Firebird Dahlia

by The Albinocorn


Bond of Flames


Sunset snuggled against her pillow and stared at her poster of Meadowsong hanging on the wall. She had been awake for over an hour, she just didn’t want to get out of bed.

Coming home and sleeping in her own bed was one of the best feelings she had experienced. It felt like she had never run away. The bed was still conformed to her shape, despite the long years of disuse. Still, she knew she had a lot to accomplish today, and forced herself to sit up. Her mane had become a tangled nest sitting on top of her head.

She rolled onto the carpet and stretched, popping all of her joints. The clock on her wall told her it was almost eleven. Sunlight warmed a spot on the floor, and birds took up a branch outside her window, singing merry songs. It all created a simple magic that stirred melancholy in Sunset.

In the end, was she really going to have to choose between her two worlds? She couldn’t keep popping back and forth between them forever, could she? Would she give up her family and magic? Or would she give up her friends and a new world of possibilities?

Sunset hung her head and sighed. “Too early for this.” Her lower body rumbled in agreement, and she made her way out her room and down the hall.

The bathroom door was closed, and Sunset could hear running water on the other side. She banged a hoof. “Spitfire, how long have you been in there?”

“I dunno,” Spitfire shouted over the shower.

“Well, I need to pee!”

“Buzz off, I’m not done yet!”

“Mom, Spitfire is hogging the bathroom!”

“Spitfire, let your sister into the bathroom!” Dawn shouted from the kitchen.

The water turned off. “You’re such a tattletale!” Spitfire yelled. Shuffling and the ruffling of towels could be heard, and a minute later, Spitfire stepped out the door, a cloud of fog in her wake. She stuck her tongue out at Sunset as she retreated to her room.

Sunset mimicked her as she walked into the fog. Closing the door, Sunset smiled to herself. “I love having a sister.”

******

Breakfast consisted of waffles, eggs, and hay, lovingly made by Dawn who greeted both her daughters with a hug and a kiss. “So, what are your plans for today?”

“Good question,” Spitfire said, drizzling syrup over her waffles. “Sunset, what are our plans for today?”

Cheeks bulging with waffles, Sunset could only give a muffled response.

“Don’t talk with your mouthful,” her mother admonished.

Sunset swallowed her breakfast. “Sorry. Spits and I were just going to go out for a walk. Maybe go to the park. Nothing too special.”

Dawn nodded. “That’s sounds like a wonderful idea. It’s a beautiful day out. I was actually thinking of doing a little gardening myself.”

Sunset passed a wink to Spitfire, who merely rolled her eyes and started on her own food. When breakfast was finished, they helped Dawn clean the dishes and countertops before embarking outside. Just as Dawn had said, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and a slight breeze kept Canterlot at the perfect temperature.

Spitfire took to the sky, stretching her wings with a few loops. “All right, genius, what’s the first part of this terrible plan of yours?”

“It’s not terrible, it’s just…”

“So desperate it might work?”

Sunset grunted. “Shut up.” She swatted as Spitfire pretended to dive bomb her. “Anyway, the first part of my plan is to get tickets for the Gala.”

Spitfire flipped onto her back, drifting just out of Sunset’s reach. “Well, being the Wonderbolts captain, I get in automatically.”

“Whoopdeedoo for you.” Sunset twirled a hoof. She sighed. “I feel bad about asking Princess Celestia for a favor when I only apologized twenty-four hours ago.”

“Hey, it’s for a good cause. You of all ponies know how understanding she is.”

“I mean, yeah, but still—” A shadow crossed over Sunset before doubling back and landing a few feet away with a stumble.

“Still have to work on landing,” Twilight muttered. She waved a wing at Sunset. “There you are, I’ve been looking for you all day.”

“Hey, Twilight,” Sunset said with an apologetic grin. “I meant to contact you yesterday, but…”

Twilight blinked, then looked up to Spitfire hanging lazily in the air. “Did…” She pointed a hoof at them and leaned forward. “Did you two make up?”

Spitfire nodded. “Yep. There was hugging and everything.”

Twilight’s eyes turned to stars, and she hopped up and down, squealing like a foal. She ran forward and gave Sunset a tight hug. “Yaaaay! I’m so happy for the two of you! I knew you’d make up eventually!”

Sunset patted her on the back. “Couldn’t have done it without you, Twilight.”

“I was just the catalyst.” Twilight pulled away, still smiling. “I bet you would have gotten here even without my help.”

Sunset playfully shook her head. “Let’s agree to disagree then. Speaking of help, do you think you can do me one more little favor?” Sunset couldn’t keep the guilt out of her smile.

“Sure! What is it?”

Spitfire hovered closer. “Dodo here needs tickets to the Gala.”

Twilight cocked her head. “The Gala? You want to go to the Grand Galloping Gala?”

Sunset nodded. “We—”

“Ahem.”

“... I came up with an idea to get our parents together again,” Sunset said, glaring at Spitfire.

Twilight fidgeted her wings and looked off to the side. “Sunset, I know we talked about this, but are you sure this is a good idea?”

“No,” Sunset and Spitfire said simultaneously. “But I told you before,” Sunset continued, “it’s my fault my family fell apart. I have to at least try to put it back together.”

“So, I’m guessing your plan involves getting your parents to dance together at the Gala?” Twilight asked.

Spitfire smirked. “Plus, she wants us to perform the Firebird Dahlia. I’m sure she’s told you that story.”

Twilight gaped at Sunset. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“No,” the sisters repeated.

“Then why…” Twilight covered her eyes with a hoof. “Nevermind. Attacking the problem head on can lead to good results sometimes.” She sighed. “Anyway, why don’t you ask Princess Celestia for tickets? You two made up, didn’t you?”

Sunset brightened up. “Yeah, it was great!” She blushed. “She even offered to let me be her student again. But I don’t want to go asking for big favors the day after we made up.”

“Apparently, asking me to perform the firebird doesn’t count,” Spitfire muttered.

“That’s a joint effort!”

“Okay, okay!” Twilight waved her hooves. “I’ll see what I can do. Just promise me you’ll be careful with this? You two just made up, I’d hate to see you fall apart.”

Sunset patted Twilight’s shoulder. “I appreciate that. We’ll try to be careful.” Twilight gave her a nervous but supportive smile before taking flight.

“So, now what?” Spitfire asked.

“Well, once Twilight gets the tickets, we’ll have to convince Mom and Dad to come to the Gala. In the meantime…” Sunset took a deep breath. “We should go practice.”

******

Sunset and Spitfire sat on a hill in one of the older parks on the backside of the mountain. The sounds of the city were a dull murmur, and only old couples or particularly adventurous ponies came through. The duo stared out over the eastern half of Equestria. They could make out the tallest buildings in Baltimare and see the blue line of the Celestial Sea on the horizon.

“So,” Spitfire said slowly, “we’re really going to do this.”

“Yep,” Sunset replied, her stomach beginning to knot up.

“You sure about this?”

“Nope. But do you have any better ideas?”

“Better? No. Safer? Yes.”

Sunset chuckled weakly. “We can do this. We just have to keep our heads cool. The rivalry’s over; we’re done trying to outdo each other.”

Spitfire got to her hooves. “Yeah.” She stretched her wings out and brought her goggles over her eyes. “But, just so we’re clear, I won, right?”

“Spitfire,” Sunset deadpanned.

“Heh, just kidding.” Spitfire rubbed the side of her face. “Competitive spirit, you know?” she said sheepishly.

Sunset waved a hoof. “Yeah, well, if it makes you feel better, than yes, you won.” She sighed. “It’s not like I did anything productive while I was gone.”

“Didn’t you beat up some freaky fish people trying to take over the world?”

“Yeah, but it was kinda my fault they got enough power to take over the world in the first place.” Sunset got up and brushed the grass out of her tail. “Anyway, we’re stalling now. Do you remember how this works?”

Spitfire jumped into the air. “Yeah. Simple concept, surprisingly difficult execution. You set up little magic checkpoints, I fly through them, you make some fireworks.”

Sunset’s horn lit up, and four rings appeared, three small and one large. Sunset then summoned a notepad and a pencil, and began doing calculations. “How’s the wind?”

“Twelve miles per hour, blowing east by northeast.”

The smaller rings floated up into the sky, while the larger one remained next to Sunset. “All right, I think I’ve got everything accounted for.” The knot in her stomach twisted tighter. “You ready?”

Spitfire nodded and headed up after the rings. She paused and looked back down at Sunset. “You… sure about this?”

Mouth dry and hooves wobbling, Sunset fought to smile. “Yeah, we can do this.”

With a deep breath, Spitfire resumed her ascent, shrinking into an orange dot in the sky.

We can do this. I can do this. I hope. Sunset took several deep breaths, bringing her hoof toward her chest and out again, like Twilight had shown her. This isn’t hard. We’re not trying to show each other up. This is for Mom and Dad. Sunset scooped up the pair of binoculars she had brought along. Spitfire was sitting on the only cloud in the sky, stretching.

The wind settled, raising the background noises of Canterlot. Spitfire leaned back, then leapt into the air, performing a long loop before diving forward.

Sunset set the binoculars down and readied her horn, keeping her eye on the ring. I can do this. Everything’s going to be okay.

“You two just made up, I’d hate to see you fall apart.”

We’re not going to fall apart! We can do this without losing our tempers.

...Spitfire lay in the crater, twitching feebly. Smoke curled off her body, burnt and broken. She was quiet now, but Sunset could still hear her scream echoing in her ears...

It was just an accident, and I won’t do it again! But if I do, then…

“I never want to see you again, you horned freak!”

“Sunset?”

Sunset opened her eyes, unaware she had closed them. Spitfire looked at her, goggles raised, eyes wide with concern and confusion.

Spitfire looked from the blinking ring to Sunset. “You okay? You missed every cue.”

“I’m fine, I’m fine! I just…” A tear found its way down Sunset’s cheek and she hastily wiped it away. She turned her back to Spitfire and took a shaky breath. “It’s only been three years for me, and I… I just don’t want to mess up and lose you again. I know it’s sappy, but…”

The wind picked up again, shaking the leaves of the nearby trees and drowning out the city noise. As Sunset wiped away another tear, a wing draped around her shoulder.

“I kept a grudge against you for ten years by playing this thing over and over in my head,” Spitfire said solemnly. “I never thought about how it affected you, because I always thought you did it on purpose.”

“I didn’t—”

“I know.” Spitfire tightened her wing’s grip around Sunset. “Maybe that’s why I’m going along with this. I want to trust you again. But, Sun…” Spitfire brought Sunset around and looked her in the eyes. “We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

Sunset shook her head. “We have to do this. I want you to trust me again, and this is proof! Proof that we’re not hot-headed children! Proof that I can hold my ego in check long enough to help somepony! Proof—what’s so funny?”

Spitfire stopped snickering and smiled. “Nothing, just… heh, that pegasus pride is showing through.”

Sunset blushed. “Well, it is in my blood.”

Spitfire clapped her on the back. “Yeah it is! Now come on, if Rainbow can make a sonic rainboom, then we can make a lousy fire flower!”

That got a chuckle out of Sunset. She pulled Spitfire into a hug, in which Spitfire pretended to struggle and make grunts of protest. Sunset let go, and was treated to a noogie before Spitfire launched into the air again.

I can do this! Sunset reaffirmed. We can do this! We’ll give Mom and Dad something they’ll never forget!

******

“Hmm… I think something teal to match your eyes and compliment your mane. Perhaps a light and silky material.”

Sunset stood on a familiar stage in a familiar boutique, with a familiar voice speaking into her ear. If she closed her eyes, Sunset could pretend she was back in the human world with her Rarity circling and appraising her instead of the pony version.

The similarities between the two were uncanny: their refined voice, their graceful steps—be it on two legs or four—their eye for detail, and their love of fashion.

You could probably switch them and no one would notice, Sunset thought with a grin.

Rarity drew her measuring tape and a pair of red glasses from her workbench. Sunset didn't think it possible, but she looked like human Rarity now more than ever. “Do you have any input you’d like to share, Sunset dear?” Behind her, a pencil was already going to work on the design.

“No, I’m up for whatever you think will look good on me.”

“Very well.” Rarity levitated the tape over Sunset’s shoulder and began jotting numbers on a notepad. “You must be excited to be going to the Gala after such a long time.”

Sunset gave a noncommittal smile. The Gala hadn’t been one of her favorite events to attend. It was mostly stuffy nobles bragging about their money or kissing Celestia’s hooves. One of the only reasons Sunset was going was sitting in a chair off to the side, quietly reading a magazine.

“Do they have a Grand Galloping Gala in the human world?” Rarity asked.

“Well, we have dances, but nothing extravagant.”

Dawn set down her magazine. “Parallel worlds and two-legged creatures living without magic.” Her voice blended exasperation and amusement. “If anypony but you told me that’s where you had been, I would have called them crazy.”

Sunset made another half-smile. Two nights ago, she had sat down with her mother and told her almost everything that happened in the mirror world. She conveniently forgot to mention the part about the raging she-demon. Her parents didn’t need to know their daughter had turned into a literal monster.

Last night, Sunset had asked Dawn to accompany her to the Gala as a mother-daughter dance. The plan was for Spitfire to do the same with their dad and have them conveniently meet on the dance floor.

Sunset had planned on just pulling an old dress from her closet, but once Twilight had mentioned to her friends that Sunset was going to the Gala, Rarity sent a letter insisting that she made dresses for Sunset and her mom.

It was a little awkward for Sunset to be conversing with the pony doppelganger of her best friend, but she just had to remember that no matter how many similarities they shared, they were two different people.

“Believe me, Mrs. Glider, I know how you feel,” Rarity said, lining up different swatches of fabric in front of Sunset. “I would never have believed such a thing if I hadn’t seen Twilight walk through that mirror.” She selected a blue silk and sent the rest back into a cubby. “So, Sunset, does the me of that world have as much fashion talent as… well, me?”

“I’d say she does.” Sunset chuckled. “Although, I think she’d die if she found out you had gemstones to work with. Diamonds and rubies aren’t exactly commonplace in their world.”

Rarity politely scooted Sunset off the stage. “Well, the next time you come and visit, you should bring me some of her work. I’d love to see what I’ve come up with in such a different environment. All right now, your turn, Mrs. Glider.”

“Please, just Dawn is fine,” she said, heading up to the stage. Sunset noted that her mom didn’t correct Rarity to Ms. Glider.

As Rarity began her new sketch and measurements, Sunset asked, “So, what are you going to be wearing to the Gala?”

“Hmm, I’m not sure yet.” Rarity gave Dawn a scrutinizing look, then quickly scribbled an outline on a new piece of paper. “I’ll work on my dress after I finish my sister’s and her friends.”

Sunset arched an eyebrow. “You sure we’re not cutting into anything?”

“Pfft.” Rarity waved a hoof. “Honey, this is what I live for. Besides, this is the first Gala I get to attend since we were, ahem…” Rarity looked at the ceiling. “Banned.”

Sunset quickly threw a hoof over her mouth to cover up the snort she had made. “Banned?” she asked, trying to keep her voice level.

“Yes, banned,” Rarity deadpanned. “Ever since that debacle three years ago.”

“What happened three years ago?” Dawn asked.

Rarity’s eyes glazed over and she stared out into the distance. Her lips finally decided on a goofy smile. “It’s a long story.” She cleared her throat and resumed her work. “But, Twilight pulled some strings and got us unbanned, so I’m going to do my part and help make sure we stay that way by making everyone look fabulous.”

Sunset could only giggle in amusement. She was glad somethings didn’t change between worlds.

Half an hour later, Rarity had designs and measurements taken down, and promised the dresses would be ready the night before the Gala. She waved to Sunset and Dawn as they exited the shop, a jubilant gleam in her eye. Sunset had seen that look before and had a feeling the dresses might be done sooner than expected.

As mother and daughter walked the road back to the train station, Dawn gave Sunset a sidelong glance, worry lines creasing her face. “I’ll be honest, sweetie, I don’t want to ask this, but I have to know.”

Sunset stopped and gave her mom her full attention, ears pinning back preemptively.

“You said this world had a double of everybody, right?” She waited for Sunset to nod her head before continuing. “So, did you ever run into us? Me, your father, Spitfire… yourself?”

“No.” Sunset moved her eyes to the dirt. She knew this question would come up eventually. It ranked just below telling her parents about the demon. “I never saw them. I never looked for them.” Sunset closed her eyes, like she could hold back the flood of tears. “I want to say it’s because I was scared of creating some sort of spacial paradox, or that I didn’t want to try and replace you, but…”

She tilted her head back, hoping the tears would slide back to her eyes. “It’s because I was trying my hardest to ignore you. To ignore the feeling that everything I had done, everything I was doing was wrong. I was a whole world apart from you—I had no repercussions to face for my actions.” She covered her eyes with a hoof. “I was on a power trip and I didn’t want anyone to stop it.”

Two hooves gently cupped Sunset’s cheeks and pulled her down to meet Dawn’s eyes. “Sweetheart—”

“I’m sorry,” Sunset said, fighting back another sob. “I told you, I was a selfish brat. All I wanted—”

“Sunset.” Dawn moved a hoof over Sunset’s mouth. She waited patiently for Sunset to compose herself before speaking. “I won’t lie, I’m a little hurt to think that you didn’t care about us for a while. No, no!” she said over Sunset’s babbling apology. “You came home. And I told you before: you coming home is the only apology I need.” She kissed Sunset on the horn.

Sunset wrapped her hooves around her mother and buried her face in Dawn’s shoulder. I came from such a great family. How did I turn out so… uugh?

Dawn pulled away and took a handkerchief from her purse. She dabbed it at Sunset’s face. “Come on, now. Let’s get something to eat, my treat.”

“Okay.” Sunset smiled. “There’s a little pastry shop in town that I think we’ll both enjoy.”

******

“Come on, Dad, it’ll be fun,” Spitfire said. She zipped over to Zephyr’s other side. “It’ll be like a father-daughter dance. Just you and me.”

The two of them walked through a park in Cloudsdale, soaking in the sun’s afternoon rays. Foals flew through the air, kites of different shapes and sizes floating behind them.

“I don’t know, Spits. The Gala is pretty high class. You sure you want to take your old man along?” He smirked, but Spitfire could hear the hesitation in his voice.

“Of course I’m sure. We’ll have a great time! Well.. as great a time as we can, all things considered.” Spitfire shrugged. “The Gala is kinda boring sometimes. Though, a few years ago, things did get pretty wild.”

Zephyr broke into a full smile. “All right. I guess I’ll go to relieve you of your boredom.” His smile faltered a little. “Why didn’t you ask your sister?”

Spitfire stopped her victory lap around her father. “Oh, uhh, because she and Mom are already doing something that night. Some mother-daughter thing, you know?”

“All right then.” He reached up and pulled Spitfire into a headlock. “Just me and you then, speed demon.”

Spitfire laughed, pretending to feebly attempt to escape his grip. Part of her felt guilty for lying to her father, but it was for a good cause. If everything goes right.

Zephyr let her go, then joined her in the air. They made a lap around the park before beginning the lazily flight home. Zephyr drifted close to Spitfire and ruffled her mane. “I’m really happy you and Sunset talked things out.”

“Yeah, well…” Spitfire shrugged but turn her head to the side to hide her creeping smile. “Takes too much energy holding a grudge, you know?”

He nodded. “You’re right. I just wished you had realized that sooner. But, that’s behind us now. We can close that chapter of our lives.”

Spitfire hated to ask this and take away the relief he was surely feeling, but the words jumped out of her mouth anyway. She blamed Sunset. “What about you and Mom?”

Just as she expected, Zephyr’s easygoing smile made a complete one-eighty. “What do you mean? I don’t have a grudge against her.”

“No, but you guys don’t, you know, talk,” she said, making a flailing gesture with her hoof.

“We talk all the time.”

Spitfire gave him a flat look. “I meant face-to-face, not through letters.”

In a rare occurrence, Spitfire saw her father blush. He rubbed his hooves together and flew a little lopsided. “It’s just… I mean, I would love to see her again, but… well, you know your mother.”

With the defeat in his voice, Spitfire decided to drop the conversation. He wasn’t holding a grudge, but he was still upset.

Spitfire didn’t believe Sunset’s plan would make them fall head over hooves, but she hoped this sequence of events would get them to talk to each other again. So far, it was working pretty smoothly, seeing as Spitfire wasn’t lying in a crater. The Firebird Dahlia wasn’t perfect yet, but it was getting there.

Whether or not it would reconcile their parents was up to fate. But it was definitely going to be one heck of a show.