Among Memories

by Deathscar


Chapters


Chapter 1: More Than We Asked For

Sunset bounded towards school, humming to a song that had been stuck in her mind.

There was a time we couldn’t see

Past our differences

That separated you and me

And it left us on our own

As she strolled, she caught the distinct sound of leaves crunching beneath each step. Birds soared high about, chirping loudly so as to make their presence known. She scanned the scenery around her, spotting that the leaves on the trees had begun to turn orange, no doubt a sign that Fall had arrived. Squirrels and other small woodland creatures scampered on the ground, grabbing whatever fallen fruit they could. Fluttershy would be late for class if she saw these critters. She took a deep breath, feeling the cold crisp autumn air flow through her, bringing a large smile to her face.

Sunset made no effort to hide the fact that Fall was her favorite season. The air was cool yet not freezing. And the abundant color of orange was something she delighted in as well. Crossing the street towards her school, Sunset felt a slightly stronger gust of wind blow past her, causing her scarf to flutter lightly around her neck. She instinctively shot her arm up to hold it in place, and she felt the necklace that laid beneath.

Right, how did I forget. Underneath her orange scarf sat the necklace she had received from Camp Everfree. Reaching under the garment around her neck, she pressed her fingers tightly against the pendent, feeling the smooth outline of her cutie mark on it. The memories flooded back into her mind and she couldn’t help but smile.

It had already been two weeks since Camp Everfree had ended, though Sunset swore it was just yesterday they were on the bus home. They had been dismissed from school to continue their summer break, much to everyone’s joy. Sunset too, was looking forward to meeting up with her friends before school had started. However, Fluttershy soon cancelled on their only free day and they had decided that a sleepover with one friend missing would not be a sleepover at all. And before she knew it, two weeks had passed and she had not even met up with them.

Can’t wait to see what they’ve been up to. Sunset grinned at the thought of seeing Twilight, Applejack and the rest of her friends together once more. They had so much more to talk about and discuss, especially about their newfound… Superpowers. That was the only word that Sunset could think of to accurately described what they had received. Thanks to the necklaces they wore, they were each able to do things no other person could. It was amazing! It was magic. And Sunset was ecstatic at the thought of starting a school year with them.

She bounced up the school’s concrete steps, pushing over the glass doors only to see the hallways and foyer already filled with people. Their loud talking quickly overwhelmed the song she was singing in her mind. She strode past several familiar faces, returning the waving and greeting she received.

“Morning! Hey! Good morning to you too!”

The salutations didn’t stop once she had reached her locker. She continued to return every single one she got with a warm smile of her own. Despite it being, well, school, Sunset found the social interaction and thought of learning new things exciting. Well, as long as they don’t come with any magical creatures from Equestria. I’d like a normal school semester for once, she thought, pulling open her locker door and depositing her books.

“Sunset!” A familiar raspy voice called out to her, albeit softer than she was used to. Sunset turned, spotting Rainbow waving to her from the far end of the hallway. She waved back but before she could even gesture for her friend to come closer, Rainbow was already standing beside her, smiling. “Hey!”

“Wha-!?” Sunset jumped at the voice. She pressed her hand over her heart, panting. “Rainbow! Don’t do that!”

“Heh, sorry,” Rainbow said with a sheepish smile. She was dressed in a red jacket that Rarity had stitched last winter for their skiing trip, and a pair of blue jeans. Rarity was ecstatic that Rainbow had taken a liking to her clothes, though Rainbow seemed to have liked it too much, as Sunset never saw a change in her winter garments since.

“I see you still have your powers,” Sunset commented with a roll of her eyes as she undid her scarf and placed it neatly into the locker.

“Why?” Rainbow sped in front of Sunset, causing her to scream once more. “Did you lose yours?”

“Rainbow!” Sunset screamed, drawing the attention of several nearby students. “Stop!”

“Whoops, sorry. I always forget I’m super fast.” Rainbow zipped back, leaning on the lockers beside her.

“No, I haven’t lost my powers.” Sunset grumbled, closing her locker with a thud. She glanced down at the red necklace, though just as quickly she noticed that something was missing. Or more accurately: someone. 5 of them in fact.  “But where are the others? Not like you to come to school alone.”

“I didn’t, there they are!” Rainbow pointed to the group across the hallway. All of them looked fairly cross, especially Applejack.

Oh Rainbow, what did you do this time.

“Rainbow Dash!” Applejack screamed, causing the nearby crowd to dissipate in seconds. “You left us at your house! We waited for you and you just ran off!” She stomped her foot, scowling. Rainbow attempted to retort, but was caught in her own gigglefit.

Sunset stared silently at Rainbow before turning to her friends. “Glad to see all of you here again.” And once the others noticed her, their anger quickly dissipated. Pinkie pulled her into the girls and initiated one of her signature group hugs.

“My my Sunset.” Rarity pushed her away at arm’s length. “What are you wearing?”

Sunset glanced down at her outfit. It was a simple get-up she enjoyed in the cooler weathers of the year, consisting of a long-sleeved teal shirt and a pair of blue jeans. Maybe it’s my shoes? She lifted her feet, staring at the black boots that each had a yellow chevron on the front. She never found a need to change them, and it helped that they were extremely comfortable, fit for any of the four seasons. Out of all the shoes she had (and some that were bought for her by Rarity), this still remained her favorite due to its practicality.

Uh oh what is it now? She shot her head back up to Rarity with a worried smirk and furrowed brows. “Honestly, Rarity. I think I look pretty good. Plus this outfit is practical—”

“Oh no no no no, darling!” Rarity interrupted. “Your outfit is simply spectacular! I was talking about your hair!”

Sunset darted her eyes up, but only caught one strand of hair falling in front of her face. She swiftly tucked it back in order, grinning at Rarity once more. “Better?”

Twilight giggled, levitating an orange leaf out of Sunset’s hair with a swirl of her finger and bringing it in front of her face. “You know, when Rarity told the group to ‘wear fall’, I don’t think this is what she meant.”

Sunset's eyes grew wide and a blush started to grow on her cheeks. Her friends started to burst into laughter, only making the situation worse for her. She lifted her hand to cover her eyes, knowing Rainbow would never let her live this down.

“Oh Sunset,” a soft voice spoke just in front of her. “It’s okay. We just found it funny!” Sunset started to lower her hand at the comforting tone. She spotted Fluttershy reaching for her arm and her heart started to race. No! Wait, Fluttershy! She screamed in her mind. However, before the words could reach her mouth, she felt Fluttershy grasp her hand and immediately, she froze.

Her mind quickly filled with visions of Fluttershy’s life during the holidays. She saw the animal shelter just a few minutes away from school and the animals that all surrounded Fluttershy in hopes to get fed. However, the happy memories quickly dissolved, and she heard the terrible sobs that echoed from Fluttershy. The vision soon cleared and she spotted Fluttershy’s hand holding a dog’s paw. The dog was laying on a table as the shelter owner, Miss Constel, held a syringe in her hand. Sunset could feel the same sadness Fluttershy felt, and it was crushing her. Even in the vision, Sunset felt light-headed from the devastation in her heart, and her breathing grew shallow.

This was why Fluttershy cancelled. She spotted Miss Constel lowering the syringe towards the dog, and Fluttershy’s sobs grew into harsh wails. There was a voice, but amidst the chaos, she could not deduce who it was from.

Without warning, the scene changed once more. This time, Sunset immediately knew where she was. The butterfly wallpapers, animal shaped cushions and smell of flowers was a clear giveaway. She was in Fluttershy’s room. Fluttershy was seated at her dressing table, staring at the pendant that hung around her neck. Tears flowed from eyes, falling onto her skirt one by one. Sunset felt her reach for the clasp at the back of the necklace and instantly, she felt her heart fall.

No, please don’t do this, Fluttershy. She begged in her mind. The sudden realization doubled the sadness in Sunset’s heart, threatening to overwhelm her completely. Pull away. She screamed in her mind, but she could not act. Pull away! Once more, it called out to her but she found it far out of her control. Pull!

Fluttershy released her grip on Sunset’s hand, taking a step back into Pinkie’s caring hug. “S-Sunset, I’m sorry! I...I forget that you could—”

Sunset raised her left arm to stop Fluttershy from speaking. Cold sweat poured from her forehead and tears ran down her face. Her mind was a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions, though she wasn’t sure which ones belonged to her. The beat of her heart was so strong and quick, it felt like it would burst from her chest. Hoping to force some of the emotions out of her, she balled her hands into tight fists, but all it accomplished was making her arms painfully numb.

Rainbow, finally having processed what had happened, rushed over and held the trembling girl’s shoulders.

“Sunset? Hey! Sunset!” Rainbow called out to her, finally snapping the girl back down to Earth. Sunset shook her head, realizing the state that she was in. She glanced at Fluttershy, who had started to tremble in Pinkie’s comforting hug. Her eyes stared at Sunset in horror and fear.

Sunset had never seen someone look at her in such a manner since she had wore Twilight’s crown almost a year back. She opened her mouth to speak, but chose her next words cautiously.

“Fluttershy, you tried to take off your—” Sunset caught Fluttershy tensing up as she spoke. She saw her shut her eyes tight, and knew that she was focusing on a topic Fluttershy did not want to be on. “Nevermind. And hey, I’m… okay. It was nothing!” Sunset lied, wiping her tears away. There was a mixture of fear, sadness and confusion swirling in Sunset’s mind, rendering her unable to think. She attempted to stand, but her legs quickly gave way and she fell back into Rainbow’s arms.

“You sure? From the way you reacted and all, I could’ve sworn—” Applejack was quickly interrupted by a sharp gaze from Sunset. She didn’t need to be told what the daggers being stared at her meant, and quickly averted her eyes to the nearby concrete wall instead. “W-we should get to class.”

“Thanks, Rainbow. I think I can stand.” Sunset pushed herself up to her feet, feeling her legs shake violently. She moved towards Fluttershy, placing a hand upon her shoulder. Fluttershy didn’t react. Instead, she attempted to avoid meeting Sunset’s gaze. “I’m sorry. I didn’t… I didn’t mean to.”

Fluttershy nodded slightly before being pushed onto her feet by Pinkie. “There you go, Fluttershy! Back on your feet!” Pinkie chirped.

“Well, before we go back to class, I still haven’t helped Sunset complete her outfit.” Rarity spoke loudly, hoping to draw the awkwardness away from the group. Whipping out a hairband, she swiftly bundled Sunset’s hair into a long flowing ponytail, much like the one Sunset had after she transformed in Camp Everfree.

“Thank you, Rarity.” Sunset gave her friend a small smile, but the emotions behind it were anything but tiny. Rarity returned the expression with an understanding nod of her own, making sure to grasp her clothed arm and lead her towards the classroom. “What did you see, Sunset? Did something terrible happen?”

“Well, yes. Or… no. I don’t know.” Sunset took her seat. “Look, Rarity. I need some time to think about things alright?”

Rarity nodded without hesitation. “Absolutely, darling. We shall chat again at lunch.”

The morning classes were a blur to Sunset. She had found herself focusing not on the teacher, but instead on the scattered thoughts in her mind; memories of various events that had happened during, and after, Camp Everfree. Though not all of them were hers. She ran a finger across the pendant around her neck, tracing the edges of the sun that had been carved on it.

“Sunset! Hello! Earth to Sunset Shimmer!” Rainbow’s loud voice had finally broken through her daydream.

“Wha- Huh?” Sunset glanced around the classroom, noticing that she and her friends were the only ones remaining.

“Lunch time!” Pinkie beamed, clasping her hands together.

“Sunset, you okay?” Twilight sat beside her friend, watching her fingers repeatedly rub her necklace.

“Yeah…” Sunset allowed her hand to drop to her thighs. “Yeah, I’m okay. Come on, I’m starving.” Gathering her books, Sunset moved out the door, leaving her friends in the room giving confused shrugs to one another.

The lunch hall was abuzz with life. Students flooded into the room, grabbing food before taking a seat with their friends. It seemed every group still had their own favorite table, something that had not changed even with her friends. Sunset sat her tray down, taking a seat between Rainbow and Applejack. The smell of the veggie burger and fries filled her nose, causing her stomach to growl hungrily. Her friends had already begun to devour their food with gusto. That is, except for Fluttershy.

“Hey, Fluttershy?” Sunset asked. She waited, but there was no reply. “Fluttershy.”

“Hm?” Was the only word Fluttershy spoke as she pierced the tiny cherry tomatoes in her salad and forked them into her mouth.

“Is there something you want to talk about? Anything that might make you feel better if we-”.”

“No.” Fluttershy said with a frown and an angered glare. The sharpness of her tone made Sunset aware that she had hit a nerve. She opened her mouth to apologize, but two loud claps drew her attention away.

“Students!” A voice caused the noisy chatter in the cafeteria to silence completely. Sunset stood up, spotting Principal Celestia at the entrance with Vice-principal Luna beside her. “Welcome back to your first day at school! As you all know, fall has arrived, and with that, the Fall Formal!” Sunset glanced around the room, watching almost every head turn towards her. She shrugged, a coy smirk being her only reply.

Celestia cleared her throat, drawing the attention back on her as she continued, “I’m afraid I have some shocking news. We’re bringing this year’s Fall Formal forward a few weeks because someone wrote the month wrong on the event letter.” Celestia said through gritted teeth and glared at Luna, who stared back with an equal amount of malice.  “And so—”

“The Fall Formal shall occur this friday!” Luna finished Celestia’s sentence. As the words resonated through the hall, the cafeteria’s buzz immediately picked up once again. Some voices were filled with enthusiasm while others were more worried and unsure. Sunset heard several voices remark ‘how are we gonna get this done in time?’. Luna must have noticed as well as she continued, “now I know it’s a lot to ask from all of you-”

Rainbow leapt to her feet, screaming at the top of her lungs. “Are you kidding, vice-principal Luna!? We’re the Canterlot Wondercolts!”

The cafeteria erupted into an orchestra of ‘yeah!’

“We tangle with magic all the time! Organizing a Fall Formal in five days? Not only are we gonna do it! But we’re gonna make this the best Fall Formal ever! Right?”

Another chorus of ‘yeah!’ shook the cafeteria. Sunset watched, admiring the pure school spirit her friend displayed. She took a quick peek at Fluttershy, who was the only student Sunset could see not entranced by Rainbow’s enthusiasm. Her eyes were locked to her salad and she appeared completely lost in her thoughts. Sunset sighed and glanced back to Rainbow, watching her super speed to the front, cheering with the others.

“Who are we?”

“Wondercolts!”

“And what will we do?”

“Survive!”

Luna and Celestia grinned wide, nodding. “Well,” Luna continued. “We certainly are amazed by your school spirit! Starting today, you are all free to begin decorating the gym after class!”

This time there was no mistake, the cheers that erupted from the room were filled with only one emotion: joy. “The materials you need will be available in the gym and crafting rooms! We are sure you will all make this the best Fall Formal ever! Even better than last year's!” Sunset spotted Celestia sending an elbow into Luna’s shoulder, drawing an angry scowl from the vice-principal. Once more, all eyes were locked on her, though this time, they included the worried stares from her friends.

Sunset smirked once more. “I’ll try not to enslave all of you with mind control powers and destroy the Fall Formal. Again,” she joked. The cafeteria erupted in laughter and she retook her seat. Her friends were chuckling as well, giving her smacks on the back for a job well done. All, that is, except for Fluttershy.

Twilight moved closer, whispering, “you aren’t angry that they keep bringing that up? That… that you transformed into a...”

“Freaky she-demon?” Sunset gave a nonchalant shrug. “I guess I’m used to it. Everyone keeps bringing it up anyway, so I might as well play along.” She turned to Twilight with a smile. “Plus, if that didn’t happen to me, I wouldn’t have met these girls and changed my horrible attitude. So I guess it’s a part of me.”

Twilight could only smile back as she sat upright once more, grasping the necklace tightly in her palm and whispering under her breath, “a part of you…”

“So, ya’ll still got after school activities?” Applejack asked.

“Still captain of the football team!” Rainbow bragged, pointing to herself. “And the baseball team. Tennis. Soccer.”

“We get it, Rainbow Dash.” Applejack scowled.

“Hey, you’re the one that asked! And I got track and field training today too.”

Applejack rubbed her temple, taking a breath to calm herself. “Anyone else wanna chip into this conversation?”

“Well, I’m going to start baking treats for the Fall Formal! It’s going to be so much fun!” Pinkie clapped her hands together, shaking in her seat.

“I’m... just going to head back.” Fluttershy muttered, letting her hair fall over her face.

“Wait, you aren’t going to help at the animal shelter?” Rarity inquired, but Fluttershy only replied with silence.

“What’s wrong, Fluttershy?” Twilight leaned across the table, helping Fluttershy tuck her hair away from her face and neatly to the side.

The heartbreaking vision quickly lept into Sunset’s mind, and she quickly jumped into the conversation. “I’ll help set up for the Fall Formal. I mean, after what happened last year…”

“Aw Sunset, that ain’t your fault.” Applejack tried to comfort her, forgetting about Fluttershy’s situation completely.

“She’s quite right, it was out of your control. And you’ve worked so hard and saved this school three times and counting!” Rarity spread her arms to the sky, as if she was reciting a story to the heavens.

“Thanks girls, but I still want to help make it special, instead of sitting by and watching. It’ll be a good experience for me.” Sunset grinned, finished her meal.

“Once I’m done with track and field, I’ll come and help! And with this.” Rainbow pulled the necklace taut with her thumb, watching it glimmer and glow with a soft blue hue under the cafeteria lights. “We should be able to get things done in a day, maybe two.”

“I’ll see if I can help tomorrow once I’m done with my chores back home.” Applejack offered. “With my strength I should be able to do some of the heavy lifting.”

“Me too! I’ll help out tomorrow! I want to see what a CHS school event is like!” Twilight beamed. “Considering you six won’t stop talking about it.”

A nervous laugh escaped from each of their lips, except for Fluttershy, who whispered silently under her breath, “I miss Tiberius.”

“Tiberius?” Sunset repeated, catching the girl off-guard. “Who's Tiberius?”

Fluttershy anxiously glanced to her friends. “N-no one!” She defended.

“Ooo, is it a boy?” Rarity nudged with a wink, but Fluttershy responded with a deep frown.

“Whoa, Fluttershy. You’re getting together with a guy already? Talk about a shocker!” Rainbow slammed a fist on the table, grinning.

Fluttershy gathered her things, standing up. “I’m going back to class.”

“Sounds good, actually.” Sunset stood, grabbing her tray. She quickened her pace to match Fluttershy’s and spoke in a soft whisper, “Fluttershy about what happened between us at the hallway…”

“Please, Sunset. Just let it go.” Fluttershy said, exasperated.

“But your necklace—” Sunset glanced at Fluttershy’s pendant, watching it glow with a soft pink and yellow hue.

“Is mine. And I get to decide what I want to do with it. So please Sunset, would you mind just not butting in?”

“I-I just want to help you.” Sunset’s words fell with sorrow.

“Don’t.” The word stopped Sunset in her tracks. She allowed Fluttershy to walk by her and empty her tray at the return area.

“Sunset? You stopped out of nowhere,” Twilight said, spotting the crestfallen expression Sunset wore. “Hey, what’s going on?”

“Nothing,” Sunset answered, placing her tray on the return rack before exiting back to class.

Sunset had spent the rest of the school day staring out the window. The notepad that sat in front of her remained empty, with not so much as a pencil line being written upon it. Occasionally, Sunset would dart her eyes across class to Fluttershy, who seemed even more distracted than she was. Once the final bell had rung, the students swiftly emptied the room and her friends went about their separate ways, leaving Sunset and Rainbow behind.

Rainbow raced to the exit, dressed in her gym attire. “See you later at the gym?”

“Yeah!” Sunset zipped up her bag, slinging it behind her. “We could use any help we can get.”

Rainbow gave a thumbs up as her reply, disappearing in a blink of an eye. Sunset was silent as she walked. Fluttershy’s vision kept popping in and out of her mind at random. She pushed open the doors to the gym and walked in, seeing that it was already filled with people. The arts club had already begun cutting the letters for the banners, while Vinyl and the audio team prepared the maze of wires and soundboards at the side.

Sunset scanned the room, hoping to spot someone she could work with. She soon caught sight of  Flash Sentry, who was kneeling over a large banner with a paintbrush in his hand. She strolled over. “Want some help there?”

Flash turned and, spotting who it was, grinned wide. “Sunset! You’re just the person I needed.”

Sunset glanced over his shoulder, seeing that only two minute strokes of brown had been drawn on the fabric. What’s more, she noticed that he was oddly alone. “Umm, where’s your band? Don’t they usually help you?”

“Ehhh,” Flash ran a hand through his hair. “They’re catching up on their homework. They can’t risk failing another subject.”

She quickly sensed something was wrong in his tone. “You sure? Anything happened?”

Flash dropped his brush into the paint can. “There’s really no getting past you is there? Even back when we were dating. Look, it’s not something I wanna talk about right now. So can we just work on the banner? I’ve been trying to do this alone.”

“Well then lucky you,” Sunset swiped a paintbrush from the pile, sitting across him. “You got me to help. So we’ll be done in an instant.”

Flash gave a scattered chuckle. “I… don’t know, Sunset. It is a huge banner. Maybe we should wait for the others.”

“Rainbow’ll be coming in an hour or so, give her some time.” Sunset twisted her head left and right, trying to figure out what the two lines were supposed to be. “So, urr… is this your take on a fish? Or maybe snakes?”

“Actually, I was hoping to draw a tree. You know, because Fall and all.” Flash swished his brush towards Sunset, sending brown paint flying onto her nose. “Sunset! Sorry! I forgot-”

“It’s fine,” Sunset chuckled, wiping the paint off with the palm of her right hand. “Well, let me help. Rarity taught me a few things about drawing…”

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“And there!” Sunset took a step away from her banner, staring at the result of her efforts. The large banner read ‘FALL FORMAL DANCE’, in a beautiful, bold font. Two autumn trees flanked each side of the text, while falling tangerine-colored leaves scattered the background.

“Have to admit, Sunset. That might be the best banner this school has seen for a Fall Formal yet.” Flash grinned, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

“Hmm…” Sunset glanced up at the clock, noticing that three hours had passed since they had started. “Strange, Rainbow said she’d join us.”

“Knowing that girl? She probably went home and crashed instead.” Flash shrugged.

Sunset tapped her finger against her chin. “I guess…” In a way, Flash was right. Those who didn’t know Rainbow well, would have assumed the same thing. But Sunset knew Rainbow better than most. She knew that Rainbow would never go back on her word, especially on a CHS event. She was practically the embodiment of Canterlot High’s school spirit.

Something’s not right… Sunset rubbed her chin, attempting to think of a reason, but none came to mind. Better text her on my way home.

“I’m gonna head home for some rest. Great job, Flash!” Sunset raised her hand for a high-five. Flash smirked, slamming his palm against her’s. But just as he did, Sunset froze.

And she knew she had made a mistake.

Her mind and thoughts were overwhelmed with Flash’s. Sounds of screaming and shouting filled her ears. And soon, images of Flash’s band members appeared in her mind. She stood in the band room of Canterlot High, with Ringo, Flash’s keyboardist, and Brawly Beats, Flash’s drummer, yelling at the top of their lungs. The rage Sunset felt in Flash reminded her of her stint as the school bully a year back.

“This isn’t just your band Flash!”

“I never said that it was!”

“Then agree to change our name!”

“Why!? I’m the lead singer! And guitarist!”

“Oh yeah? Well if you’re so great, then jam without us!” Brawly and Ringo stomped out of the room.

“Fine! We’ll see how far you guys get! I’ll just play on my own!”

Sunset could feel Flash’s negative emotions start to overwhelm her. Pull away! The voice in her mind once again screamed at her, cutting through the argument. Pull! Sunset tore her hand away from Flash, falling onto the floor.

“Sunset, did you…” Flash stared at his own hand in horror. “You… You tricked me? Sunset, I told you I didn’t want to talk about it!”

Sunset pushed herself onto her feet, her mind still trying to separate Flash’s thoughts from her own. Her legs shook immensely, threatening to send her hurtling back towards the ground. “F-Flash, I didn’t… I didn’t mean to,” Sunset stammered out, taking a step forward, but Flash took a step back instead, anger crossing his eyes.

“I-I’m gonna go.” Flash leaned down and rolled up the banner haphazardly. “Go wear gloves or something, so you can stop poking into people’s private lives,” he bitterly spat the words at the girl before stomping off.

“Wait! Flash! I’m sorry! I… I didn’t…” Sunset felt a rush of sorrow fill her heart. First Fluttershy? And now Flash too? And soon, a rush of voices filled her ears. Her eyes scanned the room, and every single set of eyes were locked onto her. However, unlike the cafeteria, their stares seemed to be scanning her. Judging her.

Hating her.

“She used her powers on Flash?”

“Why would she do that?”

Sunset grasped her head, hoping to drown out the gossip and whispers. No, don’t listen. They don’t know.

Don’t touch her, she’ll just invade your privacy.”

“I thought she was good, maybe Tangerine was right”

Tears welled up in her eyes. I am good. I’m not like I was. I promise. Please… .

“Who does she think she is?”

“Better stay away from the freak.”

“Her friends must hate her.”

That was the last straw. Run. Sunset summoned the rest of her strength and tore through the air and out of the gym. Tears were rushing down her face, and the thoughts in her mind were in chaos and disarray. She did not know where she was headed to, but she did not care. All that mattered was that she was away from the hurtful words. Away from the intruding thoughts. Her legs carried her down the hallways, until she stood alone.

Sunset wrapped her arms around herself, sobbing softly beneath her fringe. She attempted to drown out the thoughts with her own happy memories of Camp Everfree, of her friends, but it did little to silence the deafening voices. She strolled slowly past several familiar doors. Taking a breath, Sunset looked around, instantly recognizing the way the lockers were placed and the rooms around her. Her mind clicked, and she focused her thoughts on one specific place. A place that could bring her the silence and peace she so desired.

I know where I can go.

Taking several turns down the maze of stairs and studios, Sunset spotted two large green doors in the distance. Just a little bit more Sunset. Music room is just up ahead. She attempted to find some comfort in the words. Her instinct told her to run for it so that she might finally get peace, but with how violently her legs shook, she found it impossible to take more than a few steps at a time.

As she approached the doors, a sound from the inside caught her ears. The closer she got, the clearer the noise became. There was no doubting it in her mind: it was crying.

Someone’s in the band room? Sunset sighed at the thought. She was in no mental state to deal with a stranger. Especially one that was in tears. Her mind told her to go home instead, but the more she listened, the more she recognized the voice coming from inside. She closed her eyes and focused, finally identifying the sobs.

Rainbow!? Sunset’s eyes shot open. She quickly wiped her tears and stifled her own sobs. Raising an arm, she knocked on the door.

“Go away!” Rainbow’s voice screamed from the other side. “Room’s occupied!”

“Rainbow?” Sunset called back, hearing the crying suddenly cease, instead replaced with a rapid series of ‘uhhs’ and ‘umms’. “Rainbow, I’m coming in.”

Sunset pushed open the doors, spotting Rainbow holding Rarity’s keytar, still dressed in her gym clothes. Her eyes were red and puffy, and the smile she wore was even more plastic than the instrument in her hands.

“Hey! Just… Doing some evening practise. Never know when you might need to play an awesome rocking song!” Rainbow increased the size of her false grin, quickly wiping away a stray tear.

Sunset locked the door behind her, grabbing the keytar and setting it down. “Rainbow, what happened?” She almost grabbed her friend’s arm, but quickly stopped herself. Instead, she sat at the steps to the stage, gesturing her friend to join her.

Rainbow sighed and collapsed onto the steps, hands covering her eyes. “This is the problem.” She tugged against the pendant around her neck with force.

“What?” Sunset reacted in horror. Just like Fluttershy? She placed a hand over her friend’s shoulder, making sure not to touch any bare skin.

“At track today, I ran as I usually would. And got first place in all the timings, as usual,” Rainbow spoke those words like poison, taking shallow breaths in between them. “But instead…”

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“First place! Aw yeah!” Rainbow ran forward and pumped her fist into the air.

“Cheater! Coach! She cheated!” One of the runners, a young blue haired boy, pointed towards Rainbow.

“What!?” Rainbow screamed. “You better have some proof on that!”

“It’s because of that super speed she has!” Another runner, a second boy with green hair, caught up, joining the accusations.

“I… I didn’t!” She stomped her foot, feeling the anger in her rising rapidly. Shooting her hand up to her neck, she pointed to the pendant. “I’ll take this off and I’ll beat you all the same!”

“How do we know you can’t use the power without the necklace!? Huh?”

“Yeah, any advantage is still cheating! And you can’t prove you aren’t running just a second faster!”

Rainbow gritted her teeth and clenched her fist. It was an anger management technique Applejack had taught her, though right now, socking the two boys in the face seemed like the best anger management technique available.

“Coach, you aren’t gonna believe them right? You’ve seen me run! I’m always first!” Rainbow looked at the tall, muscular man who jogged to the scene. Coach Vel was CHS’s most trusted physical teacher. He led both the soccer and the track & field team. And though he was tough, Rainbow held nothing but respect for him.

“You two, get.” Coach Vel gestured to the two accusers to run off. Once they had gone out of sight, he walked up to Rainbow. “Rainbow, as much as I hate to admit it. They have a point.”

No…

“With your new abilities, I can’t let you on the team. With no real way to determine when you are or aren’t using your powers, you could get the whole team into trouble for cheating.”

Rainbow felt her heart drop. All the anger had vanished in an instant, replaced instead by anguish and heartache like she hadn’t felt before. She unclenched her fist, allowing her hands to drop limply by her side. The thought of being unable to play her favorite sports for CHS was far too much for her to bear and she soon felt her pride and motivation wither away. “But... maybe we could... I-I don’t…” She opened her mouth to argue, but found that every point she thought of only reinforced Coach Vel’s suspicions. He’s right…

“I’m sorry, Rainbow. I know how much this means to you and I wish there was another way.”

“I… I understand coach,” Rainbow muttered, hanging her head low. Tears began welling up in her eyes, obscuring her vision. She turned around trying to gather as much of her composure as she could.

“Yeah! CHS has no room for cheaters!” One of the boys shouted from a distance.

“Guys! Enough!” Coach Vel bellowed out, silencing the two. However, the words stuck to Rainbow’s heart like thorns, causing her unbearable pain. In an instant, she had disappeared from the stadium, leaving only a trail of dust in her wake.

----------

“And that’s why you didn’t come to help.” Sunset’s eyes opened wide in revelation. “Rainbow, I… I’m so sorry.” She pulled her friend into a hug.

Rainbow cried harshly into Sunset, tears pouring from her eyes. Through staggered breaths, she spoke, “do you think I cheated?”

“No.” Sunset answered without a second though. “I know you Dash. You’re competitive, but you don’t cheat. You never would.”

Rainbow did not reply, only continuing to sniff and sob.

A few minutes later, Rainbow’s cries were fewer and slower. Sunset held her at arm’s length, smiling. “Feel better?”

“Yeah…” Rainbow nodded and smiled back. “Thanks. Though what about you? What’re you doing here?”

The memory of the incident at the gym and at the hallway rushed back into her mind. She felt her heart buckle under the pressure and a lump formed in her throat. “It’s… this too.” Her index finger lightly tapped on the necklace. “I keep seeing visions I don’t want to see. Feelings emotions I don’t want to feel.”

“Like Fluttershy’s.”

Sunset nodded, letting the necklace fall against her chest. “Fluttershy tried to take off her necklace.”

“What!? But... Fluttershy loves her powers! She wouldn’t give them up.” Rainbow watched as Sunset wiped her tears away.

“Something happened with Fluttershy. I know why she would.”

“What? Tell me, Sunset. I can help her.”

“No, she doesn’t want help.” Sunset hugged her legs to her chest.

“That’s not, Fluttershy!” Rainbow angrily scowled. “I’ve known that girl for years! We’re all best friends! Sunset, you have to tell me what’s going on! I can help you both!”

“I’m sorry, Rainbow. But Fluttershy made it clear to me that she’d rather do this alone, and I think I angered her trying to do otherwise.”

Sunset’s sorrowful tone told Rainbow that her friend was not joking. She did not like to be kept in the dark. And even though she trusted Sunset to know what she was doing, anger still burned in her. The two sat in silence for a few moments before Rainbow spoke once more, “hey Sunset? I’m gonna take a slow walk back. I wanna think about some things.” Rainbow stood up, grabbing her bag. She took a deep breath, managing to calm the rising ire. Deep inside, she knew Sunset would never willingly hurt or hide things from her, and if she did, she had a good reason for it. “You coming?”

The logical thing to do would have been to head home as well. It made sense, and having company on the way back would have made it easier to deal with the emotions she was experiencing. Especially now that Rainbow was the only person she could talk to regarding it. Yet, despite all that, Sunset shook her head.

“I need to think things through too. But... alone. You head back first.” Sunset gave a broken smile to her friend. Rainbow nodded, forcing a smile as she waved goodbye.

“See you tomorrow, Sunset.”

“Mmhm.” Sunset acknowledged. She forced a smile as well, giving Rainbow a small wave in return. Seeing Rainbow smile, even though it was forced, felt like the only thing that gave her the comfort she needed in the state she was in. To know that at least one friend was still on her side, even attempting to cheer her up, granted her a moment of peace in a storm of chaotic feelings and thoughts.

Rainbow strolled to the door, but just before she left, she turned, speaking once more, “maybe… taking off these necklaces isn’t such a bad idea after all.” Sunset did not reply, her gaze locked onto at the floor beneath her feet. Rainbow turned back to face the door, sighing. “I just want things to go back to the way they were.” She pushed the doors opened, disappearing from view.

Rainbow’s words echoed in Sunset’s mind. She wanted to reply to Rainbow, but could not find the strength or words to do so, even after she had left. Staring at the orange pendant around her neck, only one thought filled Sunset’s mind. I do too.

Taking a breath, she started to sing in a shaken, broken voice,

“So we had magic

And at first it was great

Cause when it found me

I thought it was fate.”

Sunset stood from her seat and made her way to one of the windows at the back of the room. It was one of her favorite views as it provided unobstructed scenary of the hills in the distance. Though what made it truly special, was the sight of the sun slowly falling behind them, painting the sky a soft orange. Sunset loved this time of day, as the light was bright, yet not glaring. And it still seemed controlled as it shone. On any other day, she would be smiling from ear to ear, but instead, she sighed once more, grasping the pendent tightly in her hand.

“But it all seems scary now

I don’t know what I should do

Well I tried to embrace the magic

But all it did was hurt me too.”


Chapter 2: When We Lose It All

Her mind had wandered away once more.

Sunset had lost count on how many times this had happened on her walk to school. When it seemed like she had gotten control of her thoughts, they drifted to another topic, followed by another. First to Camp Everfree, then to the incident with Flash and Fluttershy just yesterday. But no matter what topic she was on, one thought rang again and again.

They were right. I shouldn’t be able to invade the past of my friends.

She stared down at the gloves that covered her hands. They were made of a flexible leather, which although it did not restrict her movements by much, still proved uncomfortable and warm. It did not match her pink, long-sleeved dress or her white jeans. However, this was the only pair she owned, and it was one that made sure she was not going to see any other visions by accident again. Her mind jumped back once more to the scene with Flash Sentry yesterday. The way he stared at her, like she was a monster or an alien, was burned into her mind. It was the same stare everyone gave her in the gym just moments later. She felt like she belonged in a zoo, to be studied, not a student of Canterlot High.

I can’t control it. I don’t know how to.

A loud horn scared Sunset out of her dream. She glanced around, realizing that she had stopped in the middle of the crossing towards her school. Raising a hand of apology, she sprinted forward, stopping once she had reached the main doors.

Upon entering, Sunset made her way to her locker. However, unlike yesterday, barely any of her classmates greeted her at all. She waved to the few that did, forcing a false smile, but found herself exhausted before long. Soon enough, she reached her locker and popped it open, grabbing a few books from inside. She heard the students that were crossing behind her, even though they were speaking in hushed whispers.

“That’s her, that’s the girl Tangerine said can look into your past.”

“Better stay away, unless you want your secrets exposed.”

Sunset felt the sadness and anger rise in her heart. She was contemplating running home, running away from it all. Were her friends worth all this humiliation? Before she could make her decision, a low, depressed voice called from behind her.

“Hey, Sunset.”

Sunset turned around, spotting Rainbow with her head hung low. “Rainbow, feeling any better?”

Rainbow’s only answer was a short sigh, though it told Sunset enough about her situation. “You?”

Sunset flicked her locker door shut and buckled the lock. Her eyes darted to Rainbow’s neck, seeing that the blue pendant still hung from it. There was a small sigh of relief in her heart, though it gave her little respite from the emotions threatening to crush it completely. “Same as you.”

“Guess we both need to think some things through.”

“Hoo wee!” A loud cheerful voice echoed through the halls. Applejack slung an arm around Sunset, smiling wide. “I just checked out the gym and it’s looking mighty pretty! Great job there, Sunset!” Sunset kept her mouth shut. Applejack’s cheerful, spirited voice only worsened the anger in her. She didn’t know why, though at this point her mind was in no shape to figure it out.

Seeing her friend’s unresponsiveness, Applejack stared at Rarity, Pinkie and Twilight, who merely shrugged back. “Right, well, Rainbow. How did track go?” Rainbow mimicked Sunset almost exactly. She didn’t utter a single word, instead closing her eyes and turning away.

“Okay what the hay is going on with you two?” Applejack pulled her arm away. “Usually Rainbow here would be bragging about how she got first place again, while you’d be asking us to help out for the Fall Formal!”

“Rainbow and I just ran into some... problems. Personal stuff.” Sunset spoke on behalf of Rainbow, who looked like she had been stabbed by Applejack’s unknowing reminder.

“Is it related to school?” Twilight hugged Sunset, who did not so much as budge.

“Sorta.” Sunset kicked her right foot forward, pretending there was a stone for her to focus on. “Look, we just want to work things out ourselves alright?”

“Alright, Sunset. Whatever you say.” Applejack nodded. “But you know that we’re here for ya, right?”

“Yeah, I kno—” Suddenly, something caught her eye that made her heart sink. Or more accurately: the lack of something. Fluttershy’s necklace was missing. She stared at the shy girl with her mouth open, but no words came out. Her eyes were wide in horror, and she thought of something to say, but only found one. “Fluttershy? Can I talk with you? Please?”

“I… I’d rather not,” Fluttershy shrunk herself down, hoping that Sunset would just forget about her existence.

“It’s important,” Sunset said, walking into the nearby storeroom. Fluttershy hesitated at first, but soon followed reluctantly. Sunset closed the door behind her, a concerned frown on her face.

“Where’s your necklace? Didn’t the others notice?” Sunset asked.

Fluttershy pressed both of her hands towards her chest in a tight fist. Glancing away from Sunset, she spoke in a apprehensive whisper, “they did, and I told them I left it at home. That’s all.”

Sunset knew it was a lie. She was the only one that knew what had happened, and Fluttershy’s recent silence, even more than usual, told her that she simply did not forget it at home. “Fluttershy, you didn’t just leave it at home. You shared your memories with me. I know what happened-”

“Then you know why I can’t wear it anymore!” Fluttershy’s sudden raise in volume took Sunset aback. “I can’t take it, Sunset! I can’t! I had to put down Rover!” Tears had started to pool in Fluttershy’s eyes. “I put down other animals before, but I never understood them while they were going through it!” Sunset stepped forward, opening her arms into a hug. However, Fluttershy swiftly took a step back, her words almost unintelligible through her sobs. “You know why I didn’t tell anyone? Because no one understands! Everyone loves their powers and they’ll keep asking me to put it back on! They’ll get angry! Just like you!”

Sunset stood stunned for a few seconds. Her mind replayed what Fluttershy had just said, and soon, something clicked. She found herself speechless when she realized who the voice in Fluttershy’s vision belonged to. It was the dog’s. It was… It was Rover’s. A few seconds of silenced passed between them, the only sound being Fluttershy’s weeps. “I’m not angry, Fluttershy. And I’m sorry I kept pestering you,” Sunset said, watching Fluttershy cover her tear-filled eyes with her hands. “I didn’t want you to take it off because... I just thought the necklaces were meant for us.”

“Maybe they were for you.” Fluttershy sobbed. “But not for me.”

Sunset did not mutter another word. She had heard the tone Fluttershy had used, one filled with malice, and knew that she had just deepened the wound. Both of them stood, muted, until Fluttershy’s sobbing started to slow. Sunset lifted her foot to take a step forward, but quickly placed it back down. Her instincts told her to bring Fluttershy into a hug, but a quick shout from the voice inside her mind quickly destroyed that idea. You’ll just make it worse. You heard what she wanted. Just leave her alone. She placed a hand on the door, staring at Fluttershy’s emerald eyes before darting away..

“Come on, our friends must be worried.” Sunset muttered softly as she pulled the door open, and immediately, the others surrounded her.

“We heard some shouting, are you two okay?” Twilight pulled a water bottle out of her bag, passing it to Fluttershy as Rarity held the sobbing girl softly. Using a napkin, she wiped away Fluttershy’s stray tears.

“Please tell me you two didn’t fight!” Pinkie’s hands were at her mouth, covering a worried frown. Rainbow and Applejack waited for an answer with crossed arms, but Sunset didn’t give one. She glanced upwards to Twilight with a troubled look.

Rainbow was the first to move off, anger radiating from each step she took. Sunset had noticed, and she wanted to raise her arm and shout to stop her. But what would you even say, Sunset? The thoughts kept her arms firmly to her side. Sunset stared at the gloves that covered her palm before dragging her feet towards class. “Come on, class should be starting soon.”

The notepad that sat in front of Sunset was mostly blank. The only word that was scribbled at the top read ‘Equations’ and nothing else. Not for me… Sunset sighed. It was then she realized that she was fiddling with the necklace, making a soft metal jiggling that, thankfully, only she could hear.

Just then, the bell rang, signalling lunch. Sunset followed her friends to the cafeteria and sat at her usual spot. All around her, she could hear many students whisper “there, that’s the one” followed no doubt by a point of their fingers. She attempted to ignore the comments, but found the emotions quickly pooling once more.

“Well, I have something that will most definitely cheer all of you up!” Rarity sung.

“Oh?” Applejack thought for a moment, but her eyes soon shot open in realization. “...Wait, Rarity, don’t tell me-”

“Yes! I am making dresses for all of us to wear to the Fall Formal!”

“Ooo, does mine have sprinkles?” Pinkie chimed in.

“Sprinkles? Well, if you promise not to blow up the dress…”

“Oh, well nevermind then!” she laughed, biting down on an apple. “I’ll put my own sprinkles if there’s leftovers from the baking I’m doing today!”

“What’re you baking this time?” Applejack asked.

“Cupcakes, snacks, biscuits. All for the Fall Formal!” Pinkie looked as if she was going to explode from the excitement.

“I’d really you rather not put sprinkles on your new dress, darling. Or the cupcakes. Especially ones that might burst.”

“Seriously Rarity? A whole new dress? It’s just the Fall Formal! We could just use the one you made for us at the Camp Everfree Crystal Ball two weeks ago!” Rainbow rolled her eyes and folding her arms.

“Rainbow Dash! That simply won’t do! Those dresses are far out of season and style, you need one with more...pizzazz! Plus, the Fall Formal Queen deserves a bright, stunning dress right?” Rarity nudged Sunset, who only stared in confusion.

“Fall Formal… Queen?”

“Yes, I have it written down here somewhere. Rarity was telling me all about it yesterday!” Twilight whipped her notepad out, flipping through the entries. “Let’s see… ah here it is! The students will elect a girl and guy to be the Fall Formal Queen and King respectively! The Queen will wear a tiara and dance with the King after they’ve been chosen!” she read out loud.

“What happened to Princess of the Fall Formal?”

“Apparently Principal Celestia and Vice-Principal Luna wanted to move away from what happened last year.” Applejack coughed, attempting to avoid the sensitive topic as much as she could. “So they’re giving both girls and guys a chance to be voted in starting from this year.”

Move away huh? Sunset sunk into her chair, crossing her arms with a frown.

“Regardless, I think we know who the Queen is!” Rarity’s eyes stared up to the ceiling, and her friends knew she must have been in one of her daydreams. “Sunset will be Queen and she will dance with the Fall Formal King, showing my beautiful dress for everyone to see!”

“Uh huh,” Applejack acted as if she was listening, but her focus was entirely on the slice of cake she was forking into her mouth.

“It’s not gonna be me.” Sunset knocked the tomato that sat in her bowl back and forth.

“Oh please, Sunset. It’s going to be you. And you can dance and hold hands with the King. Maybe even become a—”

“Wait, hold hands!?” Sunset felt her heart race once more. She dropped her fork and stared at her gloved palms, her breathing quickly becoming shallow.

“Well, yes. It would be quite hard to dance with your king if you’re not holding hands…”

“Rarity, I need… gloves for my dress. Evening gloves!” Sunset practically yelled at her friend, causing Twilight to stare at her with a raised eyebrow.

“Psh, evening gloves are so out of fashion and season!” Rarity flicked her wrist, knocking the suggestion aside. “If you must have armwear, I would suggest a simple flower circlet on your wrist. Or maybe-”

“No, Rarity. Gloves that cover my hands. Please, I need them.”

“Well,” Rarity dragged the word, hoping that someone would stop her. “Since you’re requesting it with such force, I suppose I could stitch together a pair,” she relented with a frown.“Though I still think it’s a bad idea.”

Sunset sighed in her heart, feeling a tiny bit of calm wash over her. “Thank you, Rarity.”

“Speaking of which, are you not going to take yours off? We’re having lunch, Sunset. It’s not cold in the slightest.”

Sunset clenched her fists tightly. “I just… think it’s better for everyone like this.”

“Better for everyone?” Twilight stared at Sunset in utter confusion, as if she was speaking in another language.

Sunset found no excuses she could give for Twilight’s question. She quickly gathered her plates on the tray and stood up. “Nevermind, forget I said anything. Let’s head back.”

“Wait, Sunset!” Applejack called to her, but Sunset did not stop. Fluttershy and Rainbow soon followed, leaving the four girls at the table, all of them with perplexed expressions on their faces. “Is it me, or does something feel off about them today?”

“Yeah. They didn’t even smile once!” Pinkie ran a hand through her hair.

“And gloves? What an odd request.” Rarity placed the empty cup on her tray.

Twilight did not say a word. Instead, her heart thumped with worry and she knew that something was dividing her friends apart. She sighed, whispering to herself, “Sunset, what’s gotten into you? Why won’t you talk to me?”

---------

A loud ‘ring!’ signalled the day’s end. Sunset stuffed the blank notepad into her bag before slinging it on her back. She attempted to slip out of the class unnoticed with the crowd, away from her friends.

“Sunset!” Twilight called. Sunset sighed, turning around. “You’re headed to the gym right? I’ll follow you. I actually can’t wait to get started on decora—”

“Actually, Twilight. I’m feeling a little tired, and I think I’m going to head home and rest.”

“Huh, Rainbow and Fluttershy said the same thing when I asked them…” Twilight lowered her head. “I’m not sure Applejack, Pinkie and I can get the Fall Formal ready in three days, even with everyone’s help.”

Sunset heard the genuine sadness and worry in Twilight’s voice. And she could not deny that setting up the entire event would be tough, even if every CHS student decided to pitch in. They had sound systems to test, furniture to set up, and tables to carry. Then she remembered the drinks Applejack was supposed to provide and the food Pinkie was supposed to make.

Even in the state she was in, Sunset could not bring herself to leave her friends to handle such a monumental task alone. Especially with the Fall Formal at risk. “Alright, I’ll… help a little.” Twilight’s head shot up upon hearing those words, a bright glimmer in her eyes. “But I might not be able to do much.”

“Even if it’s a little, it’s still help!” Twilight chirped and they begun their stroll towards the gym.

Once Sunset entered, she noticed that quite a bit of work had been done. The tables and chairs had finally been gathered and stacked to the side, while several banners of all types and colors hung from the walls. The stage had begun to take shape, with several amplifiers already laid in place. Several students were attempting to untangle the maze of wires that all led back to Vinyl’s soundboard.

As soon as she took a step in, she felt every student in the gym turn to stare at her. She tightened the gloves on her hands, pulling them as firm as she could. Stick to Twilight. She tried to remind herself. Ensuring that her friend was not more than a step away, she followed Twilight up to the stage, whereupon she spotted Applejack carrying a speaker on her shoulder. “Oh, Sunset! Good to see ya!” She slammed the speaker down with the others, wiping a few beads of sweat from her forehead. “Think you can help Twilight cut some of the letters we need for the banners?”

Sunset nodded. “Sure, Applejack.” She gave a few quick looks around, spotting the colored paper and scissors sitting on a table nearby. She picked them up, hearing a stray sentence spoken from a small distance away.

“Wonder whose memories she’s going to see today.”

You’re doing this for Twilight. For your friends. Sunset repeated the words like a mantra, trying her best to not run out of the door Twilight took one pair of scissors and several pieces of paper, smiling wide.

“Did you know that colored paper is also known as sugar paper?” Twilight waved an orange piece. “Because it was used to make bags that contained sugar!”

Sunset giggled slightly at Twilight’s random fact drops. It was an aspect of her that separated their world’s Twilight from the pony Princess version in Equestria, and one that Sunset adored. Twilight appeared so invested in the facts she was telling, regardless of how silly they sounded. The two girls took a seat on the smooth wooden floor near the window and began cutting out letter shapes.

Sunset grabbed a pair of scissors, slipping her fingers through the holes in the handle. However, as she tried to open the scissors, she found that her gloves restricted how far her finger could rise, rendering it impossible for her to swiftly trim the paper. “Ugh, can’t get the scissors to—”

“Take it off, Sunset.” Twilight snipped the side of a letter L.

“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.” Memories of what had happened with Flash and Fluttershy zipped by her mind, rendering her breathing shallow.

“Come on, Sunset. Do it for the Fall Formal? For me?”

I’m wearing them for you. Sunset had wanted to argue, but figured that the quicker she could get the job done, the quicker she could leave and minimize the risk of hurting her friends. She placed the scissors down and stared at the gloves. Taking a deep breath, she undid the straps at her wrist and slowly slid them off. Her hands were damp with sweat, though it was no surprise. The school was well heated for fall, and combined with the snugness of the leather, it made her hands uncomfortably warm. Once they were off, Sunset sat them close by her side, ready to grab them should she suddenly need them.

“There, now you should be able to match my speed. Though I wouldn’t bet on it,” Twilight said playfully.

“Well, this isn’t a competition. Let’s just cut what we need so… so I can get home.”

Sunset’s reply was not one Twilight expected. Even though she wasn’t as competitive as Rainbow and Applejack, every time she posed a small challenge to Sunset, Sunset would pounce on the opportunity to beat her. Twilight refocused on the next piece of paper, wondering what she could do to get Sunset to speak.

The next ten minutes passed by mostly in silence. Twilight would pose a question or a topic, but Sunset would just as quickly shut it down. Even if Sunset did reply, it would only continue on for one more sentence before the silence overtook them again. Twilight racked her brain, attempting to find more topics for conversation.

“So, who do you think the Prom King is going to be?” Twilight placed an orange letter ‘F’ in between the two of them.

“Doesn’t really matter, because I’m not going to be Queen anyway.” Sunset pulled her legs closer to her chest.

“What’re you talking about? You’re the most popular girl in CHS!”

“Not anymore,” Sunset replied grimly. She reached over to place her finished letter on the pile, but felt the scissors slip from her sweaty grip and land on the floor with a loud ‘thud’. Without thinking, both girls reached over for the dropped pair and Sunset felt Twilight’s hand land on hers, freezing her in place.

Twilight’s memories flooded her mind, and she saw Twilight walking towards CHS. Judging from the orange leaves that pooled on the pavement, Sunset deduced it must have been from either yesterday or today. Twilight was strolling, her eyes locked onto the books that she was hugging tightly against her chest.

“Oh well, look who it is. The girl from Crystal Prep Academy.” The fear that Twilight felt, Sunset could feel as well. In fact, the emotion was so strong, Sunset shivered at the voice, though she did not know why that was. Twilight turned her head up, spotting a girl with yellow hair staring back at her. Sunset had seen that girl before, but the only thing she knew was that she was a senior and not part of the same class the rest of her friends were in. “Word around school is that you and your friends got some interesting new powers.”

Twilight tightened the grip on her books. She looked away, adjusting her glasses. “N-nice to see you again, Tangerine. And w-w-well, d-don’t believe everything you hear around school,” she said nervously. Twilight attempted to walk forward, but the girl quickly cut her off.

“Do you think you can just walk away from Tangerine Citrus like that? You and your friends must think you’re all so special!” The girl’s nasty tone made Twilight shrink herself down. The fear had escalated even further, and Sunset could feel sweat running down her forehead.

“W-well, I-I didn’t mean t-to…” Twilight stuttered, trying to avoid eye contact with Tangerine. Suddenly, a forceful shove sent her hurtling backwards. A sharp pain rushed through her body as she landed on the floor. When she darted her head up, she noticed her books flying at her and instinctively, she brought a hand up and stopped them in midair with her magic.

“Aha! I knew it!” Tangerine yelled. Twilight pushed herself off the pavement, returning the books to her hand with a wave of her fingers. In addition to the fear, a sharp sadness started to pierce her heart as well. “I knew you and your friends were freaks! You’re back to your Midnight Sparkle ways! I’m off to warn everyone about this.” With that, Tangerine sped off into the school, giggling. Twilight simply stood in place, her eyes flowing with tears as she repeated one thought in her head. I’m not a freak. My powers...don’t make me a freak.

Sunset tore her hand away. She gasped for air, feeling as if she had not breathed for the entire duration of the vision. Her heart ached and the emotions she had felt still burned harshly in her heart. She turned to Twilight, who was staring at her with a shocked expression. “S-Sunset, I...I’m so—”

“T-this was a mistake.” She shoved the papers aside as she reached for her gloves. “This was always a mistake.” Sunset darted her eyes to the necklace, barely able to see from the tears that were filling her eyes. As she pushed herself onto her feet, all around her, she could hear the crowd gossip pick up once again.

“She read her own friend?”

“She doesn’t have limits does she?”

“Maybe she hasn’t changed.”

Sunset covered her eyes and her sobs begun to echo through the room. She sped out of the gym, tears falling to the floor as she raced down the hallways and pass several students.

“Sunset! Sunset, please wait!” Twilight called to her, attempting to keep pace.“Sunset!”

----------

Sunset sat in the music room alone, her sobs echoing off the walls and back to her own ears. Why!? Why do I have this!? She tugged against the pendant with her gloves, hoping that the chain would shatter and she would be able to fling it across the room. However, it held firm. It’s done nothing but make my life miserable outside of Camp Everfree! She tried once more, but again, it did not budge. She had lost so much. She had seen her friends lose so much. The terrible memories she had seen consumed her own thoughts and they replayed endlessly in her mind.

A sudden knock on the door knocked her out of the nightmares. “Sunset? Please, let me in.” Twilight’s concerned, muffled voice came from the other side.

She’s here to scold me, like Fluttershy. Like Flash. Sunset grasped her head in her hands, watching her tears drip onto the floor. A ‘click!’ made her look up and she could see the lock covered in a purple glow. “Twilight! Please, I just want to be alone!”

Twilight ignored her plea and entered, locking the door behind her with a wave of her hand. She was no longer smiling. Instead, a concerned and stern frown had taken it’s place. “Sunset, we really need to talk.”

“I know alright? If you want to tell me you hate me, then just get it over with!” Sunset shouted.

“What?” Twilight levitated a chair beside Sunset before taking a seat. “Why would I ever do that?”

“Why wouldn’t you? Flash did. And Fluttershy did too!” Sunset said through staggered breaths.

“Well, I’m not them. So I’m not mad at you, Sunset. Not after what you’ve helped me through. But I’d like to help you now too, and I can’t do that if you don’t tell me what’s been happening.” Twilight pulled her close.

Sunset nodded and started to explain everything that had happened since yesterday. The incident with Fluttershy, the mistake she had made with Flash and even the reason for Rainbow’s constant frowns and silence.

“I... I didn’t know things were this bad,” Twilight admitted, still attempting to comfort Sunset.

“And it’s all because of these!” Sunset screamed, pressing the jewel around her neck. “These pendants were supposed to make us special, we were supposed to be able to help people with our powers!”

“And we did!”

“Yes, at Camp Everfree. But ever since we started school, all it’s done is make our lives worse! Rainbow can’t play any of her favorite sports, Fluttershy can’t bring herself to go to the animal shelter anymore. Even you, Twilight! I saw what happened!” Sunset held her arms to her chest. “All these pendants did was bring my friends sadness and pain. Maybe... maybe Rainbow was right. Maybe we are better off without them.” Sunset attempted to reach to the clasp at the back of the necklace, but Twilight’s hands quickly shot up to stop her.

“Sunset, hold on.” Twilight held her wrists still. “Take a deep breath. When you said you saw what happened, you mean seeing me with Tangerine?” Sunset nodded in reply. “Sunset, that was yesterday. Yes, her words affected me back then, but not anymore.” Twilight released her grip on Sunset, letting her hands fall down.

“What? What do you mean you aren’t affected?”

“Remember what happened in the cafeteria on the first day? I saw how you reacted when everyone stared at you at the mere mention of the Fall Formal. I thought you were going to break, like I did when Tangerine brought up Midnight Sparkle. Even though I knew she wasn’t me, I sometimes forget that some people still see me as an evil...demon witch. Not as who I really am.” Twilight placed both hands over Sunset’s, smiling wide.

“But instead of sitting down quietly, you made everyone laugh instead. I couldn’t believe how brave you were to just play along with them, even though it was such a dark time in your life. And when I asked you why, you told me it was because it was a part of you. That you weren’t scared of magic, because that was who you were.”

Twilight ran a finger past her necklace, staring as it glimmered under the light. “If I hadn’t gotten the magic from Camp Everfree, I never would have faced Midnight Sparkle, and believe that I could control it.” She waved a hand at a box of tissues lying across the room. It levitated up in a purple glow and floated over, landing on Sunset’s lap.

“But I can’t control mine, Twilight.” Sunset hugged herself. “All I do is invade my friend’s privacy and see them suffer. I don’t deserve to wear it.”

“Sunset, I know what you’re going through. For the past two days, all you’ve done is seen memories that hurt. The only emotions you felt were sadness, anger and fear. I know because… that’s what I felt at Camp Everfree. Every single night I would have nightmares of Midnight Sparkle. She convinced me that I would never control her. That all I was going to be was a terrible friend. I was so scared that I allowed her to control my thoughts and who I was.” Twilight placed a hand upon Sunset’s gloved palm.

“I know you’re scared of your powers too, about what you might see, and how it might affect your friendships. But I promise I’ll always be your friend, Sunset. And after saving me and teaching me so much, maybe it’s time for me to help you.” Twilight unstrapped Sunset’s glove and started to pull it off. However, Sunset swiftly yanked her hand away, shutting her eyes tight. “You can read my mind as many times as you want, until you get it under control.” Twilight attempted to take Sunset’s hand once more.

Sunset’s instinct told her to move away. She did not want to see anymore painful visions, neither did she want to prod into Twilight’s privacy. The last times she had done so, she had lost more than her composure. However, when Twilight slowly pulled her glove off, Sunset didn’t resist. She opened her eyes to see Twilight setting the glove within her reach.

“Trust me. You won’t see any hurtful memories. I won’t let that happen.” Twilight offered an open palm and a smile to Sunset, but Sunset withdrew her hands, cowering as she leaned away.

“I’ll just hurt both of us. What if I see something you don’t want me to see? What if you—” Sunset bit her lip, silencing the rest of her words.

“You’ve already seen me at my worse, I don’t have anything left to hide.” Twilight gave Sunset a reassuring smile. However, Sunset darted her gaze away, stray tears flowing down her cheeks. “What was it you sang to the others at Camp Everfree?” In a soft, calming voice, Twilight started to sing.

“So you had magic

And it’s not that great

But when it found you

You know it was fate”

Sunset looked up in shock as she the words reached her ears. She could only stare in surprise as Twilight continued to sing

"And it might seem scary now

But it can be wonderful too

So how about we embrace the magic?

And make the magic part of you.”

Sunset shot her arm forward and grasped Twilight’s, letting the vision overtake her. Immediately, she was transported to a familiar pink colored house. One that always smelled of freshly baked treats, cotton candy and chocolate. Twilight was seated across Sunset on Pinkie’s bed, and judging from the noise Rarity was making about packing her fifth bag, Sunset already knew when the memory was taking place: the sleepover before Camp Everfree. She could hear Twilight chewing on something as she turned to watch Rainbow Dash and Applejack duke it out on the game console.

“That’s cheating!” Rainbow yelled, kneeling in front of the television.

“It’s a move I can do! How the hay is that cheating!?”

“Well, it does too much damage! I say it’s cheating!”

“That don’t mean nothing! Especially coming from someone who's about to lose!”

Twilight turned her attention back to the girl across her, and Sunset spotted herself, a notepad in one hand and a huge bag of marshmallows in the other. “So, that makes three marshmallows for you.” Sunset scribbled a tiny number ‘3’ on the page.

“Wha- hey! Aren’t you gonna write that bigger? How are you gonna read that when we’re calculating score?” Twilight chewed the sweets in her mouth a few more times before swallowing.

“I don’t need to. Because you’re not going to win.” Sunset smirked and started to shove handfuls of marshmallows into her mouth. Twilight watched in both awe and humor as more and more of the colorful sweet treats found their way past Sunset’s lips and into her cheek, causing them to bulge significantly. Twilight attempted to press her lips together to prevent herself from bursting out into a huge laugh, but soft giggles had already begun to escape. Once Sunset was done, she looked nothing short of a hamster that had found its way into a food bag.

Twilight could not stifle her laughter any longer. She fell backwards, howling as loud as she could. “Y-you win!” Tears of joy had started to fill her eyes and run down the side of her face. Glancing back up, she watched as Sunset took a bow towards her other friends. All of them soon followed Twilight’s reaction and collapsed with laughter. Even Fluttershy was hitting the ground with her fist, attempting to pound out the pain she was feeling in her chest. Sunset tried to speak, but all that came out were unintelligible garbles and strings of half-eaten marshmallows. This only caused the laughter in the room to double in intensity as Sunset attempted to swallow the gooey mess. “A-air! I need air!” Twilight gasped, rolling on the bed.

Sunset released her grip from Twilight’s hand, and she soon realized her mouth was drawn into a huge smile. The fear, doubt and sadness in her heart had vanished, replaced instead with a feeling Sunset had forgotten about: joy. Twilight couldn’t help but grin as well, watching Sunset finally crack the smile she had missed so much. “What did you see?”

“The sleepover before Camp Everfree!”

“The marshmallow eating contest!?”

“Yeah!” Sunset wiped her tears away with the back of her hand. She wasn’t sure if they were from her current laughing fit or remnants from a few minutes ago, but it soon became the last thing on her mind. “I didn’t know I looked that bad!”

“You can’t be serious!” Twilight felt the laughter start to infect her too. “Why did you think we were laughing?”

“I thought I was funny! Not because I looked like a squirrel! And none of you even said anything!”

“Did you see how hard we were laughing? We couldn’t speak words ever if we wanted to!”

The roaring picked back up once more as both girls continued giggling at the scene in their minds. Once they had both regained some composure, Twilight spoke, “Sunset, you can’t let your fear of your powers overtake you. If you do, they’ll only show you terrible memories.” She grabbed the glove she had pulled off and passed it back to Sunset.

That’s not the only fear. Sunset had almost said the words out loud, but quickly caught them in her throat before they could escape.

“You’re strong Sunset. And you understand magic the most out of all of us. I know your power might be the hardest to control, but if there’s anyone that can do it, it’s you. And with a little bit of practice, I’m sure you’ll be able to control what you want to see, instead of letting the person control you. And maybe even when you want to see them too!” Twilight used her fingers to comb Sunset’s disheveled hair back into place. “And I’ll be here to help you until you get it right.”

Sunset smiled, feeling Twilight’s kindness and warmth overwhelm her heart. She pulled Twilight into a large hug, catching her friend by surprise. “Thank you, Twilight. Thank you for everything. But.” She held Twilight at arm’s length. “I’m still not sure I can control it as easy as you think I can.”

“I never expected you to just be happy all of a sudden, Sunset. I know these things take time, both feeling better and controlling your magic. I’ll try my best to help you, but you mustn't hide these things from me.” Twilight thought back to the Friendship Games and Camp Everfree, but quickly dismissed the terrible thoughts that tried to worm their way in. “Like I said, I’ll be here for you. I promise.”

“I don’t think I can ever thank you enough.” Sunset chuckled.

“You don’t have to, I’m just returning the favor. I’m not going to abandon my friends after all of you helped me overcome my biggest demon. And don’t go turning this into another one of our competitions alright?” Twilight playfully nudged Sunset.

“Alright alright.” Sunset rolled her eyes with a smirk. “But our friends...” She recalled the words Fluttershy, Flash and Rainbow had said to her and her smile quickly vanished. “I wish I could help them.”

“Actually, I think I might have a way to help Fluttershy.”

Sunset furrowed her brow, slipping the glove back on. “She doesn’t want our help. The last time I tried—”

“I think Fluttershy’s forgotten something very important about her powers. Just meet me at the animal shelter in a couple of hours?” Twilight stood from her seat and pulled Sunset onto her feet.

“But the Fall Formal decorations—”

“I think Applejack can handle it for a day. And if we get Fluttershy on our side, she might even be willing to help us!” Twilight said brightly. “Plus, I think you’ve had enough of those students for now.”

Sunset walked with Twilight to the door and nodded softly. “Alright. Are you sure this will work?”

“Pretty sure. I think you’ll know what to do once you see what I’m planning. Now go back and get some rest. You’ve earned it.”

----------

Sunset stared into the hamster enclosure, smiling. “Aww, I forgot how cute they were!” She wiggled her finger in front of one with a brown coat. The hamster poked it’s nose towards the glass before scurrying away. She looked around the animal shelter. Despite frequenting this place quite a bit, Sunset was still surprised at how simple it looked. The walls were painted a light beige, while the floor was built with red ceramic tiles. Visitors entered into the store front from the main door, where several large glass panels provided a view into the back room’s playpen, granting them a look at the animals they might want to adopt. Though what truly set the shop apart was the large hamster habitat: a maze of tunnels and tracks that Sunset could only assume was a hamster’s idea of heaven.

The back room wasn’t as beautiful as the store front. There, the floors were made of smooth stone, and several cages lined the walls. If customers were interested in a pet, they were brought behind the counter, pass the only door to the back room, where they could meet any animal they wanted. Another door stood in the store front with a red sign that read ‘Staff Only’. Sunset had been back there before, and knew that it was a grooming centre for the pets. She had tried to style a dog at Fluttershy’s insistence, but the animal’s lack of obedience quickly ensured it was her first and last time.

Suddenly, the bell at the main door rang, and as Sunset turned, she spotted Twilight stepping in with Fluttershy.

“I still don’t know why you need me here. Especially so early in the morning!” Fluttershy shook her head.

“Ah, Fluttershy! So nice to see you again!” The pink-haired shelter owner greeted, standing behind the counter.

“Sorry Miss Constel, I’m not here to stay. Twilight just told me she needed my help.” The owner gave a sad sigh and nodded, retreating into the back room. Fluttershy turned, spotting Sunset. “Sunset Shimmer?”

“Hey Fluttershy!” Sunset waved with a smile as she walked towards her..

“What are you doing here?” Fluttershy asked cautiously.

“Just looking at the hamsters.” Sunset gestured to the enclosure with a smile. “They are really cute.”

“Mmhm!” Fluttershy nodded quickly, her eyes drawn to the hamster habitat. “I particularly like Clover. I wonder if she’s okay.” She made her way to the colorful tunnels and already Sunset could feel that the atmosphere in the room lift considerably. Twilight gave her a wink and gestured Sunset over.

“You’re right, it’s the first time I’ve seen Fluttershy smile since the start of the week.” Sunset whispered.

“Well, I think you can take it from here.” Twilight opened Sunset’s palm and forced something inside. Looking down, Sunset saw that it was Fluttershy’s necklace. However, it did not shine like the others. Instead, the pink and yellow colors appeared faded and dull, like it had been covered in a layer of soot. She glanced back up, giving an understanding nod to Twilight before making her way to Fluttershy, who was calling into a pack of hamsters.

“Clover?” Fluttershy called. All the hamsters turned, but they soon lost interest and resumed their scurrying. “Clover!” She tried once more, but this time, the animals didn’t even pay heed to her voice.

“Is Clover a name you gave it?” Sunset asked, peering into the group of scampering rodents.

“She.” Fluttershy stated. “And yes, I read from a list of names and Clover chose that particular one. She said it was perfect!”

Before Sunset could continue the conversation, there was a rapid running sound behind them. Both girls turned to see a fluffy white dog rushing up to Fluttershy, its paws pitter-pattering on the floor. Fluttershy squealed, opening her arms as the dog leapt towards her. She carried the puppy up, giggling loudly as it licked her face.

“Tiberius! I missed you too!” She wiggled her nose inches away from the puppy, who mimicked the action. “I thought about you every single day!”

Sunset lifted a hand to her mouth to hide a giggle. So this is Tiberius. Wow, we were way off.

Tiberius reacted to Fluttershy’s words by turning its head to the side. “What’s wrong, boy?” Again, he tilted his head, though this time it went in the opposite direction. Fluttershy stared oddly at him, only realizing the problem once he started to bark. “Oh right. I can’t understand you and you... can’t understand me... e-either,” Fluttershy lowered Tiberius to the floor, watching him run around in circles. Sunset could see the pain and dejection on Fluttershy’s face. And when she sighed, Sunset could practically feel the air around them fall from the weight.

“Hey, Fluttershy?” Sunset tapped her shoulder. As Fluttershy turned, she held the necklace out with a grin. Fluttershy gasped in shock at the sight, looking up at Sunset.

“H-How’d you get that?”

With a finger, she pointed to Twilight, who waved to Fluttershy with a sheepish grin and a bright red blush on her cheeks. Fluttershy reached for the necklace, but stopped just a few inches away. “I... I really shouldn’t. Not after what happened.”

“Fluttershy, for the past two days, I’ve been struggling to understand my powers. And truth be told, I’m still not sure I do. I was… am scared of what I can do, especially after looking at the painful memories all my friends had. They had affected me so much, I allowed my fears to take control of what I thought. So, I almost gave up my powers too.”

Sunset turned to Twilight and smiled. “But Twilight reminded me that I can’t let a few bad incidents ruin the other happy ones I made.  And you shouldn’t either, Fluttershy. Plus, judging from little Tiberius here.” Sunset stared at the puppy, who gazed up at them with bright shining eyes. He barked several times, before taking a seat with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. “You made quite a few here in the Animal Shelter.”

“I know what you had to go through with Rover was tough, probably more than I can imagine. So I promise I won’t get angry if you choose never to wear it again, but I still believe that these crystals are as much a part of us as everything else. It makes us special, because it allows us to help others, even though it’s not always easy.”

Fluttershy stood with glazed eyes, unmoving. Her hair had fallen across her face, making it hard for Sunset to discern what Fluttershy was feeling. “It was so much to take so fast… I couldn’t handle it.”

Sunset sighed in her heart, and her shoulders dropped in defeat. Can’t say you didn’t try, Twilight.

“But you’re right.” Sunset felt her heart skip a beat at Fluttershy’s words. “I shouldn’t let that one incident take over the other moments I had with Tiberius, Clover or any of the other animals here. And if I want to be with them, I need to get used to when animals...” She bit her lip, gathering her composure. “Sulking at home just because I’m scared isn’t going to change anything. Being with animals is what I love. It’s who I am!” Fluttershy reached forward and grabbed the necklace. Immediately, a pink light glowed from the pendant, before settling down into a calm radiance. “I need to face my fears.”

Fluttershy clasped it around her neck and at the next bark from Tiberius, she laughed cheerfully. “Tiberius! Of course I understand you!” She leaned down, scooping him into a cradling motion. “And how has Cheesecake been?” Two barks followed her question. “Oh well, I didn’t expect her to move that quickly!” She felt a surge of energy rush through her, enveloping her in a yellow aura. In a flash of light, she felt her body pony up, giving her the signature ears and tail. She glanced up to Sunset and Twilight with a smile so bright, it spread to the two girls as well. “Thank you, Sunset. Thank you, Twilight. I forgot how much I loved working with the cute little critters here!” She poked Tiberius’ round, black nose, causing the puppy to wiggle it in confusion.

Fluttershy turned back to the hamster enclosure. “Clover!” she beckoned. This time, a white hamster rushed forth, pressing its paws against the glass and staring at Fluttershy. It squeaked several times, and Fluttershy nodded. “Yes, well, I needed some time after... what happened to Rover. But I’m back now!”

“Sunset?”

“Hm?” Sunset was so absorbed in watching Fluttershy work, that she hadn’t noticed Twilight had walked up to her.

“I think it’s time we go.” Twilight gestured to the door. Sunset nodded and waved a goodbye to Fluttershy, who waved back with Tiberius’ tiny paw. “You know, Clover looked sorta like you with the marshmallows,” Twilight teased, but swiftly felt an elbow being lightly rammed into her hip. Twilight leapt up, screaming, “Eee! Hey hey! You know how much I hate that!”

“Well, maybe don’t relate me to a hamster next time.” Sunset slid a hand into her pocket and pulled the door open, holding it for Twilight. Just before she left, Twilight turned to the shelter owner and whispered, “thanks for letting Tiberius out into the store, Miss Constel. I know you don’t usually allow that.”.

“No problem! Anything to get Fluttershy smiling again,” Miss Constel said happily. Twilight exited first, leaving Sunset one last chance to look at Fluttershy, who was beaming from ear to ear and breaking out into laughter every other second. Maybe I can do something to help them. She waved a goodbye to Miss Constel and left soon after, letting the door close shut behind her.


Chapter 3: Under Control

The walk to school was uneventful, though Sunset preferred it that way. The silence was more than welcome, and it allowed her to gather her thoughts. She rubbed her gloved hands together, shaking slightly from her nerves. She had spent the entire night thinking of a way to help Rainbow and Flash. And though she did come up with an idea for Flash, Rainbow’s situation still left Sunset perplexed.

Looking up, Sunset saw Canterlot High just across the street. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. She sighed. I might just make it worse. Once the light had turned green, she started to cross when a sudden shouting drew her attention to the right of CHS.

“Hahaha, I knew it! Still the same old freak!” Tangerine’s shrill voice called out. Sunset spotted Twilight just behind her, standing with her books grasped tightly against her chest. All previous thoughts emptied from her mind as Sunset rushed over.

“Twilight!” Sunset’s voice caused both girls to turn to her.

“Sunset!” The sight of her friend was a welcome relief for Twilight. Sunset stopped just in front of Tangerine, a scowl on both of their faces.

“What were you doing to Twilight?” Sunset stared fiercely at Tangerine, who stood, unmoving.

“Nothing, we were just having a talk, right, Twilight?” Tangerine turned to her, gesturing for her to agree. Twilight didn’t answer, choosing to focus her attention away from the two of them.

“By calling her a freak?” Sunset asked angrily, crossing her arms.

“It was a joke between Twilight and I.” Tangerine started to move towards the main doors of Canterlot High. “Plus, you really shouldn’t be prodding into people’s personal lives. I thought you would have learned that by now.”

Sunset watched as Tangerine entered the school. She didn’t want to admit it, but the words Tangerine had said stung deeply. Doubt and accusations started to crawl into her mind, but remembering that Twilight was still standing beside her, she quickly pushed those thoughts away. She turned back to Twilight, who was staring at the ground. “We really should go to Principal Celestia about this.”

“No!” Twilight shouted. “Please, Sunset, let me handle this on my own. She doesn’t affect me.”

“I don’t know, Twilight. I still think it would be best to go to a superior about this.” Sunset spotted Twilight tense up, tightening her grip on the books. “But, if you don’t want to…”

“I really don’t.” Twilight shook her head and walked past Sunset. Sunset rubbed her gloved hands together. She wanted to use her powers on Twilight right then and there, to see how bad the situation was. However, Tangerine’s words rang in her mind. You really shouldn’t be prodding into people’s personal lives. Sunset took a deep breath, tightening the gloves and running to catch up to Twilight.

They soon arrived at Sunset’s locker, and heard Applejack’s voice echoing down the hallway. “Well, Fluttershy, nice to see ya smiling again.”

Fluttershy blushed and hid behind her hair, but Rarity parted it just as quickly. “Yes, Applejack is quite right. We did miss your smiling.” Rarity brandished a hairband, helping Fluttershy tie her pink locks into a braid that fell over her left shoulder.

“And maybe you and Rainbow Dash can help us out for the Fall Formal!” Applejack suggested.

“Oh I’d love to! I know some friends in the schoolyard that would love to help!” Fluttershy sung excitedly.

“And you Rainbow?” Applejack pointed to Rainbow Dash, who shook her head and crossed her arms. “Aw, come on. Your super speed could be a real help!”

“Well I’m tired alright? Just let me do what I want!” Sunset glanced to Applejack, who sighed upon hearing Rainbow’s bitter tone. Rainbow’s face displayed no sense of school spirit or excitement for the coming event, and all her usual drive seemed to have vanished completely. Sunset opened her mouth to speak to her, but closed it soon after, realizing she did not have even the slightest clue on what to say.

“Well, I have the dresses almost done! And they look fabulous!” Rarity squealed. “I admit, it has been quite the workload, but all great pieces of art are! Though Sunset dear, do you still want the evening gloves? I still maintain my stance that they aren’t ‘Fall Formal’ style attire. For both the ‘Fall’ and the ‘Formal’.”

Sunset’s gaze immediately went to Twilight, who softly shook her head. She thought about it for a second before answering, “I’d... still like them, Rarity. Sorry.”

Rarity sighed. “If you’re so insistent on them, then I suppose I have no reason to deny you your wish.”

“Pinkie, I never thought I’d be saying this but… do you wanna talk?” Applejack stared at Pinkie, who appeared a little more dazed than she usually was.

“Huh? Oh sorry girls. I was just up all day making treats for the Fall Formal. I’d love some help but everyone’s too busy on the decorations.” She reached into her hair and picked out a sprinkle. The other girl's’ eyes grew wide with fear as they focused their attention on the sprinkle Pinkie was holding. Pinkie shrugged and tossed it into her mouth, causing her friends to let out a sigh of relief.

Suddenly, Sunset’s eyes caught Flash a few lockers down. Her mind immediately remembered her plan and she slammed her locker shut. “Girls, I have to talk to Flash for a moment. Head to class without me.” Her friends simply shrugged as she made her way to him.

“Flash?” Sunset called. But when Flash turned, his expressionless emotion turned to a frown.

“What do you want?” Flash shut his locker with a forceful push.

“Look, Flash, I’m sorry about what happened on Monday. I didn’t mean to look into your past, or trick you.” Sunset spotted Flash’s frown grow even more, and quickly spoke. “But it doesn’t matter what my intentions were. It happened and you have every right to be mad,” Sunset said, maintaining eye contact with Flash.

Flash shrugged. “Whatever. Not like it makes any difference in the end,” he spoke in a crestfallen tone.

“But I know how I might be able to help.” Sunset smiled. “Flash, can you meet me in the band room at lunch time?”

“I’m... busy.”

“I promise it’ll take just a few minutes,” Sunset attempted to coax him.

“Fine.” Flash said after taking a deep breath. “But just for a few minutes. No more.”

Sunset nodded. “Thank you.” She waved him a goodbye before sprinting back to class, entering just as the bell rang.

----------

Flash pushed open the door to the music room, spotting Sunset sitting on the piano, tuning a guitar.

“Sunset. Alright, I’m here, what’s up?” Flash stood by the door, impatiently tapping his foot.

“They should be here soon.” Sunset twisted a tuning peg.

“They?” Flash did not have time to clarify, as the doors were pushed open once more. Sunset glanced up, spotting Flash’s band members walk through as well.

“Ringo? Beats?” Flash scowled at the his former friends.

“Flash?” Brawly Beats said in shock.

“Is this a joke, Sunset?” Flash gestured to them. “You already know what happened! Why did you bring them here!?”

Sunset hopped off the piano. “Because I’ve had my band fight and break up before. I know what it’s like to go through it.”

“Then you of all people should know that we aren’t getting back together,” Flash huffed. “Not after what happened.”

“I hate to agree with Flash, but he’s right. Flash Drive is over,” Ringo nodded as Brawly spoke.

“You guys didn’t have fun playing together as a band?”

“It’s not that, Sunset. It’s… something you wouldn’t understand.” Flash crossed his arms.

“I’m in a band too Flash. What? Do you think we don’t fight?” Sunset giggled. “Applejack and Rarity disagree about costumes at every single practise session. Rainbow and Fluttershy bicker about the lyrics while Pinkie wants to pour sprinkles on all our instruments!”

Brawly stared at Sunset. “Sounds like you girls are in trouble.”

“Oh no, not even close.” Sunset walked around the room, picking up several instruments. “We love our jam sessions. It gives us a chance to gather and do something we all love.”

“But you argue!” Flash commented, perplexed.

“Yes, and at the end of the day we discuss what we liked and what we didn’t together. As a band. As friends. It allows us to work things out right away, instead of letting it fester and ruin our friendship.” Sunset handed Flash a guitar. “It was a lesson we learned the hard way.” She sighed. “And one we don’t plan to forget. The problem isn't that you guys argued, it’s that you three didn’t talk after you did.”

Sunset moved to Brawly, passing him a pair of drumsticks. “Plus, we’re both high school bands. We’re not cutting records or making it to radio stations. The Rainbooms do it because it’s fun, and it’s something we can all connect on.” She walked up to Ringo and gestured to the keyboard. “And I have a feeling that’s why you guys started your band too, isn’t it?”

Flash held the instrument in his hands, staring down at the strings. He strummed it once, hearing the music resonate from the amp. “Well.” He turned to his bandmates. “She isn’t wrong. We started this band because we wanted to play together.”

“Yeah I still remember our first session in your basement.” Brawly pointed to Flash with a smirk.

“What? You think I own some top of the line studio?” Flash chuckled. “We were just happy to have a place to use our instruments!”

“We practiced for what? Six hours?”

“Seven.” Ringo interrupted.

“Seven hours.” Flash sighed, strumming another chord on his guitar. “And yet here we are, seven minutes of practise and we start arguing.”

“Man, what changed?” Brawly scratched his head.

“From what I remember, you guys were arguing about your band name, right?” Sunset stepped forward.

“Yeah, I wanted Flash Drive to be another name, because why should Flash get all the credit?” Brawly’s tone grew bitter and Sunset quickly leapt into the conversation.

“Maybe just play without a name for a while. Just… be a band. Play as friends, and you guys can discuss the name another time,” Sunset suggested.

Brawly twirled the sticks in his hands effortlessly. “Maybe… What do you say Flash? Up for one jam session?”

Flash strummed several chords, nodding. “Just one. Ringo?”

“Sure.” The three ran to take their positions. As the loud guitar riffs and crashing cymbals blasted through the speakers, Sunset slipped out of the room with a smile on her face.

I have a feeling it’s not going to be just ‘one’.

----------

Sunset stood at the back of the group. They had just finished lunch and were headed back to class. Once more, Sunset found herself lost in her thoughts. This time, however, they were only focused on one person: Rainbow Dash. She lifted her head, spotting Rainbow strolling just in front of her, but still behind the chatty pack. A few students greeted her, but she simply gave a disinterested ‘hey’ before resuming her sulking.

“Sunset! Hey!” Flash’s voice drew the entire group’s attention.

Sunset turned to her friends. “I’ll catch up with you girls later.” Her friends all gave her a nod before entering the nearby classroom. Sunset returned her gaze to Flash, who was smiling wide. “Had fun at band practice?”

“Heh the best!” Flash pumped his hand in the air, but his look soon fell. Sunset started to feel anxious, wondering if her plan hadn’t worked like she had hoped. “Sunset, I… wanted to apologize.”

Sunset gave an audible sigh, beaming. “For?”

“Scolding you. Calling you a freak. Actually everything about my behavior for the past couple of days.” He ran a hand through his hair. “You aren’t any of those things I said. I was emotional because I thought I lost my friends forever.”

“It’s okay.” Sunset nodded, running a gloved finger past her pendant. “I know what that’s like.”

“You okay?” Flash placed a hand on Sunset’s shoulder.

“Yeah. Better than any other day this week.”

“That’s good.” A beat of silence passed between the two, before Flash picked up the conversation with a blush. “Well, the Fall Formal is coming up. Any chance I can see the Fall Formal Queen there?”

Sunset shook her head and gave a broken laugh. “I won’t be the Fall Formal Queen, Flash. I don’t stand a chance.”

“What?” Flash thought for a little while, snapping his fingers once he had realized what she meant. “It’s those stupid rumors that Tangerine spread, isn’t it?”

Sunset nodded, affirming his suspicions. “Don’t worry, Sunset. Let me handle that.” Flash gave a knowing wink to her. Sunset was one of the few people to understand what that gesture truly meant, being his ex-girlfriend. It told her that he had a plan in mind, one that he had already set his sights on. Just then, the school bell rang throughout the halls, signalling the end of lunch.

“I better get back to class.” Sunset pointed to the room behind her.

“Yeah, me too. See ya later!” Flash started to run away, but stopped after only a few steps. “Oh and Sunset?”

Sunset was already on her way in. She froze, staring at Flash. “Hm?”

“Those gloves don’t suit you. You should think about taking them off.”

Sunset rubbed her palms together, eyes locked onto the leather that covered them. “Yeah,” she smiled. “I hope I can soon.” Flash gave one final wave before sprinting past a corner, disappearing from Sunset’s view.

----------

The final bell of the day rang through Canterlot High. “Alright alright, settle down. I have one last announcement to make.” The class’ noise fell at Cranky’s words. “Principal Celestia says that she has seen how hard you all have worked for the Fall Formal. She’s truly touched by your Wondercolt spirit and so, tomorrow’s classes have been cancelled so you can spend all the time preparing for the Fall Formal the day after!”

The class erupted into cheers and claps. Sunset cheered as well, but a quick glance towards Rainbow quickly snuffed out the happy flame. Rainbow was seated in her chair, her bag having already been packed and slung over her shoulder. But what was truly odd was the silence emanating from the girl. Usually, Rainbow would be the one leading the screaming and shouting. She would also be leaping high in the air to celebrate. Instead, she stayed perfectly still, not even a smirk or chuckle on her face.

“That’s all. Class dismissed!”

As students flooded out of the room into the school hallways, Sunset gathered her things. “Rainbow?” she called, but there was no reply. When she glanced up, she noticed that Rainbow’s seat was rocking back and forth, empty. She grabbed her things, running to Twilight’s table where the rest of her friends had gathered. “Anyone know where Rainbow Dash might be? I wanted to talk to her, but she sorta just super speeded off.”

“I saw her at the park yesterday on my way home!” Pinkie said in her cheerful tone. “I tried to say hello to her, but Rainbow just sorta ignored me. She was probably tired so I chose not to disturb her!”

“Tired? Rainbow?” Applejack shook her head. “Girl’s been ‘tired’ all week!”

The park huh? Sunset tapped her chin and ran to the door. “Thanks, Pinkie!”

“Hey, Sunset?” Twilight shouted, stopping Sunset just before she made the turn. “You’re dropping by the gym later, right? We... might need your help.”

“Huh? Why?”

“W-we’ll explain later. Just go get Rainbow Dash first!” Applejack insisted.

Sunset gave her thumbs up. “Don’t worry, AJ. I’ll be there for sure! Fall Formal’s in two days after all! You girls will need all the help you can get!” She continued her sprint out of the school. Please be at the park. Please be at the park.

After a few minutes of running, Sunset arrived at the local park. She sprinted onto the path, following the winding gravel pavement towards the pond. Her eyes scanned every single bench, walkway and gazebo she passed, but she saw no signs of Rainbow Dash. Sunset stopped her frantic search, retreating into her mind.  This is going nowhere. Think. If I’m Rainbow Dash, where would I go?

Sunset ran through the park mentally, imagining every single landmark until she arrived at one. The football practice field! She snapped her fingers and jogged towards it. Once it was in sight, Sunset immediately spotted Rainbow seated on a nearby bench, her eyes watching the match that was taking place. She had zipped up her coat, letting it drape over her jeans as she leaned forward.

Okay great, you found her. Now what? Talking’s not going to do any good. Sunset tapped her head, thinking of various ways she could help her friend. After going through several options, she decided on the one that had the best chance to make Rainbow happy once more. This might not fix everything, but it’s the closest I’m gonna get.

Sunset whipped out her phone, dialing a number before putting it next to her ear. A short ringing followed, before Applejack’s voice came through on the other end.

“Heya Sunset. Found Rainbow Dash?” Applejack asked.

“Yeah, she’s here. But I need a favor, do you have the number to the CHS Sports Coach?” Sunset heard some commotion coming from the other end of the call, followed by a loud thud.

“That ain’t the way to—! ugh forget it.” Applejack’s voice sounded distant, but her next words were clear once more. “Sorry, Sunset. Yeah I have it right here, give me a moment.”

“Is... everything alright there?”

“Huh? Oh umm, everyone’s sorta... disorganized right now. Don’t worry your pretty little head, Sunset, we’ll get the decorations done! Now let me see here...” There came a sound of flipping pages, before Applejack came back to the line. “Coach Vel! I’ll send you the number right away, Sunset.”

“Thanks Applejack. I’ll be back soon to help out. Try not to destroy the gym before that happens alright?” Sunset joked.

“I ain’t making no promises. See ya later.” Sunset hung up the call. Alright, let’s see if this works.

----------

“Watching a game?” Sunset took a seat beside Rainbow. Rainbow shifted her head a little, but just as quickly went back to staring at the match.

“You of all our friends should know why I don’t feel like talking.” Rainbow leaned forward, clasping her hands together and resting her elbows on her lap.

“I know.” Sunset leaned back in the wooden bench. “Didn’t join them?” She pointed to the two teams that were competing on the field.

“Why? So they can accuse me of cheating if I win?” Rainbow huffed. “Yeah, no thanks. I’d rather not play if it means I have to choose between getting accused or losing.”

“Well, what if it’s neither?” Sunset suggested, causing Rainbow to stare at her like she had spoken an insult.

“Look, if you’re going to rub salt in the wound, you can just take it back to CHS. I’m not really in the mood for pranks right now.”

“That’s not how you should speak to your teammates.” A strong, lower-toned voice spoke from behind them. Sunset turned, spotting Coach Vel in his usual attire of a white sports T-shirt, shorts and a blue, CHS cap.

Rainbow shot up from her seat, staring in disbelief. “Coach? What’re you doing here?”

“Sunset called me over. Told me what’s been going on with you.” Coach Vel waved towards Sunset, who waved back with a smile.

“You did what!?” Rainbow shouted at Sunset.

“Hey! Rainbow! Don’t be mad at her, I’m glad she called me!” Coach Vel’s loud commanding voice immediately drew Rainbow’s attention back to him. “Look, Rainbow Dash. You are the best athlete I ever taught. You had more drive and school-spirit than any other student I have seen in my years working here.”

Rainbow blushed slightly, scratching the back of her head. “Well, that’s nice and all, Coach, but—”

Coach Vel lifted a finger. “I’m not done yet. Rainbow, when you ran on Monday, I had no doubt you weren’t cheating. Most of your teammates didn’t either. But with the rules set in place by the school board, I can’t allow a student that had the possibility of cheating to compete, you understand, right?”

Rainbow took a deep breath before sighing, giving a disheartened nod. “I understand, Coach.”

“Good. However.” The word caught Rainbow’s gaze, returning a small glimmer into her eyes. “That doesn’t mean I should have rejected you a spot on the team at all. I talked to a few coaches from nearby schools, and they said that even they believe you wouldn’t cheat. Mostly because you wouldn’t need to to beat them like you’ve done in the past.”

Rainbow did not understand what her Coach was getting at, but knew better than to interrupt him midway. “After talking, we agreed to host a few friendly matches. They think that playing against CHS could improve their performance, especially if you’re on the team.” Rainbow’s face lit up like a tree at Christmas. Her eyes sparkled and a grin grew on her face. “So if you’re up for it, I’d love to have you join us.”

“Yes yes yes yes!” Rainbow repeated, yelling. “I’ll show those schools that I don’t need no stupid powers to beat them!”

“Oh and one more thing.” Coach Vel gestured to Sunset, who was grinning from ear to ear. “Sunset suggested one heck of an idea. If you’re up for it, I think you’d make a great training assistant.”

“T-training assistant?”

“Yup. I always get a few of my top students to help me train the newcomers. And I think you’d make a great physical trainer. This’ll also put you under me, so if any student tries to accuse you of cheating, I’ll back you up. I trust you, Rainbow. And you can accept this on the promise that you will not use your powers in any of my sports, whether it’d be during a game or training.”

Rainbow stared at her necklace, before turning back up to her coach. “I accept, Coach, but I’m not taking this off.” She turned to Sunset for a second, a large grin on her face. “It’s sorta important to me. But I promise not to use my powers during training. I know how to control them. ”

“Alright. Deal.” Coach Vel opened his palm to Rainbow, who shook it without a second thought.

Rainbow jogged in place, her feet disappearing in a blur. “I’m back on the team! I’m back on the team!” she sung, squealing a little.

Sunset stood up, walking over to Coach Vel. “Thanks for taking my advice, Coach. And trusting.”

“Oh, anytime,” Coach Vel laughed. “You’re no longer your troublemaker-self, Sunset. I have no reason to doubt you.” Sunset nodded, rubbing her gloved hands together softly. “Also helps that you and your friends saved CHS a few times already, so this is the least I can do. Well, Rainbow? Any chance you’re free now?” Coach Vel asked, placing a hand on Rainbow’s shoulder to calm her.

“Actually,” Rainbow gave a coy smirk to Sunset. “I’m gonna be busy until Friday. I got the Fall Formal to help set up.”

“Well, then what are you doing here? Go!” Coach Vel stepped aside. Rainbow grabbed Sunset’s wrist, pulling her forward.

“Wait, Rainbow what’re you—” Sunset found her voice lost in an instant, the words disappearing into the air around her. The whole world zipped by her in a flash, and before she knew it, she was outside the gym in CHS. She started to cough and splutter, pressing a hand against a wall for support. Her stomach felt like it had been twisted, as if she had rode the teacup ride at the local amusement park twenty times in a row.

Rainbow pulled Sunset back up to her feet, hugging her tight. “Sunset, I owe you so much!” She squeezed Sunset as tight as she could, and already Sunset felt like all the air had been forced out of her.

“No... problem... Rainbow!” Sunset attempted to speak through suffocating breaths. Rainbow released her death hold on her friend, chuckling sheepishly.

“And umm, look, about all the things I said. And the way I acted the past few days. I mean, it’s sorta hard to say but—”

“Apology accepted, Rainbow. And you can thank me by making sure the Fall Formal goes great.”

“Heh, leave it to me!” Rainbow zipped through the large red doors, shouting her next words. “Wondercolts! Listen up!” Every single student immediately stopped what they were doing, focusing on Rainbow. “I’m— whoa what happened here?” Sunset moved in, noticing that the entire gym was in disarray. The banners on the ceiling had been hung upside down, while several speakers laid sideways on the stage with Applejack attempting to arrange them back into order.

The buffet table sat in the middle of the room with several plates shattered on the floor while the guest chairs and tables sat stacked at the side of the room, not having even been touched since yesterday. Twilight was attempting to clean up the floor, which had been littered with bits of paper and other sorts of trash. Fluttershy herself, was attempting to ask the birds to hang flowers around the room, though judging by the sack of them that flanked each side, she did not look like she was making much progress.

“It... wasn’t this bad when I left yesterday,” Sunset assured Rainbow.

Rainbow shook her head. “No way are we hosting a Fall Formal in a room like this! Wondercolts! All of you drop what you’re doing and clean up what you can. After that, take orders from Sunset, she’ll help organize everything and make sure you’re all doing what needs to be done! Right, Sunset?” Rainbow gave her a thumbs up.

Sunset felt the stress pile on her in an instant. She brought her arms to the pendant around her neck. Grasping it tightly, she gave Rainbow one firm nod, followed by a thumbs up of her own. Rainbow turned back to the gym, feeling magic overwhelm her, covering her in a bright blue aura. Sunset and her friends stared at her with large grins. “Who are we?”

Everyone in the room, including her friends, pumped their fist into the air as they shouted back. “Wondercolts!”

Rainbow felt magic coursing through her veins. She zoomed to the mic on stage, grabbing it in an instant. “And what will we do?”

As the crowd screamed back “Survive!”, Rainbow felt herself pony-up.

She shot into the air, yelling to the crowd. “Then let’s get this done!” Once she had returned the mic, Rainbow became a blur of color. Every student got to work, cleaning up every little bit of trash that they could see.  Meanwhile, Sunset was seated at a table, scribbling down planning notes and adding a checkmark beside each. Twilight walked over, pulling up a seat. “You got Rainbow back!”

“I couldn’t have done it without you, Twilight. If you didn’t give me that talk, I’d still be crying in the band room today.” Sunset saw Twilight turn away, a blush radiating from her cheeks.

“S-so, need some help planning?” Twilight stretched her head forward, reading what she had written. “Is this the same book you used to plan the Camp Everfree ball?”

“Mmhm.” She scribbled some more notes. “So if I assign everyone here a role, we should be able to get this done by tomorrow. Especially now that Rainbow is back.”

Twilight nodded, whispering, “Sunset, I was thinking. Tomorrow morning might be the perfect time to practise your magic. There’s no class, and the school’s a nice quiet place where we can focus on getting you in control. What do you think?”

Sunset paused her writing, allowing the pencil to rest on her finger. Despite everything she had done, she could not deny there was still a fear in her whenever she thought about using her powers. She had forgotten about it once, and it almost sent her whole world crashing down. Her thoughts returned to Fluttershy, Flash and Rainbow. All of whom she had helped in some way. One thing that Fluttershy said in particular, stuck out in her mind.

I need to face my fears.

Sunset wanted to train right then and there, but she could feel the day’s exhaustion creeping up on her. She looked up at Twilight, speaking, “s-sounds good, Twilight. Perfect, actually.”

“Alright. We’ll stay as long as you need to.” Twilight assured her before returning to her normal speaking tone. “Now, we’re gonna need Applejack’s help to set up the sound system…”

Sunset found Twilight’s voice slowly fade away. All of her friends seemed to be happy, yet something still worried her. Her mind attempted to find out why, but the whirlwind of thoughts made the task impossible. All she could recall was the incidents with her friends and the emotions behind them. The fear, the confusion, the anger. Sunset attempted to pinpoint the source of the rising worry. However, a voice quickly snapped her out of it.

“Sunset?” Twilight called to her friend, who glanced back down at her book. She giggled softly and nudged Sunset lightly. “I was saying that Rarity could make the chandelier tomorrow? And Rainbow could hop in between helping Pinkie and setting up the area here?”

“Of course… right.” Sunset jotted it down on the page. “Well, this is a good start.”

“Great. I’ll go tell the others what we have planned. Be right back!” Twilight stood up and made her way to Applejack on the stage.

Sunset lifted her gloved hand to the necklace, running a finger around the outline of her cutie mark. She moved her gaze quickly between Applejack, Twilight, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. The big smiles they wore and the cheerful atmosphere around them made Sunset’s heart soar. However, as she glanced down towards her hands, a sharp reminder caused her shoulders and spirit to fall. And once again, the fear returned in full force. I can’t let this happen again. I can’t risk losing anymore of my friends. I need to get this under control.

“Sunset?” Twilight’s voice snapped Sunset out of her thoughts. “Everything alright?”

Sunset grinned, nodding.

“Everything’s... under control.”


Chapter 4: 11:59

“Alright, think of something happy.” Twilight rested her hand on the table.

Sunset was seated opposite Twilight in the middle of the band room. With class having been cancelled in the morning, the two met up early, so that they may work on her powers before the students flooded into school and started making noise. Light had finally begun to peek through the windows, bathing the girls in a soft orange glow. Well, we can safely say it’s morning now. Sunset unstrapped the gloves from her hands and sat them to the side. Taking a deep breath, she repeated the word in her mind.

Happy. I want to see something that’s… happy. She grasped Twilight’s hand tightly, feeling the scene change right in front of her eyes.

Twilight was seated in the diner near CHS. She was staring at Rainbow and Applejack, who had begun shoving large mouthfuls of pancakes right into their waiting maws. Pinkie was cheering Rainbow on while Rarity shifted herself closer to Sunset, away from Applejack, as small bits of pancakes flew everywhere. Fluttershy had the unfortunate task of recording them as they did so, as ‘proof’. Twilight giggled, grabbing one of the pink napkins and pushing it to the fashionista.

“Here, Rarity. So you don’t have to look at them.” Rarity quickly grabbed the tissue and lifted it to the side of her face, staring instead at Sunset.

“I am so thankful you’re not like those uncouth ruffians.”

“I don’t know, Rarity. Twilight and I were just thinking of doing the same thing with our eggs,” Sunset teased.

“Yeah!” Twilight picked up on Sunset’s playful tone and continued, “oh, did you know that boiling is the healthiest method of preparing eggs? That’s because no harsh heat is used, and all the nutrients aren’t lost when they’re served!”

Sunset nodded her head. “She’s not lying.”

“So both of you ordered boiled eggs?” Rarity darted her eyes between Twilight and Sunset.

“Nope, scrambled. Honestly who orders boiled eggs for breakfast?” Sunset laughed, taking a glance at the two competing friends. Twilight started to chuckle as well, feeling a wave of joy overcome her. “See Twilight? Exams or not, you have to join us for some outings. Being cooped up in your room studying every day isn’t healthy.”

“I’m just not used to it, that’s all. Sorry, Sunset.” She stared into the cup of hot chocolate that sat in front of her, gazing at her own reflection. Sunset placed her hands at the top of the cup, causing Twilight to look up at her.

“No apology needed. I’m just glad you came.”

Sunset pulled her arm away from Twilight’s, cutting off the vision. She had a wide smile plastered on her face as she spoke, “that was... certainly happy alright.”

“What moment was it?” Twilight leaned forward until she was at the edge of her seat.

“Diner, not long after the Friendship Games ended. Rainbow and Applejack shoving the pancakes into their mouths?”

Twilight giggled, remembering that incident clear as day. “Right, I should’ve known that memory would be the one you’d see. In any case, we certainly are making progress.” Lifting a pencil, Twilight scribbled on the notepad beside her. “Alright, you choose an emotion next. Anywhere you wanna go.” She placed her hand once more in the middle of the table with her palm facing upwards.

“Hmm, alright.” Sunset had already decided where she wanted to be taken to, and readied her hand with a coy smirk. She’s going to regret saying anywhere.

“I... don’t like your smile.” But before Twilight could ask for more details, Sunset placed her hand with Twilight’s and froze in place.

“You really are lucky to be out to dinner with me.” Timber’s voice came in first, seconds before Sunset could see him leaning forward, sipping from a wine glass.

“Oh am I?” Twilight teased, sipping her drink as well.

“Uh huh. I don’t say yes to a lot of girls.” Timber sat his glass down and straightened his shirt, making sure his clothing was immaculate.

“Are you sure it isn’t because not of a lot of girls say yes to you?” Sunset could feel the tinge of pride in Twilight’s heart for coming up with such a remark. Timber rolled his eyes in response.

“You know for a girl who claims she’s nothing but dorky and nerdy, you’re pretty quick with your mind.” Timber leaned over, adjusting the daisy in Twilight’s hair.

I remember that. Rarity picked that for Twilight for her date, saying it completed her outfit. Twilight blushed, glancing down at the utensils on the table. Noticing that a knife was a little out of line, she adjusted it back until it was perfect. Sunset could see Twilight’s flowing white dress with the stunning gold trim that Rarity had sewn specifically for this day. All her friends gushed about how great she looked, and Sunset could not deny, she looked absolutely stunning.

“To us!” Timber lifted his glass in celebration. Twilight picked hers up, a warmth in her heart as she lightly tapped her glass with his.

“To us.”

Sunset lifted her hand slightly, a confused mix of emotions swirling within her. Twilight leaned forward once more, enthusiastically asking, “well? Where did you go?”

Sunset traced circles in the air with her finger, a cunning grin growing wider and wider. “Oh, your date with Timber, as you two were waiting for your food.”

“What!?” Twilight screamed, her face turning a hot shade of red. She stood up, lightly punching Sunset in the arm.

“Ow!” Sunset exclaimed through her laughter, rubbing the area where Twilight had hit her. “You said I could go anywhere!”

“Anywhere that isn’t my love life!” Twilight shouted back, pulling her black jacket tightly over her magenta tank-top. Once her hands were free, she darted it up to cover her face.

“You didn’t specify!” Sunset continued to giggle.

“Ugh, I’m specifying it now! No more peeking into my moments with Timber, alright!?”

“Alright, alright.” Sunset took a breath to regain her composure. “I’m sorry, Twilight. I couldn’t resist.”

Twilight sighed, a visible blush still hot on her cheeks. “It’s fine. If I had the same power, I’d probably do it to you too.” She picked up her pencil, staring at the notepad. “But was it where you wanted to be?”

“Yup. So we can count that as a success.” Sunset nodded, watching Twilight jot it down on the page.

“Great. Well, I find no reason to doubt it now. You have full control over where you want to go, provided you know the emotion the person was feeling at that moment.” Twilight paused for a beat before continuing. “You also seem to have a grasp on when you would like to exit from memory jumping, which is a significant advantage if the memory is too intense for you.”

Sunset nodded, brushing off specks of dust that had landed on her outfit. The very same teal dress and black jacket she had worn to the Friendship Games. She had found no reason to change this set of clothes, as it was one of her favorites to wear. It made her feel proud and comfortable in her own skin.

“Well, do you think you’re ready for the next step?” Twilight asked.

“Before we go on, can I try it one more time? You know, I just wanna be sure.”

“I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that. If you don’t look at my lovelife.” Twilight placed her hand on the table. “Go right ahead.”

Sunset closed her eyes, drawing a breath. Fear. Then relief. Fear. Then… She shot her hand forward, grasping Twilight’s palm.

“Oi, freak!” A shrill voice pierced Sunset’s ears as she entered the vision. She knew it could only belong to one person, and she soon came into view.

“What do you want, Tangerine?” Sunset, strangely, felt little fear in Twilight’s tone. She could tell the confidence was not false.

“Oh? Little freak now wants to act tough.” Tangerine gave Twilight a harsh push, causing her to fall to the floor. Almost instantly, the confidence had vanished, allowing dread to fill her heart. Twilight stopped the books from falling with a wave of her shivering hand, levitating it into her arms, before standing back up. “What’s the matter? Scared?” Tangerine raised a fist in the air and Twilight instinctively turned away, the terror having frozen her limbs solid and threatening to send her to the brink of tears. “Hahaha, I knew it! Still the same old freak!”

“Twilight!” Sunset heard herself call out to her friend, and felt the intense relief Twilight had felt at that moment, when she spotted her best friend.

“Sunset!”

Sunset lifted her hand, cutting the vision off. She did not need a reminder of the events that happened after that. Yeah ‘I’m over it, she doesn’t affect me anymore’. I should’ve known you were just saying that for me.

“Sunset? You alright? You’re shaking! What did you see?”

“Sorry, Twilight. I saw… that moment from Camp Everfree. When we saw Gloriosa transform in front of us,” Sunset lied, avoiding direct eye contact.

“Why would you go back there?” Twilight placed a hand upon Sunset’s wrist, concerned.

“I just wanted to see how far I could memory travel,” Sunset quickly shook her head. “Anyway, y-you were saying something about the next step?”

“Huh? Oh yes, the next lesson. But we should only continue if you’re able. I don’t want to push-”

“Let’s do it.” Sunset stated without hesitation. She gathered her composure, halting the shivering as best she could.

“Well, I was thinking we should try actually controlling not seeing the vision. You know, so you don’t have to wear these all the time.” Twilight lifted the gloves before setting them back down.

“I don’t know Twilight.” Sunset lowered her head. “That doesn’t sound possible.”

“I know it is.” Twilight comforted her friend, placing her hand on the table. “If we don’t start sometime, then you’ll never be able to. And with no students here, there might not be a better time to try.”

Sunset held her hands to her chest, feeling her nerves start to overtake her.

“Trust me, Sunset. We’ll get through this together.” Twilight lifted her hand towards Sunset, smiling.

Sunset shut her eyes tight, repeating the words in her mind. I don’t want to see her past. I don’t want to see her past. Slowly, she extended her hand towards Twilight. I don’t want to use my powers. I don’t want to use my powers. Sunset lowered her hand, eventually feeling Twilight’s palm meet hers.

Sunset repeated the words in her mind, her eyes still closed shut. The memories threatened to burst into her mind, but she repeated the words louder and louder, until it was all she could hear. I won’t peer into Twilight’s past!

“Sunset, I think you’re doing it!” Twilight’s excited voice caused Sunset to peek. And sure enough, she could see her hand lightly grasping Twilight. I... did it? I did it! A smile had begun to grow on her face. However, one stray thought had found its way into Sunset’s thoughts. But what if I... fail? What if I see something Twilight doesn’t want me to see? What if…  Images and voices consumed her thoughts. She could hear Flash calling her a freak, see Fluttershy’s terrified gaze once she had realized what Sunset had seen. She felt an intense emotion burst into her heart, filling her completely.

It was fear.

Sunset felt her mind being overtaken by a vision. She stood, floating in an orange ether. It looked like space, but there were no planets in sight. No other soul. She was well and truly alone. Just then, a booming voice echoed into her ears. “You can’t get rid of me! I’m part of you!” Sunset could feel Midnight Sparkle behind her as she grabbed her arms. She could feel her claws scratch against her skin. She tried to scream, but no sound came from her voice. It was then she realized: she wasn’t the one that was experiencing this scene.

It was Twilight. She was simply a bystander in this vision, unable to take any action.

She felt Midnight merge into her, and the same soul-crushing fear filled her heart like it did in the gym a few days ago. It threatened to consume her, and the edges of her vision started to grow black…

Sunset yanked her arm from Twilight’s, shooting up from her seat and kicking the chair across the room. Twilight pointed an arm at it, stopping it with her magic just before it crashed into the drumset. She stood up, staring at her friend in horror.

“What happened? Sunset?”

Sunset had rarely felt fear that potent before. The only two moments she recalled experiencing such terror was when she transformed into her demon form a year back. And the situation involving Fluttershy and Flash Sentry three days ago. She struggled to gather her thoughts and control her emotions, feeling tears stream from her eyes. “Midnight Sparkle... y-your nightmares.” Was all she managed to stammer out as she quivered uncontrollably.

Twilight’s eyes grew wide as the words reached her ears. “You saw her?” Sunset didn’t reply. Instead, she stood, trembling immensely. Twilight wrapped her arms around Sunset, hugging her tightly. “Sunset, that isn’t me. Midnight Sparkle doesn’t exist anymore, because you helped me defeat her, remember?”

Sunset nodded, sniffing. She gave her head one hard shake, attempting to force the memory out. “I forgot how scary she was.” Sunset stammered, giving Twilight a shattered smile.

Twilight held her at arm’s length, staring intently at the expression Sunset was wearing. She swiped Sunset’s gloves from the table and handed it to her. “We should take a break and continue setting up for the Fall Formal.”

Sunset pulled the gloves over her hands before holding the door for Twilight. Cold sweat was still dripping from her forehead as she watched Twilight gather her things before heading out.

“Sunset, I can’t apologize enough. It was my idea to try that and instead you saw—”

“It’s fine, Twilight.” Sunset followed the path towards the gym, though she kept her eyes peeled on the path they were heading on. “At least I’m making progress!”

“I’d say!” Twilight adjusted her glasses, staring intently at the notepad she held in her hand. “The progress you’ve made is exceptional! You were even able to control how you wanted to use your powers! It really is amazing!”

“Well, it’s sort of like using Unicorn magic back when I was in Equestria. And seeing as how this is Equestrian magic,” Sunset ran her thumb over the pendant. “I should be pretty good at it.”

“Right. Not only that, but you’ve been able to help all your friends!”

“Well,” Sunset smirked. “Not all of them just yet.”

“What do you… mean?” Twilight noticed that Sunset had turned left at a hallway intersection, instead of right. She looked at her friend who stared back at her with a smile. “Sunset?”

“Come on, this way.” Sunset continued strolling. Twilight stood, perplexed, but soon ran to catch up with her.

“This isn’t the way to the gym.” Twilight glanced over her back, spotting the gym door get smaller with each step.

“I never said I was going to the gym.” Sunset took a right at the next junction.

“Then where are we—” Twilight realized that Sunset had stopped in front of a door that had two words written on it. Moving close, she read the words out loud. “Principal's Office. Wait, Sunset, what are we doing at Principal Celestia’s office?”

“Look, Twilight, when I said I used my powers to see Gloriosa just now, I sorta lied.” Sunset frowned. “I’m not proud of it, but it was obvious you were getting hurt by Tangerine, so I peeked into what happened yesterday morning instead.”

“Sunset! B-but I trusted you!” Twilight screamed at the top of her lungs.

“Twilight, keeping quiet isn’t going to fix anything. I saw how she hurt you, and I can’t just stand by any longer. We are going to tell Principal Celestia about Tangerine.” Sunset stated, folding her arms as she leaned against the wall.

“What!? No we are not!” Twilight shook her head rapidly as she shouted.

“Alright then, I’ll tell Principal Celestia about Tangerine. I’m not letting one of my best friends keep silent as she gets pushed around and hurt!” Sunset placed her hand on the doorknob, but Twilight quickly placed a palm over hers.

“Sunset, I don’t want to cause any trouble. Please don’t do this,” Twilight begged, but saw the determination in Sunset’s eyes. She recognized this look before, and knew that nothing short of knocking the girl out was going to stop her from doing what she wanted.

“I’m sorry, Twilight. You’re free to hate me all you want later, but I know this is what I need to do to help you.” Sunset felt magic course through her veins as, in a flash of red and orange, her pony features had returned to her once more. She turned the knob and stepped in, spotting Princess Celestia at her desk.

“Sunset Shimmer? Twilight Sparkle?” Celestia stared at the two girls. “Can I help you?”

Sunset moved into the room as Twilight followed behind reluctantly, closing the door behind them. “Principal Celestia, Twilight’s being bullied!”

“What!?” Celestia stacked her paperwork and pushed it to the side. She stared at Twilight, who stood with her head hung low and her gaze to the floor.

“It’s Tangerine Citrus. Every morning she picks on Twilight just outside CHS!” Sunset bellowed out. “She waits for her and then pushes her to the ground! Just to get Twilight to use her powers so she can call her a freak!” She took a deep breath, hoping to calm herself.

“Twilight, is this true?” Celestia focused her gaze on Twilight. Twilight remained silent, refusing to nod or shake her head. “Twilight?”

“Twilight, please.” Sunset walked over, placing her hands on Twilight’s shoulders. “You have to tell Principal Celestia! She can help you! Don’t let Tangerine do this to you every single day.”

Twilight inhaled, nodding slowly.

“Tangerine Citrus, I remember that name. Flash just came in yesterday, telling me that she’s been spreading gossip around campus. Hurtful gossip.” Principal Celestia shook her head and sighed. “How do you know about this, Sunset?”

“This.” Sunset proudly held her necklace for Celestia to see. “I saw what Twilight was experiencing and… I can’t stand by and let this just go on.”

“Twilight, why didn’t you come to me earlier?” Celestia stood up from her seat and walked towards her. Twilight pulled her jacket over her top as tight as she could, squeezing the edges to try to get her emotions out.

“I... I didn’t want to cause any trouble,” Twilight muttered under her breath.

“Twilight, look at me.” Celestia spoke in a warm tone. Twilight turned her head up, staring at Celestia with tearful eyes. “You’re causing no trouble telling me at all. If you don’t, this could really hurt you in the end. And I don’t just mean in the physical sense.” Celestia pulled a few tissues from the box on her table, passing them to Twilight. “Sunset was right to bring you here. Tangerine isn’t going to hurt you anymore. You have my word. And you have nothing to be scared about. You’re a Wondercolt now, just like the rest of CHS.”

Twilight began to sob, using the tissues to dab away her tears that had started to flow from her eyes. She nodded several times, feeling herself get pulled into a hug. “Twilight, you’ll be okay, I promise too,” Sunset’s reassuring tone caused Twilight to cry even harder. Throughout the week, she had built a dam to try to block out the pain and sorrow that wanted to flow. And with Sunset’s help, it had finally broken, letting all her emotions flow through without stopping. With every sob, she felt the weight around her heart slowly disappear.

Sunset felt like she was going to cry too, but of joy instead of sadness. She had finally felt that she had helped Twilight like how Twilight had helped her throughout the week. For a moment, she thought she understood her place in the world. However, a sudden loud cackle brought along a slight glimpse of Midnight Sparkle in her eyes. The fear that had gripped her so harshly found its way back into her heart, paralyzing her completely. Sunset lightly raised her hands away from Twilight, feeling sweat starting to drip from her forehead.

“I’m the one in control of your powers! Don’t you ever forget that!” Midnight Sparkle’s threatening voice echoed in Sunset’s mind.

And in a small flash, Sunset felt her pony form fade away. She took a deep breath to gather her composure, noticing that Twilight was in too much distress to notice what had just happened. Principal Celestia glanced at Sunset for a short while, but quickly shrugged it off when Sunset returned her arms around Twilight.

“It’s okay, Twilight. It’ll all be okay.”

----------

“Better?” Sunset asked forcing a smile to Twilight. She attempted to suppress the terrible memory of Midnight Sparkle, hoping to be able to chase away the consuming fear she brought. For the last thing she wanted was to cause Twilight any more worry.

“Mmhm.” Twilight turned to Principal Celestia. “I’m sorry for not telling you sooner.”

“It’s fine, Twilight. Just promise me you’ll tell me if anymore of this happens alright? No more hiding it away.”

Twilight nodded with confidence.

“Thanks for believing me, Principal Celestia,” Sunset said, slinging her arm over Twilight’s shoulder.

“You are no longer the troublemaking Sunset Shimmer I once knew. You have put in all the effort needed to change yourself, and for that I have no reason to doubt you.”

Sunset grinned sheepishly, blushing slightly as well. “Thank you.”

“No problem. Now I suppose you two are here to decorate for the Fall Formal?” Celestia asked, peeking out her window to see that the Sun had risen in the sky, bathing CHS in a warm, bright light.

“Yeah. We’re hoping to make it the best Fall Formal ever!” Sunset declared proudly.

“With you two helping out? I have no doubt.” Celestia retook her seat, smiling at the two students in front of her. “I’ll be there to help with the drinks when they arrive later.”

“Great! We’ll see you then!” Sunset chirped, pulling the door open and exiting into the hallway, her hand still around Twilight.

“Okay, now I’ve helped all my friends.” Sunset cheerfully spoke, drawing a giggle from Twilight. But her tone quickly softened as she continued, “Twilight, I’m sorry for peeking into your life without your permission.”

Twilight shook her head. “You don’t need to be sorry, Sunset. In fact, I’m sort of glad you did. I owe you a lot for trusting your instincts, and being such a good friend.” She stared at Sunset, a worried look crossing her face. “Just don’t make this a habit, okay? Other people might not be as willing to share their past as I am.”

Sunset nodded, withdrawing her arm from Twilight. “I know. I’ll only see what people want me to see, no more peeking without permission or lying about what I saw. Especially to you, Twilight.”

Twilight begun her stroll towards the gym. She turned around, staring at Sunset as she walked backwards. “Good. Now would you come along already? The Fall Formal isn’t going to set itself up.”

Sunset smirked. “Race ya.”

“Huh?” But before she knew it, Sunset had already sprinted past her. “Wait! Hey! You had a head start!” Twilight tightened the belt on her skirt before rushing forward. “Sunset! This isn’t fair!”

----------

Much to their surprise, the gym was already abuzz with life when they arrived. Despite it being still fairly early in the morning, they had spotted their friends along with many other students. A flash of color and gust of wind shot past them, causing Twilight and Sunset’s jackets to flutter.

“Here, Applejack!” Rainbow cheerfully said, tossing forward several nails to her friend, who was seated at the top of a ladder.

“Thank ya kindly!” Applejack caught them in her palm. With a forceful punch, she drove the nail into the wall. “Fluttershy, another one’s in place!”

Fluttershy nodded from the other end of the room, whispering to a tiny blue jay that had perched itself on her finger. It gripped the string of a picture frame in its beak before flapping its wings, soaring up to the nail.

Sunset watched in amazement as the bird hung the frame with pinpoint accuracy before diving back down onto Fluttershy’s shoulder. “Wow, I’m amazed you’re all here so early.”

Sunset took a few steps forward, glancing at Fluttershy, who was feeding the jay a tiny seed. “Especially Rainbow Dash,” she joked, spotting Rainbow rolling her eyes.

“This is one of the biggest CHS events in the year! How could Canterlot High’s greatest Wondercolt not help out?” Rainbow proudly exclaimed.

“Uh huh.” Applejack rested her elbow against the wall and her palm on her cheek. “Sure, Rainbow. Thanks for helping us the day before yesterday. And the day before that. And-”

Rainbow stared daggers at Applejack, scowling harshly.

“Wait, where’s Rarity? And Pinkie?” Sunset glanced around the room, noticing both friends were nowhere to be seen.

“Ah! That’s what I forgot!” Rainbow snapped her fingers, disappearing in another flash of color.

“What did she mean by-” Before Sunset could finish her sentence, a loud ‘boom!’ echoed through the school. Sunset nearly leapt out of her skin as she screamed.

“Sounded like it came from the school kitchen!” Twilight’s words caused all her friends to open their eyes wide in realization.

“Pinkie Pie!” They all shouted in unison. Sunset and Twilight sprinted off together, racing into the cafeteria’s kitchen.

As Sunset entered, she noticed that the floor was covered entirely in flour. In fact, the more she saw of the kitchen, the more she noticed that the entire room had been dusted in it, turning it an almost snow white.

Rainbow was seated on the floor, powdered white from head to toe. Meanwhile, Pinkie stood in frozen shock, sprinkle shaker in hand.

“What even happened!?” Sunset shouted in disbelief, still trying to understand the scene in front of her.

“I don’t know. I was sprinkling a few cupcakes, then Rainbow came by, fell on the floor and shouted. I got surprised and the next thing I knew.” Pinkie tossed the shaker high into the air. “Kapoof!”

“Ahh!” The other girls screamed. Twilight quickly caught the bottle in midair with her magic, sending it into an open cupboard before slamming the door shut. They waited, but no explosion came.

Rainbow sighed. “I ran here to help, but Pinkie left a bag of flour at the door. I rushed in, tripped over it and fell.” She pushed herself off the floor and onto her feet. “When I screamed, Pinkie got startled and tossed sprinkles on her cupcakes and the flour bag. I think you two eggheads can figure out the rest.” Running in a tight circle, Rainbow absorbed all the flour in the kitchen into a tight vortex. “Bag!”

Twilight levitated an empty trash bag towards Rainbow. In one swift motion, she grabbed the black plastic from the air, poured the flour into it and tied the top. She stopped, tossing the filled bag to the side.

“Wowza! That looked fun! Let’s do that again!” Pinkie giggled.

“Pinkie, focus! We need these cakes done by today!” Rainbow tapped her foot impatiently.

“Oh right! Hehe!” Pinkie nodded. “Well Dashie, if you’re going to help me we should get these done in no time!” She tiptoed to the cupboard Twilight had shut, opening it and grabbing her sprinkle shaker. Rainbow quickly yanked it from her hand, a nervous look on her face.

“Why don’t you do the baking. I’ll help you get the ingredients and decorate.” Rainbow gave a worried chuckle.

“Oki doki loki!” Pinkie bounced to her cookbook, tracing a finger down the recipe. In the meantime, Sunset had poured a few drinks and placed them on several trays. Twilight levitated them in the air carefully, walking out of the door.

“We’ll leave you two to it.” Sunset carried a tray of her own and walked out of the kitchen. “Let’s go, before they decide to blow us up next,” she joked as they headed back to the gym.

Somehow, in the time they were gone, the number of students helping had doubled. Almost every single person in Sunset’s class was gathered in the hall, each doing the job that Sunset had assigned them yesterday. She and Twilight sat the trays of drinks they were carrying down on a nearby empty table.

Almost immediately, a boy from Sunset’s class ran up to her. “Small front banners done, Sunset! What’s the next thing I need to do?”

“Huh?” Sunset hadn't quite processed what he had said. “Oh! Umm, let’s see.” She grabbed her book from her bag, scanning the page. “Go help Applejack set up the sound system with the music group.” The boy gave a nod, rushing to the stage.

“And me?” The blonde, ditzy-eyed student from Sunset’s class asked.

“Oh! We could use your help with Fluttershy!” Sunset smiled, pointing to Fluttershy at the back of the hall. Birds had started perching on Fluttershy’s arms and head, forcing her to adopt a scarecrow-like position.

“Yay! Animals!” The girl bounced off towards Fluttershy.

“And me?” Twilight nudged Sunset with her elbow.

“Well, how about helping me?” Sunset asked, offering the book to Twilight. “Making sure everyone is alright is hard work. I could use…”

“An assistant?” Twilight giggled.

“I was thinking more of ‘a friend’.” Sunset beamed. Twilight laughed and nodded, taking off her jacket and hanging it on a nearby rack, along with several others. She grabbed Sunset’s planning book, while Sunset herself lifted up a nearby tray of drinks. Sunset walked to the right, while Twilight covered the left.

“Mind if I take one?” Flash grabbed a cup, smiling at Sunset.

“Well considering you already did…” Sunset smirked.

“Looks like the students aren’t gossiping about you anymore.” Flash’s words made Sunset realized that she had not heard any mean rumors about her since she had helped Flash. She wasn’t sure if she hadn’t notice due to her focus on helping her friends, or if the students had truly stopped their harsh remarks.

“Now that you mention it, I guess they aren’t.” Sunset was a little shocked that she had missed such a big detail. Usually she prided herself on noticing the smallest of things, and for such a huge thing to slip by the cracks told Sunset just how out-of-it she had been for the past few days.

“Told you I’d take care of it.” Flash gave a nonchalant shrug.

“Telling Principal Celestia was your ‘taking care of it’?”

“Well, there was that. And let’s just say Tangerine isn’t the only one with the ability to spread news.” Flash took a sip from his cup, winking at Sunset. “Plus, dating mean, evil you taught me how to be cunning too.”

Sunset merely rolled her eyes at Flash’s remark. She knew he meant no ill will behind the words and so, felt no need to let it get to her. “Well, I appreciate whatever you did.”

“You’re welcome, Sunset. Let’s just treat it as we’re even now, deal?”

“Deal,” Sunset agreed as she passed out several more drinks.

“And really, Sunset?” Flash raised an eyebrow. Sunset gazed back in utter confusion. She looked at her outfit, wondering if something had gone wrong.

“What?” Sunset asked once she had scanned her dress and jeans, spotting no problems. She looked up, only to find Flash gesturing to her gloves. “Oh…”

Flash grabbed the tray from her hands, setting it down nearby. “Come on Sunset. When I said that you should wear gloves, I was mad. I didn’t mean it.”

Sunset pulled her hands close to her. “Flash, I’m working on it. I still can’t control my powers yet.”

Flash sighed. “No one’s going to randomly grab your hands, Sunset. Have a little more confidence.” He tapped his foot impatiently. “Take them off at least while you’re giving out drinks. I don’t want you spilling anything because you can’t grip the cups properly.”

Sunset pondered on Flash’s words for a moment. Slowly, she unstrapped the gloves from her hands and pulled them off.

“See? And with you carrying the tray, there’s no way you’re ‘accidentally’ going to read someone.” Flash smiled, watching Sunset tuck the gloves into her pockets.

“Alright. Fine. But I’m putting them back on when I’m done for today.” Sunset picked up the tray of drinks, handing them out once more. It felt weird for her bare fingers to touch items in the world around her. The feeling of plastic, metal and glass seemed foreign to her.

“Fair enough.” Flash agreed, taking another drink. “Well, I better get back to work. I can’t wait to see the Fall Formal Queen at the Fall Formal tomorrow.” He gave his signature finger point to Sunset as he walked backwards.

“Uh huh. Well, I still don’t think I stand a chance!” Sunset shouted back, but Flash had already ran up the stage. She continued to walk around the gym, her eyes glowing bright upon seeing the rapid progress everyone was making.

The banners were almost all in place, even the one Flash and Sunset had worked on hung at the back of the stage for all to see. Streamers and flowers had been looped around the metal supports in the ceiling and the tables were all but sat in place.

“Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3!” Applejack spoke into the mic, her voice echoing through the room. She gave Vinyl a thumbs up and picked up her bass. “Sunset! Listen to this and tell me if it sound alright!” Applejack plucked a few strings, sending several low, booming notes through the speakers. Sunset heard the crystal clear melody and gave her thumbs up.

“That means that the sound system is done.” Twilight ticked the checkbox in the book.

“What’s left?” Sunset picked up the last cup on the tray before setting the platter down on a nearby table. She took a sip, walking towards Twilight.

“We’re making good progress, but there’s still quite a bit to be done.” Twilight pushed her glasses against her face. “We need balloons inflated, tablecloths on every table. We also need the stage lights working and Rarity to make the chandelier. Oh! And don’t forget about the food and drinks!”

“That’s a lot of things to do.” Sunset tapped her chin worriedly.

Applejack wiped the sweat from her head. “Hoo wee, and I thought we knocked most of them out already! Well, we still have some things to take care of, but like Dash would say. We’re—”

Rainbow rushed in, screaming at the top of her lungs, “Wondercolts!" Before darting away. The others stared at where Rainbow stood a moment ago, and wondered if they had just imagined her voice.

“Yeah,” Applejack continued. “That. So we’ll get this done by today, don’t you worry, Sunset!”

Sunset nodded at Applejack’s vote of confidence, which was echoed by the rest of the students in the hall. “Well, let’s keep it going!”

----------

A few hours had passed since Sunset and Twilight had started their work. Lunch had come and gone and evening had already arrived. Twilight had continued to tick item after item off the list, marking away most of the decor and the drinks, which Applejack’s family had arrived with an hour ago. She had also used her magic to help Fluttershy hang several of the lights and decorations. Sunset, meanwhile, helped out where she could, be it with Applejack’s heavy labor or Flash’s repeated sound checks for his instruments. Meanwhile, Pinkie and Rainbow had made several trays of food and treats, storing them in the cafeteria freezers for tomorrow’s event.

As the sky turned a faint orange, Sunset approached the microphone on the stage. “Everyone? Can I have you attention?” Immediately, every student in the gym had stopped what they were doing and stared at the girl on the stage. “I just wanted to let you know that you’ve all done an amazing job. The only reason we got the Fall Formal up as quickly as we did was because we all worked together.” She stared at the beautiful decorations that hung from the walls and ceiling. The flowers that stood at every table and the banners that accented every corner of the room. “I do think this is the best Fall Formal we’ve ever seen! And there’s only one decoration left before this is complete!”

Sunset turned to Applejack, who held her phone to her ear. The country girl looked visibly annoyed as the call redirected to voicemail once more.

“Gosh darnit, Rarity! You were supposed to come by ages ago!” Applejack closed her phone and stomped off to the mic. “Sorry everyone. Looks like Rarity—”

The doors to the gym burst open. “Is right here!” Rarity sung, strutting into the room.

Applejack glared at the fashionista as she spoke in an agitated tone, “more like three hours late.”

“Applejack dear, Rarity never arrives late!” Rarity walked up the stage with swaying hips, tapping Applejack on the nose.

“Oh really? Cause I got a room full of students who’d like to disagree!” Applejack shouted, gesturing to the waiting crowd.

“Rarity, we’re only missing your piece for the Fall Formal. Would you mind?” Sunset quickly diverted the topic, knowing just how heated the two could get with their arguments.

“Oh absolutely! Watch and be amazed!” Rarity pulled her hands back before stretching them forward. Several crystals shot forward and flew to the middle of the ceiling. One by one they attached themselves to each other, until a large, sparkling chandelier hung from above. The others stared in awe and gave Rarity a round of applause, to which she bowed to.

“Awesome work, Rarity!” Rainbow complimented.

“Yeah! It looks positively super amazing!” Pinkie leapt up as high as she could. As she landed, her flour-covered shoes and hair created a white cloud, causing Rainbow to slam her palm into her own face.

“I’ll get the mop.” Rainbow spoke and zipped off, returning to help Pinkie clean up the mess she had made.

“It is beautiful.” Twilight remarked as she folded her arms and gazed upwards. Her eyes glimmered and glowed, watching the sunlight hit the sparkling fixture, reflecting all around the room and bathing the students in its warm orange glow.

Sunset spotted Twilight in front of her, all her attention fixated on the chandelier above. She took a few steps forward, placing a hand upon Twilight’s back and looking up as well. “It really is pretty.”

“Mmhm.” Twilight’s reply seemed almost hypnotic, making Sunset smile wide. She had seen the same expression when Twilight lit her lantern at Camp Everfree before sending it floating to the night sky.

As Sunset got her thoughts back under her control, she felt as if something was off. The hand she placed to comfort Twilight had touched skin. When she glanced at the palm she had placed on Twilight’s back, she noticed that she was not wearing her glove, and remembered that she had taken them off when Flash had asked her to. What’s more, she had forgotten that Twilight had hung her jacket up hours ago, leaving the area around her elbow bare due to her tank top.

I’m...not memory jumping? Sunset could not believe what she was witnessing. Even after the thought crossed her mind, it took her a few seconds to process each individual word. But how—

Suddenly, her vision started to fade. She saw a flash of purple and a voice boomed in her head, overwhelming her other senses. “You will never control me! I will always be here, waiting. Watching. And soon, they will all fear you!” With a tug, she pulled her arm back to her and her sight started to return to the present. Sunset recognized the voice she heard and the memories of what had happened in the music room this morning rushed back into her mind. Her heartbeat quickened and the mere thought of Midnight Sparkle stopped her ability to breath.

Sunset took a sharp breath of air, drawing Twilight’s attention as she did so. Twilight turned around and upon spotting Sunset’s terrified expression, quickly ran up to her friend. “Sunset, are you okay? You’re shaking!”

“Yeah… yeah.” Sunset replied, darting her head up to meet Twilight’s eyes. “I’m fine.”

“You sure?” Twilight asked. “You didn’t use your powers by accident did you?”

Sunset shook her head and gave her friend a reassuring smile. “I felt sorta faint, that’s all. Guess I’m just tired. I haven’t been getting much sleep lately with all this Fall Formal stuff.”

“Oh… well, we’re done here. So let’s get you home.” Twilight scooped up both of their bags from the floor and handed Sunset hers.

Sunset slung hers on her back. “It’s fine, Twilight. I can walk back on my own.”

“Well, you’re not going to.” Twilight grabbed her jacket and pulled it over her shoulders. As she led Sunset out of the gym, they waved goodbye to their friends, who waved back with large smiles on their faces. “See you girls tomorrow!”

“Remember, my house in the morning, darlings! We need to make sure your gowns are perfect!” Rarity said. Both Sunset and Twilight gave a thumbs up before passing through the doors.

As Sunset slid on her gloves, she heard Twilight speak, “hey, about those evening gloves you requested, you don’t have to use them tomorrow, you know?” Twilight beamed as she spoke.

Sunset ensured both leather garments were strapped tightly before she replied. “I’ll think about it, Twilight.” However, with Midnight Sparkle’s words ringing in her mind, she already knew the answer.

I’m sorry, Twilight. But I don’t have a choice.


Chapter 5: Fall and Rise

Sunset stood alone in the gym on the night of the Fall Formal. Everything had been decorated perfectly and the smell of food permeated the air. However, there was no one else around her. There was no band, no party goers. And most frightening of all: no friends.

“Hello? Is there anyone here?” Sunset called out, glancing around the room.

“Oh, there’s someone here alright.”

The voice froze Sunset in her place. She attempted to run, but found that her limbs refused to obey her commands. No matter how hard she tried to move or act, she found herself paralyzed. In a puff of smoke, Midnight Sparkle appeared in front of her eyes, sending her heart into a frenzy. “No! This— this is all a dream!”

“Oh I assure you it’s not.” Midnight Sparkle floated around Sunset, who struggled to move against the force that was holding her in place.

“I’m not scared of you!” Sunset screamed, attempting to convince herself.

“Not even if I say I know your deepest fear?” Midnight laughed. The words sent a chilling terror into Sunset’s heart, silencing her. “You should give it up! As long as you have these powers, you know they will come true! It’s just a matter of time... Sunset Shimmer!”

Sunset shot out of her bed screaming. Sweat had dampened her pillow and her heart felt like it was in her throat. She looked around her room frantically, calming down slightly once she realized it had just been a nightmare. However, something about the dream felt tangible and so much as thinking about the nightmare filled Sunset with the same fear she had felt yesterday. Sunset shot her hand up to her necklace and held it tightly in her grip. Only a matter of time. She stared out the window, hoping the sight of the sparkling stars would give her some calm... 

----------

Sunset sat on the bed in Rarity’s bedroom, though her thoughts were far from the present. Can I finally control it? The same words had plagued her mind ever since the nightmare, keeping her awake until three in the morning. When she finally did get to sleep, the alarm rang a mere four hours later, signalling to her that it was the day of the Fall Formal.

“Sunset Shimmer!” Pinkie’s high-pitched call drew Sunset’s attention back to the group.

“Honestly, Sunset. One would think that the Fall Formal coming up in a few hours would be enough to keep your attention!” Rarity stood beside the vanity board, tapping her foot. Her friends had their eyes glued onto her, waiting for a response.

“Sorry, Rarity. I just didn’t get good sleep last night,” Sunset admitted.

“Well, I suppose that does make sense. How could the Fall Formal Queen sleep when her biggest day is about to arrive!” Rarity squealed, opening her closet.

Sunset felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Twilight, staring at her with concern. “Nightmares?”

Sunset shook her head. “I’ll tell you later, okay Twilight?”

“Alright, who shall be first up to try their dresses on?” Rarity stared at Applejack, who sighed and stood up.

“Might as well get this over with.” Applejack took a step forward, resigning herself to her fate. Rarity swiftly handed her a dress before shoving her into the bathroom and shutting the door. “Now, don’t take too long! I need to do your makeup, and your hair and—”

“Honestly, Rarity. You don’t need to do all that for us,” Twilight said.

“Nonsense! I—” Rarity attempted to continue, but her friends soon interrupted her.

“Want to do it, because I enjoy making all of you look fabulous!” Her friends, excluding Twilight, spoke in unison, even Applejack, whose voice came inside the washroom. After they finished, they all broke into loud laughter. Rarity only scowled at them angrily, darting her head away with an audible ‘hmph!’

After a few minutes, Applejack opened the door to the bathroom, letting everyone see her dress. It draped stunningly over her form, trailing behind her in a stunning bright red. Her shoulders, waist and collar were lined with orange accents, the same color and shade as Applejack’s hair. The others stared in awe as the gown flowed with every step Applejack took, almost as if it had a mind of its own.

“Have to admit, Rarity. You outdid yourself, again.” Applejack nodded, casting a glance at herself in the mirror.

“You say it like you weren’t expecting me to make you the perfect gown! And it shall be even better when your hair is done up! Now, Twilight!” Rarity reached into her closet, gesturing her over.

Twilight shuffled to Rarity with a blush. She grabbed the hidden dress and entered the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Sunset sat at the edge of the bed, her gloved hands grasped tightly together. Wonder what my dress will be like. Knowing Rarity it’s going to be amazing. But more amazing than the one at the Camp Everfree Crystal Ball? She visualized the gown in her mind, and found it hard to imagine one even better than that. Though if there would be one person in the world she trusted to make it happen, it was Rarity.

She kept her eyes locked onto the bathroom door as the others ran to admire Applejack’s dress. After what felt like an eternity, the door ‘clicked’ and swung open. Upon seeing Twilight, Sunset’s jaw dropped.

Twilight was wearing a long, purple dress covered in a beautiful white lining across the top. The radiant silk seemed to drop effortlessly down her body and past her waist to her feet. However, what truly made the gown special was the subtle way it shimmered when struck by light, mimicking that of a galaxy in the night sky, with Twilight in the middle.

As Twilight strolled forth, Sunset spotted the way the gown flowed effortlessly, much like Applejack’s. She knew it had been fitted perfectly for Twilight and no one else. Sunset stood up and shut her jaw, walking towards Twilight.

“How do I look?” Twilight asked Sunset, who shook her head.

“P-pretty good.” Sunset stammered out. “I hope I look half as good as you do.”

Twilight blushed at the compliment, starting to pull her hair softly. She opened her mouth to speak, but Rarity's voice came first. “Sunset Shimmer! Come on!”

Sunset felt anxious just from hearing her name being called. Her mind was consumed with thoughts of what the dress might look like or how it might look on her. “Go on!” Twilight coaxed her, helping her move to Rarity to receive the covered garment. Sunset grabbed the hanger and stepped into the bathroom. As she closed the door, she felt her hands grow numb. She smiled with nervous energy.

Let’s hope it’s good. She shook her head. She knew it was going to be good, but she hoped that it would be amazing. She reached a hand over, grabbing the cloth that covered her Fall Formal gown. One...Two...Three!

In one swift motion, she tugged the cloth away. And what she saw made her freeze where she stood, her eyes growing wide with disbelief. Her mouth opened, but only one word exited her lips.

“Whoa.”

----------

Night had fallen over CHS, but the gym was alive with activity. Music was blasting over the speakers as students begun to enter. All the girls were dressed in various stunning gowns while the guys were in their best looking suits. Flash and his band had begun performing, their music blasting through the large speakers that had been set on stage. Several students gathered around the buffet table, laughing and chatting as they ate, while others had taken to the dance floor.

Sunset pushed the door open, walking into the gym. Upon laying eyes on her, Flash stopped playing, cutting off the music without warning, entranced by the girl that had just arrived.

She stood amidst the lights in Rarity’s handmade gown, a form so beautiful and bright, it seemed to shadow all the others in the room. The teal fabric seemed like it had been sewn from strands of sunlight, glowing in the darkness of the gym. However, it did not shine like a torch, instead, it glimmered softly, like the last rays of light before the day ended. Sunset took several steps inside, and even the ones that were chatting silenced themselves to look at her. Her hair had been tied up into a low ponytail and fell across her shoulders in swirls. Much like the soft waves of the night sea, it was controlled in its chaos. The necklace that hung around her neck glimmered, not in competition, but serving to complement the gown that she wore.

Rarity had told Sunset that she would stop the room cold when she exited the bathroom hours ago, though she never quite expected her saying to be quite this literal. With each step she took, the dressed matched it in turn. Even though she was simply taking steps, it resembled more of a dance. One that had its audience captivated with each movement.

Sunset waved to the crowd, before retreating to the table nearest to the main doors. Flash quickly realized the silence that had enveloped the room, and continued playing with his band. The party soon picked back up, returning the atmosphere to the status quo.

Her friends entered a few moments later, all of them rushing forth to surround her. “So? What was it like?” Rainbow asked, dressed in a sky-blue gown of her own.

“Was it fun?” Pinkie spun around in her pink dress.

“It was... something alright.” That was the only word Sunset found in her vocabulary to describe what she had just experienced. Twilight took a seat beside her, smiling wide. Her purple locks had been fashioned into a braid and fell loosely on her back.

“Oh right! I completely forgot to pass you these before you entered.” Rarity reached into her handbag, pulling out a pair of green evening gloves. Sunset grabbed them in shock, having forgotten about them as well. “Well, you relax here. I’m going to mingle at the buffet table!”

“I wonder if they have those tiny little cherry tomatoes!” Fluttershy beamed, wearing a dress of pink and white. The others soon scattered as well, leaving Twilight and Sunset alone at the table.

Sunset held the silk gloves loosely, staring at the way they fell limply over her fingers.

Twilight smiled at her friend, speaking, “I won’t stop you if you choose to wear the gloves,” she placed a hand on Sunset’s wrist. “But I don’t think you need them.”

Sunset turned to her friend with a frown. “I’m sorry, Twilight. I can’t let another incident happen with my powers. Not today.” She pulled the gloves up her hands to her elbow, drawing a disappointed sigh from Twilight.

“Let’s go get drinks.” Twilight stood up, prompting Sunset to do the same.

Once they had gotten their punch and sat back down at the table, Flash Sentry’s voice came through over the speakers. “We hope you enjoyed our songs and that you have fun the rest of the evening! DJ PON-3 will be taking over the music! Thanks for all your support!” The crowd in front of the stage applauded as Flash and his band descended the steps.

“So Flash had sorta a thing for the other Twilight, huh?” Twilight took a sip from her cup.

“Yeah.”

“Any details you’re willing to share?”

“Why don’t you ask him yourself?” Sunset pointed to Flash, who was strolling to their table.

“Hey Sunset! Hey non-pony Twilight!” Flash caught what he had just said and quickly raised his hands in defense. “N-not that the other Twilight was a pony here at CHS! I mean you aren’t too but—”

Sunset slapped the palm of her hand into her face and shook her head. Twilight gave a nervous chuckle before standing up. “Oh look! All out of punch! I better go and… get some more!” She rambled before rushing off.

Flash took a seat at the table and covered his face with his hands. “I’ll be surprised if she and I can even be friends if I keep doing that.”

Sunset gave Flash a soft pat on his back. “Well, I see your band is back together. No name yet?”

“Nah. We’re holding off on that. We agreed to just play the Fall Formal as three friends instead of bickering about something that silly.” Flash dusted his suit off.

“That’s great, Flash. I’m glad I could help.” Sunset smiled, but upon spotting a familiar yellow-haired girl across the room, it faded quickly. “There she is.”

Flash glanced over at where Sunset was looking. “Tangerine? Is she honestly still bothering you two?”

“Well, no. But the fact she dared to bully Twilight at all.” Sunset scowled, keeping her eyes locked onto her.

“You know, she isn't bullying Twilight just because she’s just an evil filled girl right?”

“What’re you saying? That she should be allowed to-”

“No! No of course not!” Flash quickly interjected. “What she’s doing is inexcusable. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason behind it.”

Just then, Sunset spotted Tangerine walking towards the buffet table, and towards Twilight. She felt the blood in her boil and pushed herself to her feet, but Flash quickly tugged her back down.

“Calm down, Sunset.” Flash placed his hands on the table.

“If Tangerine lays one finger on Twilight I’m going to—”

“Sunset, deep breaths.” Flash opened his palm towards Sunset. “Here. Grab it. I wanna show you something.”

Sunset remained still, turning away. “I’d rather not.”

“Trust me. Nothing bad’s going to happen,” Flash said with a smile.

Sunset thought for a moment and reached for her glove, but as she did, a loud voice in her mind froze her in place. Go ahead. I’d love to see you prove me right.

Sunset-”

“I really shouldn’t.” Sunset lowered her arms, but they were just as quickly picked back up by Flash. She shot her head up and met his confident gaze.

“I trust you,” Flash spoke with a nod. The words caught Sunset off guard. As he reached for the glove, every instinct told her to pull away. Yet, she sat perfectly still. Before she knew it, the garment had come off and Flash grasped Sunset’s hand tightly, drowning out the Fall Formal in a flash of white light.

----------

“Tangerine!” Flash’s voice echoed down the empty hallway, catching the attention of the girl that stood at the end.

“Ugh, what do you want?” Tangerine rolled her eyes as she spoke.

“You know what I want. I want you to stop bullying Twilight!” Flash crossed his arms, scowling.

A frown grew on Tangerine’s face. “This again? I told you, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She turned around, preparing to walk away, but Flash swiftly darted in front of her.

“Yes you do. What’s wrong with you? Did Twilight do something to offend you?” Flash’s words were harsher now. Louder.

Tangerine glanced at Flash with a poisonous scowl, speaking through clenched teeth. “She’s not from Canterlot High.”

“What?” Flash shook his head in confusion.

“She’s not one of us!” Tangerine stomped her foot as she shouted. “What gives her the right to just walk into CHS and have everyone notice her, huh!? Why does she get that special pendent? What makes her so special?

Flash didn’t say a word, locking his gaze onto Tangerine.

“I had to earn the popularity with the students when I first transferred here. I had to suffer for months! Why is Twilight allowed to walk in and earn everyone’s good will just like that?” Tangerine snapped her fingers, screaming.

“And bullying her is your way to make it ‘even’?” Flash’s voice was no longer filled with anger, but instead genuine curiosity.

“I had to endure bullying too, Flash! And no one stood up for me! Twilight needs to know what I felt! What it’s like being the ‘new kid’!” Tears had started to stream from Tangerine’s eyes.

Flash sighed. “Tangerine, all you’re doing is hurting Twilight. I’m sorry you had to go through a rough time when you first came to CHS. But putting someone else through the same misery you felt isn’t going to fix what already happened. You’re gaining nothing from this.”

“Wrong. I’m enjoying her suffering immensely,” Tangerine gave a sadistic smirk.

“Are you really?” Flash words caused the confident expression on Tangerine to shatter. She darted her head away, allowing silence to fall between both of them. He heard a sob, before seeing Tangerine speed down the hallway, disappearing behind a corner.

----------

“She needs help.”

This time, Flash was seated in Principal Celestia’s office. Celestia shook her head, placing her pen down on the desk.

“I… I had no idea these things were happening. I always try to make sure my students are safe but-”

“It's hard, and you’re keeping track of so much. I understand Principal Celestia. But please, this is bad not just for Twilight, but for Tangerine as well.”

“I understand.” Celestia stood from her seat, a stern look in her eyes. “I shall talk to Tangerine as soon as I can.”

“Principal Celestia, I know she needs to be disciplined. But she’s been through a lot as well. Do you think you could-”

“I won’t be too harsh on her. This is my fault too. I should’ve known. I should have stopped these sorts of acts in my own school.” Celestia gave a heavy sigh. “Thank you, Flash Sentry, for raising this to me.”

“You’re welcome, Principal Celestia.”

----------

Sunset lifted her arm slowly from Flash’s, a cocktail of emotions swirling inside her. She remained silent for several seconds, attempting to process what she had just saw.

“I know, that was my reaction too.”

“Wh-Why did you want to show me that?” Sunset stammered, anger and confusion surfacing within her.

“Just thought it’d be good for you to understand why Tangerine acts the way she does. And show you that those powers of yours can be controlled.” Flash gestured upwards towards Tangerine, watching her speak with Twilight. After a minute of talking, Twilight merely nodded and Tangerine parted ways with her.

Sunset grabbed her glove from the table, preparing to slip it on when Flash spoke, “leave them be. You look much more beautiful without those.”

Sunset stared at the garment in her palm and sighed softly. “I can’t, Flash. I need them.”

“Is... is all of this because of what I said on Monday? Because you know I didn’t mean it, right? I’m sorry. You don’t need to be scared.”

Sunset shook her head. “It’s not about what happened on Monday, and I’m not scared,” she lied.

“Sunset, do I need to keep reminding you that we dated? I know when you’re lying. The only thing I can’t figure out is what you’re scared of,” Flash stated. “It can’t be your friends, seeing as how you came to the Fall Formal with them. And you already helped me overcome my problem. So what’s frightening you, Sunset?”

Sunset darted her eyes up to Twilight, watching her converse with Octavia beside the buffet table. I’m just making sure my biggest fear has no way of coming true. Suddenly, Sunset heard a loud cackle invade her mind and a flash of dark purple cross her eyes  She quickly shook her head, feeling a drop of sweat trail down the side of her face.

“Sunset, you really need to tell me what’s going on,” Flash pleaded, leaning forward to Sunset.

“Nothing, Flash. You’re reading too much into this. I just want to wear these because I like to,” Sunset lied once more, staring at Twilight as she moved back to the table. Seizing the opportunity to change the subject, Sunset quickly continued, “I saw Tangerine talk to you, Twilight. What did she say?”

“Huh? Oh! She... actually apologized,” Twilight said in disbelief, sitting down beside Sunset.

“What? Really?” Sunset matched Twilight’s surprise.

“Yeah but it didn’t seem like she wanted to.”

“Must’ve been forced by Principal Celestia to do it,” Flash spoke, drinking the last bit of punch from his cup. Sunset turned, spotting Flash giving her a small wink.

Twilight nodded slightly. “Whatever the reason, I don’t think Tangerine will be bothering us anymore. And I think I’m just going to keep my distance from her. The less we interact, the better.”

“That’s a good idea. Well, I better go enjoy the party. I can’t wait for the Rainbooms to perform after the Fall Formal Queen and King have been announced.” Flash stood up, swiping his cup from the table. Staring at Sunset, he gestured to her hands and smiled before heading off to join the crowd.

“Bye Flash!” Twilight waved lightly, but Sunset remained silent, placing her arms on the table. Once he was out of earshot, Twilight turned to her, confused. “What was that about?”

“Nothing,” Sunset swiftly replied. “Just Flash being Flash. So, what songs should the Rainbooms perform?”

Twilight shrugged. “I don’t know. Whatever Rainbow wants us to perform sounds good to me.”

The night continued to pass without any issues. Sunset and Twilight had spent almost an hour talking and laughing at their table. They soon spotted Rainbow, Pinkie and Applejack running towards the dance floor. Meanwhile, Rarity had chosen to mingle with the other fashion gurus, occasionally gesturing at Sunset and Twilight with a smile. Fluttershy was enjoying her time at the buffet table, taking bowl after bowl of salad as she bobbed her head in time with DJ Pon3’s songs. They had also been given a voting slip, asking the name of the person they would like to be Fall Formal Queen and King. Twilight and Sunset quickly cast their votes before returning to their seats.

Sunset rubbed her hands uncomfortably together, causing Twilight to start speaking. “Sunset, those gloves look really uncomfortable. You should think about taking them off.”

Sunset continued to run one hand over the other. Her palms were starting to get extremely warm and had started to itch slightly. What’s more, Flash’s vision of Tangerine replayed constantly in her mind, fragmenting her thoughts.  She reached to pull off the gloves, but the memory of what had happened with Twilight and Midnight Sparkle forced her fingers back down.

“Sunset…” Twilight called to her friend, but Sunset quickly stood up.

“I’m going to get more drinks.” Sunset grabbed both of their cups and moved to the buffet table. Twilight stood and attempted to keep up.

“Sunset, please listen. You can handle your powers, I know you can. You made such quick progress yesterday in the band room, you should have nothing to be afraid of!”

Sunset placed the empty cups beside the punch bowl, trying to shake the memories from her mind. “There’s a lot of things I should be afraid of. And in case you forgot, we didn’t make much progress on the ‘controlling’ part of the lesson.”

“Okay, yes, we didn’t perfect it. But I know you can decide where to memory jump! So we both know you can control it! I just don’t know what’s holding you back, because you won’t tell me!” Twilight shouted, though much to her relief, the loud music drowned out her words to everyone other than the girl in front of her.  

At the same time, Sunset grabbed two fresh cups and attempted to fill them with the ladle. However, her hand shook with such force, most of it fell back into the bowl instead. Twilight stared in confusion and attempted to recall what had happened over the course of the week. However, her mind always came back to one incident. And she soon realized it was the only possible reason for Sunset’s fear. “Sunset,” she spoke in a grim tone. “You never got over her did you? Y-you lied to me. You… you don’t have it under control.”

The thought of Midnight Sparkle’s words filled Sunset with crippling despair. I am in control! I know what you’re truly afraid of. And it’s only a matter of time before your fears come true! Sunset felt her breath get stolen from her throat. The air around her grew thin, threatening to suffocate her. She could no longer hear the music from the speakers. All she could hear was Midnight Sparkle’s booming voice shouting her words at her. All she could think of was the memories of the past week. The incident with Flash, Fluttershy and—

“It’s Midnight, isn’t it?” Twilight spoke with a somber frown. Sunset had wanted to deny it, to lie to her friend. However, she could not find her voice amidst the frightful memory. She managed to find one second of clarity amidst the chaos and tore through the air towards the door, exiting with a forceful push. Twilight gave chase, stopping Sunset just outside the entrance to the gym.

Sunset felt her composure weaken at the mere mention of Midnight’s name. The very memory of that incident shook her to the core. “Midnight Sparkle was what happened the last time I tried not to use my powers, Twilight. Not just at the band room either. At the gym, in my dreams… every single time I try not to memory jump, there she is!”

“Wait, at the gym? When did you—” Twilight’s eyes opened wide in realization. “After Rarity set up the chandelier. That look you had… you did accidentally use your powers.”

“I don’t want to feel that fear anymore!” She rubbed her hands together, feeling the gloves that covered them. “I can’t let it happen again! I’m not sure I can take it, Twilight! Midnight was right! I will never control this! I will never control her!”

Twilight shook her head. “Yes you will! I know what it’s like to have Midnight control you, and I can help!”

“I almost lost my friends because of this!” Sunset gripped the pendent in her palm. “I almost lost—” Sunset fell silent as a voice echoed from inside the gym, blasting through the speakers and into the hallway they were in.

“Hello everyone! I hope you are all enjoying the Fall Formal!” Principal Celestia’s  words were followed by a loud series of applause.

“I thought I could start anew at this Fall Formal, but it’s all going wrong again!” Sunset cried.

“Sunset, you can’t let Midnight Sparkle scare you! She feeds off that fear! You have to be stronger than she is!” Twilight took a step forward, placing both hands on Sunset’s shoulders.

“Now!” Celestia’s voice echoed through the halls. “We’re here to announce the winners of the Fall Formal Queen and King!”

“All I’ve done is hurt the people I love!” Sunset’s words quivered violently as she spoke.

“But you’ve helped them too! And you could only do that because of your powers! So what’s making you feel so afraid?” Twilight questioned.

“We counted the votes and our two winners won by a landslide! Our Fall Formal King is... Flash Sentry!”

Sunset shook her head, sealing her lips shut as tears flowed from her eyes. She forced her arms into tight fists and pressed them up against her chest. The memory of the incident with Flash, Fluttershy and Rainbow replayed endlessly in her mind. She had lost so much in that one day that the very thought of it frightened her to the core. However, one other incident scared her even more, and the words she heard from that moment still terrified her. “I trusted you, Sunset!”

“Sunset, let me help you, please. What were you so scared of?”

“Fluttershy and Flash hating me!” Sunset lied.

Twilight considered what Sunset had said, but she soon shook her head. “When you saw Midnight for the first time, you already helped Fluttershy, Flash and Rainbow. They no longer hated you so I know that’s not what you were afraid of, Sunset.” She peeked inside the gym, watching Flash ascend the stage. Turning back to Sunset, Twilight pleaded, “please, I’m begging you, tell me what’s gotten you so petrified!"

Sunset knew the answer, but she refused to say it. It wasn’t just being called a freak, or being insulted. Instead, it was something much more personal. It was her worse nightmare come true, and it was what crossed her mind before she saw Midnight Sparkle.

It was the thing she had almost lost with Fluttershy, Flash and Rainbow.

And it was something she could not afford to let slip away because of her powers. Because of one mistake. Her mistake. Once more, she heard the voice of that frightful memory speak in her head. “Please… don’t do this.” 

“And the Fall Formal Queen…”

“Sunset!” Twilight shouted to Sunset and shook her lightly, hoping to shock her friend into speaking.

Sunset stared at Twilight tearfully as she spoke,

“I was afraid of losing you.”

The next few moments passed by in utter silence. The students inside anxiously awaited the results, while Twilight stood, speechless.

“Sunset Shimmer!” The cheer that erupted from the gym was deafening, every student looked around, hoping to spot the Fall Formal Queen walking up to the stage.

“Sunset,” Twilight pulled her friend into a hug. “You’re never going to lose me as your friend. Ever. Not after what you’ve done for me.” Twilight felt Sunset sob into her dress as she hugged Twilight back. “You saved me, showed me who I really am and stood by me in my darkest moments. You never stopped believing in me.” She broke the hug, holding Sunset at arm’s length. Using her thumbs, she wiped the tears from Sunset’s face.

“Sunset Shimmer?” Celestia called out once more, but again, she was nowhere to be seen.

“So I need you to believe me when I say I know you can control this.” Twilight slowly pulled off one of Sunset’s gloves and grasped her hands tightly. Sunset shut her eyes in fear, already hearing Midnight Sparkle enter her mind. Soon, Twilight started to sing.

“So you had magic

And it’s not that great

But when it found you

You know it was fate.”

Twilight’s calm voice started to drown out the visions of Midnight Sparkle in Sunset’s mind. Slowly, the fear and doubt that had plagued her heart started to wither away.

“And it might seem scary now

But it can be wonderful too

So how about we embrace the magic?

And make the magic part of you.”

As Twilight sang the last few words, Sunset mustered as much courage as she could and opened her eyes. She grasped Twilight’s palm tightly, smiling back at her with complete confidence. All of a sudden, she felt as if the weights that were holding her down had vanished, and her heart felt so light Sunset swore she could fly. Sunset took a breath to gather her composure, wiping the remaining tears away.

“I believe you. I know I can control this.” Sunset released her grip and grabbed the edge of the remaining evening glove before tugging it off in one forceful pull. She tossed them harshly to the ground, giving Sunset a feeling of catharsis. She smiled with determination to Twilight, who smiled back in kind. “Thank you, Twilight.”

“Sunset Shimmer! Are you here?” Celestia called out once more.

Twilight entered the room, shouting in reply. “She’s here, Principal Celestia!” Sunset followed closely behind, her eyes sparkling with renewed vigor. Her steps were light, yet filled with purpose, and the grin on her face was one she could not hide, even if she wanted to.

An uproar of cheers and applause was Sunset’s theme as she ascended the steps of the stage, joining Flash under the spotlight.

“You sure took your time,” Flash said with a smirk. “And no gloves?”

Sunset shook her head, smiling to the crowd in front of her. “I took them off.” She glanced in the distance, spotting Twilight waving to her with a large smile drawn across her face. “I don’t need them. Not anymore.”

Principal Celestia picked up a silver tiara embedded with various sparkling jewels and placed it softly on Sunset’s head. “Your Fall Formal King and Queen!” The crowd cheers doubled in volume. Sunset spotted Applejack and the rest of her friends gathered in the middle, yelling and whistling.

Fall Formal... Queen. 

“You know, I don’t think the fact that I won has sunken in yet.” Sunset turned to Flash, only to see him offer his hand. She paused for a moment, but quickly placed hers softly upon his. The crowd parted automatically as they made their way down the steps towards the dance floor. “Just making it clear that we’re only just friends, right?”

Flash nodded slowly. “Still not pulling any punches?”

Sunset shrugged with a smirk. “Not my style.”

A slow waltz echoed through the hall and Sunset begun to circle Flash. Her steps were light as a feather, allowing her to glide effortlessly through the air. All attention in the room was on the Fall Formal Royalty as they moved in time with the music, weaving an almost hypnotic dance with each other.

Twilight sat at her table, watching the two from afar. She rested her head on her palm, smiling wide as she swayed along to the music.

“Not going closer, Twilight?” Applejack took a seat and one by one, her friends all gathered around her.

“Sunset’s had a rough week, I think she deserves her time in the spotlight.” Twilight pushed her glasses against her face. “Oh! And Rarity?” She lifted the two dirtied and crumpled evening gloves, returning them to their creator. “Sorry.”

Rarity took the gloves but just as quickly tossed them aside. “It took five minutes to sew those and am I glad Sunset threw these away! It clashed completely with her outfit and it’s out of style! I simply could not stand the sight of them.”

Soft giggles filled the air around the table. “Well, Sunset sure looks happy!” Pinkie sang at the top of her lungs. “Probably the happiest I’ve seen her yet!”

The others agreed quickly, giving a chorus of ‘mmhms’ as they stared at Sunset’s expression. The smile she wore was brighter than any dress in the room, even her own. It lit up the gym with the glow of a morning sun, giving off a light that Twilight had missed dearly. It was one unique to Sunset, and one that could never be replicated.

“Yeah.” Twilight agreed with Pinkie’s comment. As Sunset twirled under the light, she shimmered like a star that had fallen from the night sky. “It’s sort of like… well, like…”

“Magic?” Rarity spoke.

“Yeah.” Twilight watched as Sunset moved across the floor. There was no hesitation, no nervousness and, most importantly, no more fear in her steps. In fact, the amount of grace that she displayed struck Twilight with awe. As the tiara and the dress sparkled under the light, Twilight could only find two words to describe the scene in front of her, and she said them with a warm smile.

“Like magic.”


Epilogue: One Last

The crowd cheered loudly as Twilight gripped the mic. “Hi everyone! And we’re... the Rainbooms!” Twilight glanced at her friends, who waved and smiled. Rainbow, especially, seemed to be more than happy to bask in the fame. Twilight turned to address the crowd. “We’ve been asked to play for all of you till the Fall Formal officially ends!” She turned her head to the left, catching sight of Sunset adjusting the strap on her guitar. Suddenly, an idea popped into her head.

“For our first song, we thought we’d play something we have never done live before.” Twilight turned to Sunset, who was staring at her, perplexed.

“Twilight, what’re you doing?” Sunset whispered, but Twilight merely gave a playful grin.

“The Rainbooms would like to present, Embrace the Magic!” Twilight quickly shoved the mic into Sunset’s hand before running to the backup microphone. Still in shock, Sunset turned to the eager fans, who had their eyes locked on her.

Thanks for that, Twilight. Sunset cleared her throat and strummed her guitar. Slowly, her confidence started to build until finally, she started to sing in a crystal clear voice.

So you have magic

And it’s not that great

But when it found you

You know it was fate”

A smile had crept it’s way onto Sunset’s face, pushing away all the nerves. Memories of the past week filled her mind, causing her to sing with unwavering confidence.

“And it might seem scary now

But it can be wonderful too

So how about we embrace the magic?

And make the magic part of you!”

The concert lasted for another hour. The Rainbooms had played most of their songs at the request of the crowd. Once they had finished their set, Sunset quietly slinked away with a drink in hand. She made her way to the roof of the school, her getaway place for when she needed to think. The height allowed her to stare past all the houses of the town and even into the hills and trees in the distance. Her eyes focused on the moon which hung just in front of her, bathing her in its soft moonlight.

“There you are.” Twilight’s voice had caught Sunset off guard. She turned to see her friend strolling forward, stopping once she was beside her. “You know, the crowd’s asking for one final song before we call it a night, and we were wondering where our Fall Formal Queen went.”

Sunset giggled, taking the tiara off her head and setting it down. “They can wait a little while longer.” She continued gazing at the scenery, resting her hands on the raised wall at the edge of the roof.

“Quite a week, huh?” Twilight leaned forward, looking straight down at the entrance of CHS.

“Tell me about it.” Sunset shook her head. “And I couldn’t have done it without you.” She turned towards Twilight. Twilight rolled her eyes and lightly nudged Sunset with her elbow. “Hey! I mean it!”

“I know. I just wanted to do that.” Twilight reached over to Sunset’s cup and took a sip.

“When’s your next date with Timber?” Sunset asked, eyes focused on the few stars that glimmered in the purple night sky.

“We don’t know yet,” Twilight admitted, staring at the pink liquid rippling in Sunset’s cup. “Timber’s got two more camp sessions next month. So we’re hoping we can meet up after that.”

“More than a month? Wow. And you’re... okay with that?” Sunset turned to Twilight, who shot her head up to meet Sunset’s gaze.

“Mmhm. I wish we could meet more, but there’s not really a solution for it. Not one I could logically calculate anyway. I have school and he has work.” Twilight returned Sunset’s cup, sighing softly. “But it’ll be worth it. I like him, and if waiting is what I have to do, I’ll do it.”

Timber’s one lucky guy. Sunset sighed as well. Upon feeling the atmosphere get a little heavy, she quickly changed the subject. “Well, I still owe you for how you helped me. If you didn’t talk some sense into me on Tuesday, I probably wouldn’t have recovered the way I did. And the Fall Formal might not have even happened.” Sunset laughed. “Actually, everyone at the Fall Formal right now owes it to you, even if they don’t know it.”

“Oh really?” Twilight softly slammed her shoulder into Sunset, knocking her off balance. “Well you saved me from transforming into a giant terrifying winged monster, thus allowing me to help you. So actually…”

“Alright, alright. I see what this is going. You win, I forfeit,” Sunset said, taking a sip from her cup with a smile.

“Do you think,” Twilight circled her finger, levitating the tiara with a faint purple glow and into her hands. “Maybe next time you could let me win Fall Formal Queen? I’ve always wanted to wear a tiara.”

Sunset smiled and faced Twilight. She reached forth, placing her hands over hers. “Well, you could very well just compete. I think you stand a fighting chance.”

A blush grew on Twilight’s cheeks as she looked away. “Yeah, as if. Competing with the most popular girl at CHS?”

“I’m not joking, Twilight. And if being the Fall Formal Queen is what you wanted...” Sunset moved the tiara up to Twilight’s head, causing her to stare in shock.

“Sunset, what’re you—”

“You just needed to ask.” Sunset nestled the sparkling headpiece neatly between Twilight’s purple locks. She took a step back, watching Twilight run a finger over the tiny gems that adorned the front. “Wow, you look much better than me with that. It’s like you were made to be royalty.”

Twilight pushed her glasses up, attempting to hide her rose-colored cheeks. “We should go back down. We still have one more song to play.” She made her way to the staircase exit, pulling open the door from a distance with a wave of her hand.

Sunset grabbed her cup, sipping the last bit of the punch. As she walked towards Twilight, she ran a finger over her orange necklace and felt a rush of confidence flow through her veins. Stepping through, she paused, staring at the steps in front of her. “This would be a lot easier without heels.” With a hand on the railing, she descended one step at a time, trying her best to make sure she didn't fall.

Twilight adjusted the tiara on her head and grabbed Sunset’s open palm, letting the door close shut behind them. “It’s easier when you have a friend to help you.”

Sunset and Twilight met each other’s gaze with a bright smile. “So, what song are we playing?” Sunset asked, following Twilight’s pace down the stairs.

Twilight grabbed her necklace in a tight fist. Immediately, the memories of the past week rushed through her mind. With a grin on her face, she answered,

“Better Than Ever.”