• Published 19th Jan 2015
  • 12,135 Views, 442 Comments

Firebird Dahlia - The Albinocorn



Sunset goes home to Equestria to reconcile with her family. But ten years is a large bridge to gap, especially between sisters.

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Overheat


Neither Twilight nor Zephyr protested when Sunset walked out the door behind Spitfire. It closed behind the sisters with a soft thud, yet it echoed through Sunset’s ears like slamming prison doors.

Spitfire turned without a word and walked down the corridor. Sunset followed, slowly but surely. She was thankful her mouth had glued itself shut, because she was pretty sure if she opened it, she’d throw up.

They exited the apartment complex and turned down the street, towards the edge of Cloudsdale. Sunset’s stomach plummeted even further as she thought of all the things Spitfire could do to her here.

Spitfire stopped and turned around; her eyes burned holes into Sunset’s skull. She opened her mouth, closed it, shook her head, and tapped a hoof against the cloud. She repeated the process four times before she stepped forward and raised a hoof.

Sunset flinched, but made no move to defend herself.

Spitfire just pointed at her and said in a low whisper, “I ought to slug you.”

Sunset swallowed. “I… I’d probably deserve it.”

“No, you don’t. You deserve a lot worse than that.” Spitfire gestured to the edge of the cloud. “What you deserve is a swift kick off of Cloudsdale.”

Glue filled Sunset’s mouth again. She pinned her ears back, but didn’t do much else.

Spitfire raised an eyebrow. “What, no comeback? No insult?” When Sunset didn’t respond, Spitfire growled. “Don’t you dare try and play up that pathetic ‘I’m sorry’ act. If you think a sad look and an apology is going to fix what you broke, you’re dead wrong.”

“Spitfire, I am sorry. I messed up.”

“Really?” Spitfire said sarcastically. “Tell me, which part did you mess up? When you vanished off the face of Equestria overnight? Or not telling anypony where you were going? Or the part where it took you ten years to realize, ‘Hey, I think I might have forgotten something’? Am I getting warmer? Because I can keep going.”

Sunset said nothing. Silence crept up on them as the bustle of Cloudsdale faded into the aether. Sunset closed her eyes, unable to withstand Spitfire’s heated glare anymore.

“So, where the heck were you?”

Sunset turned and looked at the horizon. “Away. Very distant lands.”

Spitfire pulled her lips back into a snarl and jabbed Sunset’s shoulder. “Don’t give me any of that bull! I wanna know where you’ve been and why you freaking left! Why didn’t you at least tell Mom and Dad? I don’t give a mule’s behind, but you could have at least considered them!”

Sunset bit back a sharp retort and said, “It wasn’t exactly a planned trip, okay? It sort of just happened.” She met Spitfire’s eyes. “I went to another world.”

Spitfire looked at her like she had just eaten a bug. “You think I’m stupid? You seriously expect me to believe you went to another world?”

“No,” Sunset said bluntly. “But you asked for the truth and I’m telling it to you. Celestia had a mirror in her castle that was a gateway to an alternate dimension and… I ran through it... after she dismissed me.”

“...She dismissed you?” Spitfire asked quietly.

“Yeah… for being… well, you know.”

“A stuck-up little—”

“Yeah, for that!” Sunset huffed and turned away. “Contrary to what you think, not everything about being Celestia’s student was a cakewalk.”

“Well, you could have fooled me,” Spitfire said bitterly.

“I worked just as hard as you did, Spitfire.” Sunset fought to keep her voice level against her rising emotions. “I just happened to be really good at magic.”

“Yeah, I know. Everypony knew.” She spread a hoof through the air. “‘Sunset Shimmer, the unicorn prodigy from a family of pegasi—isn’t she amazing!’”

Sunset glared at Spitfire. “What? You think I like being the black sheep in the family? You think I enjoyed ponies always reminding me of my heritage?”

“Oh, so you’re ashamed of us now?”

Sunset recoiled. “You know that’s not what I meant.”

“Sounded a lot like it to me. Explains why you locked yourself in the castle most of the time.”

“I don’t know why you’re complaining. It gave you more time with Mom and Dad.”

“Yeah, and that would have been great if they weren’t gushing over you and your stupid powers!”

Sunset threw her hooves up. “Quit acting like you weren’t the center of attention! Every time I come home, it’s ‘Did you hear what new record Spitfire broke?’ ‘Guess how many medals Spitfire has now?’ Do you know what it’s like to grow up in your shadow?”

Spitfire copied Sunset’s movements. “Do you know what’s it like to be dwarfed by your baby sister?”

“Well, I’m sure you didn’t have that problem after I was gone!”

“You’re right—I had to deal with a whole new set of problems, all of them your fault!” Spitfire pushed a hoof against her muzzle. She scrunched her face, eyes glistening against her will. “It was all your fault.”

Sunset’s anger simmered. “Spits…”

“You know…” Spitfire began in a hoarse whisper, “I thought you were dead. Mom and Dad held onto to this ridiculous idea that you were alive somewhere, but I thought to myself, ‘No, if she was alive, she’d send a letter or note or something. She’s not that selfish. She’s not that heartless.’”

Sunset flinched. “I—”

“You being dead was the only way anything made sense,” Spitfire said in a louder voice. “So that’s what I told myself. And you know what? It actually hurt me to think that I would never see you again. I was an only child now—my sister was dead.” Spitfire pressed her teeth together. “And then you had the nerve to show up again ten years later with that stupid ‘I’m sorry’ look on your face. And in that instant, I realized, I’d rather you be dead.”

“Spitfire—”

“How could you just ditch your family like that?” Spitfire screamed. “I don’t care what happened between us! You just left Mom and Dad without one freaking word! They waited for years for something—anything from you, and it never came, you selfish little brat!”

Sunset didn’t even try to talk back anymore. She was trying too hard to keep her composure in check.

“You couldn’t write one thing—one little letter? Shoot some magic signal just to say, ‘Hey, I’m still here’? They cried over you, they searched for you, they fought over you—they broke up over you! And do you wanna know where I was? I was stuck in the middle of it the entire time, forced to pick a side! Comforting Mom, talking to Dad! ‘No, Mom, I’m sure she’s okay, she’ll send something soon.’ ‘No, Dad, it isn’t your fault, you spent as much time with her as you could.’ And now—now you want to come back and say ‘I’m sorry’ and make everything better?”

Spitfire finally took a deep, shuddering breath and slowly exhaled. She narrowed her eyes to dangerously thin lines. “There’s nothing you can do to make me forget everything.”

Sunset wiped her tears away and focused on Spitfire’s blurry heaving outline. Looking carefully, she could still see the faintest outline of a scar near the base of Spitfire’s wing.

“You’re not just talking about me leaving, are you?” Sunset asked slowly. “You’re still mad.”

“Of course I’m mad!” Spitfire stomped a hoof against the cloud. “My own sister tried to kill me!”

“It was an accident, Spitfire!” Sunset yelled back. “Why would I try to kill you?”

“Because you were always jealous! I saw it every time you looked at my wings.”

“Yes, I was jealous, but I would never try and kill you! I’m not a—” Sunset caught her words and cringed. She remembered the fireball, and six girls that would have perished if not for the magic of friendship.

But those were two different circumstances. It had been an accident. Just an accident. She would never strike her sister down intentionally.

“It was just an accident…” Sunset whispered.

“Accident or not, you nearly ruined my entire dream!”

Tears welled in Sunset’s eyes again. “Sp-Spitfire, I—”

“And don’t you dare start crying! That may have worked when we were kids, but it’s not going to help now!”

Sunset held her breath, holding back the sob that had been building. She sniffled and shook her head. Spitfire had a point: she was supposed to be tougher than this. She couldn’t cry in front of her sister… even if Spitfire hated her guts.

“Spitfire…” Sunset had stopped crying, but she couldn’t keep her voice from quivering. “I know there’s a lot of bad blood between us—” Spitfire gave a derisive snort “—but I want to change that. I learned a lot when I was… away.” Sunset ran her tongue across the desert in her mouth. “I know I messed up… a lot, but I came back to show everypony how sorry I am.”

Spitfire remained silent. She closed her eyes and twitched her ears, but in the end, just shook her head and continued to look at Sunset with loathing.

Sunset hated begging. No matter how much of a better pony she was, begging was something for the weak and helpless. It had never got her anything. She had begged for wings, and instead been dismissed by Celestia. From then on, she had decided to fight for everything.

But seeing the disdain in Spitfire’s eyes, feeling the rift between them… perhaps it was time to make an exception.

Shoving her pride down, Sunset kneeled and bowed her head. “Spitfire, please… if there’s anything I can do to show you I’m sorry, tell me what it is.”

Spitfire walked past her, and rested a hoof against a lamp post. “Nothing short of you dropping dead.”

Sunset grimaced as an idea came to her. “Fine.” She stood up and walked to the edge of Cloudsdale.

Spitfire stopped and looked back at her, trading her angry expression for a curious one. “What are you doing?”

Sunset turned her back to the open sky. “I’m giving you what you want. So come on.” Sunset gestured forward.

“What? You want me to push you?”

“If that’s what it takes to get you to listen…” Sunset took a deep breath. “Then yes. Push me out of the sky.”

Spitfire shook her head in disbelief. “I’m not going to kill you, Sunset.”

“Why not?” Sunset asked, a sharp edge to her voice. “That’s what you want, isn’t it? Me to drop dead. Here’s your chance. Make it happen.”

Spitfire clenched her teeth and marched forward. “I’m not going to stain my hoof with your blood. You just want me to do it so you’ll be a martyr.”

“No, I want you to do it so we’ll be even.”

“Aha!” Spitfire jabbed a hoof at Sunset. “So you admit it? You admit you did it on purpose?”

“It was an accident, Spitfire.” Sunset tried to keep the agitation out of her voice. “How many times do I have to say that?”

“It doesn’t matter how many times you say it—I know you’re lying!” Spitfire stopped an inch from Sunset’s face. “You know, I should just push you, just so you know what it’s like to fall without being able to save yourself.”

Sunset closed her eyes. I already know what that feels like. “Go ahead then.”

She felt Spitfire lean a hoof on her shoulder, but there was no pressure behind it. The shove never came, and Sunset briefly hoped that her plan was working.

A burst of pain exploded across her cheek.

Sunset staggered back, her hoof stepping out into nothing. She teetered back, but a hoof wrapped around her neck and threw her back onto the cloud. She rolled onto her back, and a hoof pinned her down by her chest.

Sunset looked up at Spitfire, both of them breathing hard. The look of hatred had left Spitfire’s eyes, replaced by one of indifference. Sunset dared to crack a small smile. “Sis—”

Wham!

Sunset clutched her snout and cried in pain, blood trickling down her face and across her hooves. She cracked her eyes open in time to see Spitfire speeding away through the skies. Sunset tried to call out to her, but the action made her entire muzzle pulse in agony.

She continued to lie still for minutes on end, unsure of what hurt more: her nose or her heart. Spitfire still hated her. Maybe she would always would. Maybe it was pointless to try and salvage their sisterhood.

Tears fell from Sunset’s eyes; she couldn’t stop them this time. She lay there, curled against the cloud, hooves still clutching her face.

A hoof rested against her shoulder. Sunset uncurled herself to see a face silhouetted by the sun looking down at her. The figure scooped her up into its muscular arms and began to carry her.

“Daddy?” Sunset winced at the sharp pain in her nose.

Zephyr smiled weakly. “Shh. Just rest, sweetie.”

Sunset did as she was told, letting both her blood and tears run down her face.

******

“Princess, I… I don’t understand,” Dawn said, having long since abandoned her cup of tea.

“Sunset has decided that her studies here were… insufficient,” Princess Celestia said slowly. She sat across the kitchen table from Dawn, Zephyr, and Spitfire. “Powerful magicians often go out into the world to seek greater wisdom… or power. A pilgrimage of self-discovery, you could say.”

Spitfire kept her eyes shut, afraid of being caught glaring at the princess. But she could hear it in the tone of Celestia’s voice; something was wrong.

Zephyr cleared his throat. “So… you’re just telling us… she’s gone? Just like that?”

Celestia nodded. “I’m afraid so.”

“Without saying goodbye?” Zephyr’s voice rose. “Without telling anyone? I’m sorry, Princess, but I’m finding this very hard to believe.”

“I know that this is hard for you, Mr. Spark. I…” Celestia cleared her throat. “I’m having difficulty taking it in myself. All I can tell you is that she won’t be back for… a very long time.”

“And she didn’t leave anything at all?” Dawn asked.

“I’m afraid not.”

Spitfire heard her mother burst into tears and decided she could take no more of this conversation. She quietly excused herself from the living room and glided upstairs.

She only used her old room when she came to visit, and her last one had been some time ago. The air inside was stale, and still smelled of cleaning products. She sat on her bed, her blanket decorated with the Wonderbolts’ insignia.

Something wasn’t right. The feeling built in Spitfire’s chest, constricting her breath. Her sister was gone… just like that? She couldn’t bother to tell anyone, even the Princess? No, something else was going on, something the Princess didn’t want to talk about.

But it didn’t make sense. Wouldn’t Celestia tell them if Sunset had been banished or killed? It’d only be right, wouldn’t it? Sunset was a lot of things, but even she’d tell somepony, anypony, she was going off for a while.

Spitfire clenched her jaw. Why did she care in the first place? Her sister was gone, finally gone! The attention-seeking, glory-hogging, know-it-all, murderous brat was gone! Maybe it wasn’t permanent, but Spitfire intended to relish every moment.

She smiled. Then she frowned. “This is a good thing for me, right?” The constriction in her chest tightened further. From downstairs, her mother’s wails reached her ears.

Spitfire threw herself across her bed and jammed the pillow over her head, but could still hear it. Her mom was devastated, and Spitfire understood why; she’d be sad too if her daughter had mysteriously run off. But this was Sunset. Spitfire had broken all ties with her a year ago. She didn’t care if Sunset was gone. She could be dead for all Spitfire cared.

“I never want to see her again,” Spitfire whispered. “Never…”

Even as she said it, she couldn’t help but cry too.

******

Spitfire burst from the cloud tunnel, her slipstream tearing off bits of nimbus. She broke into a nosedive, plunging for the academy runway in a perfect vertical freefall. She approached the ground at horrific speeds, the wind tearing at her eyes. When she was a yard from the ground, she pulled up, the fur on her belly skimming the pavement.

Damn, still not good enough!

“Three minutes, nineteen seconds!” Soarin yelled from the sidelines.

Slow time too! I’m sloppy today! “I’m going again!”

She increased her speed and rose into the sky. Wingbeats on her left told her she hadn’t risen alone, and from her peripheral vision, she saw it was none other than Rainbow Dash.

Can’t you see I’m busy, Private? She met Rainbow’s smile with a cold glare and broke to the left, heading for the first cloud ring.

Rainbow, however, followed with apt precision. She was only a head behind Spitfire as the passed through the first ring.

Oh, you wanna race, newbie? Fine, let’s see what you’ve learned since the Games! Spitfire banked right, perfectly mimicked by Rainbow, then pulled into a steep climb to reach the next ring. They both shot through it and broke into a dive, Spitfire still leading.

Rainbow tried to pull ahead as they neared the narrow crevice in the ground, but Spitfire refused to give up any airspace. They were neck and neck as they approached the mouth. Spitfire knew they would collide if one of them didn’t give up, but Tartarus if she was going to be the first to flinch!

She tucked her wings in for maneuverability, but braced herself for impact. However, it never came. She slid into the crevice and made a sharp twist to avoid her wings getting snagged on a rock. Rainbow must have chickened out.

Better luck next time, kid.

Spitfire followed the tunnel until it let out on the side of the plateau, then picked her speed up again. She passed underneath the waterfall, keeping herself tucked against the rock face as she rounded the corner. Then, out of her periphery, she saw a blue head and rainbow mane approaching over her shoulder.

Her surprise must have been written on her face, because Rainbow mouthed, “Stayed inside your slipstream.”

Spitfire returned her focus to the track, but couldn’t hide her grin. I’ll make a Wonderbolt out of you yet.

They stayed neck and neck going into the cloud tunnel. Spitfire managed to pull ahead coming out into the last dive, but knew this was where Rainbow excelled. Both of them formed perfect vertical dives, their hooves stretched for victory.

Spitfire pressed her tongue between her teeth and tensed her body. A yard from the ground she snapped her wings open, this time pulling into a perfect ninety-degree turn. She and Rainbow shot down the runway, still within a hair’s breadth from one another.

Their hooves skidded across the pavement as the came to a stop at the end of the cliff, neither of them able to say anything between their gasps for air.

“Two minutes and fifty-nine seconds,” Soarin said as he walked over to the two mares. “Pretty sure that’d be an academy record if we were in session.”

Spitfire gave a weak grin and stretched her wings out; she was definitely going to feel it in the morning. “Nice flying, Private.”

Rainbow looked up and grinned. “Thanks, Captain.”

They stood in silence for a time, Spitfire and Rainbow stretching down while Soarin logged the times away on a clipboard. Spitfire tucked in her wings, gave her subordinates a sharp nod, and headed for her office. Unfortunately, she didn’t get very far.

“Sooo, Captain,” Rainbow said as she cantered to Spitfire’s side, “did you… you know… talk to S-S… your sister?”

Spitfire stopped and closed her eyes. “Yes, I talked to her.”

“Aaaaand?”

“I told her what I thought of her, and broke her nose.” She kept walking.

Rainbow stayed put, gaping behind her. “But… but… you were… I thought…”

Spitfire turned around. “What? Did you think we’d just kiss and make up? That we’d cry our hearts out and go on about how we missed each other?” Spitfire shook her head. “Life isn’t a fairy tale, Miss Dash. Sometimes there are no happy endings.”

“But she’s your sister! She came all the way from some freaky other dimension just to apologize!” Rainbow said, flailing her hooves.

Spitfire walked back over and put a hoof on Rainbow’s shoulder. “Your heart’s in the right place, Private. I’m happy that you care about me.” She looked over to Soarin. “Both of you. But I’m just not ready to forgive her for everything she did.”

Soarin shifted his weight from one hoof to the other. “Well… do you want to talk about it?”

Absolutely not! was Spitfire’s initial thought, but she held her tongue and thought it over. If I told them, it’d finally get them off my back. They’d know just how terrible Sunset really is.

Spitfire looked at Soarin. She had known him since they were both newbies at the academy all those years ago. He had a right to know. She moved her attention to Rainbow. Persistent and annoying, but she was only trying to help.

Turning towards her office, Spitfire gestured with a wing and said, “Come on. If it’ll get you two to leave me alone, I’ll tell you the whole story.”

******

Sunset woke up from her nap and cringed at the sharp pain. Everything that had happened flooded back into her mind, and she was tempted to just fall asleep again and pretend it had been a nightmare.

Instead, she forced herself up from the couch and wandered into the kitchen, where her dad and Twilight were talking.

Zephyr flashed a smile in her direction. “How are you feeling?”

“Uugh.” Sunset walked over to the counter and rummaged around in the cabinets until she found a mug. She brought it over to the coffee pot and poured herself a cup of stone cold coffee.

Twilight spoke up. “Your nose wasn’t broken too bad. I just had to realign a few things. It might still be sore though.”

Sunset inhaled and felt the sharp pain again. Yep. Gonna feel that in the morning. And next week. She took a sip of her coffee before saying, “Thanks, Twilight.”

Twilight smiled and looked about the kitchen, like she was searching for something. Meanwhile, Zephyr slowly tapped his hoof against the table while looking at Sunset expectantly.

“So,” he finally said, “Twilight told me where you’ve been.”

Twilight’s ears pinned back.

Sunset lowered her mug. “Y-yeah… Now you know why I couldn’t contact anyone.” Sunset glared at Twilight. You didn’t tell him anything else, did you?

“What was it like?” Zephyr asked.

Sunset swished her coffee around, staring into its murky depths. “Honestly, it was pretty weird. They stood on two legs and wore clothes all the time. They ate meat, and drove in these big metals things called cars. It took some time to get used to it all, but it wasn’t so bad. They’re a lot like us.” She smiled as she raised the cup to her lips. A lot like us.

“Well, I’m just glad you came back safe.”


Sunset drained the rest of her drink. “So what else did you talk about?”

Twilight fidgeted in her seat. “Well… I asked your dad about… what happened between you and Spitfire.”

“And what did he tell you?” Sunset asked, raising her eyebrow and hardening her voice.

“I told her she’d be better off asking you,” Zephyr said.

From the living room, a clock chimed four times before the apartment delved into silence again. Sunset placed her mug in the sink and stared out the window, watching the sun settle in the east.

Twilight said, “If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine. I just—”

“No.” Sunset held up a hoof. “It’s okay. You have a right to know, too.” She inhaled deeply and bowed her head. “It’s just been a while since I’ve talked about this. I try my hardest not to remember what happened. Hard to forget though.”

She ambled to the table. Pulling up a chair, she sat down and pressed her hooves together. “Why Spitfire hates me… why I cut myself off from any other social relationship… maybe even a part of why I ran away…

“It all started with the Firebird Dahlia.”

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