• 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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22 – Visitors

Chapter Twenty-Two

Visitors

Staying in bed should have been easy. There’s really nothing to it; all one has to do is not leave. Given a comfortable enough bed and sufficient motivation, it’s one of the easiest things in the world. Sunset had both, but unfortunately she also had certain things making it more difficult. Two of them, to be specific, but one at least had the decency to wait in the doorway. The other proved more persistent and, for some reason, wouldn’t accept her groans as an acceptable answer.

“Sunset, come on, you don’t want to keep everypony waiting, do you?” Fluttershy asked.

Sunset buried her head under a pillow.

“Sunset, please…”

She moved the pillow just enough to be heard clearly. “There shouldn’t be anypony waiting, because I said I didn’t want anypony to come.”

Fluttershy sighed and half climbed onto the bed. “I know, but that’s just silly.”

“Come cuddle me.”

Fluttershy smiled a little. “If I cuddle you for a bit, will you get out of bed?”

“Nope.” Sunset reached out and attempted to grab Fluttershy, but she moved out of the way. “Come on, you’re supposed to be nice to me today.”

Applejack cleared her throat and Sunset could hear her hooves against the floor as she walked over. “Do ya mind if I give it a shot?”

“Sure, but she can be pretty stubborn.”

“Oh, I know.” Applejack walked over to the bed, so Sunset huffed and turned to face the other way. “Sunset, if ya don’t get outta this bed, I’m comin’ in after ya.”

Sunset snorted. “Yeah, ‘cause that’s gonna happen. You’ll have to try better than – Applejack, what the fuck!”

“I tried askin’ nicely,” Applejack said, as if that was enough to justify her jumping on to the bed with Sunset still in it. She was standing over her with one of her back hooves digging into Sunset’s flank, and her head looming over Sunset’s. “Now get your ass up, or I’m gonna drag ya out myself.”

Sunset gritted her teeth, holding back her impulse to start yelling at Applejack. “Okay, fine. But how do you expect me to get my ass up with your fucking hoof pinning it down?!

“Huh? Oh, sorry.” Applejack shifted, but she moved the wrong hoof, and wound up stepping on Sunset’s hindleg.

Sunset screamed.

Applejack backed up, falling onto her flank. “Sorry!”

If nothing else, she had succeeded in getting Sunset to sit up. She was attempting to perfect the ability to kill a pony by glaring as hard as possible, but she was sitting nonetheless. “Okay, I have a few questions. First off, what the fuck? Why are you even in my bed? And why are you stumbling around it like you don’t know how to use your own hooves? Since when do you even use the word ass? And seriously –” she gestured to Applejack’s dress “– what the fuck?

Applejack just smirked. “Ya know, I think you’re really close to figuring somethin’ out here.”

Sunset continued to glare, but as she put the pieces together her expression softened. “AJ?”

Applejack grinned. “Ya got it.”

Sunset broke into a grin of her own. “AJ!”

“Well, hello to you too,” Applejack said, as Sunset threw her forelegs around her formerly-human friend. She returned the hug and attempted to pat Sunset on the back, and Sunset suspected she’d have bruises for it.

She held Applejack at a foreleg’s length. “Okay, first lesson about being a pony” – she tapped Applejack on the head, just hard enough to prove her point – “hooves are really fucking hard.”

Applejack swatted her hoof away. “Ow! Okay, okay, I’m sorry!”

Sunset relented. “So what are you doing here anyway?”

Fluttershy climbed into the bed to sit next to Sunset. “It was Twilight’s idea. See, I told you you’d want to get out of bed.”

Applejack carefully wrapped her foreleg around Sunset’s shoulders. Once she was sure her hoof wasn’t going to get in the way, she less carefully pulled Sunset over to her. “Aw, you know I wouldn’t miss a chance to see you on your birthday. And it just means a lot more to come in person to remind ya that your an old bitch than to send it in some magic journal.”

Sunset laughed and pushed Applejack away. “Hey, don’t you know you’re supposed to respect your elders?”

“Yeah, I suppose ya got a point there, ma’am.

“Hey, don’t think I’m too old to wipe that grin off your face.”

Applejack put up her hooves and smiled innocently. “Now look, I know people your age don’t take kindly to being woken up from a nap, but there’s no need to get cranky. Maybe we could head into town and use your senior’s discount to get ya something to eat. Would that help ya feel better?”

“Yeah, definitely,” Sunset said. “We’ll go to a nice family restaurant. And don’t worry, we’ll make sure to pick one that gives out crayons and coloring books for the little ones, just for you.”

Applejack shrugged. “As long they have wi-fi. Now, I know this is gonna sound like witchcraft to your old-fashioned ways, but that means wireless internet.”

“Low blow!” Sunset scowled and folded her forelegs. “I haven’t had internet for months!”

Applejack frowned and adjusted her hat. “Your right, I took it too far. I’m sorry.”

Fluttershy looked between the two of them. “What’s an internet?”

Applejack snorted, so Sunset elbowed her in the ribs. “The internet connects people through their electronics. Remember I showed you on my phone when you and Twi visited?”

“Oh!” Fluttershy smiled. “The thing with all the cute animals!”

Applejack tried to hold in her laughter and did a bad job at it.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Sunset said, casting Applejack a dirty look.

“Would we be able to have something like that in Equestria?” Fluttershy asked. “It’s kind of like the radio, isn’t it?”

“Well, it’s a lot more complicated than the radio, but it’s not impossible.” Sunset sighed. “There’s so much that needs to be created before the internet is even a possibility. Computers, for a start. Maybe it’ll happen in our lifetime, but by then I really will be an old mare.”

Fluttershy nuzzled her. “That’s okay. You’ll be my old mare.”

“Will I?” Sunset grinned and pulled Fluttershy closer to her. “All yours?”

Fluttershy giggled. “Well, maybe I won’t have you all to myself, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still be mine.”

Sunset just smiled to herself. She could have pointed out that Fluttershy was talking about growing old together, which was a bit soon since they’d only been dating for a little over two months, but truth be told, she liked the thought. It wasn’t the first time since coming back from Canterlot that Fluttershy had referenced their future together.

“So how’s that radio workin’ out, anyway?” Applejack asked.

Revelling at a chance to show off her achievement, Sunset hopped out of bed. “Check it out!” She walked over to the large wooden box against the wall and turned a knob, filling the room with music. She turned back to Applejack and grinned. “The song is being played on a turntable in the basement, which Twilight and I modified to flip the record when it ends, providing a constant audio feed.”

“That’s, uh, really great, Sunset.” Applejack’s smile was too wide to be genuine.

Sunset raised an eyebrow. “Hey, how many radios have you built?”

“Oh, I reckon I wouldn’t even begin to know how to do somethin’ like that.” Applejack sighed and looked at Sunset quizzically. “But, well, I’m not you. Anybody else I’d understand, but you and Twilight? I don’t mean to make light of what ya did, but I just don’t get why it took four months to make one radio when y’all already had the books and stuff.”

“In fairness, we’ve only been working on the radio for two months, before that we were laying down groundwork and figuring out what we even wanted to do, plus I did have some catching up to do when I first got here.”

“I suppose that makes sense,” Applejack said.

Feeling that a proper demonstration was in order, Sunset grinned. “But the main thing that held us back was this.” She lit up her horn and lifted Applejack into the air.

Predictably, the human-turned-earth-pony began flailing about wildly. “Sunset! I don’t know what the fuck you’re doin’, but for the love of God, stop doin’ it!”

Sunset chuckled to herself and gently set Applejack on the floor, where she promptly fell over. The only thing keeping her from outright laughing was Fluttershy’s disapproving gaze, and even that just barely did the trick.

Sunset offered Applejack her hoof, which she reached for, only to knock it out of the way. At first Sunset thought she was actually upset, but Applejack just shook her head and said, “I don’t understand how you’re supposed to do anythin’ without fingers.”

“Here,” Sunset said, extending her hoof again, “wrap your hoof around mine.”

Applejack took her hoof successfully on the second attempt, and Sunset helped her stand back up. “This how ya felt first time ya went through that mirror?”

“Not exactly.” Even though it was half a lifetime behind her, Sunset still frowned at the memory. “At least you knew what was gonna happen when you went through. Not to mention you knew what ponies are before becoming one.”

“Fair enough.” Applejack turned back to the radio. “So what were you sayin’ ‘bout somethin’ holdin’ ya back?”

“Right.” Sunset nodded and turned off the radio. “So we set out to study how magic affects technology, but we forgot the most basic part of researching that: That magic affects technology.”

“That, uh, that seems like it might be the kinda thing y’all would want to keep in mind,” Applejack said.

Sunset smirked. “Yeah, it wound up being pretty important. See, Equestria is full of low levels of ambient magic, and that interferes with electronics. As ponies discovered electricity and later invented technology with it, they naturally adapted to the world around them. Basically, this means ponies have an entirely different understanding of even basic principals of technology, like say, how electrical currents work. We were trying to adapt human tech to work in Equestria, but it turns out we needed to practically reinvent it!”

“Ya seem awfully happy about somethin’ that sounds like a lot more work for y’all.”

Fluttershy hopped off the bed and nuzzled Sunset. “She is. She and Twilight have been really enjoying themselves whenever they get a chance to work on their project.”

“Speaking of Twilight, I’m guessing that’s why she told me to leave my phone at the house,” Applejack said.

“Yup,” Sunset said. “Best case scenario is that it wouldn’t work here even if you still had hands to use it. Worst case scenario is that it would totally fry the thing. We never figured out if electronics taken from the human world start working again once they leave Equestria.”

Applejack frowned. “That’s a shame, I was kinda hopin’ to get some pictures.”

“Oh, we can still take pictures,” Fluttershy said. “We’ll have them developed here and you can take them with you.”

“Yeah, just be careful who you show them to,” Sunset said.

Applejack chuckled. “Ya know, I’m pretty sure nobody’s gonna see ‘em and realize there’s a magical world full of talking ponies. I’ll be careful all the same, though.”

Sunset nodded, then caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. “I suppose I should get out of my pajamas before we start taking pictures.”

“To be honest I hadn’t even realized you were wearin’ pajamas, considering everything else going on.” Applejack glanced at Fluttershy, who was rummaging around in a closet. “Doesn’t seem to be a big deal ‘round here, anyway.”

Sunset levitated a hairbrush over to start making herself presentable. “Yeah, ponies are pretty much nudists, but I still prefer to wear clothes. After living with your crazy human ideas for fourteen years, they tend to stick around.”

“Coverin’ up their nakedness,” Applejack said while shaking her head. “What will those crazy humans do next?”

“I don’t see why it’s such a big deal,” Fluttershy said.

“It’s just…” Applejack trailed off as she tried to figure out how to explain.

“Don’t bother,” Sunset said. “I’ve been trying to explain for months, it’s pretty much impossible. Ponies just weren’t raised with that kind of mentality.”

Fluttershy gave up her search and left the closet. “Do you know where my camera got to?”

“Yeah, Spike was using it the other day,” Sunset said. “Probably left it in his room.”

Fluttershy sighed. “I wish he’d put stuff back when he was done, he’s as bad as Twily. I’ll go get it and meet you in the library once you’re ready.”

As Fluttershy left the room, Applejack began to follow her, but stopped before reaching the door. “I don’t really care what ya wear, but you should know we got more company on the way.”

“Really?” Sunset asked, then smiled as she realized it should have been obvious. “So when’s Pinkie coming?”

“Once she’s done picking up Rarity from the airport.”

Sunset stopped brushing and turned to Applejack. “Rarity’s coming?”

“Yup. It’ll be like a Canterlot High School reunion. Twilight’s already here, she’s just in the library learning how to use her magic with, uhm, Twilight.”

Sunset briefly smiled at the amusing thought, but she was distracted by a less amusing one. “Is, uhm, anyone else coming?”

Applejack glanced away, “No, just the four of us.”

“Right. That’s… probably a good thing. It would probably be pretty awkward for everyone.”

Applejack stared at the ground while adjusting her hat. “We, uh, we did invite her. Twilight made sure to let me know that Fluttershy was more than welcome. But ya know, she’s tourin’ around with Rainbow’s band, and –”

“AJ, it’s fine.” Sunset smiled. “I’m just happy to know that she’s doing alright. Maybe we can catch up someday, but right now I’m not pushing for anything.”

Applejack looked like she might say something else, then just smiled instead. “Well alright then. I’ll meet you in the library.”

She walked out of the room, leaving Sunset alone. She sighed and her hoof moved automatically towards her neck, but found nothing there. It had been months since she stopped wearing her necklace, but from time to time she still found herself reaching for it.

Applejack pulled her attention away from her thoughts as she popped back into the room. “Uh, which way’s the library again?”


“Sunny, do you think I could go to Equestria someday?” Fluttershy asked. She was lying in bed staring up at the ceiling, with Sunset curled around her.

“Of course, Shy. There’s no reason why you couldn’t.” Sunset gently traced her fingers around Fluttershy’s stomach.

“I can’t wait to see it. You always make it sound so beautiful, I bet it’s a wonderful place!” Fluttershy giggled. “And that you’d be adorable as a pony.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” Sunset smiled and kissed Fluttershy’s cheek. “We don’t know what would happen if you went through the portal now, and we don’t want to take any chances.”

“I know.” Fluttershy smiled, then turned to kiss Sunset properly. “I love you, Sunny.”

“I love you too, Shy.”


As she entered the library, Sunset stopped in the doorway and smiled. She watched as a bespectacled Twilight levitated a book, then set it down gently.

“Good job!” Twilight cheered, smiling at her double. Well, almost double.

“Hey, Twilight, long time no see,” Sunset said, approaching the others. “At least we won’t have any problems telling you two apart.”

“Sunset! This place is amazing!” the smaller of the two Twilights said. Along with the fact that only one of the Twilights needed glasses, one of them was also a unicorn. It seemed that one Twilight ascending to alicorn status didn’t mean that both of them did.

“Good morning, Sunset,” the alicorn Twilight said, “and happy birthday.”

Everyone in the room echoed the sentiment. The two Twilights, Fluttershy, Applejack, Twilight’s parents, and Spike were all present. Sunset took a seat next to Applejack and Fluttershy.

“Thank you,” Sunset said. She smiled to herself and blushed a little. She wasn’t too used to enjoying her birthdays, and she wasn’t even sure how to respond. She decided to change the subject. “So how’re the lessons going?”

“Great,” alicorn Twilight answered. “She’s picking up on everything very quickly.”

“Which is hardly surprising, of course,” Twilight Velvet said, grinning.

Sunset had always been thankful she avoided running into her parents’ doubles. Meeting her parents as a different species had always sounded like it would be a nightmare, and it wasn’t made better by knowing that they weren’t really her parents, no matter how similar they were. Twilight didn’t seem to share that concern, as she just smiled contentedly.

“There’s so much to learn about this place,” she said, her face lighting up at the thought. “Even if we ignore the magic – and I can’t possibly think of why we would ignore the magic – I could spend months exploring this place and learning all about how it works!”

“And get arrested in the process,” Twilight said. “Remember, none of you can leave the castle. We have a changeling threat going on, and if anypony saw me as a unicorn, or realized there were two Applejacks, Pinkie Pies, or Raritys going around, well… it wouldn’t look good, to say the least.”

“Of course,” the other Twilight said, smiling and nodding. “And trust me, I’m sure there’s more than enough I can learn by just practicing magic inside the castle.”

Sunset rolled her eyes, and didn’t let it bother her that Twilight had clearly come for something other than her birthday. In truth, her friendship with Twilight had become strained when Sunset refused to help her study magic in the human world, fearing what might happen if humans got ahold of something with so much destructive potential. She doubted that even Rarity would have flown in from another country just for her birthday, but Sunset didn’t mind. It was nice to have a chance to see her friends again, regardless of why they came.

While Twilight continued practicing her magic, they all caught up with what was happening in their lives. Considering Twilight’s parents were in the room with them, Sunset chose to skip over the whole fiasco with Spike, focusing on the more positive attributes of their relationship.

“Ponies certainly sound more open-minded than the people back home,” Twilight said while levitating two books at once. She was so focused on trying to get them both to move at the same speed that she didn’t notice when the whole room went quiet.

“So, uh…” Applejack adjusted her hat. “Things getting any better with the public opinion?”

“Well… no.” Sunset said.

Ever since their public announcement, they’d been facing some pretty harsh criticism. Not a day went by when they didn’t hear from somepony about their ‘sinful’ relationship, and Sunset was worried Twilight and Fluttershy might lock up again. From what she learned from their friends, they pretty much disappeared from the public eye after the fallout from coming out as gay, and this time opinions were even worse.

The opinions of other ponies didn’t bother Sunset nearly as much as seeing her marefriends so upset. So she took it upon herself to be their pillar of strength. She encouraged them to leave the castle, which was important since they did have a wedding to plan, and took an active role in filtering out which ponies would speak with them. The occasional slip up was inevitable, and whenever it happened she was always the first to defend them.

But being strong for Twilight and Fluttershy meant she had to turn somewhere else to vent her own frustration. As her best friend and one of the only people she knew with minimal ties to Twilight and Fluttershy, that fell to Applejack by default. Sunset remained in contact with her through the journal and kept her up to date on everything happening to them.

Twilight lowered the books back to the table, perhaps letting them fall a bit harder than she intended. She turned to give Sunset her full attention. “Ponies aren’t accepting your relationship?”

Sunset hesitated a moment, and Fluttershy wound up answering first. “The important ponies do.” She smiled at Twilight Velvet and Night Light.

Night Light smiled back. “I think they just might need some time to come around to the idea.”

“But doesn’t it get tough, waiting for everyone to come around?” Twilight asked, before turning away sheepishly. “Sorry, I don’t mean to pry.”

“It’s perfectly fine,” the other Twilight assured her. “And you’re right, it is a lot to cope with sometimes. But we make it through because we support each other, and we have our friends and family to help as well.”

The unicorn Twilight glanced around nervously. “But what if… you weren’t sure? What others would think, I mean.”

“Well, we weren’t until we came out. And there’s been some ups and downs.” She seemed to pointedly avoid looking at her parents. “But all in all I think we made the right call.”

Twilight nodded, then went silent. She stared at the books, but didn’t resume her practicing. Eventually the other Twilight spoke up again. “Is there a reason you wanted to know? If you don’t mind my asking, of course.”

“Oh.” The unicorn perked up, broken out of her thoughts. “No. Er, well, kind of… See, I have this friend. We met in college and, well, actually we met in elementary school, but that’s not important; we met again in college and I found out she has, uhm, feelings for another girl, and… she’s really nervous about coming out, and I thought maybe looking at how you handled things could help. Her, I mean.”

Twilight’s overly wide smile didn’t fool anyone. Sunset and Applejack looked at each other and nodded, before standing up and walking over to Twilight. “So, Twilight,” Sunset said, causing both of them to look at her. She facehoofed, then pointed at the unicorn. “Okay, you’re Twilight” – she turned to the alicorn – “and you’re Twi.”

“Why am I Twi?”

“Because I already call you Twi.” Sunset grinned and leaned closer. “Or we could all call you by Fluttershy’s nickname for you.”

Twi folded her forelegs. “Fine.”

Sunset turned to Applejack. “And on that note, you’re AJ now.”

AJ shrugged. “Fine by me.”

Sunset nodded. “Good. Now then, Twilight, I think we have a book here that could give your friend some great advice. Come on, I’ll let you borrow it.”

“Oh, okay,” Twilight said. She got up and followed Sunset and AJ.

“So, I gotta ask,” AJ said once they were far away enough from the others. “What is Fluttershy’s nickname for Twi?”

“It’s not really that bad or anything, but she gets embarrassed when other ponies use it,” Sunset said, rolling her eyes. “It’s Twily, and it’s what her family called her when she was a filly.”

“Oh, I’d hate it if my friends called me that,” Twilight said. “That’s what my family calls me too, and I guess it’s fine coming from them, as long as it’s never anybody else.”

Sunset stopped and turned to face Twilight, grinning. “Not even your friend from college?”

Twilight blushed. “O-of course! Not! Of course not, I meant. Why… why would Moon Dancer be any different?”

“Twilight, be honest with us,” AJ said, “is there something going on between you and your friend?”

Twilight’s ears folded back and she frowned. Sunset placed a hoof on her shoulder. “You know, no one here is going to judge you.”

Twilight shook her head and took a step back. “Just because the Twilight here is gay doesn’t mean I am too.” She glanced at Sunset uncertainly. “Right?”

Sunset held back her laughter, and instead smiled encouragingly. “Well, we don’t know, actually, but examples suggest that orientation is actually the same for a set of doubles no matter which side of the mirror. What we know for sure is that both Fluttershys are gay, the Raritys and Rainbows are straight, and neither Applejack can ever get with anyone.”

AJ shot her a dirty look. “I could get with someone if I wanted, I’m just busy.”

“You’re boring, is what you are,” Sunset said, patting AJ on the back. “Anyway, that’s still a pretty small sample size, and there are variables. While the pony Pinkie is bi, we don’t know about the human one.”

AJ snorted. “If that girl don’t swing both ways, I’ll eat my hat.”

“But we don’t know for sure,” Sunset insisted. “And I’ve at least seen the pony Applejack look at a stallion.”

AJ smacked Sunset on the back of the head. “Sunset’s point is that we’re not assuming anything based on the other Twilight. We’re assuming based on how bad ya are at coverin’ it up.”

Twilight looked between them and seemed to be about to deny it again. In the end, she sighed and stared down at her hooves. “We’ve been dating for a few months.”

“And congratulations to ya,” AJ said. Her smile spread to Twilight, and Sunset was left wondering if this was the first time she’d actually talked about this with anyone. “But what’s this about being afraid of what people think?”

“Well… Moon Dancer doesn’t actually seem that worried about it, but I… well, college isn’t as bad as high school, but I can’t stop thinking about all the things my classmates used to say about people being gay, or even about me specifically sometimes, even though I never told anyone back then. And my parents keep talking about grandchildren, so I’m afraid I’d be letting them down.”

“It’s been awhile since we left high school behind us,” AJ said. “Maybe it’s time to let go of all that. I’m not saying it wasn’t bad, I had my fair share of idiots saying things on account of the fact I ain’t exactly a perfect ideal of femininity. It was hard enough to listen to without even being interested in girls, so I know it must’ve been worse for you. But like ya said, things are better in your college, so maybe it’s time to stop worryin’ so much.”

“And about your parents,” Sunset added, “I don’t know if they’re anything like Twilight’s parents here, but if they are, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. They accepted Fluttershy immediately, and even came around to me eventually.”

“And anyone who can accept their daughter dating Sunset can accept anything,” AJ said.

Sunset nodded. “Exactly.”

“I guess… I’ll think about it.”

AJ raised an eyebrow. “Ya mean you’ll overthink it.”

“No, it’s important to figure things out first,” Sunset said. “Take your time to think about what’s right for you, don’t get rushed into making a life-altering decision. But most importantly, talk to Moon Dancer about it. Let her know what your concerns are, and I think you’ll find she probably has some of her own. The two of you can figure this out together.”

AJ smirked. “There ya have it, elderly advice at its finest.”

Before Sunset could retort, Spike ran up to them. “We just heard from Pinkie. She’s coming through with Rarity now!”

“Thanks, Spike,” Sunset said. “We’ll be there in a minute.”

He nodded and ran back to the others.

“So what do you say?” Sunset asked. “Want to stop hiding things from your CHS friends, at least?”

“I…” Twilight closed her eyes for a moment, then smiled. “I think that would be nice.”

“Glad to hear it.” Sunset smiled and led the way back to the mirror. “So where is Spike, anyway?”

“We planned on him coming at first,” Twilight explained, “but no one really understands what happened that made him sapient. We’re concerned he could have some sort of reaction to being here. Twi said she was going to look into it though, and that we could plan another trip for him later.”

“Probably best to not take any chances,” AJ agreed. “So does Moon Dancer know ya have a talking dog?”

“Yes. It was a bit of a surprise to her, but there wasn’t really any way around it without forcing Spike to be quiet all the time. I already feel bad enough keeping him like a pet when he’s clearly intelligent enough to be treated as an equal.”

“That must get pretty strange. I can’t imagine what I’d do if Winona started talking.”

“Actually, I kind of like having him around, though.” Twilight smiled to herself. “It’s nice having someone to talk to who you know will never judge you. And keeping Moon Dancer from him wasn’t really an option, since when we first started dating I couldn’t very well explain, ‘Hey, we can’t let my dog know I’m a lesbian.’”

“Moon Dancer?” Twi asked. Twilight stopped in her tracks and stared ahead, horrified to find they had walked right into the group without her realizing. Twi just smiled reassuringly. “Well, if she’s anything like the Moon Dancer I know, then she’s an amazing person. You two should be very happy together.”

Twilight continued staring blankly ahead. AJ guided her to a seat. “If you’re tryin’ to keep somethin’ a secret, ya probably shouldn’t talk about it while walkin’ towards a group.”

Since Twi had moved to the chair on Fluttershy’s right, Sunset started walking towards the chair on her left. Before she could reach it, however, Fluttershy switched chairs, leaving an empty one in between her and Twi. Sunset stared quizzically, causing Fluttershy to laugh.

Twilight wrapped her hoof around Sunset once she sat down and smiled. “It’s your birthday, you should be the center of attention.”

Fluttershy put a foreleg around her and rested her head on Sunset’s shoulder. “And we love you.”

“You what?” Sunset stared at her in disbelief.

“I… well, uhm…” Fluttershy nuzzled her head against Sunset, hiding her face from view. She mumbled something that sounded an awful lot like, “I love you.”

Wearing a goofy grin, Sunset lifted Fluttershy’s head up. “I love you too.” She leaned in and kissed Fluttershy, and heard the sound of applause.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Pinkie Pie stood next to the mirror, wearing an all black robe and grinning broadly. While Rarity walked through and tripped on her own robe, falling to the ground, Pinkie hopped over to the lovers as if she had been on hooves her entire life. “Come here, you three!”

While Pinkie managed to stand on her hindlegs and hug them with only minimal awkwardness, Sunset watched AJ help Rarity up. “It’s nice to see you too, Pinkie. How long were you standing there, exactly?”

“I came through just in time to hear Fluttershy mumble something about olive juice, then you came in like the sly devil you are.”

Fluttershy was hiding away in Sunset’s mane, and even Twi looked embarrassed. Sunset just leaned back and put her forelegs around both her marefriends. “Yeah, you know me, professional heart thief.”

“Really?” Twi asked, grinning. “So, tell me, Sunset… what other hearts have you stolen recently?”

Sunset hesitated a moment. It wasn’t that she couldn’t think of a reply, she was just acutely aware that saying the wrong thing here would only cause problems. She smiled as she picked her retort. “It’s not about the quantity, Twi, it’s about the quality. And it seems I’ve captured the two best hearts I could ever hope for.”

Twi chuckled. “And you say I’m the cheesy one.” She stood up and motioned for Sunset to follow. “We should probably go help our friends get accustomed to their new bodies.”

They walked over to AJ and Rarity, who was still looking unsteady on her hooves.

“Rarity, I can’t believe you came,” Sunset said. She opted to skip holding out a foreleg as an invitation for a hug, since Rarity wouldn’t be too confident in her body, and instead just walked over and hugged her without warning.

Rarity leaned her head into the hug, but made no attempt to move her legs. “Of course, wouldn’t miss it, darling.” She looked around the room, focusing mainly on the ponies. “Well this is certainly not an experience I’ll be forgetting anytime soon. Uhm, perhaps I could sit down somewhere?”

“Oh, of course, right over here.” Sunset and AJ helped Rarity into an armchair, which she attempted to sit in like a human.

“Uh, Rare? You’re a horse now.” AJ took the seat next to her, demonstrating how to sit properly.

Rarity mimicked her, before giving her a look of derision. “Applejack, please. We are ponies, not horses.” She turned to Sunset. “Er, that is correct, is it not?”

“Ooh…” AJ frowned. “I’m sorry, was that racist?”

Sunset chuckled. “Not really, just incorrect. But you’re right, Rarity. We’re ponies. And specifically, you’re a unicorn, which means you can use magic.”

Rarity looked up from her hoof, which she had been examining. “Well, that certainly does sound interesting.”

Sunset grinned and lit up her horn in demonstration. She levitated some of the chairs closer together, causing a small ‘Eep!’ from Fluttershy, who was still in one of them. Sunset took the seat next to her again, with Twi once again taking the one on her other side. Twilight took a chair next to Rarity, while Pinkie sat next to AJ.

Rarity stared in awe at the chairs that assembled around them. “You mean I can do that?”

“Well, probably not quite that,” Sunset said. “But Twilight’s been levitating books, and she’s really –”

Rarity screamed. Sunset followed her gaze to see Spike hanging off the back of Twi’s chair and looking very taken aback. Rarity looked around at everyone else, and seemed somewhat comforted when she realized that no one else was panicking.

“Uh… hi, Rarity,” Spike said nervously.

Rarity blinked a few times, then examined him closer. “Spike?”

Being remembered caused Spike to smile. “That’s right!”

Collecting herself, Rarity returned to a regular sitting position. “I’m terribly sorry, I was just expecting you to be a pony.”

“Silly Rarity,” Pinkie said, “Spike told us he was a dragon when we first met him!”

“Oh.” Rarity seemed to be trying to remember, before just shaking her head and smiling. “So sorry, it’s just that it’s been years, and so much has happened.”

“Aww, don’t worry about it,” Spike said. He scampered into an empty chair.

“About your magic,” Twilight said, smiling excitedly at the chance to explain what she’d learned, “the first thing you need to know is that –”

“Uh, Twilight? Maybe we ought to start by lettin’ ‘em get dressed first.”

“Why? They’re not.” Pinkie gestured to Twi, Fluttershy, and Spike.

“I’m afraid I have to agree with Applejack,” Rarity said. “While I am certainly grateful you’ve provided us with these robes, I think I would feel quite a bit better in some real clothes.”

Pinkie shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

“Come now, Miss Pie,” Rarity said, “I think we should both suit ourselves. It’s only proper after all.”

“That doesn’t matter here, silly,” Pinkie said, but she followed willingly.

Sunset and AJ led Rarity and Pinkie towards the mirror, where Sunset had a changing curtain set up for when she went through the mirror. “At least you had robes,” she mused. “My first moments back in Equestria were spent falling on my ass because my clothes were too big.”

“Yes, it seems Twilight learned from that experience, thankfully,” Rarity said as Sunset closed the curtain around them. “She brought these robes through the mirror for us before we left, so we’d remain covered once we arrived.” She attempted to disrobe, which seemed to be giving her some difficulty.

“Want some help?” Sunset asked.

Rarity sighed. “Please.”

“One thing I don’t get,” AJ said as she moved to help Sunset, “whenever Twi goes back through the mirror, she never bothers with these robes. Isn’t the mirror supposed to take care of that?”

“We’re not entirely sure why, but the mirror does seem to know humans always wear clothes. You could walk through it naked, and as soon as you’re a human you’ll be wearing clothes again. But it only erases clothes it makes, like Twi’s outfit. Because it didn’t make any of your clothes, they’ll travel through the mirror with you.”

“Well that is certainly convenient if you’re comfortable with being a naked pony,” Rarity said. Although she seemed to find Sunset and AJ’s help embarrassing, Pinkie certainly didn’t. By the time they had gotten Rarity uncovered, she was already playing with her tail.

“Having fun?” Sunset asked, smirking.

Pinkie grinned. “I have balloons on my butt!” She turned to show off her cutie mark, which Rarity turned away from. AJ seemed at least mildly interested, and Sunset just rolled her eyes. “This is the best place ever!”

Sunset turned back in time to see Rarity examining her own flank. She blushed and turned ahead when she realized she was seen. “I was curious!”

AJ and Sunset laughed while helping Rarity into her dress. “You know, the other Rarity made these dresses,” Sunset said.

“Well, it is no wonder they look so fabulous,” Rarity said, striking a pose now that she was decent. “But what are we going to do when the others arrive? It’s already confusing enough to have two Twilights around.”

Sunset shrugged. “Twilight’s mom is named Twilight also, so technically there’s three.”

“Which doesn’t make things any less confusing,” Rarity said.

“Yeah, that’s why we’ve been calling the pony Twi and the human Twilight,” Sunset explained. “AJ’s gonna be AJ while the pony’s Applejack. I dunno about you and Pinkie.”

“Easy enough, you can be Rare,” AJ suggested.

“That’s fine with me,” Rare said, “I would certainly hate to come into her home and claim her name. That just leaves Pinkie.”

Sunset tapped her chin. “Pinkie can be –”

“Raúl!” Pinkie said.

The others all exchanged looks.

“Pinkie, I don’t think Raúl is quite what we’re looking for,” Rare said. “Also, I think you should put some clothes on!”

“Aww, come on,” Pinkie said.

“We could say Pinks,” AJ offered. “That’s what Rainbow called ya sometimes, anyway.”

“How about we just go with Pinkamena,” Rare said. “It is such a nice name, after all.”

“I guess, but I still like Raúl better.”

While AJ distracted her by talking about the name, Sunset snuck up behind her with the dress. When Pinkamena least suspected it, Sunset pulled it over her head. Thankfully, she didn’t try to resist, and just smiled innocently once she was clothed.

“Well then, now that that’s settled, let’s return to the others,” Rare said.

They walked out from the curtain, Sunset leading the way.

“So when are the others arriving?” AJ asked.

“I don’t know,” Sunset answered. “I had no idea anypony was coming today.”

AJ snickered. “Anypony?”

Sunset shrugged. “You get used to it.”

They had their answer before long, as they walked back to the group to find Sunset’s Ponyville friends had already arrived. Rarity, Applejack, and Pinkie all locked eyes with their doubles, while Rainbow looked around expectantly.

Rare took a step closer to Sunset and dropped her voice to a whisper. “Sunset, I’m naked. Why am I naked?”

Rarity just smiled awkwardly at her double while Sunset chuckled. “Well, you’re not naked, she is. But really that’s just how ponies are. It’s another thing you get used to.”

Unsurprisingly it was Pinkie who hopped over first. “Hello everypony, my name’s Pinkie Pie!”

Pinkamena gasped. “But my name’s Pinkie Pie!”

The two Pinkies glared at each other for a moment. Pinkamena broke eye contact first, shifting to a wide smile. “But while I’m here I guess I’m Pinkamena. It’s nice to meet you Pinkie!” She held open her forelegs, and the two Pinkies hugged as if they were lifelong friends.

“Somthin’ ‘bout seein’ two Pinkie Pies seems a mite too familiar, if ya ask me,” Applejack said. “Howdy, y’all, I s’pose to avoid confusion ya can just call me AJ.”

Sunset chuckled. “Actually we already agreed to call her AJ.”

AJ tipped her hat as Sunset gestured to her. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance. Am I the only one thinkin’ this is the strangest thing to ever happen’ to me?”

“No, I reckon I’d have to agree with ya on that,” Applejack said.

“Ooh! Are we giving out nicknames?” Pinkie asked. “Can I be Pierre?”

“Hey, that’s a good one,” Pinkamena said.

“I think Pinkie will do just fine,” Sunset said.

Pinkie cast her eyes down. “Aww, that’s no fun.”

“They wouldn’t let me pick my own name either,” Pinkamena lamented.

It seemed Rarity finally shook off the feeling of awkwardness. That, or she just didn’t want Rainbow to beat her to making a polite introduction. “Well I daresay having two Pinkies around is sure to liven things up, for better or worse.”

“That’s one way of puttin’ it,” Applejack said.

Rare still seemed put off be encountering her double, staring silently. AJ nudged her and she shook her head and smiled. “Forgive me, this is just a bit… strange.”

Rarity smiled. “Think nothing of it, darling. I think it’s a bit much for all of us.” She turned to the Pinkies, who were mimicking each other perfectly. “Well, most of us, in any event.”

Regarding her double again, Rare bit her lip. “Forgive me if this is an inappropriate question, but, well… I’m rather curious as to why you would choose to go au natural, so to speak.”

AJ shook her head. “Are you still on that?”

Rarity chuckled. “Yes, Twilight and Sunset told me you would find that part of our custom strange.”

“Oh no, darling! You misunderstand. I would never dream of questioning your culture. But I simply can’t imagine anypony with such a talent for fashion wouldn’t want to use every chance she could to look her absolute best. Did I say that right? Anypony?”

Rarity looked herself over and blushed slightly. “Why, yes, anypony is the correct phrase. And I suppose I could have put something together. It is a special day, after all.”

Rare smiled and nodded. “Never fear, I’m sure I could put something together, if somepony will point me in the direction of some materials I may use.”

“That won’t be necessary, darling,” Rarity said. “I think I’ll just go throw something on and be back before you know it.”

“Oh, but I insist!” Rare smiled fondly at the dress she was wearing. “You were so thoughtful to make us these lovely dresses, I simply must return the favor somehow.”

“Nonsense, you’re our guests. I couldn’t possibly allow you to lift a hoof in taking care of me.”

“I assure you that it’s no trouble at all, dear. In fact, I’d love to –”

“Okay, enough of this!” Sunset turned to the Raritys and marched them off towards the door. “You two are both going to go make a dress, and it’s going to be fucking beautiful.”

Rarity gave her a nonplussed look. “Sunset, I know it’s your birthday and all, but there’s no need to be pushy.”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” Rare said, giggling. She threw a hoof around Sunset’s shoulders. “Trust me, you’d be surprised how much you miss everyone. And of course I knew I was going to miss all my friends when I moved away, but still, it surprised me exactly how much.”

Sunset smiled and returned the hug. “Yeah, I definitely see what you mean these days. I’ve missed you, too, and everybody else.”

“Oh, Sunset…” Rare said, beginning to blink excessively. “Don’t you start crying, because if you start crying then I will.”

“I, uh… I wasn’t,” Sunset said. She smiled and pulled away enough to show that her face was completely tear free.

“Ah yes, always one to put on the brave face,” Rare said, trying to dab at her eyes without ruining her makeup.

Although she really just wasn’t nearly as emotional as Rare was, Sunset smiled to herself and decided to play along. “Well, it would be kinda embarrassing, with everypony here to see me. Plus I have a little brother now, so I gotta look cool for him, right?”

Rare chuckled and let go of Sunset. She managed to compose herself before doing too much damage, and Sunset was sure that Rarity would be happy to help her redo her makeup if needed. “Oh yes, naturally we wouldn’t want to damage your reputation.”

Sunset saw the two Raritys to the door, reminded them that there were supplies in the castle and that leaving was not an option, then turned back to the others. The groups had all converged, with everyone gathered around where Sunset had moved the chairs earlier. She returned in time to hear Rainbow ask the question she knew was coming.

“Aren’t we missing a couple ponies?”

Sunset took a deep breath as she returned to her seat between Twi and Fluttershy. She hadn’t ever fully explained why she moved back to Equestria. “Fluttershy and Rainbow won’t be coming. We… don’t exactly get along anymore.”

Rainbow just grinned. “I knew it! I’m more awesome than any other Rainbow Dash could ever be.”

Sunset chuckled. “Yeah, that’s for sure.”

“Aww, I’m sure they would have come if they could,” Pinkamena said innocently, as if she didn’t know about Sunset’s problematic history with the two of them.

Sunset shrugged. “Maybe.” Really, she doubted that very much, but there was no reason to get into all that. Not when Pinkamena, AJ, and Twilight were still friends with them, anyway.

“So, Pinkie,” Twi said, completely failing at subtly changing the subject, “how do you like being a pony?”

“I love being a pony!” Pinkie exclaimed. “In fact, I can’t imagine not being a pony.”

Twi facehoofed. “I meant the other Pinkie.”

“Silly Twi,” Pinkie began –

“– my name’s Pinkamena,” Pinkamena finished.

“Okay, can you never do that again?” Sunset shook her head. “That was just… creepy.”

Pinkie tilted her head “Do –”

“– what?” Pinkamena mirrored her perfectly.

Twi just chuckled. “Imagine being in a room full of them. Anyway, Pinkamena then, how do you like being a pony?”

“It’s fantastiriffic! I can’t remember the last time something this exciting happened!”

“That’s certainly nice to hear,” Twi said. “We were worried that it would be a difficult adjustment. It certainly wasn’t easy for me when I first went through the mirror.”

Pinkamena waved a hoof dismissively. “Aww, that’s just because humans are boring. Being a pony is way more cool.”

“I don’t know,” Pinkie said. “I’ve always wanted to try being a human sometime, but Twi said it’ll cause problems if there’s two of me running around.”

Both Pinkies turned to each other and grinned. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Twi made an X with her hooves. “No! There’s no way you two are switching places!”

They both turned to her. “I was thinking about cake,” Pinkamena said.

“Me too,” Pinkie said. “But I like your idea way better, Twi!”

Sunset placed a hoof on Twi’s shoulder, cutting her off before she could launch into a full lecture. “Maybe someday we can arrange a trip to the human world, but we’ll have to plan it out carefully. The portal opens up into a school courtyard, so there’s always a danger of being seen, and you’d be surprised how hard it would be to fake it if someone recognized you. And trust me, that is not a world where you’d want to explain that you came from an alternate dimension using a magic mirror.”

“I don’t think there is a world where you’d want to explain that,” AJ countered.

“Actually, we’ve been to a few other worlds,” Twi explained, “and in one of them everything good and evil were switched around. Explaining ourselves there was the only thing that got us freed from a dungeon.”

“Really now,” Twilight Velvet said, causing Twi to jerk her head up suddenly. “And when were you going to tell your mother about this adventure?”

Twi smiled sheepishly as she tried to come up with an excuse. “Well, uh, you see –”

“It was awesome!” Spike cut in. “So, we met with the good King Sombra, and…”

Although she hadn’t heard this particular story before, Sunset was positive it involved much more danger than Spike’s version included. She could actually see the relief on Twi’s and Fluttershy’s faces as he spoke. She’d have to get the real story later, but in the meantime, Sunset just wondered whether it was appropriate to feel proud of Spike’s ability to blur the truth. Either way, she couldn’t deny she was definitely proud.

By the time he was finishing up the story, the Raritys were returning.

“Hello, Rarity. Your new dress is lovely,” Fluttershy said as they walked up.

“Why thank you, darling,” Rarity said, posing for everypony. “Although I certainly can’t take the credit for this one.”

“Nonsense, I was practically useless without any knowledge of the pony figure,” Rare said, taking a seat next to AJ.

“Oh, but your ideas were so wonderfully original, I simply must use them in my fall line,” Rarity said as she sat down next to Applejack.

Rare laughed daintily. “Just something I picked up while studying abroad. I have to say I was thinking the same thing though, seeing your work has inspired me to try something new with my own once I return home.”

“Well, it certainly is mighty pretty,” Applejack said, smiling at Rarity, who smiled back.

Fluttershy nodded to Spike, who ran off. “Now that everypony is together, I was hoping we could take some pictures.”

Night Light grinned. “I think that sounds like a great idea.”

Spike returned with the camera, and everypony stood up. Fluttershy and Night Light guided everypony to the perfect spot to get the best out of a group shot. Sunset stood in the middle and propped herself up with one foreleg on Twi and the other on Fluttershy. Spike stood on Twilight’s other side, in front of his mom. Sunset’s CHS friends all kneeled in front, while her Ponyville friends all took places around the others. Night Light set the timer on the camera, then ran to his place beside his wife.

“Everypony say eggplant!” Pinkie said.

“Eggplant!” Pinkamena repeated. Everypony else just turned to look at the two of them quizzically, and the first picture went off while they did. After laughing and resetting the timer, the second picture came out much better.

They kept taking pictures in different configurations. One of just the three lovers; another with them, Twi’s parents, and Spike; then only the Ponyville friends; the CHS friends; Sunset by herself; and finally all the doubles, both as another group shot and in pairs.

Fluttershy smiled as she finished the roll. “Do you think we’ll be able to have them developed by tonight?”

“Probably, if we hurry,” Twi said.

“Hold up a sec,” AJ said, “didn’t ya say it could cause a panic if anybody saw all of us? Won’t it look a mite suspicious to whoever’s developing the pictures when they see ‘em?”

“It’s fine, we planned on taking some pictures, so I talked with the photo specialist,” Twi said. She frowned. “Although I didn’t count on getting them done today. I hope he’s not too busy.”

“You or Sunset could always just bring them through the mirror tomorrow,” Fluttershy said.

“How about I go into town and see if he’s available,” Twilight Velvet said. “No harm in checking, and meanwhile you all can get caught up.”

“I think I’ll work on getting some lunch ready,” Night Light said. “Between thirteen ponies and a dragon, I suspect we’ll go through quite a bit. Could use some extra hooves – or claws.”

He winked at Spike, who jumped up. “I’ll help!”

Night Light smiled. “I knew I could count on you.”

“Oh, I’ll help too,” Fluttershy offered.

Applejack stepped forward. “I reckon ya could use all the help ya can get, so count me in.”

“I’ll make dessert!” both Pinkies said at the same time. “No, I will! Stop copying me!”

Night Light laughed. “Of course, you can all help. The more the merrier!”

AJ smiled apologetically. “I’d be happy to help, but I don’t hardly know how to do anything with these hooves, let alone trust myself with preparin’ food for everyone.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Night Light said. “You’re our guest, after all. Just sit back and relax, I think we’ll manage just fine.”

AJ nodded. “I’m lookin’ forward to it already. I’m so hungry I could eat a –”

She stopped and looked around the room. Sunset burst into laughter, while Fluttershy tilted her head to the side. “Eat a what?” she asked innocently.

AJ chuckled nervously. “Why, uh, eat a… a whole lot!”

Sunset laughed harder. Twilight, Pinkamena, and Rare were all clearly amused, but everyone else just looked confused.

Apparently chalking it up as a human eccentricity, half the group filed off to their various tasks, while the remaining half returned to their chairs. Sunset moved to join them, but was stopped by AJ.

“So, uh, how about a tour of the castle?”

It was easy enough to read the look on her face. Sunset glanced back at the others to make sure nopony was expecting her. While they had left the seat next to Twi open for her, they were also already talking amongst themselves. Sunset and AJ weren’t likely to get a better chance to talk privately.

Sunset grinned as they walked out of the library. “So over there we have some empty rooms, and down that hall are some empty rooms. Third floor’s nothing but empty rooms.”

“Real interestin’ place you’re livin’ in these days,” AJ said. She followed Sunset as she led them around the castle.

“Yeah, usually princesses have larger households. Twi said she hated it at first, when it was just her and Spike. Now that me, Fluttershy, and her parents all live here it’s not so bad.”

Although she knew the tour was just an excuse, Sunset still took the time to show AJ around. They stopped by the map room, popped into the kitchen to say hi – and get shooed out by Fluttershy before Sunset could find out what her birthday dinner was going to be – and eventually wound up in the basement.

“Jesus, that’s one hell of a radio,” AJ said.

The device did take up most of the basement. Sunset just grinned and stood next to it proudly. “Most of it isn’t even the radio itself, it’s the magic filtration system that makes it all possible. We’re working on reducing the size, but it’s a fully functional one-way radio, with quite an impressive range, if I do say so myself.”

“And y’all built that in your spare time?” AJ asked as she examined it closer.

“Careful AJ, you almost sound impressed.”

AJ smirked and nudged Sunset playfully. “Well, why not. I hardly see ya anymore, might as well admit that ya can do somethin’ right once in a while.”

“Once in a while,” Sunset agreed.

They stood side by side without speaking for a while, the room filled with no sound other than the sound of the record, playing its incidental background music. As happy as she was to see all her friends, not to mention flattered that Twilight and Rare had travelled so far, Sunset really missed two people more than any others. Every day, it was getting easier to not think about one of them.

“So,” the other one said after a while, “this is home, then?”

“Yeah,” Sunset said, her face in a smile she didn’t really feel, “home sweet home.”

“Well, I’m happy for ya. Ya always were kinda a fish out of water.”

Sunset shrugged. “Kinda still think I am, to be honest. I was born a pony, and obviously I am one again, but… I don’t really feel like a pony anymore. But I also don’t feel like a human. It’s… kinda hard to feel like I fit in anywhere.”

AJ wrapped a hoof around Sunset and smiled. “Now that’s just nonsense. So ya ain’t ever really been a human, and maybe ya ain’t really a pony anymore either. But so what? I reckon you fit in just fine here, and I know I can say the same thing about Sweet Apple Acres, if ya ever did change your mind.”

Sunset laughed. “So is this leading into a conversation where you try to convince me to move back?”

“Something like that,” AJ said. Sunset hadn’t realized how much she missed the way AJ could cut to the heart of a conversation, no matter how sensitive the subject. “I told ya before ya left that I won’t try and change your mind, and I’m stickin’ to that. But I still want to make sure ya know it’s an option. You’re family, and family’s always welcome on the farm, no questions asked.”

“Thank you, AJ,” Sunset said. “I’ll keep it in mind. But really, things are going so well here. Sure, some ponies are idiots, but I’m really happy with Twilight and Fluttershy. I love them.”

“I know ya do, anyone can see that.” AJ let go of Sunset and adjusted her hat. “But, well… Are ya absolutely sure this is what you want? ‘Cause, the thing is… Fluttershy still asks about you, ya know.”

Sunset’s breath caught in her throat. She wasn’t sure why that surprised her. She still asked about Fluttershy all the time, after all. She forced herself to breathe, and found it didn’t help her calm down at all. “Okay? That doesn’t mean anything. I mean, Twilight came from across the country, Rarity flew across a fucking ocean to get here! Be honest with me, could she really not make it?”

AJ hesitated a moment before answering. When she did, she frowned and locked eyes with Sunset. “She said she couldn’t, but everyone knows it’s an excuse. Rainbow’s band ain’t even tourin’ right now, and they’ve been pretty successful so the plane ticket wouldn’t’ve been a problem. If it was, Rarity would’ve bought it for her, or me and the girls would’ve all chipped in.”

Sunset sat down and folded her forelegs. “Thought so.”

AJ huffed. “Don’t be childish! Have ya even tried to see things from her point of view? Why on Earth would she possibly want to avoid comin’ to see you? Think it might have somethin’ to do with not wantin’ to upset your new life? Or maybe the thought of visiting you in the castle owned by your new girlfriends is just a bit much for her. One of whom, I might add, is the spittin’ image of her in pony form.”

“They’re not the same!” Sunset insisted. “I know they have a lot of similarities, but trust me, there’s a lot different about them too. I didn’t just replace one Fluttershy with the other.”

“I know ya didn’t,” AJ said. “But we also know that there must be another Sunset floatin’ around somewhere. So tell me, and be honest here: Are you really gonna say that you wouldn’t be even a little bit upset if ya found out that Fluttershy was dating your exact double?”

Sunset opened her mouth to say that of course she wouldn’t care, Fluttershy could date whoever she wanted, and she knew better than anyone that the other Sunset would be an entirely different person. Instead, she scowled and turned away. “It doesn’t matter. She made it pretty clear that we were done, and I’m happy here. If she wants to distance herself, that’s her business.”

“What if it did matter though?”

Sunset turned to face AJ, and didn’t like what she saw in her expression. “What do you mean?”

AJ’s voice was calm, far too calm for the question she asked. “What if I told ya she realized that she made a mistake, and she wants to work things out?”

“Don’t.” It was all Sunset could manage to say, and she wasn’t entirely sure how she meant it. Neither spoke for a while, until eventually Sunset turned towards the door. “We should head back, the others are probably wondering where we got to.”

“Yeah, I reckon we should.” AJ followed Sunset out, and neither spoke on the way back.

They returned to find the group discussing the upcoming wedding. As she sat down, Sunset took hold of Twi’s hoof, and they smiled at each other.

“So Sunset, do pony wedding traditions differ much from human ones?” Twilight asked.

“I don’t really think so, but I’ve never actually been to a wedding in either world.”

AJ smirked. “So are you gonna throw the bachelorette parties, or does dating the brides-to-be disqualify you?”

“The fact that neither of us would want to go to the type of bachelorette party she’d throw disqualifies her,” Twi said, grinning. “Rarity and Pinkie are throwing them.”

“Not that we haven’t found Sunset’s input exceptionally helpful,” Rarity added.

AJ looked like she was already about to burst into laughter. “Okay, I gotta know, what did ya have planned? Was it strippers?”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Yes, AJ. In a world full of nudists, I decided to hire strippers for my marefriends’ bachelorette parties.”

“That’s not too far off, actually.” Twilight gave Sunset an unamused look, making it clear she still wasn’t happy about Sunset’s idea. Sunset just smiled sheepishly. “While stripping might not be as big here, there are erotic dancers.”

“Come on, Twi,” Sunset said, grinning. “They were gonna be stallions, you and Fluttershy are gay, it would be funny!”

“It would be awkward at best,” Twi countered.

“I’m going to have to agree with Twi on this one,” Rare said. “Sorry, Sunset, but it just hardly seems like that would be appropriate.”

“That’s not even the best part though,” Sunset said. She ignored the look from Twi. “Remember how Twi had that huge crush on Flash Sentry the first couple times she came through the mirror?”

At that, AJ did burst into laughter. “Oh, please tell me the pony Flash is a stripper! Or erotic dancer, or whatever, I just have to tease him about it next time I see him!”

“No such luck,” Sunset said. “He actually works under Twi’s brother as a member of the Crystal Guard. So it was a long shot, but I figured, ‘what the hell?’ I mean, there’s gotta be tons of stallions who would jump at the chance to put on a sexy show for a princess, right?”

“Not funny,” Twi insisted, but Sunset could tell she wasn’t really upset.

“You know, I never understood that,” Twilight said. “Don’t get me wrong, Flash is a nice guy and all, but it seemed… odd.”

“Well, I was in denial about being a lesbian at the time,” Twi said. “That sort of thing happened a few times before I fully came to terms with my orientation. It wasn’t even a real crush, more so that I would tell myself I should be attracted to certain things, and then through a combination of scientific reasoning and denial I would wind up with some kind of attraction to the idea of someone.”

“Oh, that’s not what I meant. I’ve done that before too, when I was still, uhm, figuring things out.” Twilight blushed, and Rare patted her on the back. She smiled as she continued. “But, well, you didn’t have any experience with humans, and it’s not like you were there long enough for your orientation to even matter, socially speaking. It always surprised me that you found yourself attracted to one at all.”

Twi smiled. “Oh, that. It seems to be something the mirror does, and I noticed it both before and after realizing that I’m a lesbian. When you go through the mirror, it seems to sort of adjust your perception, so the world doesn’t seem so alien to you. After the initial confusion, of course.”

Twilight, Rare, and AJ all looked at each other uncertainly. “Well, that ‘initial confusion’ stage seems to last a while then,” Twilight said. “I definitely can’t see myself being attracted to a pony.”

Twi’s smile faltered, but she didn’t let it slip completely. “Well, you also have a girlfriend, so maybe that’s a factor. Plus the only stallion who’s been around is my dad – and I certainly hope none of you are attracted to him – so that would explain AJ and Rare.”

Sunset arched an eyebrow. “Twi, it took me ages to not think humans just looked weird as hell. I was a human for like six or seven years before I was accustomed enough to them to actually be attracted to one.”

“Really?” Twi asked, frowning. She tapped her chin. “I wonder why it worked differently for me, then…”

Sunset shrugged. “So you have some sort of human fetish. It’s not really a big deal.”

“I do not have a human fetish!” Twi pulled her hoof away from Sunset’s and folded her forelegs, a sign that told Sunset that now she was actually upset.

Since Twi turned away from her, Sunset wrapped her forelegs around her from behind, snuggling close. “Hey, I was joking. Come on, Twi, you know I didn’t mean it.”

Twi didn’t answer.

“Look, I was like five when I came out of the mirror,” Sunset reminded her. She didn’t actually believe that was the reason, but she knew the scientific deflection would be best to ease Twi’s mind. “You know what that did to my biology? Exactly what it sounds like it would. I was prepubescent, so of course I wasn’t attracted to anyone until middle school.”

Twi sighed and turned so her back wasn’t to Sunset anymore. She didn’t unfold her forelegs, but she also didn’t make any move to get Sunset to stop clinging to her, which she took as a good sign. Slowly as they turned to talking about other things, Twi continued to relax again, and soon enough she seemed to put the situation behind her.

After a while, both Pinkies returned. When they came in, Twi chuckled, while Rare, AJ, and Sunset all stared open-mouthed. “Everypony come down for lunch!” they said together.

Sunset shook her head to clear out her confusion. “I’m deeply upset at one of you for being naked!”

“Which one?” they asked together. Neither of them were wearing clothes, and they shared the same innocent smile.

Unsure of how to respond, Sunset just glared. “When in Rome, I guess,” AJ muttered. Rare held her hooves over her eyes.

“What’s it matter?” Rainbow asked. “Pinkie hasn’t been wearing clothes this whole time, and nopony said anything about her.”

“I guess it doesn’t really,” Twilight said with a shrug.

AJ and Sunset exchanged glances. “Is it even worth the effort?” AJ asked.

“I guess not,” Sunset said.

Everyone got up and walked over towards the Pinkies. Once everypony gathered by the door, the Pinkies turned to lead the way out. Rare quickly scurried in front of them. “Pinkamena Diane Pie, don’t you even think of pointing your tail end at me!”


Lunch proved an interesting and chaotic affair, which was also true for the rest of the day. With so many ponies, they constantly split off into smaller groups before regrouping, but Sunset still managed to spend plenty of time with everypony. The only one who was consistently at her side was AJ.

Twilight Velvet, who was already in the dining room when they entered it, happily announced that their pictures would be ready in time. Night Light, Spike, and Twilight Velvet took care of the dishes, turning away Fluttershy and Applejack’s offer to help. With dinner still to come, Night Light remained in the kitchen most of the day, but occasionally he found time to come out and talk with their guests. He was particularly interested in talking to Twilight about their human doubles. Twilight Velvet, on the other hoof, muttered about reading too many bad science fiction novels and left them, opting to talk with Sunset and Fluttershy instead.

They gave up trying to identify the two Pinkies, who insisted on doing everything together. Including flirt with Rainbow Dash, which she seemed to have grown completely immune to.

At some point, Rarity made the trip back to the Carousel Boutique to get her notebook, then she and Rare spent a long time huddled together exchanging tips. Rare also filled up a notebook to take back with her, and left numerous suggestions to help Rarity with her own creations.

The only one who didn’t spend most of her time with her double was Applejack. Sunset suspected both of them were a little weirded out by each other. They remained friendly enough, but Applejack spent most of the day helping Night Light in the kitchen, using the excuse that she was freeing Fluttershy so she could spend some time with her marefriend on her birthday.

Although Rare was content with a basic grasp on magic, Twilight’s thirst for more knowledge was as inexhaustible as Sunset knew it would be. She tried to convince Twi and Sunset to teach her how to teleport, but they both refused. Last thing they needed was for her to splice a limb off, or teleport into a solid object. Sunset was worried she’d be upset at their refusal, but she seemed content with learning what she could.

Spike excitedly ran between everyone, holding conversations here and there. He loved explaining what life in Equestria was like to anyone who would listen, which usually meant Twilight. She soaked up any information he could give her, even if most of it was about the fairly mundane things that were interesting to a twelve-year-old.

All in all, Sunset couldn’t have asked for a better birthday. And with it winding down to an end, and everypony gathered together since dinner was out of the way, there was only one thing left to do. “Alright, everyone follow me,” Sunset said.

The others stood up, but all looked to each other for some clue as to where they were going. Rather than explain, Sunset just led the way to the west balcony.

Once they arrived, Twi looked around in confusion. “Is something supposed to be here?”

“Soon enough,” Sunset said. She took a seat near the edge and motioned for Twi and Fluttershy to join her. “Whose birthday is it, after all?”

As they took their places beside her, Fluttershy tilted her head. “Yours?”

“Yup, it’s Sunset’s birthday.” Sunset smirked and nodded toward the sun. “So we’re going to watch the sun set.”

Twi facehoofed, while Fluttershy giggled. “What? I think it’s a good idea.”

“Huh? Oh, no, it is,” Twi said. “I just… realized something. I’ll tell you in a bit.”

Although she was curious, Sunset shrugged Twi’s reaction off. It was easy enough to not worry about; she was surrounded by her friends and had a fantastic view.

They watched together as the sun slowly made its way down the horizon, and the sky burned gently with red and yellow. As they watched, Twi and Fluttershy each wrapped a wing around her, and Sunset smiled at the warmth from her lovers beside her, and from the last rays of sunlight.

“Ya know,” AJ said, once it was all over, “I reckon that’s got to be one of the most beautiful sunsets I can recall.”

“Probably because the lack of light pollution,” Twilight pointed out.

“Actually, there’s more to it than that,” Twi said. She turned to Sunset and smiled. “When I was Princess Celestia’s pupil, she’d occasionally ask me to watch the sun rise or set with her. I learned pretty early on that it changed day to day, depending on her mood.”

Sunset smiled at the familiar memory. “Yeah, sometimes it was easier to tell how she felt by watching the sun then by watching her.”

Twi nodded. “Well, I kind of noticed something after a while. The Summer Sun Celebration is supposed to be the biggest solar event of the year, and it always has the most impressive sunrise. But without fail, it would always be another month before the best sunset of the year. I asked her about it once, why it always seemed that one sunset every year was special. All she ever said was that it was a very special day.”

Sunset’s mouth worked at responding, but no words came. Instead she just leaned her head against Twi’s shoulder while holding her marefriends close to her, and staring at where the sun had been moments before.

“That is the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard!” They turned to see Rare wiping away tears.

Sunset laughed, and AJ grabbed her in a hug from behind. “Well, I guess someone out there’s gotta care about you.” She pulled Sunset against her while mussing her mane, discreetly allowing Sunset to wipe away a few tears of her own while she pushed AJ off her.

“Now only if we could find someone for you,” Sunset said, grinning.

Laughing, they made their way back inside. Although the day had been fun, it was time to bring it to a close. First their Ponyville friends said their goodbyes, with Pinkie getting a few suspicious looks from Twi and Sunset, who were still worried she and Pinkamena would try and switch places. However, as she hopped off side by side with Rainbow, it was apparent that she would never leave her friends just to satisfy her curiosity at experiencing another world.

Night Light and Twilight Velvet left them to say their goodbyes in private, taking Spike with them. He protested, but caved in when Twi also told him it was time for him to get ready for bed. After saying their goodbyes to him, all of Sunset’s CHS friends followed her, Twi, and Fluttershy into the library.

“Everyone who’s still clothed, time to get changed,” Sunset announced. Now that everypony was a bit more accustomed to their new bodies, they were able to change privately one at a time. Twilight went first.

“Thank you all for inviting us,” she said as she walked back out, covered in a robe. “And thank you for, well, accepting me.”

Sunset smirked. “Twilight, you’re in like the gayest castle ever. What did you think was possibly going to happen?”

Twilight smiled. “Yeah, I guess you have a point. Still, thank you. And, uhm, I’m sorry. I was… shortsighted when we stopped talking. I think you were right about humans and magic.”

“Eh, don’t worry about it,” Sunset said.

“But, well, just be careful. It’s true that humans shouldn’t have magic, but maybe it’s also true that ponies shouldn’t have the same technology we do. I know you won’t do anything bad with it, but…”

Sunset nodded. “I know, I’ve got it under control. Relax, we made a radio, we’re not planning on making an atomic bomb or anything.”

“I know,” Twilight said. She shook her head and smiled. “You’re right, I’m sure you know what you’re doing. Anyway, next time you’re in town call me. Even if I’m not around, it’ll be nice to talk once and awhile.”

“You got it.” Sunset hugged her, and waved as she walked back through the mirror.

Rare and AJ had both changed while Sunset was talking to Twilight. AJ took a seat beside Sunset, and it was apparent she’d be the last to go.

“It was so nice to see you again,” Rare said as she took her turn to hug Sunset.

“I still can’t believe you came,” Sunset said.

“Of course! It was the least I could do.”

Sunset arched an eyebrow. “Really? Even managing to send a card would’ve been pretty impressive. This is pretty far from the least you could do.”

“Oh, not so much about your birthday, just…” Rare bit her lip. “Well, I know how much you and Fluttershy needed support when… well, during your most trying of times. And I was halfway across the world, and –”

“Rarity,” Sunset said with a smile. “I can never repay you for everything you did. It’s okay, it’s not like we ever felt like you abandoned us or anything.”

“Sunset, I only gave the two of you material possessions, nothing truly significant.”

“Okay, but we really needed those things.” Sunset chuckled and gestured towards her other friends. “And it’s not like we were alone or anything. We had AJ and Pinkie supporting us, and Fluttershy always has Rainbow to help look out for her. Please, you did way more than anyone could have asked you to. Besides, it was nice having someone to call who would be awake when it was the middle of the night in our time zone.”

Rare smiled. “You’re too kind, Sunset. Very well, although I’ll always wish I could have been there in person, I won’t make a scene. And what Twilight said goes double for me. I shall be very angry with you if I find out you didn’t call me next time you’re on our side of the portal. No matter what time it is.”

“Sure you won’t regret that?” Sunset asked.

“Positive.” Rare took hold of her new notebook and hugged Sunset, Twi, and Fluttershy one more time before stepping through the mirror.

Sunset turned to Pinkamena, and her happy expression faded away as she realized the usually manic girl was crying. “Pinkie?”

She threw her forelegs around Sunset and sobbed into her shoulder. “I miss you so much!”

Sunset frowned and patted her on the back. “I miss you too, Pinkie.”

“Everyone keeps leaving, and it feels like one day I’ll wake up and be the only one who’s still around!”

AJ joined them in a group hug. “Aww it ain’t like that, Pinkie. I know I for one don’t plan on goin’ nowhere.”

“You can trust her on that,” Sunset said. “She’s too stubborn to ever leave town.”

Pinkamena gave a weak laugh and rubbed at her eyes. “I’m sorry, I’m supposed to be happy for you.” She tried to smile, but it didn’t turn out so well.

“No one can be happy all the time, not even you.” Sunset grinned. “And while we still can’t let you explore Equestria, there’s no reason you can’t visit us in the castle from time to time. Just ask AJ to use the journal and let us know, we’ll open up the portal for you.”

Pinkamena managed a real smile, albeit a fairly weak one, and nodded. “Thank you.”

“And I think I even have an idea for a surprise next time you come over,” Sunset said. Out of all the experiences she could have in Equestria, Sunset was pretty sure the best one would be her first time being on the receiving end of a Pinkie Pie surprise party.

Pinkamena seemed to cheer up at the promise of the surprise, and made her way to the mirror, only stopping for a moment to look back before stepping through.

Sunset turned to AJ. “If you find something to apologize for, I swear to God I’m going to hoof you in the mouth.”

AJ grinned and shrugged. “Nah, I’m just wondering how long it’s gonna take before ya regret giving Pinkie access to your home.”

“Well, what was I supposed to do? Besides, it’s not like she can sneak in or anything. The portal doesn’t work if we don’t have the mirror active.”

AJ chuckled. “Ya did the right thing. I reckon even just having the invitation will put her mind at ease.”

Without warning, AJ pulled her into a tight hug. “Don’t be such a stranger. You’re only half an hour and one dimension away, ya big jerk.”

Sunset hugged her back just as tightly. “Yeah, I guess maybe I could make some time to come visit. You know, since no one else is gonna put up with you and all that.”

They pulled apart and AJ picked up the folder with their photos in them. She walked over to the mirror and stopped to tip her hat at Twi and Fluttershy. “I’d like to congratulate y’all once again on tying the knot, and offer my condolences at bein’ stuck with that thing.”

Fluttershy giggled. “Thank you, and I think we’ll manage to turn her into a respectable pony somehow.”

AJ laughed, and with a final nod towards Sunset, stepped through the mirror.

Sunset sighed and looked down at the ground. “You two have the weirdest friendship,” Twilight said.

Sunset smiled. “Yeah, I guess.” She looked between her marefriends. “Thanks for inviting everyone over. I love you two.”

Fluttershy looked to Twilight and smiled before turning back to Sunset. “And we love you, too.”

“So, uh, is there anything else you want to do?” Twilight asked, smiling bashfully. “I mean, it is your birthday and all.”

Sunset was sorely tempted to accept that offer immediately, but there was something else she needed to take care of first. “Uhm, actually I think I’d like to write a letter. While, uhm, Celestia’s still up.”

Twilight didn’t seem too upset by the delay. “That’s a great idea.”

Fluttershy walked over and kissed Sunset on the cheek. “We’ll be in the bedroom when you’re done.”

Sunset walked over to a desk, and since Spike was asleep – or supposed to be, in any event – she levitated a journal adorned with Celestia’s cutie mark off a shelf filled with various journals connecting them to ponies all over Equestria. Before she started writing, she turned back to the others. “Hey, Fluttershy.”

They stopped and turned towards her. “Yes?”

Sunset grinned. “It sounds like we’ll all have to plan a trip to the human world sometime soon after all.”

“Oh? Why’s that?” Fluttershy asked.

“Well, it seems like Twilight would very much like to try something over there.”

Fluttershy tilted her head to the side, but Twilight caught on. “Sunset! That’s not –”

“Oh come on, don’t tell me you’re not curious.”

“I… but… well, that is, uhm…”

Sunset laughed. “Just wait, Twi. Fingers are wonderful things.”


There was clearly only one thing to do once they got back through the mirror: Get together and talk about what just happened. It was easily going to go down as one of the most unique experiences in their lives. Since Sugarcube Corner was already closed, they met up at Sweet Apple Acres. They sat out front and talked well into the night, but eventually that too came to a close, and they said their goodnights.

Yawning, Applejack made her way to her room. But before she could go to sleep, she had something that she needed to do. She laid all the photos down one by one, carefully taking a picture of each with her phone. When she was done, she opened her texting app and added each one as an attachment to a message. She sent it, put the photos away neatly, and changed into pajamas. Before she could climb into bed, her phone rang.

“Shoulda known you’d still be up,” she said as she answered it, collapsing into her bed.

“How’d everything go?”

“It was nice. Ya coulda come.”

“I know.”

“The pictures come through okay?”

“Yes. Thank you. She looks really happy.”

“I take it that means ya don’t mind her bein’ a pony after all.”

“No. Why would I?”

“I dunno, it took me a bit to get used to it. That’s all. Anyway, I made sure to get some of just her, plus some with the five of us CHS girls together.”

“I noticed. Thank you, I really appreciate it.”

Applejack hesitated a moment. “I, uh, talked to her about what ya said. Or, well, I tried to. You know better than anyone she don’t hear what she don’t want to.”

“It’s fine. She’s probably happier like this.”

“I dunno. I mean, sure, she’s definitely happy, but I got the impression she could be just as happy here, if things worked out alright.”

“...”

“Fluttershy?”

“It’s late, I should let you get to bed. Thanks for the pictures, and for talking to her for me.”

“Now just hold on a –”

The line went dead. Applejack sighed and set her phone on the bedside table. She covered her face in a pillow and sighed again.

“Sunset, you best know what you’re doin’,” Applejack said to herself. Knowing that even if she called back, Fluttershy wouldn’t answer, Applejack rolled over and tried her best to fall asleep.

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