Spectacular Seven

by The Albinocorn


Volume I: Rainbow Rocks—1. Long Road Home

“Music comes from the soul.

“It’s the purest form of expression—how we learn about our true selves. It can be soft and controlled, or wild and free! Just like life, our songs have rises and falls.

“When lives cross paths, the encounter can create either harmony or dissonance. And that encounter—that song can change the world.

“That is the melody of life.”

Volume I

Rainbow Rocks

A warm breeze tousled her hair and tickled her cheeks. The grass beneath her boots whispered hymns of summer delight. Even from here, she could smell sweet pastries and roasting vegetables carried down on the gentle wind.

Sunset Shimmer was home. She stood on the crest of an emerald hill in the middle of the Unicorn Range. Within her reach, just over her head was Canterlot, perched on its royal purple mountain. The sun sat over it, basking it in golden rays, making every tower and turret, every marble wall and glass window, every waterfall sparkle with perfection.

Tears welled in her eyes. She was almost there. Just across the plains, just through the forest, just up the slopes.

Before she could move, something soared out from the city. It rode the wind on wide alabaster wings, turning translucent at a touch of the sun’s light. A rainbow flowed behind it, swirling and dancing as the figure descended. It touched the ground with long, slender legs while the rainbow settled into a mane that ebbed and flowed like the tide. Her regal white coat was untarnished and unmarked saved for the sun adorned on her flank.

Princess Celestia smiled; the same smile that could melt Sunset’s heart and make her feel like anything was possible. “Do you want to come home, Sunset?”

Her mouth hadn’t moved, but Sunset heard the words loud and clear in her head. She wanted to respond ‘yes’, but instead, the world swiveled beneath her feet.

Behind her, six girls smiled and waved, calling her name. Sunset’s heart swelled, filled with a heavenly euphoria. She knew them: those were her best friends.

Applejack: strong and reliable.

Rarity: resourceful and a shoulder to lean on.

Rainbow Dash: competitive and unbreakable.

Fluttershy: kind and brave.

Pinkie Pie: bubbly and upbeat.

Twilight Sparkle: compassionate, intelligent, and beautiful.

Sunset took a step toward them, and fell off the edge of the world, straight into darkness. She tumbled head-over-heels, spinning in an empty sea of nothing. No sound, no light… no friends. Soon, her fall slowed, and she merely floated.

Where am I going? She thought. Which way was up or down? Did it even matter?

She appeared before Sunset, hanging upside down (or perhaps rightside up) with her arms crossed. Her skin was a blistering red, covered only by her yellow and black dress. Fire billowed off of her head, and she kept her wings tucked behind her back.

“Which way are you going, Sunset?” her demon asked, flicking her tail back and forth.

Sunset looked at the twisting roads all around her. Up and down, backwards and forwards, spiraling, loop-de-looping. She couldn’t see where any of them went. Darkness obscured the horizon.

“I don’t know.”

The demon grinned. “That’s because you have nowhere to go!” She grabbed Sunset in one hand and raised her to her face. “You will wander forever!” The demon opened her mouth, preparing to devour Sunset.

*******

Sunset snapped her eyes open, forcing herself to do nothing more than inhale deeply. She kept her head against her pillow and took slow breaths, finding a rhythm with the six sleeping girls around her. Her eyes focused on the high ceiling, barely visible in the midnight gloom.

That’s it, girl. Just take it easy. Just being in the presence of her friends gave her peace of mind. Still, Sunset felt the restlessness that came with being unceremoniously jolted awake. It would take a while to get back to sleep, she could feel it.

As quietly as she could, she unzipped her pink sleeping bag and slipped out of it. She navigated the maze made up of her friends and their sleeping positions across Pinkie’s living room floor, stepping lightly to not wake any of them up. She froze when Fluttershy moved, but sighed and smiled when she saw it was just to snuggle against her stuffed bear.

Sunset made it over to the couch and settled down against its side. Leaning against it, she had a front row seat to a transparent theater screen, complete with grey curtains on either side—her own private show. Tonight’s feature presentation: an encore of the winter storm that had hit Canterlot a few days ago. Supposedly, it was the final showing.

Flurries of soft white flakes fell onto the frozen ground. If Sunset squinted into the murky night, she could see a soft blanket tucked over the rooftops of other houses; a simple, bewitching sight.

With a shiver, Sunset pulled her knees close to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. Snowflakes drifted about on the wind, aimless, with no decision on where they would land or when. I can relate, Sunset thought, resting her head on her knees.

A long time ago, she had known what she wanted. She had wanted power. Enough power to make Princess Celestia acknowledge her as worthy to be a princess herself.

But that power had backfired on her.

It had almost been four months since the Fall Formal—since Sunset had been brought low by the meddling Princess Twilight Sparkle and her friends. Since the Elements of Harmony, after she refused to repent for her actions, laid upon her a penance: to help anyone who asked for a favor, and to only tell the truth.

If Sunset had to describe her life after that in one word, it would be ‘chaotic.’

She smiled wearily, watching a snowflake land against the window. At the end of it all, she had seen the errors of her ways. She had gained friends, albeit, at the cost of some of her sanity. But she supposed that was part of the deal: friends drove you crazy. She had gained a pseudo-family, she had gained happiness...

Sunset frowned. The only thing she hadn’t gained was a new sense of purpose.

“Do you want to come home, Sunset?”

Equestria was Sunset’s home. But the portal linking the human world back to the land of equines and magic was sealed, forcing Sunset to endure another two years. Could she go home at the end of that? Would Celestia forgive her for her transgressions? And could Sunset swallow her loathing of Princess Twilight Sparkle enough to acknowledge her as a ruling monarch?

The answer to the last question remained an emphatic ‘no’.

A blanket fell over Sunset’s shoulders, and she looked up to see the sweet smiling face of the human Twilight Sparkle looking down at her.

With the lifting of her penance, Sunset had also gained a girlfriend. The fact that she was the human version of her mortal enemy was irony at its finest. But, Twilight had wanted to be Sunset’s friend, not out of a promise to someone else, but because she had been genuinely curious about Sunset.

The fact that Sunset had saved her life probably hadn’t hurt either.

Twilight settled down next to Sunset and wrapped the blanket around both of them. She rested her head on Sunset’s shoulder and joined her in watching the snow fall. “Can’t sleep?” she whispered.

Sunset tilted her head against Twilight’s. “Yeah. Just a bad dream.”

“I thought they went away?” There was that note of concern; that compassion that had melted Sunset’s cold exterior.

“They have. It’s just… I don’t know.” Sunset no longer experienced nightmares like she had after the Fall Formal, but from time to time, her darkness liked to catch up with her.

The snow outside settled down, falling in slow, lazy spirals. “It’s pretty, isn’t it?” Twilight asked.

“Yeah.”

Twilight lifted her head and pecked Sunset’s cheek. “You’re going to be fine. You have us, okay?”

Sunset smiled and snuggled closer to Twilight. “Yeah, okay.” I know I have you girls. But for how long? She suppressed a sigh. Just tackle the future one day at a time, Sunset. She closed her eyes, letting Twilight’s subtle aroma of lavender lull her back to sleep. One day at a time.

*******

“All right, you two. Best get up before Rainbow goes and eats everything,” a voice drawled somewhere above Sunset.

“You snooze, you lose!” Rainbow shouted.

Sunset blinked the sleep out of her eyes. Applejack came into focus above her, smiling and holding Twilight’s glasses out. Twilight lifted her head off Sunset and yawned before taking her glasses and setting them on her face. She stretched her arms and got up, helping Sunset to her feet.

Applejack chuckled at the sight of them before walking off to the kitchen. Twilight folded the blanket and set it on the couch, rolling her eyes at Sunset’s rolling eyes.

“It’s common courtesy,” she chastised.

“Whatever,” Sunset said playfully. It earned her a poke in the shoulder. The couple wandered over to the kitchen where the rest of her friends sat at the table, save for Pinkie who was dancing around the stove in her pajamas and an apron.

“I made pancaaaakes!” she sang, flipping two more golden brown pastries off the skillet and onto a plate.

Sunset settled down at the table, eager to indulge in Pinkie’s famous pancakes. It had become a staple breakfast thanks to their many sleepovers during winter break.

“I can’t believe this is the last weekend before school starts,” Rainbow moaned. “It feels like it just ended.”

Rarity placed a napkin over her lap. “Don’t be so melodramatic. Besides, this is our last semester of high school. We’re almost done! And think of all the exciting things we have to look forward to this semester!”

Rainbow shook her head. “The only thing I’m looking forward to is grad night. Nine hours in an amusement park just for us! That’s going to be awesome!”

Sunset picked a blueberry from the fruit bowl and popped it into her mouth. She looked forward to any time spent with her friends. Ugh, I’m growing way too sentimental.

Pinkie skipped over with a large stack of pancakes and set them on the table. “Dig in!”

The Spectacular Seven, as Pinkie had affectionately dubbed them, helped themselves to the breakfast Pinkie had prepared. Along with pancakes, fruit, toast, eggs, bacon, and sausage, regular and tofu laid out in front of them.

Like every other batch, the pancakes were light, fluffy, and delicious. The girls passed their compliments to the chef, setting off Pinkie’s infectious smile. They partook in desultory conversation until every scrap of food was gone, leaving only bloated bellies.

“Well, time to hibernate until school starts,” Rainbow said, leaning back in her chair.

“Ah thought we were goin’ outside?” Applejack asked, getting up and gathering plates. “It’s the last time it’s supposed to snow this season.”

“Right, right, just give me a sec.”

Fluttershy stood up and began collecting plates as well. “Here, let me help, Applejack.”

Chairs screeched and silverware clattered as everyone (save for Rainbow) helped clean up before getting dressed. Sunset bundled up in her winter coat and gloves, and wrapped her red scarf around her face.

As Twilight emerged from the bathroom, Sunset had to bite back a laugh. She had seen Twilight’s winter get up before, but it still tickled her every time. Twilight caught Sunset’s tightened expression and narrowed her eyes from behind her glasses. “Stop it.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t help it if you look like a grape!”

From her overstuffed winter jacket that made her waddle more than walk, to her cap, and down to her snow boots, Twilight wore some shade of violet. “Blame my mom.”

With everyone dressed, they filed out the door, Twilight having to turn sideways to fit. Snow had stopped falling from the sky, though a steel grey tarp still hung over them. Snow, soft, deep and perfect for fighting and sledding coated the world in front of them.

Pinkie’s front yard was wide and mostly empty save for a few large rocks sticking out of the snow. They looked like powdered dates.

No one was sure who threw the first snowball, but within seconds, a full scale war had erupted. Sunset used Twilight’s added bulk as a moving shield, much to Twilight’s annoyance. When she tried to bend over to grab snow to fling at Sunset, she fell and became stuck on the ground. Sunset joined her, but only because her laughter brought her to the ground.

It was worth getting pelted by an onslaught of snowballs.

When Sunset could breathe again, she helped Twilight to her feet, and immediately received a faceful of snow. Sunset thought about pushing her back down, but decided she had tormented Twilight enough for now. With the score even, they teamed up against the other girls, using one of the powdered dates as cover.

Their outing reflected the rest of their winter break together. They pelted each other with snowballs until the chill numbed every finger, then submitted themselves to further frozen torture by marching to Canterlot Park and sledding down the biggest hill. They would go separately and then in pairs, with Twilight managing to fall off at least once.

Clothes soggy and bodies freezing, they hurried back to Pinkie’s house to warm up with a roaring fire and hot chocolate. A simple routine, perhaps even monotonous; they had done this every time it snowed in the last two weeks, opting to see a movie or play laser tag whenever it hadn’t.

Sunset found pleasure in the simplicity of it. She had the one thing she had been missing her entire life: friends. It didn’t matter what they did, as long as they did it together. She found solace in the sanctuary of their company.

She sipped her cocoa. I’m being sentimental again. Of course, with Twilight leaning against her, it was hard not to feel something.

They were all gathered around the fireplace, reheating their fingers and faces; thick mugs of hot chocolate and marshmallows clutched in their hands.

Rainbow took a large slurp of hers and belched, ignoring the wrinkled nose Rarity made at her. “Pinkie, is there anything you can’t make delicious?”

“Haggis,” Pinkie said, narrowing her eyes. “Believe me, I’ve tried.”

“What’s haggis?” Sunset asked.

“Sheep intestines cooked in its own stomach,” Twilight said, turning green at the thought.

“And now I wish I hadn’t asked.”

“Ain’t nothin’ a little hot sauce can’t fix,” Applejack said.

Rarity scoffed. “That’s your answer for anything with food.”

“That’s proof that it works.”

Just then, Igneous, Pinkie’s father stuck his head in from the kitchen. “Pinkamina,” he drolled, “would any of thine friends care to stay for supper?”

“No thanks!” they all cried, scrambling to their feet. Anyone but Pinkie cooking signaled the time to leave.

Everyone gathered their stuff and headed out the door. The sun had begun to break through the clouds as it sank through the sky. The snow sloshed rather than crunched beneath their feet.

“Bye, girls!” Pinkie waved them off from the porch. “See you at school!”

Applejack packed hers and Rarity’s things into her old pickup truck, while Rainbow did the same for herself and Fluttershy, roughly shoving everything into the trunk of her car.

"You two need a lift?” Applejack asked Sunset and Twilight.

“No thanks,” Twilight said. “It’s just a few blocks from the park.”

Rainbow rolled her eyes. “They just want time alone to make-out.”

Sunset crossed her arms and smirked. “Rainbow, if you’re jealous, just say something. I’m sure one of us would be happy to accommodate you.”

“I’m not—” Rainbow ended her sentence by flipping Sunset the finger. Sunset blew a raspberry, and Rainbow blew one back as she got into her car. Fluttershy sighed, perking up a little as she waved to everyone before getting in the passenger seat.

Applejack climbed into her truck. “All right, well, you two just get home safe now, ya hear?”

Sunset nodded. “Will do. See you tomorrow.”

“Ta-ta, dears!” Rarity waved, giving them a wink as Applejack pulled away. When they rounded the corner, Sunset slipped her glove into Twilight’s and they started down the road.

Other kids still played outside in the melting snow. A snowman bid the girls farewell as they passed by, his body sagging to the right with one of his arms raised in a final salute. Most of the ice had thawed off the roads, though it was still covered with snow, much of it black from the asphalt. It was probably safe for Sunset to ride her motorcycle again, but she’d wait a few more days just so Twilight wouldn’t worry.

Twilight pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “Do you think Rainbow is jealous of us? She comments on our relationship a lot.” Sunset could see Twilight’s breath as she spoke.

“Nah. She just likes to be funny. Or at least, attempt to be funny. If she really wanted someone, I’m sure half the boys on the sports teams would love to get with her. Some of the girls, too.”

“But she’s not gay.”

“I know, I just like to remind her.”

Twilight made a cute snort. “You two are terrible to each other.”

Sunset shrugged. “She started it. You know, if we’re not counting the actual terrible things I did to her.” She felt Twilight give her hand a squeeze. “Sorry. Force of habit.”

“You’re a good person, Sunset. We all know that.”

Sunset looked away, giving herself a chance to flex her cheek muscles before giving Twilight her most convincing smile. “You’re right. Thanks, Sparky.” The kiss Twilight gave her made her smile a little more authentic.

Still, it was a shallow reflection of her real emotions. She tried her hardest to never lie to Twilight. But how did Sunset tell her that she still had a literal demon haunting her from time to time; reminding her of her past failures and cruelties, reminding her what awaited if she slipped up at any moment?

Reminding her what would happen when graduation came, and everyone left.

Sunset avoided the conversation like the plague, knowing what Twilight’s answers would be. Sunset loved having Twilight’s support, but she didn’t want to hear more reassurances that she was good and that she had friends. Sunset knew she had friends, and maybe she was good now if her lack of a harmonic curse was anything to go by. But a few good deeds didn’t mean she couldn’t fall back into old habits. And it certainly didn’t make her future any clearer.

A little tug from Twilight told Sunset she wasn’t being discreet in her brooding. Twilight looked at her, sad eyes magnified by her glasses.

“I’m fine, really.” Sunset put on another smile. “You know I just think too much sometimes.”

Twilight lifted her glove and ran her thumb along Sunset’s cheek. “You always look sad or lost when you do.”

Sunset found herself leaning into Twilight’s hand. “You make a little pouty expression whenever you’re worried. It’s really cute.”

If the cold hadn’t already turned her cheeks red, Sunset’s compliment would have done the job. “D-don’t change the subject,” Twilight said, pulling her hand back.

“I’m not.” Sunset grinned. “The subject of this part of the conversation was how I looked at a particular time. You noted how I looked when I’m thinking, I noted how you looked when you’re worried. No subject change.”

“That’s…” Twilight pinched her nose. “Okay, you’re fine.”

Sunset took Twilight’s hand and they continued their walk. Keeping her thoughts and feelings closed became a challenge when Twilight learned to read Sunset’s facial cues. It was a rather impressive for a social introvert. Though Sunset guessed that wasn’t so much the case anymore. Twilight could be awkward at times, but she had come a ways from her first interactions with the group; the driving factor being to set herself apart from Princess Twilight Sparkle.

It had worked in Sunset’s eyes. She saw nothing of the princess when she looked at Twilight. This wasn’t the girl who had stolen Sunset’s apprenticeship, ruined her plans, then left her to languish in the human world. This Twilight, while annoyingly curious at times, had only been kind, caring, and optimistic, rooting for Sunset even when Sunset wasn’t rooting for herself.

They came to Twilight’s house, situated in what Sunset referred to as Suburbia, where every house looked identical save for paint colors and personal touches. They were all organized in perfect rows with perfect lawns (even in winter, they were uniformly dead) and perfectly paved streets. An unnerving shudder always ran up Sunset’s spine when she walked through it.

Twilight’s house was light blue with a small fountain on the porch as its mark of personality. Sunset thought the porch itself carried a curse, as every time she and Twilight stood poised to kiss, something went wrong. Granted, the first time had been her own fault, but after that, they were either interrupted or Twilight, with the girth of her snow jacket, would lean forward too much and topple Sunset over.

This trend didn’t go unnoticed by Twilight either. She bounced on her heels, looking eagerly at Sunset, then nervously at the door.

“Think we can get away with it this time?” Sunset asked.

Twilight didn’t respond. She just closed her eyes and stood on her toes. Just as Sunset leaned down, lips puckered, the door opened and Twilight’s father walked out, pausing mid-step.

Sunset looked at him from the corner of her eye, lips still puckered. “Hello, Mr. Night Light.”

“This is statistically impossible,” Twilight muttered.

“Caught in the act again, Miss Shimmer,” Night Light said, trying and failing to sound serious. “I thought I told you to stop kissing my daughter in public.”

“Can’t help it, Mr. Night Light, she’s just so pretty.”

Twilight hid her melting face behind her hands.

Night Light smiled in satisfaction. “You always know just what to say, don’t you Sunset?” He stepped aside and gestured to the open door. “All right, get inside before you two freeze to death. I’m off to pick up dinner. Are you going to stick around, Sunset?”

“Oh no, I’m just here to drop Twilight off.”

“All right, but you’re missing out on some good Chinese food,” he said as he walked out to the car.

Twilight ushered Sunset inside and shut the door before peeling off her coat and boots. Spike rushed over before she could even finish, pawing at her leg until she picked him up. “Heehee, I missed you too, buddy,” she giggled as Spike licked her face.

Sunset unzipped her jacket but kept everything on. A hello to anyone else home and a kiss to Twilight, then she would be on her way. She followed Twilight to the kitchen, where Shining Armor and Cadence sat at the counter, stacks of envelopes between them.

“Good evening, Sunset,” Shining said cordially, though like always, there was that underlying tone of ‘I’m watching you’, only it wasn’t a joke like Night Light’s.

“Officer,” Sunset said with a dip of her head.

“Detective.”

“Right, sorry.” Sunset had almost forgotten about Shining’s new promotion. As impressive as it was, it almost took a backseat to the other news he and Cadence had shared with everyone.

Speaking of which…

As soon as Sunset turned, she was met with a full body hug from Cadence. “Sunset, how are you, sweetie?”

“Suffocating.” Cadence let go, allowing Sunset to breathe. She gave Cadence an annoyed look, but it bounced off her impenetrable cheery demeanor. While Sunset was on good terms with this world’s Cadence as opposed to her pony princess counterpart, she still hated surprise hugs.

Cadence pulled an envelope from the stack and handed it to Sunset. “Here you go, you get one of the first invitations.”

Sunset turned the white envelope in her hand. 'You’re invited!' was scrawled in elegant cursive across the front. “Wow, I’m kinda honored,” Sunset said.

Cadence made a quick gesture with her hands, her diamond ring catching the kitchen light. “Go on, open it.”

Sunset gently tore open the envelope and pulled out the authentic parchment within. White doves were printed in the corners, and the paper carried the hint of white roses. “Dearest friend,” Sunset read aloud, “you are cordially invited to the wedding of Shining Armor and Mi Amore Cadenza.”

Cadence clapped and jumped up and down. “Isn’t it exciting? This summer, me and Shiny are finally going to be married!”

“I’m happy for you both, really.” Sunset looked at the invitation again. “I’m just surprised you made these so soon. He only proposed, like, a week ago.”

“Oh, we started making wedding plans months ago.” Cadence showed off her engagement ring again. “We didn’t make anything official because I was waiting for Shining to give me the goddamn ring!

Shining squirmed in his seat. “I was waiting to see if I would get the detective position. Now we can actually pay for everything.”

Cadence draped her arms over Shining. “I know, you were being big and responsible.” She poked him in the chest. “But never keep a wedding ring from a girl who knows you’re going to propose to her.”

Sunset slipped the letter into her pocket. “I bet a lot of your fans must be heartbroken now.” Across Canterlot, Cadence was known on the radio as the Goddess of Love and Fortune.

“Oh, I’ve already gotten a few calls asking me to ditch Shining for them. But I wouldn’t trade my knight in Shining Armor for anyone.” She kissed him then added in a serious tone, “I also told them he was cop, so I doubt anyone will try anything.”

Twilight held Spike in front of her. “Don’t worry, we’ll have Spike on guard duty during the ceremony.”

Spike barked and wagged his tail.

With her greetings done, Sunset retreated back to the front door, escorted by Twilight and her faithful dog. “I get to be the maid of honor,” Twilight said with a happy squeak. “I can’t wait.”

Sunset rezipped her jacket. “Neither can I. I bet you’ll look amazing.”

Twilight’s smile grew a little hesitant. She opened her mouth to say something, but quickly closed it and smiled like nothing had happened.

“What is it?”

“Nothing.” Twilight shook her head. “Nothing important.”

Sunset gave her a skeptical eye, but let it drop. Guess we’re both guilty of keeping secrets today. She leaned down and pressed her lips against Twilight’s, giving them a gentle knead. Nothing more than that since Sunset knew Shining was watching from the kitchen. She did, however, move her hands down to Twilight’s waist.

Twilight finally pulled away, smiling too much to keep contact. She fixed her askew glasses and said, “Walk home safe, okay?”

“When have I ever not been safe?” She kissed Twilight again and stepped out the door. “See you tomorrow, Sparky.”

Sunset felt Twilight’s eyes stay on her until she was two houses away. She couldn’t help but wonder what Twilight had been about to say, but knew better than to pry. Twilight was an open book and would tell Sunset anything in due time.

The sun had fallen completely by the time Sunset got home. She was still in Suburbia, but it was the older half where the houses at least had individual designs. Hers in particular had a medieval tower sticking up off the side.

“Hello?” she called as she stepped into the spacious living room. Photos and tapestries coated every wall, giving Sunset a detailed account of her host family’s life. A delicious aroma wafted into the living room from the kitchen. Sunset’s mouth watered up as she imagined what Selena had cooked up tonight.

The first response was a jingling collar followed by the pitter-patter of paws against the hardwood floor. A little white dog with a brown mark around his left eye and a torn ear ran up to Sunset and started hopping on his back legs, wagging his tail.

“Hi, Spot!” Sunset cooed, picking him up and scratching his chin. “Did you miss me?”

Sunset had adopted Spot from Fluttershy's animal shelter. Like Twilight, Spot had been a terrible judge of character, liking the bitter, spiteful version of Sunset. In turn, Sunset found Spot to be the cornerstone of adorableness.

Making sure the living room was empty, Sunset put him down on his back and started scratching his belly, getting Spot to kick his leg in delight. “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? Who’s my little Spotty-wotty? Who’s the cutest—”

“Ahem.”

I knew I should have done this in my room. Sunset looked up from her coddling to find Trixie leaning on the banister with an impish smirk. Sunset straightened up and gently nudged Spot away with her toe. “That was my impression of you.”

Trixie’s smirk diminished a fraction. “One time.”

“All the time.”

She blew her bang out from in front of her face. “Whatever. Trixie has better things to do than argue with you. Dinner should be almost done.”

Sunset followed Trixie into the kitchen, breaking into a smile at the sight they had walked in on. Spatula in one hand, earbuds lost somewhere in her cascade of sky blue hair, Selena danced in front of the oven, singing one of Sapphire Shore’s songs under her breath.

She twirled, and her eyes fell on Trixie and Sunset. Selena jumped, her emerald eyes wide and her cheeks red. “Girls!” She took out her earbuds and switched her expression from surprised to stern. “What have I told you about sneaking up on me?”

Trixie raised a finger. “We didn’t sneak up on you, Mother. We just walked in.” Trixie took a seat at the island table. “Your dancing is getting better though.”  

Selena put her hands on her hips. “What do you mean ‘getting better?’ My dancing is fine, thank you very much.”

As Sunset approached the table, a large cloud of purple smoke exploded in front of her. Out of it stepped a tall man with sleek silver hair gelled back, and a silver goatee that curled at the tip. He wore a blue suit with a cape and hat, both purple and covered in stars and moons.

“Hello, family!” Artemis bellowed, flashing them all with his boyish smile. “I hope you’re all having a magnificent day!”

Selena glared at him, waving a dish towel at the remaining smoke. “Artemis, how many times have I told you not to teleport in the kitchen? You’re going to set off the smoke alarm.”

Artemis flinched at her scalding tone. “Sorry, turtle dove. Won’t happen again.”

“Mmmhmm.”

Artemis turned around and gave Sunset a one-armed hug, then swooped over to plant a kiss on Trixie’s forehead. “How was your last day of vacation? Do anything exciting?”

Trixie shrugged. “Lavender Lace went to get concert tickets for some new band and bought one for Trixie. Trixie’s heard them over the radio and they’re okay, she guesses. But Lavender said that her friend’s cousin went to a show and supposedly they’re much better live.”

“Exciting!” He looked over to Sunset. “And how was your eighth sleepover in two weeks? With the amount of time you spend outside the house, I’m starting to think you don’t want to stay with us,” Artemis pouted.

Sunset paled. “N-no, it’s not—I-I, we just, you know—”

Artemis patted her on the head. “I’m kidding, Sunny.”

Her guilt burned away, and she gave Artemis her usual annoyed glare which, as usual, went completely unnoticed. Sunset didn’t know why she bothered. A month of living with the Lulamoons should have made her used to their quirks and familiar teasing.

Force of habit I guess.

Selena came and set two dishes on the table: lasagna, one meat, and a smaller vegetarian. Along with them was a bowl of salad and some rolls.

One of the many perks that came from not living in an abandoned factory anymore was the amount of food Sunset now had access to. She sometimes wondered if Selena cooked this much to make up for Sunset’s previous living conditions, or if they always had a mini-feast for every meal.

Either way, Sunset helped herself to the steaming lasagna, ‘accidentally’ dropping a few pieces for Spot to lick up off the floor. The disapproving glare Selena gave her told Sunset she wasn’t being discreet, but Spot was happy, so Sunset wasn’t too concerned.

Dinner was never a quiet event with Artemis around. He enjoyed recounting one of his many adventures from his youth. He often tried to embellish them, adding extra bad guys, spike pits, or handicaps that he overcame. Selena, having been with him for most of these adventures, would correct him, though for some of his more ridiculous accounts, she would just smile and shake her head.

Since Selena enforced a firm ‘no magic’ rule in the kitchen, dishes were cleaned the old fashioned way. Sunset always helped, feeling it was the least she could do cover her free room and board. Once she finished, she headed upstairs to her room, Spot right on her heels.

When she had first came to this world, Sunset had been under the impression it held no magic, or at least so little of it, using or manipulating it proved impossible. Artemis (and to a much lesser extent, Trixie) had proven her wrong. There were a scant few who had magic in their blood and could wield it. As far as Sunset could tell, it wasn’t like Equestrian magic that could literally do anything if you knew enough and were strong enough. The magic of human world seemed to have a short range of powerful illusions to basic thaumaturgy.

Sunset entered her room, leaving the door open just a crack in case Spot wanted to weasel out. Her adopted bedroom was painted a soothing baby blue and had come with a desk, a dresser, and a nightstand, upon which sat a picture frame with ‘friends for life’ scribbled on it. A picture of the Spectacular Seven dressed in their gowns at the Winter Ball filled the frame. A small closet was off to the right of her bed, and the window across from her gave a view of the snowy streets.

Pulling off her sweater, Sunset looked at herself in the mirror hanging on the back of the door. A few months ago, if she had learned that magic sat under her nose, Sunset would have pounced on it, anything to reclaim her lost power and further her goals of revenge.

Now, as she looked into teal eyes empty of scorn and vindictiveness, the very thought of touching anything magical made her skin crawl. Sunset turned away from her reflection before anything else could rear its head.

“You really should have told Twilight everything that’s bothering you,” a squeaky voice said.

Sunset sat on her bed, taking Spot onto her lap, and glared at the little pink unicorn doll lying on her nightstand. It had a roll of duct tape running across its middle from when Sunset had tore it in half. Princess Twilight Sparkle was its name, and being the annoying conscience that nagged Sunset and told her to do the ‘right’ thing was its reason for existing.

Talking to it sat somewhere between insane and cathartic.

“Twilight doesn’t need me dumping all of my stupid problems on her,” Sunset said. “It’s not like she can do anything about them anyway.”

“But talking about it is still healthy. You should have an open relationship and talk about anything that’s troubling you.”

“Thanks, but I’m not going to take advice from a stuffed toy.”

Spot barked.

“That’s right, you tell her,” Sunset said proudly. She sighed and fell back against her blanket. “I’m a mess.”