Twilight winced as Sunset pulled her up. She leaned on her only constant through all this as she caught her breath. The world spun a little and her hand decided to notify her nervous system about just how unhappy it was with recent events.
“How’s your hand?” Sunset bit her lip and winced at the blackened and twisted appendage.
“It’s been better,” Twilight admitted. “Doesn’t hurt as much as the piano did, though.”
Sunset snorted, amusement tinged with concern. Twilight joined in. After everything they’d endured, the shared laughter in a field beneath a blue sky…
It was—for lack of a better term—magical.
Just being alive.
“Come on, Sparky. Think you can make it to the portal?”
“We’ve made it this far. I can take a few more feet.”
“That’s my girl.”
Twilight blushed, pulling gently away from Sunset’s supporting arm. It didn’t feel right. After a moment’s thought, she intertwined her undamaged hand with Sunset’s own.
Now that felt right.
Twilight smiled faintly. We survive all this madness… and all I want is to hold her hand.
Even across the infinite possibilities of what could be, she knew this was what should be.
“Any chance they’ll listen?” Sunset asked. Twilight couldn’t help but notice how tightly Sunset gripped her hand.
“I don’t know. I hope so. For their sake… and everypony else’s.”
Sunset nodded again, lost in thought. Twilight stared into her teal eyes glittering in the afternoon sunlight.
Her eyes are pretty when she’s thinking…
“I’m sure about one thing, though.” Twilight smiled. “Even if we didn’t get through to Stella… Aeon’s going to see things differently now. Getting even one of them to see the bigger picture… I’m sure it’ll help.”
“Twilight… she arrested me, even after you sacrificed yourself to save her. She tried to kill us.”
Twilight couldn’t help it. Maybe it was the emotional rollercoaster. Maybe it was just the surreal nature of the last few days. But she laughed again and sidled up to Sunset.
“I seem to recall someone else who once tried to kill me… and look how she turned out.”
Sunset froze for a moment and tried to pull away. Twilight didn’t let her go. Instead, she spun Sunset and gazed into the eyes.
“Don’t,” Twilight whispered. “Don’t go back there, Sunset. You’re a good person—a good pony—who made mistakes. You’ve seen what you could become. You came back. I’ve seen what I could become, and I turned my back on her.” Twilight clenched her jaw, remembering Sparkle’s words.
“I only learned about friendship because Celestia made me. You learned what friendship meant after destroying it.”
“I’m not finished.” Twilight cut her off with a squeeze of her hand. “You’ve come so much farther than me. Harmony itself accepted you. You became the person you were always meant to be. The person you always were inside. You were willing to die for me even when I didn’t know your name. And you know what, Sunset Shimmer?”
Sunset’s eyes sparkled with tears. She swallowed, barely able to hold Twilight’s gaze.
“That’s who I fell in love with.”
Only a few feet from the portal, Twilight kissed Sunset again. It was a gentle thing. Filled with forgiveness, with kindness, with empathy. Sunset hesitated at first and then responded in force, nearly crushing Twilight in her embrace.
Further words weren’t needed. Everything Twilight needed to say was in that kiss. Sunset’s complete and total acceptance was in that kiss.
It was a lot of things for one kiss.
After a lifetime and a second, they pulled apart.
Sunset’s eyes were wet with tears. She sniffled slightly as she wiped them away. Twilight used her good hand to get one she missed. Then, she offered her hand one more time. Sunset took it in an instant.
“Together?” Twilight asked.
“Together.” Sunset nodded.
They leaped through the portal.
As they landed, Twilight stumbled and let out a cry of pain. In an instant, Sunset was at her side, helping her keep her weight off of the damaged limb.
“Well, it’s about damn time you two showed up. Keeping that portal active wasn’t a cakewalk, you know,” said a familiar voice.
Sunset and Twilight jerked and looked up as the portal winked out behind them.
A pony sat lounging in Twilight’s chair around the Map of Harmony. She wore a singed black duster and a pair of flickering glasses. She also had a horn, an amber coat and two familiar teal eyes.
The wings threw Sunset off, though.
“Yeah, I could have hidden the wings, but there’s something to be said for style,” said the other Sunset Shimmer.
“Who are you?” Sunset demanded. “Where are our friends?”
“Oh, your friends don’t even know you’re back yet. I’ve locked this room in a temporal bubble just long enough for a little chat. Last time, Twi got to have a nice tea party with you newbies while I was doing all the winning.”
Twilight made the connection first.
“You’re… you’re Voyager Shimmer,” she whispered, taking a step backward. “What… what are you doing here? Is this some astral plane again or—”
Shimmer waved a hoof with a laugh. “Oh, no. Don’t worry. Twi told me what happened when you connected with the cube. You’re home in Equestria. Safe and sound.”
“So why are you here?” Sunset snapped. “We’re done! Our Talisman—”
“TPT” Twilight interjected.
“It’s still more science-y,” Twilight insisted.
“Whatever!” Sunset groaned. “It’s destroyed! The only other world we can access is Canterlot High!”
Shimmer’s laugh made both Sunset and Twilight jump.
“Oh, she was right! You two are adorable!”
Shimmer leaped into the air, did a somersault and landed with almost unnatural grace. “That’s why I’m here.”
“I don’t understand.” Twilight wrapped a protective wing around Sunset and almost fell over.
Shimmer glanced at Twilight’s wounded foreleg and tsked.
“Aren’t much for healing magic, are you?”
Her horn flashed and Twilight yelped in surprise. Then, she lowered her perfectly whole leg back to the ground, eyes wide with wonder.
“Moving on. Your little stunt?” Shimmer cocked an eyebrow. “That little friendship flare you sent out to the multiverse? It did a lot. For most, it was a nudge.”
Shimmer smirked… and then the smirk brightened into something more genuine. Despite that, Sunset’s counterpart looked… tired.
“For most. But to the Twilights and Sunsets? I can’t speak for all of them. Just me and… what’d she say to call her? Sparkle?” Shimmer licked her lips. “You reminded us of what we were. Why we were. More importantly… who we were.”
“And who are you?” Sunset narrowed her eyes. “You’re not gods—despite the wings.”
“I forgot how touchy I can get about wings. Look, it’s a side effect of ascending too many times.” Shimmer shrugged. “I’m Sunset Shimmer. And she’s Twilight Sparkle. Even after everything…”
“Uh… yeah?” Twilight’s brow furrowed. “Who else would you be?”
“A god. A destroyer. A savior. But it’s not about names or titles. It’s about identity.”
Shimmer turned and fired her horn at the Map of Harmony. In an instant, it changed to show a picture of Twilight and Sunset as ponies.
“In some universes, I end up with the Twilight from Equestria.”
The picture changed again.
“In others, the human one and I hook up.”
It changed as Shimmer listed them off.
“Sometimes human Sunset finds one of the Twilights.”
“I’ve seen universes where Sunset never jumped through the portal and she still ends up beside Twilight. In others, Twilight rules Equestria with her beloved student, Sunset. Sometimes, Twi loses me as a child, only to find me again as an adult.”
Shimmer’s smile widened as she restored the map.
“But in every one… it’s still us. Sometimes we fall in love. Sometimes we’re mentor and student. Sometimes we’re best friends. But the connection is always there. It’s always us.”
“Universal constants,” Sunset murmured.
“Universal constants,” Shimmer nodded. “You reminded us what that meant. So… we’re going to take some time off. Find a nice quiet corner of the multiverse. Maybe harass a few other ‘universal constants.’ Goddess knows we deserve a vacation…”
“Why tell us this?” Sunset asked. “Why come back for this?”
“To say… you made a difference. I don’t know what the Accord will do. I don’t care. But what you did mattered. Thought you should know.”
With that, Shimmer’s horn ignited. A portal of amber and violet energy shimmered into existence. On the other side stood Sparkle in her singed labcoat and glasses, smirking at the two ponies. But her eyes were softer now. Gentler.
They looked much more like the Twilight Sunset knew… and loved.
“Oh, yeah. Almost forgot.” Shimmer tossed something to Sunset and Twilight. Sunset caught it in her magic and stared.
It was the Talisman.
“But it was—”
“It’s ours,” Shimmer said with a little smirk. “Our original. We haven’t needed it in a long time. Since you lost yours… well, it seemed a fitting thanks.”
“But Sparkle told us the first thing about Voyaging is not to!” Twilight protested.
Sparkle’s expression warmed to an actual smile.
“You know it’s not all fun and games. But sometimes it can be worth it. We wanted to give you the choice.”
Shimmer made to step through the portal and paused.
“By the way, Sunset… why’d you go for the Princess?”
Sunset stammered, searching for an answer. “I… I dunno. She saved me?”
“Huh.” Shimmer shrugged. “I always liked the dorky one better.”
Shimmer rolled her eyes. “Sci-Twi, you twit. Seriously?”
Chuckling, Shimmer stepped through the portal and transformed into her human form. Just like Sparkle, she was in her mid-thirties, yet still somehow seemed ageless. Her worn leather duster trailed on the ground, and a violet ribbon bound her hair back out of her face. She looked just as likely to laugh as to pull a weapon. Sunset stared at the sheer confidence in her stride as she walked up to Sparkle. The portal stayed open long enough for them to see a laughing Sparkle playfully punch Shimmer on the shoulder. Shimmer held her Sparkle around her waist as the portal closed.
The magic in the room shifted as the time stop spell wound down.
Sunset turned to Twilight.
Twilight turned to Sunset.
And they both laughed until the tears came.