• Published 3rd Oct 2015
  • 6,349 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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14 – Playing by the Rules


Where the Heart Is

Chapter Fourteen

Playing by the Rules

By pony standards, Sunset owned quite a lot of clothes, especially considering she’d only been living in Equestria for two months. Still, as she looked over her wardrobe – mostly crumpled in a heap on her bed – she found it wasn’t enough. Sure, her clothes were nice, but she had a date. Twilight and Fluttershy had actually asked her to join them, and on their anniversary no less! How could she possibly wear any of these dresses when they’d seen her in them time and time again? The pony convention of going around naked had the appeal of making one stand out while wearing clothes. But she’d ignored that convention, and she wasn’t about to start following it the day of her big date.

She took a deep breath and looked into the mirror. She forced a confident smile onto her face. She’d been on plenty of dates and was way past the point of becoming a nervous wreck before each one. ‘Geez, I’ve got to get a hold of myself. Just because I have a date with Twilight doesn’t mean I have to start freaking out like her,’ Sunset reminded herself. Then she started giggling like a filly, because she had a date with Twilight! And Fluttershy! It was strange to imagine dating two ponies at once, but she never dwelled on that thought for long. Even just having this chance was more than she could ask for, so to hell with conventional romance.

Still, there was the matter of what to wear. Resolving not to let herself get worked up about it, Sunset turned back to her clothes. She reminded herself that she was actually quite good at this sort of thing, and gave each outfit due consideration. Her eye caught on the only one Twilight and Fluttershy hadn’t seen her in too often. It was an elaborate ensemble of interconnecting pieces, and the last time she’d worn it had been after picking those pieces off the floor of her parents’ guest room.

She held it against her body and re-examined her reflection. There were definitely some awkward memories tied into the dress, but it was the only one that might still look relatively new to her dates. Making a good impression at the cost of a few uncomfortable memories? She could handle that. She’d have Rarity make her some new outfits later, so this wasn’t a continuous problem.

She took her time dressing, making sure every piece of the outfit was perfectly in place. Once she was finished, she turned to her makeup. Although they’d both been impressed with what she’d had done with Twilight on the night of their engagement, she chose to tone it down a bit. No matter how well the date went, Sunset would definitely be spending the night in her own bed, so there was no need to try for a seductive look. It was only a first date, and the last thing she wanted to do was present herself inappropriately during their anniversary.

It would have been nice if the date wasn’t also their anniversary. Sunset couldn’t help but feel intrusive, even if they had been the ones to ask her to join them. She had no idea what possessed them to combine both days, but there was no way she was going to ask them if they could do it another time. This was too perfect to risk changing anything, so all she could do was go along with whatever happened.

‘Well, go along with whatever happens and look stunning doing it,’ she thought as she examined her reflection. She had no idea what would happen, but if she didn’t get a second date, it wouldn’t be because of her appearance. As she looked herself over, however, her eyes still managed to fall on the one detail that made her frown.

It was past time, and she knew it. But as she removed her necklace, she still felt torn. It was a simple act; she took hold of the clasp in her magic and undid it, pulling the necklace off and gently setting it next to the mirror. Her hoof reached up to her bare neck, and she could feel the past calling to her. She looked down at the necklace and felt the urge to say something. Some kind of goodbye, or maybe an apology. She wasn’t sure what would be appropriate. In the end she just laughed at herself, if only to keep from crying. “It’s just a necklace,” she said out loud. “And I am not ruining this makeup over a necklace.” Guiltily, she opened a drawer and placed the necklace inside.

It was time to leave the bedroom. She needed to find some way to keep herself occupied, and the sun had risen. She’d woken up before dawn, too excited to sleep anymore, and decided to get an early start on getting ready for the day. It was probably a smart move, since they never did tell her what the plan was, or even what time to get ready. The whole conversation had been a strange one for all of them, and the conversation they must have had at Fluttershy’s cottage after she left with Spike couldn’t have been much better, so she couldn’t really blame them. In any event, she was ready well before they would expect her to be.

Stepping into the hallway, she stopped by Twilight and Fluttershy’s door, just to see if they were up and about, but there was no sound from within. With any luck, they were finally managing a good night’s sleep. Fluttershy never said so, but Sunset could tell she hadn’t been sleeping well with Twilight gone. The same was probably true for Twilight herself. Sunset continued along down the hall as quietly as she could, and made her way downstairs.

To her surprise, she could hear somepony busying themselves in the kitchen. At this hour it could only be Fluttershy, and she wondered if she should go talk to her. She wasn’t too worried about being with the two of them – well, yes, actually she was incredibly nervous about that – but the idea of being alone with either Twilight or Fluttershy felt far more awkward. The last time she had been alone with Twilight had resulted in a disastrous ordeal, and even if things were looking up now, she couldn’t forgive herself for it. And being alone with Fluttershy didn’t seem much better; even if they had spent a lot of time together over the past week, Fluttershy was bound to be the least interested in this new arrangement.

Sunset glanced back up the stairs, considering just waiting in her room until somepony came and got her. ‘I’m being ridiculous,’ she decided, and kept her head high as she walked into the kitchen. She was met with instant relief, as the sound had been Spike.

“What are you doing up this early?” Sunset asked, causing him to jump.

“Well good morning to you too,” Spike answered, stirring some sort of batter in a large bowl.

“Yeah yeah, good morning and all that,” Sunset said, taking a seat. “So, what are you up to?”

“Well, it is Twilight and Fluttershy’s anniversary today, so I thought I’d make them breakfast.”

“Aww, aren’t you the sweetest thing.”

Spike gave her a dirty look. “You know, I was going to make some for you too.”

Sunset grinned. “What? It was a compliment!” she insisted. Spike just rolled his eyes and returned to the bowl. “You want any help?”

“Aren’t you really bad at cooking?” Spike asked.

Sunset shrugged. “I’m better than Twilight.”

Spike laughed. “That’s not saying a whole lot, you know.”

“I know.”

“I think I’ll manage alright on my own,” Spike said, shaking his head. “Besides, today’s kind of a big deal for you, too.”

‘Kind of a big deal’ felt like one hell of an understatement, but she was touched Spike was so supportive of their decision. She had expected plenty of questions after Twilight and Fluttershy had gone to bed, but he didn’t really seem to think much of it. Maybe it was just his age, but he was more interested in finishing their card game, which he managed to win by a landslide. Sunset claimed she was just distracted, and they were already planning a rematch.

“So, uh” – Sunset fixed a strap on her dress – “got any tips?”

Spike snorted. “Hey, I know I’m a pretty suave guy, but I don’t think you want to ask me for dating advice.”

“Trust me, I don’t,” Sunset retorted playfully. “I meant more like… insider info.”

Spike pulled the spoon out of the bowl and swiped a finger across it. He licked the batter off his finger and nodded his approval. “I dunno. Twi likes books, and Fluttershy likes stuffed animals.”

“I’d be truly lost without your expert guidance.” Sunset levitated a pan over to him, which he set on the stove. “Oh well, it’s not like they gave me much time to prepare anything special for them anyway.”

“They both like pancakes,” Spike said, as he poured the batter into the pan.

Sunset chuckled. “I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time, but it looks like you’ve already got that covered.”

Spike winked at her. “Or you do.”

“I… do?”

“Well, I thought it’d probably mean more coming from you than me.”

As she caught on to what he meant, a smile slowly spread across Sunset’s face. “Spike, that’s really nice of you, but I can’t take credit for something you did.”

“Sure you can,” Spike said. “It’s no different from when you let Twilight take credit for what you did after their last big date.”

“I, well…” As much as she didn’t want to admit it, he did have a point. “Thank you, Spike. It means a lot to me that you would do that, but I wouldn’t feel right. And they’d probably figure it out anyway, since they both know cooking isn’t really my forte.”

Spike slouched a bit. “But I really want today to go well for you, too.”

Ever since she first moved into the castle, she’d been immediately endeared to Twilight’s little brother. As time went on, it seemed everything he did just made her care about him more and more. “Okay, I have a compromise.” She stood up and walked over to him. “How about I help, then we can both take credit. Pretty sure even I can’t mess up too bad, not when I’m working with such an expert chef.”

Spike stood up straighter. “Okay, but you better not! My good name is on the line here.”

Honestly, there wasn’t much left to do. Spike had already made the batter, so Sunset just helped with the cooking. Sunset wasn’t really that bad of a cook. She could handle pancakes on her own, really. But she played along, and let Spike ‘teach’ her how to do it, since he seemed so excited to do so. Before too long they had plenty for everyone, and Spike ran upstairs to wake the sleeping couple.

While he was gone, Sunset made use of her time alone to give her outfit another once over. Satisfied that it was perfect, she sat down and waited. Spike returned before long, but he was alone.

“Everything okay?” Sunset asked.

“Yeah, Twilight’s just slow to get up in the morning,” Spike answered. He took a seat at the table next to Sunset.

“Maybe we should’ve just let them sleep.” Sunset looked at her plate guiltily. She’d been pretty eager to start the day, so when Spike said he was going to wake them, she hadn’t even given it a second thought.

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Spike said. “If she really wants to sleep, breakfast won’t be enough to get Twilight up.”

“If you say so.”

Either Spike was wrong about breakfast’s allure, or she’d found some other reason to get up, because within a few minutes both Twilight and Fluttershy walked into the kitchen. Fluttershy looked peppy, but Twilight kind of shuffled along, seemingly still half asleep.

“Good morning,” Fluttershy said cheerfully.

Twilight mumbled something incoherent.

“Good morning, you two,” Sunset said. “Sleep well?”

At the sound of her voice, Twilight perked up. She looked slightly embarrassed, like she hadn’t realized Sunset was in the room. “Good morning, Sunset.”

It was a little funny seeing Twilight concerned with how she looked, since Sunset had seen her stumbling around in the mornings plenty of times. Then again, considering Sunset was already dressed and ready for a date that probably wouldn’t be happening for hours, she couldn’t really judge too much.

Meanwhile, Fluttershy just seemed amused by both of them. “Yes, we did,” she said, answering the question Sunset had already forgot she’d asked. “These look delicious, Spike. Thank you so much.”

“No problem,” Spike said. “Actually though, Sunset helped me make them.”

“Really? Well then, thank you too, Sunset.” Fluttershy sat next to Sunset, with Twilight on her other side.

“You’re welcome, but it really was more Spike than me,” Sunset said. She levitated everyone their breakfast.

While everyone began eating, Sunset couldn’t help but wonder if Fluttershy had intentionally put herself in between her and Twilight. She couldn’t exactly blame her, but she desperately wanted to understand the rules she was supposed to be playing by. Of course, she knew that if asked, Fluttershy would insist that there was no significance to how they were sitting, whether there was or not. Plus, she certainly didn’t want to make it seem like she would prefer to sit next to Twilight since, along with not being the case, it was by no means a message she wanted to send.

Since she was already pulling apart anything she could for hidden meanings, the way Fluttershy kept glancing at Twilight didn’t escape Sunset’s attention. Twilight remained completely oblivious, and seemed to have given up her attempt to not look like she was practically still asleep. At one point, Fluttershy even tried nudging Twilight under the table, but as far as Sunset could tell, the sleepy alicorn just took hold of her hoof and kept eating. Sunset had to fight off the urge to laugh, since she was trying to pretend she hadn’t noticed anything.

Eventually, Fluttershy gave up and smiled at Sunset. “You look nice today.”

Sunset stared at her hooves, flustered by the compliment, even if it was a perfectly neutral one. “Oh, uh, thank you,” she said. She had to stop herself from answering ‘you too,’ since Twilight and Fluttershy had just woken up and weren’t actually ready yet. Not that they didn’t look nice – as far as Sunset was concerned, they both looked amazing no matter what – but she wasn’t sure saying so would be appropriate. How flirtatious was she allowed to be, anyway?

Looking up revealed Twilight was smiling, even if she seemed a bit surprised as well. “Is that what you’re wearing today?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Sunset said, then reconsidered. “I mean, I can change it.”

“Oh, no, I didn’t mean it like that,” Twilight said. “You look really –” she paused, only for a moment, and glanced at Fluttershy “– nice.”

“Thanks,” Sunset said. For some reason, it was less awkward to hear the same compliment from Twilight. She wasn’t sure if it was because she was more prepared for it, or because Twilight seemed to feel just as awkward as she did. “I just wasn’t sure what the plan was, so I hope this is appropriate for it.”

Twilight’s composure shifted immediately, suddenly flustered at the realization that she had forgotten something. “Oh, you’re right, I completely forgot about that. I’m sorry, no wonder you got ready so early!”

“Relax, it’s not a big deal,” Sunset assured her. “But while we’re on the subject, what is the plan?”

“Well, we spent so much of this past year touring around Equestria, and then so much time focusing on the wedding plans,” Twilight explained, “so we thought it would be nice to just have a quiet day around Ponyville.”

“Applejack offered to take care of the animals for me today, so we have the whole day to ourselves,” Fluttershy said. “First we were going to take a boat ride through town before it got too hot, then a picnic around lunchtime in a field near my cottage. After that, we were just going to see what we felt like doing. But that was before we knew you were joining us, and we wouldn’t want to make you do anything you don’t want to.”

“No no, that sounds great,” Sunset said, smiling broadly. “I mean, if you two want some alone time too, I could always sit part of the day out, that’s completely fine.”

Sunset and Twilight both turned to Fluttershy, who took a moment to realize she was going to be making the decision. “Oh, uhm, I thought we could spend the whole day together. What do you think, Twily?”

The look on Twilight’s face answered before she was able to herself. “As long as that’s what you want to do, it sounds good to – Spike! Put that pancake down!”

Sunset glanced over and saw Spike frozen in place with one claw hovering over her pancakes, while his own plate had nothing but a small puddle of syrup on it. Sunset laughed at his attempted theft, then pushed her plate to him. “You can have the rest of mine. I’m full anyway.”

“Thanks!” Spike said, wasting no time in digging into the plate.

“I think I’m done too,” Fluttershy said, standing up. “I’ll start getting everything together for the picnic.”

“I’ll help.”

“Want a han– er, hoof with that?”

Fluttershy smiled and looked between Sunset and Twilight. “Thank you both, but Twily, you’re still eating. Sunset, if you wouldn’t mind, could you help me gather everything for sandwiches?”

“Of course,” Sunset said, standing up as well.

It didn’t take long for the two of them to get everything ready for the picnic, then Fluttershy and Twilight went back upstairs to get ready.

After a few minutes of trying her best not to panic, Sunset followed them upstairs as well, going into her room to check her makeup. She decided she looked fine, then redid it anyway. She paced around for a while, then went back downstairs. She checked the kitchen for Spike, hoping she’d have some company while waiting nervously, but he’d already run off somewhere.

At least it didn’t take Twilight and Fluttershy long to get ready, as they dressed accordingly for their casual day in town. They had both chosen sundresses, light blue for Fluttershy and magenta for Twilight. Fluttershy was wearing an oversized hat, as well. As Sunset approached them, she noticed their perfume – the scents of white jasmine and water lilies complemented one another well.

“I hope you don’t mind that we’re not dressed as nicely as you,” Twilight said. “We didn’t really want to draw too much attention. Maybe we can avoid any awkward questions this way.”

“I don’t mind at all, you both look beautiful,” Sunset said before considering if it was okay for her to say so. Both of them blushed, while Fluttershy bowed her head to hide her eyes behind the brim of her hat. “I, uhm, I meant… nice, you look nice.”

Twilight just grinned sheepishly at the awkward compliment, while Fluttershy stepped next to Sunset. “Thank you, Sunset. You’re very sweet.”

Sunset smiled for a moment, but her expression was changed to one of bewilderment as Fluttershy kissed her cheek. “I, uh…” Sunset trailed off into a small laugh as her smile returned.

“Is everypony ready?” Fluttershy asked, apparently unfazed by the mare she’d sent over the moon.

Snapping out of it, Sunset barely noticed Twilight’s expression in time. She looked just as surprised as Sunset felt, but there was something else. Was she upset Fluttershy had kissed another mare, even if it was just on the cheek? Or was she jealous of Fluttershy, since she seemed to be the only one that clearly understood the rules? There was also the chance Sunset had just imagined it, since Twilight resumed her happy smile almost immediately. Still, as they left the castle, Sunset couldn’t help but wonder if she’d already messed up.

Ponyville’s river was really more of a creek, but that didn’t stop somepony from opening up boat rentals. Oddly enough, the thing that stuck out the most as they approached the small dock was nothing at all. There was no sign advertising the business, or a list of prices, or anything else that would indicate the dock was for anything other than personal use.

Despite this, Twilight said the business must have been doing well, since they’d recently hired Big Mac to build another boat. The longer she stayed in Ponyville, the more surprises Sunset discovered. Everywhere she went, there seemed to be some local secret just beneath the surface.

They were met by a young mare upon arrival, who wasted no time in enthusiastically greeting them. “Princess Twilight, Miss Fluttershy!”

“Hello, Brisk Storm,” Twilight greeted the mare warmly. She seemed even more excited now that Twilight remembered her name. “Are you looking after things yourself today?”

“Yup!” Brisk Storm announced proudly. She couldn’t have older than fourteen, and probably wasn’t used to running things by herself. “And I have everything all ready for you two!”

“Oh my, that certainly is a lot of responsibility,” Fluttershy said. Brisk Storm stood up straight and put on a serious expression to better show Fluttershy she could handle it.

“There’s been a bit of a change in plans, though,” Twilight said.

The change in Brisk Storm’s composure was as instant as it was drastic. Twilight may as well have told her there was a ban on Hearth’s Warming, she couldn’t have looked any more distraught. “You’re not cancelling, are you?”

“No, nothing like that,” Twilight reassured her quickly. “We’d just like to switch to a bigger boat, if one is available. One that seats three ponies.”

Brisk Storm seemed to notice Sunset for the first time. “Oh, are you with the princess?”

Sunset idly wondered how she could have thought anything else, but didn’t say so. “Yeah, I’m like… a royal guard.” Twilight had to look away so she wouldn’t show the look on her face as she held back her laughter.

Brisk Storm regarded her with a suspicious expression. “You don’t really look like a guard.”

Sunset glanced around as if to make sure nopony was looking. She leaned in conspiratorially, and Brisk Storm did the same. “That’s because I’m in disguise. I’ve been guarding Princess Twilight and Lady Fluttershy for months, on account of the royal wedding. You heard about what happened at Princess Mi Amore Cadenza’s wedding?” Brisk Storm nodded solemnly. “Well, it’s my job to make sure that doesn’t happen here. But I’m like a secret weapon the changelings don’t know about, one they can’t know about. So can I count on you to keep this between us?”

Brisk Storm took a step back and saluted, and Sunset mirrored the gesture. She didn’t dare look at Twilight or Fluttershy, knowing that one wrong look could cause a chain reaction of laughter among the three of them.

“One three-pony boat, for the princess, the lady, and their friend.” Brisk Storm winked, and they followed her to the dock. There were half a dozen boats tied to it, and Brisk Storm held one steady as they climbed in.

Fluttershy walked on first, sitting on one side, with Twilight in the middle and Sunset on the opposite side. She contemplated what it meant that Fluttershy sat next to her at breakfast, while now she sat Twilight between them. Both times it had been Fluttershy who chose her seat first. Was there some intent behind it, or was Sunset seeing signs that weren’t there?

Brisk Storm untied the knot and pushed the boat to get them moving. “Enjoy yourselves!” Sunset turned around to wave, realizing once she turned back that Twilight and Fluttershy were both staring at her.

Twilight smiled. “I didn’t know you were good with kids.”

‘More like good at lying,’ Sunset thought. But she was trying to put her best hoof forward, so she kept that thought inside. “I don’t think I’m that good with them. Besides, she was already hanging on your every word before you even said anything.”

Fluttershy giggled. “Twily’s very popular with kids.”

“Just Twi?” Sunset asked. “I’m sure you’re pretty popular too, Fluttershy.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Fluttershy said.

“Don’t let her modesty trick you, Shy has plenty of her own fans too.” The river current pulled them along gently, while Twilight occasionally fixed their course by adjusting the rudder. “A lot of younger ponies see us as role models, which is a little weird, but it’s better than being looked down on because we’re gay. I think younger ponies are more accepting, most of the time.”

Sunset scoffed. “Yeah, if you’re a princess.”

“What do you mean?” Twilight asked.

Sunset shrugged. “I dunno, maybe it’s just a difference between humans and ponies.” She wasn’t sure why she’d brought it up, since she didn’t really feel like talking about growing up. A look at Twilight and Fluttershy revealed she wasn’t getting out of it, though. She sighed. “Well, I didn’t really pay attention to other ponies too much when I lived in Canterlot, so I don’t really know what ponies are like at that age. But after going through the mirror, my school experience wound up very different. I noticed what other kids were doing a lot more, and a lot of it wasn’t very ‘accepting’ when it came to anyone who wasn’t straight.”

Fluttershy leaned against Twilight. “I know what you mean. In Cloudsdale there were a lot of rumors going around about Rainbow and me. It… didn’t turn out so good in the end.”

Nopony spoke for a while. Twilight focused on steering the boat, while Fluttershy continued to use her as a pillow. Sunset stared into the water, watching her distorted reflection. ‘Why the hell did I start talking about that? That’s about the furthest from a friendly first date topic as it gets.’ She turned away from the reflection, determined to turn the conversation around. “Not all kids are bad, though. Spike seems way more accepting than any other kid I’ve met.”

Bringing up Spike seemed to do the trick. Even if he was Twilight’s brother, both she and Fluttershy seemed to have a huge soft spot for him, as evident by their smiles. “Spike may be a brat sometimes, but he’s a good kid,” Twilight said. “It’s not too surprising though, considering how he was raised.”

“How’s that?” Sunset asked.

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Well, my mom certainly didn’t lay a dragon egg. Ever since he was little there’ve been… concerns. Some ponies said a dragon living in Canterlot wasn’t safe, or that ponies couldn’t properly care for a dragon. One of my neighbors even petitioned to have a new law passed to outlaw ponies adopting ‘dangerous’ species.”

Sunset smirked. “I bet Celestia had a field day with that one.”

Twilight smiled and shook her head. “Actually, she didn’t have to do anything. Once my parents heard about it, they fought the proposition with everything they had. I’m sure Princess Celestia would never have allowed a law like that to be passed, but they shut it down before it even reached her desk.”

Sunset nudged her. “Well, I guess I see why you’re so headstrong now.”

Fluttershy giggled. “Twilight can be pretty much just like her mom. Which is a good thing.”

“Anyway,” Twilight continued, “even though I don’t think Spike knows about that, he does know how much they love him, and that a lot of ponies were against that. He’s known his whole life that love isn’t always conventional, but that doesn’t make it any less real.”

Fluttershy smiled up at Twilight, who smiled back at her. But just when it was the perfect moment for them to kiss, Twilight looked away. Fluttershy blinked a few times, but kept resting against Twilight.

“They really are great,” Twilight said, awkwardly forcing them back to the conversation. “But you’ll see that for yourself when you meet them.”

Sunset snapped to attention. “I, uh… okay.”

Twilight looked confused until Fluttershy tapped her on the shoulder. “Don’t you think that’s rushing things just a little too much?”

“Huh?” Twilight kept her puzzled look for a moment more before facehoofing. “I wasn’t… I didn’t mean… The wedding! I meant you’ll meet them at the wedding since, you know, they’ll be there, and you’ll be there, and… I’m just gonna stop talking.”

Fluttershy patted her back. “That’s probably a good idea.”

As they gently floated down the river, Twilight kept to her decision to stop talking. Sunset wasn’t sure how to fill the silence either. The thought of meeting Twilight’s parents was daunting, even if Twilight didn’t seem to think it would be a problem. Explaining the nature of their relationship would be awkward, and even if they accepted it, what was she supposed to say if they asked how they got together?

Thankfully, Fluttershy ended the awkward silence before too long. “It’s so nice out today.”

Even if it was only idle small talk, the comment brought Sunset back into the moment. The wedding was still four months away, and the only reason she’d even have to worry about the conversation would be if the relationship worked out. If that happened, then meeting Twilight’s parents was hardly a concern.

“It’s strange seeing the town like this,” Sunset said. “Like a whole other side to Ponyville.”

“There’s still a lot to Ponyville you probably haven’t seen,” Fluttershy said. “But between me and Twily, I’m sure we can get you caught up in no time.”

“Thanks, but don’t worry about getting me acquainted with everything too fast,” Sunset said. “I like trying new things with you two, and I’m not looking forward to running out of them.”

Fluttershy grinned and nudged Twilight. “Or maybe Canterlot mares just take a little longer to get used to small town life.”

“Oh?” Sunset smirked. “Didn’t you tell me you fell in love with Ponyville immediately?”

Twilight smiled sheepishly. “Well, I guess maybe it wasn’t immediate.”

Fluttershy tapped on her chin. “What was it you said the first night you came here? Everypony in this town is crazy?”

“Oh, they are,” Twilight said. “But before too long, I was crazy too, so everything worked out in the end.”

“I can’t really imagine you ever not being crazy,” Fluttershy said. “I think you just needed to adjust your type of crazy to our type of crazy.”

Everypony laughed, then they continued to talk about life in Ponyville. The rest of boat ride went pleasantly enough, but Sunset never could shake the feeling that she wasn’t supposed to be there.

She tried to give them room to talk about things that didn’t involve her, like reminiscing about memories they’d shared over the past two years, but there was a noticeable change in the couple’s behavior. To any onlookers, the two years of love would be invisible; they’d only see three friends spending time together. And while that was fine for Sunset, only being a first date and all, she’d come to expect more affection between Twilight and Fluttershy.

To this end, the size of the boat only made it worse. They were forced together by proximity, so the distance Sunset had put between the couple was all the more noticeable. As nice as the boat ride should have been, Sunset was actually glad when it ended. She kept a bit of distance while they walked towards the field they were going to have their picnic in, hoping that it would encourage the couple to act more naturally.

The field was beautiful, all in bloom with wildflowers. Every color imaginable was sprouting from the ground, from sunflowers that were even taller than Sunset, to alstroemerias around her shoulders, with thousands of daisies in just as many colors filling in everywhere. It was also dotted with trees, the outskirts of the Everfree Forest slowly creeping up on Ponyville.

Although one place seemed as good as any other, Twilight and Fluttershy walked towards the same tree in an unspoken agreement on their destination. Sunset followed suit, spreading out a blanket where they chose to stop.

“This place is so nice,” Sunset said, sitting down across from the couple.

“This is my favorite place,” Fluttershy said. She smiled at Twilight, another unspoken message.

Twilight smiled at her for just a moment, then opened the basket and began passing out sandwiches. Fluttershy’s frown was brief, but clear. Sunset wasn’t the only one who had noticed something was amiss. Judging by her clueless smile, it seemed Twilight was oblivious as ever.

Sunset did her best to not worry about it. Bringing it up seemed more likely to cause problems, so she tried to just focus on eating her sandwich instead. That is, until Fluttershy brought it up.

“You know,” she said, “you two don’t have to be so nervous.”

“What makes you say that?” Twilight asked. She had a smile that was almost too casual, and gave away how nervous she really was.

“I’m not nervous,” Sunset said, but noticing Twilight’s nervous smile made her realize she had an identical one.

Fluttershy just gave a small sigh. “Sunset, will you please come sit next to me?”

Her glance shifted first to Twilight, before nodding and standing up. She walked around the food and sat down closer to Fluttershy, then smiled reassuringly, as if it somehow proved she wasn’t nervous.

It didn’t matter that Sunset had intentionally left some space between them, as Fluttershy shifted closer to her so their bodies were pressed together. She turned to Twilight and pulled her closer, more than closing the gap she’d created by moving towards Sunset, leaving herself snugly placed in between the two larger mares. She smiled at each of them in turn. “There. You two do realize that this is a date, right?”

“I, uhm…” Sunset blushed and turned away. She could imagine Twilight was probably doing the same.

“You know,” Fluttershy said, “it would probably help you both if you just said what you’re so worried about.”

Even with an invitation, the idea of talking about her reservations made Sunset’s mouth go dry. She’d just make up some excuse about first date nerves, and –

“You’re right,” Twilight said, before Sunset had the chance to say anything. “I guess I’m just not sure what’s okay and what’s not. I mean, the last thing I want to do is anything that’ll make you feel uncomfortable, Shy.”

“Me too,” Sunset said. Whether she wanted to talk about what was on her mind or not, it was important to make sure they knew she wouldn’t try to overstep her bounds.

“And the same goes for you, Sunset,” Twilight said. “This is an important day for Fluttershy and me, but it’s also supposed to be about all three of us.”

And there it was. The confirmation of what Sunset was afraid of. She was the reason their anniversary was going poorly. “That’s why you’ve been acting distant. Because of me.”

Twilight frowned. “I didn’t think I was acting distant… I just didn’t want to do anything that would make you feel like you’re just tagging along on our date.”

“But I wouldn’t,” Sunset said. “Actually, it’s just the opposite. I really like seeing you two… uhm…” She looked down at her hooves. “Seeing you two being affectionate is nice. It’s obvious how much you love each other. And, well…”

“Everypony likes seeing the ponies they care about happy,” Fluttershy finished. Sunset nodded. “So then, it looks like there’s two options. We can either keep acting like this isn’t a date, which hasn’t really worked too well so far, or we can all accept that it is. I know I would rather spend my anniversary on a date with two mares than none.”

Sunset and Twilight both turned to look at Fluttershy at the same time, and in the process made eye contact, which caused them both to blush and turn away. Fluttershy giggled. “You’re both adorable.”

Blushing even more, Sunset managed to turn back towards them in time to see Twilight and Fluttershy exchange a small kiss. Being so close to the two ponies she loved while they kissed, even if it was a simple peck on the lips, brought a smile to Sunset’s face. “I think I’m going to have to second that opinion. I’d definitely like this date more if we stopped worrying so much.”

Twilight nuzzled her face into Fluttershy’s shoulder, which didn’t completely mask her blush. Fluttershy also blushed, but she ignored it and just smiled happily. “Is that also what you’ve been so worried about, Sunset? Making me and Twily uncomfortable?”

Sunset was tempted to also hide her face in Fluttershy, as she joined the others in blushing. “I… well, yeah. I guess… I just wish I knew what the rules for this sort of thing are.”

Fluttershy rested her hoof on Sunset’s. “You know, we didn’t stay up last night making up a bunch of rules that we didn’t tell you about. We’re all kind of figuring this out as we go. The important thing is that if anything comes up that does make one of us uncomfortable, we’ll just talk about it.”

That seemed easier said than done. “Yeah, but I just… I don’t want to do anything that’ll make either of you upset in the first place.”

Fluttershy nodded. “I know, but sometimes you have to try things. This morning when I kissed your cheek, I didn’t know what Twily would think.” She turned to Twilight. “So, what do you think, Twily?”

Twilight chuckled. “I know I’ve had trouble with jealousy in the past, but I’m pretty sure I can handle a kiss on the cheek. Especially given the circumstances.”

Even Sunset couldn’t help but laugh at herself a bit. “And I, uh, I guess sitting next to you is also on the list of things I should feel silly for being worried about.”

“It’s okay,” Twilight said. “I’ve been worried about pretty much every single thing I’ve done today. Believe it or not, I kept trying to figure out if Fluttershy was intentionally choosing whom she was sitting next to, and if there was any specific meaning to it.”

“Really?” Fluttershy asked.

Sunset chuckled. “Yeah, Twi. Who would worry about something like that? Besides, you know, the two of us.”

Fluttershy giggled. “You too? I promise I’m not trying to test you or anything like that. I really haven’t thought about who was sitting where at all.”

Twilight and Sunset were both able to laugh at themselves. Sunset was glad to hear she wasn’t the only one worried about stupid things, but was even happier to see Twilight and Fluttershy return to their usual loving selves.

“You know, it’s a good thing we chose sandwiches for lunch,” Sunset said once everypony stopped laughing. “Anything else would have gotten cold by now.”

The rest of their day was much better. Sunset couldn’t quite dispel all her worries, but she let a lot of them go. She stopped worrying about whether she was sitting next to Twilight or Fluttershy, in any case.

The highlight of her evening happened when they were watching a play at Ponyville’s only theatre. Although there were many ponies in attendance, the hall was dark and nopony was paying attention to them. About halfway through the play, Sunset felt a hoof wrap around hers. She looked over to see Twilight smiling while watching the performance, with her other hoof around Fluttershy’s shoulders, while Fluttershy leaned against her. It may have been a small and innocent gesture, but it felt perfect to her.

After the play they went out for dinner, followed by dessert. By the time they got back home, they’d managed to fill the entire day, and Sunset couldn’t have imagined a better date. They gathered around Sunset’s bedroom door to say good night.

“Well,” Sunset said, “this is normally the part where I’d ask if I could call you again, but, you know.”

“I guess we’ll be ignoring that ‘wait three days before getting back in touch’ rule,” Twilight said with a smirk. “Honestly though, today was really fun.”

“Yeah, it was.” Sunset’s eyes lingered on the floor for a moment before she turned back to the others. “And even though I’m dying to know, there’s no need to rush figuring out if this is something you want to keep doing. No matter what you two decide, I’m happy you gave me a chance. Today was just… so amazing, you have no idea.”

Fluttershy looked at Twilight and smiled. “You know, I think we might have some idea what you mean. And I don’t think we’ll really have to discuss it, actually, because I’m sure we’d all love to go on a second date soon.”

“Of course!” Twilight answered quickly, then blushed. “I mean, uhm, if that’s really what –”

“Yes, Twily, that’s really what I want.” Fluttershy chuckled as she hugged Sunset and wished her a good night.

Before Sunset and Twilight could hug, Fluttershy put a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder and whispered something in her ear. Sunset couldn’t help but worry if there was some problem after all. Whatever she said caused Twilight to blush, and Fluttershy just smiled and walked off to their bedroom.

“Should I, uh, be worried?” Sunset asked.

“Huh? Oh, no.” Twilight chuckled and scratched at her neck. “She said, well, uhm…”

“Ah, I got it.” Sunset winked. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about! Better not keep her waiting.”

“What? No, it’s nothing like that!” Twilight’s ears flattened against her head at Sunset’s implication.

Sunset just shook her head. “Uh huh. You two have fun, now.”

“Sunset! You know what, here.” Twilight stepped forward and kissed her, wiping the cocky grin clear off her face. “She said you’d probably be too embarrassed to admit you were hoping for a goodnight kiss.”

Sunset probably would have agreed with her, but her brain seemed to have stopped functioning properly.

“Good night, Sunset,” Twilight said, turning to follow Fluttershy into the bedroom.

“Good night, Twilight.” Sunset stayed rooted in place for a moment, before finally heading into her own room. Once behind the door, she reached a hoof up to her lips, which were pulled into an ecstatic smile.

Okay, so maybe the play was only the second best part of the date.

Author's Note:

Happy ponies? In my story? Who let this happen :trixieshiftright:

For the record, the official ship name is TwiShySet. I claim the rights to name this ship, damn it :trixieshiftright: Initially I didn't care what it was called, but then LadyofSorrows (who's story Among Luna's Stars really deserves some more attention, I'm just saying) suggested putting Fluttershy's name in the middle since she likes being in between her lovers, which you may notice is an amazing idea :yay:

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