• 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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6 – From Different Perspectives

Chapter Six

From Different Perspectives

Aside from the balance between magic and technology, the biggest difference between the two worlds seemed to come from Luna and Celestia; having two benevolent and eternal rulers allowed for a sort of political consistency that was simply not possible in a world where no one lived forever. Not to mention they had a bigger focus on long-term solutions since they knew they’d be around to see the results of any decision they made.

But even under the diarchy, some problems were inevitable. And while few ponies actually lived on the streets, especially in Canterlot, there were still those who couldn’t afford to feed themselves or their families.

During her time spent as a human, Sunset had learned firsthand what that was like. Being as stubborn as she was, she had always refused to ask for help. Fortunately, Applejack noticed and was equally stubborn in offering it. She’d spent so many nights eating dinner with the Apple family, and they never asked for anything in return. Applejack had always said Sunset would do the same thing in different circumstances, and Sunset was glad to finally have a chance to prove her right, spending most of the time she spent in Canterlot working in the free cafeteria that Luna had told her about during her first night back in the city.

While she spent her days volunteering, Sunset still made sure to leave her evenings open. Celestia was always so busy during the day that dinner was generally the only time that Sunset could see her. So every evening was spent rebuilding her connection with Celestia while getting to know Luna better. Amber would often join them – more often, in fact, than was statistically probable, unless she was going out of her way to end her days in Canterlot, something she denied doing.

And so it didn’t come as a surprise when Sunset ran into Amber on her way to the to the dining room. “Oh hey, Sunset, I was just looking for you.”

“Hi, Amber. What’s up?” Sunset asked as the pegasus wrapped her in a quick hug.

“Dinner plans have changed. Princess Celestia’s stuck with some representatives from Yakyakistan, and they can be a pretty temperamental bunch. She said to just go ahead without her.”

“So it’ll just be the three of us?” Sunset asked.

Amber nodded. “Uh huh. But we figured it’d be a good chance to go out and do dinner on the town. What do you say?”

If she was being completely honest, Sunset didn’t want to go out to eat. After the day she’d had, she barely wanted to eat at all, and she could practically hear her bed calling out to her. But it always proved impossible to turn down that smile, so Sunset fixed her face with a smile of its own. “Sure, where do you have in mind?”

“Only the best restaurant in Canterlot! You’ll see when we get there.” Amber steered her around and led her to the front of the castle where Luna was already waiting.

Luna nodded as they approached. “Greetings Sunset. I hope this evening finds you well?”

Sunset shrugged. “Well enough. I suppose you aren’t going to tell me where we’re going either?”

Luna led them out to the chariot. “And ruin the surprise? I wouldn’t dream of it.”

After their first trip together, they had offered to keep the chariot on the ground, but Sunset insisted they didn’t need to. Besides, it wasn’t so much that she was afraid, but more so that she was just a little uncomfortable.

“So how’d everything go in the cafeteria today?” Amber asked once they were all seated. Nopony acknowledged it, but they seated Sunset in the middle where she’d feel the most secure, surrounded by her friends.

“Not so great. Somepony left the cooler door open last night, and today everything was a soggy mess, not to mention how much of the food was spoiled. Wanna guess who got stuck cleaning it up?”

As the chariot lifted into the air, Sunset felt Amber’s hoof wrap around hers. “Well at least now you’re here with us! Do you have to work tomorrow?”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “It’s volunteer work. I don’t have to work at all. What about you?”

“Yeah, going to Manehattan in the morning,” Amber said. “Finishing the day in Ponyville.”

“Staying with Fluttershy and Twilight?” Sunset asked.

“Yeah. They say ‘hi’ by the way. They’re thrilled everything is going well here, but I think they’re starting to worry you won’t make it back to Ponyville after all.”

It was true that Sunset’s stay was lasting much longer than she had planned. Not having any obligations anywhere had a tendency to slow life down. Still, she knew she couldn’t keep putting it off. She’d promised Fluttershy.

“I’ll go back soon,” Sunset said.

“Not too soon, I hope,” Luna said. She smiled as she nudged Sunset playfully. “I shall miss the evenings the three of us spend together.”

“Aww, do you get lonely when I’m gone?” Amber teased.

“Oh yes, more than you can imagine,” Luna said, laughing. “But in all seriousness, I do enjoy having you two around. Did you know you are the only ones in recent times who decided to drop the ‘princess’ title while addressing me? All my other friends only did so on my insistence. Sunset did not even keep the title for a full day.”

“That’s a good thing?” Sunset asked. She had a tendency to drop titles, probably a lingering side effect of spending so long thinking she was better than everypony, but she always considered it a bad habit.

“It is hard to be friends with somepony who insists on putting you on a pedestal,” Luna said. “I would rather my friends consider me an equal, not a princess.”

“Luna, you’re like twice my size and I’ve seen you wear your crown to bed,” Amber said. “It’s kind of hard to forget you’re a princess.”

“A fair point. I can do little about my size, but if it’ll make it easier to consider us equals, then I hereby decree I am no longer your princess. I will hold no authority over either of you.” As usual Luna spoke as if completely serious.

Sunset chuckled. “I’m sure Celestia will love that one.”

“I can think of no reason why she would be bothered,” Luna said with a shrug. “I shall have the law passed tonight.”

“She might actually be serious you know,” Amber said.

Sunset cocked her head to the side. “You know, I can think of literally no way that’ll change our relationship.”

Luna turned up her nose. “Fine. If you are going to be ungrateful then I shall retract my previous statement. I am still Sunset Shimmer’s princess, but not Amber’s.”

“Ha!” Amber nudged Sunset.

“What? Luna, that’s not fair,” Sunset said, not really sure if she actually cared.

Princess Luna,” she corrected, causing Amber to laugh hard enough she had to grab hold of Sunset to keep from falling out of the chariot.

Deciding to go along with Luna’s game, Sunset plastered a sarcastic smile to her face. “As you wish, Your Majesty.” Sunset did the best mock bow she could manage under the circumstances. Luna gave a content nod.

Soon they landed, although Sunset was left confused by their location. “A doughnut shop?”

“Quite possibly the finest establishment in all of Equestria,” Luna said.

“If you say so,” Sunset said.

“They have other things if you don’t want doughnuts,” Amber said, grinning. “But trust me, you want doughnuts.”

“I don’t even know why I expect anything else from you two anymore,” Sunset said. As they approached the shop she smiled and ran ahead, holding open the door. “Allow me to get that for you, Princess.”

Luna nodded. “Thank you, my subject.”

Amber followed Luna inside, shaking her head. As Sunset brought up the rear, a gruff stallion greeted them.

“Evening, Princess, Amber.”

“Good evening, Doughnut Joe,” Luna said. “Allow me to introduce my friend Sunset Shimmer. I have reason to believe she doubts that this is indeed the finest restaurant in all of Canterlot.”

“That so? Well take a seat, I’ve heard that one before. Always before ponies actually try my doughnuts, mind you.”

The shop was packed despite it being dinner time, but they managed to find an empty booth. They sat with Luna and Amber on one side and Sunset on the other. The princess did draw some attention, but ponies respectfully kept their gossip to hushed whispers, which the trio ignored.

“So I’m back to being your friend?” Sunset asked.

“Well I never said we weren’t still friends,” Luna said. “That would be excessive.”

“Like you never do anything excessive,” Amber said.

“I suppose I might at times,” Luna said. She offered Sunset an apologetic smile. “Perhaps I was a bit harsh. You were merely making an observation after all. Very well, I return to my original proclamation. I am neither Amber Glow nor Sunset Shimmer’s princess.”

Sunset tapped her chin. “Well that’s nice and all, but if you can just go back and forth whenever you want there’s not much point is there?”

Luna nodded. “Yes, I see what you mean. Very well, I shall build it into the law that I can not remove this particular law from effect, or alter it in any way.”

“But who’s to say there won’t be another loophole?” Sunset asked. “I think it’s only fair that since this law is about us, Amber and I should get a chance to look over the wording.”

“Sunset, don’t encourage her!” Amber said. “You two are ridiculous.”

Luna held up a hoof. “No, no. This is very serious Amber. We’re discussing a whole new law, and the wording is very important.” She glanced around until she saw a quill and sheet of paper sitting behind Doughnut Joe’s counter and levitated them over.

Luna and Sunset began drafting the new law. Amber seemed amused by the ridiculousness, but didn’t participate in the writing. While they worked, Doughnut Joe brought a platter full of a large variety of doughnuts.

“I didn’t even notice you order these,” Sunset said, helping herself to a jelly doughnut.

“Joe just knows us,” Amber said. “We always get some of everything because somepony can’t help herself around them.”

“True, but I admire you all the same,” Luna said. She nuzzled Amber’s cheek and in the process caused the pegasus to drop her half-eaten eclair on herself.

“Great, now my fur’s gonna be sticky all night. Jerk.”

Luna smiled and leaned in closer. “Oh I don’t know. I think when we return to the castle I’ll be able to clean you up. I’ll be very thorough.”

Amber snorted. “Okay, I walked into that one.”

Sunset chuckled while she finished her jelly doughnut. “Okay, so that might have been the best doughnut I ever ate.”

Luna smiled and nodded. “Naturally. Believe me, I’ve eaten many doughnuts in my lifetime, but Joe’s are simply the best.”

“You got that right!” Doughnut Joe called from somewhere behind them.

The three mares laughed and joked with one another while they ate. Citing her alicorn metabolism, Luna managed to eat most of them herself.

Amber was telling them about the pop star she’d met earlier in the week when the bell jingled, signaling another customer had come in.

“Hey there, Paint Splatter! How you been?” Doughnut Joe greeted the newcomer.

“Doin’ alright,” a stallion’s voice answered.

Sunset wouldn’t have thought anything of it if she hadn’t noticed Luna’s eyes flicker towards the newcomer and linger just a moment too long. Sunset had spent years scrutinizing every minor detail in Celestia’s reactions, and the skill carried over to her sister just as well. She still might have shrugged it off, but she noticed the slight slouch as the alicorn tried to subconsciously make herself smaller to avoid being seen by the stallion talking to Doughnut Joe – a futile effort, given her size.

Sunset’s mind began cycling through possibilities of how she could distract this pony for long enough to allow Luna to escape whatever awkward situation she saw coming, but it was too late. “Princess Luna? Fancy running into you here.”

Any sign that she was unhappy to see him vanished without a trace, although Sunset remained convinced of what she saw. “Paint Splatter. It is nice to see you. I trust that you are well?”

Turning around to look at him, Sunset saw he was a forest green earth pony. “I can’t complain.” He noticed Amber, who didn’t seem to have caught on that anything might be wrong. “So would you be Amber Glow?”

“That’s me,” Amber said.

“Princess Luna’s told me a lot about you,” Paint Splatter said.

Amber grinned. “Aww, were you talking about me?”

Luna smiled. “You do tend to come up in conversation.”

“So how do you two know each other?” Amber asked.

Paint Splatter chuckled. “I see you haven’t been talking about me then? Can’t say I’m surprised, we weren’t ever anything serious. We had sort of a casual thing going a while back.”

Of the three mares, only Sunset looked offput by the information. Luna’s expression didn’t falter from the polite interest at meeting an old acquaintance. Amber actually grinned broader. “Gotcha. Geez, Luna, do you ever actually date anypony?”

“Not typically. And since my return, I have not been in a traditional relationship.”

Amber and Paint Splatter both chuckled. “Well it was good seeing you again,” Paint Splatter said. “And I’m glad I finally got to meet you, Ms. Glow. You ladies enjoy yourselves.”

“Likewise,” Luna said. He ordered his food to go and left.

“I apologize if that was awkward for you at all,” Luna said once he was out the door.

“No, it’s fine. He seems nice,” Amber said.

“He was. Or rather, he still is, I’m sure,” Luna said. The two returned to their doughnuts.

Sunset finally let out a nervous chuckle. “Sorry, I guess I’m still not used to how you two do things. I really thought that was going to turn ugly there.”

Amber rolled her eyes and took a bite out of a chocolate cake doughnut. “Why should I care about some stallion Luna slept with years ago?” she said through a mouthful of doughnut, a few crumbs falling out.

Luna froze in place and stared wide-eyed at Sunset, who was again getting the feeling that things were about to go south. After a moment, the alicorn swallowed and set down her glazed doughnut. “Amber. We are in agreement about the nature of our relationship, correct?”

Amber looked at her quizzically. “Of course. Why do you ask?”

Luna turned to face her properly. “Which is to say that nothing has changed since our original agreement as far as what we are to one another?”

Amber tried for a casual smile, but by this point it only made her look more nervous. “Luna… what are you getting at?”

Luna closed her eyes for a moment before opening them to look directly into Amber’s. “I did not sleep with Paint Splatter years ago. I did not even know him years ago. We met around five months ago, and for about a month afterwards we occasionally were sexually involved.”

Although she knew this was not a discussion she should be around for, Sunset remained seated. She was almost afraid to move as she watched the scene in horror.

Any plan Amber had at not looking upset was forgotten. Her breathing was short and shallow, and her mouth started quivering as she tried working words out of it.

“But that’s… five months ago we were… why didn’t… Luna, why didn’t you ever tell me?”

Luna’s ears folded back and she cast her eyes down for a moment before again meeting Amber’s.

“I didn’t want to make you feel jealous. I expected that you would not wish to know the details of my love life.”

Amber shook her head slightly. “Yeah, why would something like that matter to me…”

“Amber, I’m truly sorry to have upset you, but we had agreed from the beginning that we were nonexclusive.”

Amber finally broke eye contact. She folded her hooves on the table in an attempt to keep them from shaking. “Yeah. Of course. I’m not… I mean, it’s not like I’m not your marefriend or anything.”

Luna tentatively reached for Amber’s hoof. She didn’t react, so Luna just left her hoof on top of Amber’s. “I thought… when you’re in other cities I always assumed there must be somepony with whom you –”

Amber cut her off with a mirthless laugh. “No. Just you.”

Luna hesitated for a moment and nopony moved. “I see.”

More silence. Sunset began to realize everything had gone silent, as all the other customers had also stopped their own conversations.

“Amber, please understand. I care about you very deeply, and never wished to hurt you in any way.”

“I understand,” Amber said. She nodded and kept her eyes focused on her hooves. “Of course I do. I mean, you said it all the time. We both did, right? We’re friends. You never pretended we were anything else. I… I just…”

Without warning, Amber stood up and ran out the door. Luna and Sunset stared at each other wide-eyed and blank-faced for a moment, neither knowing what to do. Only for a moment, however, then Sunset stood up and ran after her.

“Amber, wait!” She looked around once she got outside. She thought she saw movement and followed it. At some point she began making turns at random while calling out Amber’s name.

“Amber! Amber where are you? Please come out!” She turned down a street, then another. Lefts and rights, everything blurred together in the dark. “It’s just me, Luna’s not here! Come on, Amber, I just want to talk! Please?”

She took a good look around her and sighed. She gave up walking and kicked at the ground, wondering what to do. “Amber, I don’t know where I am, so if you could come out that’d be really great right about now…”

Sunset decided to catch her breath before turning around and trying to find her way back to the doughnut shop. She wasn’t sure if she could and wasn’t sure what she’d do if she did. She could tell Luna felt horrible about everything, but she still wanted to yell at her all the same.

While she was resting, she heard hoofsteps coming from an alleyway next to her. She turned to see Amber, who was staring down at the ground. At first neither one spoke, but eventually Amber wiped her eyes and looked up with a smile on her face. “Hey, weren’t you born in Canterlot? How are you lost in your own –” Her voice caught in her throat as she struggled to keep from crying.

Sunset walked over to her and pulled her into a hug. She couldn’t find any words to say, so she just waited for Amber to open up.

“I just… I thought that… I’m so stupid…” She buried her face into Sunset’s mane and began crying uncontrollably.

Sunset stroked Amber’s mane. “No you’re not. It’ll be okay.”

They stood in the entrance to the alleyway for a while, Amber crying into Sunset’s shoulder. Slowly Sunset lowered them so they were leaning against the building they were next to and Sunset held her as Amber cried, occasionally trying to form words but never managing whole sentences.

A few ponies passed by, but it was late enough that the streets were mostly empty, and nopony stopped to talk to them. They remained on the corner of the alleyway for longer than Sunset could say. Eventually, Amber pulled herself away and rubbed her eyes. “I’m sorry I’m so pathetic.”

If there was one thing Sunset hated to hear, that was it. “You’re not. Amber, you’re an amazing pony.”

“You were right, you know,” Amber said. Even though she was grinning, she still looked miserable. “The first time we met, you could already see it. That me and Luna thought about each other differently.”

“Only because I’ve been there,” Sunset said. “I know what it’s like to love someone so much but then find out they don’t feel the same way about you.”

Amber chuckled and shook her head. “I always tell everypony I don’t love her. That’s what I told all my friends, that’s what I told her, I tell myself that I don’t love her every day. But I guess if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t need to repeat it all the time. It wouldn’t hurt this much…”

Amber looked like she might start crying again so Sunset moved closer to her, wrapping a foreleg around her shoulders. “Well, if you ever want to do what I did, I know this other dimension you might be interested in moving to.”

It was only a small one, but Amber’s smile looked genuine. She stood up and began walking and Sunset followed. As far as she could tell they were wandering aimlessly.

They didn’t speak at first, but eventually Amber broke the silence. “I guess I just thought she’d talk to me about it first.”

Sunset was reluctant to ask the question on her mind, but couldn’t see how to advise her friend without knowing. “So what was your agreement with Luna anyway?”

She had a pretty good idea that the answer would justify Luna’s side of things, and by the way Amber stopped walking, she could tell she was right. “She told me what she was looking for after our first date. She asked me out the first time we met, you know. I couldn’t believe somepony like her would even notice me. Even though I was really into her right from the start at the time, everything made sense. We barely knew each other, why would we rush into some big committed relationship? Everything she proposed was so matter of fact that only an idiot could have gotten it mixed up…”

Sunset closed the gap between them and kept their bodies pressed together while they walked. “Well I guess I’m an idiot then, because I really thought the whole ‘just friends’ thing was Luna not wanting to use labels.”

Amber just shook her head. “That’s just because she didn’t explain everything to you. It was all crystal clear, she even said we were nonexclusive from the start.”

Going by what she knew of Luna, her rules were probably pretty well thought out, so Sunset changed her approach. “She doesn’t act like you’re just friends.”

Amber sighed. “No, I don’t act like we’re just friends. She just reacts to how affectionate I am.”

Sunset doubted that was all there was to it, but she didn’t say so. Convincing Amber that Luna did want a real relationship didn’t necessarily seem like it would be a good thing.

“I always knew what we were, I just thought… Over time I just thought we were getting closer and I guess maybe I thought we were getting more serious.” Amber stopped to kick at a rock and watch it roll down the street. “I mean, I thought she’d at least tell me if she wanted to do something with somepony else before she actually did it!”

While they walked, Sunset noticed fewer and fewer homes with lights in their windows. Sunset didn’t even want to guess what time it must be, but the moon was already high in the sky. Looking up, Sunset couldn’t help but feel the night sky lacked a lot of its usual beauty.

“So, uhm… what do you want to do from here?” Sunset asked.

“About Luna? I don’t even know.”

“I, uh, I meant about tonight,” Sunset said.

“Oh.” Amber looked around, seeming to notice their surroundings for the first time. “I… I dunno. I don’t really want to go back to the castle.”

Like most ponies, Amber usually opted to not wear clothes. Sunset was dressed but didn’t have pockets or a purse. Carrying bits was normally not something they had to worry about with Luna, who had a running tab with most establishments, and anywhere she didn’t was always happy to accept payment later on credit. Sunset doubted that would get them a hotel room.

“Got any friends in Canterlot that might be willing to take us in?” Sunset asked.

“Not at this hour. Us?” Amber asked. She had the faint hope of a smile on her lips, as if she was afraid Sunset would realize what she said and correct herself.

“Yeah, us. What, you think I’m just gonna leave you all alone?”

“Thanks, Sunset,” Amber smiled, then threw herself around the unicorn.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m the best,” Sunset said. She smiled, mostly just happy to see Amber happy.

“You sure you want to stay with me though? I mean, it won’t be the first time I’ve slept on a park bench, and let me tell you, it’s nothing compared to the beds at the castle.”

Sunset chuckled. “Trust me, I know. Done that before too.”

Amber grinned. “Geez, Sunset, is there anything you haven’t done?”

Sunset shrugged. “I’ve lived an interesting life. In the human world, I did the dumb teenager thing and ran away for a while. And like most dumb teenagers, I learned it’s nicer to sleep in a bed with a decent meal in your stomach, so I went back to the orphanage.”

“I didn’t know you lived in an orphanage,” Amber said, giving her a concerned look.

“Well I didn’t exactly have anywhere else to live over there,” Sunset said. “Got a job and my own place before I even graduated high school though. Anyway, that’s a long story. What about you though?”

“You know how I live,” Amber said. “I travel around a lot and rely on other ponies to have somewhere to sleep. Occasionally plans fall through and I have to make do. It’s fine though, it’s just part of the whole vagabond experience. Besides, it’s not so bad, sleeping under the stars.” Most of the headway Sunset had gained in cheering Amber up was lost as she stared sadly at the night sky.

“So why did you start traveling anyway?” Sunset asked. She knew that might be a touchy subject, but it seemed like a sure way to keep her mind off Luna.

“My parents kicked me out when I told them I’m a lesbian,” Amber said.

‘So much for picking a better topic.’ “Okay, so that’s probably not something you want to talk about,” Sunset said. She grinned sheepishly. “So, uh, nice weather we’re having.”

Amber chuckled. “It’s fine. I’m not… I mean, I won’t lie, it sucks, but that was years ago. I moved in with my marefriend until that fell through. She decided that she wasn’t really into mares after all. After that, well, I’m sure Twilight and Fluttershy told you about the whole Tirek thing. I thought I was gonna die, and I realized how little I’d really done. I decided I want to see Equestria, and now I’ve been to most of it. It’s been great, I really do like my life now.” She glanced back at the sky again. “Generally.”

“That’s pretty horrible though. I mean, not all the caretakers at the orphanage were thrilled when I came out, but they didn’t kick me out or anything.”

“I think the worst part is not being welcome around my brother. He’s ten now, and I haven’t seen him in three years,” Amber sighed. “I bet my parents use me as a bad example all the time too. I wonder if he’d even want to see me now…”

“Come on, he’s a kid,” Sunset said, grinning. “Of course he does. I’m sure you’re always gonna be his big sister to him, no matter what your parents say. Besides, nopony could ask for a cooler big sister than you.”

Amber laughed and nudged her. “I dunno, I bet you’d make a pretty great big sister. Got any siblings?”

“Only child, thankfully. Maybe I could be a cool sister now, but growing up I was a huge bitch.”

“I’m sure you weren’t that bad,” Amber said, smiling naïvely.

“I was pretty bad,” Sunset insisted. Talking about her childhood made her realize there was another option to where they could stay, but she wasn’t sure if she prefered it to sleeping on a park bench. Still, Amber would probably appreciate it. “You know, we could go to my parents’ house.”

Amber frowned, but it was pretty obvious the idea of a bed was welcome to her. “Don’t you not get along with them though?”

“No, I don’t,” Sunset said, “but I mean that in the most literal way. We’re pretty much indifferent to each other, but we don’t actively dislike each other.” Amber still looked apprehensive, so Sunset smiled encouragingly. “Come on, I wouldn’t suggest it if I wasn’t sure it’d be alright.”

With some reluctance, Amber nodded. “Okay then. Where to?”

Sunset looked around. Unfortunately she wasn’t exaggerating when she said she wasn’t sure where she was earlier, and walking around since then hadn’t helped any. “Do you know where we are?”

Amber shook her head. “Hold on a second.” She flew into the air and surveyed their surroundings before returning to the ground. “Okay, so we’re not too far from the Canterlot Royal Theater.” She gestured in the direction of the theater.

“Alright, I think I can find it from there,” Sunset said.

Amber was able to lead them to the theater easily enough, and from there Sunset took point. It took a while and there were a number of wrong turns, but eventually they found themselves in front of a large manor.

“Anything I should know?” Amber asked as they stood in front of the door.

Sunset thought for a moment. “Not really. They’re rich, full of themselves, and generally unpleasant. Don’t expect a tearful family reunion.”

Sunset knocked on the door and they waited. When there was no answer she instead tugged sharply on a rope nearby, ringing a bell throughout the house that couldn’t be ignored. Eventually the door swung open to reveal an irritated stallion. “Do you have any idea what time…” He froze and stared at Sunset.

“Hello, Dad, can we come in?” Sunset asked, a confident smile on her face.

“Hmph.” He stepped aside and allowed them into the foyer. In the light of the house, he examined his daughter. If he was happy with what he saw, his face didn’t reflect it. “You’re alive, then.”

“I am.” Sunset looked over the stallion. He looked mostly how Sunset remembered him. Same tan coat, but with gray starting to show in his dark blue mane. “I’m assuming Princess Celestia told you where I was?”

“Of course she did,” he said.

Attracted by the noise no doubt, a golden yellow mare entered the room. She had a green mane, which unlike her husband’s contained not a single gray hair. “Sunset?”

“Mom.” Sunset nodded. “Let me get to the point. My friend and I were hoping to stay here for the night.”

Brass Badge, Sunset’s father, looked over Amber, seeming to notice her for the first time. “Just one night?”

“We’ll be gone in the morning,” Sunset promised.

Sunset’s mom, Golden Lace, also scrutinized Amber. She did not look pleased with what she saw. “I thought you were dating Princess Luna.”

“Why would you…” One glance at Amber reminded her. “They actually printed that stupid story. No, I’m not dating Luna.”

When Luna and Amber first told her that she might appear in some magazines, she imaged the conversation with her parents would be a lot more humorous. But given what had just happened earlier, there was nothing Sunset wanted to talk about less. “I am bisexual though, if you care about that sort of thing.”

Neither of her parents’ expressions changed at the revelation. “I can’t see why that should interest me,” Brass Badge said. “There is a legacy behind your name, and so long as you court somepony worthy of it, nothing else matters.”

Sunset didn’t need to ask to know that when he said ‘nothing’, that it included her happiness as well. “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.”

“So tell me, now that you’re back, what do you plan to do with your life?” Golden Lace asked.

Sunset decided she might as well give her parents the answer they wanted. “I’m going to be working with Princess Twilight on a new field of study. Combining magic with technology. There’s a lot of potential for some huge breakthroughs.”

Golden Lace and Brass Badge looked at each other before nodding their approval at the news. “Very well,” Golden Lace said. “I’m sure you’re quite aware what time it is, so you’ll excuse us if we leave you to yourselves. I trust you can find the guest rooms?”

“I’m sure we’ll manage,” Sunset said.

“Very well then,” Brass Badge said. He left the room with Golden Lace following behind. Nopony bothered to wish one another a good night.

When they were gone, Sunset turned to Amber, who seemed to be in shock. She almost found it amusing, but was still feeling too sympathetic to laugh. “Not what you were expecting?”

Eventually, Amber shook her head. “Not really. At least they let us stay though.”

Sunset shrugged. “It wasn’t because they care or anything. If word got out that they turned away their own daughter, it would reflect poorly on them. That’s all there is to it.”

“Geez… that’s harsh.” Amber looked at her sympathetically.

“I know this can be hard to understand, but I really don’t care. I never actually wanted their affection because they never gave me a reason to want it. I don’t love my parents and they don’t love me, and it’s fine. More than anything, it’s just social obligations that bind us together.” Tired of talking about her parents, Sunset began leading them to a guest room before an idea occurred to her. “So, you tired?”

“No, but it’s cool. I know you were exhausted before we even left for dinner. Just show me where I can crash and I’ll get out of your hair.”

Sunset pretended to consider the suggestion. “Yeah, I could do that. Or we could check out what my parents have in their private bar.”

Amber frowned slightly. “Is that really a good idea? I don’t want to abuse their hospitality.”

“I’m not saying we’re gonna go down into the wine cellar and pop open a four-hundred-year-old bottle,” Sunset said. She recognized the look on Amber’s face as the same one she had whenever she was trying to figure out if Luna was serious about some ridiculous claim she made. “Yes, there really is a wine cellar, and yes, there really are centuries old bottles down there.”

“Do I even want to know how much something like that costs?” Amber asked.

“I don’t know, to be honest,” Sunset said. She glanced around and noticed a small painting which consisted entirely of sixteen identical black dots. “They bought that when I lived here though. It cost six thousand bits. Then they hung it in the hallway leading to the guest rooms, which barely ever get used.”

Amber looked around and noticed a number of other likely expensive things. “So your parents are like super rich.”

“Yeah, pretty much. My point is that I don’t think they’ll care if we help ourselves to some of their booze.”

Sunset shifted course and led Amber into the parlor. As soon as she saw the room, Amber looked nervous. Everywhere they turned there was something that looked expensive and quite possibly fragile. Sunset paid it no mind as she ducked behind the counter and looked through bottles.

“So, on a scale of one to ten, how fucked up are we getting tonight?” Sunset asked.

“You know,” Amber said, “I don’t think I really want to get drunk in this house.”

“Counting that as a seven.” She grabbed a couple of shot glasses and a bottle of whiskey and popped up from behind the counter. She looked at Amber and sighed. She was still in the doorway and every muscle on her body seemed tense. She set the bottle and glasses on the counter and walked around, taking a seat and jerking her head to signal Amber to do the same.

Slowly Amber made her way over, giving a wide berth to everything and sitting on the stool gingerly, as if it too might have cost thousands of bits. She smiled nervously once she was safely sitting down.

Sunset filled only one glass and drank it herself. “Alright, let me explain something. My parents don’t like any of this crap. I mean, I guess I have no idea what they like, but that’s not the point. They bought all this stuff so they could host parties and show off how wealthy they are. Everything they own is a status symbol first and foremost.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t really make it any easier to replace,” Amber said. She was looking at a tribal zebra mask hanging on the wall above the bar.

“But you’re not responsible for it, I am. See, you’re my guest, which means I took full responsibility for you. Basically as far as my parents are concerned you’re just the pony who came with me, so whatever you do reflects me, not you. You could chuck that thing out the window and nopony would expect anything from you.”

Amber didn’t look any more at ease. “Putting you in debt doesn’t really sound much better, you know.”

“But you can totally just let me worry about that.” She refilled the glass and set it in between the two of them where either one of them could reach it. “Look, you don’t have to drink, we can just do something else. But don’t worry about that stuff, because I’m not.”

Amber hesitated and took one more look at the room before grabbing the glass and drinking it in one gulp. She scrunched up her face at the taste. “That’s disgusting!”

Sunset laughed. “Would you prefer something that didn’t put hair on your chest?”

Amber squinted her eyes. “What does that even mean?”

Realizing she did it again, Sunset grinned. “Sorry, human expression. Males are hairier over there, so really masculine things ‘put hair on your chest’.”

“Oh. Well, I’m at least as masculine as you. Give me another.” Amber grinned confidently.

Sunset filled both glasses this time, and they both drank together. Amber’s face was even worse the second time, while Sunset just grinned at the familiar sensation. Amber rubbed a hoof across her chest. “Hey, it works!”

Sunset laughed. “Seriously though, they’ve got a ton of stuff if you’d rather have something else.”

Amber shrugged. “Actually it’s not so bad. Just stronger than I was expecting.” At least she seemed to be beginning to loosen up. “It’s so weird though. I mean, you lived in a whole other world! How could they not ask about that?”

Because it was a whole other world.” Going back to talking about her parents meant it was time to fill the glasses again. “Anything that happened there doesn’t really matter here, you know? If it can’t improve my standing in Equestria, it doesn’t matter to them.”

Amber managed to get the shot down with only a small grimace. “Okay, I guess I see that, but it’s kind of dumb. So don’t take this the wrong way, but why did they even have you? Were you like an accident or something?”

The idea had occurred to Sunset before. “I doubt it. They managed to go the rest of their marriage without foals, can’t see why I’d be the only screw-up. I think they just wanted somepony to carry the family legacy. It’s kind of a big deal to them. Or maybe they just thought it was expected of them.”

“That’s kind of really sad.” Amber looked over to see Sunset staring at her empty glass. “Sorry.”

Sunset smiled. “It’s fine. Whatever, you know? I never really needed them.” ‘I don’t really need anypony,’ a voice echoed in her head, but she pushed it away. That was the old Sunset.

“I think even my parents would ask what I’d been up to if I was living in another world for… how long were you there for?”

“Fourteen years. And while I’m normally fine talking about it, that subject is not open for discussion when I’m drinking.” Talking about humans while she was drunk would inevitably lead to talking about one human in particular.

Amber barely seemed to notice the second part of Sunset’s statement. “Fourteen years? How old are you anyway?”

“Thirty-one,” Sunset said, frowning. She filled their glasses once more and drank. When Amber didn’t immediately drink her own Sunset filled hers again and drank the second one as well.

Amber grinned as she drank, finally getting it down without making a face. “Aww, don’t look so down Sunset! I like older mares.” She nudged Sunset, who chuckled, then held out her glass again.

Sunset filled it. “I can’t be that much older than you.”

Amber smiled. “Go on. Guess my age.”

“I don’t know. Please tell me you’re old enough to drink.”

Amber rolled her eyes, the alcohol causing her to exaggerate the motion. “Yes, I’m twenty-one.” She shook her head. “I mean, I’m at least twenty-one. ‘Cause you haven’t guessed my age yet, so it’s twenty-one or up.”

“Are you twenty-one?”

“Yes.” Amber giggled.

Sunset levitated the bottle away. “Okay, so this probably wasn’t a good idea.”

“What? But I just said I’m old enough!” Amber said, looking at the bottle longingly.

“Old enough to drink, not old enough to get wasted. At least not when I’m supposed to be the responsible one.”

Amber scooted her stool closer to Sunset’s and put her foreleg around the unicorn. “Aww come on, Sunny! Everything’s fine!”

Sunset sighed and grabbed the bottle again, filling both glasses. She’d take a drunk Amber over a sad one. “Okay, so I’m horrible at being the responsible one. And don’t call me Sunny.”

As if afraid Sunset would take it away, Amber drank hers immediately. “Why not? It’s a cute name.”

“I just don’t like people calling me Sunny.” Sunset drank and refilled.

Amber giggled. “But I’m not a people.”

Sunset tried to give her an exasperated expression but she couldn’t help but laugh when she looked at Amber’s cheerful face. “People, ponies, whatever. Just don’t use that name.”

As they drank their way steadily through the bottle, they kept the conversation positive, alternating between jokes at the expense of one another and reminding each other that they both really liked being friends.

Eventually it was Amber who changed the tone back to a serious one. “What do you think Luna’s doing?”

“I dunno. Working I guess. What does she do when she’s at work?” Sunset had seen Celestia at work countless times, but she found it impossible to imagine Luna doing the same things.

“A lot of stuff. Helping ponies in their dreams, keeping dangerous creatures out of towns, investigating all the changeling stuff going on lately. Just... so much stuff. She’s incredible.” Amber stared ahead of her as she spoke, not really focusing on anything.

“You should tell her you want to be together,” Sunset said. “Like really together, I mean.”

Amber smiled. “No. She wouldn’t want to. She’s not really into the whole ‘traditional relationship’ thing. Besides…” She looked Sunset in the eyes, and as far as appearances went, she seemed perfectly happy. “I’m just some mare from Fillydelphia. I’m practically homeless, I work on a train. I’m nopony special and she’s, well, she’s Princess Luna! If she wanted to settle down with somepony, it’d be somepony else. I’m just… I’m happy I got a chance to be at least a small part of her world.”

Sunset reached a hoof out to put it on Amber’s shoulder, but wound up instead putting her whole foreleg around her, while leaning against her body for support. “Amber, I don’t think Luna cares about any of that stuff. You two get along so well, it’s like you were made for each other! If she’s willing to pass that up because she doesn’t want to commit to one pony, then she’s the one with a problem. I mean, what’s not to like about you? You always put others first, you’re funny, you’re beautiful.”

“Aww.” Amber reached a foreleg around Sunset as well and kissed her on the head. “You’re pretty great too, Sunny. Sunset! I said Sunset!”

Sunset laughed in spite of the slip in the name. “Amber, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re coming on to me.”

Amber held her tighter. “Maybe. I am single, I guess.”

Unsure if she was serious, Sunset chuckled and looked up to see Amber smiling. She got her answer when the pegasus leaned in and kissed her. Before she could even consider what she wanted to do, Sunset was already kissing her back.

When they pulled apart the two mares just looked at one another for a moment. “So, uh… you want to take this to a bedroom?” Amber asked.

Sunset wondered why the room felt so hot all of a sudden. “Yes.”

Leaving the bottle and glasses where they were, Sunset got off her stool and took a moment to steady herself.

Amber followed suit and stumbled as she stood up, falling on Sunset who barely held them both up. The two mares laughed and Sunset kissed her again. Amber interrupted the kiss by swatting at Sunset with her tail. Since Sunset’s tail was covered by her dress, she nipped at Amber’s neck instead. Before the pegasus could retaliate, she ran off, stumbling a little as she did.

Laughing, Amber chased Sunset out of the room and down the hall. Sunset made it all the way to the guest room before Amber caught her as she fumbled with the door. They tumbled into the room together and fell into a heap on the floor giggling, until Amber began kissing Sunset and clumsily working on removing her dress.

Once it was finally off, which took a good deal of effort from both of them, Sunset levitated Amber on to the bed.

“Hey, that’s cheating!” Amber protested, but laughed all the same.

“Shush,” Sunset said. The last thing she removed was her necklace, which she took a great deal of care with, setting it off to the side on a vanity table.

She looked back to the bed to see Amber looking at her expectantly. Sunset grinned, then jumped into bed herself, using her magic to shut off the lights.