• Published 19th Jan 2015
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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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Smiling Sun


Sunset woke the next morning unsure of when she even fell asleep, although she was pleased to note that the couch was quite comfortable.

The aroma of freshly baked pancakes and crispy hay bacon drew her up from the couch. She stretched and flexed her fingers, only to remember she was in her pony form and had no fingers to flex. Her rumbling stomach told her to get a move on, so she rolled off the couch, only to step on something squishy.

Ow!”

“Aaghh!”

Sunset jumped back onto the couch and stared wide-eyed at Twilight as she rose from beneath the blanket. “Twilight, what are you doing here?”

“I was sleeping,” Twilight grumbled, rubbing her eyes.

“Why didn’t you go home?”

“It was late. Your dad insisted I stayed here. He tried to get me to take his room since you were already sleeping on the couch, but I didn’t want to put him out.”

Sunset facehoofed. “Come on, let’s just go eat.”

Two plates of breakfast were waiting for them on the table, with Zephyr at the stove making more. “Good morning, girls.”

“Morning, Dad.”

“Good morning, Mr. Spark.”

Sunset dug into her pancakes with gusto, realizing she hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday morning. Just as she finished her first stack, Zephyr laid another one on the table. Sunset beamed at him and piled more onto her plate.

“So, what are you going to do today?” he asked.

She slowed her chewing, drawing out the answer in the hope that she would change her mind. By the time her mouth was empty, her heart was sending her the same message it had when she first woke up.

“Well, I think… I think I want to see the Princess today.” She kept her eyes on her food while Zephyr and Twilight looked curiously at her.

“Not that I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Twilight said, “but it’s kind of sudden. What brought this on?”

Sunset took a small bite of hay bacon. “Last night, I had a dream. I can’t remember a lot of it, but I know she was there. We were sitting somewhere warm and…” Sunset let out a dreamy sigh. “It was just like when she first started teaching me. Ever since I woke up, I’ve just had this feeling that today is the day. I have to talk to her.”

Twilight looked ready to say something, then closed her mouth and smiled. “That’s great, Sunset. And I’ll be with you every step of the way.”

“Alone,” Sunset said. “I want to talk to her… alone.” She was going to regret it later, but she knew it needed to be done.

“O-oh, right.” Twilight looked taken aback, but smiled anyway. “Well, it’s your decision. The least I can do is get you into the castle.”

Zephyr sat down with his own plate of breakfast. “You know, I’m not sure I forgive Princess Celestia for lying to us about where you ran off to.”

“Dad, what would you have done if she told you I ran away through a mirror to another dimension?”

“Gone after you.”

Sunset blushed, then leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Never mind that it would have been impossible—and if he had, it would have disrupted the balance between the two worlds even further—it was the sweetest thing her dad could have said.

******

Spitfire snorted awake, lifting her face up from the pool of spittle on her desk and blinking until the rest of the office came into focus. Her hoof was still resting on the old picture frame.

Perhaps it was all the reminiscing she had been doing recently, but her dream had consisted of her and Sunset playing together in the backyard like they had done so long ago. Sunset would make bubbles with her horn, which both of them would try to catch.

Spitfire wiped the drool off her chin and slumped back in her chair. Even her subconscious was telling her to forgive Sunset. But how could she just let go of ten years’ grief and hatred?

Well, maybe hatred was a strong word. Spitfire had said it, maybe even meant it the last time she had seen Sunset. But it had waned into animosity during her absence, dissipating completely at times when Spitfire realized she would never see her only sister again.

Her only sister.

She tried to kill me.

Maybe it really was an accident.

She left Mom and Dad.

She came back.

She’s a horrible sister!

But she’s trying to apologize.

Spitfire groaned and rested her head against her chair. This was worse than filing paperwork. She reached into another drawer and pulled out a small bottle. She twisted the cap off, popped out a small pill, and tossed it back before getting up to chase it down with some water.

“This is what you do to me, Sunset. Give me headaches at…” She checked the clock. “11:00 A.M. If we were allowed to have alcohol on site, I’d be so wasted right now.” She filled a plastic cup with water from the cooler and chugged it before filling it up again and splashing it on her face.

“So now what?” she asked herself. Half of her felt justified in her decision to avoid Sunset forever. But Rainbow had brought up a point Spitfire had never considered before: because of Sunset’s actions, Spitfire had become a stronger mare.

And on a smaller, more immature note, she had technically won the sibling rivalry because of it.

She shook her face clean of the water. “That’s neither here nor there.” Maybe Rainbow was right in saying that Sunset had indirectly helped her in becoming better. But that was just it, it was indirectly. Sunset’s goal had been to hinder her any way possible.

At least, that’s what Spitfire had always thought.

Over ten years later, Sunset still claimed it was an accident. If she really wanted to patch things up, wouldn’t she have admitted she had done it on purpose?

The more Spitfire thought on the problem, the more complicated it became. Maybe everypony was right; maybe she should give Sunset another chance. The question was, could Spitfire give her a second chance?

“I need to fly.” She crushed the cup and tossed it into the waste basket. Yes, a good fly always cleared her head.

When she opened the door, she was startled to see uniformed cadets wandering up and down the hall. She sighed and hung her head. “Right. I still have an academy to run.” She shut the door and reached for her aviators sitting next to her plaque.

It wasn’t flying, but scaring newbies until they peed was almost as relaxing.

******

Canterlot Castle loomed over Sunset, a monstrous behemoth with towering horns and a thousand reflective eyes judging her, demanding to know why she had returned to the site of her greatest failure.

Or maybe second-greatest. It was a tie between betraying Celestia and blowing up Spitfire.

I am a horrible pony, Sunset thought as she approached the open maw that was the front entrance. Two guards flanked the door, showing no emotion and staring only straight ahead. But Sunset knew they were eyeing her, asking what business she had bothering the Princess.

Twilight patted her shoulder. “You can do this. I have total confidence in you.”

“That makes one of us.” Sunset’s mouth was bone dry.

“I told you—Celestia isn’t mad. She’s proud of you, Sunset. You helped us beat the Sirens and proved you want to be a better person… pony… thing,” she finished lamely, invoking a laugh from Sunset.

It died away as quickly as it came. “I know. You think after saying sorry to everyone else, this would be easy. But…” Sunset brushed her hair from her face. “I was mad at Spitfire for not accepting my apology and thinking I hurt her on purpose. Celestia… I hated her for a long time. Denying me my dream… replacing me with you.”

Twilight blushed and looked away.

“It’s just hard, apologizing not only for being wrong, but for blaming her for everything.” Sunset squared her shoulders. “But I’m going to do this. I want her to know how sorry I am. She’s the last pony I need to apologize to.”

Twilight took a step back. “Go on then. I know you can do it.”

“Thanks.” Sunset swallowed her breakfast again and marched ahead, her legs shaking like jelly. The two guards shifted their eyes as she walked past them but said nothing, allowing her passage into the monstrous castle.

Princess Celestia was not waiting for her in the entrance hall. Instead, there was another guard with an even sterner face. “Sunset Shimmer?” he growled as she approached.

Sunset’s nerve faltered. “Y-yes?”

“This way, please. The Princess is expecting you.” He turned up the stairs without waiting for a reply.

Sunset hurried after him. He walked so quickly, Sunset didn’t have time to appreciate how little the castle had changed in ten years. She wanted to stop and recollect all the good times she had had within these walls, but her escort didn’t seem to be in the mood for a trip down memory lane.

When they passed the doors to the throne room, Sunset asked, “Wait, where are we going?”

“The Princess has decided to receive you within a private study.”

The cynical part of Sunset’s brain thought, Well, at least my reaming will be private.

They ascended a spiral staircase and hurried down a quiet hall. Sunset recognized it, and knew which study they were heading to. The guard opened up the predicted door and gestured Sunset inside.

It was a warm room that always smelled of springtime. Bookshelves lined the walls, filled with classic adventure tales rather than thick tomes of academic reading. The windows were open, letting the curtains drift in the breeze. Sunset had spent many days in here, meditating and reading, enjoying the peace and serenity.

On the other side of the room, with her back turned away from them was the one pony Sunset feared and respected the most. She had given Sunset something to strive for, told her anything—even having wings—was possible.

The door closed with a soft thud, and Princess Celestia turned around to face Sunset. She was just as Sunset remembered her: gleaming white coat, soft feathery wings, a rainbow mane that slow-danced in the wind, and a soft smile that could calm the harshest of storms.

Neither of them spoke. They merely observed each other while time slowed to a crawl around them. If they were having a staring contest, Sunset had lost repeatedly, trying to stop herself from crying.

“Sunset Shimmer,” Celestia said in her soft motherly tone. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Though I suppose not as long for you.”

Sunset swallowed the lump in her throat. “Time is relative, Princess. It’s been a very long time for both of us, I think.”

Celestia smiled. “You’re right. Any time away from the ones you love is too long.”

That tore it. Sunset was so sick of crying, sick of looking weak and foalish. But she ran at Celestia and threw herself into her embrace, bawling her eyes out.

“I missed you! I missed you so much, Princess! You were trying to teach me how to be a better pony and I didn’t listen and-and… I’m so, so—”

“Shhhh.” Celestia stroked her mane, folding her wings over Sunset’s back. “I don’t want to hear that, Sunset. I know you are. Yes, you hurt me, but I was more upset for you. I thought I had failed you as your teacher and drove you away from the light.”

Sunset rubbed her face into Celestia’s coat. “You could never fail me, Princess. You didn’t push me away, I just… I rejected everything about friendship. I didn’t think I needed it. I wanted to walk alone, but all I did was stumble.”

Celestia nodded, tears dripping off her face. “Yes, you stumbled and you fell.” She pulled Sunset away and smiled at her. “But look at you now. You stood up again. You found the light.”

Sunset wiped her tears away. “I had some help.”

“Something we all need from time-to-time.” She hugged Sunset again. “I’m so proud of you… my faithful student.”

******

Spitfire followed her dad through the hospital corridors, her cheeks puffed out in defiance. “But, Daddy, I don’t want a baby sister.”

“Don’t be like that, Spits. Think of all the fun you can have together.”

She stuck her tongue out. “I can have fun by myself. Can’t we give her back to the stork?”

Zephyr laughed. “It doesn’t work like that, sweetie.” He stopped and opened a door, gesturing little Spitfire inside.

Dawn was lying on the bed, a small pink blanket cradled in her forelegs. Her hair was still disheveled and she had bags under her eyes, but she smiled when the two ponies entered the room. “Do you want to meet your sister, Spitfire?”

Spitfire huffed. “Fine.” She climbed onto the bed and sat next to her mom. Inside the bundle of blankets was a sleeping foal with a tiny tuft of red and gold hair. Spitfire gave her a tiny poke. “She’s so… squishy.” She spotted the horn poking out from the foal’s head. “Hey, she’s a unicorn!”

“That’s right.” Dawn placed a kiss on her head, then kissed Spitfire. “She’s our special little unicorn. Her name is Sunset Shimmer.”

“Are you sure she’s my sister?” Spitfire poked Sunset’s pink, squishy cheek again.

Zephyr tasseled her mane. “Very sure. Trust us. You know how grandpa has a horn? Sunset gets that from him.”

Spitfire tried to wrap her head around it. Sunset took her horn from grandpa? That didn’t make any sense. Mommy had wings, Daddy had wings, and she had wings. So why didn’t Sunset have wings? She poked Sunset’s cheek again.

She opened her teal eyes and stared curiously at Spitfire. Then she smiled.

“Look, Spitfire, she likes you,” Dawn said.

Spitfire stared at the little smile her baby sister was giving her. And she smiled too.

******

“Uhh, should we say something?”

“Shut up. She’s probably testing us.”

Spitfire’s ears twitched.

“But we’ve been standing here for twenty minutes and she hasn’t said a word.”

She blinked a few times, coming out of her reverie. Had she really been staring into space for twenty minutes? It was a good thing she was wearing her aviators. Regaining her composure, she marched up to the mouthy cadet and raised her glasses.

“You got a problem with how I run things?”

The little green pegasus started trembling. “N-no, Ma’am!”

“You sure? Because if things aren’t cozy for you, just say the word.” She leaned in closer. “After all, this is supposed to be a five star resort. You’re supposed to be having fun. You’re having fun, right, cadet?”

“Uhh…”

“Answer the question!”

“Yes, Ma’am! I’m having tons of fun, Ma’am!”

Spitfire raised her voice a decibel. “Then clearly, I’m not doing my job right, because you’re not supposed to be having fun! You’re supposed to be on your knees, crying for your mommy! Why aren’t you crying for your mommy, cadet?”

The pegasus was sweating bullets now. “B-because I’m tough Ma’am!”

Spitfire bit her tongue to stop from smirking. He looked like he was ready to pass out. “You think you’re tough, huh? Well, clearly you’re not if you can’t stand at attention for twenty minutes!” She turned to the rest of the line and snapped, “What about the rest of you? Do you think you’re tough?”

“Ma’am, yes, Ma’am!”

“Then prove it! I want fifty laps around this place! Go, go, go!

They took off like bats out of Tartarus, leaving Spitfire alone with her thoughts again. The euphoria she got from picking on newbies was gone already. She had been spacing out a lot today. Memories of her and Sunset kept following her around; it was like her return to Equestria unblocked the dam she had built up.

She sighed. There was no point in playing drill sergeant if she got no pleasure from it. She lowered her glasses and made her way back to her office, only to find a fresh mountain of paperwork on her desk.

“Celestia, why?” She pulled on her eyelids, then backed out the door. Today was not her day. In fact, it wasn’t even her week. She moved two doors down and knocked until Soarin answered.

“Hey, Captain, what’s up?”

Spitfire took off her glasses and shoved them onto his face. “You’re in charge. Don’t burn my academy down.”

Soarin raised the glasses onto his head. “Uhh, where are you going?”

“Dunno.” Spitfire turned her back to him. “I’m going to keep flying until I figure it out. I’ve got enough vacation time saved up to circle the planet and still have some left over.”

“Oookay, but I can’t make any promises about keeping this place standing that long.”

“If you value me as a friend, you’ll try.”

Soarin lowered the glasses and grinned. “You know, I always thought of us as just acquaintances.”

Spitfire flicked a wing at him. “You’re not funny.” She walked out the door and took to the skies, letting her wings carry her wherever.

******

“…So then I picked up the mike and… I started to sing. I don’t even know where the words came from, I just sang whatever came into my mind.”

Sunset sat curled in front of Celestia, a cup of tea floating in her magic. On the table was a tray of Sunset’s favorite cookies, fresh out the oven.

Celestia looked down, shaking her head. “No, Sunset.” She placed a hoof over Sunset’s heart. “I think you sang from here.”

“R-right.” Sunset blushed and giggled. “After that, the other girls joined in, and I could feel real magic happening. Whatever happened to Twilight when she… stood up to me… happen to me too. I had pony ears and a tail! Then, we summoned this giant alicorn, and it hit the Sirens with a giant rainbow. I have to tell you, it’s much more fun not being on the receiving end of that.” Sunset laughed again. She felt like a little kid telling their parent about their dream.

Celestia laughed as well. “The fact that you could harness the power of Harmony proves how far you’ve come. And in a rather short time might I add.”

Sunset sipped her tea. “Yeah, but I’ve still got a long way to go.”

“It’s better to look how far you’ve come, than to see how far you have to go.”

Unsure how to respond, Sunset stuffed her mouth with a cookie. It was cinnamon and ginger; very strong, and always left Sunset thirsty. She chased it down with a large sip of tea.

“So, what happened after that?” Celestia sounded genuinely interested.

“Oh, well, the rainbow shattered their pendants into pieces. When they tried to sing again, it was just this horrible wailing mess. They ran off, everyone was free of their mind-control, and, well, here we are.” A rather lame way to end the story in Sunset’s opinion, but not much had happened other than Twilight almost kissing Flash. That was more Twilight’s business to tell.

“Did the school forgive you for your own misdeeds after that?”

Sunset tapped the side of her head. Duh, she had forgotten the best part! “Yeah, just about everyone sees me in a new light! No more shoving, no more glares…. It’s nice not to be despised.”

Celestia nuzzled her again. “Again, I’m so proud of you, Sunset. You showed perseverance, determination, and heart, three things a true leader needs. You’ve always had the first two, but I’m glad you’ve found the third.”

Sunset nibbled on another cookie. “So, how’s life here? Twilight’s told me some pretty crazy stories. Is it true you fought off a changeling invasion?”

A pained smile crossed Celestia’s face. “My fighting was… subpar that day. It was the bride and groom who ultimately saved Canterlot.” She looked up to the open window, watching a flock of birds flutter by. “These last few years have been quite eventful to say the least. My past seems determined to catch up to me, both good and bad.”

Sunset ran a hoof around the ring of her cup. “As I’ve recently learned, you can’t avoid your past forever.”

“No, you cannot. But in my lifetime, there are some things you don’t expect to run into again. It pains me to say that many of my millennia-old problems have fallen to Twilight to fix.”

Sunset curled closer, drawing Celestia from her thousand-yard stare. “We all need some help from time-to-time.”

Celestia closed her eyes. “Indeed we do.”

Several minutes went by where they simply enjoyed each other’s presence, neither saying a word. The mingling scent of cinnamon and spring flowers, combined with Celestia’s soft fur made Sunset’s eyes droop. She remembered all the naps she had taken nestled between Celestia’s forelegs.

Before she could nod off, Celestia asked, “So, how is your family?”

Exhaustion slipped away, leaving Sunset with a dull heartache. “They’ve… been better. My parents don’t live together anymore, and my sister hates me.”

“Sunset, that’s terrible! I’m sorry to hear that.”

After finishing her tea, Sunset said, “It’s my fault for leaving. If I had stayed, they wouldn’t have separated, and maybe Spitfire would have forgiven me after a while. I’ve tried apologizing twice, but she still doesn’t want anything to do with me.”

Celestia stroked Sunset’s mane. “Some wounds run deep, Sunset. You hurt her physically and emotionally. I know you said it was an accident—and I believe you,” she added before Sunset could protest. “But you have to look at it from her perspective as well. You jeopardized everything she was striving for, and I’m sorry to be honest, but back then, you didn’t show her too much sympathy.”

It was all true, but it didn’t stop Sunset from cringing. “I know, I was terrible to her. But I’m trying make up for it now. Doesn’t that count for something?”

“Yes it does. It takes a brave pony to admit their mistakes, and a braver one to try and fix them. You’ve said your apologies, now it’s up to Spitfire if she wants to forgive you or not.” Celestia hummed. “Your situation isn’t too far from Luna’s and mine. We… did some terrible things to each other. But in the end, we were able to reconcile and forgive one another.”

Sunset remembered reading the story Twilight had written about their reunion. She sincerely hoped it wouldn’t take Spitfire a thousand years to forgive her.

“Just give her some time. She’ll come around.”

“I hope you’re right.”

They lapsed into a brief silence. Sunset’s eyes grew heavy again.

“Before you take a nap, Sunset, I have one more question,’ Celestia said softly.

“Anything, Princess.”

“What are your plans for the future?”

Sunset closed her eyes and leaned into Celestia. It wasn’t the first time the question had come up. She had been asking herself more and more as the days went by. “I don’t know. I made my first friends over there, but I have my family here. I know I have to go back and finish school, but after that…”

Celestia lowered her head next to Sunset and closed her eyes as well. “I’m happy with whatever you decide. Just know there will always be a place for you here.”

“Thank you, Princess.”

******

Spitfire sat on the steps of the elementary school, wishing she could be anywhere else right now. She rested against her backpack and tried not to look at the clock sitting over the front door.

“Why can’t she walk herself home? She’s seven, and the house is only, like, three blocks away,” Spitfire grumbled. She kicked her hooves against the stone steps, willing time to go faster. “If it isn’t almost two, I’m going home and telling Mom she was just walking really slow.”

She turned around and was half-annoyed, half-happy to see the clock reading 1:59. “Finally!” When the clock struck 2:00, she stood up and faced the doors. They burst opened, releasing dozens of half-sized ponies, yelling and laughing as they climbed over each other.

Spitfire dove out of the way, not wanting to be trampled. She searched the crowd for a red and gold mane, usually easy to find. Something tugged on her tail, and she turned around to find Sunset.

“Hey, how’d you get behind me?”

Sunset shifted her eyes nervously. “Doesn’t matter. Can we just go home now, please?”

Spitfire tried to see where she was looking, but only found more students. “Yeah, sure, come on.” They started walking down the sidewalk, though Sunset was practically galloping, looking over her shoulder every three seconds. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Let’s just go home before—”

“Hey, featherbrain!”

Spitfire stopped and turned around, finding two unicorn mares with terrible haircuts. One was blue with enough freckles to make her look like she had the chickenpox. The other one was purple and would have been pretty if not for the haircut and the copious amounts of glitter she had applied to her face.

“Off to your nest, featherbrain?” the purple one asked.

“She’s probably going to try and grow her wings,” her friend said. “Might as well try since she can’t do any magic.”

Sunset scrunched her face up, trying not to cry. “Just leave me alone.”

“Aww, is the blank flank freak gonna cry? You wanna add crybaby on top of being talentless?”

“A unicorn who can’t use magic and a pegasus who doesn’t have wings, all rolled into one blank flank package!” Both of them burst into laughter.

Spitfire’s blood roared in her ears. Beside her, Sunset covered her flank with her tail and shied away, tears streaming from her eyes.

“Hey, you prissy little witches, knock it off!”

The blue unicorn rolled her eyes. “And who are you to make us?”

“I’m her sister,” Spitfire growled.

“So?”

Spitfire marched forward, spreading her wings wide so her shadow engulfed them. “So, you mess with her, you mess with me, and you do not want to mess with me.” She dropped her voice to a lethal whisper. “I don’t have magic, but I can fly. Odds are, you can’t. So, if I hear you picking on my little sister again, I’m gonna take both of you on a little trip over the side of Canterlot. Spoiler alert: it ends with the two of you flat against the ground! And if you think I’m lying, I dare you to do it!”

Both of them were shaking now, cowering in Spitfire’s shadow, lost in the intensity of her eyes. “Y-yes, Ma’am.”

“I can’t hear you!”

“Yes, Ma’am!” they shouted.

“Good.” Spitfire lowered her wings, revealing Sunset to them. “Now, apologize.”

“We’re sorry, Sunset.

“Yeah, we didn’t mean it, honest.”

Spitfire rolled her eyes. She had heard that one before. “Now, get out of my sight before I take you on a trip anyway.”

They both turned the other way and ran for it, never looking back.

Satisfied, Spitfire turned to Sunset, who was wiping her tears away. “If they bother you again, just let me know, okay?”

Sunset sniffed. “I can fight my own battles, Spits.”

“Of course you can, that’s why you were trying to run away.” Spitfire wrapped a wing around her. “How long have they been teasing you?”

“All month.”

Spitfire frowned. “Well, I guess you’ve got guts for sticking it out, but you gotta say something, Sunny. Nopony is allowed to pick on you ’cept me, got it?”

Sunset nodded, then buried her face in Spitfire’s coat. “Thanks, Spits.”

Spitfire wrapped her hooves around her. “Anytime, Sun.”

******

Drifting on a cloud above the world, Spitfire yawned and stretched herself out. The sun shone in her eyes, helping her wake up from her short nap. She groaned and flipped over onto her stomach.

Once again, a memory of her and Sunset had crept into her dream. And once again, it left Spitfire longing for a time long past. She buried her face in the cloud, like she could hide from her feelings. For so long, she had been telling herself she didn’t need a sister. And it was true: she didn’t need one.

But she wanted one.

She pulled her face out and looked at the horizon. “You really meant it, didn’t you? You really are sorry.”

Sorry isn’t going to fix what happened.

No, but it’s a start.

A small piece of her wanted to hold on and be mad, forever blaming Sunset for everything that happened. But she was tired of being angry, even passively. Her mom was right. Rainbow and Soarin were right. It was time to let go of the past.

Spitfire froze halfway to a sitting position. Yesterday, she had punched Sunset in the nose. She couldn’t just walk back up to her like everything was cool between them.

Still, she had to do something. An apology would probably be a good place to start. Even if the punch had been justified, she supposed it was only fair.

Besides, she wasn’t going to let Sunset show her up by being the bigger mare, was she?

Getting to her hooves, Spitfire gave her wings a few flaps. The sun was setting in front of her, lighting the world on fire. When she looked over the edge of the cloud, she was surprised to see Canterlot sitting beneath her. And somehow she knew Sunset was down there. Perhaps it was the thin remains of their sisterly bond pulling Spitfire towards her.

Spitfire brushed her hair back, pushing away her reservations and discomfort. Maybe they would never get back to where they were, or maybe they’d form an even better relationship. She wouldn’t know until she tried.

With her wings fanned out, she dived off the cloud. “Let’s try this one more time.”

******

A gentle nuzzle roused Sunset from her slumber. “Come, my faithful student. I’m afraid you must get up now.”

Sunset rolled her neck and yawned loudly. She looked up to see Celestia smiling at her. For a moment, Sunset was transported back in time, before she had made all of her mistakes; back when she a student with a caring teacher and a wonderful, whole family.

“Did you have a good rest, Sunset?”

“Yeah.” Sunset got up and popped her back. “That was the best rest I’ve had in a while.”

“I’m glad.” Celestia stood as well. “I’m afraid duties call me elsewhere now. I already cancelled day court today, and I’m afraid to see the mountain of paperwork waiting for me in my room.”

Sunset picked up the last cookie on the tray. “Guess being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, huh?”

Celestia chuckled. “It has its moments. I may be busy for the rest of the night, but you’re welcome to stay in the castle if you wish.”

Sunset’s heart fluttered in her chest. One of Celestia’s last remarks to her had been that she was no longer welcome in the castle. To hear there was a room waiting for her was like having every bridge between her and Celestia restored.

As much as she wanted to say yes, Sunset shook her head. “Thank you, Princess, but, I promised my mom I’d see her again after visiting my dad. She’s probably starting to wonder where I am.”

“I understand.” Celestia opened the door for Sunset and followed her out into the hall. “Likewise, I hope you’ll visit me again before you depart for the human world.”

Sunset gave a vigorous nod. “I will. I promise.” They walked together until they came to an intersection in the corridors.

Celestia reached down and hugged Sunset again. “It was wonderful to see you again, Sunset. I missed you so much.”

“It was wonderful to see you too, Princess. And I promise I’ll visit again.” They broke apart and shared one more smile before turning in opposite directions. Sunset carried on down the hall, her heart feeling like an inflated balloon. If she wasn’t inside the castle, she’d sing!

Turning the corner, she was startled to see a large blue alicorn with a starry mane walking towards her. Her brain clicked, and she realized who she was standing in front of.

Sunset bowed. “You must be Princess Luna. It’s nice to meet you.”

Luna acknowledged her with a smile. “It is nice to meet you too, Sunset Shimmer. My sister speaks very fondly of you.”

“Really?” Sunset felt her cheeks redden.

“Indeed. I’m glad to see you two have reconciled.”

“Yeah, it’s really a weight off my shoulders…” The wheels in Sunset’s mind turned again. She pointed a hoof at Luna. She didn’t know how she knew, but she knew. “You put that dream in my head last night telling me I should come see her.”

There was a mischievous twinkle in Luna’s eye. “I assure you, Sunset, I have no idea what you are talking about. You coming here to make up for your past actions was your choice, and your choice alone.”

“Uh-huh.” Sunset kept an eyebrow raised.

“Believe what you wish, Miss Shimmer,” Luna said, walking past with a smirk still on her face, “but I try not to meddle in other ponies affairs of the waking world. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to dine with my sister before taking on my nightly duties. Fare thee well, Miss Shimmer.”

Sunset grinned, watching her walk off. “Thank you, Princess Luna,” she said quietly.

Outside, the sun had almost set, and ponies were turning in for the day. Walking out, the castle no longer looked like a marble beast ready to devour Sunset. Instead, it was the most beautiful building she had ever seen. She smiled at the guards at the gates, and though it was probably her imagination, she thought she saw them smile back.

Sunset was a little hurt to see Twilight was not waiting for her, but remembered she had her own life to live. She was already taking a chunk of her time to help Sunset around.

Wanting to make good on her promise, Sunset started for her mom’s house. She considered stopping by Donut Joe’s to pick something up, but reminded herself that she had no bits to spend.

The more she wandered through the market, the emptier it got until Sunset was one of the last ponies milling about. A shadow flew over her, and she paid no mind until she heard it land close behind her. She looked over her shoulder, her heart skipping a beat when she saw Spitfire.

She rubbed the back of her neck. “Hey.”

Sunset faced her. “Hey.”

The sun teetered off the edge of the world, bringing about the twilight. Both mares continued to face each other, the air between them more awkward than tense.

Spitfire kicked a stray pebble. “So… you went to see Celestia?”

“Yeah. We made up and everything.”

“That’s cool… great actually.”

Silence.

Spitfire rubbed her neck again. “Look… I’m sorry I… you know… punched you in the nose.”

Sunset rubbed her muzzle and winced. “It’s all right. I deserved it.”

“Yeah.” Spitfire bobbed her head from side-to-side. “But I still shouldn’t have done it.”

More silence.

Sunset coughed. “So, what’s up?”

Spitfire opened her mouth, closed it, shook her head, and took a slow breath. “Sunset…” She shook her head again. “Let’s face it, we did some pretty messed up stuff to each other.”

“Yeah, we did.”

“But, you know, we’re sisters. We had each other’s backs when it came down to it, right?”

Sunset looked away. “We were supposed to. I didn’t do a good job on that front.”

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it: that whole Firebird Dahlia thing sucked.” Spitfire stepped closer. “Honestly, I’m still a little peeved.” She relaxed her shoulders. “But, I want to believe it really was an accident. I gave it a lot of thought and… I want to be sisters again.”

Sunset stared at her, heart racing. “Really? You mean it?”

Spitfire rolled her eyes. “No, I just came all this way to punch you again.”

“Well, I wouldn’t put it past you.”

Both of them snickered, slowly growing into full-blown laughter that echoed through the empty streets and rose into the starry sky.

Sunset regained her composure and said, “I really am sorry, Spitfire. If I could take it back, I would.”

“Apology accepted. Though, to be frank, you’re still on thin ice.”

Sunset shrugged. “Fair enough.”

Spitfire tapped her shoulder. “And I’m sorry too. I could have been a better big sister to you.”

“Apology accepted.” There was an awkward pause as they both stared at each other.

“So… should we hug now?” Spitfire asked.

Sunset looked away. “You know, I’m still kinda against touchy-feely stuff.” Mostly because it leads to freaking tears.

“Yeah, same here.”

A moment passed.

They rushed forward and embraced each other in the tightest hug they could muster, nearly toppling each other to the ground.

“I missed you, Spits,” Sunset said, her voice cracking.

“I missed you too, Sun,” Spitfire said, her tears leaking onto Sunset’s shoulder.

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