• 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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7 – Homecoming

Chapter Seven

Homecoming

The first rays of Celestia’s sun were the type of thing poets wrote sonnets about. Gentle beams that brought warmth to the land and brought sleepy ponies into the day.

Sunset knew better. The sun shared its secret with her, one that nopony else seemed to aware of. As it gently filtered in through the window next to the bed, it only said one thing: Celestia was pissed.

As far as she could tell, there was no other explanation. Celestia was pissed, and she was specifically directing her fury at none other than Sunset herself.

She sat up and groaned, letting the night before replay in her head. She found no noticeable gaps in her memory, so she decided she must be doing pretty good. Aside from the obvious, of course. She turned to see Amber was still asleep next to her. With a sigh, she allowed herself to fall back on the bed.

‘What am I going to do now?’ Sunset wondered, although she knew there was really only one option. She had to wake Amber up and talk about what happened. She tried to collect her own thoughts about it, but her aching head made that difficult.

She decided that even after the night they’d spent together, she’d still be more comfortable having that conversation clothed. Sighing again, she began climbing out of bed when her shifting caused the pegasus to stir.

Sunset froze in place, not sure if she was ready for the inevitable conversation. She knew it was too late when Amber let out a groan. “Luna, I’m sick. Take care of me…”

Sunset pulled the covers back over herself. “Sorry, not likely.”

Amber bolted up at the sound of Sunset’s voice, but then promptly fell back down. “Oh… Why did I think that was a good idea?”

Sunset wasn’t sure how to even begin the conversation. She decided it would be okay to put it off a little bit. “So, uh… coffee?”

Amber groaned in response.

Deciding she was being absolutely ridiculous, Sunset pulled off the covers and stepped out of bed. While she assembled her dress, she couldn’t help but regret her choice of clothing. Like many of the dresses Rarity made, it was a full ensemble, made up of multiple pieces interwoven just so. At the moment, Sunset was sure this meant Rarity hated her as well. It had seemed like a minor nuisance the night before when trying to remove the dress, but trying to put it back on felt like an ordeal.

“Do you know what happened to that lacy thing?” Sunset asked.

Amber groaned and gestured towards the corner.

“Thanks,” Sunset said, grabbing the piece and putting it in place.

Amber risked opening one eye, which she fixed into a glare at Sunset. “Why are you so bucking cheerful?”

‘Cheerful’ may not have been the word Sunset would use, but she was certainly holding herself together better than Amber. To be fair, she was probably the more experienced drinker, and Amber was a fair amount smaller than her. “Because some of us can handle our booze,” she said.

Her dress complete, she walked over to the vanity. Looking at her reflection, she realized what was missing and frowned at the necklace on the table.

“Okay, I’m up,” Amber said. She seemed to be using a very literal definition of the word – she was sitting upright in bed, although she hardly looked any closer to leaving it.

Sunset allowed herself one last moment of self-pity, then put on the necklace. “You’re an inspiration to us all.”

“Buck off.”

Sunset chuckled, wondering if the drastic change in Amber’s personality was typical of her in the morning, or if it was just because she was hung over. Although it could also have something to do with a relationship altering revelation, followed by a drunken hook up with somepony she’d only known for a few weeks. It was probably the last one.

“Look, do you want coffee or not?”

“Fine.” With obvious effort Amber finally got out of bed and followed Sunset as she led the way into the kitchen.

Sunset didn’t bother to try talking along the way, and they remained silent as Amber took a seat and Sunset began going through cabinets. She pulled out a couple mugs and a pot, which she filled with water and set to boil. As she waited, she resolved that the first new technology she brought to Equestria was going to be instant coffee pots. Making do without for the time being, she filled their mugs up with water and gave one to Amber. “Drink.”

Amber looked at it skeptically but drank anyway. “I think you forgot some of the ingredients.” The ghost of her usual smile began to show.

“You need to rehydrate yourself,” Sunset explained. “Hangovers suck so much because the alcohol dehydrates you, which is the actual cause for you feeling like crap. So start with water, then we can have coffee.”

“Mmhmm.” Amber didn’t seem to be paying much attention, so Sunset just drank her own water quietly while she finished making the coffee.

Once it was done, she levitated Amber’s mug over and was pleased to find she’d followed her advice and drank it all. She filled their mugs with the steaming liquid and set them down on the table. “There, coffee. All the ingredients.”

Amber blew on her mug and took a sip. She smiled. “All the ingredients? I don’t know, I think you forgot one. Or I’m just better at making coffee than you.”

Sunset laughed. “You might have me there, but I don’t think your coffee is a smart move, all things considered.”

Slowly Amber’s general positivity had been returning, but the reminder caused her smile to fall a little. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

Sunset just drank her coffee for a bit, allowing them to sit in silence while they both recovered. She knew Amber wasn’t going to be the one to bring it up, though. “Just so you know, we’re not doing the whole ‘let’s pretend that never happened’ thing.”

Amber looked at her pleadingly. “But that sounds like such a great idea!”

“But it’s such a bad one,” Sunset said.

Amber sighed and let her head rest on the table. “Fine. It happened. Can we just blame the alcohol and be done with it?”

“Nope,” Sunset said, although she was at least a little tempted to agree to that one. “Alcohol doesn’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. It lowers your inhibitions so you do things you know you shouldn’t do.”

Amber grinned. “So what you're saying is you wanted to do me.”

Sunset almost spit out her coffee. “Apparently,” she managed to say while coughing, the heat from the drink making her eyes water. Amber seemed to find it amusing.

“So since we’re talking about last night, what was that pink spot on your shoulder?” Amber asked. Sunset was grateful she wasn’t drinking that time, because at that she definitely would have spit it out. Amber either didn’t notice Sunset’s expression or didn’t seem to care, as she persisted anyway. “At first I thought it was a birthmark or scar or something, but then after you fell asleep I was looking at it and it looks just like Fl–”

That is the result of another night of drinking, as well as something we are definitely pretending never happened.” Sunset glared at Amber, silently conveying that this was absolutely not a topic they could reopen later.

“Fine. So since you don’t feel like talking about that, why don’t you go first? Why did last night happen for you?”

Sunset took a deep breath. “Okay, full disclosure, lust and curiosity. Don’t get me wrong, you’re really cool, and under different circumstances I’d probably be interested in dating you. But no, last night was not some big secret love thing.”

“Fair enough,” Amber said. If she felt any kind of way about what Sunset said she didn’t say so. “What do you mean curiosity though? What, did you often find yourself wondering what I’m like in bed?”

“Nothing like that,” Sunset said, chuckling. “I meant lust in the general sense, by the way. I never really thought about you like that before. Even if you are sort of my type.”

“Oh, so what’s your type then?” Amber asked, grinning.

Sunset shrugged. “I have a few. Cute little pegasus is definitely one of them though.”

Amber didn’t look amused at being reminded of how small she was. “So, what? You were curious what pegasi are like?”

“If I said yes, would that be racist? I can’t even tell,” Sunset said. Amber just shrugged. “Anyway, no, I didn’t mean pegasi specifically. I’ve never actually slept with a pony before.”

Amber’s jaw dropped. “What? Last night was your first time? Like, ever?”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Pony. I’ve never slept with a pony before. What, did you forget I mostly grew up with humans?”

“Oh, okay then,” Amber said. She let out a relieved sigh. “I mean, that would have been pretty weird, right? Your first time’s supposed to be special.”

“I guess, but mine wasn’t,” Sunset said, then wondered if she was being too tough. “I mean, he was okay I guess, but I definitely didn’t love him or anything.”

“Yeah, me either,” Amber said.

Worried that a potentially touchy subject was about to come up which could derail the already touchy conversation she was trying to have, Sunset decided to lighten the mood. “That’s good. I mean, if you loved Flash Sentry that’d be pretty weird.”

Amber laughed, which almost made Sunset not want to ask the question she knew the pegasus was trying not to answer.

“So, your turn. What was last night for you?”

Amber frowned. “I, uhm, I don’t suppose you’ll reconsider that ‘not pretending like it never happened’ stance?”

“What, after I just admitted my reasons? No way,” Sunset said. “Understand, I just want us to still be great friends after this. But we need to air out what happened or else it’ll just be sitting in the back of our minds and could cause problems later.”

“I know. It’s just… it’s really dumb…” Amber said. She stared at the table rather than look at Sunset.

“Come on, it can’t be that bad.” Sunset smiled encouragingly. “You can tell me whatever it is. I won’t judge you or get my feelings hurt or anything. What, was I like revenge sex or something?”

“No, I…” Amber sighed. “I guess I thought… If I did it too, it was okay, you know? How can I be upset with Luna if I also slept with somepony else?”

“And did it work?” Sunset asked, although she was pretty sure she knew the answer already.

Amber shook her head then rested it on her hoof. “No. I know she didn’t really do anything wrong, but I’m still mad at her. And now I’m mad at myself too. It feels… And this is ridiculous, but it feels like I cheated on her.”

Sunset slouched in her chair and idly moved her necklace around. She felt the same way. “I’m sorry, for whatever that’s worth. I knew better. I never should have let things get that far.”

Despite looking like she might cry, Amber picked her head up and gave Sunset a genuine smile. “Don’t worry about it, It’s not your fault. I can’t blame you for my own stupid mistake. And you know, it doesn’t even matter anyway. Like, nopony even cares, right? I could go and tell Luna right now! I could tell and… and she wouldn’t even care…” At that, Amber did start crying.

Sunset reached out a hoof and set it on top of hers. “I don’t know, I think Luna’s pretty upset too. I bet if you talked with her about it, you could work all this out.”

“I’m not even sure I want things to work out,” Amber said, wiping the tears away from her eyes. “Sorry, I’ve got to pull myself together. What would everypony at work say if – oh sweet Celestia, I’m supposed to be at work!” She jumped up and began hurrying to the door.

“No way. You’re not going to work today.” Sunset frowned at the idea. “I’m sure they’ll be okay without you.”

Amber looked at her like she was crazy. “What? No, Sunset, I have to go to work! Trust me, I love my job, everything will be fine.”

“Uh huh. And where’s your uniform?” Sunset asked. She knew the answer already, and knew that it was a low blow. Still, Amber was in no condition to go into work, even aside from the lingering hangover.

Forgetting her panicked rush for a moment, Amber gazed at her hooves. “In the castle. In Luna’s room.” She shook her head and looked at Sunset. “It’s fine, I’ll just borrow one.”

“And when they ask why you don’t have yours? Or if somepony asks what you were up to last night, or realizes you seem out of it and want to know why? Are you really ready for that conversation?” She felt bad for pushing Amber, but if she was gonna break down, it’d be better to do it before going to work.

“No.” Amber sighed. “But I don’t want to cause problems for anypony, you know? If I don’t show, somepony else will get stuck picking up the slack.”

“Because every time somepony misses work, you blame them for making your day harder?”

Amber frowned, clearly seeing Sunset’s point. “No. I usually assume they have a good reason.”

Sunset arched her eyebrow. “And this is a bad one? Besides, when was the last time you missed work?”

Amber grumbled something to her hooves.

“Have you ever missed work?”

“No. I’ve never actually missed a day of work,” Amber answered begrudgingly. “I more or less live on the train and have schedules planned out weeks in advance for where I’m sleeping, so it’s generally not an option. In fact, I don’t know what I’m going to do if I stay in Canterlot again. I’m supposed to be in Ponyville tonight. You told your parents you were only staying one night, so it looks like my hooves are tied anyway.”

Sunset stood up and walked over to Amber. She put a hoof around her shoulder. “Oh no, we’re definitely not staying here again. You’ll be in Ponyville tonight as planned, but we’ll be arriving together.”

“We… we will?”

“I never said that the train was off limits, just that you wouldn’t be working on it,” Sunset said, grinning. “I’m ready to leave this city too, so why not? I mean, unless you feel weird spending the day with me after, well, you know…”

As Sunset pulled her hoof away, she gave Amber a nervous look. She felt guilty for manipulating her friend, but when Amber’s ears folded back, Sunset could tell she had her right where she wanted her.

“Of course not! Fine, you win. I still need to explain myself to the station manager at least, then we can go.” Amber pulled Sunset into a sideways hug to show there was no awkwardness between them.

“So, uh… should we get your stuff from the castle?” Sunset asked. She also wanted to say goodbye to Celestia, not to mention that she still needed to get her own things. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to talk to Luna.

Amber sighed and let go of Sunset. “Yeah, we should.”

After cleaning up after themselves, they left the house. Sunset’s parents were nowhere in sight, but that didn’t particularly surprise her. They were probably already at work. Since they still had no money, there was nothing to do but walk to the castle. Thankfully, the richer neighborhoods tended to be closer to the palace, and Sunset’s foalhood home was no exception. Besides, it was a nice spring day outside, so the walk wasn’t so bad.

Along the way, Amber seemed to be in fairly high spirits, probably because of how many other ponies were around. Of course neither brought up any touchy subjects. They were able to find a lot to talk about just by looking around Canterlot. Not for the first time, Sunset found herself marvelling at how little she’d noticed the city when she actually lived in it.

Once they reached the castle though, Amber grew apprehensive. “You know you don’t have to talk to her or anything,” Sunset said.

“I know. And she’d be asleep now anyway, so it’s not like I’ll run into her. It’s just… memories.”

Sunset nodded her understanding. “I could just go in myself if you want.”

Amber smiled. “No, it’s fine. Let’s go.”

Figuring Celestia might be busy, they decided to start with her, that way if they had to come back later they’d have other things to do in the meantime. Approaching the throne room, they found the same white unicorn sitting outside at her desk.

“Hello, Raven. I don’t suppose Princess Celestia is free?” Sunset asked.

“Sorry, Sunset, full day today,” Raven answered. Since their initial meeting the two had run into one another a few times. Although they were hardly friends, they remained amicable with one another. “Would you like me to pass a note along?”

“I’ll just check back in a bit, it’s nothing important or anything,” Sunset said. “I’m gonna be heading back to Ponyville today, and I wanted to say goodbye is all.”

“No, wait here. She’ll want to know that, and I’m pretty sure she’ll be able to spare a few minutes.” Raven set aside her paperwork and entered the throne room.

To be honest, Sunset had been hoping for more than a few minutes, although she knew that was unlikely. When Raven returned she was followed by Celestia.

“Hello, Sunset, Amber,” Celestia greeted them, smiling brightly.

“Good morning, Princess,” Sunset said. Amber echoed the greeting a little more nervously, as if afraid Celestia would tell her off for leaving Luna alone.

“Raven tells me you are leaving for Ponyville,” Celestia said.

“Yeah. As much as I’ve enjoyed staying in Canterlot, I think it’s time I go back,” Sunset said.

Celestia nodded. “Very well. I certainly enjoyed your visit though, and I hope you know you are always welcome back here.”

“Yes, Princess,” Sunset said. She searched for something meaningful to say, but found nothing. Even after Sunset read the letters Celestia had written her, the two had difficulty making more than idle conversation with one another.

“I look forward to seeing what you and Twilight are able to do together,” Celestia said. “Be sure to say hello to her for me, and to Fluttershy and all their other friends as well.”

“Of course,” Sunset said.

“I wish I had time for a proper goodbye, but I’m afraid my day is going to be another long one.” Celestia turned back towards the throne room. She took a step, then stopped. “Sunset…” She turned back towards her former pupil and there was no trace of her usual polite smile. It was as difficult as ever to read her expression, but she looked almost sad.

“Yes?”

“Perhaps you could find the time to write, once in a while?”

In as long as they’d known each other, Sunset couldn’t remember Celestia ever making a personal request of her. And she was certain she’d never made one back. “Of course. Do you think maybe you’ll have the time to write back?”

Celestia smiled. Not her usual one, which Sunset had seen thousands of times and she’d long since accepted as a practiced facade. It was a genuine smile, one Sunset barely recognized. “Yes, my gifted student. I’m sure I’ll find the time to write back.”

Celestia returned to the throne room, leaving Sunset behind with a slight smile lingering on her face. She replayed the small exchange in her head.

Eventually, Amber nudged her. “Touching.”

Sunset shook off her daze and nudged her back. “Hey, I don’t judge your family relationships.” She led the way towards her room.

“Oh geez, don’t say that,” Amber said. “That’d make Luna your family too.”

“I don’t think it works like that,” Sunset said, shrugging.

Although they hadn’t specifically agreed to save Luna for last, Amber never questioned their destination as Sunset led them to her room. Once there, she took time to change into clean clothes and repack her saddlebags, taking a few extra memories with her. When she left for the human world, she never even considered she was leaving behind her home, and back then she didn’t plan on ever coming back. Now she was welcome any time, and she still left with a heavy heart.

Eventually they ran out of excuses and had no choice but to make their way to Luna’s room. They stood outside the door, wondering how to proceed.

“I guess I’ll go in,” Amber said. “I mean, you’ve never even been in her bedroom, have you?”

“No, only her solar,” Sunset said. “But don’t worry about it. I mean, I’m sure you’re not ready to talk to her yet.”

“Well, no,” Amber said, looking off to the side. “But she should be asleep now, anyway. I should be able to just be in and out, no problem.”

“If she’s asleep then I’m sure I won’t have any problems either. And she could wake up when the door opens or because of her freaky sixth sense thing or whatever,” Sunset said. “Besides, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to figure out what’s yours and what’s hers.”

Amber looked torn between insisting she take care of it herself and remaining safely outside the room. “Well, if you’re sure…”

“I am.” Sunset nodded and opened the door. Stepping into the solar, she looked around the empty room. She had kind of hoped Luna would have gathered Amber’s things and set them aside down there, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

Sunset made her way in as quietly as she could. There was only one other door in the solar, which she opened to find a spiral staircase. She took a deep breath and began climbing. She expected Luna to appear behind her at any moment, but when she reached the top, she found the alicorn was sitting awake on her bed.

“Greetings, Sunset,” Luna said without turning to face her. Her voice seemed distant.

“Oh, hey, Luna,” Sunset said, smiling sheepishly. “Sorry for just barging in unannounced, but I was trying not to wake you.”

“It is fine. I was not asleep.” Although Luna remained perfectly still, her mane moved on its own accord. Combined with her distant tone, it made her seem almost ethereal.

“Have you been awake all day?” Sunset asked. She wasn’t quite sure why, but she felt wrong walking in past the doorway.

“I have,” Luna said. “You are here for Amber’s things. I have gathered them.” She gave a small nod towards a pair of saddlebags.

“I… you know…” Sunset struggled with what she wanted to say. She’d thought of many things she wanted to tell Luna over the course of the morning, and most of them involved some pretty colorful language. But now that she actually had a chance, it all felt wrong. She was angry at Luna because she was Amber’s friend, but now she couldn’t help but be reminded that she was Luna’s friend as well. And being friends with both of them meant there was something she definitely wanted to get into the open, lest it become a problem later. “So, last night… after we left, uhm…”

“Sunset.” Luna finally looked at her. Her face was as emotionless as her voice. “Whatever happened last night is for Amber to tell me, or not to, at her discretion.”

“Oh. Yeah, okay…” Sunset said. Luna turned away again. “So, uh, is there anything you want me to tell her for you?”

For a moment Luna was silent. Sunset wondered if she somehow didn’t hear, or if she was just considering her answer. “There are many,” Luna said eventually, “but I do not feel they are appropriate.”

Sunset finally took a few steps towards the bed. “Luna, please. She may not be ready to actually talk to you, but I know she wants to hear something from you at least. Write it down if you don’t want me to know, but at least tell her something.”

“But as you just said, she is not yet ready to speak with me. My apologies, Sunset, but I do not know what she’d like to hear from me.” Luna bowed her head. “No, that is untrue. I’m aware of several things I could say to make her happy again. But they are all either untrue, or else there is another reason I’d rather not say them.”

Sunset shook her head, once again growing angry at the princess. She walked closer to the bed, positioning herself in front of Luna so anything she’d have to say she could at least say to Sunset’s face. “What am I supposed to tell her then? You know she’s right downstairs, I know you can tell that sort of thing. So, what? I’m supposed to go down there and just tell her that you don’t care enough to even say anything to her!?”

It was subtle, and if she hadn’t positioned herself so close Sunset wouldn’t have noticed, but Luna flinched slightly at the accusation. “I see no reason why you should tell her anything other than the truth.”

Luna tried to turn away so Sunset reached out for her shoulder, holding her in place as much as she could with only one hoof. “So that’s it then? You’re just going to leave your best friend alone and miserable?”

“No, Sunset –” Luna looked into her eyes and smiled, which somehow only made her look even sadder and dispelled most of Sunset’s anger “– I have left her in capable hooves.”

Sunset held her gaze for a moment before she walked away, slightly ashamed at losing her temper. She picked up Amber’s bags in her magic and walked back to the door. She turned to Luna to say a proper goodbye, but found she was unable to do so. The silence of the room proved too much, so she instead walked downstairs, through the solar, and out towards the hallway.

“So was she asleep?” Amber asked.

Sunset was tempted to lie. “No. She was awake. She seems really upset in her own way.”

Amber looked at the door, clearly debating going in herself. Eventually though, she just slipped on her saddlebags. “Okay, let’s go.”

The walk out of the castle was somber. Sunset wanted to break the silence but couldn’t think of how. She kept thinking of Luna, wondering if she was still just sitting eerily still in her bedroom.

Once they were out of the castle, things got a little better. Since they finally had their bags and thus their bits, they decided to take a taxi to the station, again striking up idle conversation along the way.

“So what should I tell them?” Amber asked as they reached the station.

“Well, you can either tell them the truth, if you really want to get into all that, or you can just say you’re sick. Of course then you also have to spend the rest of the day pretending to be sick.”

Amber frowned. “I don’t really want to lie to anypony.”

“Well then you’ve really only got one choice,” Sunset said. “I mean, I suppose you could either tell them about Luna or that you’re too hungover to work. The second one won’t get you any sympathy though.”

“I guess you’re right,” Amber sighed and looked uncertainly across the station.

Sunset smiled encouragingly and hugged her. “It’ll be alright. I’ll go with you.”

Amber shook her head. “It’ll be fine. Besides, I’m sure the manager would rather talk to me privately.” She walked over to a small office building, leaving Sunset to herself.

As she sat down on a nearby bench, Sunset watched all the ponies coming and going. In a way, she found it mind-boggling. Any train would have at least a hundred ponies on it. They were all going to the same place at the same time, and all for different reasons.

Sunset rolled her eyes at the existential thoughts and instead pulled out a book from her bag. But before she could begin reading she was already putting it away, as Amber walked up shortly after.

“So, that was weird,” Amber said.

Sunset frowned. “Did they give you a hard time?”

“Oh no, nothing like that. Just, well… Luna already sent somepony ahead early this morning.” Amber frowned and stared somewhat longingly at the castle in the distance. “She had me excused from working unless I wanted to.”

Sunset also stared at the castle, but she felt annoyance more than anything. “You know, that’s usually the type of thing you tell somepony you’re gonna do.”

Amber smiled. “That’s just how she is. She didn’t want me to know unless I already decided I didn’t want to work.” She turned away from the castle and led them over to a train. “Anyway. I got our tickets, so we’re good to go.”

“Guess we’ll be arriving sooner than they expected,” Sunset said as they boarded.

“Yeah. I hope we’re not interrupting anything,” Amber said.

Sunset shrugged. “I doubt it. Fluttershy and Twilight are kind of shut-ins. Besides, if they’re busy we can just wait around Ponyville. Better than waiting around Canterlot.”

“True.”

Before they even found their seats, ponies were stopping to talk to Amber. Sunset had expected her coworkers, but she was surprised at how many customers stopped to ask her if everything was alright when they noticed she was out of uniform. She was afraid all the attention would prove too much, but being surrounded by ponies made Amber seem livelier than she had all day. One of her coworkers promised to take care of them her whole trip.

“So when was the last time you were on the train as a passenger?” Sunset asked once the crowd around them finally died down.

“Ages ago. I don’t usually have a lot of reason to, vacations for me involve actually staying in one place. The only time I ever rode as a passenger was almost five years ago. It was to Ponyville, actually. I went with my family for the Summer Sun Celebration. That was the year Luna was freed from Nightmare Moon. I remember watching her during the parade afterwards, she was riding in a chariot next to Princess Celestia.” Amber watched the other passengers as she spoke. She didn’t directly show any sign that she was upset, but even a neutral expression seemed sad when compared to her normal level of elation. “It’s weird to think about it now. I mean, I sat there with my parents and my brother and we just watched them go by. My brother was waving furiously, he was dead set on getting the princesses to notice him. When Luna actually waved back, you should have seen the look on his face! I always hoped I’d be able to actually introduce them someday.”

Sunset knew nothing she would say would help, so she instead reached a foreleg out to put it around Amber’s shoulders, only to jump back as the train jerked into motion. Amber smiled and grabbed her hoof. Sunset smiled back.

Along the way, Amber’s friend remained true to her word and checked on them several times. Sunset was a little embarrassed to be caught holding hooves, but Amber didn’t seem to care. She told a shortened version of what had happened between her and Luna, but made it sound like a simple fight rather than explain into the whole rough situation.

Despite the train and a few questioning looks from Amber’s friends, the ride to Ponyville didn’t prove as bad as the one to Canterlot. Still, she was thrilled when it came to an end and they were able to finally leave the train for good.

After a small discussion on whether or not to wait until Amber was expected to head to the castle, they decided their saddlebags were too heavy to wander around Ponyville. They made their way directly to the castle, albeit keeping their pace at a leisurely stroll.

“Don’t you kind of live here now?” Amber asked as Sunset knocked on the door.

“Yeah, but I don’t know,” Sunset said, “It still doesn’t feel like my home. I’ve spent more time in Canterlot than Ponyville so far. And besides, they don’t even know I’m coming, so it feels weird just barging in.”

It didn’t take long for the door to open, and they weren’t surprised to see that it was Spike on the other side. “Sunset? Welcome back, but you know you don’t have to knock, right?”

Amber chuckled. “Quiet, you,” Sunset said. She turned to Spike who stepped aside to let them in. “So how’s it going? I miss anything good?”

“Nah, just wedding planning every day,” he said as they made their way in and closed the door behind them. “It was way cooler going to Shining’s wedding when everything was already planned.”

“I’ll bet,” Sunset said. While Spike and Amber greeted each other, Sunset began rifling through her bags. She found what she was looking for and grinned. “Got you something while I was in Canterlot.”

“Really?” Spike lit up.

“Yup. Check it out.” Sunset levitated his gift to him.

“The Sandmare?” Spike read the name of the comic out loud. “I’ve never heard of that one.”

“It’s from before you were born,” Sunset explained. “Some of your comics were pretty good, but you’re holding the start of the greatest comic book series ever written!”

“Really? Thank you!” Spike seemed undeterred by the age of the comic as he excitedly looked over the surrealist cover. “What’s it about?”

“You’ll just have to read it and see,” Sunset said, grinning. Really she just didn’t want to explain that it was about the master of the Dreaming in front of Amber. Even if the story did predate Luna’s return, there were definitely some similarities. “But before you start digging into that, could you tell Twilight and Fluttershy we’re here?”

“Sure thing,” Spike said. He ran upstairs, book in hand, and Sunset doubted they’d be seeing him again that night.

Sunset led the way into the side room where she first met Twilight’s friends, figuring it would be well suited for the four ponies. She noticed Amber grinning at her once they sat down. “What?”

“I told you you’d be a good sister.”

Sunset blushed. “Oh come on, I barely even know Spike.”

“And you’re already a great sibling!” Amber said, clapping her on the back.

“If you say so.” Sunset turned away so Amber wouldn’t catch her smile.

“Sunset, Amber!” Twilight greeted them both warmly. Fluttershy stood beside her, wearing her engagement necklace and smiling.

Curious, Sunset kept an eye on Twilight while everypony exchanged greetings and hugs. Sure enough, when Amber and Fluttershy hugged, Twilight’s expression grew stern. She returned to a friendly smile almost immediately, but as soon as they were apart Twilight was immediately back at Fluttershy’s side, clinging closer than before.

The couple sat next to each other while Sunset and Amber sat across from them. Nopony else seemed to notice any difference in Twilight’s behavior.

“So what’s going on?” Twilight asked. “We weren’t expecting you until later, and didn’t know Sunset was coming at all. Not that we’re complaining, mind you.”

“Yeah, well… last night was kind of crazy,” Amber said. She glanced at her hooves and Sunset put a foreleg around her. Amber smiled gratefully. “Me and Luna kind of… I don’t even know what to say. We weren’t really dating so I can’t really say we broke up.”

Fluttershy gasped while Twilight just stared dumbfounded. Within moments the yellow pegasus was on Amber’s other side hugging her.

“Oh, you poor dear. What happened?” Fluttershy asked. A glance at Twilight revealed that she didn’t seem to know what to do, although she gave no clear sign that she was uncomfortable with Fluttershy’s condolences.

Amber explained the situation, going over everything from Doughnut Joe’s to arriving at Sunset’s parent’s house. She didn’t mention drinking and what came after. Sunset wondered if it was because Amber was embarrassed or for her sake. She decided to leave it Amber’s choice who she wanted to tell about that.

“I can’t believe Luna would do something like that,” Twilight said. She had remained quiet the whole conversation and only spoke once Amber was done.

“Well, we did agree on being non-exclusive,” Amber said, wiping tears from her eyes. “Really, I was the stupid one…”

“Shh, of course you weren’t,” Fluttershy said, patting Amber’s back. “None of us really thought Luna meant it when she said you two weren’t really dating.”

“Do you want me to talk to her?” Twilight asked.

Amber shook her head. “I just… I think I need some time away from Luna right now.”

“Of course,” Fluttershy said. Twilight looked disappointed and Sunset suspected it went beyond simply being concerned for a friend.

“Alright, seriously though, that’s enough of that,” Amber said, smiling broadly. “You two are getting hitched! So what’s new in the wedding department?”

“We’re still planning everything out. Rarity’s been over to help almost every day,” Twilight said. “We’re figuring out our options on everything right now, but we haven’t really decided on too much yet. We haven’t even settled on an exact date.”

“We are planning for fall though,” Fluttershy said.

Sunset couldn’t help but notice Twilight seemed to be looking expectantly at Fluttershy. At first she couldn’t figure out why, but then she realized once they were past Amber and Luna, Twilight must have expected Fluttershy to return to her side.

“It’s so exciting!” Fluttershy said. Sunset realized Fluttershy had been talking while she had been busy scrutinizing Twilight.

“I’ll bet! I’m excited and I’m not even the one getting married!” Amber said.

“Hey Twilight, want to help me grab some snacks?” Sunset asked.

“Oh, I’ll help,” Fluttershy offered.

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Fluttershy, we’re just grabbing something quick. I promise I won’t subject you to our awful cooking.”

“Hey!” Twilight frowned.

“Oh, I didn’t mean that…” Fluttershy said.

Sunset chuckled. “I know. I’d just get it myself but I don’t want to raid your food." She gestured to Amber with her eyes. “You two wait here.”

Fluttershy smiled and Sunset was pretty sure she picked up at what she was hinting at. “Okay. Let me know if you need anything.”

As they left the room Sunset distinctly saw Twilight glance at the two pegasi, but she kept her reservations inside.

“Since you haven’t brought it up I’m guessing everything went well with Princess Celestia?” Twilight asked as they entered the kitchen.

“Yeah. She says ‘hi’ by the way,” Sunset said. “I guess it was pretty dumb of me to expect her to throw me in the dungeon. Still, I’m surprised at how well she took everything.”

“Of course. She’s a lot more understanding than you give her credit for,” Twilight said. She began looking through cabinets, deciding what to get.

“I suppose. Speaking of being understanding though…” Sunset caught Twilight’s eye. “What’s going on with you and Amber?”

“What do you mean? Nothing’s going on.” Twilight grinned. She always seemed sure that her grin was inconspicuous, but really it was a dead giveaway that she knew exactly what Sunset was talking about.

“Nothing at all?” Sunset asked.

Twilight doubled her interest in looking through the cabinets. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t be silly.”

“You may not have been staring daggers, but you’ve definitely been keeping a pretty close eye on her. Especially whenever she’s around Fluttershy.”

“What? No, I…” Twilight glanced back towards Sunset and finally crumbled under her glare. “Is it that obvious?”

“Maybe,” Sunset said, “but if Amber knows, she never said anything to me about it.” Fluttershy, however, had said a lot about it over the past year, once she finally felt confident that Twilight wouldn’t read her messages to Sunset.

She walked over to Twilight and put a hoof on her shoulder. “In fact, she considers you a great friend. She clearly respects you a lot, so why are you so untrusting?”

“I’m not untrusting!” Twilight snapped. She shook her head. “I trust them. I just… worry.”

“But there’s nothing to worry about, Twi,” Sunset said. “Is it because Amber asked her out? Because that was one time, and it was over a year ago. She didn’t even know you two were together then, and she hasn’t done anything inappropriate since then.”

“No. Maybe. No, that’s not it.” Twilight shook her head. “It’s just… Fluttershy seems so happy around her. And that’s great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s like… If I wasn’t with Fluttershy it feels like she’d be with Amber, and that thought scares me.”

“Well, maybe that’s true,” Sunset said. Twilight looked taken aback. She had clearly expected Sunset to offer her mindless comforting words. “Maybe they would be together. But here’s the thing: you are with Fluttershy, and that’s not changing any time soon. I mean, she even agreed to marry you, so it’s not like you have any reason to worry, right? She wants to spend the rest of her life with you, Twilight.”

Twilight smiled a little at the reminder. “I know that. And I hate feeling this way, really. But it doesn’t help that Amber’s not… I don’t know, she doesn’t really seem like she understands committed relationships.”

“Okay, first off, she totally gets committed relationships. Didn’t you hear her talking about Luna? She committed herself to a relationship without even realizing it. Secondly, even if she didn’t, she still respects both of you enough to never break your trust.” Sunset smiled. “Besides, you can trust me, right? I got to know her pretty well and I personally vouch for her character.”

Twilight sighed and leaned against Sunset. “I’m a horrible friend. And an even worse fiancée…”

“No, you’re not.” Sunset pulled her into a hug. “Twilight, you’re allowed to feel whatever it is you feel. There’s nothing wrong with that. And while of course I understand why you don’t want to talk to Fluttershy about this, you can still talk to me. I’m here for you too, you know.”

Twilight hugged her back. “Thank you, Sunset. We should get back, they’re probably wondering about us.”

Sunset nodded and let go of the alicorn. “Alright, but we should seriously grab some food. We’ll look pretty silly walking in empty hoofed.”

Twilight chuckled. “Right.”

In the end, they wound up grabbing a simple chips and dip combo before returning to the room.

“You took that long to get chips?” Amber asked, grinning. Meanwhile, Fluttershy shot Sunset an appreciative look that confirmed her suspicions. Fluttershy definitely knew why Sunset had wanted Twilight alone.

“Sorry about that,” Twilight said as she returned to her seat. Sunset smiled, realizing Twilight was apologizing for more than just how long they took.

Since Fluttershy was still seated next to Amber, Sunset sat next to Twilight. As far as she could tell, nopony had a problem with the new seating arrangements.

“Hey, it wasn’t an easy decision,” Sunset said. “There were, like, three different kinds of dip to choose from.”

“That’s one important decision,” Amber said.

“Oh yes,” Twilight said. “As the Princess of Friendship, it is my duty to only provide my friends with the best snacks possible.”

“It was an exhaustive debate,” Sunset assured them. “We had to conduct a good deal of research, and only reached a conclusion due to Haycarte’s study on the emulsion of oil and vinegar.”

Everypony laughed, particularly Twilight who actually understood Sunset’s joke. Sunset smiled encouragingly at her, happy to see her casually joking around.

Over the next few hours the four of them talked, and although occasionally Twilight looked upset at some exchange between Fluttershy and Amber, Sunset was always able to easily dispel the negativity. Eventually Spike did come down to join them, raving excitedly about his new comic once he’d read it all. As Sunset and Spike discussed the story Twilight was amazed to learn that she actually recognized the author, and was shocked that somepony she respected had ever written comics.

Over the course of the day, it seemed everypony forgot their problems in the presence of good company. Everypony except one. The more Sunset watched Twilight and Fluttershy exchange small moments of love, the more she wanted to be part of it. But her time away had allowed her to clear her head; she no longer felt so overwhelmed by her feelings, and even found herself enjoying seeing the couple so in love. She decided she didn’t need more than that after all. She would be content watching them from a distance.

~ End Act I ~

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