Whispers in the Dark
After Sunset returned, she had expected Twilight would be too busy planning her wedding to get too involved with their plans to bring human technology to Equestria, but the alicorn proved highly capable of multitasking. Within days they had made some plans for what they might need, and before the week was over they had already begun to work.
The most logical idea seemed to be to bring over electronics from the human world to reverse engineer them, but it proved to be impossible. Whenever they tried to return to Equestria with anything electronic, it simply wouldn’t work. Sunset’s first thought was that the transfer was just draining the batteries on anything that held a charge, but they’d been working on it for weeks and they were sure that their electrical network should be compatible with anything they brought over. They designed outlets that would fit plugs on human devices, but nothing reacted. Twilight theorized it was the mirror itself keeping a level of balance maintained, but Sunset doubted that. The crown worked in the human world, and that used Equestrian magic. Why would the mirror allow magic to go through but not technology?
Setting that option aside for a time, they gritted their teeth and began to work from the ground up. Sunset found she was barely able to keep up with Twilight. She had a much better understanding of how to use complicated electronics, but building them was another matter entirely. On the other hoof, Twilight may have focused more on magical studies, but she had still built several electronic devices herself, and knew better what could and couldn’t be done with Equestrian technology.
They were lucky that the castle was much larger than any of its four residents needed, giving them ample space to set up a workroom. In the end, they settled on using one of the basement rooms since it was out of the way. It seemed to be intended as a dungeon, something Twilight was positive she’d never need to use. Not to mention that their work was occasionally loud, and they wouldn’t bother Fluttershy or Spike with the noise down there.
Or at least, that was the idea. However, there were exceptions, such as the ear-shattering screech that was coming from their equipment.
Both Sunset and Twilight were trying to keep their ears pressed against their heads while looking for what had caused the sound, to no avail. “Should we just blast it!?” Sunset shouted.
“What?” Twilight asked. Or at least, Sunset was pretty sure that was what she said.
Taking that as a yes, Sunset sighed and channelled her magic, shooting it as a beam at their speaker. Even as the noise died, Sunset could hear it ringing in her ears.
“Back to square one,” Twilight said.
“Sorry, it was all I could think to do.” Sunset looked at the remains of a month’s hard work.
“No, it’s okay. I didn’t know what else to do either.” Twilight smiled, but she was clearly just as disappointed as Sunset was. “Here, hold still.” She walked over and pulled a spare bit of debris out of Sunset’s mane.
“My goodness! Are you two okay?” They turned to see Fluttershy walking down the stairs. She usually left them alone while they worked, but Sunset suspected that noise was audible even outside the castle.
“We’re fine, Shy. Just another setback.” Twilight walked over to the stairs, meeting Fluttershy at the bottom. “Sorry about the noise.”
Fluttershy giggled. “I’m okay, but I don’t think Spike’s very happy. He was taking a nap.” She looked over to the pile of scrap. “Sorry about your, uhm…”
“Radio,” Sunset said, kicking pieces into a pile. “I don’t understand what went wrong. I was so sure we had it that time!”
“I’m sure you’ll get it soon,” Fluttershy said. “I’ll go get a broom.”
Twilight sighed. “Don’t worry, we’ve got one.” She levitated a broom and dustpan from a corner, something a frustrating number of their experiments had required.
“Maybe it’s time to take a little break?” Fluttershy suggested, “You’ve been at it for a long time, and there’s no sense in working when you’re so frustrated.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Sunset said, “In fact, aren’t you two going over some wedding arrangements today? I’ll finish cleaning up down here, you should take it easy for a change.”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “I’m not gonna leave you to do it by yourself. This is both of our responsibility.”
Sunset tried to protest but Twilight ignored it. Fluttershy joined in too, so they wound up getting everything picked up pretty quickly. When they were done, Sunset took one last look at their remaining equipment before following the couple upstairs.
“So that’s supposed to let you hear things from all over Equestria?” Fluttershy asked.
“Right now I’d be happy if it would let us hear something from across the room,” Twilight said. “I’m running out of ideas on how to get it to work, though.”
“Why don’t you just read about how to make it work?” Fluttershy asked.
Twilight looked at her quizzically. “Nopony’s ever made one, Shy. They don’t exist in Equestria yet.”
“But they do exist in the human world,” she said. She looked at Sunset. “They, uhm… they do have books there, right?”
Sunset and Twilight stopped walking at the same time. Sunset facehoofed while Twilight just stared at Fluttershy, dumbfounded.
“You know,” Sunset said, “for supposedly being some of the smartest mares in Equestria, we can be really stupid.”
“What time is it?” Twilight asked. She flew over to a clock before waiting for an answer. “We’ve got a few hours before the meeting the wedding planner. What do you say we go to a human library?”
“Absolutely!” Sunset said.
They shifted course and began walking towards the library, where the mirror was located. But before they made it too far, Twilight turned back around. “You don’t mind, right, Shy?”
Fluttershy smiled. “No, go have fun. Just be back before too long.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure she’s back in time,” Sunset said. “And thanks, Fluttershy. I don’t know what we’d do without you.”
Fluttershy waved them off as they rushed upstairs, determined to get as much done in the short time available to them as they could. When they reached the library, Twilight threw off her lab coat and set the book in place to open the portal. “See you on the other side,” she said.
Twilight stepped through the portal, leaving Sunset to disrobe in peace. Even though she’d been in Equestria for almost two months, she still couldn’t get used to being naked around others. After spending seventeen years with humans, she doubted she ever would. But they had learned the hard way that leaving Equestria while clothed was a bad idea. Thankfully she usually wore dresses, which meant her ill-fitting clothes mostly just made her look ridiculous.
When a pony went through the mirror, it would create clothes for them on the other side, even if they were already wearing some. And so on their first trip back, Sunset found herself wearing a human set of clothes underneath a dress designed to fit a pony, which broke apart at the seams once on her human body. Needless to say the dress never make it back to Equestria, much to Rarity’s displeasure.
Sunset walked over to the mirror but didn’t step through. Instead she pulled a curtain around it, so nopony would see her when she came back through. Not that anypony was likely to. Even if nopony really understood, they still respected her need to always be clothed. She pulled off her lab coat and hung it neatly on a rack next to the mirror, only leaving her necklace on.
She stepped up to the mirror and stared into it. She looked over her reflection. She saw a pony, the same one she saw every day now. She reached a hoof towards the mirror and stopped before touching it. One more step and she’d be on the other side. She’d be a human again.
‘And an adult,’ she reminded herself. She was always an adult when she went through now. She wasn’t going to be a kid this time, and when she was ready, the portal would take her back here. It would. She wasn’t going to be stuck on the other side, she’d never be stranded like that again. Twilight was already there waiting for her.
She stepped forward. The world around her became a blur and she felt the sickening sensation of being pulled along with no control over what happened to her. Then as quickly as it started, it came to a halt, and she fell forward into Twilight’s arms.
“Easy, I’ve got you.” Twilight helped her onto her feet.
Sunset held her hands in front of her and looked over her body. She was an adult. Her breathing slowed from the rapid breathes she’d been taking since she came out of the portal and she looked into Twilight’s face. Her friend was looking at her with concern, so Sunset forced a smile and a flashed her a thumbs up.
“You okay?” Twilight asked.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” They never talked about it, but it was pretty clear Twilight knew that going through the mirror was hard for her. “Come on, we’ve got a schedule.”
At least Twilight didn’t press for more. “Right. So where’s the library?”
Sunset led the way to the nearest library, which was thankfully within walking distance of the school. Normally when they needed a ride they would contact Applejack through the journal, but neither of them had a phone. Besides, their impromptu trip meant there was no time to schedule anything, so she might be busy.
Along the way, they walked side by side. “I can’t believe we didn’t think of this ourselves,” Twilight said.
“Yeah,” Sunset said, then smirked. “Well, I can’t see how I didn’t think of it, anyway. You’d be lost without Fluttershy.”
“Hey, I did okay on my own,” Twilight said. She sounded upset, but still smiled.
“Yeah, back when you only had Spike to look after you. Must have been pretty tough.”
“Yeah, okay, so maybe I’ve never really lived on my own completely. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take care of myself.”
From what she had seen, Sunset doubted that, but she decided to not push Twilight’s buttons too much. “I’m just messing with you, Twi. Besides, it’s not like you’ll have to worry about that ever again. You’ll always have Fluttershy to take care of you now.”
“Yeah,” Twilight said. She sounded almost uncertain.
It seemed even the reminder that she was engaged wasn’t making Twilight feel better. Sunset started to feel guilty, wondering if Twilight was insecure about how much she relied on others to help her with everyday tasks.
“Hey, at least you’re better than me, right? I mean, I messed up my life so bad I had to move to a different world to start over. Twice.”
“Sunset, don’t put yourself down like that!” Twilight said, frowning. “There’s nothing wrong with starting over. I did when I first moved to Ponyville. And from what I’ve seen, I’m sure you could fix things here too if you ever set your mind to it.”
Sunset looked around at the world she had left. She was growing to miss it less every day. “Maybe, but I don’t know. Things got pretty messed up.”
Twilight put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sure you can. You’re pretty amazing, Sunset.”
Sunset rolled her eyes. “Said the alicorn princess. Savior of multiple worlds, several times over!”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Twilight asked, blushing at the praise. “It’s not like my accomplishments do anything to diminish yours.”
“I’m just saying that one of us is legitimately amazing, and it’s definitely you.”
Twilight smiled at the compliment. The walk to the library was pleasant; it was a nice day and they kept a friendly conversation, mostly about the radio. Really, Sunset was a little tired of talking about it, at least until they found out something that might help, but she didn’t care. Twilight was all smiles and laughter, and so long as she was happy, so was Sunset.
They had planned to just grab a few books and be on their way, but once they started looking through them, they easily lost themselves. Soon a pile accumulated on the table, and it was only growing as time went on.
Sunset was eager to get back and start applying some of what they were reading about. While Twilight always seemed more than happy to just read about a subject until she understood it, Sunset didn’t think anything replaced the practical knowledge gained from actually attempting something. Still, they needed to know what books were worth bringing back, so she was skimming through the pile while Twilight darted around adding to it.
She was debating whether a promising book was still worth taking if it was too dull to read when she heard a voice. “Sunset?”
Sunset’s eyes squeezed shut as she willed the speaker away. She waited a moment before opening them and looking up to see Flash Sentry hadn’t disappeared. He was sitting at a table nearby, wearing his usual clueless expression. She waved casually, hoping that would be enough acknowledgement for him to leave them alone.
But of course, Sunset had never been that lucky. Flash stood up and walked over to their table and sat down across from her. “Where have you been? I heard you stopped going to work.”
Before moving to Equestria, Sunset had worked at a grocery store. She hated her job and hadn’t exactly given the proper two weeks notice before leaving. Or any notice at all, for that matter. “It’s a long story.”
“Well, do you mind if I ask what happened?” Flash asked.
Sunset sighed. She kind of did, but couldn’t blame his curiosity. “I moved back home. I’m staying with Twilight, who’s around here somewhere. We’re only in town to use the library.”
Flash looked around. “When you say Twilight, do you mean…?”
“Yes, Princess Twilight.” Sunset grinned as he sat up straighter. “Come on, lover boy, it’s been over two years since that dance. You can not still be on that.”
“Hey, how many Princesses have you met?” Flash asked.
“Four. And a prince. Not to mention the soon-to-be fifth Princess of Equestria.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve only met one,” Flash said, folding his arms. “So, sorry if it’s kind of a big deal to me.”
“Hmm, so you were only into her because she’s royalty?” Sunset leaned forward.
“Of course not! I didn’t even know until after everything was over.”
“Whatever you say, lover boy.” Sunset attempted to return to her book, but it proved fruitless as Twilight chose that moment to return.
“I found a book on electromagnetism that might be worth a quick read,” Twilight said, carrying a book so old and beat up it might crumble under its own massive weight.
“Twi, that book looks like it has more words than there are in existence.” Sunset made a mental note to put that one back while Twilight wasn’t looking.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Twilight said. “Besides, that’s a pointless comparison since…” She trailed off as she finally noticed Flash.
“Hey, Twilight. Long time no see.” Flash waved and gave his goofiest grin.
Once she was over the surprise, Twilight smiled back and sat down next to Sunset. She didn’t seem to find the unexpected encounter as awkward as Sunset did, although of course she had a lot less history with him. “Wow, Flash, imagine running into you here! How have you been?”
“Pretty good. I’m in college, majoring in musical theory. I was just working on a report.” He looked over their pile of books. “Looks like you two are doing some serious studying of your own.”
“Yes. We’re trying to recreate some human –” Twilight stopped short and looked to Sunset.
“Don’t worry, Flash knows about Equestria already,” Sunset said. He had taken the news surprisingly well, until it dawned on him that his first serious relationship was with someone who was really a pony. The look on his face as he questioned whether or not that was bestiality was probably Sunset’s favorite memory of him.
“Well, we’re recreating human technology there,” Twilight finished.
“Why can’t you just bring whatever you’re making from here?” Flash asked.
“We tried, but nothing works when we do. We have a few theories as to why not.” Twilight got the excited look she always had before she explained something complicated.
“Which we barely understand ourselves even though they’re our theories,” Sunset reminded her. If she let Twilight start explaining things, they’d never leave.
“Well, good luck anyway,” Flash said. He flipped through a few pages of an open book. “I’m, uh, I’m sure you got this, though.”
Sunset rolled her eyes. “Thanks for the confidence.”
“So are you planning on staying in Equestria permanently?” Flash asked, pushing the book to the side.
“Kinda playing it by ear,” Sunset said, “but it’s not like I have a whole lot waiting for me back here. I’m actually really happy over there, and even if it’s a whole other world, the portal leads right to this town, so I can visit whenever I want.”
“That’s great. I’m really happy things are working out for you,” Flash said, giving her a thumbs up.
Sunset grinned. “Thanks, but Twilight actually deserves more of that than me.” She turned to Twilight to see she was already blushing. Sunset would have hated embarrassing her a lot more if she wasn’t so cute when she was frazzled.
Flash looked to Twilight curiously while she gave a nervous chuckle. “Well, I’m, uhm… I’m engaged now.”
Sunset expected Flash to be disappointed by the news, but if he was, he hid it well. Maybe he really was finally over her after all. “That’s great! Congratulations!”
“Thank you,” Twilight said. She was still blushing but had collected herself enough to smile happily.
“So is he the prince you mentioned before?”
Sunset snorted at the idea of Twilight marrying Blueblood. “Nope. The whole royalty only marrying royalty thing doesn’t really happen over there. Besides, well… I’ll let Twilight explain.”
Twilight smiled. “Actually, I’m engaged to a mare.” Her smile faded when she noticed Flash’s expression, which looked a little too surprised.
Sunset chuckled. “Relax Twi, he doesn’t care that you’re gay, he’s just not used to pony terminology.” On the rare occasions the topic came up, Sunset usually substituted pony phrases for human ones, both to keep things simple and prevent people from being too weirded out.
Flash shook his head and smiled. “Right, I’m happy for you no matter who you decide to marry.”
“You actually know her human counterpart from school,” Twilight said, smiling again. “Remember Fluttershy?”
“Of course.” Flash looked between Twilight and Sunset. “I bet that must be pretty weird though.”
“What do you mean?” Twilight asked.
“Yeah, why would that be weird?” Although Sunset kept her tone casual, she glared fiercely enough that even someone as dense as Flash Sentry would know he better choose his next words carefully.
He seemed to get the message, although the only way it could be more obvious that he was forcing his answer would be if he just whistled innocently instead. “Just that… all three of you are living together, right? You must feel like a third wheel.”
“Not really,” Sunset said, hoping that if she ignored Flash’s awkward tone then Twilight would as well. “And as far as I know, Twilight and Fluttershy don’t mind me staying with them.”
“Of course we don’t!” Twilight said.
“See what I mean? That’s exactly the same thing she’d say either way, so I how am I supposed to know if she means it?” Sunset shrugged.
Flash chuckled. “Well, congratulations again. I better get back to work though, it’s already three o’clock.”
Sunset and Twilight looked at each and jumped up. “It is? I can’t believe we let it get so late!” Twilight said.
“Does the portal close or something?” Flash asked.
“No, Twilight has to meet her wedding planner,” Sunset explained. “We promised Fluttershy we’d be back on time. Just leave the books, we aren’t running all the way back with them. We’ll come back later.”
“I can give you a ride,” Flash said, standing up. “It’s just to CHS right?”
“Yes, but aren’t you in the middle of something?” Twilight asked.
“It’s not far, I’ll be back in no time.” Flash was already grabbing his bag. “I mean, I’m not gonna let you get in trouble with your fiancée if I can help it.”
“You go with him, I’ll stay here and check out the books before heading back,” Sunset said, in part because she didn’t want to face Fluttershy after breaking her promise to get Twilight home on time.
“Okay, sorry for leaving it to you,” Twilight said. “And thanks, Flash, you’re a huge help.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Sunset said. Twilight and Flash ran off, leaving Sunset behind with the books. She sighed and started going through them again.
She separated them into a pile worth taking and a pile that was staying, starting by putting the giant tome of electromagnetism in the ‘staying’ pile. Once she was done, she realized there were still more books that she wanted than the library would allow her to take, so she narrowed it down further. Eventually she wound up with half a dozen books, a number she was sure Twilight wouldn’t be happy with.
She thought about leaving everything on the table for the librarians to put back. She probably would have, but she couldn’t get the image of Twilight chiding her out of her head, so she grudgingly collected all the books she wasn’t taking and began putting them away. By the time she was done, Flash Sentry was back.
“So,” he said as she tried to slip past unnoticed, “why haven’t you told her?”
“We’re not discussing this,” Sunset said flatly.
He held her gaze for a moment before caving in and returning to his book. “You’re making a mistake.”
“Maybe. I do that a lot.” Sunset walked up to the counter and checked out her books. She was more than ready to get back and bury herself in her work as a distraction.
If anypony could appreciate thorough planning, it was Twilight. She could spend days going over the smallest details of an event, and of course her wedding was of the utmost importance to her, so naturally she wanted everything about it to be decided with the most care imaginable. There was no reason she shouldn’t be putting all her attention into what Cloud Shine, the wedding planner, was saying. The seating arrangements were very important, and she wanted this to be perfect. Really, she did.
But she couldn’t focus. Her mind kept wandering back to Sunset, and to their project. She kept reminding herself that there would be time for that soon, and that her wedding was more important. But every time she managed to focus on what they were discussing, it was never for long. Thanks to Flash, she was barely late in returning and Fluttershy wasn’t upset with her. Still, if she wanted to keep it that way, she couldn’t keep zoning out.
“Hmm, I don’t think so. What do you think, Twily?”
Although she had missed most of the conversation, she smiled anyway. “I’m pretty sure no one in my family is going to have any problems no matter who they’re sitting next to,” she said, thankful that at least subconsciously she was paying attention.
Cloud Shine nodded. “Of course, I just wanted to make sure. You’d be surprised how often I have to bend over backwards to make sure certain distant relatives are seated far away from each other.”
“Oh I completely understand,” Twilight said. At times she was thankful that she came from a relatively small family. Applejack had told her about some of her experiences coordinating the Apple family reunions – and more to the point, her experiences resolving disputes because the wrong cousins started talking.
“Now there is one thing that worries me,” Cloud Shine said nervously, looking over her list. “Of course I understand you want all your friends in attendance, but is it really wise to invite Discord to a wedding?”
Fluttershy smiled. “Oh, don’t worry about him. He knows how important this is, and he’ll be on his best behavior.”
“Trust me, it would be more dangerous to not invite him,” Twilight said, although she was more than a little worried that Discord’s best behavior wouldn’t amount to as much as Fluttershy thought it would. “You should have seen what happened when he thought he wasn’t invited to The Grand Galloping Gala one year.”
“I did,” Cloud Shine said. She looked decidedly unamused at the reminder. “I was picking Smooze out of my mane for months.”
“Well, he’s come a long way since then,” Fluttershy insisted.
“If you’re sure…” Cloud Shine said. She made a mark on her notebook. “In that case, where do you think he should be seated?”
Twilight sighed. “Wherever he wants to be. I’m sorry, I know it’s hard to work around someone like Discord, but asking him to do something like follow a seating arrangement just isn’t in his nature.”
Cloud Shine frowned. “Okay, we’ll just leave that one for now.” She flipped through her notebook. “Now, we’ll have to book a photographer. Photo Finish is widely regarded as the best in the industry. She doesn’t generally do private events, but I’m sure she’d be willing to make an exception here.”
“Oh, uhm…” Fluttershy looked to Twilight, silently asking her to intervene.
“Actually, maybe we could find somepony else? We’ve met Photo Finish before and, uhm…”
Cloud Shine nodded. “She can be a bit pushy. No problem, I already have another pony in mind. Here, I brought a portfolio. What do you think of this one?”
They spent the remaining afternoon going over the various ponies they would be booking for the wedding. Twilight tried to keep herself actively engaged in the conversation, but whenever Cloud Shine began explaining something, her mind wandered back to Sunset.
By the time they were finished, the sun was going down. “Do you want to stop and get dinner on the way?” Fluttershy asked.
“Oh, uhm, that sounds good,” Twilight said even though she didn’t really feel going out for food.
Fluttershy giggled and nudged her. “Twily, if you just want to go home you can say so.”
Twilight grinned sheepishly. “I’m sorry, it’s not that I don’t want to have dinner with you, I’m just so excited to get back to working on the radio. It was a great idea to get books from the human world, it’s going to be a huge help.”
Fluttershy wrapped a foreleg around her neck, pulling Twilight into a kiss. “Twily, it’s fine. I understand, and I’m glad to see you’re so excited with your work. Maybe tomorrow we can go out together?”
“Of course we can.” Twilight hugged her. “You’re the best, Shy. Honestly, I don’t know why you put up with me sometimes.”
Fluttershy let go of Twilight and began walking towards the castle. “Hmm, I don’t know either. Must be because you’re so cute.”
Twilight laughed. “Maybe, if you’re into nerdy bookworms.”
“Well then I guess I am, ” Fluttershy said, leaning against Twilight while they walked.
When she became an alicorn, Twilight had started growing taller, which stopped when she was almost as tall as Cadance. The growing height difference between her and Fluttershy had made her feel awkward while she was still getting used to it, but it certainly had its own unexpected advantages. She was now the perfect height to unfold a wing and drape it over Fluttershy while walking, keeping the smaller pegasus held close to her.
When they reached the castle, Twilight again stopped to make sure Fluttershy didn’t mind her running off before heading downstairs. She wasn’t surprised to see Sunset was already at work on reconstructing the speaker.
“How’s it going?” Twilight asked, causing Sunset to jump.
“Oh, hey, Twi. Back already?” She bent her head back over the wooden box. “It’s going okay. Spent a while reading up on everything, but I just had to start using my hooves for something. Figured I’d wait until you were back before starting work on the mechanics, anyway.”
Twilight sat down next to Sunset and looked over the open book. “You’ve been down here the whole time?”
“Yeah,” Sunset said. “Well, once I got back, of course.”
“Did you know the sun’s already set?”
Sunset’s head popped back up. “It did?”
“Yeah, right about when we wrapped things up with the wedding planner.” Twilight looked over the books Sunset had decided on bringing, and couldn’t help but be disappointed in how few there were.
“So how’d everything go anyway?” Sunset asked, levitating the mostly complete body off to the side.
“Fine,” Twilight said. She levitated one of the books to her and turned to the first chapter.
“Just fine? That doesn’t sound good.”
Twilight frowned. “Really, everything’s fine. I just… I was really excited to get back here and get to work so I kind of had a hard time focusing on everything.”
Sunset smiled. “You know you can just say it. You missed me.”
Twilight laughed and shook her head. “Let’s just get to work. Unless you’d rather call it a night. You’ve been at this a lot longer than me, after all.”
“No, I’m good,” Sunset said. “Trust me, I’m ready to finally get somewhere with this thing.”
Getting down to work mostly meant reading for the time being. She suspected Sunset was less than thrilled, but it was a good chance for her to catch up with the unicorn. When it came down to it, Twilight was barely able to keep up with Sunset. Sure, she had a good understanding of mechanical engineering by Equestrian standards, but Sunset had spent years learning technology that still seemed like its own kind of magic to her. Most of her human friends were content to just know how to use their technology, but Sunset had taken an interest in learning how things worked as well. Sunset had managed to be an expert on the most fascinating fields of two entirely different worlds. She really was amazing.
“So, you gonna tell me what’s on your mind, or do I have to ask Fluttershy?” Sunset asked suddenly.
“What do you mean?” Twilight asked.
Sunset levitated Twilight’s book away from her and flipped back a page. She skimmed it for a moment before turning back to Twilight. “So how does the inverse-square law affect radio waves?”
Twilight opened her mouth to answer, but found she couldn’t. Sunset had known what she was doing; the subconscious part of the mind that had allowed her to answer Fluttershy earlier didn’t withhold information for long, so flipping the previous page had rendered it useless. She blushed and snatched the book back with her magic. “Okay, so I missed something. What’s your point?”
“My point is that you don’t miss things, Twi,” Sunset said. “You’re distracted, and considering we’re working on the radio right now, you’ve pretty much lost that excuse. What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing,” Twilight said testily. “I’m just a little tired.” She wasn’t sure why she felt so defensive.
“You know, lately you’re distracted every time something comes up with the wedding. Is everything okay?”
Twilight frowned. “Everything’s fine.”
“Did you know you use that word a lot when something’s bothering you?” Sunset sighed. “Look, I’m not going to push you into talking about anything if you don’t want to, but can you at least not pretend like you’re fine when you’re not?”
“Sunset, I really don’t know what you’re talking about.” Twilight propped up the book and began to read again, discovering that the inverse-square law described how the intensity of radio waves diminished over distance. She wondered if she should just go to bed after all. It was late and she’d been busy all day; she could always pick back up in the morning.
‘Oh, right, Fluttershy wanted to go out tomorrow,’ She reminded herself. Maybe spending the day with her marefriend would be a nice change of pace. Or rather, her fiancée. They were engaged now, after all. They’d spent a lot of time together recently, but it’d be nice to not have to spend their day worrying about the wedding. That’s how they spent most of their time lately, although to be fair, the wedding was just over four months away.
Four months until she promised herself to Fluttershy forever. They had spent the most amazing two years together, and now they had their whole lives to spend together. Twilight couldn’t be happier. This was what she really wanted. She reminded herself every day.
“Well, at least keep in mind that I’m here for you,” Sunset said. Twilight looked up from the book to see her smiling warmly. “If you ever want to talk, or just, you know, whatever you need.”
Seeing Sunset smile made Twilight smile as well. “Thanks, Sunset. But right now? I’d really like to try and at least get some ideas about what to do tonight. While this book’s very interesting, it hasn’t been too helpful.”
Sunset scooted her chair over so that they were shoulder to shoulder. “Actually, I think I might have something here. Take a look at this.” She held the book she’d been reading in front of them where they could both read it.
Twilight read over the passage quickly. “I think that might be the answer!” She levitated over a notebook and quill and began writing excitedly.
“Wait, hold on.” Sunset reached over Twilight to gesture at part of her notes. “I think that part’s backwards.”
“Oh yeah, nice catch.” Twilight made the correction.
With something to work on, both mares found themselves lost in their project together. Before long they had pages of notes, and still they kept working. Sunset moved on to working on the radio, checking details with Twilight, who was still working on the theoretical part. Hours passed without either of them noticing.
Eventually they found themselves on opposite sides of the room, with Sunset beside the newly constructed speaker and Twilight by the modified radio.
“Ready?” Twilight asked.
“Yeah, let’s do it.”
Twilight took a deep breath and picked up the microphone. She stepped on the hoof pedal that should allow her voice to come out on Sunset’s end, and she heard a gentle crackling sound. Considering the ear-piercing screech they’d been met with earlier, few things could have sounded so sweet. “Hello?” she said tentatively.
There was a notable pause where nothing happened, but it was short. “Hello?” the speaker echoed with her voice.
“It worked!” Sunset ran to Twilight and threw her forelegs around her.
“I can’t believe it, that was amazing!” Twilight said. After a moment she heard her words repeated and realized she was still pressing the button. She laughed and stepped off the pedal.
“You’re amazing!” Sunset said, as Twilight hugged her back. “I can’t believe you figured all that out.”
“Hey, you built it,” Twilight said. “And it was all your idea in the first place!”
“How about we just agree that we’re pretty great together,” Sunset suggested.
Some combination of their lack of sleep and finally making some significant headway with their research caused them to both keep laughing. At some point they heard their laughter across the room and realized Sunset had stepped on the pedal, which only caused them to laugh more.
Slowly, they stopped laughing and Twilight turned to Sunset. They had never really ended their hug, continuing to lean on one another while they laughed, and now it occurred to Twilight exactly how close they were. Sunset let go of her but didn’t move away. Twilight kept a foreleg around Sunset’s shoulders, which she didn’t seem to mind.
“You know, despite all the setbacks, I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun with something,” Sunset said.
“Me either. Even if we never get it to work properly, I’m glad we decided to do this.” Twilight normally would already be thinking of ways to boost the signal and fix the time delay, but for the moment, she was content.
“We’ll get it working. We make a great team.” Sunset leaned her head against Twilight’s shoulder.
“Yeah.” Twilight knew they should separate, that their moment of celebration was over. Instead, she rested her head against Sunset’s.
After a moment passed and neither of them moved Sunset made a show of yawning as she picked her head up. “Sorry, I must be more tired than I thought.”
She knew it was an excuse, one that she was expected to play along with so they could both go to bed feeling a little guilty and pretend that they’d never shared an intimate moment. But as Sunset pulled her head up and looked at her, blushing slightly, Twilight wondered if this was what she really wanted.
She never planned on doing it, but she let herself act on an impulse and, closing her eyes, she leaned in and kissed Sunset. Almost immediately, Sunset kissed her back.
When they first pulled away, neither of them reacted. They were both blushing and Sunset looked more than a little confused. Twilight knew she probably looked the same way. Eventually it was Sunset that took a step back. Twilight hadn’t even realized her foreleg was still around her shoulders until she felt it slide off.
“I’m sorry,” Twilight said, backing up herself. She shook her head and flew to the top of the steps, not looking back as she opened the door and stepped into the upstairs hall. She collapsed against the opposite wall.
‘What the buck was I thinking!? How could I do something like that?’
She had to tell Fluttershy. This never should have happened, but now that it did, she wasn’t going to pretend like it didn’t. She loved Fluttershy with all her heart, and no matter what came of it, she deserved the truth.
‘It was one kiss. Just one kiss. Fluttershy will understand. She won’t call off the wedding, she won’t break up with me, she won’t hate me.’
Twilight tried to collect her thoughts. She had time to think. it was late, and Fluttershy would be asleep. She would tell her in the morning, so she had better figure out what was going through her head by then. She loved the time she spent with Sunset, she loved having somepony around who understood magic and science, but she didn’t love Sunset. No matter what she felt for Sunset, it wasn’t love.
‘So why would I risk hurting the pony I do love for nothing?’
She might as well not deny it to herself anymore, she was attracted to Sunset. It wasn’t love, but she felt something entirely too close to it when they were together. She’d thought she could keep her feelings in check, but in that moment it proved entirely too easy to slip into that role.
“Twilight?” She sat up and looked behind her. Fluttershy was looking at her with obvious concern. “Are you okay?”
“Fluttershy? Why are you still up?” Twilight stood up and smiled, hoping Fluttershy hadn’t been there long.
“I was asleep for a while, but when I realized you still weren’t in bed, I decided to come check on you. Is everything okay?”
Twilight willed herself to confess everything that happened. Fluttershy deserved the truth. She wouldn’t let this become a secret she kept hidden away, pretending it never happened. “Everything’s fine, Shy. We just… we were working on the radio and lost track of time.”
“Oh,” Fluttershy said. Twilight couldn’t look at her. She hated herself for lying.
“Let’s go to bed,” Twilight suggested. Her plan had been to tell Fluttershy in the morning, and that was what she’d do. It was a pathetic excuse for being too weak to tell her now, and she knew it.
‘I’m so sorry, Shy…’
When Fluttershy woke up and Twilight wasn’t in bed, she almost just rolled over and went back to sleep. Twilight and Sunset were busy working on their project, and she would come to bed when she was ready. They’d stopped trying to force themselves to be on the same sleep schedule ages ago, and truthfully, she enjoyed having some time to herself in the mornings.
But lately, it was getting hard to get Twilight away from the basement. Fluttershy was happy to see Twilight so excited about something, of course, and she never failed to make their appointments when they had wedding plans to go through. But aside from working on the wedding, they had barely spent any time together since their engagement. While Fluttershy admired Twilight’s passion, she knew if left to her own devices she could easily wind up staying up all night working, and then sleeping through their plans for spending the day together.
Getting out of bed was the hard part. She’d never understand how Twilight could stay up so late. Once she was up, she took a moment to stretch before shuffling downstairs. Being away from the bed made it a little easier to keep going.
Most of the time she was happy Twilight and Sunset did their work in the basement, keeping the rest of the castle quiet for the most part. In the middle of the night, however, it seemed entirely too far from the bedroom. But then she reminded herself that she’d soon be able to cuddle against Twilight while falling back asleep, and that thought kept her going.
She opened the door to the basement quietly, knowing that if they had fallen asleep while working, it wouldn’t be the first time. They were awake though, and Sunset was closer to her, standing by a speaker that looked like the one they had destroyed earlier. Twilight was on the other side of the room with what she knew was the main part of their project. They were so focused on their work that neither of them noticed her.
She didn’t understand a lot of what they did, but when they started working with electricity, Twilight had made a point of explaining to Spike how dangerous it could be so he wouldn’t accidentally hurt himself by touching their equipment when they weren’t around. She was pretty sure that this radio thing they were working on wasn’t dangerous, but just to be sure, she didn’t want to interrupt them while they were using it. The last thing she needed was to startle them into electrocuting themselves.
“Ready?” Twilight asked.
“Yeah, let's do it.”
Twilight stepped on something and a faint hissing noise came from the box by Sunset. “Hello?” Twilight spoke into a microphone. A moment later the box repeated, “Hello?”
Fluttershy smiled. They had worked so hard on this project, and it really was amazing. She’d seen ponies use microphones to amplify their voices, but never like that. There were no wires connecting the microphone to the speaker. She wanted to go congratulate them, but still wasn’t sure if it was okay. Apparently she needn’t have worried, as Sunset excitedly ran across the room and threw her forelegs around Twilight.
Fluttershy giggled and took a step closer, then stopped. Sunset always seemed overly cautious around her, as if she was afraid Fluttershy would be angry at her if she so much as hugged Twilight. She suspected that Sunset might even have a crush on Twilight, but that Twilight didn’t know. She never brought it up because, if anything, she felt bad for Sunset, who was always a great friend to both of them. There wasn’t any harm in letting her have a moment to celebrate their achievements. And really, seeing Twilight so happy made her happy too.
The speaker came back on for a moment and she heard their laughter come out of it, causing them to laugh harder. Fluttershy couldn’t help but laugh too, but decided she was ready for bed. As she started down the stairs again, Sunset let go of Twilight, but Twilight kept a foreleg around Sunset.
It seemed odd. Twilight normally wasn’t that affectionate with her friends. Sure, she had no problem with hugging, but not usually for so long. ‘I’m being silly. She’s probably just as tired as me and doesn’t even realize she still has her foreleg around her.’ Still, Fluttershy found herself stopping to watch again.
“You know, despite all the setbacks, I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun with something,” Sunset said.
“Me either,” Twilight said. “Even if we never get it to work properly, I’m glad we decided to do this.”
They were just talking about the radio. Fluttershy felt guilty for even thinking there could have been anything more.
Then Sunset rested her head on Twilight’s shoulder, and Twilight leaned hers back on Sunset’s. Fluttershy frowned and stayed where she was, waiting to see what happened next. It wasn’t exactly that she had a problem with it, except that it just seemed so strange for Twilight. Fluttershy was the only pony Twilight was ever that intimate with.
Before too long Sunset pulled away and yawned. “Sorry, I must be more tired than I thought.”
If they had left it at that, Fluttershy would probably let it go. She trusted Twilight, after all. Twilight loved her, and she would never do anything to hurt her. Twilight had even proposed to her; there was no doubt in her mind that no matter what it looked like, Twilight never intended anything by her actions. But when Sunset looked up at her, Twilight kissed her.
No matter how rapidly she breathed, Fluttershy couldn’t seem to get enough air. She backed away from the scene, not wanting to see whatever happened next. She closed the door as quietly as she could and walked back towards the bedroom. She didn’t make it, however, instead collapsing once she had made it around a corner.
She knew what she saw. Twilight had been the one to kiss Sunset. She closed her eyes and could still see it clearly. What was she supposed to do now? Should she talk to Twilight about it? And what about Sunset?
She heard the door open and perked her ears up. There was a thud, then silence. She thought about running to the bedroom, hiding under the covers, and pretending that this was all a dream. She could be happy that way, as long as she could convince herself she hadn’t seen anything. She thought about leaving the castle and going back to her cottage, even if she hadn’t stayed there in months. But despite everything, she couldn’t bring herself to leave, not without giving Twilight a chance to explain herself.
She stood up and walked to the hallway. Twilight was leaning against a wall and there was no sign of Sunset. She watched Twilight for a minute, not sure if she expected anything to happen, but it became clear nothing would. “Twilight?”
“Fluttershy? Why are you still up?” Twilight stood up and smiled, as if nothing had happened.
“I was asleep for a while, but when I realized you still weren’t in bed, I decided to come check on you. Is everything okay?”
“Everything’s fine, Shy,” Twilight said. If she really wanted to pretend like nothing happened, Twilight was certainly giving her the chance. “We just… we were working on the radio and lost track of time.”
“Oh.” Fluttershy didn’t look at Twilight. She had hoped Twilight would voluntarily tell her what happened. Being lied to felt as bad as watching it happen.
“Let’s go to bed,” Twilight said. All Fluttershy could do was nod.
They didn’t speak as they went back upstairs. Normally they walked close together, but Fluttershy kept her distance and Twilight did nothing to close it. She wasn’t sure if she was disappointed about that.
Even when they lay down in bed, they remained apart. Part of her longed for Twilight to make some sort of contact between them, part of her didn’t want to be in the same bed.
“I love you, Shy,” Twilight said.
“I love you too, Twily.” The response was almost automatic. There was no hesitation, no doubt in her mind that she might not say it. No matter what happened, she loved Twilight – whether she wanted to or not.
She wasn’t sure how long she stayed awake. Twilight seemed to have fallen asleep, but Fluttershy doubted she would anytime soon. She couldn’t stop thinking about the kiss. She didn’t know what was going to happen, but there was no way she could pretend it didn’t happen. She wished Twilight had brought it up; she just wanted whatever happened to happen so it could be over with.
Eventually she couldn’t take it anymore. She didn’t know what she wanted to do, but knew she didn’t want to keep lying in the dark while Twilight slept as if nothing was wrong. She slowly got out of bed and began to walk softly towards the door.
Fluttershy didn’t look back, but she heard Twilight sit up. “I thought you were asleep.”
“I… I can’t sleep,” Twilight said. “Come back to bed?”
“Twily…” Fluttershy shook her head and turned around. Looking at Twilight, she could feel the tears starting already. “Why did you…?”
Twilight grabbed a pillow and held it close to her. “You, uhm… you saw everything, didn’t you?”
“Shy, I’m so so sorry, I never meant to do anything to hurt you.” Twilight looked like she was going to start crying too.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Fluttershy asked.
“I… I’m sorry…” Twilight said. “I wanted to, but I was scared. I swear I was going to tell you in the morning.”
Fluttershy remembered all the times she’d been too scared to tell Twilight something, but that had never been because of something like this. “Do you love her?”
“No! I love you, I’ll only ever love you.”
“So is it me?” Fluttershy asked. “Is it because… because I’m not good enough for you?” She’d thought it herself a thousand times. Twilight was perfect; how could somepony like Fluttershy ever be worthy of somepony like her? Maybe Twilight would be happier with Sunset, with somepony who could understand her passions, somepony who could keep up with her.
“No, it’s not you at all! Shy, please don’t blame yourself. I’m the idiot, I’m the one who bucked up.” Twilight set the pillow aside, moving a little closer to the edge of the bed. “Fluttershy, please, tell me what I need to do to fix this, anything at all…”
Fluttershy sat on the ground and didn’t say anything. Twilight got out of bed and walked over to her, sitting next to her but not touching her. “Shy, please believe me, that was the only time anything like that ever happened, and nothing like that will ever happen again. You’re the only one I want. I love you.”
Fluttershy looked up at Twilight, but in the dark she could barely see through her tears. “I… I don’t even know if I can believe you. How do I know that was the only time? You two are down there by yourselves all the time, how do I even know that you weren’t… that you didn’t…” She started crying again. She couldn’t even bring herself to finish the sentence.
Twilight reached out her hoof to touch Fluttershy’s shoulder. When she didn’t back away Twilight slowly wrapped her forelegs around Fluttershy and nuzzled into her chest. “Shy, I’m so sorry… I understand that you don’t believe me, but please try… I’ve never kissed Sunset before. I’ve never kissed anypony other than you before.”
They sat together without speaking. Twilight held her closely and stroked her mane, which Fluttershy barely noticed. She didn’t try to get Twilight to stop, nor did she return any sign of affection. She didn’t know what to do, so she sat there doing nothing.
“I think… I think I should go…” Fluttershy said, eventually.
“What? What do you mean?” Twilight sat up and held Fluttershy’s hoof.
“I just… I think I need some time to think right now.” She wanted Twilight to stop her, to ask her to stay. She wanted Twilight’s confidence, for her to say that they could fix it as long as they were together.
“Okay, I understand…” Twilight backed off slowly, keeping one hoof on Fluttershy’s. “Just… please, go to Rainbow’s house, or Rarity’s.”
“Because… I don’t want you to be alone,” Twilight said. “I wish I could be the one to help you, but this is all my fault. So please, at least let somepony be there for you.”
Fluttershy looked down at Twilight’s hoof, still resting on hers. “I…” She didn’t know what she wanted to say. She didn’t know if she was going to follow Twilight’s advice, and if she didn’t if it was because she wanted to be alone or because Twilight had been the one to suggest it. Eventually she stood up, letting Twilight’s hoof slip off hers.
She didn’t bother to collect any of her things. She didn’t even bother to say goodbye as she walked out of the bedroom. She steadily walked through the castle and into the night air before she broke down, collapsing on the ground. Leaving the castle was really as far as she thought ahead, and with that done, she didn’t know what else to do.