• Published 3rd Oct 2015
  • 6,558 Views, 982 Comments

Finding Home - Krickis

Sunset Shimmer returns to Equestria only to find that returning home is different than finding one.

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12 – Something Worth Fighting For

Chapter Twelve

Something Worth Fighting For

If there was one thing that was nice about being back at the cottage, it was that Fluttershy was closer to the town’s animals. She didn’t really mind the walk through town from the castle every morning, or even that she had to wake up a half hour earlier to start the day. But as she stretched out in bed, she felt comfort in knowing that all her animal friends were only a short walk away.

At least she’d managed some sleep, and it wasn’t exactly the worst night’s sleep she’d had recently. In fact, despite what Rainbow had told her, she probably slept more soundly than she had any other night since the kiss. Apparently, after Fluttershy left the castle, Rainbow stopped by to visit Sunset and they’d gotten into an argument. It wasn’t too surprising, but Fluttershy couldn’t help but be a little disappointed in both of them. She resolved not to let it bother her too much, and asked Rainbow to just leave Sunset alone until Twilight returned. It was, after all, exactly what Fluttershy planned to do.

She took a minute to roll around the bed and wake up a bit. Once she did, she stood up and walked over to a mirror. Examining her reflection revealed what she already knew; she still looked tired and her mane was a mess. She shook her head and walked to the bathroom, where she washed her face and brushed her teeth, gradually feeling more awake.

As she began working out the tangles in her mane, she wondered, not for the first time, why she kept it so long. She smiled, remembering how Twilight had reacted to an offhoof comment she’d made one day about cutting it. Twilight did her best to pretend that she wouldn’t mind either way, but it was pretty obvious she was against the idea. Fluttershy sighed and her smile fell as she thought about it. She wanted Twilight to be back, even if she was still mad at her.

She gave up partway through brushing her mane, deciding she just didn’t feel like working on it. She walked downstairs and debated if she wanted to make breakfast for herself or just wait for lunch.

Before she could decide, she was interrupted by a knock on the door. It was too early to be Rainbow, but she supposed her other friends might have heard what happened, or at least that something had happened. She wasn’t actually sure whether she wanted company or not, but it didn’t really matter since she wasn’t going to turn anypony away.

She opened the door to find Spike on the other side. “Good morning, Fluttershy.”

“Good morning, Spike.” Fluttershy was happy to see the little dragon, but wondered what he was doing up before the sun. “Is everything okay?”

“Well, uhm…” He looked down and twirled his claws together, confirming Fluttershy’s suspicions.

Fluttershy smiled comfortingly. She recognized his bashful behavior; he had something he needed to tell somepony, but he didn’t really want to talk about it. Spike would often go to Fluttershy first with difficult situations, even over Twilight. She joked that Fluttershy stole her little brother, and Fluttershy could tell sometimes she actually was a little hurt by it.

“It’s okay, Spike. Just tell me what happened.”

He frowned and scratched at his neck. “It’s, uhm… Well, Sunset is… I think you should just come to the castle.”

When Rainbow told her about the argument, Fluttershy had almost gone back to the castle straight away. She decided not to, hoping that she was wrong about Sunset, but Spike had just all but confirmed her fears. Although it was the last thing she wanted to do, Fluttershy knew one way or another she was going to check on Sunset. Might as well get to it.

“Okay,” she said, stepping outside. She kneeled down as an offer to give Spike a ride back, which he accepted. She began walking towards the castle. “So did you wake up early, or have you been up all night again?”

There was a noticeable pause. “I… I was up all night.”

Fluttershy sighed, loud enough that he’d definitely hear her. She could easily imagine his guilty expression. It wasn’t often he broke the rules; even staying up past his bedtime was enough to cause him to worry about disappointing her or Twilight. “Well, that’s the last night. One way or another, you’re going to bed on time tonight, okay?”

“Okay…” Spike agreed. Taking advantage of the fact he couldn’t see her, Fluttershy smiled. She couldn’t really be upset with him, but still had to put on the act. Even if neither of them would ever acknowledge it, Twilight and Spike’s relationship was almost more mother-son than sister-brother. This made her own relationship to the dragon hard to define, but she was increasingly more of a caretaker the longer that she spent living with him.

Fluttershy kept quiet for a few moments, long enough that Spike would know he was being reprimanded, but not too long so he wouldn’t feel too bad about it. “So then,” she said in a lighter tone, “having fun catching up on your comic books?”

“Yeah! Or at least, I was…”

“Oh? What’s wrong?” Fluttershy asked.

“I, uh, I kind of read them all already.”

Fluttershy chuckled. “I thought you said you wanted to read the Power Ponies all over again?”

“Well, I was going to, and I read a lot of them.”

“Hmm, more reading than you realized?”

“Yeah…” Spike said. Fluttershy had seen his Power Pony comic collection, and it was pretty huge. “Plus the beginning is kind of boring. I think that’s why Twilight doesn’t like them. I told her not to start with issue one, but she insisted.”

“I don’t think Twilight could start anywhere but the beginning.” Fluttershy smiled, imagining what Twilight’s reaction to the idea of starting a book series part way through must have been like. “It’d probably drive her crazy.”

“Yeah, but then she complained about the ‘cliché’ story,” Spike said. “I tried to tell her that the early issues were written before she was even born, but she didn’t listen…”

Fluttershy stood straight, doing her best Twilight impression. “Spike, I’ll have you know that most of the best books were written before I was born.”

Spike laughed as Fluttershy began walking again. “Yeah, that’s her exactly!” Fluttershy laughed as well, but as her laughter trailed off she frowned. When Spike spoke again, it was apparent he shared her melancholy mood. “So… when do you think she’s coming back?”

“Well, her letter said she’d be home for our anniversary. That’s in three days,” Fluttershy said. Spike was always excited to get time to himself, but always wound up bored when he got it.

“Yeah, I know… I was hoping she’d be back before then though.” Spike shifted positions and Fluttershy could imagine him slouching sadly.

“I think I’ll be staying at my cottage until Twilight gets back,” Fluttershy said. “But you know, you can always come visit me if you want.”

At that, Spike seemed to sit up straighter. “Alright.”

Fluttershy smiled. It had only been for a few days, but she missed having Spike around, and was looking forward to spending some more time with him again. Although she was regretting offering him a ride. He wasn’t exactly a baby dragon anymore, and she was exhausted by the time they reached the castle. After kneeling down to let him off, Fluttershy had to take a moment to stretch before walking inside.

She began to walk towards Sunset’s bedroom, but Spike stopped her. “She’s, uh, actually in the basement.”

“Oh, is she in the workshop?” Fluttershy asked. Spike nodded. “Okay, I’ll go talk to her. Uhm… maybe you should wait up here.” If Fluttershy was right about what was going on, then it wasn’t a conversation she wanted to involve Spike in.

“Oh, uh, are you sure?” Spike asked, but he was already slowly backing away.

“Yes, I’ll be fine. I’ll call for you if I need anything.” Fluttershy showed a confident smile for the worried dragon, but it vanished as soon as she walked away. Flashbacks of the other night played in her head, and she was sure this time wouldn’t be much better.

She took a moment to compose herself outside the door. She couldn’t hear anything coming from the other side, which she took to be a good sign. Slowly she opened the door and walked to the top of the stairs, the same place she had been standing when everything started. She looked into the room and was shocked at what she saw.

She had expected to find Sunset drunk, probably just as bad as she had been the night Fluttershy had to take her to the cottage. She hadn’t expected everything else. The room was littered with empty bottles, several of which were broken. Mixed with the glass were shards of wood and metal, the remnants of the radio Sunset and Twilight had worked so hard on. No recognizable part of the radio or the speaker remained.

Sunset herself was sitting with her head on the table. She was staring into an empty bottle of wine, and even from across the room she already looked awful. Her dress had stains from where she’d spilled alcohol on it, and her mane was at least as bad. Steeling herself for what was sure to be an ordeal, Fluttershy walked down the stairs.

“Sunset,” she announced as she approached the disheveled pony.

Sunset sat up and shook her head, then squinted at her. “Fluttershy? What’re you doing here?”

“I do live here, you know.” Fluttershy kept her distance, but was close enough to notice that Sunset’s mane was clumped together at the ends, covered in what looked like vomit.

“I… yeah, I know that, but… why are you here?” Sunset gestured around her in an exaggerated movement. “Here.”

“Spike is worried about you.”

Sunset blinked a few times and looked down. “Spike is… he’s jus’ a kid. He doesn’t understand.”

“Sunset, I’m worried about you.” Fluttershy took a step closer and took a better look at how many bottles were around. There had to be at least half a dozen, most of which were empty. She knew well enough that Sunset wouldn’t even be conscious if she’d actually drank all of them in one night, but it was clear she’d had more than any reasonable pony would have.

“Don’t. I’m not worth it.” Sunset turned away from her and reached for a box near her. Although it was right next to her she failed to grab it at first, but got it on the second try.

“That’s enough, Sunset.” Fluttershy walked over to her and put a hoof on her shoulder. “You don’t need any more.”

Sunset huffed and pulled a bottle out of the box. “I’m fine. Jus’ go way, I don’t need your symp’thy.”

“No, you need my help.” Fluttershy reached her hoof to the bottle, moving it out of Sunset’s hooves. Sunset tried to hold on to it, but her attempt wasn’t very good. Fluttershy wasn’t sure whether it was because she was drunk or if she was still too used to not having hooves.

“I don’t…” Sunset shook her head and turned to Fluttershy. “I don’t need any fucking help!”

As Sunset glared at her, Fluttershy just stared back calmly. She gestured to the empty bottles. “Then how do you explain all this? Sunset, you do need help.”

Sunset stood up. Whether she intended to or not, her larger size coupled with how close they were made Fluttershy feel small, like a filly again. Suddenly she felt the urge to run away, but she wasn’t sure if her legs would move.

“Just… go away.” Sunset turned and walked further down the table, dragging the box with her. “Leave me alone. I’ll be out of your way soon enough.”

“What do you mean?” Fluttershy asked. Sunset pulled another bottle out. Fluttershy wanted to take that one away too, but she couldn’t. She was rooted in place, fear creeping into her as she remembered facing similar confrontation many years ago.

“I’m going home,” Sunset said as she opened the bottle. She took a drink, not bothering to use a cup. “Once Twilight gets back. I tried to leave already, but she took it with her.”

“Took what?” Fluttershy asked, although she already knew.

“The book. Powers the mirror. I need it to get home.”

It had been years since Twilight had modified the mirror to work with the magic from the journal. Although Fluttershy knew that’s what Sunset had meant, she needed the extra time to calm herself down. She took a deep breath. No matter how drunk she was, Sunset was not Stormy Skies, and she would never hurt her. “So then what? You’ll just disappear forever? Do you really think you’ll be better off over there?”

Sunset shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. I’ll be gone and then you’ll be better off.” She took another drink.

“Stop it.”

Sunset looked at her questioningly. “Stop what?”

“Put the bottle down,” Fluttershy said. “Now.”

Sunset glared at her, but did as she said. She kept it within reach, however. “Why should I? Why do you even care?”

“Because you’re better than this!” Fluttershy stomped a hoof on the ground. “I know you are. You told me once that you look up to me, but I look up to you too!”

Sunset laughed and gestured around her. “This is me, Fluttershy. I’m not somebody to look up to. I fuck up everything I touch, and I throw away anything worth having!” She picked up the bottle and grinned, raising it high. “So cheers to heroes! Maybe soon I’ll drink myself out of everyone’s lives for good.”

Fluttershy recoiled back for a moment, shocked at what Sunset had said. As Sunset took a swig from the bottle Fluttershy walked over and knocked it to the floor. It shattered, spilling its contents onto both mares.

“Fluttershy, what the fuck!?”

“Don’t you dare.” Fluttershy jabbed her hoof into Sunset’s chest, ignoring how unsteady she felt on the other three. “Don’t you dare say that, not when you know there are ponies who care about you.”

Sunset just stared open-mouthed. Fluttershy turned and walked away, no longer wanting to look at her. She stopped at the top of the stairs and turned back. Sunset still sat watching in shock. “Twilight didn’t take the book. I did.”

Once on the other side of the door, Fluttershy suddenly felt weak. She leaned against the wall for support, and walked away from the living room. She needed to take a moment to collect herself before Spike saw her. She walked to the only other room down the hallway, a small broom closet. Once inside she shut the door and collapsed on the floor.

As she lay crying, she couldn’t stop thinking about Sunset standing over her. It was only for a moment, but looking up at Sunset was like looking at another pony entirely. Fears she thought she’d left behind came rushing back, blurring her memory of what just happened with images from her foalhood. She covered her head with her hooves, and tried to quiet her doubts along with her sobs. She didn’t want Sunset or Spike to hear her crying. She didn’t want them to find her like this. She wasn’t sure which of them would be worse.

She wondered if this was how her mom had felt every day. She wanted to be strong, but every impulse told her to stay curled in this closet, hidden away in the dark. Spike had never experienced anything like this – even on the rare occasions that Twilight had too much to drink, she never was anywhere close to how drunk Sunset was. He was still a kid, and still learning about the world around him. She needed to be strong for him so she could explain what was happening and reassure him that things would be okay.

She needed to be strong for Sunset, too. Whether she admitted it or not, she needed help. She knew Sunset hadn’t meant to scare her, that she probably didn’t even realize how she looked. She needed her friend to help her, to show her that she did have something worth living for, that it was worth fighting and overcoming her addiction. She didn’t need a friend crying in a closet.

Fluttershy stood up slowly. She felt uneasy on her hooves, but with a few more deep breaths, she was ready to face the day. She wiped her tears as best she could and hoped it wouldn’t be too obvious. She opened the door and walked back into the hall.

Sunset was standing at the door to the basement. Sunset Shimmer, not Stormy Skies. Fluttershy felt ridiculous and a little guilty for ever mixing them up. Sunset looked away when she saw Fluttershy, clearly ashamed. Fluttershy walked up to her and waited for Sunset to speak.

“Fluttershy… I’m sorry, I… I never should have…”

“Get yourself cleaned up,” Fluttershy said curtly. “Take a nap or something. You can come talk to me when you’re sober.”

Sunset continued to avoid her eyes and pawed at the ground. She gave a small nod, and Fluttershy walked past her. She stopped at the end of the hall, but didn’t look back. “And Sunset? I want that basement cleaned up before Twilight gets back.”

Fluttershy waited for an answer. When Sunset finally spoke her voice was quiet and resigned. “…Okay.” Fluttershy nodded and walked out of the hall, and back to the living room.

Spike ran up to her, and she kneeled down to hug him. “Is, uhm, is everything okay?” he asked.

“Yes, everything’s fine,” Fluttershy said. She had expected it would be hard to put on a smile for him, but it was the easiest thing in the world. It would be far harder to allow herself to break down in front of her little brother. “So, Spike, I think Sunset needs some time to herself for a little while. How would you like to help me take care of the animals today?”

“Sure, that sounds like fun,” Spike said.

Fluttershy poked his belly. “But how about this time you just walk with me?”

They walked out of the castle together, both laughing. The early morning was always one of Fluttershy’s favorite times to walk through Ponyville. Many ponies were still in their homes, but a few were out and about. There was just enough liveliness that the town didn’t feel empty, but even the market wouldn’t be crowded yet. As well as feeling more comfortable when the streets weren’t too busy, it made it much easier to cut through the market and get back to the cottage quickly. She’d already kept the poor animals waiting too long as it was.

Along the way, Fluttershy kept the conversation well away from Sunset. She felt it was important to talk with Spike about what he saw, but she also knew the small town loved its gossip. Ponies always kept a close eye on the royal couple, and were well aware they had a new house guest. Making Sunset’s problem public knowledge was not going to help her overcome it.

Instead, they talked about the animals and what they’d spend the day doing. Fluttershy wondered why she never asked for Spike’s help with them before. Being related to Twilight seemed to have rubbed off more than they realized, because he was definitely excited for a chance to learn about the animals and what Fluttershy did.

They stopped by the cottage to grab a few things, and Fluttershy decided there was no better time to talk about what happened. “So, was Sunset down in the basement all night?”

Spike had been retrieving a bag of bird seed for them to take, but at the question he stopped and looked around. He seemed to be wondering what to say, or maybe how much he wanted to tell her. “Yeah. I mean, I think so. It was already night by the time I woke up.”

“She didn’t wake you up from your nap?”

Again, Spike hesitated before answering. “No, she was already, uhm, downstairs when I woke up.”

Over the few months they had been living together, Sunset and Spike had become fast friends, so Fluttershy could understand his reluctance to say anything to incriminate her. “Thank you for coming and getting me. It was the right thing to do.”

“Yeah… I didn’t know what else to do,” Spike said. He folded his claws together and looked at Fluttershy. “Why would she drink that much? That’s really dangerous, isn’t it?”

“It is, and I’m sure she knows that. The thing is, well…” Fluttershy had been trying to think of how to word what she wanted to say the entire walk over, but nothing really sounded right. She didn’t want Spike to look down on Sunset. “Sunset has a problem. It’s probably really hard for her to keep her drinking under control.”

“Twilight told me that some ponies drink a lot just so they don’t have to face their problems.”

Fluttershy smiled. “Well, that is true, but it can also be more complicated than that. I don’t think Twilight really understands alcoholism herself.”

Spike looked confused. “But Sunset’s not an alcoholic. She’s lived with us for months and she’s never been drunk before.”

“Yes, I know. But like I said, it can be complicated.” Fluttershy took a seat on the couch and gestured for Spike to sit next to her. “Not all alcoholics are always drinking. For Sunset, it seems like she has problems realizing when it’s time to stop.”

Spike climbed onto the couch. “So… what can we do to help her?”

Fluttershy felt a surge of pride at how quick Spike was to want to help. “We can support her. She needs to know that we care about her and want her to get better. But in the end, it’s up to her. She can overcome this, but she has to want to.”

“Well, of course she wants to, right? Wouldn’t anypony want to?”

Fluttershy closed her eyes for a moment, then wrapped a wing around Spike. “It’s kind of like Twilight said. Some ponies don’t want to face their other problems, even if those problems are caused by drinking. Has Twilight ever told you about Stormy Skies?”

Spike looked down at his claws, folded in his lap. “A little. She told me he’s your dad, but that you probably wouldn’t want to talk about him.”

Fluttershy nodded. “He was an alcoholic. Well, he still is. I don’t… I don’t keep in touch with him anymore, though.”

“Did he ever try to get better?” Spike scooted closer to her.

“Yes. He tried a few times, when my mom was still alive. She died when I was fourteen, and after that he gave up on trying.” Fluttershy closed her eyes and sighed. She felt Spike wrap an arm around her, so she opened her eyes and smiled at him.

“You don’t think Sunset’s going to give up, do you?” Spike asked, as he pulled away from the hug.

Fluttershy shook her head. “No. Sunset’s had a hard life, especially the last few years. Right now, she feels like she has nothing left to live for, but that just means we have to remind her there is.”

“Sunset was…” Spike twiddled his claws nervously. “She had something to do with why you and Twilight were fighting, didn’t she?”

Fluttershy had been hoping that explanation could wait until everything was worked out, or at least until she had a chance to talk to Twilight about it. But with Twilight gone, it was only a matter of time before it came up. “Yes, she did.”

“And that’s why she’s feeling so miserable right now?”

“Yes.” Fluttershy nodded. “But it wasn’t really her fault. It was, well, I think there were a lot of things going on.”

“But, uhm… everything’s going to be okay, right?” Spike asked. “With you and Twilight, I mean.”

“Yes,” Fluttershy said, smiling. “I think everything will be just fine between me and Twilight. And Sunset too.”

“Okay,” Spike said, but he still looked concerned.

Fluttershy nuzzled him. “Don’t worry, Spike. Twilight and I will work everything out once she gets back.”

“It’s not just that,” Spike said. “Do you think… Maybe we shouldn’t have left Sunset alone at the castle?”

“Being there for her doesn’t mean we can’t leave her alone too,” Fluttershy said. “She’ll probably need a lot of time to herself to think things over. I gave her some things to think about when I talked to her, and she agreed to come see me once she’s sober.”

Spike slouched in the seat. “So we just need to leave her alone then?”

“For now, yes.” Fluttershy smiled and nudged him. “Don’t worry, when she comes by later to talk, I’m sure things will start going better.”

“Okay.” Spike nodded.

“Now then, are you ready to go visit all my animal friends?” Fluttershy asked. “They’re probably pretty hungry by now.”

“Yeah!” Spike jumped off the couch and Fluttershy followed after him. Together, they finished gathering everything they needed and finally set off to look after the waiting animals.

They spent several hours tending to the animals. Spike proved to be a lot of help, although he’d occasionally scare them off by being over-excited. Still, Fluttershy appreciated his company and invited him to help her whenever he wanted. He imagined he’d be a regular helper, but Fluttershy kind of doubted it. Waking up early wasn’t normally something he enjoyed, having spent years conforming to Twilight’s sleep patterns. Plus he was almost a teenager, and if ponies and dragons were similar in how they aged, that would probably involve a lot more sleeping in. Even Twilight didn’t seem too sure how that would work.

Since Spike had stayed up all night, Fluttershy had told him to take a nap. He was curled up on the couch, and this time she was planning on making sure he woke up after a few hours. In the meantime, she was enjoying the lovely weather by lounging in her front yard with a book.

With the weather so clear, she saw Sunset approach from quite a distance. She looked a lot better. She was walking without tripping over herself and was wearing a clean dress. Her mane wasn’t styled like it usually was, falling much flatter around her shoulders, but she’d clearly washed and brushed it. Fluttershy smiled and stood up. Not wanting to wake Spike just yet, she walked out to greet Sunset.

“Hello, Sunset,” Fluttershy said warmly. “Feeling better?”

Sunset seemed taken aback at how cheerful Fluttershy was. “Fluttershy, I’m…” She frowned and cast her eyes down. “I’m so sorry. For what I said, and just… for everything.”

“It’s okay, Sunset. I’m glad to see you’re doing better now.” Fluttershy hugged her, which Sunset returned hesitantly.

“I started to clean everything up, and I’ll finish it before I leave,” Sunset said.

Fluttershy looked at her quizzically. “Leave?”

“Yeah. I came to get the book. I’m ready to go back through the mirror. Or, well, I will be, once I’m done cleaning up the basement.”

Fluttershy smiled. “Walk with me?” She gestured to the path leading further away from town.

Sunset blinked a few times. “Huh? No, Fluttershy, I just want to get –”

“Spike’s asleep inside, and it’s such a nice day out,” Fluttershy said, as if Sunset hadn’t just announced her plan to leave forever. “I figured we could go for a walk while we talked.”


“I’m not giving you the book,” Fluttershy said flatly. Her demeanor changed in an instant, all of a sudden deathly serious.

Sunset shook her head. She didn’t yell, but her voice got noticeably louder. “What? Why not?”

Fluttershy glanced towards the cottage. “Sunset, we need to talk, but Spike’s had a long day and he’s asleep. So please, can we go somewhere else before you start yelling at me?”

Sunset took a step back and looked horrified. “I’m not going to yell at you.”

Fluttershy wasn’t sure of that, especially since she knew this conversation wasn’t going to go how Sunset wanted it to. Without waiting for an answer, Fluttershy began walking down the path. Sure enough Sunset trailed behind her, although she kept her distance.

After they were far away enough that their voices wouldn’t reach the cottage, Sunset finally spoke up. “This is exactly why I need to go. I’m… I’m a mess, Fluttershy.”

“No, this is exactly why you need to let me help you,” Fluttershy said. She slowed down, letting Sunset catch up to her.

Sunset stopped for a moment to allow Fluttershy to put some distance between them, so Fluttershy stopped as well. After a moment she walked back to Sunset’s side and gestured for them to keep walking. Sunset reluctantly agreed.

“I’ll be okay, Fluttershy,” Sunset said. She sounded calm, but Fluttershy wasn’t buying it. “I know I was a wreck when you saw me earlier, and I’m sorry for that. Last night I kind of got into a fight with Rainbow and I didn’t handle it well.”

“I know. She came and told me after. Do you want to talk about that?”

Sunset grinned. “I kind of lost my temper. Not much else to say.”

Rainbow had been pretty thorough about what had happened the other night, and Fluttershy thought Sunset could benefit from getting some of what was said into the open. “Sunset, I know you. You don’t just lose your temper for no reason. I already heard Rainbow’s side of things, and if you’d like to tell me, I’d like to hear yours too.”

Sunset shook her head. “I don’t want to cause any problems between you two.”

Fluttershy smiled. “Sunset, before Twilight’s family took me in, Rainbow was all I had. She looked after me for years, she even moved to Ponyville so we could be closer. She’s not just a friend, she’s my family. Nothing you say is going to change any of that.”

Although she still looked unsure, Sunset relented. “Well, she said… some things. It’s nothing, it just really got under my skin.”

Fluttershy nodded. “She asked if you were sleeping with Twilight.”

Sunset stopped for a moment, but caught up to stay by Fluttershy’s side. “Yeah, she did.”

The irritation was already obvious in Sunset’s voice, and Fluttershy was sure she was about to make it worse. “And do you think that was an unreasonable thing to ask?”

“I would never do that!”

“I didn’t say that you would,” Fluttershy said calmly. “I trust you. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t still be talking to you. And I trust Twilight. But that’s not what I asked. Do you think it was unreasonable for her to doubt you?”

For a moment, Sunset looked like she was going have another outburst. Instead, she sighed and shook her head. “No. It was completely reasonable. But… I don’t know, I’m not even saying she was wrong, but the way she persisted on it really got to me. After I repeatedly told her that it was one kiss, she still kept insisting I needed to come clean before Twilight came back.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “She wasn’t trying to accuse you, she was trying to give you advice. That if you were sleeping with her it would be better if you told me yourself, instead of waiting for me to hear it from Twilight.”

“What the hell kind of advice is that?” Sunset shook her head. “I mean, who would honestly think that’s advice?”

Fluttershy chuckled. “I never said she was good at giving advice.”

After a moment, Sunset laughed too. “Okay, so I screwed that up too, then.”

Fluttershy found it unsettling how easily Sunset could laugh and put herself down at the same time. “Well, kind of. But Rainbow’s not always the easiest pony to talk with, especially when I’m involved.” She sighed. “She’s actually gotten a lot better over the years. When Twilight and I first started dating, they used to fight a lot…”

Sunset smirked. “No way, Twilight?”

“Yes, even Twilight,” Fluttershy said. She looked up to the sky and watched as a flock of birds flew overhead. “But you know, you should still say sorry.”

Sunset sighed. “Yeah. I should.”

There was one detail Fluttershy had saved for when Sunset decided to apologize. “She said if I saw you before she does to apologize for her.”

Sunset stared at her. “What? No way, you made that up.”

“Nope. She said you’re a crazy bitch, but she’s sorry anyway.”

Although Fluttershy was worried repeating Rainbow’s word choice was a bad idea, it seemed there was no reason for concern. Sunset tried to hold in her laughter, but failed and wound up laughing hard enough that she leaned on Fluttershy for support. “I can’t believe you said that!”

It was good that Sunset was enjoying herself, since there was still plenty they needed to talk about. For a few moments though, Fluttershy just led them along in quiet, letting them have a moment of peace.

“Sunset,” Fluttershy said after a while. “Why are you so reluctant to let me help you?”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “I’m not reluctant, I just don’t need any help.”

Fluttershy took a deep breath. If there was one thing that was going to start a fight, this was it. “Sunset, you’re an alcoholic.”

Sunset stopped walking. She smiled, but Fluttershy recognized it as a deflection. “Yeah, I went overboard last night, and the night before too. It’s just that it’s been a crazy week. And I know I didn’t handle it well, but I’m not an alcoholic.

“Oh? I guess that’s reasonable,” Fluttershy said. She smiled along with Sunset. “Lots of ponies would want a drink after a fight with a friend.”

Sunset nodded. “Yeah.”

Fluttershy twirled around a strand of her mane. “Of course, most ponies would only buy one bottle.”

Sunset’s smile faltered for a moment, but she recouped easily. “Oh, I get it. Yeah, that must have looked really bad. But I didn’t buy all those last night, I already had them.”

“Really?” Fluttershy pretended to be surprised. “I see. That was quite a collection then.”

Sunset began looking less confident. “Lots of ponies prefer different things. I know you don’t drink, but even different kinds of wine can taste completely different.”

Fluttershy nodded. “Oh, I know. That’s why Twilight has a wine rack with all sorts of different things on it.” She dropped the fake smile, and her tone became much more direct. “She keeps it in the kitchen. Where anypony can see it.”

Sunset also opted for a direct approach. “Fluttershy, I’m not an alcoholic.”

“I’m not attacking you, Sunset, I want to help you. But you have to realize there’s a problem. I’ve been in your room before, and I’ve never seen any of that alcohol.”

“It’s… I keep it under my bed,” Sunset said. “So it’s out of the way, since I usually don’t drink it.”

“Where you can hide it away because you’re ashamed of it.”

Sunset shook her head and took a step back. “Fluttershy, I know what I’m talking about. Trust me.”

“And I don’t?” Fluttershy asked incredulously. “Out of everypony, do you really think I don’t recognize the signs of alcoholism?”

Sunset scowled. “I’m nothing like him.”

“I never said you were.” Fluttershy took a step towards Sunset, who took another step away. “Sunset, you aren’t like him. You can overcome this! I know you can, because you’re stronger than it.”

“No, I’m not!” Sunset took another step back. “Fine. I’m an alcoholic, okay? But don’t you think I’ve tried to handle it!? I try, I’ve tried so many times, but every time I fuck it up! I fuck everything up, whenever something comes along that’s good for me, I find some way to ruin it. Then I start drinking again.”

“Like you want to now?”

Sunset looked away. “Yes.”

Fluttershy walked over to her. She expected Sunset to back away again, but she allowed Fluttershy to stand next to her. “Sunset, it’s okay. I know it’s hard, and it’s okay to be afraid, but you don’t have to do this alone. I’ll be here with you, every step of the way.”

Sunset sighed. “Until I fuck that up too. Not that I haven’t done enough damage to you already.”

“Twilight and I will work things out. Don’t worry about that.”

Sunset didn’t say anything for a while. Eventually, Fluttershy reached a hoof out for her shoulder, but Sunset backed away. “No. No more of this. I… I promise, I’ll get help, but I can’t be around you and Twilight anymore. Please, let me not completely screw up this one thing.”

Undeterred, Fluttershy stepped closer and reached her hoof out again. Sunset didn’t pull away, so Fluttershy took the chance to pull Sunset closer. She didn’t resist the hug, and after a moment, even returned it.

“Have you stopped to think about why I took the book?” Fluttershy asked, keeping Sunset held close to her.

Sunset hesitated a moment. “Of course I have.”

“And?” Fluttershy asked. “Why do you think I did?”

Sunset looked away. She might have blushed a little, but Fluttershy wasn’t positive. “Because you don’t want me to leave.”

“Exactly. So who does leaving help?”

Sunset pulled back far enough that she could look at Fluttershy properly, but didn’t completely pull away from her. “It helps you! It helps you and Twilight, because I won’t be around to screw things up for you anymore.”

“If you want to help us, shouldn’t it matter what we want?” Fluttershy asked. Sunset seemed to be trying to say something, but couldn’t find the words. “Do you think Twilight wants to come home to find out you ran off and didn’t even say goodbye?”

“No, but she –”

“Do you really think I want you to leave after I’ve been trying so hard to fix things?”

“No, but –”

“And what about Spike? What about Luna and Amber? Princess Celestia just got you back after she’s been waiting years to hear from you again. Do you think any of them want you to just disappear?”

“No!” Sunset let her hooves fall away from Fluttershy, but didn’t move away. “No, I don’t think anyone wants me to leave.”

Fluttershy let the silence hang over them for a moment. Sunset seemed to be fighting the urge to cry. “So then, do you really want to leave us?”

Sunset looked up at her. “No, I…” Her words caught in her throat. “I just don’t…” She blinked away a few tears. “I don’t… I don’t know what to do anymore!”

As Sunset started to cry, Fluttershy pulled her in closer. Sunset returned the hug again as she cried into Fluttershy’s shoulder. Fluttershy stroked her mane and spoke soothing words as she waited for Sunset to work everything out of her system. She just hoped that once she was done, she’d finally be able to accept the help.

“It’ll be okay,” Fluttershy said as Sunset blinked away her tears.

“Why… why are you still so nice to me?” Sunset asked.

Fluttershy smiled and shook her head. “Because we’re friends. Why wouldn’t I be nice to you?”

Sunset inhaled sharply and Fluttershy thought she was going to start crying again. Instead she just leaned her head against Fluttershy’s shoulder. “Because… where do I even start? I kissed your fiancée!”

“Well, between the two of you, I’m a whole lot angrier with her,” Fluttershy said. She smiled to show it was okay, but really she was still furious with Twilight.

“And… well, I’m not…” Sunset suddenly pulled away. Fluttershy stared, confused. “I thought I was sure I’d never do anything like that again, but I’m not. It’s easy to feel in control when there’s no temptation, but I know I’m not as strong as you think I am. I know I’ll mess up again.”

“Why do you think that?” Fluttershy asked.

“Because…” Sunset blushed. “Because I just did.”

Fluttershy frowned, beginning to get tired of vague answers. “What do you –”

“Because I let myself get too close to you, even though I told myself I wouldn’t,” Sunset answered. “I decided I’d keep my distance from you two, no more big intimate hugs or anything like that. But then I didn’t follow through with that.”

“Sunset, I was the one who started the hug. I don’t see the problem.”

“Because you wouldn’t… you don’t…”

Fluttershy was also getting tired of ponies dancing around the subject, like not saying it would keep it from being true. “Because I don’t have feelings for you, but Twilight does?”

“Well, yeah…” Sunset sighed. “I mean, of course there wasn’t a problem, because you would never do anything, but Twilight… well…”

Fluttershy rolled her eyes. “But Twilight might, because she already did it before?” She took Sunset’s silence as confirmation. “So we make rules. We avoid situations where things could go wrong.”

“I don’t…” Sunset threw her foreleg into the air. “How are you so okay with this!? How can you just not care that your fiancée has feelings for another mare?”

Fluttershy rested her head on her hoof. “It’s not that I don’t care, I just want everything to work out.”

“But why? How can you fight so hard to keep me living with you after everything that happened?”

“I don’t know!” Fluttershy yelled back, surprising even herself with the outburst. It seemed to snap Sunset out of her hysterics. “I don’t know why it’s so important to me. I don’t even know how I feel about all this because every day something else happens. All I know is that I just want everypony to be happy.”

They sat in silence for a while, neither one knowing what to say.

“We should go back,” Sunset said. “It’s probably time to check on Spike.”

“You’re right,” Fluttershy said.

They turned back towards the cottage and started walking. They hadn’t gone too far before their impromptu stop.

“So, uh, how’s Spike doing?” Sunset asked.

“Good. He’s worried about you,” Fluttershy said.

Sunset sighed and just stared at the road in front of her. “I kinda remember him coming into the basement, but I think he ran out pretty quick.”

Fluttershy nodded. “Yeah, he came to get me.”

“Oh. Well, I hope I didn’t freak him out too much.”

Fluttershy nudged her. “He’ll be okay. He wanted to go back to the castle, you know. So we could both be there for you.”

Sunset smiled a little. “That… that would have been bad. Still, that was sweet of him.”

Before long they reached the cottage. Fluttershy walked up to the door, but Sunset lingered behind. “So, should I take Spike back to the castle, or are you gonna keep him around here?”

Fluttershy turned to her and smiled. “You could both stay for a while, if you want. I could make us all dinner.”

Sunset took a step forward and hesitated. “Fluttershy, why –”

“Don’t,” Fluttershy interrupted, holding up a hoof for emphasis. “Sunset. You are more than welcome to come spend the evening with me and Spike. You can also go back to the castle if you want. But please, please, stop questioning every time I want to do something as friends. I’m tired of fighting and worrying and having to explain everything I do when I don’t even know why myself.”

“I’m sorry,” Sunset said. She glanced back to the castle. “And if you really want me to stay… I’d love to.”

Sunset and Spike had fallen asleep pretty early. Even though they both took naps during the day, neither of them had actually slept the night before. They made it through dinner, but afterwards the three of them were all talking in the living room when Spike fell asleep. He was sitting on the couch with Sunset, who barely made it through saying it was time to go back to the castle before she was asleep herself. Once Fluttershy saw them curled up together, she immediately ran for a camera. She couldn’t wait to show Night Light the picture.

Satisfied that she’d managed to get a sufficiently embarrassing picture, Fluttershy went to a closet and pulled out an extra blanket. When she draped it over them Spike rolled over and wound up hitting Sunset in the muzzle. She huffed and wrapped a foreleg around him, holding him like a teddy bear, neither one waking up.

Fluttershy smiled all the way upstairs to her bedroom. Although she had come to her cottage to be alone, in the end she was much happier having Spike and Sunset with her. Still, she was more than ready to put such a hectic day behind her. Although, at the rate things were going, she was also terrified of what the next day would bring. She looked out her window and sighed. “Twilight, when are you coming back?” she muttered.

She walked from the window and towards the bed when a thought occurred to her. Twilight was in the Crystal Empire asking Cadance’s advice, while Fluttershy was trying to sort out her feelings by herself and getting nowhere. Why not do the same thing as Twilight? She wouldn’t even need to go halfway across Equestria to do it.

She pulled out the saddlebag she’d packed when leaving the castle. She hadn’t bothered to take anything out, since she’d barely had any time to herself. She opened one side, which had three journals in it. She pulled out the one with the crescent moon on the cover.

‘Dear Luna, a few days ago Twilight and I had a fight. It’s complicated and it’s been very confusing. Twilight went to talk to Cadance about it, but I don’t know what to do, or even how I should feel about everything. I know you’re probably busy, but if you have some time I was hoping we could talk.’

Fluttershy felt guilty for asking for Luna to make time for her when she knew the princess was always busy. The moon was already in the sky, so it wasn’t likely Luna would even see the message. Fluttershy was about to write back and tell her not to worry about it after all, but Luna’s wispy writing appeared before she could.

‘Fluttershy, I received your message just in time. I was about to take care of some other matters at the moment, but could reschedule them.’

Fluttershy frowned at the idea. ‘Oh no, don’t. I’d hate for you to do that just for me.’

‘It is no matter. In fact, I have a better idea. Go to sleep, and I will visit your dream. Then we’ll be able to talk with much more ease.’

‘Are you sure I’m not interrupting your work? It’s really okay if you’re too busy.’

‘Do not worry, I have every confidence that I’ll still manage the rest of my nightly duties. Now, sleep well, my friend. I will be with you shortly.’

After writing her thanks, Fluttershy climbed into bed. With Luna’s help, she was sure she’d be able to finally figure everything out. She worried her excitement would keep her up, but as exhausted as she was, sleep came to her easily.

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