• Published 3rd Oct 2015
  • 6,222 Views, 941 Comments

Finding Home - Krickis

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

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18 – Between the Lines

Chapter Eighteen

Between the Lines

As she examined herself in Twilight’s bedroom mirror, Sunset thought about how great the day ahead her should feel. It was the day of the Summer Sun Celebration, and she was making her first public appearance as captain of the Twilit Guard. Rarity even made her a uniform for the occasion, which she had shipped to Canterlot Castle in time for the event.

Distantly, Sunset felt some pride in her appearance. Rarity had designed the uniform with form in mind, rather than function, and Sunset certainly did look good in it. The Lunar, Celestial, and Crystal Guard could all keep their heavy armor. Sunset’s was styled after the traditional officer’s vest, but was set apart by color. The vest itself was blue, with darker folded over sleeves. It held two medals on it, one was gold and had six gems of different colors, representing the Elements of Harmony as Twilight’s official insignia, and the other was a shield with Sunset’s cutie mark, signifying her as the guard’s captain. Rarity had also taken Sunset’s discomfort with public nudity into account, giving it a dark blue skirt. Topping it off was a sash of braided purple and yellow, representing her dedication to Twilight and Fluttershy.

She loved every detail about the outfit. Even if she knew they didn’t think too much of it, Fluttershy and Twilight had named her captain, and Sunset was honored to play that part. Having the uniform made the whole thing feel that much more official, and knowing it had been designed completely around her made it even better. She had been so excited for the chance to show it off at the Summer Sun Celebration. As a princess, Twilight was attending the official event being held in Manehattan, so of course Sunset and Fluttershy would be accompanying her.

But then, Spike was supposed to be with them as well. They had been looking forward to meeting up with Luna and Celestia, and had talked about possibly using the opportunity to tell Celestia about their relationship. Now Celestia knew, but didn’t approve. In the two days they had been at the castle, Celestia had kept herself too busy to interact with them, citing the Celebration as her excuse. On the other hoof, Luna had been with them almost constantly. She would barely break from working through plans and reviewing child care laws with them for sleep, and sometimes it seemed like she wouldn’t at all if not for Fluttershy’s insistence.

Sunset sat down on the bed. When it got down to it, none of them really slept very well. Still, night time was easily Sunset’s favorite time. Before the night Twilight Velvet and Night Light took Spike away, Sunset had slept in her own room, separately from Twilight and Fluttershy. But they’d spent both nights in Canterlot sharing the bed in Twilight’s room at the castle. Sunset missed her old room and the feeling of familiarity it brought, but it was important they do whatever they could to make Twilight feel more comfortable. Besides, she would give up a lot more than that for the chance to spend the night cuddled up with her marefriends. She had been unsure of where she was supposed to sleep the first night, and even less sure if she should bring it up. Thankfully, she was saved by Fluttershy’s decisiveness. Before anypony had the chance to start any awkward conversation, Fluttershy was already bringing Sunset and Twilight up to bed, and seemed to take it as a given that they would be sharing a room.

She sighed and stood up. Twilight and Fluttershy had gone ahead to the entry hall, respecting Sunset’s need for privacy while she dressed. Now that she was, she made her way down to meet them. It was time to get the day started, so she could get it over with. All she wanted to do was come back to the castle and finalize their plans for coming out.

They had decided to wait until after the Summer Sun Celebration, since making a spectacle before attending a major public event would probably not do them any favors. It was bad enough that they would be hounded about details on the situation with Spike, news of which had spread like wildfire. The press was also sure to have taken note of Twilight’s absence from Ponyville, which wasn’t going to make things any better.

Pushing that aside, she entered the room with a smug grin, noticing Twilight and Fluttershy deep in conversation with another pony. “So I’m just gonna say it; pretty sure I make this uniform work a lot better than your brother does.”

The three ponies turned to her and she stopped in place, her grin falling away as she realized whom they were talking to.

“I don’t know, Shiny does look pretty handsome in his uniform,” Cadance said as she rose to greet Sunset. “Although I will agree with you on the skirt.”

“Uh…” Sunset blinked a few times, wondering what reason Cadance could possibly have for being in Canterlot. Sunset was supposed to be safe from this meeting until they reached Manehattan.

“We’ll have to disagree on this one, Cadance,” Twilight said. “I’d actually love to see Shining in a skirt.”

Sunset bowed, partly to keep from laughing, and partly because she didn’t know what else to do. “Princess Cadenza.”

Although she wasn’t looking, Sunset heard Cadance’s hoofsteps approaching. “Sunset, please, I don’t know how many times I’ve asked you to call me Cadance. And what are you bowing for?”

Sunset stood up, but kept her head down. She didn’t want to see Twilight’s and Fluttershy’s reactions. She had never gotten around to telling them she’d known Cadance before she left Equestria.

Without warning, Cadance pulled her into a hug. “Sunset, it’s so nice to see you again.”

“I, uhm… hi.” Sunset awkwardly wrapped a foreleg around Cadance while being forced to get a good look at Twilight and Fluttershy. Twilight’s reaction was as she expected; she was staring at the scene with her mouth hanging open, while one hoof hung forgotten about midair. However, Fluttershy didn’t seem surprised at all, just smiling happily as if the reunion was completely expected.

“You could have written,” Cadance chided as she let go of Sunset.

“I… I didn’t really think you’d want to hear from me,” Sunset said, taking the chance to look back down at the floor. “I’m sorry, by the way. I know I was kind of a bitch when we were younger, and then –”

“Sunset,” Cadance cut her off. Sunset looked up to see her smiling. “It has been more than long enough to let bygones be bygones. I’d be happy to put the past behind us even if you weren’t dating my sister, and since you are that’s just more of a reason to.”

“Wait a minute…” Twilight said, walking over to them. “You two know each other?”

Sunset shifted uncomfortably while Cadance chuckled. “You really never told them that?”

“It’s not that surprising,” Fluttershy said. “You look nice, by the way. The uniform really suits you.”

“Oh.” Twilight smiled. “Fluttershy’s right, you look very dashing.” She resumed looking perplexed and turned back to Fluttershy. “How is that not surprising?”

Fluttershy cocked her head to the side, apparently surprised that Twilight was surprised. “Well, they did both live at the castle.”

“Huh, I guess you’re right.” Twilight shook her confusion off and turned back towards Sunset. “I guess I just forget how much older you are.”

“Twilight!” Fluttershy scolded.

Twilight’s eyes went wide as she frowned. “Oh! I mean… I didn’t mean it like that, I just, uhm, I’m sorry.”

Sunset pawed at the ground, ears folded back. “It’s fine.”

Fluttershy cast Twilight a dirty look, then hugged Sunset. “It’s okay, we don’t care about how old you are.”

Sunset just sighed.

“It’s okay, Sunset,” Cadance said. “You’re not that much older than me.”

Sunset frowned. That wasn’t nearly as encouraging as Cadance seemed to think it was. But while she hated being reminded of her age, especially in relation to Twilight’s, she hated the idea of showing exactly how much it bothered her even more. “Anyway, what are you doing in Canterlot?”

“Actually, I came in last night to talk to Twilight’s parents.” All eyes turned immediately to Cadance, who smiled while she continued. “While I haven’t got them to come around just yet, I do have good news. They agreed to let you spend the holiday with Spike.”

“Really!? That’s fantastic!” Twilight lit up and threw her forelegs around Cadance in a celebratory hug. “Thank you so much, I can’t possibly explain how much this means.”

Cadance returned the hug, then held Twilight a foreleg away. “I’m glad to see you’re so happy, but there were a couple of conditions.”

Twilight’s shoulders slouched as her smile faded. “What were they?”

“Well, for one, they want me to stay with you the whole time.”

“Okay.” Twilight nodded. She began looking more confident again. “As much as I wish they didn’t think I need somepony to keep an eye on me, I certainly don’t mind spending the day with you too. Actually, I think that sounds like a great idea. It’ll be fun to all spend the day together!”

Cadance hesitated a moment, and glanced at Sunset. “There was one more thing, though…”

Sunset sighed. “I’m staying here, aren’t I?”

Cadance placed a hoof on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Sunset, I really tried my best.”

“But that’s not fair!” Twilight exclaimed.

Sunset smiled and shook her head. “Twilight, this is still great news! I mean, they’re not trying to cut you out of his life completely, so that’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

Twilight sighed and hung her head. “I guess.”

“Hey now, none of that.” Sunset gently pushed Twilight’s head up by her chin. “Now, I want you to go have an amazing day, then you can tell me all about it when you get back.”

Twilight pulled Sunset into a hug. “You’re right.”

“Of course, I’m me.” Sunset winked as she let go of Twilight, earning her an eye roll, and a giggle from Fluttershy.

“There is actually something you can do while you’re here,” Cadance said.

“What’s that?” Sunset asked. She felt a little guilty for it, but doing something other than studying sounded like a relief. Of course she wanted to get Spike back, and was more than willing to scour as many books as she needed to for that to happen, but after a couple days of nothing but advanced law books, she was ready for a break.

“Twilight Velvet and Night Light are staying in Canterlot, and I was hoping you would meet with them.”

Sunset began longing for advanced law books and all day study sessions. “Are you sure that’s such a good idea?”

Cadance nodded. “I think it’s worth a shot. They already agreed to meet with you while Spike’s gone, so I don’t see what we have to lose. If they see the same side of you that Twilight and Fluttershy see, maybe they’ll realize there’s nothing to worry about after all.”

“I… I guess.” Although it made sense, Sunset couldn’t help but have doubts. Nothing about Twilight’s parents suggested they had anything but disdain for her, and she couldn’t see them changing their minds that easily.

“I understand how you must feel,” Cadance said, “but they’re good ponies. They only want what’s best for their children, and they’re scared about something they don’t understand. I really do think getting to know you might ease some of those fears.”

Sunset took a deep breath, then smiled. She didn’t really have a choice anyway; it wasn’t like she was going to pass up a chance to end all their problems with a single meeting, no matter how slim her chances. “Okay. Leave it to me.”

“That’s the spirit,” Cadance said, patting her on the back.

Twilight pressed up against her. “I know if anypony can do this, you can.”

“And remember,” Fluttershy said, taking a spot on the other side, “if it doesn’t work out, something else will.”

“Yeah, I know.” Sunset nodded, then wrapped her forelegs around both of them. “But trust me, by the end of the day we’ll be putting all this behind us.”

Sunset stared at the door to Twilight’s foalhood home. She thought over what she knew about Twilight’s parents. Of course, everypony had given her their advice, but Sunset preferred to focus on her own observations from the brief time they had met.

Night Light had remained collected, even after both Twilights had lost their cool. She suspected Cadance was right about him – he was only interested in what was best for his kids. Sunset would have to convince him that Twilight was still the best pony to raise Spike. He probably had his own logic to back his disapproval, and cracking through that wouldn’t be easy, but it was still better than his wife.

Twilight Velvet was a wild card. Between the two, she had shown the more emotional display, meaning she would likely be the more obstinate. She wouldn’t be convinced, but rather would need to find a reason to change her own mind. Sunset’s goal had to be finding that trigger.

She sighed, wishing she had more to go on. In the end, she’d just have to go with her gut. She’d spent so much of her life picking people and ponies apart, figuring out their weaknesses and how to manipulate them into doing or thinking what she wanted. It was time to see if she could do something good with her talent. She knocked on the door.

There was a noticeable pause where nothing happened, not even sounds from inside. Could be a message, but it didn’t necessarily mean anything. It was a big house, almost as big as her own parents’. She wondered if she should knock again, but the door opened before she could.

“Hello, Sunset. Please, come in.” Night Light smiled politely and held the door open for her.

“Thank you.” Sunset inclined her head and walked through the door. She followed him into the living room, where Twilight Velvet was waiting. Night Light gestured to a chair, so she took a seat. If not happy, he at least looked amiable. Twilight Velvet frowned slightly and didn’t make any attempt to acknowledge her aside from watching her every move. ‘He agreed to this, she’s begrudgingly going along with it.’

“I want to thank you both for agreeing to meet me,” Sunset said, smiling as if there was nowhere else she’d rather be. “It means a lot to us that you’re willing to give this a chance.”

“Well, there’s no harm in getting to know one another,” Night Light said. Twilight Velvet remained impassive. “That’s an interesting outfit.”

“Thank you,” Sunset said. She had decided to keep the uniform on. Even though she knew they were nowhere near as narrow-minded about who was a suitable partner for their daughter as her own parents were, she figured any parent would be happier knowing their child was dating somepony noteworthy. “It’s my new uniform as Twilight and Fluttershy’s guard captain. I just got it in today.”

“Isn’t that just a façade?” Twilight Velvet asked.

“No, ma’am. I really am the captain of the Twilit Guard. It’s all official.” She was a little disappointed that the first words out of Twilight Velvet’s mouth had been an accusation, but not surprised. She knew all along she’d have to work her way from the ground up to win them over.

“Well, it certainly does make you look the part,” Night Light said. “How about I go get us some tea?”

“Thank you, that sounds lovely,” Sunset lied. Her plan had been to primarily start with Night Light, while carefully observing Twilight Velvet until she knew how to talk to her. A plan that unfortunately hinged on Night Light being present, yet he was already walking into the kitchen.

With her only options being to talk to Twilight Velvet or silently stare at one another, Sunset chose the former. “You have such a lovely house, Mrs. Velvet.”

Twilight Velvet nodded. “It’s been in Night Light’s family for generations.”

A short and simple answer. The kind that suggested she was playing along, even though she really wasn’t. She’d avoided both thanking Sunset for the compliment and requesting the use of a less formal name. None of which made progress any easier. “I see. Is magic a family profession, then?”

“On Night Light’s side, yes.” Twilight Velvet answered.

“And of course, Twilight gets her love for books from you.” A sure way to get anypony to open up was to talk to them about their passions.

“I suppose she does.”

Or that could also fail. Undeterred, Sunset pressed for more. “Twilight introduced me to your books. I have to say, I’ve really been loving them.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“Whose idea was it to name Twilight after the passage from ‘The Heavens Above’?” Sunset asked. The Heavens Above was the book Twilight Velvet had been writing when she met Night Light, and he had used a passage from it, which included a reference to watching the twilight sparkle, in his attempt to woo her.

“Night Light’s. I was hesitant to have two Twilights in the family at first, but he won me over in the end.”

Finally. It wasn’t much, but she had shared a small detail more than the most basic answer she could. With some ground to work from, Sunset pressed for more. “I imagine that must have caused some confusion.”

“For a while, yes.” Twilight Velvet didn’t exactly smile, but she stopped frowning, which seemed close enough. “More for her than me, actually. She was surprised to find out her classmates didn’t share their mother’s names.”

Sunset laughed. “Shining Armor’s name didn’t clue her in?”

“I guess she thought it was only for fillies.” Twilight Velvet shrugged.

“She always did latch on to the oddest ideas,” Night Light said, returning with three teacups.

“Thank you, sir,” Sunset said, taking her tea and blowing on it to cool it down.

“You’re welcome. And please, Night Light is fine.” He took his seat next to his wife.

Sunset nodded. “You know, that’s not that strange though. Cute, but pretty normal for foals. Since they don’t have a lot of experience with how ponies outside of their home live, they tend to think everypony lives like them.”

Judging by the return of Twilight Velvet’s frown, she must have caught the subtext of Sunset’s statement. Night Light didn’t give any indication whether or not he noticed. “Well, I can certainly see that you and Twilight have something common.”

Sunset had hoped to learn a little more about the ponies she was winning over before broaching the topic of her relationship, but that seemed to be where the conversation was headed, and it wasn’t surprising. After all, they had invited her for tea, not lunch. They had never planned for this to be a long meeting. “Yes, I’m probably one of the only unicorns who can really keep up with her. Usually, anyway.”

“That’s right, Twilight did mention you were Princess Celestia’s student before her,” Night Light said.

“I was indeed.” Sunset took a sip of her tea.

“Did she introduce the two of you?” Night Light asked.

“Wait, she didn’t tell you about that?” Sunset asked. ‘Way to get a story straight, Twi.’

“Remember, honey?” Twilight Velvet placed a hoof on Night Light’s shoulder. “Twilight met her in that other world.”

“Oh! That’s right, the bipedal one.” Night Light suddenly seemed genuinely happy to have Sunset over. “It’s really fascinating to think about. Twilight told me there’s no magic over there, and I have to wonder what that’s like for a unicorn who studied magic her whole life.”

It was hardly how she hoped to win him over, but she would take what she could get. “It was a major adjustment, for sure. That’s what motivated me to get interested in technology. The things humans do with it is like its own kind of magic, really.”

“Channeling your energy into a different field definitely seems like the thing to do,” Night Light said. He tried a sip of his tea and decided it was still too hot.

Sunset sipped some more of hers. “Did Twilight tell you that the sun and moon move on their own over there?”

Night Light nodded enthusiastically. “She did, and it’s remarkable to imagine. I’ve tried to figure out how it could work so many times, but I can’t seem to wrap my head around it.”

“Well, the sun hardly moves at all, actually,” Sunset explained. “See the Earth – uhm, not the ancient pony country, that’s just also what humans call the planet they live on – anyway, the Earth moves around the sun!”

“What?” Night Light frowned and tapped his chin. “A planet inhabited by life moving around a celestial body? I can’t even begin to imagine the effect that would have.”

“It controls the weather and oceans, among other things. Humans don’t play any role in that at all, and actually a lot of times they can’t even predict what will happen day to day.” Sunset couldn’t help but grin at how clearly blown away he was.

“Astounding. I –”

“Honey,” Twilight Velvet interrupted, “I think we’re getting a bit sidetracked.”

“Oh, right.” Night Light’s sheepish grin was identical to Twilight’s. Sunset had taken it as a given that she got her penchant for easily getting absorbed in things from her mother, but it seemed that the whole family shared the trait.

“Now then, you were telling us how you met Twilight?” Twilight Velvet said. Sunset had hoped to drop that conversation entirely. “I’m very curious myself. Twilight rarely tells us about her exploits, you know. It’s fortunate there was already a unicorn there to help her when she went into that other world.”

Sunset had to fight to keep her composure from slipping. Twilight really didn’t tell them anything about how they met? What was she supposed to say? Simple enough. If Twilight wasn’t going to tell them, then neither would she. They already formed their idea, and she would just go along with it. Lying and manipulating. Hardly anything new to her.

“It was quite a shock to both of us. It had been years since I had even seen an Equestrian.” Although she had never given a single thought to creating a version of the story where she wasn’t the villain, the details came easily to Sunset. No matter how many times she tried to deny it to herself, she loved the feeling. The knowledge that ponies would believe her, because she could make ponies believe her. It felt like bending reality to her will.

“At first I didn’t realize Twilight came from Equestria, of course. I’m sure she told you this, but the mirror changes the form of anyone who goes through it. It was the Element of Magic that attracted me, actually. I could, I don’t know, feel its magic somehow. Must have been resonating with my unicorn heritage or something, because other humans didn’t seem to think anything of it. When she figured out I was tracking the crown as well, she was pretty wary of me, as you can imagine. But once she confronted me, I realized she had to be Equestrian, since she knew so much about magic. Once we got everything sorted out, we were able to get her crown back, and eventually figured out how to stay in touch from different sides of the mirror.”

Sunset smiled to herself as she drank more of her tea.

“You know, Twilight told it a bit differently,” Twilight Velvet said.

Sunset managed to not spit out her tea, but she choked on it while trying to swallow, burning her throat. “Really?”

“I could have sworn she told me that you were the one to take the crown in the first place, actually.”

Sunset opened her mouth, looked between the two frowning ponies, and closed it again. She set her cup on the table and bowed her head. Twilight’s parents had beat her to it, feigning ignorance to test her answer. “That’s… yes, that’s true.”

“Hmph.” Twilight Velvet folded her forelegs. “I knew it. Twilight and Fluttershy would never have fallen into doing something so immoral on their own.”

“That’s not…” Sunset shook her head. “Yes, I was lying about how I met Twilight. I just… I didn’t want to give you another reason to hate me! That doesn’t make it okay, and I’m sorry, but please, don’t let that one mistake ruin any chance of you looking at this with an open mind.”

“There’s a lot more to it,” Night Light said. Although Sunset had been easily working her way into his good graces, that was clearly lost now. He remained calm, but any warmth he had was gone. “Regardless of what you might think, we do care about Twilight’s well being. We’ve been looking into this whole thing, and studies show that relationships with more than two ponies lead to lower success rates.”

“I know that. We all do.” Sunset took a deep breath. “And you don’t even have to say it; there’s no real research on what effect it will have on raising a child. But there’s hardly been any research into the effects of polyamory, the research pools are small, and more often than not there’s a clear bias present.”

“Some things are clear enough,” Night Light said, “and one of them is that no parent would want their child around an environment like that.”

“I don’t know what you think is going on, but I can pretty much guarantee you’re wrong,” Sunset said. “If you just gave it a chance, maybe you’d see. You were supposed to spend the week with us anyway, wouldn’t it make more sense to –”

“I don’t want to know what the three of you are up to,” Twilight Velvet said. “If it is even just the three of you.”

Sunset shook her head. “Is that… what, you think we’re some kind of sexual deviants?”

“We’re not discussing that,” Twilight Velvet said flatly.

“I wasn’t the one who brought it up!” Sunset reminded herself to keep her temper in check, and proceed more calmly. “As far as I’m aware, Twilight and Fluttershy have never had sex with anyone other than each other, and that includes me.”

Twilight Velvet glared at her, as if Sunset was the one who decided to bring up her daughter’s sex life. Night Light didn’t look any more amused. “Unfortunately, you’ve proven you’re not exactly trustworthy,” he reminded her.

Sunset slumped back into her chair. Her eyes fell onto the cup of tea, which was certain to remain half finished. “Then don’t trust me. But you can trust Twilight and Fluttershy. They put their faith in this, because they believe in it. You know them, you know they wouldn’t let anypony force them into doing something that isn’t right. And you know they wouldn’t do anything that would be bad for Spike.”

“And what makes you so sure this isn’t bad for Spike?” Night Light asked.

“Because we all have the same goal for him. We all want to see him grow to be the best he can be, and to help him along the way. None of us would risk putting him in jeopardy.”

Twilight Velvet narrowed her eyes. “Then wouldn’t it be better to do the right thing and leave them alone?”

For a moment Sunset’s words caught in her throat. How many times had she wondered that herself? “If I thought that would be best, I would. All we’re asking is that you give this a real chance, instead of just assuming it can’t work. I know you think I pushed them into this, but I didn’t. And it isn’t like any of us just decided this might be fun to try. We knew what we were getting involved with, but we’re working for it anyway, because we believe it can work. No matter how tough it gets, I know we’ll make it through because we’ll stick together. But it does get tough. Even if you can’t outright support us yet, your open-mindedness would mean the world to us, especially Twilight.”

“Twilight made her decision,” Twilight Velvet said. “She decided she’d rather have you over Spike.”

“Twilight decided to not let you control her life,” Sunset said, a sharpness coming into her voice. “You can call that a decision if you want, but it’s not a real one.”

“Don’t be overly dramatic,” Twilight Velvet said, her voice raising as well. “I know my children, and Twilight will be fine. She’s a strong –”

“You weren’t there!” Sunset got to her hooves. “You didn’t see Twilight after you left! If you did…” Her eyes narrowed as something occurred to her. “But you did see Spike. Tell me, was he fine afterwards? Has he been happy once since he’s been here? Aside from finding out he’d get to spend the day with Twilight and Fluttershy, that is.”

It seemed Sunset struck somewhere painful. Twilight Velvet wouldn’t meet her eyes, glaring instead at the floor. Even Night Light’s collected demeanor seemed to be wearing thin. “Spike is twelve,” he said bluntly.

“Is there an age where it doesn’t hurt to see your family ripped away from you?” Sunset asked. “I assure you that nopony is ever fine with knowing their parents won’t accept them unless they live the way their parents want them to. No matter what age, that still hurts.”

She held Night Light’s glare silently. Twilight Velvet looked like she was about to cry, and as soon as Sunset was out the door, she probably would. Since yelling at each other more wouldn’t solve any of their problems, Sunset decided to let her get to it. She walked to the door, but stopped and looked back before leaving. “I love Twilight, and I love Fluttershy. Maybe that’s not something you can understand, but you don’t have to. Just… think about what’s really right for your children.”

She saw herself out the door. She fumed down the walkway and stopped at the street, where she screamed. It didn’t really make her feel any better, and when she was done she noticed one of their neighbors staring at her.

“Fucking fantastic…” she muttered to herself as she began to walk towards the castle.

“Uh, miss?” the neighbor called after her. “Is there anything I can do to –”

“No!” she shot back, not bothering to look at him.

She wandered in the general direction of the castle. She had brought more than enough bits to get a cab for the trip back, but she needed time to clear her head. It wasn’t like there was really anything waiting for her there anyway. Really, she didn’t even want to be around Twilight or Fluttershy. She failed, and didn’t want to tell them that just yet. She would have liked a chance to talk with Luna, but she was also in Manehattan. So was Celestia, not that she was likely to bring any comfort either. Everypony else she cared about was in Ponyville.

Of course, there were also festivities around Canterlot. The streets were crowded with cheering ponies, but that wasn’t making her feel any better. Over there was a colt and his mother eating ice cream. Over there was a group of young stallions shooting off fireworks. Over there was a pub full of ponies cheering.

She stopped. There was something in Canterlot she could still do… But she’d promised herself she wouldn’t drink, at least not until she felt comfortable she could do so responsibly. She could just imagine the disappointed looks from Twilight and Fluttershy.

She grumbled about how unfair it was, but kept walking anyway. Then she heard somepony from the bar start singing. “Oh, all the money that e’er I had…”

“...I spent it in good company!” the rest of the bar joined in. Sunset had to laugh at how off-key they were, since she knew they all thought they sounded like a real choir. She backtracked a bit, just to look inside, and found it was every bit as lively as it sounded.

She watched for a few moments, but then turned away. It was best if she went back to the castle. She took a step, stopped, and turned back again. It was just… she really liked the song. She stepped into the doorway – just to hear it better, of course.

As they sang, she found herself singing along. She wandered a bit further in towards the end, joining in fully with the crowd. “And all the sweethearts that e’er I had, they’d wish me one more day to stay.”

Once they finished the song Sunset cheered along with the rest of them. She found herself wandering over to the bar and taking a seat. Just to rest her legs.

With how crowded the bar was, the bartender didn’t seem to notice her. Not that she minded, she was just enjoying the atmosphere. She forgot how much she missed it, really. Since returning to Equestria, she had pretty much only ever drunk by herself. Even when she went to the local bar in Ponyville, it was nothing like this. It had its own laid-back feel to it, which was nice, but this felt so alive. It was exactly what she needed after the day she’d had.

“Hey there, miss, what can I get for you?”

Sunset turned to see the bartender smiling at her. She told herself to say ‘nothing’, that it was already past time she left. But then she wondered, ‘Don’t I deserve this?’

It was just one drink, after all. And the Summer Sun Celebration was an all-night event, so Twilight and Fluttershy wouldn’t be back until the morning, and would never need to know. She’d have one drink, then be on her way, and be much calmer for it.

“Just… anything,” she said.

“One of those kinds of days, huh?” He bent under the counter and set down a shot glass.

“Make it a double,” Sunset said, speaking automatically.

“You got it.” He replaced the glass with a larger one and filled it with alcohol. Sunset took the glass and thanked the bartender. “Got anything you want to toast to?”

“To family,” Sunset said.

“To family,” the bartender and a few nearby patrons echoed.

Sunset raised her glass, and heard a voice in her head. ‘You’re better than this! I know you are. You told me once that you look up to me, but I look up to you too!’

“To heroes…” Sunset set the glass back down, still full. She reached into her purse and pulled out a pile of bits. She knocked loudly against the bar with her hoof to get everypony’s attention. “A round for everyone on me! The last I’ll ever buy.”

There were cheers and a few ponies laughing, saying they’d see her back again before the week was out, too drunk to realize they had never seen her before. Sunset didn’t worry about it, and walked back to the castle with her head held high.

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