Twilight woke up to a delicious smell. Sniffing at the air she opened her eyes and sat up, seeing Spike setting out a few plates of pancakes. “Good morning, Spike!” she said with a yawn.
“Aww, you woke up,” Spike responded with a bit of disappointment. “I was planning to surprise you.”
Twilight laughed, hopping out of bed and flying to him, hugging him with a wing. “Well, I appreciate the gesture, Spike.”
They snuggled for a moment before Twilight thought of something. “Wait a second, Spike. How did you make pancakes? We don’t have an oven.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “We don’t need one!” He pointed to himself with a claw, lifting up a pan and blowing on it. “Built in oven capacities, remember?”
Twilight giggled. “Right. Of course. Silly me.” She gently tapped her head with a grin.
She walked over to the window, opening it up and leaning on the windowsill, enjoying the breeze. “Ah, it’s such a nice day today, isn’t it, Spike?”
“You bet! Perfect weather for our charity event.”
She smiled warmly as she looked out at the early birds walking around. Some of them waved to her. “This town has been so good to me. It’s where I became a whole new pony. Literally.” She giggled as she fluttered her wings. “I couldn’t have done it alone, though. That’s the most important lesson I’ve learned here. So I just want to give a little something back. I want to really feel I’ve earned the title of Friendship Princess.
“And Sunset Shimmer being here just makes it all the better. After our last adventure together I always wondered every so often whether she had embraced friendship after I left. I trusted my friends to be up to the task. However, friendship needs two ponies to work. No matter how much love and friendship they offered, if Sunset refused it then it would amount to nothing. I’m so happy.”
“So what did you guys talk about while I was gone?”
“That’s private, Spike. I don’t think I should share that without her consent. But I will say that I learned a lot about her that I didn’t know. When you get a chance I want you to send a message to Principal-ahem-PRINCESS Celestia. Tell her that I’d like her to come over tomorrow at her earliest convenience.”
“I thought you were going to take the train over to Canterlot.”
“Well… that was my initial idea.” She compulsively straightened up the silverware on the napkin so the fork and knife were perfectly straight. “However, I think that, even after spending a day in Ponyville having fun and bonding with the pony versions of our friends, that she’ll be much more comfortable in a less formal setting. She’s already nervous enough about the whole thing. I think she’d freak walking down the long hallway toward Celestia’s throne. It would feel like it was sealing her doom.”
“I get it.” Spike nodded, giving a quick salute. “Yes, ma’am! I’ll send that note right after breakfast.”
“Great! Then I’ll go wake up Sunset.” She walked into another room, hearing Sunset gently snoring. She smiled as she looked up. She didn’t have any other beds, and Sunset flat-out refused to let a princess take the floor just so she would have a bed to sleep in.
Not wanting to have a friend sleep on the floor either she had come up with a simple solution: putting a few nails in the top of two bookshelves she tied a blanket around them, creating a makeshift hammock. Sunset clearly approved. She was out like a light.
“Wakey, wakey!” Twilight said brightly. “Breakfast is ready.”
Sunset mumbled incoherently for a few seconds, before she opened her eyes slightly. “Wha-what?” she said, sounding confused. “Where am I?”
“Sun-set!” Twilight said in a sing-song voice. “Let’s go! Get your lazy flank down here.”
“Twilight?” Sunset murmured, lifting herself up slightly and looking down at her with half-lidded eyes. “Good morning,” she said in a croaky voice, smiling now.
“Sleep well?” Twilight asked.
She nodded, stretching. “I never slept in a hammock before. It’s so relaxing.” She sighed happily as she laid back in it, gently rocking back and forth. “I slept just like a baby last night.”
“Glad to hear it!” Twilight replied, turning around. “Spike made us all some breakfast, so come on down when you’re more awake.”
“Already there!” Sunset replied, giving one powerful swing to get herself upside down, and flipping before she hit the ground. “I could use a good breakfast.”
“Spike makes some good pancakes.”
“I sure hope so.” The two of them walked back to the living room, and Sunset sniffed greedily at the air. “Mmmm. Smells great.”
“Thank you,” Spike replied, giving a small bow.
“You’re welcome, Spike,” Sunset said, giving his head a quick rub.
The three of them all sat down at the table. Pouring syrup on their pancakes the three began digging in.
Between bites Twilight said, “You’re gonna love it today. There’s so much I’ve got planned.”
Sunset swallowed her mouthful of pancake before asking, “I remember yesterday Spike said something about a charity event.”
Twilight nodded. “Yeah. I’ve been setting it up for a while now. It’s set up a short ways outside of town. Me and my friends have been setting up a carnival fair. There’s gonna be all sorts of games and rides. All proceeds will go towards Ponyville Hospital and orphanages around Ponyville. As I said to Spike earlier this town has shaped me and given me so much, so I just want to help give something back.”
“Twilight?” Sunset said quietly.
“Do you really think it’s going to make a difference?”
Twilight didn’t need to ask. “Yes, I do! I know Princess Celestia very well, so I already know she’s willing to forgive you.” She shook her head a little, adding in, “Anyway, your issues with Celestia don’t matter right now. Focus on today and the fun you’re going to have. You can meet my friends properly and enjoy the carnival. I think Spike is right. A day spent here doing nothing but having a good time will surely improve your outlook on things.”
“But I stole the Element of Magic! Anything could have happened in those three days you were gone.”
Twilight narrowed her eyes, saying sternly, “Enough! No more negative talk, okay? And I don’t want you bringing up this 'I don’t care enough to want to listen' thing you did yesterday. If you’re that anxious about everything that you don’t want to see Celestia today then that’s fine, but I’m not going to let you ruin your own happiness by harping on this issue all day.
“Today is going to be a great day, with carnival rides and clowns and tricks and talents shown off and fireworks being shot into the air. Leave tomorrow’s worries for tomorrow. You’re just going to make yourself sick if you keep thinking about it.
“Don’t forget. I’m here for you, and I’m not giving up on you. Princess Celestia may be older than me, but I am also an alicorn princess, and my words hold just as much weight as hers. Now finish your pancakes and let’s just have a good day, okay?”
Sunset released a heavy breath, her emotions settling down as a tear came down her eye. “Thank you, Twilight. I’m sorry. It’s just… I haven’t seen Celestia in over ten years. It might be too much.”
“Sunset,” Twilight said gently, “are you really still that afraid? If you really did tell me everything last night and you’ve genuinely changed there’s no reason Celestia won’t want to see you.”
Sunset slowly chewed her pancake, swallowing. “I guess I’m just scared that she won’t accept my apology. I know that YOU believe me and have forgiven me, Twilight, but it doesn’t mean she will. She might think this is all another trick.”
She put a hoof to her face, her face clenching. “No! It’s not that! That’s not what scares me the most. I’m scared that she’ll banish me to a place away from my friends. They’ve made me feel so special and valued and given my life real meaning.” She began shaking, putting a hoof over her quivering stomach. “W-w-when I think about being separated from them forever… when I think about that…” Her eyes welled up with tears before she began bawling, completely losing control.
Twilight and Spike both got up at nearly the same moment, converging on her. Standing on either side of her they each gave her a hug.
“Sunset, calm down!” Twilight said, concerned. She squeezed tight. “Celestia would never want to break those strong bonds between you and your friends.”
“Yeah!” Spike added. “The two of us know Celestia would never do that to you. If your friends mean that much to you then she’ll know how deeply you’ve changed.”
Twilight began gently rubbing her head. “When I defeated Nightmare Moon with the Elements of Harmony I was scared and upset that I was about to lose the friends I had just learned to love when she had me return to Canterlot. However, she allowed me to stay in Ponyville because she knew it was exactly what I needed to become a well-rounded individual. Just look at me now. I’m a princess representing friendship.
“It’ll be okay, Sunset.” Twilight squeezed tighter, slowly nuzzling her. “I promise. Just settle down.”
It took a few minutes, but Sunset slowly calmed down, their words and their loving holds relaxing her raging emotions. When she was reduced to sniffs and shuddering breaths she finally said, “B-b-but, Twilight, you didn’t betray her and try to overthrow the kingdom. You didn’t steal a priceless powerful artifact.”
“We agreed yesterday that Celestia told you to observe other ponies to learn more about friendship and unity instead of doing it all yourself. You’ve learned the lesson now that she wanted you to learn all those years ago, and that’s all she really wanted from you.
“Before Princess Celestia sent me through the portal she told me about you. Do you know what she said to me?”
Sunset shook her head, wiping her eyes.
“She didn’t say anything like, 'I wish Sunset would return so I can imprison her forever.' She told me that she always hoped that you would return, seeking her guidance. There was no hatred in that statement. She would love to be reconciled with you.”
Sunset looked at Twilight unsurely, gently pushing her away. “She… she really said that?”
Sunset looked down, saying quietly, “But why? Why did she say that?”
Twilight shook her head. “Isn’t is obvious yet? It’s because she cares about you, Sunset. Even now, after all this time.”
“Hey!” said Spike, and both Twilight and Sunset looked over at him. “I just thought of something. Ten years? That’s nothing. Discord was sealed away for a THOUSAND, and even then Princess Celestia wanted him released and reformed so he could make up for his past mistakes. He’s not perfect, but he’s been free and friends with us for a few years now, with no indication he’s going back to his old chaotic ways.”
“Hmmm.” Twilight let out a little laugh. “Good point, Spike. If Discord, the self-proclaimed spirit of chaos, who tried to rule Equestria with an iron hoof and make it the 'chaos capital of the world' can be forgiven and learn the magic of friendship then Celestia will forgive you too. All she’s looking for is genuine remorse and desire to do better, both of which you’ve demonstrated in spades.”
“But-but,” Sunset started, but she couldn’t think of anything to counter their argument, so she just grew silent, stuffing another piece of pancake in her mouth.
Twilight could see they had finally hit paydirt. Sunset was being quiet, just stuffing food into her mouth every time it was empty, but her demeanor had changed. She no longer looked on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
When her plate was empty Sunset gently pushed her plate away. In a distant voice she said, “Thank you, Spike, for breakfast. It was delicious.” She got onto the floor and began walking toward the door. “I’m going for a quick walk.”
“Let me come with you,” Twilight said immediately, feeling suspicious.
Sunset shook her head. “I… I’d like to go alone. I need some time to think.”
Twilight looked contemplatively at Sunset. “Come here for a second.”
Sunset paused, turning around. “Can’t it wait?”
“No!” Twilight said firmly.
After a few seconds she walked until she was in front of Twilight. “Yes?”
Looking Sunset in the eye Twilight said, “I trust you, Sunset. I mean that. I’m not offering to walk with you because I don’t think it’s safe for other ponies to be around you or anything.”
Sunset shrugged. “I know.”
“Sunset, I can’t arrange a reconciliation between the two of you if you’re not around. I can’t promise I’m going to set up a meeting with Celestia if you can’t promise me you’re not going to run away.”
Sunset met Twilight’s gaze. “I’m not going to run away.”
“Okay, then,” Twilight responded, pointing her hoof to the door. “I’ll hold you to that. Off you go, then.”
Sunset closed the distance between them, giving Twilight a quick hug before heading out the door.
Spike waited until the door closed before he asked, “Are we going to follow her?”
Twilight shook her head. “I want to, but my heart says that she’s being honest with me and its best to leave her alone right now.”
She gave Spike a big hug. “That was awesome, Spike! I think that what you brought up was a masterstroke. Sunset should be fine now.”
Spike blushed. “Aw, shucks, Twilight. I was just doing what I thought you’d do. I’m one of your subjects too, y’know. “
Sunset slowly walked through town, looking at the ground, her mind in a whirl. She remembered Discord from one of the books she had read on Celestia’s history. She read about the kind of life ponies had back then. He sought only his own pleasure and fun, and was so powerful that only the Elements of Harmony could stop him.
‘If a guy like him could be reformed and forgiven,’ she thought, ‘then I should be able to be forgiven too, right?’
No matter what angle she tried to attack it from she just couldn’t break the logic that Spike had brought up. Discord had done far worse things than she had and had actually succeeded in conquering Equestria. If he was really turned good and his crimes pardoned because he learned about the joy of friendship there was no reason why she, who had done a lot less than him, shouldn’t be extended the same courtesy, was there?
“No!” she said to herself, feeling more confident as she looked up at the town. “I’m not alone.” She thought of Spike and Twilight both hugging her. “Everything will be okay, so long as I have my friends behind me.”
The overwhelming fear that had been threatening to knock her down was fading. A sense of excitement was tingling in her stomach. She turned around, trotting back towards the library.
“Hello!” Sunset said joyfully to a pony she passed.
By the time she arrived she was feeling so full of exhilaration she could hardly sit still. Opening the door she could see Spike and Twilight still sitting at the table. “I’m back!”
Twilight gave her a warm smile, enjoying Sunset’s new attitude. “Well, that walk certainly did you some good.”
“Yep! I’m ready to attack the day. I can’t wait to see this carnival you set up. Let’s go meet your friends! I could always use some more on this side. And tomorrow… well-” her smile faded slightly “-well, like you said we’ll leave that for tomorrow.”
Twilight gave Spike a few pats on the back. “Look what you did, Spike. It might have taken me a lot longer to convince her if you hadn’t spoken up.”
Spike felt warmth blossoming in his stomach, blushing again. “Well, I learned from the best. That’s all.”
She nuzzled his face. “You’re so sweet.”
Sunset waved her hoof in the air. “Hellooooo? Let’s go, slowpokes. Stop the idle conversation.”
“Yes, yes. Coming,” said Twilight, levitating the dishes to the sink. Ordinarily she would be bothered at having a messy sink but seeing Sunset so eager for adventure and friendship overcame that peeve of hers.
As Spike and Twilight got up and headed for the stairs Sunset met them halfway and hugged the two of them. “Thanks, you guys. I really needed that pep talk. It helped a lot.”
“You’re welcome,” they both responded as they hugged her back.