• Published 15th Mar 2015
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Six Nights (and a Day) With Sunset - EchoWing



Sunset Shimmer adjusts to her new life after the Fall Formal and gets to know her new friends better, while reflecting on her old one.

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Chapter Two - A Night With Pinkie Pie

“I am sorry about what’s happened, dear.” Rarity let out a regretful sigh as she and Sunset waited outside of her home, the pair seated on a porch swing and idly going back and forth. “Of all the immature things to do! Sweetie Belle saw what happened that night, the same as everyone else!”

“There’s seeing and then there’s believing.” Sunset idly rubbed her bare arms, suddenly feeling naked without her trademark leather jacket. She almost laughed at the thought; she rarely wore clothes back in Equestria, but here among humans, she felt uncomfortable with one less bit of clothing on. Maybe she was going native. “And just wait, I get to go through all of that again next Monday once my suspension ends.”

There had been a series of frenzied calls that morning, once Sunset’s clothes had been taken care of and Sweetie Belle properly chastised and punished by her parents and older sibling for her actions towards their guest. While she’d been assured that there wouldn’t be a repeat, Sunset had decided that discretion was the better part of valor and offered to spend the rest of her suspension with another of her new friends, Rarity reluctantly agreeing. Pinkie Pie was the first to accept, as the others couldn’t take her on such short notice.

The fashionista at her side smiled reassuringly. “It won’t last forever, dear. Time heals all wounds. And in any case, Pinkie Pie should offer you some respite. Be warned, however, you may find yourself sleep deprived.”

A half-smile. “I doubt anyone can party twenty-four seven.” She noticed the uneasy look on Rarity’s face and asked, “She doesn’t party all the time, does she?”

“Oh, no, I was actually more concerned about you getting a bit too much sugar in your diet.” A thoughtful look crossed her face as Rarity pondered, “Then again, Pinkie does burn it off quite well. I often find myself envious of her metabolism.”

“Speaking of, what does her car look like?” Sunset found herself pondering out loud, “Does she even have one?”

“No, but I suspect she’ll…” Enthusiastic honking sounded from the street, prompting the two to look to the curb as a plain grey sedan pulled up, Pinkie Pie waving enthusiastically from the driver’s seat. “Ah, there she is.” The two got to their feet, and Rarity promised, “Now then, don’t worry about your jacket, I’ll see to it that it’s repaired and returned to you by this time next week.”

“Thanks, Rarity.” They shared a brief hug, and Sunset grabbed her things and made her way to Pinkie’s car. She tucked her things into the backseat then climbed into the vehicle, buckling up as she waved goodbye. She smiled again as she realized that a couple weeks ago, she’d never imagine doing something like this. “Thanks for taking me in on short notice, Pinkie.”

“Aw, don’t mention it! If my friends need my help, I’ll be there for them!” Pinkie pulled out and made her way along the street, her driving surprisingly subdued. “So Sweetie Belle really tried to melt you? How crazy is that!”

“Yeah, isn’t it?” A nervous laugh. “So, not the ride I expected you to have.”

“I’m still saving up, but I’ve got a license, so I can borrow the Rockmobile whenever I need it.” The poufy-haired party planner patted the plastic dashboard. “Good old reliable Rocky, always there in a pinch. Anywho, don’t worry, you won’t have to deal with anything like what happened with Sweetie Belle happening at my place, no sir-ree!”

Sunset sighed in relief. “Good. I’d hate to deal with another overprotective younger sister.” One reason why she was glad that Applejack hadn’t taken her in was that she expected a similar reception from Apple Bloom. “You don’t have any younger sisters, do you?”

“Nope! I’m the baby in the family.”

More relief.

“And Marble and Limestone are out at the farm with Mom and Dad, so you probably won’t be seeing them.”

Even more… “Wait, hold on. You don’t live with your parents? Then whose car is this?”

“Rocky’s Maud’s car! She’s my big sister!”

Sunset suddenly felt like a deer caught in headlights, to use a human expression. “Big sister?” The other reason she was glad that Applejack hadn't taken her in was because she wasn’t looking forward to potential wrath from Big McIntosh – gentle giant he may be, but an angry farm hand whose strength outclassed his incredibly-strong sister’s was not one to simply ignore. She could only find herself dreading how this would go. Meeting family, hers or others’, had rarely gone well for her.

-

The train ride out to Indianapoloosa had been long and uneventful. Sunset hadn’t really paid attention to all that had transpired however, as her mind was still focused on her grief. It had only been a couple days since she’d been told her parents were gone, and now she was being whisked off to a city far from Canterlot. With every passing minute, she believed it a little more; her mommy and daddy were gone forever.

“Sunset?” The filly didn’t acknowledge her aunt as they continued their taxi ride, but Solar Flare nonetheless continued, “I know this isn’t easy for you. It isn’t easy for me either.”

“Why’d you bring me here? Why couldn’t I stay in Canterlot? That’s where I live.”

“Yes, but you couldn’t stay there. You’re still a little filly; you haven’t finished school or gotten a job or earned money. Maybe someday you can go back, but for now…”

“I want to go back now!”

“Sunset, you can’t…!”

“I didn’t want to come! This isn’t fair!”

The pegasus lowered her head sadly. “No. It isn’t. But Indianapoloosa isn’t so bad a place, and you won’t be alone. I have a little filly not much younger than you. If you give it a chance, I’m sure the two of you will get along great.”

She’d thought about running. There were police stations, the odd passing member of the guard, but they’d just give her back to her aunt and send her on her way. And aside from that, where would she go? She’d never met any other relatives beyond her mommy and daddy, after all.

Sunset closed her eyes and clenched them shut as she thought about her parents. That morning she’d been walked to school by her mommy, gotten a kiss from her daddy. The next day, she’d gone somewhere with the mare who said she was her aunt, and the ponies there had given them a pair of big pot things with tags, their names on them. Years later, she’d learn that her parents had been cremated, reduced to ashes and those ashes put in urns for easier burial. Right now, however, she just felt angry.

Why did her mommy and daddy have to go away? Why did they have to leave? What did they do to deserve getting put in the pots, to get her sent away? Was she just supposed to forget about them? How could she – they were her mommy and daddy! This pegasus lady might be her aunt, but she was never going to be a new mommy for her!

“I know she won’t mind having a big sister.”

And she didn’t have a sister!

-

“Hello.”

“Sunset, meet Maud! Maud, meet Sunset Shimmer! She’s my friend now!”

Sunset Shimmer had expected many things when it came to Pinkie Pie’s sister, but the young woman before her was a surprise. She looked to be college-age, with grayish-violet hair and turquoise eyes, plainly dressed in a long green dress. And in absolute contrast to her younger sister, Maud appeared amazingly stoic. “Um…hi?”

If Maud acknowledged her nervousness, she did a very good job of hiding it as she gestured to the plainly-colored living room with its plainly-colored furniture. “Please, have a seat.” Sunset did as directed and sat down on the sofa, Pinkie parking herself beside her while Maud took a seat in a deep grey easy chair. “Pinkie tells me that you’re between homes at the moment.”

“Yes, trouble with my landlord.” Sunset glanced about and asked, “So, do you own this place, or rent it?”

“I rent.”

“Maud’s attending classes at the local college!” Pinkie beamed and explained, “She’s getting her rock-torate in rock sciences!”

Sunset quietly assumed Pinkie meant a doctorate in earth sciences, but let the matter pass. “Well, you have a unique decorating style.”

“I like to express myself through my wardrobe and my décor. Also, it helps Boulder to feel at home.” She reached into the pocket of her dress and produced a small pebble. “He’s a rock.” She placed Boulder back in her pocket and added, “Feel free to stay as long as you need.”

“Come on!” Pinkie wrapped an arm around Sunset’s and enthusiastically led her towards the staircase. “We don’t have a guest room, so you’re sleeping with me! Comeoncomeoncomeon!”

Sunset was practically dragged into Pinkie Pie’s bedroom, which was a stark contrast to the living room. The walls went from an earthy brown paint near the floor to pink and yellow wallpaper decorated with stars and balloons, photos and posters mounted upon it along with a small shelf directly to their left. The wall opposite the door had a small window with purple drapes. A bed and nightstand were on the wall to the left, while the right had a dresser and a cabinet with a TV and gaming system. She was sat down on the bed, her bag and backpack having somehow found their way up with them, and found herself taking a second to take stock. “Wow. This is a little closer to how I imagined your house would be.”

“Yeah, I didn’t really get to decorate like this on the farm that much.” Pinkie plopped herself on the bed next to Sunset and explained, “Mom and Dad are great and all, but they aren’t really big on being expressive and stuff.” She produced a photo album from who knew where and opened it to reveal a picture of a family of six, the parents in the back and the four children in front, Maud and Pinkie standing in front of their mother while the other two girls were in front of the father. Their collective mood seemed amazingly dour. That the father was holding a pitchfork didn’t help matters any. “Maud and I were always really close though. In fact, she’s why I’m attending CHS!”

“Really?” Sunset shot the party girl at her side a surprised glance. “She’s why you’re attending Canterlot High?”

“Uh huh!” Pinkie beamed as she explained, “Y’see, us girls were homeschooled for the most part, but looking after four kids can get a little tiring even for the best parents, so once she got old enough to go, Mom and Dad enrolled Maud at CHS. Marble and Limestone really took to farm life, but me, not so much, so once I was old enough, I started attending CHS too. And by then, Maud was graduating and going on to college, so I moved in with her full-time!” She hugged her new friend and declared, “And now you’re here!”

Sunset smiled, albeit nervously, but was glad for the warm reception. “Thanks Pinkie, but you know this is just until I find a place of my own.”

“Yeah, but while you’re here, we’ll have the best time getting to know each other better!” She gasped, then broke the embrace and reached towards the nightstand and pulled out a notebook. “Speaking of, there’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you for years!” She opened the notebook to reveal a number of names and dates, one name notable by the lack of an accompanying date. “What’s your birthday?”

It took a couple seconds for Sunset to process that question. “You’ve been waiting for years to ask me what my birthday was?”

“Well yeah! I can’t celebrate it if I don’t know what it is, and now that we’re friends, I don’t have an excuse to not celebrate it!”

The surprise that remained on her face was quickly overtaken by laughter. “Thanks, Pinkie.” She sighed and considered what she’d been asked. “Actually, that might be a little troublesome for you.”

A gasp. “Don’t tell me you don’t know what your birthday is?! You can share mine if you want, it’s November…”

“No, no, Pinkie, I know when my birthday is, that isn’t a problem.” Sunset sighed, took a moment to collect her thoughts, and explained, “The problem is that my world and yours don’t quite synch up in terms of timescales. We’ve got the same calendar, amazingly, the same names for days and months and the same lengths for time periods like months and years, and we even have some holidays in common, but…”

“But what’s the problem?”

“Seasons. When I left Equestria thirty moons ago, it was fall there. But when I emerged from the portal, it was spring, right around the time CHS was having its Spring Fling.” She shrugged. “Don’t ask me how to explain it, that’s just the way it is.”

Pinkie shrugged herself and waved a dismissive hand. “Eh, probably some kind of weird magic time dilation stuff, or something science-y like that. Still, I get the confusion. Do I celebrate your birthday with local dates, or what they’d be back in Equestria?” She reached back to her nightstand and picked up a plush alligator, holding it in front of her face inquisitively. “What do you think, Gummy?” A brief silence, and then she nodded. “That’ll work.” She set the stuffed toy down at the top of her bed and offered, “How about we go with local dates?”

“Probably less trouble for you that way. Okay. It’s August 21st.”

“Oooh, your’s isn’t long after Rainbow Dash’s!” The partial date was jotted down. “Now I just need a year for the number of candles…”

“Yeah, that’s another difference. We might have the same number of days to a year and number of months, but we number our years a little different. My world’s year zero isn’t the same as your year zero.” A thought crossed her mind as she realized, “Come to think of it, neither calendar has a year zero. Stuff that happened before a big event is counted as negative years, and from the big event on as positive. The big difference is in where the turnover starts; with us it’s the founding of Equestria, with you the birth of a religious icon.”

“So for ponies, Christmas and Independence Day are the same holiday?”

A shrug. “I guess you could look at it like that.”

“Ohmigosh, that is so awesome!” The madcap grin switched to a serious expression as Pinkie pressed on. “But that’s something for later. Just tell me how many years old you are, and I’ll work from there.”

Sunset found herself turning nervous at this. “Yeah, about that. Pinkie, there’s a big difference between how quickly a human being matures and how quickly a pony matures. I mean, there’s even a big difference between how a pony in my world matures and how a pony in your world matures. I might look to be your age, but…”

“Come on, Sunset, spill on me.”

A sigh. “I’m almost thirteen.”

Pinkie considered that admission with her mouth agape, staring at the teen girl in surprise. “Thirteen?”

“As far as Equestria’s concerned, that’s the same as being twenty-six or so, but yes.”

Another awkward pause, until Pinkie broke it. “Holey moley you’re big for your age! But no wonder you were so shy to admit it! You’re practically the same age as Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo! Plus it’d make things really awkward with Flash!” A determined expression shot across her face. “Only one thing to do! I’m Pinkie Promising myself to secrecy!” With accompanying hand motions, Pinkie vowed, “I will never divulge your true age to anyone, cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!” The feeling of seriousness faded as she added, “But if you decide to tell someone else, let me know, okay?”

A little uneasy at the display she’d just witnessed, Sunset nonetheless agreed, “Okay, I’ll do that.” She smirked and added, “Just to be clear, however, I’d be considered an adult back in Equestria. So would Twilight, and she’s a couple years younger than me.”

“I know, I’m just messing with you.” Pinkie gave a teasing grin and added, “Besides, I know ponies in our world reach maturity a lot sooner than humans do. Sounds like Equestrian ponies are somewhere in between.”

“Something like that. We mature quickly, but we live a really long time. I’ve heard of earth ponies making it past the three century mark, and they’ve got the shortest lifespans of the three tribes. A unicorn like me could live even longer, even if only a few decades or so, and that’s nothing on Celestia and Luna.” A sad expression crossed her face. “You want to know something sad? Before all of this started with the portal, all I wanted was to shine above the rest. I worked so hard at it, and then I found out about that spell and…”

“And you thought it was really unfair that your Celestia could make you an alicorn and she didn’t?”

A nod. “You have a means of giving someone effective immortality, and you hold it back. That’s pretty much the same as giving them a death sentence. And telling me I hadn’t earned it? I thought she was just being selfish. Just because she raised and lowered the sun and moon didn’t mean she had the right to play God.” A heavy sigh. “I’ve been such an idiot.” She found a pair of pink arms wrapped around her, and looked to the party girl at her side to find a sad expression on her friend’s face. “What’s this for?”

“You needed a hug.” Pinkie hugged a little tighter as she explained, “I don’t like seeing anyone be sad. There’s so much bad in the world, so much pain. You gotta remember that there’s good in it too, and joy and laughter and fun. That’s why I put so much work into my parties, to remind everyone to smile. And when they smile, I smile.” She beamed and added, “And now, I’ve got another friend to share the smiles with.” She noticed the sad smile on Sunset’s face and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Sunset shook her head. “Nothing, you just reminded me of somepony I left behind.” Pinkie released her, and she reasoned, “I guess that’s why you’re so willing to let go after what I did, me breaking you and the rest of the girls up.”

“Well, you didn’t break us all the way up. And there’s ties out there that’re just as strong as friendship.” A photo album suddenly pulled from nowhere, Pinkie opened it to reveal a set of photos depicting her and Maud in the midst of holiday festivities with a few other, familiar people. “There’s family!”

Sunset’s eyes locked onto a familiar blonde girl and her two siblings. “You and Applejack are family?”

“Uh-huh! We got assigned to do a genealogy report freshman year together, and we found out that the Pie family and the Apple family are linked! Me and Maud are her fourth cousins, twice removed by a fifth cousin! It’s like I got two more sisters and a big brother! Ever since then, we’ve spent every Christmas with…!” She went silent as she noticed Sunset’s sad expression. “What’s wrong?”

The flame-haired girl considered her words before she finally explained, “Pinkie, I’m glad that you’re willing to take me in and help me out and do all this to cheer me up, but this has brought some things up that I’m not quite ready to talk about.”

Pinkie simply closed the album, put it aside, and leaned against her. “It’s okay. I get it. Whenever you’re ready, you let me know.” She sprang back up and asked, “Right now though, I’ve got something really important to ask about.” At Sunset’s surprise, she asked, “Does Equestria have a Halloween?”

A laugh. She could count on Pinkie to change the subject when needed, it seemed. “Yes. We call it ‘Nightmare Night’. And our Christmas-Independence Day equivalent is called ‘Hearth’s Warming Day’, and our Valentine’s Day is called ‘Hearts and Hooves Day’.”

“And Thanksgiving?”

“Still Thanksgiving. Same with Arbor Day, surprisingly.”

“Easter?”

“No Easter.”

“Awwww!” Pinkie pouted and crossed her arms in front of her chest. “Pony me doesn’t get to have chocolate bunnies!”

Sunset laughed and wrapped an arm around her friend. “Sorry Pinkie. But knowing you, she’s got little trouble finding an excuse to enjoy candy.”

A shrug. “I guess that’s true. Still, one less holiday associated with candy isn’t something to be happy about. Only one solution to that – hot cocoa!” She bolted up and declared, “I’ll make some for the three of us! You stay here, Sunset, and I shall wrestle with the microwave!”

And just like that, Pinkie was out the door, leaving Sunset to her thoughts. She smiled and considered Twilight’s words from earlier that morning, and found herself thinking that, while there was more to Pinkie than there seemed, you didn’t have to dig too deep to find it. With her, what you saw was what you got. Of course, there was also her other bit of association.

Her thoughts drifted, and she found herself thinking of her own cousin. What had happened to the mare over these last few years? Did she remember her? Had she gotten bitter? Assurance from Celestia was one thing, but genuine proof would have been preferable. She turned regretful – she hadn’t seen Runnie since she’d returned to Canterlot, and had no idea of what she looked like now. For all she knew, she was still a blank flank.

She pulled a sketchbook from her backpack, opened it to a blank page and readied a pencil. She could certainly try to imagine it, at any rate. She already had a pretty good idea of where to start.

-

It was like looking into a mirror. Almost. The filly before her was about her height, with the same eyes and the same coat and the same mane colors. There were two differences, however. The first was that her mane style was very different; Sunset’s curled mane was a stark contrast to her opposite’s plain, flat style. The second was the lack of a horn, and the presence of a pair of wings.

“Sunset, this is your cousin, Sunrunner.”

Sunset wasn’t sure how to react as the filly looked at her, awestruck. What initial trepidation she had soon gave way to sheer joy as she grinned from ear to ear, jumped up and flapped her wings and exclaimed, “Omigosh! Omigoshomigoshomigosh!” She fluttered down and excitedly declared, “It’s so nice to meet you! Mommy told me you’d be coming, but she didn’t tell me that you and I looked so much alike! This is so amazing! We could be twins!” She took her by the hoof and led her up a flight of stairs as she gleefully exclaimed, “Come on!”

The little unicorn was half-dragged, half-carried up the steps by her cousin and led to a bedroom, a set of bunk beds against one wall and a desk and dresser and chest of stuffed animals against another. Directly opposite the door was a window, light streaming in as Sunrunner flicked on a switch to better illuminate the room.

“This is so exciting!” The pegasus was sprinting about the room, totally oblivious to her cousin’s dour expression. “I’ve always wanted a sister, and now it’s like I’ve got one! Best surprise relative ever!” She squealed gleefully, then turned back and asked, “First things first – nicknames! We can’t call each other ‘Sunny’ – I like being called Sunny, but that’ll get really confusing really quickly, so we’ve gotta come up with different ones. How about ‘Runnie’ for me, and ‘Shims’ for you?”

“Out.”

The pegasus filly looked at her with surprise. “Okay, I know, not a really good nickname, but I can…”

“I don’t care what you call me, just get out. Now.”

Sunrunner turned quiet, but did as she was told, slowly walking out of the room around her cousin. “Okay. I’ll go. Let me know which bunk you want and…”

Sunset didn’t hear the filly finish as she closed the door with her magic, pushing Sunrunner out the rest of the way. She slipped out of her saddlebags and set them down at the foot of the bunk beds, then carefully climbed up to the top bunk. She hated it. She hated being in stupid Indianapoloosa, she hated being with her stupid pegasus cousin, and she hated being in this stupid bunk bed.

Even if it was kinda comfy.

-

“Who wants some hot chocolatey good-nesssss?” Pinkie Pie stuck her head in, a plate with a pair of steaming mugs of hot chocolate in her hands, her expression turning to one of surprised as she realized what Sunset was doing. “I didn’t know you could draw.”

“It’s not something I’ve advertised.” Sunset set the sketchbook in her lap and looked up. “Plus I needed something to take my mind off of things. Believe it or not, drawing soothes me.”

“Oh, I believe it!” Pinkie offered her friend a mug, then sat down as it was accepted. “So, what’cha drawing? Or do I have to guess?”

“That cousin I mentioned. Sort of.” Sunset glanced over it with a critical eye, the same she’d used on her victims many a time in the past. She was working off of memory, basing the sketch of Sunrunner off herself rather than the mare proper, but it seemed a reasonable starting point. “It’s kinda hard to draw a pony when you haven’t seen them in years. I’m just lucky we look so much alike. Take away her wings and my horn, and we could’ve been twins.”

“Aw! You and her are adorable!” Pinkie’s head tilted thoughtfully to one side. “Something’s missing, though.”

“Yeah, no clue what her cutie mark would be, so she’s still a blank flank in my mind.” A curious murmur, and she explained, “A cutie mark…”

“It’s something ponies get when they figure out their special talent.” A shrug. “Rarity e-mailed the rest of us with the pony-related stuff you told her. Figured it’d save you the trouble of being all exposition-y five times in a row.”

“Go Rarity, points for thinking ahead.”

“I’m just wondering what it’d look like. Maybe it’s like yours?”

“Maybe. Similar cutie marks do run in families.” Sunset took a sip of her drink, glad for the little marshmallows inside it. “Pinkie, you remember all the grief I gave you last week about your decorations?”

“About how there needed to be more streamers near the stage and fewer balloons? Yeah, I had it in mind the second time I decorated the gym.” At Sunset’s surprised expression, she protested, “What? Just because you were being a meanie about it doesn’t mean I should just ignore what you say. Besides, as long as I made someone happy with how it looked, I did my job.”

A smile, and Sunset amended, “Well, I still could’ve phrased it better.” She wrapped an arm around the party girl and added, “And I am sorry about the whole thing with you and Fluttershy. And you and Rarity. And I’m glad I didn’t try to tear you and Applejack apart while I was at it. Just because I had a crummy relationship with my cousin doesn’t mean you should.”

Pinkie offered an encouraging smile and asked, “You wanting to talk about her more?”

Sunset shook her head. “I’m getting there, but I’m not quite there yet.” She gently tapped the side of her head and asked, “Let me sort it out for myself first, okay?”

“Okey-dokey-lokey. Take your time, we’ll be here for you.” Another sip of her drink, and Pinkie asked, “But can you tell me more about Nightmare Night? Why would you give Princess Luna candy? Does she go trick-or-treating too?”

Sunset laughed, glad for the change in subject back to holidays. “Well, it’s a long story. You remember me and Twilight talking about how Princess Luna became Nightmare Moon? Well, I’m not totally sure, but all of that inspired Nightmare Night.” Another sip. “The version we told you was the official, historical account, but there was another version where Nightmare Moon gobbled up the younger sister before getting banished by the older. I guess from a certain point of view, either version would work.”

Pinkie took on a sagely stance and held up a hand with two fingers pointed. “Strong with the Force, this story is.” She then gestured for Sunset to continue. “Go on.”

“Anyway, Nightmare Night’s supposed to be the anniversary of Nightmare Moon’s first appearance.” She then explained what she remembered from the stories, about how ponies dressed in costumes to avoid being recognized by the monstrous princess-gobbling boogeymare, and about how an offering of candy was left at statues depicting Nightmare Moon at parks all over Equestria for good measure. “Don’t ask me what actually happens to the candy, but I doubt Luna actually ate any of it.”

“Well duh, of course not! She was stuck in the moon! Kinda hard to…” A buzzing sound, and Pinkie Pie exclaimed, “Oh look, you’ve got mail!” Sunset pulled the book from her backpack and opened it. “Did Twilight send you a message? Tell her I said ‘hi’!”

“I’ll do that, just give me a second.” She scanned over the note, and her expression turned downcast. “Wonderful. I thought that’d be how it would go.” She turned to Pinkie and explained, “I asked if she had any advice for dealing with Sweetie Belle, and the inevitable problems with Apple Bloom and Scootaloo. All she’s really got to offer is old-fashioned patience.”

“Well, sometimes that’s the best thing.”

“Sometimes, yes.” All of a sudden, she found herself thinking that the shoe was on the other hoof. Foot? Either worked. “But what are my alternatives?”

“Well, there’s yelling and hollering, but I don’t think that’ll do a lot of good either. That’s kinda the way ‘old you’ would do it, when you weren’t being all sneaky.”

“Yeah, I figured doing that was a bad idea,” came the dry response. She sighed. “I want to confront this head-on, but what assurance do I have that they’d listen to me? I mean, I was a two-faced liar who turned herself into a monster. And that was before I put the crown on my head.”

A hug. “You’ll figure it out. Right now, though, I’d thank Twilight for her advice.”

Sunset rolled her eyes with a smile, then produced a pen and got to work on her response. “Twilight, thanks for your advice. Hopefully, this blows over with little trouble; I really don’t like the idea of having to watch out for squirt guns. I’m over at Pinkie’s place now; she says hi.” A joyful squeal sounded from the girl at her side. “So far, no problems; we’ve shared some laughs, and I’ve talked a little bit about Equestrian holidays and how they compare to human ones. You’d be surprised at the analogues; I know I’m surprised at how sharp Pinkie can be.” She turned from the journal and asked, “Do you know anything about a ‘Pinkie Sense’?”

“Oh yeah! I was wondering if Pony Me could do that!”

Sunset turned back to the journal and added, “And yes, she apparently has Pinkie Sense. I’ll be sure to pay attention to it. Your friend, Sunset Shimmer.” She closed the journal and sent her message on its way. “So, what’s the plan for the day?”

-

“Coming, coming!” Her door opened, and Rarity gained a warm smile. “Twilight, how…?” The warm smile faded as she noticed her friend’s uneasy expression. “Oh dear, is something the matter?”

“You could say that. May I come in?”

“Of course, darling, please do.” The fashionista ushered her friend into her guest suite and motioned for her to take a seat upon her bed. “What seems to be the trouble? Do I need to get the others?”

“No, I’d like just talk with you about this.” As Rarity took a seat of her own, Twilight gathered her thoughts and explained, “No offense to the rest of our friends, but you’re probably the most qualified mare I know to talk about this with, other than Cadance. And I don’t want to talk to her about it just yet.”

A knowing and slightly teasing smile. “This is about your handsome new stallion friend, isn’t it?” At Twilight’s nervous nod, she abandoned her current perch and climbed up on the bed beside her friend. “Oh, darling, none of us would object to you having a boy in your life. I would be a little jealous, but I’d be quite happy for you. We all would, and this Flash Sentry fellow is certainly nice enough. I don’t see the problem with him.”

“That’s because the problem isn’t with him.” Twilight sighed. “You remember Pinkie’s hunch, about Flash Sentry reminding me of a boy I met in the human world? He wasn’t just any boy. He was Flash’s counterpart.”

A nod. “Was he nice?”

A smile crossed Twilight’s face. “I literally bumped into him the first time after getting knocked down and crawling through a mess of students. Trust me on this, walking on two legs isn’t easy. He could have laughed at me or ignored me, but instead, he asked me if I was okay and helped me up.” She brightened as she added, “And that was just the start. As far as he knew, I was some weird new girl who showed up out of the blue, but instead of ignoring me or brushing me off, he did everything he could to help me. Don’t get me wrong, Spike and the girls were just as big a help, but…”

“But he came to your aid when Sunset attempted to frame you for trashing the gymnasium.” The fashionista swooned playfully with Twilight’s confirming nod. “A genuine knight in shining armor.” At her friend’s dry look, she smiled. “Oh darling, forgive me. It just sounds like it came right out of a fairytale. The dashing hero coming to the aid of the desperate princess and all. Of course, you saved him in the end instead of the other way around, but it’s clear he left quite an impression.”

“He did.” Twilight sighed. “You know something? I never really thought about a relationship like that. I mean, I sorta thought that I’d eventually meet a nice stallion someday, but…” She huffed in frustration as she realized aloud, “I sound like a cheap romance novel.”

“Well, it’s allowed, dear. He was your first.” She nervously amended, “Of course, I doubt anypony foresaw you meeting him in an alternate world.” She smiled wistfully and admitted, “It does sound like a tragic romance. Two star-crossed lovers, meeting briefly, touching one another’s lives and never to reunite. You unfortunately add another wrinkle; this world has a Flash Sentry of its own.” Rarity turned serious as she asked, “Are you considering getting to know this world’s Flash? I wouldn’t blame you for thinking about it, darling, but…”

“I’m wondering about it.” She held up one hoof and pondered aloud, “On the one hoof, based on everything I’ve seen, there isn’t much difference between the human and pony versions of ourselves. They’re rougher around the edges, but still, essentially the same. But on the other…”

“But on the other, you feel like even beginning to consider a relationship with this world’s version of Flash would be akin to betraying the one you’ve come to know.”

A groan. “When did my life turn into a soap opera?”

“Well, look at the bright side; neither is an evil twin.” Rarity quickly realized that her attempt at a joke fell flat, and she quickly took another track. “Twilight, I’m very touched that you came to me about this issue. I’m no expert on romance, however; we both know how my last attempt at wooing somepony went. I still don’t know which is the worst thing to be called by the gossip rags for attempting to court Prince Blueblood, an idiot or a gold digger.” She rolled her eyes and added under her breath, “As if it’s suddenly a crime to want to romance a handsome, well-off stallion.” She returned to the subject and noted, “What I do know is that you can’t simply let something like this pass you by. You said it yourself that there isn’t much difference between them.”

“As far as I know, but that’s just based on what I saw with your counterpart, and everypony else’s. Still, I barely had a chance to talk with him, let alone get to know him, and there’s a big difference between being part of the guard here at the Crystal Castle and being a high school student who plays the guitar.”

“Oh, a musician? That’s another point in his favor.” At Twilight’s annoyed expression, she smiled apologetically and continued, “Still, if this concerns you so much, perhaps you should learn more about this world’s Flash.”

“I might send the wrong message if I go up and talk to him.”

“Then you should be surreptitious. Talk with somepony who knows him, say, perhaps, his superior officer. You may know him, a handsome fellow, what was his name…?”

“You really think I should go to my brother about a potential coltfriend?”

“Oh come now darling, the worst he can do is give you some good-natured teasing. You probably did the same when he and Princess Cadance were first dating.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Someday, the three of us need to sit down and tell you all the story of how those two got together.” She then smiled. “Still, I guess that’s one idea. Thanks, Rarity.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble. But, one small favor, mayhaps?” She flashed a hopeful smile. “Keep me informed? Please?” Twilight jumped off the bed with a smirk and made her way out as Rarity teased, “Just so that I can start on the wedding gown, dear!” The unicorn sighed and smiled. “Well, worse things could happen than me being a bridesmaid again.”

-

Sunset stirred from her sleep, sat up in her sleeping bag and stretched. It was still dark out, and Pinkie’s alarm hadn’t yet gone off, so it was either very early in the morning, or close to daybreak. She carefully stood up and looked to Pinkie’s alarm clock – 5 AM.

She groaned and inwardly cursed her circadian rhythms. Since her arrival in the human world, she’d spent almost every morning of a school day getting up at roughly that same time and getting herself ready for the day. She’d never gotten up that early for her classes at the School for Gifted Unicorns. She was still up early, of course, but that was for breakfast with the Princess rather than to be ready before the start of classes, and it was never as early as five in the morning. Even Celestia slept in a little before raising the sun.

That probably explained why she liked the fall so much.

A glance to the bed showed that Pinkie was still asleep, Gummy held tight in her arms. Sunset considered waking the party girl, but she ultimately decided against it. Instead, she pulled herself free from the bag, slipped into her slippers, and tiptoed her way out of the bedroom. She looked back and smiled, letting Pinkie have a little extra rest. She’d get up soon enough.

She smiled as she made her way down the stairs. Despite her reservations, staying with Pinkie Pie had gone surprisingly well. Maud was still a little off-putting, but she’d gone in expecting someone akin to Pinkie proper rather than a stark contrast. Maybe her guilt and paranoia had been misplaced and…

…And oh sweet Celestia was she ever wrong.

The instant she’d stepped into the small house’s kitchen, hoping to make herself a quiet cup of tea, she froze, her eyes locked on Pinkie’s older sister. Maud noticed her and turned, a blank expression on her face and a very large, very sharp knife in one hand.

Sunset was off like a shot, heading for the only shelter she knew she had. She scrambled back into Pinkie’s room and climbed into her sleeping bag, curling up into a fetal position and holding it tight in the hopes that it would protect her.

A brief beeping noise sounded from her alarm clock and Pinkie Pie sprang up into a sitting position. She quickly noticed the quivering mess beside her bed and turned alarmed. “Sunset? You okay?”

“Not staying. Maud will kill me.”

A sad sigh. “And things were going so well too.”

Author's Note:

This chapter was posted several days earlier than originally planned, but I figured, why not?

Pinkie's bedroom was, of course, shown in "Rainbow Rocks", and the names of her siblings are from one of the books by G. M. Berrow. The details about her home, and her living arrangements with Maud, are totally my imaginings, albeit based on what we've been given by canon. I won't deny a certain amount of influence from "The Simpsons" for that bit from the end of the story, however.

Human Pinkie Pie having Pinkie Sense is probably something that popped up in other stories. The only one I know of is ConningOfficer's excellent "Sunset Shimmer: Element Bearer". I don't know if it'll ever be a factor in my works, but I thought it a good idea to establish it anyway.

The Sunrunner depicted here is, of course, a younger version of the same Sunrunner from one of my other stories, "A Light in the Dark". I'll admit, she originally started life as not having any relationship at all with Sunset Shimmer, but the more I thought about her, the more I thought, why not make them family? Not particularly close family, mind, but still. I fear I'll get an uptick in dislikes on both stories in response to that, however, but I can live with that.