• Published 12th Apr 2015
  • 7,833 Views, 355 Comments

In the Absence of Sunset Shimmer - MyHobby



A murder in the mirror world brings Sunset Shimmer back to Equestria, with her world's Twilight Sparkle in tow. While they track the killer, they struggle to reconcile the differences between them and their mirror counterparts.

  • ...
13
 355
 7,833

A Day in the Absence

Twilight Sparkle stood a few feet away from the chalk outline on the sidewalk. She thrust her hands into the pockets of her long coat, fighting against the bitter chill of a foggy, early spring morning. She released a breath and groaned when her glasses misted over. She busied herself wiping them down with a ready cloth and took the opportunity step away from the scene.

“You okay, Twi?” a Canterlot City police officer said. “You’re looking a little green.”

Twilight’s cheek twitched in the presence of a light breeze. “I’m not exactly a stranger to dead bodies, Care. It’s just… this is the first time we’ve found somebody I actually know.”

The officer flipped through her notebook, a pencil poised for scribbling. “She was a friend of yours?”

“No, not in the slightest.” Twilight’s ponytail swung back and forth as she shook her head. “More like an old pain in the butt. Haven’t seen her in years.”

Care smirked. She dotted an I with a flourish. “High school?”

Twilight pulled a pair of rubber gloves from a nearby box. “How’d you guess?”

“You’re fixated on the darn place.” Care raised an eyebrow. “Sometimes I wonder if you’ve even graduated yet.”

“I am not fixated!” Twilight gathered a few tools; tweezers and plastic evidence bags. “I just know that a lot of weird things happened there—”

“Ten years ago.” Care shut her notebook with an audible thwap. “If you’re so interested in uncovering ancient history, talk with your buddy, the teacher. Shimmer was there, wasn’t she?”

Something glimmered on the ground beside the outline. Twilight went on one knee to take it carefully between her tweezers. She held it close to her face and looked at it over her glasses. It was a red gem with one jagged edge, as if it came from broken jewelry. She slipped it into a bag and sealed the cover. “Sunset doesn’t open up much.”

Care snorted. She tilted her head back, turning to the balcony five stories above them. The entire apartment complex was in a mild panic as officers combed over the victim’s room. “What about the rest of the freak squad you hang around with?”

Twilight sent her a blazing glare.

Care held her hands up. “Whoa, sorry. Didn’t mean it like that. They’re nice ladies. Really. It’s just—” She extended her index fingers and put her hands above her head. She wiggled them like bunny ears. “People still joke about the weird horse thing they have going on.”

Twilight held her gaze for a moment before turning away with a shake of her head. “They don’t know much more about it than I do.”

An officer came running out of the building, his large frame heaving as he fought for breath. Care turned to a fresh page. “Got something, Caution?” she asked.

“Best we c’n piece t’gether,” Caution Tape said, “izzat somebody came to visit, there was a tussle, an’ the one person ended up tossing ’er o’er the balcony.”

Care glanced up at the open balcony window. “Gee, I would have never guessed.”

“It rules out suicide, at least,” Twilight muttered.

Caution rubbed the back of his neck. “Anythin’ forensics can pick up, Sparkle?”

“If Moondancer finds any fingerprints up there, maybe.” Twilight shrugged. “All I have down here is her blood and broken jewelry.”

“Well, do your best tah scoop it up.” Caution tipped his hat. “Care, looks like the stories all match up. Every witness so far says they heard an argument through the walls and then a scream. No one can tell us who visited. Said they tried to avoid the victim on principle.”

“She had that effect on people,” Twilight said. She found a ceramic shard that had once been part of a vase. “Dare I ask if you have any leads?”

Caution furrowed his brow. “None especially.”

“Why?” Care chewed on her eraser. “You think you know something?”

“Ye—yes and no.” Twilight Sparkle grimaced. “The question isn’t really ‘who wanted to kill Aria Blaze,’ it’s ‘who got to her first?’”

***

Sunset Shimmer fought against electronics in a righteous battle for children’s souls. Or at the very least, their attention. The hour ticked down second by second as she hurried to explain an altogether too complex mathematic formula. Her hand carried the marker across the whiteboard like a poet scribing his magnum opus.

She could swear Pumpkin Cake was texting her brother instead of copying down what was effectively a cheat-sheet. There was little time to stop for discipline, though. The clock was striking three. The bell rang. The chairs scratched against the floor in concert as the children scrambled to escape the confines of the classroom.

“Remember to check online for homework!” Sunset called out, hoping to catch at least a couple ears with her instructions. “I expect you to review those practice tests in preparation for the exam next Friday!”

She slumped into her chair, her daily personal war in a brief peacetime. The weekend had begun, and with that came a bit of a relief. No extracurricular activities to lead, no fussy students ignoring her lesson, nothing but a few quizzes to grade.

“You look like death warmed over.”

Sunset lifted her eyes to the doorway. A tall woman in a suit about thirty years out of style leaned against the frame, her arms crossed and her mouth pulled into a satisfied smirk. Behind the smirk, however, the eyes sparkled. “Ready for a break from the happy laughter of children?”

Sunset rubbed her eyes and let out a huff. “I’ve stopped guessing why you never had kids, Celestia.”

Principal Celestia’s smiled disappeared, but the sparkle didn’t. “They’re all my children, in a way.”

“Yeah, well, you’ve raised some real brats.” Sunset winked. “Thanks for that.”

Celestia bent down to pick up a dropped sheet of paper. She hissed and pressed a hand to the bottom of her back. “Oog. Remind me not to do that.”

Sunset stood up and slid the chair toward Celestia. “Have a seat.”

“I won’t be staying long; I just wanted to say hi.” Celestia laughed in the back of her throat. “And to ask how little Sunny is doing.”

“He’s doing great.” Sunset Shimmer grabbed her purse and fished her phone out. She flicked the camera on and showed Celestia the gallery. A young boy, two years old, was the subject of most of the pictures. The principal took the phone and gingerly shuffled through the pictures, a warm smile overtaking her face.

“He’s got your nose, you know,” Celestia said.

“My attitude, too,” Sunset said with a wry drawl. “Cheese Cake was learning to stand by grabbing the side of Pinkie’s couch. He got mad and pushed her over.”

“Little scamp!” Celestia returned the phone, an irrepressible grin on her face. “Please tell me you’ll bring him to parent’s day. Please, please, please.”

“Alright, alright.” Sunset met her grin. She felt a little energy return to her body as they talked and the stress of the last few hours passed. “I guess I’ve probably teased you enough.”

Celestia ran her fingers through her hair, tucking a stray gray sprig underneath. “You can say that again. I don’t think I’ve seen him in months. It isn’t healthy for me in my old age to be deprived the joys of youth.”

Sunset paused with her hand over a jar of pencils. She set a stray number two upright and shuffled them around. They talked about it often enough, why not extend the invitation? “Why don’t you and Luna stop by for supper tonight? You’ll get to spend a little time with Sunny, we can catch up on things outside of work, it’ll be fun. I’ll whip up some ziti.”

Celestia pressed her lips together. “I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“I know.” Sunset grinned. “That’s why you’re bringing the garlic bread.”

Celestia cupped her chin. “Clever. My counter-offer is that we bring the garlic bread, the soda pop, and the dessert.”

“Deal!” Sunset Shimmer placed her students’ papers in her folder and slid it under her arm. “Six-ish sound good?”

“Impeccable.” Celestia squeezed Sunset’s shoulder. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure.”

***

Sunset was the only person in her carpool who owned a minivan. Nobody else had much need of them, and a select few would have died before stooping low enough to purchase one.

Riding in one to save on gas didn’t seem to faze them, though.

The first of these particular people moved at a fast walk out the door of the YNOP news studio, her powerful legs drumming the road like a marching band. She slid into the front seat beside Sunset, her rainbow hairdo falling out of its carefully controlled style. “Good afternoon, weather fans!”

Sunset pulled the shifter out of park. “Might wanna work on that catch phrase just a little bit.”

“Hey, I have to get my kicks somehow.” Rainbow Dash pulled off her sport coat and tossed it behind her chair. She leaned over and grinned at the young occupant of a car seat. “Whassup, Sunny? Gimme some fist.”

The boy giggled and punched Rainbow Dash’s hand as hard as he could. The two of them mimicked explosions with their lips. She slumped back into her chair and buckled up. “I love the job, you know? The hours work for me, I get to mess with all sorts of doohickeys and gadgets, I get to appear on TV…” She covered her mouth to muffle her voice. “And now to our weather forecast with Rainbow Dash!” She reached her elbow across the center consol to nudge Sunset’s arm. “Crappy weather this weekend, by the way. Wear a raincoat.”

Sunset Shimmer pressed the gas pedal lightly as she brought them through an intersection. “Thanks for the heads-up. Your coworker still giving you grief?”

“Eh…” Rainbow leaned back and propped her feet on the dashboard. “Lightning Dust and I are cool. She’s still gunning for my job, but I think she realizes she doesn’t have to get me fired to do it.” She bit down hard on her lip to suppress a snicker. “I think part of why she backed down was because she found out about my black belt.”

Sunset turned the wheel and rolled the van towards their next pickup: A frilly building nestled between Sugarcube Corner and an art supply store. “Because the best way to get rid of borderline harassment is to go for the assault charges.”

Rainbow Dash lowered her hands to her lap. She narrowed her eyes. “Your special talent in the other world was shattering fantasies, wasn’t it?”

The minivan jerked within its lane in time with Sunset’s coughing fit. She gave Rainbow a slow-burning look that said smarmy remarks would go unappreciated. Rainbow Dash cupped her hands and twiddled her thumbs. “Sorry.”

Sunset sniffed and rolled to a stop. She pressed the unlock button on her armrest. “For the record, the only fantasy I shattered was my own.”

The van’s side door slid open, admitting a woman who could easily be said to sparkle, if only due to the sequins in her dress. “Hello, girls!” she sang. She lowered herself gently into her seat and nodded to Sunny. “Hello, young man.”

“Hi, Miss Wardy!” the boy said.

Rarity squinted one eye, but her bright smile only grew. “It’s Rarity. With an ‘R’. Can you make the ‘R’ sound? Rrrr-Rarity.”

“Rrr…” Sunny wrinkled his nose as he growled. “Rrrr-Wardy.”

“I’d call that progress.” Rarity leaned forward, resting a hand on the back of Rainbow’s seat. “I’m afraid I must protest this weekend’s forecast, my good lady. Tomorrow is a simply awful day for rain.”

“Whadda yah want?” Rainbow shrugged. “It’s not like I can tell the clouds what to do.”

“Of course not, that would be ridiculous.” Rarity crossed her arms. “I simply took mild offense to the way you seemed overjoyed to say we’d be experiencing a downpour.”

“You see these?” Rainbow stuck a finger in her mouth and pulled her cheek back. “These pearly whites are the money makers. I get paid to smile, dude.”

“True enough, ‘dude,’ but a bit of feigned remorse would have gone a long way.”

Sunny extended his thumb. “Wardy cool dude!”

Sunset snickered. She waited for her chance to turn left at a traffic light. “That’s high praise coming from a two-year-old.”

“Well aren’t you a sweet thing?” Rarity said, kissing Sunny on the head. She gave the floor a double-take. “Rainbow Dash! Is that the sport coat I made for you? On the floor?

Rainbow tilted her head back, not enough to see but enough to show she heard. “Huh? Oh, yeah. Looks great, Rarity.”

“It’s on the floor!” Rarity stomped a heel. “The floor! Great art should not be put on the floor!”

“Great art?” Sunset murmured under her breath.

Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to speak. After a moment’s thought, she went with the softer answer. “It’s safe there, Rares. Nobody’s gonna step on it or anything.”

Rarity leaned over to hoist the garment into the air. “It’s the principle of the thing, you utter vagabond!”

“Butter bagavond!” Sunny agreed.

“You better keep it PG, Rarity,” Sunset said with gritted teeth, “or I’ll have words with you when my son starts learning cusses.”

Rainbow Dash snorted. “It’s better if he learns swears from his mommy.”

A right turn-signal led their way downtown. Sunset Shimmer clicked her tongue. “Rainbow, Rainbow. You keep forgetting that I have my finger over your ejector-seat button.”

“Anything to get airborne.” With an apologetic smile to Rarity, Rainbow scooped up her coat. She spread it across her body and watched the buildings roll by. Rarity gave her a satisfied sniff. With the entertaining argument over, Sunny busied himself with his red toy truck.

Rainbow Dash lowered her eyebrows at the oncoming brick building. “I don’t think I so much as looked at the police station before we started carting Twilight around.”

“Mm, really?” Rarity said. “I took you for the child delinquent.”

With the minivan at a dead stop, Sunset leaned over her seat. “Trust the real delinquent, she’s squeaky clean.”

“I am not squeaky,” Rainbow huffed. “Though I am very clean.”

The door slid open. The three of them peered out at the woman waiting at the curb. She pulled her overcoat tight against the drizzle. “Hi, guys.”

“’Sup, Twi?” Rainbow gave her a small wave.

“Darling.” Rarity nodded.

The hem of Twilight’s coat swished around her shins. She grasped a leash tight in her fist, leading a knee-high beagle towards the van. She patted the dog at her side. “Come on, Spike. That’s a good boy.”

Spike scrambled into the van, his wet feet pattering across the floor where Rainbow’s sport coat had lain. Patches of grey shone in his purple coat. He looked around with bright green eyes, his shaggy ears flopping around his head. His tail wagged as he sniffed Sunny’s pudgy, outstretched hand. “G’boy, Spike. G’boy.”

Spike rested his head on the side of Sunny’s car seat while Twilight Sparkle climbed into the back seat. She rubbed her wrist as the minivan fell into heavy silence.

Rarity tickled the dog under his chin. “He really is such a dear.”

Spike yelped in agreement.

Twilight smiled, patting him on the head. “Yeah, he’s a big softy.”

Their words drifted off, leaving the van quiet except for the steady thunk, thunk, thunk of Spike’s tail. Twilight scratched behind his ears and stared out through the windshield.

Sunset glared into the rearview mirror, catching Twilight’s eyes. She jerked her head towards Rainbow and gave a meaningful twitch of her eyebrows.

Twilight drummed her fingers over her jeans. “So, Rainbow, how’s work?”

“Huh?” Rainbow Dash looked over her shoulder. “Oh. S’all good. They haven’t’ pulled me off the air, yet. You?”

“It’s… okay…” Twilight ran her fingers through her ponytail. “I mean, you know, the crime and… stuff. I mean, it’s low. Kinda.”

She tapped her forefingers together. “Just started a new investigation, actually. Somebody got pushed over a balcony railing. I spent this morning looking the scene over.”

Sunset Shimmer rolled her eyes when she heard Rarity gag. She passed an elderly couple on what looked like a slow Sunday drive.

“M-murder?” Rarity gasped. “In our little town?”

“You don’t watch the news much, do yah, Rarity?” Rainbow Dash flicked a bang out of her eyes. “It’s not unheard of.”

“Since when is Canterlot a small town?” Twilight said. “It’s been a bustling city for years.”

Rarity shrugged. “Be that as it may, I never forget my roots.”

Rainbow laughed. “Yeah, well, the roots tend to grow into a stinking tree.”

Rarity shook her head and gave Rainbow a small smile. “Be that as it may.”

The conversation petered out for a third time. Sunset watched Twilight through the rearview mirror. She stared out the window, her eyes dim, her mouth pulled down in a frown. Spike’s thunk, thunk, thunk only grew more distinct.

The clatter of Sunset’s keychain joined the beat. Her eyes widened as a smile crept along her lips. She tapped a foot beside the brake pedal and whistled an upbeat melody.

Rainbow Dash looked at her with one eyebrow cocked. She smirked, bobbing her head to the beat. She added her own sounds to the mix, mimicking electric guitar riffs between her teeth.

Rarity patted her knees and sang soft background notes. Twilight looked around the minivan, her eyes jumping from person to person. She chuckled lightly. “You guys are the cheesiest.”

She breathed deep and sang to the tune.

“The sun is high, the fields are golden
You and I together sing
The bonds we’ve forged cannot be broken
From the east to west it rings

“Our friendship will continue
No matter the distance flown
Our hearts are one, our bones and sinew
Nothing can kill what has been grown
We are our own”

The song dissolved into sputtered giggles. Twilight pulled her glasses off and rubbed the lenses with a soft cloth. She settled them on her face just in time to catch Sunset’s wink.

Sunset pulled the van into park beside an apartment complex near the middle of town. “First stop, Chateau R & R.”

Rainbow Dash slid her arms into her sport coat’s sleeves. “Come on, roomie. Let’s see if the DVR caught my forecast.”

Rarity slid the door open. She held a hand in the light rain before grasping an umbrella. “I think the clouds got the message, too.”

Rainbow Dash and Rarity scampered through the drizzle towards their shared apartment, shouting goodbyes behind them. Twilight Sparkle crawled through the minivan, going over Spike on her way to the front seat. She nestled herself in and buckled the seat belt.

She looked at Sunset over the edge of her glasses. “Thanks.”

Sunset nodded, her eyes firmly locked on the road ahead. “For what?”

“For helping.” Twilight’s finger found a tiny hole in the knee of her jeans. “Drat. I just bought these stupid things.”

“Have Rarity look at it. She’ll patch it up better than new.”

Twilight rested her cheek in her hand. “Yes, because adding a ‘client-businessperson’ angle to our relationship will only strengthen the friendship.”

“It won’t be business,” Sunset said. “She’ll do it as a favor to a friend.”

“She’ll do it out of obligation,” Twilight muttered, stretching the word like taffy. “I can’t ask that of her.”

Sunset rubbed her thumbs over the steering wheel and gnawed her lip. “It’s what friends do.”

Twilight shook her head. “Everything they do is out of obligation.”

They came to a stop light. Sunset turned to look Twilight in her tired eyes.

“And it’s not obligation to me,” Twilight said quietly.

Sunset Shimmer swallowed a sudden lump. “They see you as a friend distinct from her.”

“Yeah.” Twilight held her hand behind her seat. Spike licked her palm, a small whine answering her. “That’s why they give me a double-take every time they see me.”

“We just… don’t know each other well enough.” Sunset tilted her head. “It’ll just take time for the friendship to grow. It’s a slow process sometimes.”

“A year or two is a slow process.” Twilight leaned against the headrest. “Ten years is laughable.”

Sunset Shimmer sighed. “We’ll figure it out. I know we can.”

Twilight barked with laughter.

Sunset lowered her eyebrows. “What’s so funny now?”

Twilight winked. “I love how you always treat it like the fate of the world rests on me making friends.”

“Well…” Sunset gave her a toothy, uneasy grin. “It’s not an impossibility.”

Twilight slouched in her seat. “Ahuh. There’s that mysterious shadowy past thing again. You have a cryptic way of being candid.”

“It’s a defense mechanism.” Sunset tapped the side of her head. “Plausible deniability.”

“You? Deniability?” Twilight groaned. “You have about as much plausible deniability as Tirek Odolwa.”

“Not for me, for you. And don’t compare me to a terrorist.” Sunset Shimmer turned in to a side road and slowed down. “I just mean that you can’t be accused of knowing anything besides what everybody else knows.”

“That ten years ago you guys turned into freaky horse people and zapped pure evil in the butt.” Twilight snapped her fingers. “Remarkably vague for how ludicrous it sounds.”

Sunset leaned heavily on the wheel. Her shoulders hunched as she scanned for their next stop. “What do you want from me, Twilight?”

“The whole truth would be a nice start.”

Sunset’s mouth pulled back at an angle. “And if I don’t tell you?”

Twilight shrugged. “Then I keep asking you until you’re ready to tell me, I guess.” She rubbed Spike’s side from his position over the center consol. “Unless you don’t want me to. I’d… rather not hurt you.”

Sunset drove into a parking lot, half-full with cars. A sign with the words “Whitetail Veterinary Clinic” stood front and center before the main building. Sunset Shimmer shut the car off and sat in her seat, gazing at her limp hands.

“Mm.” Sunset shifted her eyes to Twilight. “Nah. Don’t stop asking. I might be ready to answer one of these days.”

Twilight squeezed Sunset’s hand. “Thanks.” She unlatched her seatbelt and reached back for Spike. She touched her nose to his. “Now, somedoggy’s due for his checkup. Isn’t you? Isn’t you a good boy?”

Spike let out a yelp that woke Sunny, who had drifted off to sleep at some point during the droning adult conversations. His face scrunched up as tears sprang to his eyes. Sunset opened his door and lifted him out of his seat. “Oh no you don’t! You’re just fine, honey.”

The boy still looked about ready to bawl before he got a look at his surroundings. “Fuddashy’s house.”

Twilight giggled. She led Spike by his leash. “I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she lives here.”

Sunset carried Sunny with one arm, struggling to keep him from squirming too much. “Only when there’re animals to take care of.”

“All the time, then.” Twilight nodded. She stopped up short when she got a good look at Sunset. “Hold up. Are you wearing mom jeans?”

Sunset looked down at her high-waisted pants. “What’s wrong with my jeans?”

“They’re mom jeans.” Twilight took point as the four of them headed for the front door. “Sunset, those are dang ugly.”

Sunset frowned severely as only a teacher can. “They’re comfy.”

“They’re mom jeans.”

“I am a mom, and these are my jeans. Deal with it.”

Mom jeans.”

Sunset jutted out her lower lip. “At least I’m not sporting the serial killer look.”

“Captain Crunch cereal!” Sunny squealed.

Twilight huffed and adjusted her coat. “You of course can’t be referring to my awesome trench coat.”

“It hails from the trenches alright.”

Spike barked when they reached the door.

Sunset smirked. “Spike agrees.”

“Traitor.” Twilight gave Sunny a pleading look. “You agree with me, right? Only together can we save the world from the threat of mom jeans.”

“Mommy jean!” Sunny hugged his mother close.

Twilight’s arms fell limp. “It’s a coup. I am utterly alone.”

“Butter bagavond!” Sunny said.

Twilight Sparkle raised an eyebrow at the boy. Sunset reached around her and turned the door handle. “Trust me,” Sunset said, “when I say it’s best to just let that one slide.”

***

“Spike? The vet will see you, now.”

Twilight smiled at the person behind the desk. She gave Spike an extra rub behind the ears and led him over to the offices. She looked back at Sunset Shimmer, who gave her a thumbs-up.

Twilight Sparkle rubbed an itch at her neck as she walked through a thin hallway, Spike at her heels. His pants became the loudest sound in the hall. She looked down at the dog, who moved with plodding steps. There was once a time when he would run ahead to greet the smiling woman who waited for them.

“Hello, Spike!” Fluttershy said. She bent down to speak at his level. “Have you been a good boy for Twilie? I’ll bet you have.”

“He sure has.” Twilight knelt to rest a hand on Spike’s back. “He’s been looking forward to his checkup all day.”

Fluttershy bit back a smile. “He might be the only dog who does that.”

“I think it’s because he knows you’ll be giving it.”

The three of them walked into the office, where Spike jumped onto the examination table. Fluttershy set about cleaning her hands. “Is there anything specific you want me to look at? Anything you’re worried about?”

“Uh…” Twilight sat in an uncomfortable metal chair against the wall. “He’s been kinda… just tired lately, I guess. He’s not as sunny as he used to be, if you get me.” She gestured as the dog rested his head on the table. “He’s barely done anything today and he looks exhausted.”

Fluttershy opened her mouth, but Twilight didn’t notice. “I’ve been feeding him the food you recommended,” Twilight said. “Giving him walks aplenty. Making sure his heart gets pumping. Making sure he gets the right amount of rest.”

Twilight clasped her hands in her lap. “Tell you the truth, I’m scared.”

The water in the sink shut off. Fluttershy turned around, drying her hands thoroughly. She blinked aside moisture. “I… think…”

Spike’s tail wagged at her approach. His long coat shook from the movement.

Fluttershy shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “He’s seventeen, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, almost eighteen. He’s a real juggernaut.” Twilight laughed. “I’ve read that most beagles only live—”

“About fifteen years,” Fluttershy finished.

Twilight’s smile faded. “Yeah. Yeah, just about that.”

Spike let his tongue hang out as Fluttershy looked him over. A while later, she spoke up. “He’s very well taken care of, Twilight. Extremely well-loved. You should be proud.”

Twilight shrank in on herself. “But?”

“He is an old dog, Twilight. But he’s strong.” Fluttershy passed Spike a treat. “He has no illnesses, no bone issues, and no heart problems.” She looked at Twilight with bright eyes. “I say… enjoy the time you have together for as long as you possibly can.”

Twilight Sparkle stood up. She hugged Spike close. “How long is that?”

Fluttershy fidgeted. “About a year.”

Twilight reached her fingers past her glasses. They came away wet. “Th-thanks, Fluttershy.”

“Hey.” Fluttershy drew her arms close to her chest, careful not to touch her plastic gloves. “If you need somebody to talk to, I’ll—I’ll be available after my shift ends.”

Twilight rubbed her eyes again. She sniffed and looked past the droplets on her lenses. “N-no. That’s fine, Fluttershy. Thanks again.”

“Oh,” Fluttershy squeaked. “Okay.”

Twilight plodded down the hall, Spike leading the way. She moved in a daze past the front desk. The clerk reached towards her. “Ma’am? Ma’am, can you please sign—?”

Twilight turned reddened eyes to the woman. The clerk blushed. “Um. Here, here, and here.”

Twilight did so, and then hurriedly joined Sunset Shimmer and her son playing in the lobby. Sunset touched Twilight’s arm. “Hey, you okay?”

Twilight swallowed hard. “I’ll tell you in the car.”

***

The drizzle passed as the evening approached. The sunset poked through the clouds, casting its ruddy glow over the city. Twilight Sparkle sat atop an old hay bale, watching the show from the fields of Sweet Apple Acres.

She had been dropped off by Sunset an hour before, with a promise that she’d call later. She draped her overcoat along the edge of the bale, revealing a button-up shirt and a complete absence of mom jeans. A pistol was strapped to her chest, normally hidden beneath either a coat or a jacket.

“Carryin’ the forty-four today?” a voice said from behind her.

Twilight bent back and leaned on her palms. She watched Spike play with two puppies a few yards away. “I’d carry a cannon if I thought it’d fit in the holster.”

Big McIntosh walked past, a bale carried aloft in one arm. He let it fall to the ground and took a seat on it. “Gettin’ tah be that kinda world.”

“A’yup,” Twilight said, scrunching her nose. “But then, it’s always kinda sucked.”

She watched Spike carry the smaller of the two puppies, Wilbur, on his back. The bigger puppy, Walter, nipped at Spike’s longsuffering heels.

Big Mac chewed a sprig of straw. He rested his muscular arms on his knees. “You took Spike tah see the vet today, didn’t yah?”

“Yeah.”

“What’s the news?”

Twilight stared at Spike for a long time. The graying dog rolled around, the puppies crawling all over him. “Spike’s old.”

Mac chuckled, a deep, throaty laugh. “He’s a geezer. Sure enough.”

When Twilight said nothing, Big Mac continued, “You’re worried about him.”

Twilight kicked her feet in the air. “Of course. When Shining got sent overseas, he was all I had.”

Big Mac dropped his straw to the ground. He pulled himself to his feet, rubbing his back. “He looks good, Twilight. He looks happy. And trust me, ah know happy dogs.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Trust meh, ah know apples. Trust meh, ah know dogs. Trust meh, ah know cars. Trust meh, ah know guns—”

This time, Mac laughed from his belly. “Ah get the message, Twi. Ah’ll try to be a little less all-knowing from now on.”

Twilight got to her feet. She spotted a pair of headlights leading from the city. “Looks like Apple Bloom’s on her way back.”

“With the pizza,” Big Mac groaned. “Ah’m sure glad you could join with the Apple Family for a good old-fashioned homemade meal.”

“Applejack did mention homemade apple pie earlier.” Twilight put her hands in her pockets and nudged Big Mac in the ribs. “Or was that a fib?”

“Applejack don’t fib.” McIntosh shook his head firmly. “That’s why she’ll never win the election for mayor.”

Twilight snorted. “I thought it had to do with her campaign budget amounting to a couple of pennies and some pocket lint.”

“Never underestimate the intrinsic value of pocket lint.” Big Mac smiled warmly. “Ready to head to the house?”

A droplet fell from the sky and landed on Twilight’s head. She pulled her coat over her shoulders. “Just in time. Come here, Spike!”

Big Mac whistled. “Wilbur! Walter!”

Twilight’s coat pocket vibrated. “Huh?” She pulled her phone out and read the caller ID. “Care Carrot? Sorry, Mac. I should probably take this.”

He gave her a nod. “Ah can wait.”

Twilight brought a finger to the touch screen. “What couldn’t wait until morning, Care?”

“It’s freaky, Sparkle.” Care’s voice was harsh and grainy through the phone’s speaker. She sounded like she was whispering and shouting at the same time. “I wouldn’t normally bring you into stuff like this, but it’s right up your alley.”

Twilight Sparkle gritted her teeth, sparing Big Mac a glance. He pretended he wasn’t eavesdropping by washing his hands at a waterspout. “Cut to the chase, Care. I’m in the middle of something.”

“We’ve got a witness to the Blaze case,” Care’s voice crackled.

“Then get somebody in Investigation on it.” Twilight shielded her phone with a hand as drops came down harder. “I’m forensics. Unless the witness grew from a test tube, I’m out of it.”

“The witness’ name is Sonata Dusk,” Care said, “and she says she’ll only talk to Sunset Shimmer.”

Spike nuzzled Twilight’s leg. She scratched his head absentmindedly. “Sonata Dusk, huh?”

She glanced at Big Mac as he splashed his face with water, disregarding the water already falling from the sky. She twisted the toe of her boot into the dirt. “I’ll be there in a couple hours. I can’t promise Sunset will come, but you never know.”

She hung up without waiting on Care’s answer. She dropped the phone back in her pocket. “Mac?”

“Ah can drive yah to the station, if you need it.” Big McIntosh pulled his red sleeveless shirt away from his body, giving his skin room to breathe. “Unless you just wanna head home an’ get your own car.”

“That might be the best choice.” Twilight lifted her coat over her head. “I’m gonna have a lot of driving to do, and you need to get up early tomorrow.”

“Ah get up early every mornin’.” He held his hand out to help her climb over the bales. She took it with a grin. Mac ran a hand through his shaggy hair. “How much of that was ah supposed to hear?”

“About none of it, but as long as you don’t blab…” Twilight looked to the left and the right. “Remember a few years ago when your sister got into that whole pony mess?”

“Ah don’t remember much actually.” He took her by the waist to carry her down a steep incline. “All ah can recall is somethin’ about magical transformation and alternate universes.”

“It was like if Sailor Moon and Star Trek had an obnoxious, singin’ baby.” Applejack rolled a wheelbarrow over the softening ground. “Ah don’t think there’s much more to it, Sparkle.”

Twilight’s mouth went askew. “Hi, Applejack.”

“Hey.” Applejack tipped her hat towards the farmhouse. “Let’s get in outta the rain, huh? Leave talk of magic and whatnot for another day.”

“I’m sorry, Applejack.” Twilight rubbed her forearm. “Like I was telling Mac, I need to get to the station to help with a murder case.

Applejack’s forehead wrinkled. Her hands squeezed the handles of her wheelbarrow. “Gonna have tah skip out on the gatherin’, then?”

“Ah know Twilight’d only jump to it if it was important,” Big Mac said. He looked down at Twilight. “Isn’t that so?”

Twilight ponytail bobbed. “Sonata Dusk is one of the witnesses. I don’t know how much this ties in with the Dazzlings’ past deeds, but—”

“Go on, then.” Applejack stepped under an awning and removed her hat. “If you get done any time before eleven, feel free to stop in. We’ll save yah a slice.”

Twilight pressed her lips together. “Thanks.”

“Stay safe out there, Miss Sparkle.” Applejack waved her hat and jogged inside the house.

Big Mac dug through his pockets with a grunt. “Left the keys inside. Be right back. We’ll take the truck.”

“Sure. Sounds good.” Twilight huddled under the awning, watching the rain pour. She felt Spike’s collar catch on her jeans, making the hole in her knee wider. “That explains that.”

She felt bad about it, but she couldn’t quite restrain the grin that spread across her face. “Let’s see if Sunset’s in an ‘explaining’ mood tonight.”

Author's Note:

Does a mirror ever give a perfect reflection?

While this is part of a series, it is a standalone story that should require no further reading to enjoy. If you only came for Equestria Girls Twilight, rest assured that you'll be sated.

That said, if you do read The Heart's Promise and are paying attention, this story should raise many, many questions and answer a few others. :raritywink: