• Published 2nd Apr 2015
  • 4,889 Views, 52 Comments

Between Apples & Rainbows - hibrid

Sunset has been through a lot lately. She thought that making amends for her past mistakes and defeating the Dazzlings were already difficult enough, but then it appears that two of her friends wants something more.

  • ...

Between Fall & Rise 03 | Prelude to Prologue

"Finally. What took them so long?" Rainbow Dash asked harshly as a white compact car pulled up to Sweet Apple Acre's farmhouse. "Should've guessed they'd show up after all the grunt work is done. Right, Flutters?"

"Oh, I didn't mind it," Fluttershy said while peeling vegetables. "It's kind of relaxing."

Stepping out of the car's driver seat, Rarity sent a friendly wave to the group of girls standing around the barbecue. Immediately after, Pinkie Pie, with a bag of sweets hanging over her shoulder, bounced over to the picnic table and dropped the treats onto the table.

Because Rarity and Pinkie's entrances were met with a warm welcome, Sunset Shimmer couldn't help but feel awkward as she slid out of the car's backseat. Of course, it mostly had to do with the fact that Rainbow Dash was glaring at her.

Emerging from the farmhouse, Applejack stopped by the picnic table and dropped off two hefty looking crates, which Sunset assumed were full of apple ciders. "Hey, girls!"

"Since we're all here," Rainbow started, preventing the others from exchanging greetings with Applejack, "why don't you help out Fluttershy?"

"Yeah, sure, we wouldn't mind helping, right?" Sunset asked apprehensively, glancing at Pinkie.

"Sure wouldn't!" Pinkie repeated, her level of enthusiasm visibly multiplied.

"Well, you go and do that, Pinkie, but I have totally different plans for Shimmer here," Rainbow said, a sinister grin on her face. "You'll help me prepare the meats."

With that, Rainbow pulled out a slice of unprepared, raw meat and held it close to Sunset's face.

"Oh, okay," Sunset said, her bemused tone matching the look on her face.

"What? That's it?" Rainbow asked incredulously. "I expected you to freak out or something."

"Okay, Dash, I get it. You don't like me, and I wouldn't expect anything otherwise from you, but at l do expect at least some decency from you. You know, seeing this world, after living in Equestria for such a long time, was a big culture shock for me. I even got used to my new human form, despite the lack of unicorn magic. But still, all of it was nothing compared to the sight when I saw you people eating meat out. It was just so off for me!

"But the biggest shock came right after I stepped through the portal, and realized that a leather jacket was on me. It was one way of a greeting…" Sunset wrapped her arms around herself, her fingers gently smoothing the surface of the leather fabric, with a light smile appearing on her face. "Wouldn't have thought back then that this would end up being my favorite piece of clothing."

Silence fell on the group. Sunset looked around, just to see the confused faces around her, all looking at her quizzically. "Okay, which part you didn't understand?"

"That you are… um, were an interdimensional unicorn," Fluttershy answered.

A nod from Sunset confirmed her question.

"But, ah don't understand," Applejack said. "Why didn't ya tell us?"

"I thought you knew that. It was obvious, really." Sunset shrugged dismissively.

"I knew that!" Pinkie squealed from excitement. "And I also know that you're going to get along later really well wit–"

Rainbow's hand covered Pinkie's mouth, preventing her from continuing. "Let's not say anything that we might regret, alright?"

A disappointed nod was the answer from Pinkie.

"Um," Fluttershy started, "but since you're from Equestria, does that mean…"

"That you're a princess as well?" Rarity chimed in, her eyes literally sparkling from excitement.

"Me? No, I was a student under the tutelage of Princess Celestia. I was about to be a princess, though…" Sunset said with a hint of sorrow. Rarity's excitement washed away hearing her answer as well, though Sunset couldn't see her disappointment as Rainbow started speaking.

"So... you were just an egghead even by then? Big deal." Rainbow just shrugged it off, but soon her eyes widened in realization. "Wait, did you just say Princess Celestia?"

"Uh-huh. The ruler of the land Equestria and one of the most powerful beings there. Well, no surprises there. She controls the sun after all," Sunset said casually. Although after seeing Rainbow's mouth hanging wide open, she couldn't help but make a snarky remark. "Pretty cool, huh?"

Rainbow stood there, taken aback from what she had just heard but broke out from the trance-like state with a hasty shake of her head. "Nah, that just means that you were even more of an egghead."

"Don't even bother yourself with her." Rarity put a hand on Sunset's shoulder. "Rainbow Dash can be really short with formal attitudes." Rarity's hand then stirred down, investigating one of the tears on Sunset's leather fabric. "Oh, my, the stitching on your jacket. It looks as if…"

Sunset winced. "Yeah, I kind of patched it up myself."

"I believe I could repair it for you, since you like it so much."

"I-I don't know, I'm a bit short on money…"

"Nonsense, darling. I cannot possibly ask money for a friendly offer now, can I?" Rarity stated. "And after all, we were the ones who ripped it in the first place."

Rainbow was about to make a comment, but now it was Pinkie Pie who prevented her from such by draping her hand over the rainbow-haired girl's mouth.

"Well, thanks. I'll make it up to you though, like it or not," Sunset said confidently.

"Good to hear that all it's settled," Applejack said. "Well now, anyone up fer some apple ciders?"

"Oh boy, I am!" Rainbow said zealously as she broke her mouth free from Pinkie's grip.

"It ain't just some apple ciders, Rainbow, at least fer ya." Applejack leant down next to a case she had brought earlier and took out a bottle of that golden liquid and tossed to Rainbow Dash. "'Tis mighty special, something ya never tasted before."

"Sweet!" Rainbow said while taking a closer look of the beverage through the bare surface of the bottle she was holding.

Applejack started handing out ciders to everyone else, though all they could get were drinks that claimed to be 'plain, regular' ciders, distinguished mainly by the look of their bottles, with those surfaces tagged with labels. And with different tastes, most likely.

Everyone but Sunset got a bottle of cider to drink.

"Ah know yer not quite fond of ciders, Sunset." Applejack offered a can of drink. "Is soda good?"

Sunset's answer was more like a mutter under her breath. "I never tasted cider before, to be honest."

"But didn't ya say, that…"

"I said it because I was messing with you, like I did with everyone back then."

Applejack's face brightened. "Well, ah'll be damned. Go on, try it out!"

"I suppose I couldn't get from the special ciders," Sunset said, taking a glimpse of Rainbow's drink in her hands.

"Ah-h, y-ya see… Yerbetteroffwiththisfirst!" Applejack blurted out as she hastily tossed a regular bottle into Sunset's palm.

"Oh, well then…" Sunset took a quick glance on the label fitted on the flask. On it 'Fizzy Apple Cider' was written, with a proud memento stating 'product of the Apple family'.

Sunset popped the drink open and took a sip. Unsurprisingly, it was fizzy, and it tasted a lot like apples. Soon after, she started to feel a funny, bubbling sensation in her throat.

Eventually, she let out a loud, apple scented burp. Immediately after, her eyes flared, and she brought her hand up to cover her mouth.

The looks Sunset received were mostly surprised, except for Rarity who looked at her with a stinging, disgusted expression. It took a hysterical laugh from Rainbow Dash to call the attention away from the burp.

Holding her side, Rainbow blurted, "Even Fluttershy handled her first cider with more dignity than you!"

"Yeah, yeah, real funny," Sunset huffed. "So, you said you needed help with the meats?"

Sunset sat lazily, sated by the food the six of them had shared. She was relaxed, a sense of lightness in her head. All in all, a certain easiness started to wash over her body.

But, with a brisk shake of her head, she tried to push her mind back into a sentient state.

Sunset, feeling more vigilant, took a good, lasting look around and noticed her friends scattered all around the fireplace, doing their things in a vivid way of flow.

It wasn't the case with Applejack, however, as she had taken off some hours ago. She had some chores to do that just couldn't wait, thus leaving Sunset alone with the others. But somehow, a full case of drinks had been left behind.

Sunset let out a weary groan and picked up a now-empty bottle from the ground, which was laying by her feet. It was missing a label, making it one of the 'special' ones that Rainbow had drank first. Sunset then took a glimpse to the wooden case once filled with said drinks and grimaced as she realized it was nearly empty.

Apparently, they drank a lot of these.

As Sunset could tell, based solely on her experience, the unlabeled ones had a stronger kick, possibly due to their higher level of alcohol. It answered why Applejack hadn't been keen to give Sunset those at first, but it didn't clarify why she had purposely given those to Rainbow, who probably hadn't been aware of that fact.

Sunset straightened up and got on her feet. In the distance, she could see Pinkie Pie and Rarity, feeling like they were up to something by the fireplace. Slowly she walked towards the duo, as she didn't feel it would be a good idea for them in a state like this to do anything while under the influence of alcohol.

"Pancakes!" Pinkie proclaimed. Next to her stood Rarity in a rather unsteady stance, in her hands a bowl filled with dense dollop.

The fire in between them made cracking sounds in an unceasing yet broken rhythm. In an unwary fashion, Pinkie grabbed a bottle of oil and poured its contents over the metal plate placed over the fire.

During that, Rarity leaned over the fireplace, observing her friend's actions. "Pinkie, darling, I'm sure you need to pour the oil over the pan and not the–”

The fire burst violently, breaking from its steady rhythm. Its flames curved up high into the sky in a swift and sudden motion, masking Rarity's face. Immediately after, the flames died down, leaving a startled, and apparently soot-covered, Rarity.

The fashionista blinked.

"Wow, Rarity. Your hair is a couple shades darker than it should be," Pinkie remarked as Sunset sat next to her. Just as Pinkie was preparing to add a second dose of oil to the fire, Sunset grabbed the bottle from the pyromaniac.

Rarity stood there dumbstruck, her mind not quite processing what had just happened. "What are you talking about? My hair is absolutely fabulous."

Pinkie gestured a wave with her hand. "Of course! It's nothing that a good hair wash wouldn't solve." Pinkie gulped. "Or a pair of scissors."

There was a splash followed by a hissing sound faded away the rhythm of the fire. This distinct blend of noises prompted the two girls to turn their heads towards Sunset, who stood next to them with a now-empty bucket in her hand.

"Try not to kill each other next time, okay?"

The duo didn't seem to comprehend Sunset's question, but they nodded anyway.

Sunset departed, and her eyes eventually settled on Fluttershy. The timid girl was sitting alone on a log, holding a bottle of cider firmly to her chest. Sunset welcomed the thought of sharing a few calm moments with Fluttershy, especially after the fiery performance Pinkie and Rarity had showcased. Driven by this idea, Sunset set off and made her way towards the shy girl.

"Hey, Fluttershy," Sunset said, stopping just short of the log. "Having fun?"

Fluttershy took a lingering thought, like Sunset had asked something of high value. Then the concentrating look vanished, and, in its place, a smile crept on her face. "Oh, y-yes. I'm feeling reaally good."

"Of course you are," Sunset said, smiling back. A quick glance of Fluttershy's bottle, and Sunset saw that her friend hardly drank half of her… labeled drink. Which meant that Fluttershy reached a quite dazed state already from only half a portion. Sunset smirked, finding it rather amusing. "You seem to be a bit distant. Chasing butterflies?"

"Oh no, I would never hurt them," Fluttershy said, taking the question all too seriously.

Sunset let out a hearty, short laugh, just as someone shouted off in the distance.

"Hey, Sunset!"

Sunset glanced towards the source of the call, only to see Rainbow Dash farer away, who narrowed the distance to Sunset with a brisk, threatening pace.

"Hey, Dash." Sunset held her hands up defensively once Rainbow got close. "I didn't do anything wrong with Fluttershy, I promise."

Rainbow didn't bother hearing Sunset out, and instead, with a sudden raise of her arm, she shoved herself forward in Sunset's direction... only to throw her arms around Sunset's shoulders, pulling the confused girl close.

"Hey, Sunset. Whatcha doing?" Rainbow asked with a grin.

"Dash, just…" Sunset glanced down to Rainbow's other arm as it hung idly by the drunk girl's side, where a bottle of cider spilled its contents. "…just how many ciders did you drink today?"

Rainbow's face turned into a look of hardened concentration. "I've lost count after four."

"Why am I not surprised, Dash?” Sunset flinched, expecting something like a hit in advance, but it never came, much to her pleasant surprise.

"Pfft, just call me Rainbow."

"Yeah, sure. If I were to call you Rainbow while you're sober, I'd expect a kick in the back from you."

A delusional smile appeared on Rainbow's face. "I'd kick all the time." Sunset tilted her head, but no words came from her. Rainbow Dash swiftly changed the topic. "Anyway, let's hit the arcade!"

"The arcade?! Dash… ehm, Rainbow. We're in the middle of an apple orchard. How exactly are you planning to 'hit the arcade'?" Sunset asked, making quotation marks with her fingers.

"Trust me, Sunset," Rainbow said, her arm still around Sunset's shoulder. Staggering forward, Rainbow prompted Sunset to follow her, as the athlete took a short route to the nearby barn.

Once there, Rainbow threw the barn's door open and the two of them stepped inside.

At first, the inside looked like a typical barn. Its ceiling was high, with robust beams offering support to the roof and to the loft, the latter serving as a depot for countless bales of hay and crates of harvested goods.

It was something one would imagine, except for one corner. In it, true to Rainbow's words, was a little arcade. A pinball machine was hidden in the shadows of a supportive beam, but its presence ultimately betrayed by the lights it emitted. A kicker table stood next to the machine, with a pool table surrounded by two couches, all set up cozily.

Sunset let out a gasp, her jaws wide open.

The pinball machine was marked with many scratches, while in the middle of the pool table's baize was a tear ever so visible. Some players of the kicker table had a head or a pair of legs lost, while the couches were quite old and ripped in places.

"Awesome, right?" Rainbow asked as she stood next to the kicker table. "Care for a game?"

The two of them started playing an intensive one-on-one. Soon, it became a two-on-two, as Rarity and Pinkie Pie joined in, while Fluttershy took a seat on one of the couches, with her cider nuzzled against her cheek. There was still no sign of Applejack, though.

The games were barely competitive as the others were not sober enough to play normally.

In the few matches of kicker they played, the drunken girls scored on themselves more often than not, but they were happy to score nonetheless.. When they decided to move over and play a game of eight-ball, the 8 ball always reached one of the pockets within three or four turns. Eventually, they just played for the love of the game, not caring about the rules.

With the last ball pocketed, Sunset set her gaze on one of the windows. She couldn't see anything since the only light came from the barn itself.

By the time Sunset turned her attention back to the pool table, Rainbow Dash had already trailed off. While Rarity and Pinkie Pie had occupied a couch, which was opposite to Fluttershy, Sunset took the spot available next to the shy girl.

As she sat down, Sunset let out a tired yawn and stretched her arms. Just then, Fluttershy edged really close to her, their sides pressed against each other. The two exchanged an awkward, short glance.

Fluttershy extended her arm, the one free of the empty bottle of cider, and with childlike enthusiasm, she caressed the tip of Sunset's chin with caring affection. "Who's a good little pony? You are! Yes, you are!"

Sunset somehow managed to break away from Fluttershy's choking tenderness, but in an abrupt way of fashion, Rainbow slumped down by her other side with great momentum, holding a handful of fresh hay right in front of Sunset's face.

"Want a snack?" Rainbow asked as she offered Sunset a fistful of hay. Sunset could see the pale, yellow texture of the forage real closely, but it wasn't only that, which came into her view.

Farer away, threads of overly similar yellow colors flowed in the air, their ends joint in a red knot.

It was Applejack.

"Cut me some slack, Rainbow," Sunset said, leaving with a quick leap. As she got farther away, she could hear Rainbow muttering something about 'snack' not being 'slack'.

Sunset stepped out of the barn and tapped Applejack's shoulder.

"Hey, Applejack. Would you care to explain today?"

"Oh, heya partner! Whaddya interested in?" Applejack replied, slightly embarrassed.

"Like, where have you been all afternoon?" Before Applejack could say anything, Sunset held up a hand. "And don't tell me you've been doing chores."

"But ah can tell you rightly, ah did just that." Applejack received a sting look from Sunset. "Well, that too. Ya see, ah made some phone calls, y'know, to the parents about making this little get-together a slumber party, and they all found it to be mighty appealing."

"Oh, and they were fine with it?"

Meanwhile in the barn, a very tired Rainbow Dash tried to make a pillow from a handful of hay that once served as an appetizer for Sunset.

Sunset continued. "Now, wait a minute, did you lie to their parents?"

"Ah didn't!" Applejack blurted out, nearly shouting, but cooled off a bit promptly after that. "Ah just didn't tell 'em everything. 'tis like, half true?"

"Half lie more likely," Sunset retorted. "And you're supposed to represent the Element of Honesty."

Out of the corner of Applejack's eye, a small twitch seemingly appeared, with her voice becoming prim and menacing. "Well now, 'tis still a 'tiny bit tad' better than turning into a flappy she-demon, now ain't it?"

Sunset crossed her arms and scowled.

Applejack bit her lip. "Ah was just being honest!"

Sunset took a step back from Applejack, whose expression was nothing but remorseful. The farm girl stepped forward and reached out, only to have her hand batted away.

"Ah'm sorry! Ah really am," Applejack said, hitting her head with her hand. "Ah didn't mean it, ah just got carried away." She raised up a hand, and after making sure that Sunset wasn't pulling away, rested it on her shoulder. The touch prompted Sunset to look up, seeing genuine concern on Applejack's face. "Trust me, ah'm tellin' ya the truth."

"You're right," Sunset admitted sorely. "I guess you were telling the truth."

"About the former you, yeah. But stirring up yer past mistakes wasn't the right thing fer me to do so." Applejack gently lifted Sunset's head up by her chin. "Ah trust ya, Sunset. We all do. Otherwise ya wouldn't be here with us, right sugarcube?"

A weak smile formed on Sunset's face. The sight made the cowgirl to do the same.

"Thanks, AJ. It means a lot, really." Sunset's smile then faded, a pensive look taking over its place.


Sunset opened her mouth to speak, only to close it. There was one thing that wasn't clear to her, but the moment just didn't seem appropriate. Still, she shouldn't hide anything from the Element of Honesty… her friend.

"I don't understand one thing, though. What was that back there with the ciders and Rainbow Dash?"

A glimpse of uneasiness appeared on Applejack's face. "Well, ya see Sunset… ah just… just wanted to ease her around ya a little bit. With all her petty doings with ya, ah feared it might turn out badly in the end."

Sunset cocked her head.

"Wow. That was…" Sunset bit her lip, holding back the urge to call it stupid. "…interesting."

Even if things actually turned out badly. Well, hectic.

Applejack's face somewhat reddened. "Shoot, Sunset, y'all just make me all red on the face in all of a sudden."

From inside the barn, a loud, clattering noise reached their ears, breaking their talking. Once they peeked in, they saw Big Mac and a small heating unit.

"Thank ya kindly, Big Mac."

"Eeyup!" Big Mac said and left the barn, leaving Sunset with a questioning look.

"Late fall nights tends to be chilly, in this time of the year. So ah asked mah brother to bring something to make the barn warmer 'n more cozy," Applejack explained, referring to the heater. "Big Mac can give ya a ride back to yer home, Sunset. Ya had a long day, ya earned some rest if ya ask me."

Sunset looked around, seeing her friends spread around inside the barn. All of them were sleeping soundly, four of them sharing the two couches with each other.

Sunset's eyes then settled on a hammock within the barn, its two ends stretched between two beams.

"Could I spend the night here with you guys?"

Sunset was bright and early, holding a glass of water in one hand, while sitting on a chair in the kitchen. Applejack's kitchen. Sunset couldn't help but feel herself welcomed in there. Though the interior and all the equipments within the cozy area showed their age, this rustic feel made the kitchen all the more inviting.

"Good morning, Sunset!" Fluttershy greeted, standing off in the doorway with a soft smile.

"Oh, h-hey," Sunset stammered before she rose from the chair, ready to leave. "I'll be leaving, I won't be a bother."

"Please don't!" Fluttershy squeaked, causing Sunset to stop mid-motion. "I actually wanted to talk with you."

"I guess it goes both ways, then," Sunset said as she sat back. "I've been meaning to apologise to you… about everything. I gave you the hardest time of all the others."

"You don't have to. In fact, I've been thinking about the Fall Formal accident lately…"

"And by 'accident' you mean?" Sunset inquired, unsure where Fluttershy wanted to go with it.

"Well, the time when we hit you with the Rainbow blast and–"

"It wasn't an accident!" Sunset snapped. "It was needed to be done, and you know that. We all know that."

"Yes, it may turned out good in the end, but didn't it hurt?"

"I…" Sunset didn't know what to say. It was a topic she never wanted to be brought up, but with Fluttershy it wasn't possible anymore.

"Do tell me about it," Fluttershy said, not asking, but rather demanding. But from her tone, it still sounded kind and inviting.

"Well, it did hurt." Sunset admitted, revisiting her painful memories. "It was difficult to bear. The worst wasn't the physical impact itself, but rather the realization that came with it. It was probably the Elements doings, and it bugs me a little bit still. I saw what I've been doing for years, and what I've wanted to achieve was all wrong. Even though…"

Sunset stopped and looked up, her eyes meeting with Fluttershy's, which had an inquiring look, prompting Sunset to continue.

"… I can't say that I'm confident with myself. It may ended well and all, but am I going to stay being like that? What's going to keep me from returning to my old ways? Maybe it's not going to happen from one day to another, but just give it some more time, and it happened before I knew about it."

Fluttershy gave some thought to Sunset's words before answering. "Well, you're not going to be like this forever."

Sunset stared at the ground, knowing the truth.

"You can only get better," Fluttershy hummed. The shy girl inched closer, a wider smile forming.

Sunset snapped her head up. "Huh?"

Then, Fluttershy hugged Sunset.

And Sunset embraced her back.

After a few seconds, they broke the hug and Fluttershy spoke up. "I'm certain others will see it this way as well, not just me."

Sunset wanted something to say, something she ultimately couldn't as Rainbow Dash appeared in the doorway.

"Hey, Flutters, who are you talking–" Rainbow stopped abruptly as her gaze met with Sunset "–to?"

Speaking of others, Sunset thought as she noticed Rainbow, her posture uncertain and her face scrunched in confusion. As Sunset stared at Rainbow Dash, she couldn't help but notice a slight redness on the athlete's face.

The atmosphere in the kitchen was filled with an awkward silence, but eventually Rainbow Dash spoke up.

"Did I really try to make you eat hay?" With her question, the room just became even more awkward. "I-I mean, Pinkie said it this morning, but with her, you can never be sure…"

Rainbow looked at Sunset almost pleadingly, hoping for a reassuring answer. It didn't happen, in fact, Sunset was nervously glancing around the kitchen, desperately trying to avoid eye contact. It served as a clear answer for Rainbow.

"Oops, sorry?" Rainbow said, a hint of sincere regret in her voice.

"We just had a deep and meaningful conversation with Sunset," Fluttershy said.

"Oh, I ruined the moment, didn't I?" Rainbow asked.

"Well, not necessarily," Fluttershy replied. "She is really sorry for what she has done and very much would wants to be a better person. However, some reassuring words from the others that she's doing alright would definitely help."

Rainbow turned her head towards Sunset.

"Wait, you're still hung up on that?" Rainbow's face lit up as an idea hit her. "I know just the thing, you just wait here!"

Rainbow bolted off, but returned a minute later, her guitar strapped around her shoulder.

"I'm gonna show you something, it's really cool!" Rainbow gushed, with an excitement which seemed to wash away her hangover as well. "How about some…"

"Awesome as I wanna be?" came the question from Sunset.

"How'd you…? Doesn't matter!" Rainbow waved dismissively, as she took on a solid stance. "Now brace yourself, you'll have your jaw dropped!"

Rainbow didn't hesitate, and started out with a guitar riff, dictating a fast-flowing tempo with it from the moment she started. The riff continued for a few seconds, until Rainbow joined in vocally with the all too familiar 'Awesome as I wanna be', then she went on with the lyrics, showcasing some catchy lines while performing.

Sunset was impressed, to say the least. She wasn't quite in awe, as Rainbow had promised it beforehand, but nevertheless she found her body flowing with the music, despite the lack of some base and constant rhythm from drums or a bass.

It wasn't until Rainbow's voice died down and went forward with an even more aggressive riff with her guitar, playing on it with a more than ardent way, whilst dropped down on one of her knees.

Sunset started to feel something, that familiar sense of unique power. It was magic.

A pair of pony ears started to be formed on top of Rainbow Dash's head, her hair growing into a full-length pony tail. She didn't seem to be bothered with it. Instead, she was playing even more passionately than before.

Sunset knew all too well what was about to happen.

Of course, Sunset was aware that the blast that had hit her was a joint effort by all six elements, but she wasn't really keen to find out what the Element of Loyalty could do to her on its own. Especially since the bearer wasn't particularly fond of her in the past few days.

Sunset prepared for the worst, shutting her eyes, and raising her arms in a defensive manner, hoping that this time the blast would be a somewhat weaker burst.

In the very next moment, Sunset felt a slight poke in her arm, which made her whole body tremble. However, the anticipated pain didn't come with it.

Sunset didn't move, but pried open one eye to see Rainbow still playing, not bothered with Sunset's dismay. She opened her other eye as well, noticing Fluttershy close to her with a reassuring smile sitting on her face.

Taking a deep, reassuring breath, Sunset smiled back. As Rainbow's song ended, everything returned to normal. The pony ears were gone, disappearing just like the ponytail.

"So, how was I?" Rainbow asked with her over-confident tone.

Sunset had her jaw dropped. "It's.. that.. how?"

"Yeah, I know, it's some pretty cool stuff." Rainbow responded casually. "It happens to us whenever we're playing."

"You mean, the others too? All five of you?" Sunset asked, still a bit startled from the experience.

"Yes," Fluttershy answered. "But only while we're performing. It seems that our music somehow reacts to magic in a way that allows us to do that. I don't really know more than that, though."

Sunset sat there, not having the faintest idea how magic got stuck in this world. She knew it was a lasting effect of this year's Fall Formal, that much was certain, but the reasons were unclear.

Them being attached to the very source of magic had answered why Applejack wanted Sunset to hear them playing when she had invited her.

"Yeah, really interesting," Rainbow said, her boredom being obvious. "I sure missed the mushy, multicolored explosion from the end like last time, though."

"Right," Sunset said flatly. "To do so, all six of you'd have been needed to pull that off."

"Oh, really?" Rainbow asked with a cocksure tone. "Then why did you freak out when Flutters touched you?"

Sunset sighed, feeling defeated. "Fine, you're right. When you guys used magic for the first time, well, it wasn't the best experience for me, to say the least. I just didn't know what to make of when I saw you transforming for the second time.

"I don't know how exactly magic got a foothold here, to be honest. I'm just glad that things are working different now. For the better. But I've learned something new anyway, about me. I should have more confidence in myself… and certainly more faith in my friends."

Sunset set her gaze on the girls in front of her. "Thank you, both of you."

Fluttershy soon pulled Sunset into a hug for the second time the day, while Rainbow just rolled her eyes, but eventually patted Sunset's shoulder.

"Yeah-yeah, good speech," Rainbow scoffed. "So… does that mean we're friends now or what?"

It was Monday, the first day of school for the week.

Sunset marched through the corridors of Canterlot High. Step after step, she was making her way to the auditorium, where most students started the preparations for this year's musical showcase.

Surely, her friends were there as well, all five of them, but meeting with them wasn't the sole reason of her trek. She wanted to show the others that she had changed, that she wasn't the girl they knew for years.

She was confident and ready.

And she looked great in her now fixed leather jacket.

She stopped just short of the auditorium, and her eyes almost instantly settled on The Cutie Mark Crusaders, making banners like the rest of the CHS student body.

Sunset closed the distance between them, putting on a sincere smile as she gently took away the brush from Apple Bloom.

"Want some help?"

Author's Note:

Massive kudos to Space Jazz, who helped me revamp this chapter.

Additional tweaks and edits by Dying for Riley.