“Hey Sunset. Do you want to come over and have dinner at my place next weekend? My mom and dad would love to meet you!”
Sunset stared at Twilight's text message, then yawned and stretched backwards, balancing her bedroom chair on two legs in the process.
Just what were Twilight’s parents like, anyway? She’d never met their pony counterparts, so she didn’t have that to go on. Surely the family that had produced either version of Twilight Sparkle had to be an interesting one.
“Well well. You must be the illustrious Sunset Shimmer I’ve heard so much about. Hmm. I’m not going to lie, I kind of expected you to be taller.”
A voice. Unfamiliar, male, and only a few feet away from her. Sunset shrieked, and lost her already precarious balance. She toppled backwards and her head slammed into her carpet with a burst of pain and a bright flash followed by stars.
Sunset groaned, blinking away tears. Someone loomed over her, a dark shadow blocking her view of her bedroom ceiling.
“Oof. That’s going to leave a bump.”
Adrenaline coursed through her veins. Sunset rolled towards her bed, her hand questing blindly underneath it. Her fingers coiled around a solid length of wood, and she withdrew her baseball bat from its hiding place. She sprung to her feet, fighting off the wave of nausea that accompanied the sudden movement, and brandished her weapon in front of her. “Stay back!”
“Oh, how fierce! But that just won’t do. What did I ever do to deserve being threatened by a... herring?”
Sunset blinked. “I… what?” She glanced at the man in her bedroom, who seemed entirely too amused with something, then back to her bat. Rather than the comforting heft of maple, a live fish wriggled in her grasp.
“Gaaah!” Sunset exclaimed with dignity, and flung the creature onto the floor, where it flopped about breathlessly. “What the hell is… who are…”
Deep breaths. She needed to get ahold of herself and focus. She turned her attention back to the stranger and finally got a good look at him.
Tall, dark, though she wouldn’t call him handsome. A curled white goatee. A purple top hat. A brown vest over some sort of fashion disaster that would leave Rarity begging the gods for mercy, each pant leg a different garish color. An arrogant smirk that suggested he thought of himself as the most important person anywhere.
The puzzle began to come together in Sunset’s mind. She’d never met him, but she’d heard more than enough stories from Princess Twilight. There was only one being that could ever fit a description like this.
“Aha! I know that look in your eyes. You have heard of me!” The man swept his hat off of his head and bowed deeply. “Discord, formerly-evil-now-reformed draconequus of chaos, at your service!”
Sunset glanced down at the fish on her floor. It had transformed back into a bat, though she noted it now had a tiny little symbol of a fish painted on its handle. Another deep breath, and her heartbeat started to slow down. This was going to be an interesting day. “Sunset Shimmer. Charmed. I kind of figured that I’d get around to meeting you eventually, but this wasn’t exactly what I expected.”
Discord laughed. “If I did something expected, then I wouldn’t really be me, would I?” He snapped his fingers, vanished, and reappeared on her bed, now wearing a pair of heart-spotted pajamas, his hair done up in pigtails. “I was off to annoy Princess Twilight, but she wasn’t in, and she took Spike with her, and Starlight was there, but blech. No thank you. And wouldn’t you know, there’s a portal to another world just sitting there. With all the hype I’ve heard about Sunset Shimmer, I figured I might as well pop over and see what all the fuss was about. So let’s have ourselves a girls’ night in, braid each other's hair, and talk about the boys we like.” Discord flashed an almost innocent smile and batted his eyelashes.
“Uh-huh.” Sunset snickered, then she righted her fallen chair and sat on it backwards. “Alright, yeah, sure. Let’s rock.”
“And then we can go to the mall, buy matching outfits, and maybe go smoke beneath the bleachers, and…” Discord stopped, his appearance shifting back to normal. “Wait, what?”
“You want to hang out, right? Let’s do it.” Sunset steepled her fingers underneath her chin, and grinned. “I grew up on legends of the big bad scary Discord, you know. And I’ve heard so many stories about your wacky shenanigans from Twilight, it almost feels like I already know you. I’d love to see some of it firsthand.” The pendant around Sunset’s neck pulsed with a quiet hum of power, and she reached up to brush her fingers against it. “Plus, your magic apparently works here, and I am all about that.”
“Huh.” Discord scratched at his chin. “Normally if I want to engage in even the most meager of shenanigans, it takes a lot of needling and cajoling to get anyone to go along with it. Are you telling me you actually want to get up to mischief with me?”
Sunset shrugged. “I’ve got nothing else going on this weekend. Next week I have dinner with Twilight’s parents to look forward to, but right now? Empty schedule, and I was probably just going to spend all day reading or something.”
“Well. If you insist.” Discord stood up and straightened his vest, his grin stretching impossibly wide. “I’ll make sure to give you an adventure… that’s to die for.” The shadows in the room darkened, framing his features in a sinister light. He let out an evil chuckle, an added reverberation effect bouncing off of the walls.
“Nice.” Sunset gave a low whistle, and nodded appreciatively at the special effects. “You see, if I could have done that when I was younger, I wouldn’t have had to spend hours in front of a mirror practicing my evil laugh.”
Discord barked a short laugh, his intonation betraying genuine humor. “Alright, coming here was definitely a good idea. Tell me, what’s this about Twilight’s parents?”
“Huh? Oh, right.” Sunset glanced down at her phone, and she remembered she still had to actually answer the text message. “Twilight wants me to come eat dinner and meet her parents. I’ll go of course, but meeting parents always feels weird to me. Like I’m some sort of intruder in their nice and quiet home life, you know?”
“Well, I can’t really say that I do know.” Discord furrowed his brow, then snapped his fingers and a light bulb went off over his head. “Aha! Speaking of parents, I’ve just thought of the perfect first adventure for us. So we can get to know one another better, hmm?”
Sunset raised an eyebrow. “I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at, but sure, I’m down for whatever.”
“Perfect. I just need to stop by my place and grab a few things first.” Discord snapped his fingers, and all of the walls in Sunset’s bedroom folded outwards like they were just cheap props on a sitcom. Instead of the familiar pastel wallpaper, she now stood in a relatively mundane living room. Closer inspection revealed crooked furniture, upside down paintings, and staircases that would make Escher proud.
Sunset couldn’t help but stare, and her head spun a little. Even at the height of her talent, she could never pull off an illusion like that, let alone whatever Discord was actually doing.
“Don’t mind me,” Discord said, brushing past her. “I just need to pack for our little trip.” He ducked into another room, and an absurd amount of shirts and pants and underwear began to fly past in a hurricane of packing. “Oh, wherever did I put that third toothbrush?”
A window caught her attention, and Sunset turned to peer outside. The “house” seemed to be floating on a large rock in the middle of the void. A smaller rock a little ways away held a mailbox, and chained to it appeared to be a dog in an astronaut suit. It was furtively trying to pick up the newspaper, but was repeatedly thwarted by the suit’s helmet.
A glance out another window revealed a great, unblinking eyeball staring back at her.
“That oughta do it.” Discord popped back into the living room, now wearing a long lab coat. His white hair spiked up in different directions, and a pair of goggles rested on his forehead. “What do you think? Just screams, ‘mad scientist’, right?”
Sunset gave a thumbs up. “At least twenty percent madder than Twilight. So, where we going?”
Discord cackled. “Oh, my dear, it's not where we’re going. It’s when. He held up a small, vaguely gun shaped device, with a blue light bulb sticking out of its top. He pointed it at the floor, and with a burst of light, it opened up a swirling blue portal on the ground. “Are you ready, to go back?”
“I haven’t run screaming yet, have I?” Sunset leaned over the edge, peering down. “Do we just jump in?”
“That’s right!” Discord tugged on his lapels, and cracked his neck. “Geronimo!” He dove headfirst into the portal. It splashed energy about as if it were water, and a small chorus held up a series of olympic score cards.
Sunset chuckled, took a deep breath, and jumped in.
Rather than experiencing the twisting nausea she remembered of the portal to Equestria, she instead plummeted downwards through some sort of iridescent, swirling mass of energy, faster and faster. There didn’t seem to be any upward limit to her speed. Her skin itched, and her perception seemed to stretch. She flew past Discord, who was cackling madly about some sort of specific measurement of how fast they were going, but she couldn’t quite make it out.
Her consciousness fled.
Sunset’s mind's eye floated down a quiet suburban street, giving her a bird's-eye view of a sleepy city. Somewhere she could hear music, something full of cheesy synthesized piano and a man crooning about the power of love. She descended into some sort of main street, a large plaza complete with a fountain and surrounded by various small businesses. It was somewhere in Canterlot, she realized, but she hardly recognized any of the stores.
She came back into herself on the ground and blinked, her perception restored to its regular body. She stood on a sidewalk and could hear the general hum of civilization around her. A teenager riding a skateboard rushed past her, wearing a sleeveless jean jacket with his hair spiked up. “So, where is this exactly?”
“This, my dear,” Discord said, stepping up beside her. He gestured grandly around them. “Is the Eighties!”
Sunset raised an eyebrow. “Is that supposed to mean something?”
Discord blinked. “You know. The Eighties? The period of time between nineteen-eighty and nineteen-eighty-nine? Full of too much denim, too many leg warmers, and an uncomfortable amount of synthesizers?”
“It’s not like I was in them, you know.” Sunset rested her thumbs in her pockets, glancing around at the various pedestrians milling about the plaza. His words seemed to ring true about the fashion, at least.
“Of course you weren’t. But it's an entire decade of pop culture! Surely you’ve at least caught onto some of it in all that mindless entertainment you consume.”
Sunset shrugged. “I only really watch movies on movie nights with the girls. I guess the aesthetic looks kind of familiar, now that you mention it. Pinkie and Rainbow Dash love picking movies that look like this. But I wasn’t really aware that the ‘Eighties’ were a big deal. And where the hell is that music coming from?”
“Bah.” Discord sighed and snapped his fingers. The music cut off. “Well, so much for this being a nostalgia trip. Maybe I should’ve gone and bugged Pinkie Pie again instead. Oh well, might as well make the best of it. Come on, let’s go look around. Who knows, maybe we’ll find something interesting! Or… someone?”
So this was what Canterlot Square looked like thirty years ago. A lot of the architecture was still intact, but apparently not a single business from this time period had survived. Sunset made her way towards a building on the corner, that had a large bright green neon sign spelling out ‘AR ADE’.
A wave of electronic beeps and whistles greeted her when she pushed the door open, along with an unenthusiastic greeting from the employee managing the front desk. Dozens of arcade cabinets filled the floor in haphazard rows, each full of pixelated blobs that darted around the screen eating or shooting other pixelated blobs. A musk of stale pizza and spilled fountain soda hung in the air.
Pinkie Pie would definitely have had a field day with this. Sunset walked through the establishment, taking in the sights. She admired the fevered concentration the various groups of teenagers displayed as they got lost in the zone, taking turns and cheering each other on.
A snippet of a nearby conversation made its way to Sunset’s ear.
“Come on, babe. You should go to the school dance with me.”
“Don’t call me babe, Slug. And I already said no, how many times will it take for it to get through that thick skull of yours?”
“I’m the quarterback, and the tallest, coolest, strongest guy in school. Give me one good reason why not.”
The owner of the second voice darted towards Sunset and grabbed her hand. She leaned in close and whispered, “Play along, please?” The stranger turned back towards the other speaker and loudly proclaimed, “Because I’m actually a lesbian! Sorry Slug, but unless you get a lot curvier, it’ll just never happen.”
Sunset blinked, and she could hear Discord snickering from somewhere behind her. She glanced down at the girl, who seemed to be around the same age as her. Her eyes met Sunset’s with a pleading expression. Sunset turned to the unwanted paramour, a great neanderthal of a man with orange hair, muted blue skin, and a letter jacket. He seemed familiar somehow.
Slug scratched at his head, comprehension slowly dawning behind his vacant expression. “Wait… you only like girls?”
Well, it would be an easy enough role to play. Sunset threw her arm around the woman’s shoulder and pulled her close. “Sorry bud. One hundred percent grade A carpet munchers here. You’ll have to bark up some other tree.”
The woman nodded emphatically and whispered, “Thanks.”
Sunset squeezed in acknowledgement.
It took a subjective eternity for Slug to process the introduction of this new truth to his diminutive worldview, but eventually a somewhat lecherous smirk settled onto his lumpy face, and he leered at them. “Prove it.”
“We don’t have to—” the woman began.
“Alright.” Sunset licked her lips.
Sunset grabbed her cheek, ran a thumb across it, then leaned in to press their lips together.
The woman squeaked and practically melted in Sunset’s arms.
“Woah,” Slug muttered.
Sunset came up for air, the very red-faced woman hanging onto her limply. She smirked at Slug. “That’s the only show you get, big guy. Now, I’ll trust that you’ll leave my lady alone from now on. Otherwise you’ll have to answer to me. Got it?”
“Uh, yeah, sure.” Slug swallowed, blushing furiously. “I have to go, uh, return some video tapes.” Taking one last glance back at the two of them, he shuffled off with an awkward gait.
Sunset pulled away from the stranger, and smiled. “Hey. You alright?”
“I, uh, yeah.” The woman giggled, and tugged at her collar, fidgeting a bit. “That was pretty… wow.” Pale lavender hair with a white streak running through it poofed out from her head in some sort of glamorous perm, and she wore an oversized zebra print sweater, and, as Discord had promised, leg warmers.
Just what the hell was wrong with this decade?
Sunset rubbed at the back of her head. “Sorry, I guess I don’t half-ass it when I’m asked to play a bit.”
“Mmm.” The woman stepped a bit closer. She smelled like lilacs. “I don’t mind, really. You’re a good kisser.” She glanced back towards the door Slug had left through, and giggled again. “I really do like boys I guess, but it’s a wide world. Why limit yourself, you know?” She clasped her hands behind her back and leaned forward while biting her lip. “I don’t suppose you’d actually like to take me to the dance tonight?”
“Well…” Sunset looked around for Discord. He seemed to be heavily involved in destroying the high score on an arcade game in front of a gawking crowd of small children. Rather than using the joystick, he waggled some sort of bulky electronic glove around, and the machine responded to his movements. Without looking back he gave her a thumbs up. “Maybe. I’m actually from out of town, and I’m not quite sure how long I’ll be staying. But if I’m around for it, sure, why not?”
“Great! That’s great! I’ll give you my... “ The woman’s eyes grew wide, and she smacked herself in the forehead. “Oh no! I can’t believe I asked you out without even telling you my name! I’m Twilight. Twilight Velvet. It’s really nice to meet you!”
All of the color drained from Sunset’s face, and her blood ran ice cold. “I’m, um… Sunset. Sunset Shimmer.”
“Sunset. That’s a nice name. Kind of like mine, if you think about it.” Twilight Velvet smiled mischievously. “I really dig your style, by the way. Very unique.” She fumbled around in her purse until she retrieved a pen and notepad, then scribbled something down. “Here’s my number. I’d better get going, but call and let me know, okay? Just uh, mind my Dad. He’s a bit… shellshocked.”
“Uh-huh. Sure. I’ll, uh, see you around, I guess. Later.” Sunset’s mouth felt dry as ash, and she fought back the urge to empty her stomach as she watched her best friend’s mother walk out the door, the lingering scent of her perfume still tickling her nose.
“Bravo, bravo!” Discord walked out from the sidelines with a round of applause. He had acquired a director's hat at some point. “An absolutely stunning performance, Miss Shimmer. You should be in Hollywood! And to think, such a beautiful young woman so interested in you just like that. Not bad for our little adventure, eh?”
Sunset grit her teeth and clenched her fists. “This isn’t exactly how I wanted my first meeting with Twilight’s parents to go.”
Discord placed a hand over his heart, looking offended. “Don’t look at me like that! I’m not the one who makes a habit of snogging complete strangers because some bozo can’t take a hint.” He smirked and adjusted his lab coat. “Not my fault you’re apparently really good at it, either.”
“What if I just ruined everything?” Sunset tugged on her hair, and started pacing about. “What if me being here somehow ruined their relationship, and makes it so Twilight was never born, meaning I would never come back here with you, and then there’s a paradox!”
“Oh please.” Discord rolled his eyes. He pounded an out of order arcade cabinet with his fist, and it lit up, displaying a chalkboard full of all sorts of diagrams and insanely complicated equations. “There’s no such thing as a paradox. The universe is chaotic, my dear. A paradox is a mortal concept, an attempt to instill order on something that doesn’t make any sense to begin with. Do whatever you want, make out with whoever you want, become your own grandmother. The universe doesn’t care! It’ll just keep trucking along, inconsistencies and all.”
“That’s…” Sunset felt dizzy, and she rested against a nearby pillar. “Ugh, I need to sit down.”
Discord shrugged, and the arcade cabinet went back to normal. “Well, I know a great place to get a milkshake around here…”
Sunset stared at the checkered floors and red leather seats as she sipped on her chocolate milkshake. It was pretty amazing, all things considered.
“See? I told you.” Discord now wore a tight white t-shirt, his hair slicked up into a pompadour. “It’s a retro diner! In the eighties, pretending it was in the fifties!”
“Mmmhmm.” Some sort of love song blared from the radio, slow and bouncy, something about angels. It kept putting all sorts of uncomfortable thoughts into her head, and she tried her best to just focus on her milkshake instead.
Discord sighed. “Come now, this won’t be any fun if you’re just going to get all glum about it.” He tapped his finger on the table several times, then his eyes lit up. “Aha! I know how you can fix your little… predicament.”
Sunset looked up, slurping the dregs of her shake through her straw. “What’s that?”
“You’re not the only one here who’s down in the dumps.” Discord gestured to the corner of the diner, where a young man with a dark combover sat, wearing a striped button-up tucked into his khakis. He stared into his own milkshake, looking about as glum as Sunset currently felt. “Do you know who he is?”
“Let me guess.” Sunset rubbed at her temples. “Twilight’s dad? Do you want me to go make out with him too?”
Discord shrugged. “Well, that’s not the approach I’d take, but hey, it’s a free country. He might be pretty into it.” Discord waggled his eyebrows, then chuckled. “But yes. That there is the illustrious future father of Miss Sparkle, Night Light. He’s currently brooding because he’s madly in love with a girl, but he doesn’t have the courage to ask her out. Such a shame. Might not get anywhere, at this rate.”
Well, that left her course of action pretty obvious. A quick romantic pep talk and she could set everything right with the universe once more. Sunset stood up, wiped at her mouth with a napkin, then swaggered over to Night Light and sat across the table from him. “Hey.”
“Huh?” Night Light blinked, then looked up at Sunset. “Um, hi. Who are you?”
“Sunset Shimmer.” Sunset shook his hand vigorously, then leaned back in the booth and grinned. “You look like someone with a problem, who could use someone like me to listen and offer some helpful advice.”
Night Light narrowed his eyes. “Is this some kind of trick? You get me to open my heart only to spill gossip all over school later?”
“Yikes. Guess you’ve been burned before.” Sunset waved her hand dismissively. “No trick, I promise. I’m from out of town, and won’t be staying long. Just a wandering, altruistic soul with a soft spot for the depressed and lonely. With any luck, I’ll move on, and it’ll be like I was never here at all.”
“Huh. You do kind of look like you’re not from around here.” Night Light rested his chin on his palm and sighed. “Gee whiz, I dunno. Even if you’re telling the truth, I don’t know that you can do much to help me.”
“It’s about a girl, right?”
“Yeah…” Night Light sighed again, and stared forlornly out the window. “Most beautiful girl I’ve ever met. There’s just something about her that's so… enchanting. It’s almost like I’m under her spell. Destiny or something. But that’s probably just nonsense. There’s no way she’d want to go out with a loser like me. Just the other day I saw her turn down Slug, and he’s the quarterback! What chance do I have?”
Sunset smiled and shook her head. “You might be more right than you know. Destiny works in mysterious ways and all. I’d be willing to bet good money that if you ask her out, she’d say yes.” Sunset would of course have to figure out how to gently turn Velvet down, but it couldn’t be too hard. “You two would make a great couple. Might even get married, have a couple of successful kids.”
Night Light blushed, a distant look in his eyes. “You… you really think so?”
“I know so.” Sunset flashed what she hoped was her most convincing grin.
A poodle skirt fluttered in Sunset’s peripheral vision, and one of the waitresses skidded to a stop on her roller blades, which they apparently wore here for some reason. “Heya there, Nighty-Lighty! Glad to see you again today. Do you want the usual or what?” she asked in a familiar, bubbly sing-song.
“Hey Sonata,” Night Light said, looking up at the waitress with a dreamy sigh.
Sunset’s blood ran ice-cold for the second time that day.
“So that’s a double-chocolate milkshake with extra whip cream, right? Anything for your lady friend here?” Sonata Dusk asked. She didn’t look a day younger than the last time Sunset had seen the siren, and while dressed in some sort of ridiculous getup on rollerblades, her necklace was intact and around her neck, filled with a soft inner light that set off a tickling sensation in the back of Sunset’s brain.
“Oh, n-no, she’s not my, uh, girlfriend, or anything,” Night Light stuttered. “She’s actually, uh, a complete stranger.” He stood up, suddenly, slamming his hands on the table, and took a deep breath. “Listen, Sonata, there’s something I wanted to ask you…”
Crap crap crap. Sunset had to stop this. But how? Tackle Sonata? Loudly proclaim that she was Night Light’s girlfriend, and make out with him to prove the point? While that might technically salvage the current situation, it would just make things even worse in the long run, and she really didn’t want to have to look Twilight in the eye after kissing both of her parents. One was going to be bad enough.
“Sure, ask away!”
Crap. Time for deliberation was running out. Sunset glanced over her shoulder at Discord, silently begging for help. He looked mildly confused, and shrugged. Damnit. Screw it. She'd have to beg forgiveness later.
Sunset slid across the booth and slung her arm around Night Light’s shoulders, pulling him close. “Come on, babe, why you gotta be like that? Sure, we ain’t exactly going steady, but after last night I’m pretty sure we got something going on.” Wearing her cockiest grin, she nodded at Sonata. “I’ll take a vanilla malt.”
Sonata giggled. “Well, alright! One doubo-choco and one vanilla-malto coming right up!” She turned, and started to roll away.
“What the hell are you doing?” Night Light shrieked. “Get off of me!” He yanked out of Sunset’s grasp, then lunged and caught Sonata’s wrist. “Hold on, I seriously don’t know this woman! She’s just some lunatic! I really do, uh, that is…”
Sunset pursed her lips. Was she losing her touch that badly? But she’d knocked it out of the park with Velvet earlier. She stood up. “What he means to say is—”
“Sonata!” Night Light blurted out, his voice cracking. “I would really, um, like it if you would accompany me to the school dance tonight?”
Sonata blinked several times, then glanced between Sunset and Night Light. Her nostrils flared as she drew in a deep breath, then let it out with an almost euphoric exhalation. Her grin became predatory, and she practically melted against Night Light, one finger idly running along his shoulders. “Why, I’d love to, Nighty-Lighty! I had no idea you felt like that about little old me, but it makes me really happy!”
She kept her eyes locked with Sunset’s the entire time, a triumphant sneer marring the her deceptively innocent features.
Sunset clenched her fist and grit her teeth.
“Really? You mean it! Oh, thank you thank you! This is going to be great, I promise. I, uh, I’ll pick you up at eight?”
Sonata giggled her ditzy giggle. “Sure thing, sweetie! I’ve got to get back to work.” She pulled a page from her notepad, and scribbled something down on it, before slipping it into Night Light’s front pocket. “There’s my address. I’d normally warn you to watch out for my sisters, but they’re out of town this weekend!” She turned to Sunset, and her smile became plastic and professional. “Do you still want your milkshake, miss?”
Sunset lowered her head, and started shuffling towards the exit. “Just pour it into the gutter.”
“I’ll try to avoid splashing you!”
Sunset didn’t respond. The bell over the door rang as she made her way outside. The bright sunlight stung her eyes.
Discord leaned against the side of the building. “Oof. That was rough. Maybe he’s just really into poodle skirts.”
“You think this is funny?” Sunset whirled on him, though she couldn’t muster the energy to really be angry.
“Of course I do. I always think chaos is funny.” Discord gave a short bow, then shrugged. “But what do you want from me? I’m not omniscient after all. How was I supposed to know he was in love with the wrong girl?”
What an utter disaster. It still might be salvageable, but… “What would happen if we just bailed and went home, right now?”
“Who knows? Causality and chaos work in mysterious ways.” He waggled his fingers. “But even if we wanted to, we can’t. The portal gun is out of charge.” He held it up. The lightbulb wasn’t lit. “It should be ready to go in about, say, three hours. Which, fancy that, is right after the dance ends! Crazy good timing on these portal guns.”
“Uh-huh.” Sunset knew he was lying, of course. But she’d signed up for this after all, her own little wacky adventure. It had just ended up being a bit more personal than she’d expected. There had to be something she could do. She crossed her arms over her chest, and began to pace in circles. “Alright, so, I take Velvet to prom. Show her a good time, but make it clear that I’m not looking for anything long term.”
Discord chuckled. “She’s young. It’s probably just a phase.”
“Sonata’s probably doing this for the snack. Wouldn’t have even said yes if she hadn’t been able to make me jealous in the process. Plenty more discontent to feast on at a school dance; though if her sisters really are out of town, she won’t able to stir up much trouble on her own. Night Light is probably charmed by her power, but if we can get her to reveal her evil nature, or maybe dangle something more enticining in front of her…” Sunset clutched at her necklace. Could she use it as bait somehow? Then it hit her. Sunset snapped her fingers and then pointed at Discord. “You.”
“Me?” Discord gasped. “Whatever part could little old me play in this devious scheme you’re cooking up?”
Sunset nodded, everything coming together in her head. “You’re positively brimming with chaos magic. You go to the dance, disguised as the janitor or something, I don’t know. Spread a little chaos magic around, sow some minor problems and she’ll be on top of you like flies on rotten meat. Night Light will be left in the dust. Dejected, he goes to the punch bowl to drown his sorrows… where I’ve conveniently left my own date. Hopefully they should be able to make that connection on their own, at that point.”
“Brilliant!” Discord applauded, and cackled wildly. “I knew there was a reason we were hanging out together. This is going to be quite devilish.”
“What can I say. I know how to manipulate a dance.” Sunset cracked her knuckles, then stared up at the setting sun. “Guess all we have to do now is wait.”
The two hours before the dance stretched into a figurative eternity as Sunset prepared. They were also filled with a veritable montage of wacky hijinks on the part of Discord, along with what she was sure were a metric ton of pop culture references she didn’t understand. She’d called Velvet to confirm the date, and gotten a far too enthusiastic lecture on the dangers of ‘Pinko Commies,’ whatever those were, from Velvet’s father.
Sunset waited in front of her house, resting against a beast of a motorcycle with a stylized draconequus painted on it. Her own ensemble now included jeans, some sort of puffy red vest over her jacket, and oversized sunglasses, even though it was dark out. Oh well, when in Roan.
Twilight Velvet stepped out the front door, framed by the light in her doorway. If her previous look had been all bombastic eighties fashion disaster, she was now the picture perfect prom date. She wore a long blue dress with ruffles Sunset was pretty sure she’d seen on Twilight before, and she’d straightened her hair and pulled it back into a ponytail. She smiled and waved at Sunset, turned to shout something at her parents, then made her way over. “Hey,” she said, brushing her bangs behind her ear. “That’s a pretty nice bike. I didn’t realize you were Kool with a capital K, Sunset.”
“Uh, yeah, sure.” Her bike hummed appreciatively at the compliment. Sunset kicked it. “You look great, Velvet. You ever ridden one of these things before?”
“Never.” Velvet slid into the seat as if she were a natural, and let out an appreciative sigh. “But there’s a first time for everything, right? And please, call me Twilight.”
“No way in hell,” Sunset muttered under her breath. Sunset climbed onto the bike behind her, and revved the engine. “Hold on tight!” she shouted, then the bike roared as it took off at a metaphorical gallop.
After they’d been on their way for about a minute or so, Sunset cleared her throat. “HEY, LISTEN, I WANT TO MAKE SOMETHING CLEAR.”
Velvet craned her head backwards slightly. “WHAT’S THAT?”
“YOU SEEM LIKE A REALLY NICE GIRL AND ALL, BUT I DON’T WANT TO LEAD YOU ON. I MEANT WHAT I SAID ABOUT NOT BEING IN TOWN VERY LONG. THERE’S A GOOD CHANCE YOU’LL NEVER SEE ME AGAIN AFTER TONIGHT.”
“OH. WELL, I GUESS I KIND OF FIGURED AS MUCH. IT’S OKAY, REALLY. I JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN WITH YOU TONIGHT.” Velvet flashed her a smile that someone could easily fall in love with. A lot like Twilight’s smile, in fact. “WHATEVER HAPPENS HAPPENS, RIGHT?”
“RIGHT.” Sunset bit her lip, then leaned into the next curve and stayed silent for the rest of the drive. They finally pulled up in front of Canterlot High, familiar horse statue still intact. Other couples funneled into the entrance around them. Sunset dismounted, then helped Velvet down, and she wobbled and clung to Sunset for support.
“Wow,” Velvet murmured, her cheeks flushed. She cleared her throat and straightened her skirt. “That was… intense.”
Sunset coughed. “Go on in ahead of me, would you? Gotta park this baby.”
Velvet raised an eyebrow, but nodded. “Sure thing. Don’t be too long, though.” She winked, then hurried off towards the doorway.
Once she was out of sight, Sunset glanced around to make sure nobody was paying attention, then knocked twice on the bike.
The bike coughed out a plume of exhaust, then popped back into Discord. He had a rather disgusted look on his face. “Blech. Not doing that one again.” He shook himself like a wet dog, a spray of water misting the area around him.
Sunset stepped back. “Yeah yeah, whatever. Come on, go get ready to perform your creepy janitor act.”
Discord rolled his eyes. “Come now, you can’t be in a rush to get to everything. You have to stay fluid, adapt to any unexpected changes, and enjoy the moment.” He snapped his fingers, and a dull gray jumpsuit replaced his usual outfit, his hair became stringy and slicked itself back. He hunched over, and started pushing a manifested broom along the pavement. “But you’ve got a role to play too, you know.”
She sure did. Sunset popped a tic tac into her mouth and sighed. She caught a flash of teal hair disappearing into the doorway; Sonata was already here. Time to catch up with her date.
Canterlot High hadn’t changed much over thirty years, entire facade withstanding, and it was still the same old route to get to the gymnasium. She scanned the crowd inside, looking for Velvet, only for her to close in from behind and link arms with Sunset. “Come on, let’s dance.”
It wasn’t the type of music Sunset normally liked to dance to. Despite being a rather accomplished dancer; she’d practiced various types of ballroom as well as swing dancing with Rarity on a number of occasions.
None of which were apparently in fashion during the eighties. Or at the very least, weren't styles that Velvet knew. Sunset watched Velvet slide back and forth on the dance floor, then act like a robot. Sunset could only shrug, keep her own moves simple, and imitate wherever possible.
She kept an eye on Night Light and Sonata out of the corner of her eye. She seemed to be having fun, and Night Light was completely under her spell. At the very least, she wasn’t actively sowing discontent amongst everyone else.
After a break in the music, it was time to put her plan in action. Sunset groaned, and clutched at her stomach. “Ugh, I think I need to hit the ladies room. Can you wait for me, over there by the punch bowl? Don’t leave there for any reason. I’ll uh, have a surprise for you when I get back.
Velvet shrugged, leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek, then made her way over to the punch bowl where she waited patiently.
So far so good. Sunset left the room, then doubled back as soon as she was out of sight. She slipped back into a different entrance of the gym, and ducked behind a pillar. She caught Discord’s attention, who was mopping a corner, and flashed him the signal.
Sunset couldn’t see what he did, but the effect on Sonata was instantaneous. She perked up, head swivelling towards Discord, and she practically dropped Night Light mid spin. She started walking towards him, eyes wide, and nostrils flaring. Discord began to back away, a devilish smirk on his face as he led the siren out of the room like a parasprite to music.
Night Light sat alone and utterly bewildered. He picked himself up off the ground, brushed dust off his pants, then sighed and wandered over to the punch bowl.
It was working! Sunset practically squealed with delight. The two soon-to-be lovers stood side by side near the punch bowl, so close, only a simple conversation starter away from a lifelong commitment and two beautiful children.
Sunset waited, her breath held. She eventually had to start breathing again with a gasp. A minute passed. Then another. She clenched her teeth. They just stood there, looking bored. This wouldn’t last forever, right? She had to do something, and fast.
“Hey!” Sunset called out, emerging from behind the pillar. Velvet immediately brightened at her approach.
Sunset yanked the geode off of her neck. “I wanted to show you—whoops!” She hurled the stone at them, making it look as if she’d tripped. It skidded to a stop between both Night Light and Twilight Velvet. “Grab that!” she shouted.
They both ducked down at the same time, their fingers simultaneously brushing against one another and the crystallization of empathetic magic.
Sunset pumped her fist into the air. Both of them stiffened, their eyes lighting up as they peered into one another's souls.
The spell broke in just a few moments, and they slumped away from each other, panting heavily.
“That was…” Velvet muttered, staring into Night Light’s eyes.
“That was…” Night Light licked his lips. “Really weird.”
“Yeah.” Velvet shuddered. “Like, totally not cool. Sunset, is this yours? What is it?” She picked the necklace up by the chain, and held it out.
Night Light cleared his throat. “Sorry.”
Sunset smacked her face with her palm. “No, you two are supposed to—”
“There you are!” Sonata popped out of nowhere, wrapped her arms tightly around Night Light. She had a hungry, crazed look in her eyes. “You wanna… go somewhere a bit more private?”
Night Light looked like he’d just been smacked in the face with a million bucks. “Buuh…”
Sonata started dragging him away. She spared a glance for Sunset and stuck her tongue out.
Velvet giggled. “Cute couple.” She bit her lip and leaned in a little closer to Sunset. “You know, if you want to follow their example, the library here offers a lot of privacy…”
Sunset found her throat amazingly dry. She slammed a glass of punch. Where the hell was Discord?
Sunset leaned down to glance under the table. Discord crouched under there, cowering.
“What the hell are you doing?” Sunset hissed. “You’re supposed to be distracting Sonata!”
Discord shuddered. “That little witch can actually eat my magic! If I let her get too close for too long then it's lights out for Daddy D. Sorry, but that plan is a wash.”
Sunset swore and stood back up. She glanced around the auditorium. Sonata wasn’t far from the exit now. The current song ended, and an idea popped into her head. It was time to do something drastic.
“Sunset?” Velvet asked, looking concerned. “Are you alright?”
Sunset snatched her necklace back from Velvet, then clasped it around her own neck. “I’ve got to do something. Go stop those two from leaving the gymnasium. Trust me! They’ll want to see this. And you will too.” She leaned in to give Velvet a quick kiss on the lips, then dashed off towards the stage.
A hushed conversation and a bribe of all of Sunset’s money—several hundred dollars worth of bills that were most likely printed long after the eighties—saw Sunset standing up on the stage, a guitar slung over her shoulder. Velvet held onto the sleeve of a very annoyed looking Siren and her confused paramour, and all eyes currently rested on Sunset.
Sunset cleared her throat. “This is for all you lovers out there. Those of you here tonight with a partner, and…” she let her gaze fall on Velvet and Night Light meaningfully. “Those of you who still have yet to find the one.”
She started to strum her guitar, and the synthesized piano kicked in behind her as the rest of the band played along. “The power of love, is a curious thing!”
She sung her heart into the cheesy eighties ballad. She filled it with every scrap of meaning of purpose she could, hoping to convey a love, a true love, that would bring those destined to be together to each other at last. The geode around her neck flared with empathetic magic, and she could feel it course through her. She floated into the air, her ears transforming, her hair growing longer.
“And that’s the power of love!” Sunset slammed into the ground with a final strum of her guitar and a wave of rainbow energy burst forth and washed over the crowd.
Her pony ears faded, and she stood up, panting, sweat pouring down her face. The last echoes of her song faded into silence. Everyone stared at her, even her fellow bandmates.
“Sunset…” Velvet muttered, her voice cutting through the air. Her eyes sparkled with what almost looked like adoration and love.
“Sunset?” “Sunset.” “Sunset!” Her name spread through the crowd like wildfire. A hundred eyes stayed locked to her, each filled with the same intense infatuation as Velvet.
Sonata stared hungrily and licked her lips, her necklace glowing bright red.
“Noooooo,” Sunset moaned into the microphone. The crowd started to shuffle forwards, chanting her name.
Discord leaned in the doorway, and held up the portal gun. The light bulb was blue, and he gestured frantically outside. It was time to go.
The wave of students crashed into the stage, and they began to scramble up. Sunset took a few steps back, then nearly bumped into the drummer, a greasy looking guy with dreads.
“Your name is Sunset, right? I think I might be in love with you.”
Sunset pushed him to the side, then leapt forward to balance precariously on his drumset. The cymbal and snare fell over and made a perfect rimshot, though the only joke to emphasize was apparently her.
“Up! Up!” Discord shouted as he gestured frantically at the ceiling.
She followed the direction he was pointing and saw a thick metal cable leading from the stage to the door.
Velvet crested the stage, beating out many of the other admirers. “Sunset, please… I know what you said earlier, but there’s really something here, between us, right?”
Sunset grimaced, then slung her electric guitar up and over the cable and leapt into the air, ziplining her way to safety to the shrill screech of strings on metal. The guitar’s neck snapped, and she landed in a crouch next to Discord.
“Hey, that was my guitar!” someone from the band shouted. “But all is forgiven, baby!”
“You really screwed the pooch on this one,” Discord muttered, then helped her up.
“Bite me,” Sunset sneered. “Okay, sure, maybe trying to use my magic to love bomb everyone was a bad idea. Can you fix this?”
Discord shrugged. “Come now. I cause problems; I don’t fix them.”
The students surged towards them. Sunset bolted.
“Well? What’s the plan, oh fearless leader?”
Sunset grit her teeth. “Screw the Eighties. I’m going home, then I’m gonna curl up in my bed and scribble all over this era in my history books,”
Discord placed a hand over his heart in mock indignation. “But what if there’s irreparable damage to the timeline from everything you’ve done here?”
“Well, with you around, I suspect everything I do to try and fix it will only make things worse. I’m cutting my losses. The universe can deal.”
“It’s called Discord’s Law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Sorry, should I have mentioned that earlier?”
Sunset skidded to a stop outside. She rubbed at the bridge of her nose. “No, look, it's fine. Hand in fire, expect to get burned, etc. Let’s just go, okay?”
“As you wish.” Discord tossed her the portal gun, then transformed back into the motorcycle.
Sunset stared at the device, and raised an eyebrow. “What are you doing? We can just use this here, right?” She pointed it at the ground, trying to find the button that would trigger it.
Motorcycle-cord whinnied. “It won’t work. We have to be going at this bike’s maximum speed before we enter the portal, or else we won’t be able to make it.”
“What? Why? That’s stupid!”
“It’s a lot harder to go up than down!”
The horde of students burst out the doors and began flooding into the courtyard. Sunset growled, hopped on the bike, and gunned it.
They shot down the thankfully empty streets, the speedometer creeping higher and higher. She held the gun steady, pointing in front of the bike. The flaw in their plan became quickly evident, as the courthouse loomed ahead of her at the end of the street. “I’M GOING TO HAVE TO TURN AND FIND A STRAIGHTER STREET!”
“THERE ISN’T ONE FOR MILES, YOU KNOW THAT. WE CAN MAKE IT, JUST TRUST ME.”
Sunset gripped the accelerator as tightly as she could, and the bike shifted into its highest gear, the engine whining painfully loud. “DAMN YOU, DISCORD!”
“WAIT FOR IT.”
“I DON’T WANT TO DIE LIKE THIS!”
Sunset clenched the trigger on the portal gun. A blue light flashed and impacted with the wall less than a second before they would have crashed in a spectacular explosion, and they flew into the wormhole instead.
Rather than falling they climbed upwards against whatever gravitational pull wanted to keep them in the Eighties, the bike’s wheels spinning against the edge of the tunnel. Chaos bike though he was, they eventually started to slow, and came to a stop right before the other edge. Sunset leapt upwards from the bike, her fingertips barely grazing the edge of the portal, and she fell into her own bed in a crumpled heap.
Discord popped into existence a moment after her, collapsing into her desk chair and wiping the sweat from his brow. “Well then. That was quite the adventure, wasn’t it?”
Sunset groaned and righted herself. Her heart still raced as fast as the bike had been going just a bit ago. “That did technically fall under the definition of adventure, yes.”
“Well? Did you like it? Should I consider you an adventure buddy for the future?” Discord waggled his eyebrows, though she saw genuine hope in his eyes.
“I don’t know.” Sunset took a deep breath. “That depends on whether or not there are lingering permanent consequences I have to deal with.”
“Bah. Well, you’ll get over it, whatever they are. I’ll let you sleep on it. I’m off to go tell this whole story to Princess Twilight, hopefully annoy her to the point where she threatens to turn me into stone again. Ta-ta!”
And just like that, Discord was gone. It could almost be written off as a weird dream, if it weren't for the stylized fish still embossed on her bat.
Sunset pulled her phone out and called Twilight.
“Hello? This is Twilight Sparkle speaking.”
“You have caller ID, nerd, you don’t have to answer so formally. Anyway, your mom and dad are Twilight Velvet and Night Light, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“And they love each other?”
“Of course they do. Why do you ask?”
“How did they meet?”
“Umm…” There was a pause. “If I remember correctly, they met in college. They got assigned together on a group project, and, well, one thing led to another. Um, Sunset? Are you okay? What’s so funny?”
Sunset couldn’t tell if she was laughing or crying.
“Sunset, come on, what are you so afraid of? She’s not going to bite.”
Sunset crossed her arms, blew her bangs out of her eyes, and kicked her feet up onto the dashboard. “What? I’m not afraid of anything. It’s just really comfy, here in this car. The AC feels nice. You go on ahead, I’ll catch up later. Leave me the keys.”
Twilight groaned, and rested her hands on her hips. “Ugh, Sunset! I know I’m not strong enough to drag you out of there, so if you really insist on being this stubborn, I’ll have you know that the garden hose will totally reach out here. My mom is really sweet. She’ll love you.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Sunset grumbled. She sighed, then unbuckled her seatbelt and slid out of the car. She’d enjoyed her share of being petulant, but if she’d wanted to weasel out of this she should’ve tried harder days ago. “Alright, alright.”
“Are… you okay?” Twilight asked, her lips pursed with worry.”
Sunset grinned. “Stomach problems, that's all. I didn’t want to make a weird first impression, but I should be fine.”
Twilight blinked, then looked away. “Oh.”
They made their way up the sidewalk to the porch, and the door swung open. A much older Twilight Velvet stood there, ready to greet them. She’d filled out… a lot, and was still almost radiantly beautiful, in a matronly sort of way. “Glad you could make it, girls.”
Sunset swallowed. “Uh, hey. Missus Velvet.”
Velvet locked eyes with Sunset, and a smirk slowly crept up her lips. “My my. You really don’t look like you’re a day older from back then. It sure is something.”
Sweat trickled down the back of Sunset’s neck. “Back then? What do you mean? Did you know my mom or something? Everyone always says the uh, women in our family all look alike.”
Twilight looked between the two of them, and cocked her head to the side. “Mom?”
“Oh, no, I’m not confusing you with your mom. Or even your grandmother.” Velvet giggled, her smile almost predatory. “She’s a much better kisser than you anyway.”
Something twisted up in Sunset’s gut, and she couldn’t make any sound escape her throat.
Velvet flashed her teeth. “Come now, Sunset. Do you really think you’re the only person around who’s ever traveled back in time and made out with someone's parents before?”
Twilight looked as pale as Sunset felt. “Mom? What the heck are you talking about?”
“Come on in, girls. I’m sorry, I’ve been waiting a long time for today, so you’ll have to pardon my indulgent teasing. I’ll explain everything over a cup of tea.”
Somewhere in the distance, at the faintest edge of Sunset’s hearing, she could hear the maniacal laughter of a chaos god.