the Wonderbolts took on whiners.”

Spitfire narrowed her eyes behind her goggles. “Watch it, Sun.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll try to tone them down a bit.” Sunset made a few mental calculations in her head. “It would help if you didn’t flinch when they go off.”

“I do not flinch!”

“I can see you, Spits. You totally flinch.”

“Do not!”

“Do too!”

“Do not!”

“Do too!”

Spitfire threw her hooves up. “Whatever! Let’s just get it right this time!” She readjusted her goggles and got into her take off position. “Attempting test three.”

“Ready? Set… go!” Sunset watched Spitfire take off again, keeping her horn charged in the meantime. True to her word, she decreased the power of her explosions a fraction, but Spitfire still came in a little too crooked for the last one.

On the fourth run, Sunset had mistimed the second explosion and set it off too early,nearly catching Spitfire in the blast.

By attempt five, tempers were beginning to flare.

“Have you tried keeping your wings tucked all the way in?” Sunset asked sourly.

Spitfire put down her sports drink and pointed a hoof at her. “First of all, yes, of course. Second, I do not need flying tips from you.”

“You need them from somepony,” Sunset said under her breath.

“What was that?”

“Nothing. Let’s just give it another go.”

“All right.” Spitfire stretched her wings out. “How about you focus this time?”

Sunset grit her teeth. “I am focusing.”

Spitfire snorted. “I’ve seen telescopes with more focus than you. Go!” She raced off into the sky.

Sunset puckered her face, her blood boiling. “Oh, I’ll show you focus.” She gathered her magic, a devilish grin on her face.

When Spitfire passed through the first ring, Sunset returned the explosion back to its original size, startling Spitfire. As Sunset released the second explosion intending to scare Spitfire, her sister increased her speed to regain balance.

Sunset saw the result before it even happened. Spitfire’s speed… her preemptive strike...

Spitfire screamed, her wail echoing louder than the crack of the firework. She hung in the air for a moment, one wing desperately flapping to keep her aloft before plummeting to the ground.

Sunset didn’t know what to do. She stood with her mouth open, unaware that she had been screaming too. She watched Spitfire drop like a rock onto the hard ground a hundred yards away. Her legs regained feeling, and she sprinted after Spitfire, screaming her name over and over again.

Please don’t be dead… please, please please…

Spitfire had left a sizeable indent in the ground. Smoke curled off her body, and her left wing still had an ember trying to grow into a flame. Sunset slid next to her and put it out before looking over the rest of the damage. Spitfire had managed to take the brunt of the damage to her left arm. It looked dislocated in several places, including the shoulder.

Sunset saw the blood dribbling out of her wounds and cried out in horror. “Spits! Spitfire, say something!”

A small croak was her only response.

******

“She tried to blow you up?” Rainbow yelled.

Spitfire made a solemn nod. “Twice. Of course, the way practice was going, she might have been trying the whole time.”

Soarin shifted in his seat. “I dunno, Spitfire. I get you guys had a rivalry going, but trying to kill you seems, well, harsh. Maybe it really was an accident.”

Spitfire ran her hoof through her mane and took a deep breath, trying her hardest not to snap at him. “It wasn’t an accident. Maybe she wasn’t trying to kill me, but she was trying to do something.” Spitfire flexed her wings, feeling the phantom pain engulf them, and involuntarily locking them up. She traced the scar beneath her wing and said, “She ruined my dream. She nearly ruined my career.”

“Wait a sec.” Soarin held a hoof up. “That’s why you were out for so long!” He frowned. “You told me you tried to fly through a lightning storm.”

“Yeah, well…” Spitfire closed her eyes. “How do you go around telling everyone your sister tried to blow you up? Mom and dad asked us to keep it between ourselves.”

Rainbow blew a slow whistle. “That’s pretty heavy. Guess I’d still be mad too. But look at you now, Spitfire. Maybe you weren’t the youngest Wonderbolt ever, but you are the captain. And Sunset is trying to apologize. Don’t you think ten years is long enough to hold a grudge?”

Spitfire kept her voice as even as she could. “Dash, you try waking up in a hospital with your wings torn and your leg and shoulder broken. You try having the doctors tell you you may never fly right again. You try having your dreams ripped out from underneath you, then tell me ten years is long enough to hold a grudge.”

******

Pain.

The first experience Spitfire had upon waking up was a throbbing pain across her entire body. It was considerably worse at the base of her wings, and near unbearable across her left foreleg. She cracked her eyes open, and forced them shut again upon the glare of the florescent lights.

Hospital, she thought groggily. Through the haze in her mind, she began to remember what had happened before she wound up tucked in a bed. She could remember her and Sunset sniping at each other, narrowly dodging a large firework, only to be hit by another one, falling… she could remember falling. And then pain—nothing but pain.

Beside her, a heart monitor made rapid beeps, in time with the pulsing of her heart. How long had she been out? How badly was she hurt? Had she missed tryouts?

“Shhh, shhh, sweetie, it’s okay, calm down.” Her mother’s voice drifted into her ears. Spitfire opened her eyes to see both her mom and dad standing over her bed.

Dawn held Spitfire’s hoof. “It’s okay, Spitfire. You’re going to be fine.”

Spitfire smacked her lips a few times, finding her entire mouth dry. “Water, please.”

Zephyr leaned over to the table and grabbed a waiting glass. Spitfire took it with her good leg and drained it in one gulp. When she finished, Zephyr asked, “How are you feeling?”

“Everything hurts,” Spitfire groaned.

“You had quite an… accident,” Zephyr said carefully.

Spitfire tried to sit up, but was hindered by her bandaged wings and the pain they caused her upon the slightest movement. “Yeah, I remember.” She got a good look of the room now. It was nothing special, save for the fact that it was a single. The table was covered in dozens of flowers from well-wishers. “How long was I out?”

Dawn tapped her hooves together. “Five days.”

“Five days?” Spitfire bolted upright, ignoring the sharp pain in her back. “That means tryouts are tomorrow!” The heart monitor went crazy again.

Zephyr eased her back into lying down. “Spits, you have to keep your cool.” He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, baby, but… I don’t think you’re in any shape for flying. You’re banged up pretty bad.”

Spitfire’s heart was still pounding in her chest. “How bad?” Her fears were confirmed by her dad’s flinch.

“The doctor said you’d be out a few months at the least… and that…” He placed his hoof on top of hers and Dawn’s. “You tore your wings up pretty bad. You’ll be able to fly again,” he said quickly, seeing Spitfire’s look of horror. “You just… might not be as fast as you were.”

Spitfire leaned her head back, taking everything in. The fire in her heart—her drive to become a Wonderbolt… she could feel it slowly flickering out. She would never be the youngest pegasus to ever join. Her entire life’s work was slipping away before her eyes.

Her voice shook and tears ran down her face. “So, I’ll never be a Wonderbolt?”

Dawn squeezed her hoof. “Nopony ever said that. It’s just… going to be harder.”

“Let’s just focus on getting you fixed up first,” Zephyr said.

They both avoided Spitfire’s eyes. Not that she could see anyway; they were too blurred with tears. But she could hear it in their voice: the sympathy for somepony chasing after a pipedream. She tried to move her wings again, and almost cried out in pain.

In one day, her dreams had been turned to dust. Thanks to one pony, she’d never fly the same again. Spitfire gnashed her teeth together to stop herself from crying. She focused on her anger instead of her sorrow. “Where’s Sunset?”

“She’s at school right now,” Dawn said gently. “But, she sends her love.”

“I don’t want her love. I want her neck so I can strangle it!” Spitfire screamed.

“Sweetie, it was an accident—”

“Does this look like an accident to you?” Spitfire snatched her hoof back. “She did this on purpose!”

Zephyr gave her a stern glare. “Spitfire…”

“You can’t defend her on this!” Spitfire’s voice started to crack. “She gets to keep being the princess’ student, while I’m in a hospital missing my chance to be a Wonderbolt!” Spitfire broke into strangled sobs. “My dream… my entire dream is gone because of her!”

Her parents did their best to hug her without hurting her. But despite their warmth and words of comfort, Spitfire just cried harder.

******

Twilight frowned. “You didn’t visit her in the hospital?”

Sunset kept her head rested on the table. The coffee had long since run out, as had her tears. She was just exhausted now. The sun had fallen behind the world, making way for the moon and stars, and leaving the kitchen illuminated only by a few candles.

She poked her empty mug. “I did. Only because Celestia told me I should. She didn’t say a word when I saw her, just glared at me… and then threw a vase.”

Twilight pinned her ears back. “Oh.”

Zephyr massaged his temples. “It was a very tough time for all of us. They wouldn’t speak to each other and Dawn and I… well, I guess that’s when we started arguing a little. Between work, taking care of Spitfire, and trying to get Sunset to visit more often… things got a little testy.”

Sunset groaned and covered her eyes.

Zephyr quickly reached over and rubbed her shoulder. “It’s not your fault, sweetie.”

“Yes it is. If I hadn’t hit her with that stupid firework!”

Twilight tapped her hoof on the table. “It was…” She cleared her throat. “It was an accident… wasn’t it?”

Sunset hesitated. “It…” She buried her face in the table, wincing at the pressure on her sore muzzle. “I didn’t mean to hurt her. I just… I was mad and I thought it would be funny to give her a scare—throw her off-balance. Maybe it would take her off her high horse. Which made me a massive hypocrite because my superiority complex was much worse than hers.” She folded her ears. “It was stupid—it was so stupid! I let our stupid rivalry get the better of us and look what happened!”

Nopony said anything, which Sunset was grateful for. She didn’t want to hear it wasn’t her fault when it clearly was. She was going to take responsibility for her actions, no matter how many times she had to admit she had been a terrible pony.

She looked out the window, seeing the distant moon surrounded by a sprinkle of stars. The sight made her yawn. She was going to finish her story, then go off to bed.

“Spitfire and I didn’t talk until a week after she came home from the hospital. It was also the last time we would talk.”

******

Sunset reappeared outside her home and took the key from her saddlebag. She didn’t know why she had come home today; Celestia nagging her about making friends and being humble had already left her irritated. Still, she unlocked the door and stepped inside.

“Mom, Dad, I’m home!” Maker knows why.

Zephyr greeted Sunset first with a hug and a kiss. “Hey, little sun. How’s school?”

“Uggghh!” Sunset threw her saddlebag into the living room chair. “Everypony is an idiot except for me, but the Princess thinks I should go make friends with them. I have better things to do than socialize.”

Zephyr stroked her hair. “You’re a born prodigy, sweetheart. But maybe some friends would be good for you.”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “They wouldn’t be friends. They’d be mooches trying to study off me.” She wandered into the kitchen, finding her mother cooking dinner. “Hi, mommy.”

“Sunset!” Dawn swooped over and kissed her on each cheek. Then she tugged on Sunset’s ear. “You need to come and visit us more than once a month, young lady.”

“Ow, ow, ow! I’m sorry, I’m sorry! You know how much I have to study.”

“You can do your studying here, too!” Dawn released her ear and kissed her again. “But it’s nice to see you again, dear.”

Sunset nuzzled her neck. “Nice to see you too. How have you been?”

Dawn sighed, but put on a smile. “Good, good. It’s been a little tough, but everything’s fine.”

“That’s good.” Sunset rubbed the side of her neck. “How… how is Spitfire?”

Zephyr and Dawn grimaced. “She’s…” Zephyr tried to smile. “She’s doing better. You know she came home from the hospital last week.”

“Yeah.” Sunset headed for the stairs. “I guess I should go try and talk to her.”

Dawn nodded. “I think that would be a good idea.”

Sunset’s stomach churned. Nothing had come of their last ‘conversation’ save for a broken vase. She didn’t know why she thought things might be different this time.

It took her ages to crawl up the stairs, and even longer to walk down the hall. She paused in front of Spitfire’s door, the image of her broken body flashing through Sunset’s mind. She pushed it away and knocked.

“Come in.”

Sunset opened the door and stepped inside. Spitfire was lying on her bed, staring out the window. Her foreleg was still wrapped up, and the feathers on her wings were still growing back, though they looked much better since the last time she had seen them. The joints were still bandaged as well.

Spitfire glanced at her, narrowed her eyes, and looked back to the window. “Get out.”

“Two words.” Sunset cracked a smile. “So, are we on speaking terms again?”

No response.

“Spitfire, I told you, I’m sorry. It was an accident.” Spitfire continued to ignore her. “Come on, what do you want me to say?”

“Goodbye.”

Sunset stomped her hoof. “Why are you being such a brat about this?”

Spitfire rolled off her side and sat up. “Excuse me?” she asked in a deadly whisper. “I’m being a brat, am I? I’m not allowed to be mad because you just destroyed my dream?”

Sunset flinched. “I said I was sorry. I said it a million times.”

“Say it a million more and maybe I’ll think about forgiving you! I may never get to be a Wonderbolt at all because of you!”

“It was an accident!”

“No it wasn’t!” Spitfire snorted. “You really expect me to believe this wasn’t on purpose?” She tried to flare her wings and yelped in pain. “You just couldn’t stand the fact that I was actually going to be more successful than you!”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Oh please, I’m Celestia’s personal student!”

“You’re a glorified teacher’s pet!

“And all you wanted to be was a stupid stunt flier! It’s really not a big deal!” Seeing Spitfire’s eye twitch made Sunset rethink her choice of words.

“Not a big deal?” Spitfire breathed. “Not a big deal? That was my life’s dream. I wanted that more than anything else. I wanted to fly, Sunset! I wanted to be the best flier in the world, but you wouldn’t understand that because you’re not a pegasus!”

Sunset barred her teeth, her sympathy gone. “I come from a family of pegasi—of course I know what that’s like! I’ve wanted to fly my entire life! How do you think I feel watching you flaunt your stupid wings?”

“Aha!” Spitfire jabbed her good hoof toward Sunset. “I knew it—you were jealous! You blew me up to bring down to your level!”

“It was an accident, stupid! I don’t need to blow you up to bring you down to my level! Wings or not, I’m a level above you! Celestia’s going to make me an alicorn—I’m going to have a horn and wings!”

Spitfire stared at her, then burst into laughter. “Why would the Princess make you an alicorn? Just because you can make a few stupid spells doesn’t make you princess material.”

“And just because you can do a few loop-de-loops didn’t mean you were going to be a Wonderbolt!” Sunset shot back.

“I would have if you hadn’t interfered!”

“You’re the one who asked me for help!”

“Yeah, and you sure helped me! Thanks a lot!”

Sunset bucked and tossed her mane. “I came in here to apologize, but if this is how you’re going to act, then forget it!”

Spitfire swiped her hoof through the air. “I didn’t want your apology anyway!”

“Fine!” Sunset turned for the door. “As far as I’m concerned, I hope you never fly again.” Sunset knew that was the worst thing she could have said. In the brief second between when it slipped out and what came next, Sunset regretted it with all her heart.

Something cracked against the back of her head, leaving stars in her eyes. Sunset staggered for a moment, then regained her footing and wheeled around. Spitfire was standing on her bed, breathing hard with tears running down her red face. Lying on the floor was an old trophy.

Spitfire reached for another one.

Sunset blasted it out of the air, then shot Spitfire across the face, leaving an angry welt on her cheek. They stared at each other with pure loathing.

Spitfire threw herself off the bed with a wild yell, tackling Sunset into the hall. She brought her hoof across Sunset face, then raised it to smash her nose. Sunset charged her horn, prepared to strike her again.

Zephyr raced up the stairs and pulled Spitfire off. She thrashed about, wincing every time she moved her wings or foreleg.

Get out!” Spitfire sobbed. “I hate you! I don’t ever want to see your face again, you horned freak!”

“Fine!” Sunset yelled, feeling her own face wet with tears. She raced downstairs to grab her saddlebag, ignoring her parents’ pleas to stay. She threw the bag over her shoulder and teleported as far away as she could.

******

Spitfire had her chair turned away from Soarin and Rainbow. She furiously wiped at her eyes, blaming the dust in the air.

“She really said all that?” Soarin asked.

“Every word.”

Rainbow whistled again. “Wow, she kinda was… a jerk back then.”

Spitfire nodded. “Now do you see why I don’t feel like wasting my time with her anymore? She nearly ruined everything for me, has the nerve to leave us for ten years, then expects to make up just like that.”

Soarin cleared his throat. “Look, Spits, I know she did some bad things… well, to be honest, both of you were kinda terrible to each other. But doesn’t the fact that she’s trying to make up for it mean anything?”

The word ‘no’ formed on her lips, but never left.

It was Rainbow’s turn next. “We’re not telling you to make up with her anymore—that’s totally on you now. But, when you think about it, the whole Firebird Dahlia thing—which I still think was mostly an accident—kinda helped you in the end.”

Spitfire turned her chair around. “What?”

Rainbow grinned at her. “The doctors all said you would never fly the same, right? But look at you now! You’re the captain—you still broke a whole bunch of records! You overcame adversity and proved everypony wrong! Maybe you didn’t become the youngest Wonderbolt in history, but you still did some incredible things!”

Spitfire placed her chin on her hoof. It was all true. After that fight, she had been determined—devoted—to proving everypony wrong, especially Sunset. Not only would she fly again, she would still become a Wonderbolt! She had pushed herself further than even she thought possible.

But was that reason enough to forgive Sunset?

Even if the Firebird Dahlia had been an accident, the physical and emotional pain Sunset had caused was enormous. Their parents were split up because of her!

And yet… Sunset had been willing to fall off of Cloudsdale just to get Spitfire to forgive her.

Something had indeed changed about her. She no longer carried that aura of vast superiority. Heck, she barely exuded confidence, just remorse and desperate determination.

Spitfire sighed and waved her hoof. “I’d like to be alone for the rest of the night, guys.”

Rainbow and Soarin nodded and stood up. “You gonna be okay?” Soarin asked.

“Yeah. Just going to do some thinking.”

When the door shut behind them, Spitfire waited several minutes, just leaning on her hoof before she reached down for the bottom drawer. She shuffled files and papers around until she found what she was looking for and hauled it up.

Inside a cracked picture frame was a photo of Spitfire and Sunset. They stood in the backyard with their hooves wrapped around the other’s shoulders. Both of them had their eyes crossed and were sticking their tongues at the camera.

Tears dropped onto the frame. “What am I going to do with you, dodo?”