by seventeen

What Does That Even Mean?

Sunset was rather surprised to see a note slide to her during class.

Firstly because nobody passes notes anymore - honestly, there was no point in having physical evidence when cell phones were so useful. Lastly because she hadn’t expected such rebellious behavior from the bookworm who passed it.

Twilight Sparkle, the newest addition to Canterlot High, sat across the table from Sunset Shimmer, the former rebel of Canterlot High. Their eyes met: the former wide with innocence, the latter narrowed in bemusement.

Twilight blushed and looked pointedly at the still-folded note tucked away in Sunset’s palm.

It was adorable, Sunset decided. Casting a quick glance at the teacher, an aptly named Cranky Doodle, she read the one-line message.

“I 2.5 you.”

Sunset began scrawling in the notebook at her elbow, heedless to the sharp eyes of Mr Doodle. To her mild exasperation, the bell rang. She looked up to see the flowing skirt of a rapidly-departing Twilight Sparkle. Chuckling, she wondered how alike the girl was to her royal Equestrian counterpart. Prior to princesshood, of course.

With a sigh, she packed up her stuff in pursuit of the young scientist who’d quickly become her best friend. She headed toward the bustling cafeteria, lamenting the loss of her usual walking buddy, feeling considerably more confused than annoyed.

She spotted Twilight nestled in among the usual suspects. Flashing a lopsided smile at Applejack’s grandmother and waiting for a slow nod in return, Sunset ditched the lunch line with whatever sundry products that ended up on her tray.

Applejack herself was the first to offer a greeting, “Ya sure are takin’ advantage of school lunches, ain’tcha?” She certainly got over any qualms about poking fun at Sunset.

Sunset shrugged, “Chocolate milk and an apple, a well-balanced diet.”

Her quarry interjected, “Actually that doesn’t sound very balanced at all.” She pushed up her glasses to reveal a light blush had darkened her cheeks to a brilliant magenta. “I’m sure you knew that.”

“Thanks Twi,” Sunset nodded with a laugh. “About your note-”

“No problem, you can borrow my notes anytime. I studied them already so you can keep them for a while.”

Sunset cocked her head in question, but Twilight’s roving irises suggested that she didn’t want to talk about it, if only not with the others around. She sighed again, disappointed, knowing she won’t get another chance to bring it up again for some time. She smiles but drops it.

Pinkie changed the topic for her. “Have you girls tried that new bistro down the street?!”

Rarity gave a shrill cry, rambled about how great it’s supposed to be while everyone else endured her ramblings. Eventually, she coerced their latest member into a confession of interest in the cozy restaurant.

“Twilight, are you still going on to visit your brother tomorrow?” Fluttershy asked, saving her from further interrogation.

“Yes, I’ll be spending the entire weekend at Whitetail Falls.”

“That’s quite the prestigious university, the loans must be ghastly.” Rarity shook her head in sympathy.

Applejack rolled her eyes, “Right, ‘cause that’s not a rude topic to bring up.”

Pinkie Pie replied for Rarity: “It might not be if their parents are actually super loaded!”

“That’s not ‘xactly my idea of ‘better’,” Applejack muttered, face in palm.

Sunset observed the banter as it bounced from friend to friend all around her. Observed their newest friend interact with her other friends.

She watched the blush slowly ebb away. The grin that replaced it was small at first - hardly a noticeable thing, but what it lacked in size was compensated for in sincerity. As it grew, she could almost feel her own smile mirror it.

It was nice to see all the girls get along so well, considering their assorted pasts.

A loud snap between her eyes brought her out from reverie. Sunset clasped amber hands on a sky blue wrist to prevent an echo.

Her smile forced itself a little. “Yeah, Dash?”

“Think I can get Twilight’s notes after you’re done with them?”

“No.” Sunset was spared of giving a response as the prodigious notetaker bore down on Rainbow Dash with fury in her eyes. She shook in her seat. Taking a deep breath, Twilight visibly calmed, “Never again.”

Sunset opened her mouth, but thought better of it and dropped another interesting subject.

As expected, Twilight Sparkle was nowhere to be found when school let out for the weekend.

However Sunset was not troubled by this. It was sort of expected.

In anticipation of the absence a certain glasses-wearing human, Sunset called in for backup. In fact, she had spent the entirety of her last class petitioning for the presence of a princess at her school, if only for the afternoon.

Clutching a leather bound journal tightly to her chest, willing her excitement down to a simmer, she waited for the portal in the courtyard to ripple to life. No sooner had she started pacing that a curious girl stumbled out from the statue.

“Princess Twilight!” Sunset called with a wave and a smile.

“Sunset Shimmer,” the princess answered with her own smile, albeit a slightly confused one. She held out an arm and gathered the still-pacing girl into a firm hug.

The familiar contact assuaged her churning insides and she returned the gesture gratefully. When they let go of one another, Sunset’s fidgeting was under control. “C’mon, I know a place we can talk.”

Pony Twilight Sparkle followed Sunset through the halls of Canterlot High, politely greeting the students who said their hellos in passing.

“Thanks for coming Princess Twilight,” Sunset said, opening a door to an unattended room and gesturing her friend in, “I know you’re probably busy, even when you say you’re not.”

“How many times do I have to tell you? Just ‘Twilight’ is fine.” Twilight crossed the threshold but continued looking at the former Equestrian who summoned her. “And alright, I may have a few things to do for a tiny ceremony, but I always have time for a friend.”

Sunset felt her cheeks grow warm at the sentiment. Friends were definitely nice to have. She gave the princess another quick hug.

Twilight accepted it for a moment before curiosity got the better of her, “So what’s this note about? You were awfully vague when you asked for my help. Why do you think I could make a difference in this world?”

“Just a hunch,” she surmised with a crooked smile. She offered the tiny square of paper to the other girl. “I was hoping for some insider knowledge.”

Twilight leaned forward and tossed her head backward. Sunset bit back a laugh at the sheepish look she received as the alicorn snatched up and unravelled the heavily-folded specimen.

The Equestrian doppelganger inspected the all-but-simple message printed concisely across the center.

“This world’s ‘you’ wrote that to me.” Clearing her throat as the other girl’s silent gape continued, she waved a hand in front of hyperfocused eyes. “Hey Twilight, you still there? What do you think it means?”

The Princess of Friendship blinked several times. Then she smiled brightly, squealed, “I have no idea!” and clapped her knuckles together.

Sunset sighed; she knew where this was going. In tandem she reflected this Twilight’s excited tone, “But let’s analyze it!” Despite herself, she giggled and said, “You two are quite a lot alike.”

Twilight ignored the statement and went to the blackboard at the front of the classroom. She hesitated before mumbling, “You can write it down.”

Smirking, she flexed her fingers but says nothing except to dictate: “I two-point-five you.”

Beginning a wide arc around the room, Twilight repeated the words slowly as if it would give her more to work with. She made several circles, occasionally stopping short with a quick “hmm” and resuming her circuit.

Finally she asked, “Are you sure it’s a decimal point?”

“What else do you think it could be?”

Her face scrunched up in thought, “Maybe it says ‘two times five’?”

Sunset pursed her lips and shook her head, “No, here-Twilight uses this” - she points to one of the small stars on Twilight’s skirt - “for multiplying.”

“Maybe it’s indicative of a matrix.” Now she was just grasping at straws. Sunset gave her a deadpan look to reflect on this fact.

Several moments passed without words. Sunset exclaimed, “What part of this even comes close to the form for matrices?!”

Twilight put her head in her hands and groaned, “I know, you’re right! I have no clue what this is supposed to mean! And look, you haven’t even written anything down. We have no notes! How can we proceed without any notes?”

Sunset blew the dust off her chalk, ready to attack the problem from whatever different angle Princess Twilight might consider. In her experience with Twi, whenever she had a meltdown, she would approach with a wildly different strategy; Sunset could only hope the same held true across Twilights.

“Maybe it’s not a code and the number itself has significance.” She looked to the board where Sunset had scribed “Not a code??” and continued with her train of thought, “What do we know about two and a half?”

It wasn’t a radically new concept, but she personally found no importance in the numeral so maybe it wasn’t a waste to ask for Twilight’s assistance. Sunset facetiously writes “2.5 = ??” before she realized Twilight was asking her directly.

If she had any clue what it might be, she wouldn’t’ve bothered to crack the journal. “It’s half of five,” she replied sardonically.

“Right,” the academic did not take the tongue-in-cheek statement as anything less than serious. “It’s ten percent of twenty-five, five percent of fifty, and two-point-five percent of one hundred.”

“It’s two and a half times one!” snickering when Twilight nodded along with her math. Sunset knew the princess was only trying to help and while her snarkiness made her feel bad, she couldn’t help herself, “It’s point-five more than two. And less than three!”

The moment she heard it out loud, she felt incredibly stupid. Not to mention flustered.

Twilight looked at the mess of numbers on the chalkboard. “Wait, what does that mean? Why did you stop talking? How come your face is all red?”

Of course her fellow former unicorn doesn’t understand, Sunset reconciled. She herself had been mired in the culture of people for so long she almost forgot her homeland lacked keyboards and, resultantly, the silly metacommunications derived from their usage.

Still blushing fiercely, Sunset scuffed out a large section of the board and drew the symbol for ‘less than’ and a digit ‘three’ with only the merest gap between the glyphs.

“Do you see it?” At her blank stare, Sunset strode to Twilight’s side. She placed her fingertips on the hapless girl’s chin and her other hand to the girl’s opposing temple. Carefully she tilted the head in her hands until it was nearly perpendicular to its natural position.

“Oh. It’s a heart.”

Princess Twilight left her with almost more questions than she had started with.

Sunset sequestered herself at home, unwilling to venture into the world without coming to terms with her newfound knowledge of Twilight’s crush.

“Two and a half is only a little less than three,” she reasoned, “so it’s not outright love.”

Though unwilling to let herself dwell on that stretch of thought, Sunset was grateful Twilight didn’t tell say she was in love with her. It would’ve been too much too soon and seemed improbable or felt insincere; Sunset would’ve pushed her away.

However, the discovery led her to search how she viewed the younger girl. With a turbulent heart, she spent a pair of sleepless nights asking herself to be maliciously honest.

Without doubt, Twilight was a good friend of whom Sunset felt protective of. The girl was ingenuous and guileless as a lamb in the cruel world Sunset was so adamant to correct.

On the other hand, Twilight had known the gut-wrenching loneliness that plagued Sunset herself until most recently. She understood the extent of corruption that kind of profound solitude allowed for.

Regardless of her best efforts to explain, the others could never appreciate that after finding friends, Sunset could never subject herself to the crippling alienation of her past in the pursuit of glory. It would always be a darkness in her life that set her apart from even her closest friends.

But Twilight knew.

In the days that followed the Friendship Games, the two once-overpowered girls spent long nights commiserating over the abhorrent things they’d meant to accomplish with that power. It really set the foundation for their relationship when Twilight was still trying to find her place in a new world.

Oh, and yeah, she was incredibly intelligent and driven to know more. That didn’t hurt in cementing their bond.

So yes, these were great qualities in a friend, but did that warrant trying anything more?

This was the gritty part that made her squirm with embarrassment: did she find the other girl attractive?

“Psst! Twi!” Sunset called quietly, “Twilight!”

The girl with the crush ignored her.

“Twilight Sparkle!”

When she refused to turn, Sunset flicked a note at her. The dense rectangle hit the side of her glasses, “Ow!”

Watching her pick it up, the two lines printed in the note flickered to the forefront of her mind.

At Rest: BP 120/80 mmHg, 60 BPM
Thinking of You: BP 100/65 mmHg, 84 BPM

There was the crinkling sound of unfolding. She closed her eyes, resigned to the fate she set in motion.

“Miss Sparkle,” the teacher said in a clipped tone that brooked no excuses, “If it’s that important, then you should definitely share with the class.”

Twilight’s hands visibly shook and Sunset could see she hadn’t yet fully opened the note.

Standing quickly, Sunset’s chair skittered noisily behind her. “Excuse me, Mr Doodle?”

The man pinched the bridge of his nose impatiently, “Yes, what is it now Miss Shimmer?”

“I passed Twilight that note,” she gulped, “I think it’s more fitting if I share the news with everybody.”

“Fine.” His toupee flapped as he curtly nodded his agreement. The class perked up with sniggers and awaited the potential for drama.

Sunset plucked the creased sheet from Twilight’s bloodless hands. She cleared her throat, undoing the final fold.

“At rest, blood pressure one-twenty over eighty millimeters of mercury, sixty beats per minute.” She swallowed thickly, catching her quarry’s eyes and holding her gaze. “Thinking of you, blood pressure one-hundred over sixty-five millimeters mercury. Eighty-four beats per minute.”

There was a buzz of confused murmuring amid the class, but Sunset could scarcely spare them any attention. Her focus remained solely on the only person whose reaction mattered.

Twilight grew red, but that wasn’t surprising. Sunset began to feel foolish, standing beside the girl she just accepted feelings for.

Then she smiled. It was small at first, but it steadily grew into a radiant grin.

Sunset held out a hand to the seated girl, helping her up when she grasped it with a still-tremoring hand.

When Twilight stood up, Sunset kissed her sweetly. “Let’s go off-campus for lunch.”

“I hear there’s a new bistro that’s supposed to be pretty good,” Twilight replied coquettishly.

Sitting back down without releasing her date’s hand, Sunset smiled.