• Published 3rd Oct 2015
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Finding Home - Krickis

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

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21 – Reaching Conclusions

Chapter Twenty-One

Reaching Conclusions

“Hello everypony, and thank you for joining us today,” Twilight addressed the room.

Fluttershy looked out into the audience. Thankfully, it was a fairly small gathering. When she and Twilight had come out as gay, they had invited a lot of ponies, even allowing guests. They had wanted to come across as very open, eagerly welcoming anypony who might need to talk to them about their own problems. This time they just wanted to avoid any immediate negative reaction, hoping the tone of acceptance would be followed by others as the story spread. Everypony present was personally chosen by Luna to ensure the best possible reaction.

“I know a lot of rumors have been going around about the mare standing with Fluttershy and me.” Twilight gestured to Sunset, who smiled smugly and waved. Fluttershy couldn’t help but envy how effortless Sunset made it look, while Fluttershy herself was huddled as close as possible to Twilight, dreading the thought that anypony might ask her something. “We’ve mentioned this before, but I’d like to formally introduce her before continuing with our other matter. Following my engagement to Fluttershy, we decided it was the right time to form our own royal guard, even if it does only consist of the five ponies here with us today. Sunset Shimmer serves as our guard’s captain.”

There were a few photos taken, but it wasn’t exactly surprising information to anypony. They had been asked about Sunset frequently, and several news sources had already reported on her role, even if this was the first time she was officially introduced.

“There have been a lot of things said about us, with one prevailing theory being that I’ve been cheating on Fluttershy with her, which is of course ridiculous. The truth of the matter is that the three of us decided to enter a triad relationship, in which the three of us are all dating each other.”

As was expected, everypony’s interest soared. Fluttershy instinctively pressed closer to Twilight in response to the questions and flashing lights of the cameras. As she felt Twilight’s foreleg slide around her she looked over to see Sunset was doing the same thing; she was pressed tightly against Twilight’s other side, while Twilight’s other foreleg wrapped around her. At first Fluttershy thought that Sunset was just as nervous as she was, but as she watched Sunset smile and wave for the camera, she realized that her marefriend was masking Fluttershy’s fear by making it look like a display of affection. She did her best to imitate Sunset, smiling feebly and giving a small wave somewhere in the general direction of the cameras.

While ponies asked their questions, Fluttershy just did her best to hold it all together. She was eager to run away and hide in the back with their friends. She reminded herself that nopony expected her to say anything, and that it would all be over soon enough.

Sunset, on the other hoof, readily joined Twilight in answering questions. They were asked about how their relationship came to be, how they would define it, how it affected the wedding, if it would be possible for all three of them to get married.

“That’s not something we’ve discussed,” Twilight answered. “At the moment, however, marriage to more than one pony is not possible in accordance to Equestrian law.”

“At the moment?” one reporter asked. “Does that mean you’ll be supporting a change to marital law?”

“Yes.” Twilight’s answer surprised Fluttershy and Sunset, who both turned to look at her. As Twilight had said, they’d never talked about marriage, besides her own to Twilight, and in the almost three years since Twilight had become a princess, she had never attempted to affect the legal system in any way. “Even if it’s still far too early to start talking about marriage between Sunset, Fluttershy, and myself, there are still many other ponies who are being denied this basic right because of nothing more than misconceptions about what love is and can be.”

The questions changed in tone as everypony began asking about equal legal rights for polyamorous relationships. Fluttershy was worried initially, but once Sunset wasn’t taken off guard by Twilight’s sudden certainty in defense of marriage, she was back to weighing in on questions. Their unified answers almost convinced Fluttershy that they had already discussed everything they were being asked about, but they kept seeking silent cues from one another. A question about adoption, and Sunset opened with an answer, glanced to Twilight for confirmation, then finished her thought only after she knew Twilight was on the same page. When asked about the potential of forming unions instead of marriage, Twilight did the same thing before giving her answer.

The questions seemed to go on forever, but eventually Princess Celestia came to relieve them. They had planned on Luna being the one to close the event, and Fluttershy couldn’t help but wonder why they had changed places.

“Thank you all again for coming, but it’s time this event draws to a close. Princess Twilight, Lady Fluttershy, and Captain Shimmer have another matter that needs their attention.”

“Princess Celestia, could you make a comment on the situation?”

The princess smiled while standing behind the three lovers. She allowed a few pictures to be taken before giving her answer. “I think the coming months will prove very interesting, and I expect we’ll see a wide variety of opinions. But I, for one, fully support them in their relationship.”

Their friends once again formed a box around them, and they walked backstage. Along the way, Fluttershy had to suppress a giggle at how ecstatic Twilight and Sunset were to have their former mentor’s support.

“I’d say that went rather well,” Rarity said once they were backstage, where Luna and Twilight’s parents were waiting for them.

“I agree,” Luna said. “And I think my sister’s support will go a long way.”

“Is that why y’all switched places?” Applejack asked.

“Indeed,” Luna answered. “Of course, I will give my public support as well, but I simply do not have the same amount of sway with our little ponies.”

“Oh Luna, lots of ponies love you,” Fluttershy said.

Luna smiled. “Thank you, Fluttershy, and I know you are correct. But as long as there are ponies who remember a time when Tia was the sole ruler of Equestria, there will also be those who doubt me. This is not a complaint, merely a fact.”

“Oh, I don’t know, Luna,” Princess Celestia said. “I think you’ve always been very good at winning ponies over to your side.”

Luna chuckled. “Never you, though. I must ask, what did bring about this change of heart?”

“As it happens, I received some very wise counsel from another pony.” They all followed Princess Celestia’s gaze to find her looking at Fluttershy.

“Well I’ll be,” Applejack said, while most of the room just stared in surprise.

Two ponies didn’t look surprised at all though. “Of course,” Rainbow said, putting a foreleg around her shoulders. “Fluttershy is awesome.”

“Yupperoni!” Pinkie stood on her other side, also wrapping a foreleg around her. “I knew Fluttershy was gonna solve things all along.”

Having everypony’s eyes on her made Fluttershy blush. “Uhm, I didn’t really do all that much.”

Luna walked over to Fluttershy, while Rainbow and Pinkie stepped off to the side. “I think we can all agree that Equestria is fortunate to have you as its fifth princess.”

Fluttershy blushed more and stared at the ground. Once she looked back up, she saw all the surprise had vanished from her friends’ faces. Instead, they were all smiling encouragingly. Sunset and Twilight were standing next to each other, full of pride for the small victory she’d won them. Even if she had only convinced one pony, that pony could help them win over others. In this way, even a simple conversation could bring about a change. For the first time, Fluttershy found herself thinking that just maybe she could be a good princess after all.

As she approached them, Sunset and Twilight stepped aside, placing Fluttershy in between them. “Better watch out, Twi,” Sunset said, “it looks like you might have some competition for Equestria’s favorite new princess.”

Fluttershy giggled and nudged Sunset. “What is it with you and competitions? It doesn’t matter who’s the best princess.”

“Even if it were a contest, that would be fine with me,” Twilight said, nuzzling Fluttershy. “I know who my favorite princess is.”

“Oh no, not you too, Twily,” Fluttershy said, though really she was enjoying the attention more than she wanted to let on.

“Perhaps we should go somewhere a bit more private,” Princess Celestia said, bringing them back to the matter at hoof. Twilight Velvet and Night Light were waiting patiently, and thankfully didn’t seem unsettled by the three mares’ affections.

“We are quite the group,” Luna said, looking over the gathered ponies. All counted for, there were eleven ponies present, which was far more than Twilight’s parents probably felt comfortable talking openly around. “Perhaps we could ask the four of you to wait for us?”

Their friends all looked around at each other uncertainly. “I think we can all understand y’all wantin’ to talk privately,” Applejack said, “but I’d like to say a few words first.”

She stepped forward and pulled off her hat, holding it to her chest, and addressed Twilight’s parents. “Believe me when I say that nopony respects family more than the Apple clan. And I know I don’t need to tell ya this, but family ain’t always about who’s actually related. It’s about love. And –”

“– And looking out for each other!” Rainbow added, stepping up next to Applejack. “Because no matter how different they are, anyone can become family.”

Pinkie popped up from behind Rainbow, propping herself up on the unsuspecting mare’s back. “Families have fun together! Or cheer each other up when they’re feeling sad. And even if sometimes you don’t understand them, that’s okay, because no matter what you still love them.”

“And one of the best things about a family is that it never stops growing,” Rarity said as she took a place on Applejack’s other side. “There’s always room for a family to grow bigger. And with each new family member, it just means that there’s that much more love.”

Applejack looked around at the ponies who interrupted her big speech, and she smiled. “I think what we’re sayin’ is this: Spike has a great family. He has two parents that love and look out for him, and he has a big brother and a big sister to look up to. But he has more than that, and not just ‘cause Cadance or Fluttershy. Spike doesn’t have just one sister anymore.” Applejack gestured to everypony from Ponyville. “He has eight.”

Sunset counted each of the ponies. “Eight?”

Twilight smiled and kissed her cheek. “She means you too.”

“Oh.” Sunset smiled sheepishly and scratched the back of her neck.

“And here I only have you,” Luna said, playfully nudging her sister.

Princess Celestia smiled and wrapped a foreleg around Luna’s shoulders. “If you’re anything to go by, I don’t think I could handle another sister.”

“Well, we’re certainly glad Spike has so many ponies who care about him,” Night Light said. “And don’t worry, we’re not planning on keeping him hidden away forever. But if you’ll excuse us, we really should talk with Twilight, Fluttershy, and Sunset about that now.”

Before they could make for a quieter room, their friends came up and surrounded them in a group hug. “Whatever happens, it’ll be alright,” Applejack said.

“Thank you, girls,” Twilight said. “I don’t know where we’d be without you.”

“Well, Sunset would still be in the human world, and Fluttershy probably woulda stayed in Cloudsdale if Rainbow hadn’t knocked her to the ground. And then you –”

“Thank you, Pinkie,” Twilight said, patting her back as they broke apart from their hug. “But I think we’ll have to figure out what would have happened if we hadn’t met another time.”

Pinkie just shrugged and continued telling the ponies staying behind her theories, while everypony else followed Princess Celestia into a side room.

There was a small round table that they all sat around. It was a tight fit with seven ponies, three of whom were alicorns, but they managed. Twilight sat in between Fluttershy and Sunset, with Luna on Fluttershy’s other side, and Princess Celestia sitting next to Sunset. Twilight Velvet and Night Light sat across from Twilight, and Fluttershy couldn’t help but notice that they kept quite a bit of distance between themselves, especially considering how tight the fit already was.

Nopony seemed to know how to begin. Eventually, Luna spoke up. “It is good that we’re finally coming together like this. I know these past weeks have been difficult and we are all eager to reach some sort of agreement.”

Night Light smiled and nodded. “Yes, that is definitely true. I know you three must be pretty upset with us, but please understand that we only want what’s best for Spike.”

“We do,” Twilight said. “And that’s something we all want.”

Night Light sighed and rested his chin on his hooves. “And… clearly this isn’t it. We need to settle our differences for his sake as much as for ours.”

“And the best way to – Oh! Sorry!” Fluttershy threw her hooves over her mouth as she realized Princess Celestia had been about to speak, and she had just cut her off.

The princess just smiled. “There’s no need to apologize. Please, continue.”

“Oh, uhm…” Fluttershy stared at her hooves on the table, too embarrassed to look anywhere else. She watched as Twilight’s hoof wrapped around hers, then looked towards Twilight and saw not just her, but Sunset also smiling encouragingly. Fluttershy nodded and turned to see Luna doing the same. She remembered what Luna had said in Manehattan, about keeping an illusion of confidence.

It was kind of like playing Oubliettes and Ogres. She still didn’t feel like a princess, not a real one, but she could pretend. So imagining she was a real princess like Luna, Fluttershy smiled as confidently as she could, and looked straight ahead at Night Light and Twilight Velvet. “The best way to overcome a problem is to acknowledge it. We all want to work towards a better understanding of each other.”

Night Light and Twilight Velvet continued to remain quiet, awkwardly looking away from other ponies, including each other.

“I assure you this is a safe environment,” Luna said, leaning towards Night Light. “You are free to speak your minds and nopony will lash out at you, so long as you proceed with the intent of problem resolution.”

When they still seemed unsure, Sunset spoke up instead. “Well, let’s start with the obvious. There’s me.”

Twilight frowned. “Sunset, that’s not –”

“No, that is part of the problem,” Sunset insisted. “And it’s understandable. I know I’m hardly the pony you want dating your daughter. There’s a lot of stuff in my past that I wish wasn’t there. And I know we got off to a bad start with me lying about it, but I just… I wanted you to get to know who I am now, instead of worrying about who I was before.”

“And lying was the way best way to do that?” Night Light asked skeptically. “What type of pony did you expect us to think you are by lying to us?”

Sunset looked off to the side. “Well, the idea was that you wouldn’t know I was lying.”

Twilight leaned forward. “And the only reason it even came up is because you lied first. You made it sound like I hadn’t told you everything that happened right from the start. I’m not saying she wasn’t wrong, but it was wrong of you, too.”

“It’s not exactly the same thing,” Sunset said, catching Twilight off guard by agreeing with her parents. “They lied to figure out what type of pony I was. It was just a test. But I was specifically trying to deceive them, and that’s not okay.”

“I don’t think blaming each other is the right way to fix things,” Princess Celestia said.

Fluttershy nodded. “I think all three of you were just scared of losing your loved ones.”

Princess Celestia smiled at her before turning back to Twilight’s parents. “You both know that I would never want to see Twilight in any situation that would be bad for her. And I also know better than most about the pony Sunset used to be – no offense.”

Sunset shrugged. “That is honestly one of the least offensive ways I’ve heard it said, but it’s true. I used to be a huge bitch.”

Princess Celestia glanced sharply at Sunset and her colorful word choice. “But I also know the pony she became, and I know that pony is one that you would be proud to welcome into your family, if you gave her a chance.”

Twilight Velvet looked at her skeptically. “Pardon me, Princess, but don’t you think you’re a little biased?”

“I think that I never knew Night Light and Twilight Velvet to form an opinion on a pony based only on the first impression. Or to make a judgement on a situation that they might not fully understand.”

Twilight Velvet crossed her forelegs. “Well then, is there anything else we should know about you?”

Sunset frowned and looked away for a moment. She took a deep breath then looked back at the two of them. “Well, I’m a recovering alcoholic. Add that to what you already know, and I think that completes the list.”

Twilight shot Sunset a panicked look. “She’s doing really well though!”

Even Princess Celestia seemed surprised, although she didn’t say anything. Fluttershy could only guess that Sunset hadn’t exactly brought that up with her.

Night Light regarded Sunset for a while, then leaned back in his chair without giving an answer. Twilight Velvet looked at him for a moment, but he didn’t show any sign of acknowledgement.

“Unless anypony has anything else to say about Sunset, I think we ought to move on,” Luna said. Nopony voiced any other concerns, so she continued, “I believe you’ll find the structure of a triadic family is more similar to a traditional one than you may think, and it should have no negative effect on Spike. It would help to know what your exact concerns are, however.”

For a moment, Twilight Velvet looked like she might speak up, then changed her mind. Once it was clear she wasn’t going to say anything, Night Light spoke for them again. “It’s a big variable. I’m not saying it couldn’t work, but I don’t feel comfortable letting Spike be the one to test the effect of growing up around it.”

Fluttershy noticed he kept saying ‘it’ instead of ‘polyamory’ or ‘triad.’ It kind of reminded her of when she was too uncomfortable with the word ‘gay’ to use it in description to herself. Although in this case, she guessed his problem had nothing to do with describing himself, and didn’t even have much to do with describing his daughter.

He turned to face Twilight directly. “I’m not saying we don’t want Spike to be a part of your lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. But at the same time, I don’t know if him actually living with you would really be in his best interests.”

“And I understand that,” Twilight said, “but there are more ponies around that care about Spike than ever. Our friends always helped me look after Spike, and you were fine with Sunset when you found out that she was living with us. Why is it so different now that we’re in a relationship?”

“There’s quite a lot of difference between living with somepony and dating them,” Night Light said.

“And nopony’s asking you not to have doubts,” Sunset said. “All we ever asked is that you to give us a chance.”

“Maybe we could have stayed in Ponyville for the week. But now that our vacation is over, we have too many other responsibilities.” Night Light turned to Luna. “And because I know what you’re going to say, I don’t think another week is going to make a whole lot of difference. It’s just not enough time to make a decision for our son’s future.”

Luna smiled. “Actually, I have a different solution in mind. Were you aware that I’m opening up a new observatory in Ponyville?”

Night Light frowned. “No, and I would be. There are no plans for anything like that.” Fluttershy knew he was right. There was also no way something like that would be happening without Twilight knowing, and if she knew, she would have told Fluttershy and Sunset. It was the type of information Twilight wouldn’t be able to keep to herself.

“But there are,” Luna insisted. She had a sly look in her eyes that Fluttershy was beginning to recognize. Some plan she had been working on in secret was falling into place. “You can be forgiven for not knowing about it considering everything going on, but funds have been secured, and construction can begin on my call.”

“That type of thing doesn’t happen that fast,” Night Light said. “These ‘plans’ would be drafted tonight and back-dated to several months ago.”

Luna chuckled. “I assure you that is not the case. I gave my sister my word that I would neither bend nor break any law in my attempts to resolve this matter. It so happens that the plans were made nine days ago, and they are dated nine days ago.”

Night Light arched an eyebrow. “Nine days?”

“Precisely,” Luna said innocently. It had been exactly nine days since Fluttershy, Twilight, and Sunset had first come to Canterlot to ask for Princess Celestia’s help. If Luna was telling the truth – and Fluttershy knew she was – she would’ve had to start making arrangements the same day she found out about everything, then used her authority to move them along as quickly as possible.

“I suppose you’ll say I should transfer over there?” Night Light asked.

“Well, I would certainly like ponies with experience to help make sure it starts off on the right hoof. As much as I would hate to see you leave the Canterlot branch, I would approve a transfer, either temporary or permanent.”

Twilight clapped her hooves together. “And of course Mom can write wherever she is! This is perfect!”

Night Light didn’t look convinced. Twilight Velvet again glanced to him, but remained silent. “It’s… something to think about.”

Although Luna’s eyes never left Night Light, Fluttershy was sure she noticed it too – the way Twilight Velvet kept glancing at Night Light, and how she had barely spoken a word all day.

“Night Light,” Luna said, “perhaps you would join me in private a moment. There is a matter I would like to discuss.”

She stood up and waited for him to do the same. Wordlessly, he followed her out of the room. Twilight looked confused by the exchange, although she seemed to be the only one who hadn’t caught on.

“Twilight,” Princess Celestia began, then paused when both Twilights turned to her, “…Velvet, I don’t think I’ve ever known you to be this quiet. Is there something on your mind?”

Twilight Velvet frowned. “No. Well, I mean it’s a lot to take in, of course. I never expected to be in a situation like this, and I’m afraid it’s caught me a bit off guard.” She seemed genuinely fine, but that just meant she was better at hiding her feelings than her daughter, although that didn’t say very much.

“If you say so,” Princess Celestia said. “But please remember that you’re free to speak openly about anything at all, or ask to speak privately with anypony.”

Twilight Velvet nodded. “Yes, of course.”

Moments passed in awkward silence. It felt wrong to push Twilight Velvet to talk, but without her input on what was bothering her, it was difficult to know how to press forward.

“Fluttershy,” Luna called from the doorway. Everypony turned towards her. “Would you join us?”

Fluttershy was baffled that Luna would ask for her, but nodded and stood up. As she walked to the door, she could feel everypony watching her. Luna smiled as she reached it, and led her out.

“Is, uh, everything okay?” Rainbow asked once they were in the hall. She was seated with the rest of their friends along the wall.

Fluttershy wasn’t sure how to respond, but thankfully Luna was. “Everything shall be fine, Rainbow Dash, do not fret. I believe this matter is coming to a close.”

“If you say so. But let us know if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Dash,” Fluttershy said. She smiled then turned back to follow Luna through another door. They were in a room identical to the one they had been in, but Night Light was sitting alone. Fluttershy took a seat next to him while Luna remained standing near the door.

Night Light seemed surprised. “I thought you were getting Twilight.”

Luna smiled. “I believe you’ll find Fluttershy more understanding of your situation.”

Night Light chuckled. “I told you, there’s nothing going on. You’re imagining things.”

“Well, I can not force you to talk about it,” Luna said, opening the door, “only encourage you to do so.”

“You’re not staying?” Fluttershy asked.

“There is no need. Whenever you two are done talking about whatever it is that you decide to discuss, I will be with the others.” Luna bowed her head and left the room.

As the door closed, Fluttershy turned back to Night Light, who shrugged. “I’m sorry to say it, but I have no idea what she wants us to talk about.”

Fluttershy tried to smile through her nerves. Of course she knew what Luna had in mind, but she felt strange bringing it up. “I, uhm, I noticed you and Mom were sitting further apart than usual.”

Night Light stared ahead. “I’m sure you were imagining it.”

Why had Luna left her? Fluttershy had no idea how to talk to somepony about something like this. She could try to argue, insist that everyone other than Twilight could see it, but where would that get her? She didn’t want to push him away. She didn’t know how to get ponies to open up about their problems, and she doubted she could help them solve them if they did. All she could do was talk about herself.

“It was… scary. Finding out that Twilight had feelings for somepony else. I thought I was going to… well, really I thought I’d already lost her.”

Night Light turned to her. “I thought Twilight said the relationship was your idea?”

“It was.” Fluttershy nodded. “But that was only after I learned about their feelings for each other. And then only after I accepted it.”

Night Light grinned. “Well, I imagine having feelings for the same pony must have made that easier.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “I didn’t think about Sunset like that then. We were friends, but that was it. Really, I only wanted to be with Twilight.”

Night Light looked away again and hesitated before speaking. “So then how… how’d you come to accept it in the end?”

“I talked about it. I talked with Rainbow Dash first, and that helped a little. Then I took some time to think about it. I tried talking to Twilight about things, but she had already left for the Crystal Empire.”

Night Light winced. “Bad move, huh?”

“Well, yes. We, uhm, we had a fight about that one.”

“She certainly does have an interesting way of fixing things.”

“She does.” Fluttershy smiled to herself. Even though at the time she had been angry with Twilight, and she would be even angrier if she ever made the same mistake twice, Fluttershy could now appreciate that Twilight really was doing her best to fix things in her own way.

Night Light smirked. “So Rainbow Dash had all the answers? Gotta say I’m a little surprised.”

Fluttershy giggled. “Well, she can be surprising. But no, she didn’t really know what to do either, it just helped to have somepony to talk to about it. After that, I wound up talking to Sunset, and I learned how far she was willing to go to not get in the way of our relationship. In the end, I had to convince her to stay at the castle.”

“Even though Twilight had feelings for her?”

“Yes. I still don’t know why. I guess… I just knew there was some way we could all be happy.”

“Well, you certainly found an interesting way to do that.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “This isn’t the only way it could have worked out. I trust both of them. If I hadn’t suggested this relationship, I know they still wouldn’t have done anything inappropriate.”

“Hmm.” He smiled wryly. “If Twilight was off talking to Cadance about everything, I think I’m beginning to see who you would’ve turned to. There aren’t many ponies unconventional enough to suggest something like this.”

“Oh, Luna didn’t suggest it. But I did talk to her.”

“Well, I got half right then.” Behind his casual smile, Fluttershy could tell he was growing more interested. Hoping that she could give him some sort of answer to solve his own situation. “So what did she have to say?”

“After explaining what polyamory was, she mostly talked about her own relationships. It was nice, learning that love can work in different ways.” She put a hoof to her necklace and smiled. “It made me realize that Twilight didn’t love me any less than she did before Sunset came around.”

“Yeah, I guess she knows what she’s talking about sometimes.”

“She does.”

They sat quietly for a while. Generally, Fluttershy felt awkward in silence, never knowing how to fill it. But, for a change, she felt the silence was working for them, giving Night Light time to think and allowing Fluttershy to comfort him with her presence.

When he finally did speak, it was about something completely different. “You know, the title ‘senior astrologist’ isn’t an honorary one. I’ve been working in the Canterlot observatory longer than anypony else. There’s only ever one senior astrologist, and it’s been me for thirteen years now. I’ve been the senior astrologist longer than a lot of my coworkers have even been around at all. I started working there when I was still in school, as an intern. They said I was too young, but I kept persisting and eventually they hired me. I wondered why for a long time; figured I had to be a real nuisance with all my questions. I’d stop the other astrologists from their work all the time, make them explain what they were doing, or why it had to be done in exactly the right way. It wasn’t until Twilight came along, with all her own questions about how the world worked, that I realized that was exactly why they kept me around.”

Fluttershy nodded. “No wonder you don’t want to go to the new Ponyville observatory.”

Night Light chuckled. “I’ve been there forty-six years now. And the truth is that after forty-six years, I finally started thinking about retiring. Could have retired years ago, if I wanted to. Twilight told me that much when she became a princess, said I’d never have to work again. Shining Armor said the same thing when he became the Captain of the Celestial Guard. I turned them both down because it was never about the money, I just wasn’t ready to stop working yet. But after forty-six years, I’ve started thinking that maybe it’s time after all.

“Really though, if I had wanted to, I could have retired after marrying Velvet. She makes more than enough for both of us, even if she never writes another book. Not that I expect she’s going to stop anytime soon, mind you. She’s an amazing mare, and I’m a lucky stallion to have spent the past thirty-one years married to her. I’m sixty years old, which means I finally get to say I’ve spent over half my life married to the mare of my dreams.”

He sighed and looked down at his hooves. Anypony could tell he wasn’t a young stallion just by looking at him; he had gray hairs dotting his blue fur and mane, and wrinkles around his eyes. But almost every time Fluttershy had seen him, he also had a jovial smile and a youthful energy that covered his age. But now he wasn’t smiling. His eyelids were half closed, his shoulders were slouched, and for once he looked old.

“I’m sixty years old, and I’ve been married for thirty-one of them. We’ve had hard times. There were a few occasions early on where I thought we wouldn’t make it. Once I came home late from work to find my newlywed wife, recently pregnant with our first foal, wasn’t there. Instead, I found a note saying she had left for her mom’s house, and that she would never have accepted my proposal if she knew I was already married to my job.” He paused to smile at the years-old memory and the lessons they had surely learned since then. “She always had that fire, and not to mention the flair for being a bit on the dramatic side. Well, needless to say I stopped staying late at the office after that one. And through it all, I always knew there would never be anypony else for me.

“When Shining was born, I would never have believed he would be the easy one. We… well, we hadn’t actually planned on starting a family. Velvet was convinced that she would be a horrible mom, with her tendency to get caught up in things, and I wasn’t a whole lot better with my own job at the time. But surprises happen, and we found ourselves with a foal on the way. Having a baby for the first time is, well, it’s terrifying. Turns out we didn’t need to worry so much; Shining was the perfect foal, he hardly ever gave us a hard time. Twilight was more of a challenge, her endless curiosity leading her into all sorts of trouble when she was a foal. She had a bad habit of wandering off to places she wasn’t supposed to be. But once she grew old enough to read, the challenge became getting her to go out of the house. I thought enrolling her into Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns would solve both problems. She’d finally have an outlet for all that curiosity, and she’d have a reason to spend time with kids her own age.

“When Twilight hatched Spike’s egg, none of us knew what it would mean. At the time, we were excited for Twilight’s achievements. Being chosen as Princess Celestia’s personal student and getting her cutie mark in the same day? As you can imagine, we couldn’t have been more proud. Then that evening Princess Celestia came to our house. We thought it was something to do with Twilight, and in a roundabout way, it was. She explained to us that Twilight’s magic had imprinted on the dragon that she had hatched. She apologized, said it should never have been used as a test for a filly, and that it would never happen again.

“All the same, it did happen to us, and that left us in a tight spot. She told us that we weren’t obligated to take him in, but asked that we consider it. Initially we were tempted to say no. By that point we had decided we weren’t having any more foals. I was forty-eight and Velvet was forty-four, too old to raise another baby, we thought. Princess Celestia convinced us to take a look at him though, and really that would have been enough. He was no smaller than a foal, and he was crying. Dragons don’t often adopt, which is the whole reason they have a magic-based imprinting trait. He couldn’t go back to his own kind, which meant he’d be living with ponies one way or another. We couldn’t trust him to some unknown fate, who knows if another suitable household would pop up? We had the means to take care of him, and he had no guarantee he’d find a home anywhere else.

“If there was any doubt left in our mind, Twilight erased it. We brought Spike inside to ask Twilight and Shining what they thought of having a little brother. Shining was almost graduating high school by then, and said he thought it’d be a great idea. I think he was mostly happy that Twilight would still have someone around, since he was already planning on moving into the castle to stay with Cadance. Twilight, on the other hoof, was so mesmerized that Princess Celestia was in her living room that she apparently missed part of the question, because when she saw Spike and realized what was going on she jumped up, ecstatically cheering, ‘I get a baby sister too!’”

Fluttershy laughed. “Sister?”

Night Light grinned. “Yup. Princess Celestia had to tell her that Spike was a boy, and yes she was very sure, and she did indeed notice that Spike was purple, and yes that meant boys could be purple too. And wouldn’t you know, as soon as Spike saw her, he stopped crying. Well, that left us with no choice, really. We were parents all over again.

“But then we learned exactly what Spike being imprinted on Twilight meant. It was easy to dismiss at first. He called us Mom and Dad, and never questioned that she was his sister. But there were times… When he was growing up, Twilight was the one who could get him to do anything. If he wouldn’t lie down for bed, Twilight had to read to him. When he wouldn’t take a bath, it was Twilight’s stern gaze that convinced him. When he was proud of something he did, she was the one he’d run to first. ‘Lots of kids look up to their older siblings,’ we told ourselves. And it’s not like he didn’t love us. Anypony could see he did, and still does.

“But then Twilight grew up, and she was ready to move into her own apartment. It’s not easy, watching your kids move away. It’s harder when you realize you’re losing two at once. Princess Celestia came to visit us again. She reminded us that Spike was imprinted on Twilight, and that until he reached maturity he would be emotionally dependent on her. ‘She’s only down the road, he’ll only be a short walk to her house’ I said, repeating what Twilight had told us when she said she wanted to move out. All the princess would say was ‘I’ll respect your decision on the matter.’

“Well, there wasn’t a decision. When we explained to Spike that Twilight wasn’t going to live with us anymore, he grew depressed. ‘It’ll be just like Shining, we still see him every week,’ we explained, but it didn’t matter. We went to visit Twilight’s new place on that first night, and he cried when it was time to go. Twilight asked if he wanted to stay the night, and the tears stopped. That’s when I knew we were deceiving ourselves. It wasn’t just going to be one night. We went back to an empty house, and talked about what was best for his future. He was only seven years old, much too young to be separated from his parent, and we had spent seven years letting ourselves believe that meant us.”

Fluttershy wrapped a foreleg around his back. “You’ll always be Spike’s parents.”

Night Light smiled weakly. “Thank you, Fluttershy. But we’re just making the same mistake we almost made six years ago. Spike can not be separated from Twilight, not until he’s old enough to live on his own.”

Fluttershy searched for the right thing to say. She wanted Night Light to let Spike go home with them, but she didn’t want to see him and Twilight Velvet hurt anymore. “Uhm, well you could come back to Ponyville with us. You could transfer, like Luna suggested, or even just retire if you want. You could live in the castle with us.”

Night Light smirked, but his eyes remained half closed. “I knew you were going to suggest that.”

“Well, why not?” Fluttershy asked. “I mean, if you don’t want to, I won’t try to convince you to go, but, uhm, I would like to know why.”

He chuckled. “Haven’t you heard? Old ponies don’t like change.”

Fluttershy frowned. “Is it the change from Canterlot to Ponyville? Or are you worried living with us might change things with Mom?”

His silence was enough of an answer.

“Have you talked with her about it?”

“I… I don’t know what to say.”

“Start by letting her know you still love her.”

Night Light shook his head. “Of course she knows I still love her.”

“I know,” Fluttershy said. “But have you told her since everything happened?”

He blinked a few times and frowned. “We’ve been married a long time, Fluttershy. We don’t always say ‘I love you’ every day anymore.”

She nodded. “I understand. But she’s just as scared as you are, and even after being married for so long, I’m sure she still wants reassurance when she’s worried.”

Night Light stared down at his hooves and sighed. “I just… I thought we were done with this kind of surprise. I was ready to spend the rest of our years together, relaxing by the fire, visiting our grandfoals. You know, old pony things.”

“You can still do all that.”

He shook his head. “After thirty years, I don’t plan on introducing a third pony into things.”

“And after thirty-one years, you should know that you can’t assume you know what your wife wants.” She nudged him, and he smiled a little. “There’s a big difference between having feelings for somepony else and being in love with somepony else. And even if she does love somepony else as well as you, that doesn’t mean she actually wants to start a relationship with them.”

“I… I know you’re right, but…”

“I know. It’s hard to ask when you’re afraid of what the answer will be.”

Night Light took a deep breath and stood up. “I think we should return to the others. I’ll talk to Velvet tonight.”

Fluttershy smiled and stood up as well. “And you know you can always count on us to help in any way we can.”

He smiled and nodded, then paused by the door. “I’ll let you decide what you want to tell Twilight and Spike, but you should know neither of them know anything about the imprinting. We never wanted them to feel like they were forced into being a family.”

Fluttershy nodded. As oblivious as she could be, Twilight had probably never questioned why Spike was sent to live with her, and she didn’t need to feel guilty about it. And she didn’t want to change anything about the way Spike saw his relationship with Twilight. It was probably better that they didn’t know.

Night Light led the way out. In the hallway, Fluttershy saw her friends gathered around in a circle playing cards. Fluttershy had no idea where they came from, or the poker chips, but she would have had to guess Pinkie. Rarity had most of the chips, while Applejack had the least. At some point it seemed she had also lost her hat to Rainbow. Fluttershy just waved awkwardly, and was answered by an enthusiastic wave from Pinkie.

They entered the other room and were greeted by everypony’s confused stares. It seemed Luna didn’t clarify why she had asked Fluttershy to talk with Night Light. She took her seat between Twilight and Luna, while he took his next to Twilight Velvet. He scooted his chair closer to her and took her hoof into his. Her ears perked up for a moment, then her surprised expression melted away into a content smile.

Twilight looked between them and Fluttershy. “So, uh, what’d we miss?”

Fluttershy leaned against Twilight so her expression wouldn’t give anything away. “We just talked.” She saw Luna smile contently.

Night Light turned to Twilight Velvet. “I think we have a lot to discuss.”

“I… I suppose we do,” she said, sounding nervous.

He looked to Fluttershy, still leaning against Twilight. His horn lit up and Velvet’s chair slid closer to his. He smiled as he let go of her hoof, instead wrapping a foreleg around her shoulders and pulling her against him. She laughed and blushed while everypony pretended to be interested in watching something else.

“What do you say we have a family dinner tonight?” Night Light asked.

“I think that sounds like a great idea,” Twilight Velvet answered.

“And honey?”

“Yes, dear?”

“I love you.”

Seven ponies and a dragon were all sitting around the living room. Princess Celestia and Luna needed to attend to their evening duties, so they went back to the castle, but when Night Light and Twilight Velvet found their friends still sitting in the hallway, they invited them to the family dinner, saying Spike deserved a chance to see all his sisters. Everypony had spent the evening doting on Spike and making ambiguous plans to do things with him whenever they got the chance. Spike himself was excited to see everypony, but barely left Twilight’s side. Anticipating that nopony would want to cook, they had grabbed food on the way to the house, and all throughout dinner they talked happily about life in Ponyville.

Twilight was cleaning food off of Spike’s face while they waited for her parents to return. After dinner, they had excused themselves to another room to talk. Fluttershy could understand them taking their time, but it was getting late, and soon it would be too late for their friends to make the train back home.

Just when she was thinking that they should ask if anypony wanted to stay with them in Canterlot for the night, Night Light and Twilight Velvet returned.

“Sorry, Spike, but we’re going to have to steal Twilight for a moment,” Twilight Velvet said. “Fluttershy and Sunset as well.”

The three mares stood up. Spike looked worried, so Twilight flashed him a comforting smile. “Everything’s gonna be fine, Spike. We’ll just be a minute.”

He nodded. “Oh, okay then.” He looked down at his claws, so Rainbow dropped Applejack’s hat on his head, which made him smile.

They followed Twilight’s parents into the foyer. Night Light took a deep breath, but was stopped from speaking by Twilight Velvet placing a hoof on his shoulder. He smiled at her.

“We think we were wrong about everything,” Twilight Velvet said. “But… we’re still not sure, so… if you’d have us, we’d like to stay with you for a while.”

Twilight smiled and threw her forelegs around her mom. “Are you kidding? You can stay as long as you want!”

Sunset bowed her head. “Thank you both so much for this.”

Night Light chuckled and walked over to her. He put a foreleg around her shoulders, which she didn’t seem to know how to respond to. “You know, I never got around to saying it before, but welcome to the family.”

Once he let go of her, Twilight Velvet took his place. “I’m sorry you had to see us at our worst, dear.”

Sunset chuckled. “Well, I didn’t exactly put my best hoof forward either.”

“Who needs first impressions anyway?” Twilight Velvet asked. “Now come on, I want to see Spike’s face when we tell him.”

As they walked into the living room, every head turned in their direction. “Spike, everypony,” Twilight said, “I’m happy to announce that everything is settled. And not only is Spike coming back with us, my parents are going to be staying at the castle too.”

Spike wasted no time is jumping up to run over to Twilight, Applejack’s hat falling to the ground as he did.

“Really?” Spike asked. “We’re all going to Ponyville?”

“That’s right.” Twilight held out a foreleg and Spike threw his arms around her. “We’re going home.”

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