• Published 29th Mar 2016
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Sunset Shimmer is MAD about EVERYTHING - Justice3442



Sunset Shimmer, practitioner of friendship, twice savior of Canterlot High, alicorn. She's offered to help Twilight's new student as the whole group travels to the Crystal Empire for a Crystalling. Should be a relaxing, stress free trip. Right?

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Chapter 11: Hope You Packed a Toothbrush Because We’re Going on a Feels Trip

Chapter 11: Hope You Packed a Toothbrush Because We’re Going on a Feels Trip


Cadance closed her eyes and dropped her ears, tiling her head slightly as if bracing from a heavy wind in the form of Sunset yelling the half-command, half-accusation at her which so happened to be in the form of a question.

Sunset took a deep sigh as her features calmed, a slight reddish hue appeared on her cheeks as she regarded Cadance once more. “I mean, ‘shouldn’t you be getting some rest?’” she said in a much calmer tone.

Cadance opened her eyes as her ears once again went upright. She turned her head with a tired smile at the ready. “I tried, but there’s a lot going on today. The nursery is full of activity still” — Cadance turned as if looking out an imaginary window — “and you know… my subjects…”

Sunset frowned at Cadance. “You really should have tried to get some sleep. All those ponies out there look like they’re in for the long haul anyway. I don’t even know if a storm would get them to leave.”

“Well…”

Sunset’s frown deepened. Though it had been a while, she had heard this tone from Cadance before, of her wanting to say something but hesitating because she knew Sunset wouldn’t take what came next well. “Well, what?” Sunset said impatiently. “As much as I’m digging this new earth pony strength and endurance that comes from being an alicorn, I know I can’t go without sleep forever! And you’re still awake after giving BIRTH!”

Cadance tilted her head down and scratched the side of it with a forehoof. “I have trouble sleeping when there’s a pony around who’s broken-hearted… Especially if it’s someone I’m close to.”

Sunset turned to stare at the kitchen doors. “Oh…” she said as Cadance’s words sobered her out of her anger and frustration.

Cadance shook her head. “It’s not all your fault, Sunset!” she insisted. “Princess Luna had some choice words for Celestia after you left. I mean… she was basically kept in the dark about the whole ‘adopted daughter’ thing. Once Princess Luna had pieced everything together, she didn’t take it well.”

“Okay, but…” Sunset let out another sigh. “I’m still mostly to blame here… If I hadn’t gone off on Mom like that…”

“You didn’t know she was going to be here,” Cadance said gently. “I’m sure if you knew and had time to prepare you’d have approached things differently.”

“Yeah,” Sunset chimed in. “Maybe I could have come up with something even more cutting and really let mom have it,” Sunset said, her frown returning.

“Oh Sunset, I know that’s not what you want.”

“Of course it isn’t! But…” Sunset shut her eyes hard for a moment. “But I don’t seem to be able to go a couple of sentences talking to mom without making things ugly… I just wish I could stop being so mad for like… a minute…”

Cadance smiled softly. “You seemed to do okay with me.”

“That’s because I was a monster to you!” Sunset paused and thought about her last statement for a moment. “Figuratively, that is… I knew I was totally at fault there and was sorry about it.” Sunset gave Cadance a serious look. “I’m still sorry about that… I really was a bratty little megalomaniac with mommy issues and you had to deal with me for so long.” Sunset paused to take a breath. “I really wish I was a better cousin to you, Cadance…”

Still smiling, Cadance replied. “I’m sorry, too…”

Sunset gave Cadance a blank stare. “What? Cadance you didn’t do anything wrong…” Sunset tapped at her chin ponderously for a moment. “Unless I really was right about you trying to steal my life, in which case… er…” Sunset paused to look over her crystal surroundings. “… good job?”

Cadance chuckled. “No. Nothing like that… Just… About the time you left, I was finally starting to feel like we were starting to get along.”

Sunset winced. “Well, that was probably because mom and I were fighting a lot around that time and you had to keep playing go-between…”

Cadance nodded. “I know… But I guess the upshot of that is things weren’t so bad between us.”

“Well sure, but you were spending mostly everyday trying to get mom and I out of bathrooms and closets and…” Sunset glanced around the crystal kitchen. “I even closed myself off in a cupboard one time.”

Cadance giggled and nodded. “Yes, I remember that day. Celestia picked a snack pantry and ate most everything in it before I could get her out.”

Sunset couldn’t help but chuckle. “She did pick the better hiding spot that time. At least she eventually offered me a half eaten sleeve of saltines as sort of an apology for… whatever we were arguing about that day.” Sunset frowned. “I mean… most of the stuff was just me being an obnoxious teenager… If anypony should be sorry, it’s me for putting you through all that.”

“Well, that’s not exactly what I’m sorry about.”

“Oh…” Sunset replied as she tilted her head slightly. “Then what are you apologizing for?”

“Well, after you left, I tried talking to Auntie about you but…”

“Let me guess, she’d figure out a way to change the subject until you were talking about something else?”

Cadance nodded. “Yes… that’s exactly what would happen.”

Sunset shook her head. “Typical Princess Celestia behavior. She’s an expert at avoiding doing or talking about stuff she doesn’t want to do unless she absolutely has to do it.” Sunset hung her head. “And I guess talking to me was just something she didn’t want to do…”

Both mares went quiet as Sunset elected to stare at the floor a bit. After a lengthy pause, Cadance spoke up, “I’m sorry I never tried to reach out to you.”

Sunset looked up, surprise written across every nock and cranny of her face. “Again… ‘What?’ That was never on you to do!”

“I know, but…” Cadance smile turned sad. “I could have at least tried to write in the journal, and let you know somepony missed you.”

“Well, I still don’t think that was really something you had to do,” — Sunset grimaced — “but at least one pony missed me.”

Cadance shook her head. “I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to conclusions.”

“Come on, Cadance! You mentioned the journal yourself! You’d probably have to ask for it or sneak into mom’s room to get it, but she had access to it the whole time and could have at least tried writing in it.” Sunset frowned and glanced upwards. “Of course I know that goes both ways…”

“I know she had the journal and didn’t write to you, but you weren’t there to see how she acted when you left.”

“Oh… How did she act?”

“Well… At first she pretended that nothing had happened and even threw herself into her work twice as hard as usual. She took on even more meetings and taking care of days’ worth of her duties all with in the span of a few sunrises.”

Sunset’s ears flopped down around her head. “Was that… Was that supposed to make me feel better?”

Cadance’s continued, “But after a few days it became clear why she had done that. Once she had cleared her schedule for a while she locked herself in her quarters and refused to come out and barely spoke to anypony. The only thing she’d do was raise and lower the sun and moon.”

Sunset said nothing, but looked at Cadance in interest.

“No other pony knew what was going on, but I could feel it.” Cadance paused to place a forehoof over her chest. “Sunset, you leaving broke Celestia’s heart in a way I had never seen before or since.”

Sunset’s expression was suddenly flooded by guilt, however anger quickly floated in to join it. “O-okay… But… but if it upset her so much then why didn’t mommy try to talk to me?!” Sunset said, her voice breaking and raising in pitch. Almost immediately, Sunset’s face turned beet red and she looked away as she realized just what she had said and how her words had left her mouth.

To Sunset’s great surprise, she felt a comforting hoof on her shoulder. She turned to see Cadance staring back at her.

“I don’t know,” Cadance said. “I wish I could have helped auntie and figured that out, but she wouldn’t open up to anypony, not even me.” Cadance turned and looked towards the kitchen doors. “I suppose that’s just something you’ll have to ask her yourself.”

Sunset felt tears rush up to her eyes and shut her eyelids hard. She kept them shut for a few moments and took a deep breath, followed by another. Satisfied that her emotions were more or less in check for the time being, she opened her eyes again and looked towards the door. “You’re right, Cadance… If I’m ever going to get past this, then I need to at least face mom and ask her…” Sunset took a deep breath. “Even if I think I understand a little bit about how she feels regarding avoiding that particular topic.”

Cadance smiled and patted Sunset’s shoulder once more. “I know this is probably hard for you, but I also know you can do this.” Her smile grew into a toothy grin. “If anypony can overcome her fears and face her problems head on, it’s you.”

Her cheeks flushing slightly again, Sunset rubbed the back of her head. “Well… I don’t know if I’ve been excelling at that as of late, but thanks.” Sunset turned towards the door again. “Well… guess I should get this over with,” she said as she took a step forward.

“Oh, one more thing,” Cadance said.

Sunset turned again. “Yes, Cadance?”

“I’m sorry I freaked out when I first saw you today. You were only trying to apologize.”

Sunset shook her head. “It’s fine. I deserved that reaction. I mean… after the years of you putting up with all the abuse at my hands-er hooves, I don’t know why I expected anything different but—”

Cadance suddenly took a huge step forward, putting her head a bit past Sunset’s as she wrapped a foreleg and wing around the orange alicorn. She turned her muzzle and whispered into Sunset’s ear. “I forgive you,” she whispered, “and I’m happy to see you again.”

Sunset clamped her teeth down on her lower lip as her emotions suddenly put her in checkmate. She wrapped both her arms and legs and Cadance as she buried her face into Cadance’s mane. Muffled sobs began to escape from her mouth as she held onto Cadance tightly, mumming “Thank you”s in between her cries.

“Oh, Sunset,” Cadance said, teary eyed as she patted Sunset’s back. “You don’t need to cry.”

The door large door to the dinning room suddenly opened. “Hello?” Twilight Sparkle said as she stepped in followed by Spike. “Is anyone he—.” Twilight and Spike suddenly stopped in their tracks as the caught sight of Sunset and Cadance’s tearful embrace. Sunset kept her face buried in Cadance’s mane as Cadance gave the new arrivals an awkward smile.

Twilight took a close look at Sunset then back up at Cadance, mirroring her smile she mouthed out ‘I’ll talk to her later…’ she said pointing a forehoof at Sunset.

Cadance smiled and nodded.

“Come on, Spike,” Twilight said quietly as she turned and walked back out of the dining room and into a massive crystal hall. “Let’s get back to the baby before Pinkie starts screaming again.”

Pinkie’s shrill cry suddenly echoed all the way down the massive hallway. “Too late! Ahhhhh! AHHHHH! AAAAAAAAAAHHHH!”

Surprise took hold of Twilight’s features as she continued to trot down the hallway. “The nursery is in an entirely different wing of the castle! How could she…”

Spike shrugged. “It’s Pinkie Pie. I’m going to save my brain the strain and not even think about it…”

>-ooo-<

Starlight Glimmer and Sunburst both sat on the floor of Sunburst’s home on their haunches and leaned their backs against each other as the both used their magic to hold aloft clear goblet glasses with long stems which were partially filled with a dark red liquid.

Sunburst glanced over at his writing desk, barely the length of a pony away. “Did you really travel through time?”

With a small shimmer of her horn which was already glowing azure, Starlight tipped her glass towards her lips and took a large sip of the wine it held. She raised her glass upright again. “See, this is why I had to get you away from that writing desk. I don’t think you’re quite focusing on what you’re supposed to here.”

With a yellow sparkle of his own horn, Sunburst tipped his glass of wine towards his lips and took a sip of his own before floating it upright again. “Sorry,” he said with a sheepish smile. He motioned out to the books. “Just… learning magic is still quite the hobby of mine.”

“Hobby?!” Starlight said in disbelief. “I think you pretty much built your whole life around magic!”

Sunburst took another large sip of wine. “For all the good it did me… I have all this knowledge, but not the ability to cast the vast majority of spells I know.” He shook his head and looked at his wine glass sadly. “Reading about magic is one thing, but you don't know what it was like at magic school…” Sunburst began to frown deeply. “To know so much and not be able to do any of it…”

Starlight took another drink of her wine and grit her teeth. “Well, you don't know what it was like to be left behind!” Starlight’s expression slowly became angrier and angrier as she continued, her forehooves pointing one way than the other for effect. “And then getting so bitter that you steal the cutie marks from an entire village and then get defeated by Twilight and her friends, so you travel through time to get back at them, but they beat you again and teach you about friendship,” Starlight took a breath as tears began to stream from her amethyst eyes, “but you're so terrified ponies will find out what you did that you can't make any friends!” Starlight’s eyes went wide as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “Sorry!” she exclaimed before taking another sip of wine and emptying her glass. “That came out a tad more vitriolic than I intended…” She turned and floated the glass closer to Sunburst. “More wine?”

Oh! Uh…” Still holding his glass upright with magic, Sunburst took a half-empty bottle of red wine in a yellow glow and awkwardly floated it over to Starlight’s glass. He grit his teeth as his yellow glow increased around the bottle’s cork and his own glass began to sway from side to side.

Starlight grinned sheepishly as she took the bottle in an azure glow and floated it and her glass in front of her.

“… Sorry…” Sunburst said as his cheeks turned red and he stared at his wine glass. “It’s, uh, harder to concentrate with all this wine in me…”

“Don’t worry about it,” Starlight said as she poured herself a generous glass of wine and re-corked the bottle before gently placing it on the ground. “I’m the one who launched into that big spiel regarding everything that’s gone wrong with my life…”

Sunburst flinched slightly. “Starting with when I left you behind…”

Starlight tensed up a bit. “Well… Er… I mean… That certainly was what set me off initially, but it’s not like you’re to blame for everything I did… or… any of it really.”

Sunburst nodded as he looked at one of his many bookshelves. “Okay, but I'm still sorry we lost touch. Maybe if I had reached out, you could have helped me at magic school, and I could have helped you to...”

Starlight turned with a small grin on her face. “Not become totally evil?”

Sunburst chuckled lightly. “Well, I was going to say, ‘Enroll at magic school’…”

Starlight groaned. “I know! I know!” she wailed. “I just…” Starlight stared at her glass and swayed it slightly, causing the wine inside to swirl. “I just have something of a one-track mind, I guess…”

Sunburst continued, “But yes… That I suppose I could have stopped you from imposing your will onto other ponies.”

Starlight took a sip from her glass. “You can just say ‘evil’. I know what I did was wrong…”

Sunburst took in a lengthy inhale from his nose. “Sorry, I guess I didn’t realize just how important I was to you…”

Starlight inhaled deeply then exhaled. “It’s alright… I mean… you were young. Heck, you had just gotten your cutie mark and then everything happened so fast.” Starlight shook her head. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“Still,” Sunburst said as he leaned his head over to try to glimpse at Starlight. “I could have wrote you a letter or something to show I still cared.”

Starlight turned and gave Sunburst a half-grin. “Well, I could have wrote you a letter too…” She looked away then down at her wine glass sadly. “Besides, maybe I just wasn’t worth caring about.”

Sunburst’s eyes suddenly shot open wide. “Starlight! Don’t talk like that! You were just a little filly!”

Starlight shook her head, her tears returning. “Yeah, a little filly no one wanted…” Starlight threw her forehooves up in the air. “A little filly that didn’t seem worth wanting or even being friends with!” Tears once again began to stream from her eyes. “And you know what? They were all right! I proved everypony right! I went crazy the first chance that I got and went off to screw up more ponies’ lives…” With a forlorn look on her face, Starlight took a big gulp of her wine. “Maybe it's better you didn’t reach out to me… I’m sure I would have screwed up your life too, or like… somehow turned you into a horrible monster of a pony like I was…”

“Starlight, I…” Sunburst turned to face forward, sighed heavily, and quickly drank all the wine in his glass.

Starlight shook her head. “It’s fine, you don’t have to say anything… sniff… I know I’m a screw up. I know I’m not worth—”

Starlight suddenly felt forelegs wrap themselves around her chest as Sunburst held her tightly.

“You’re worth it to me,” Sunburst said.

Starlight’s body jolted upright slightly as she tensed, then slowly she allowed her muscles to relax as she slouched downwards slightly.

Sunburst continued. “Look, um, I’m so sorry I left you all by yourself… That I didn’t write to you or anything. I know I’m not an important wizard or even much of anything, but… I do know everything you did and I want to be your friend…”

Starlight could feel her heart beating hard in her chest as Sunburst held her tightly. For a moment the two ponies stayed that way, Sunburst holding Starlight tightly and Starlight holding still with Sunburst partially enveloping her.

Tears still streaming down her face, Starlight raised her forehooves and gently placed them against Sunburst’s. “Thank you…” she uttered with a smile.

<-ooo->

With one more final deep breath (well, technically the only ‘final deep breath’ as the other ‘final deep breaths’ turned out just to be for practice), Sunset Shimmer pushed open the doors to the kitchen.

Unsurprisingly, the kitchen was huge. Slightly surprising, it appeared to be about as crystal as everything else in the castle. Even the many stoves seemed to be made of crystal, if a hardier, more opaque version compared to everything else she had encountered.

Sunset shook her head. I guess I really should have expected this from the CRYSTAL Empire… She scanned the kitchen briefly and almost immediately found her target. Celestia was fairly easy to spot with that giant mane of shimmering hair always floating about… In fact, her mane and tail made Celestia rather horrible at hide and seek.

Sunset found herself smiling at the memory of happier times with her mother and then quickly shook her head, putting on a fierce grimace. No… No… Don’t just run up to her and tell her how sorry you are! You have business to attend to, plus there’s no telling how she’ll actually react to you running up to her like a silly little filly again… or if she’ll care at all.

Sunset took a final final deep breath and began to trot towards Celestia, weaving around prep tables and stoves.

Celestia paused and turned to look as Sunset approached. For a moment, Sunset caught a nervous look from Celestia, but the alabaster Princess quickly changed her expression to a dignified, if almost expressionless mask.

Sunset grimaced internally; she was familiar with both looks, and it usually meant the conversation would turn bad at some point or another.

“Hello again Sunset Shimmer,” Celestia said in an even tone. She motioned to a single layer chocolate cake that had a few slices taken out of it already, courtesy of a sharpened crystal cake knife, because of course the knife was also made out of crystal. Also on the crystal table Celestia sat at was a clean pile of crystal plates, a few used plates where it seemed other ponies had helped themselves to some cake, and a small collection of, mercifully metal, forks. “I was just enjoying a snack,” Celestia said, a small piece of partially eaten cake in front of her. “Perhaps you’d like to join me?”

Sunset sighed and shook her head as she took a seat right next to Celestia. “Okay, fine,” Sunset said in a begrudging tone.

With a yellow glow, Celestia lifted the knife into the air and cut a small slice of cake.

Sunset spoke up again. “But I also want some of the good stuff you’re hiding under the table.”

Celestia’s eyes widened as her lips twitched ever so slightly. She held a plate and the piece of cake in mid-air in front of her, both now frozen in place seemingly at Sunset’s words. “W-Whatever do you mean?” Celestia said, her voice only shaking a little before it became even again.

Sunset glared up at Celestia and responded with an irate sounding “HmmmmMMMMMMMMMMMM?!”

With a sigh like that of a filly who just got caught doing something naughty, Celestia finished placing the cake in front of Sunset. Sunset simply glared at the cake, but smiled wryly as Celestia’s horn glowed again and a silver bowl full of chocolate frosting was lifted up and sat in front of the two mares.

Both alicorns horns’ glowed as their forks lifted into the air, were dipped into the bowl, spun, and came out with an oval-shaped orb of chocolate covering the tips. The forks moved almost as if synchronized, both mares floated their frosting covered utensils to their mouths, parted their lips, and took in the large ‘lollipop’ of chocolate.

The taste again reminded Sunset of that simpler time… A time when she was ‘naughty’ at worst but usually her mother’s ‘co-conspirator’. The feelings of loss and rejection still lingered. In fact, she could feel her heart beating hard in her chest. But maybe… maybe that nostalgic feeling was enough to at least get out what she needed to say before she got into all that with Celestia.

Sunset took the chocolate-covered fork out of her mouth and stared at the bowl in front of her. “What I said earlier… About you… About you pushing ponies until they snap… I… Well… I didn’t mean you pushed me to… er… go completely berserk and try to take over Equestria or that um… Well… you know… with your sister…” Sunset trailed off and glanced up at Celestia, hoping Celestia would perhaps acknowledge what Sunset was trying to get out.

Celestia just glanced back, silent and expressionless.

Sunset swallowed and went back to staring at the bowl. She continued speaking, “I’m… I’m sorry, okay! Maybe you do sometimes accidently push ponies without meaning to but… but… It’s not like that made me or Princess Luna go bonkers and… I don’t want you to feel responsible for those things! Alright?!”

Slowly, a warm smile washed its way across Celestia's face like waves gently caressing a beach. She nodded. “Alright Sunset, I understand. Apology accepted.”

Sunset glanced up and caught the expression. She felt her face go warm and with a turquoise glow she thrust her fork back into the bowl, scooped out a generous amount of frosting and thrust the whole thing into her mouth.

Sunset closed her eyes as the frosting hit her tongue. This all felt so… right… Maybe… maybe she could just say nothing and everything would just go back to the way it was… Was… Was that what she wanted? Just to forget about the years of not hearing from her mother and just… just go back without so much as acknowledging her banishment or the communication blackout that followed?

“Sunset,” Celestia began in a soft, motherly voice as she stared at half-eaten cake in front of her and placed her frosting smeared fork on the plate. “I know you’re upset with me. I know that look.” Celestia shook her head as her warm smile turned sad. “Just about everything about you is burned permanently into my memory, so please, tell me what’s upsetting you.”

Sunset opened her eyes. It finally dawned on her that she was biting down hard on the fork in her mouth. Her heart was also still pounding in her chest. No… this wouldn’t just go away… She wasn’t sure if this is what she wanted, but she was still just so mad at her mother, and it wasn’t a feeling she could just bottle up.

So she didn’t.

Why should I!?” Sunset snapped angrily back at Celestia. “Is it so hard to figure out what I could possibly be mad about?!”

Celestia nodded. “Yes. The list of things you have a right to be angry with me with is so large I don’t have the heart to go through it all…” Celestia turned her head away from Sunset, electing to stare at a large crystal stove instead. “Please don’t make me choose…” she said in a voice that seemed to be pleading with Sunset ever so slightly.

Sunset’s eyes widened in surprise at Celestia’s tone as well as her words. She felt a stabbing pain in her chest as if someone had just rammed a spear through her heart. She did her best to hold onto her anger as a cavalcade of other emotions marched in to join it, but at the very least the floodgates of her eyes had been opened. Still, she managed to keep anger at the head of the emotional parade going on inside her even as tears streamed from her face. “How… how could you banish me from the castle? From my home!” Sunset’s voice caught in her throat. “How could you send me away from you?!”

Celestia winced at the last line as she continued to face away from Sunset. She sighed. “You disobeyed me when I said to leave the information about the mirror alone for the time being by sneaking into the forbidden section of the library to find a book on what you wanted and then iced that particular cake by taking some time to peruse a few other books in that section full of dangerous and forbidden magic!”

Sunset pushed past all her emotions, if at least temporarily. “… You just had to make a cake metaphor, didn’t you?” she said in an even tone.

Celestia didn’t turn, but Sunset was sure she heard the alabaster Princess’s eyes roll. “I had to pick up the Necronomicon and put it back on the shelf! THE Necronomicon! I mean… when you took it off the shelf did you say the proper words exactly, because if you didn’t…”

“Yes, I know mom!” Sunset said, her voice resembling that of a teenager who was having a conversation she had had way too many times in the past. “‘That’s how you get skeletons!’ Of course I said the words correctly! Otherwise Canterlot would have been attacked by the undead! Geez, If you didn’t want me to read the book, why’d you teach me the words anyways?

Still looking away, Celestia’s body tensed. “I… I thought you might sneak into the forbidden section someday… I was hoping to at least mitigate the damage you might cause.”

So you didn’t trust me?!Sunset roared.

“I… I didn’t really know what you were capable of… Something that became even more apparent when you…” Celestia sighed. “I told you repeatedly to drop the mirror topic for the time being and you knew those books were dangerous! Sunset, you were dangerous and you had more than enough power considering your magical talent and access to materials that you could have caused a disaster that would affect ponies on a global scale!”

Sunset felt tears return. “So… so… What?! You weighed the danger I posed against your responsibilities and it tipped the scale enough that you figured it was best for everypony if I was just banished?!” Sobs began to escape from Sunset as she began to speak in a strained whisper. “Did you… did you even stop to think what it would do to me? How…choke… How I would feel?”

“I knew exactly what it would do to you.”

Sunset stopped sobbing as her tears ceased. She even stopped breathing. For the life of her, she couldn’t believe what she had just heard. As upset as she was with Celestia’s actions, she understood why she had been banished from the castle. Her accusatory tone had been masking what she knew were perfectly valid reasons for Celestia as ruler to do what she did. Sunset knew above all that keeping her in the castle was a risk. She had already proven that fact to herself and basically every person and pony by nearly starting a war against Equestria with her at the helm of the mind-controlled army… But… but she never thought Celestia—no, she never thought the only mother she had ever known would be able to admit that she knew the emotional toll sending her away would have on her.

Just… just… how could she understand that and still do what she did?!

How. Could. She?!

How. DARE. She?!

For another few moments the room was silent, perhaps deathly so as Sunset struggled with a level of anger and sadness even she didn’t know she was capable of.

As if sensing Sunset’s emotional state, or perhaps sensing she’d have to be the one to continue the conversation, Celestia picked up where she left off. “I knew how you’d feel, and not a single day goes by that I don’t think about how I sent you away, and how it had to have broken your heart the same way it broke mine. No matter how much or how many times I rationalize that sending you away was for the good of Equestria, I still can’t help but hate myself if even just a little bit for what I did that day.”

Emotions slammed into Sunset with the force of a runaway train speeding down the tracks. Tears poured down from her eyes as her breathing came back to her in heavy, labored breaths. She had never wanted to bury her face in Celestia’s glimmering mane or feel her adopted mother’s wings and legs around her more than the moment she had currently found herself in, and that was certainly saying something. Sunset bit down hard on her lower lip and opened her mouth, choking out, “Then… then why did you do it…?” Sunset regretted her words as soon as they parted her lips.

Sunset watched as Celestia’s entire body heaved as if stifling a massive sob. Realization finally hit Sunset. She really ought to have known better. While her mother was an expert at controlling her emotions, she could never quite keep them in check when it came to Sunset. It was more than likely Celestia was battling it out with her own emotions… and losing.

Still, Celestia pushed forward. “This… this is no excuse…” Celestia began softly. “But… but I never thought you’d overpower your guards then leave through the mirror…”

Surprising herself, Sunset replied. Not in anger, nor in sadness, but in the inquisitive tone of one who simply needed to know. “Did… did you really think I’d just leave the castle? Just like that…?”

“… No…” Celestia said in a shaky voice that sounded like it was moments away from breaking. She shook her head from side to side. “I… I thought… You’d go to your room… start packing… break down in tears about 30 seconds in when the full reality of the situation dawned on you, and then maybe overpower your guards before running up to me with tears pouring down your eyes as you screamed ‘Mommy! Mommy!’ over and over again… And then I’d break down because I simply don’t possess the sheer force of will to keep it together when you’re in that state and then after five minutes of hysterical mother/daughter crying we’d be able to talk things out without being so mad at each other!”

Sunset once again managed to put the brakes on everything her body was doing. As ridiculous and sappy as her mother’s idea of the outcome was, it just made too much sense. If she hadn’t made a break for the mirror, if she hadn’t held onto her anger, there’s no way she could have gotten as far as the castle gates before she broke down and started running back to Celestia’s waiting wings.

Sunset turned away from her mother’s back and stared down at her plate, silently soaking her untouched cake with salty tears from her eyes.

Words began to pour from Celestia like a broken spigot. “Oh, Sunset… I should have never tried to send you away! I’m so, so sorry I ever considered it! I’m sorry I didn’t have the courage to try writing you in the journal. I’m sorry I didn’t have the courage to face you myself when you stole Twilight’s crown. I’m sorry I made no attempt to contact you when Twilight told me what happened when she came back. I’m SORRY my inaction and cowardice to even speak to you made you feel like you had to reach out to Twilight when the sirens attacked… You don’t need you to forgive me or even tell me you understand any of the reasons why I’ve done it… Just… just… even if I know I don’t deserve it, please tell me you still love me!

Silence.

Celestia’s entire body tensed. She swallowed. She clenched her eyes hard and turned. Sunset glanced up for the briefest of moments, and that’s when Sunset finally saw her mother’s face. Her eyes were red and puffy, and tears had soaked her cheeks, ran down her neck, and were in the process of soaking Celestia’s chest. If Sunset was under any illusions that Celestia was somehow successfully keeping her emotions in check, those had been shattered now.

Celestia was giving Sunset a look she didn’t know her mother was capable of, a mare that Sunset considered the most powerful entity she had ever met. Celestia looked at Sunset with a helpless, pleading look. A look as if she had handed Sunset her entire, surprisingly fragile, world and was begging Sunset not to grind it under hoof. It was a look Sunset had long lost count of the times she had showed to Celestia.

Sunset finally understood why it was Twilight that was given the journal that had once allowed Sunset and her mother to always be with each other no matter how far away the other was. Celestia was afraid. Not of Sunset’s power or even what she had the potential to do. Afraid because over time she had given Sunset the ability to shatter everything Celestia held dear in an instant as well as a reason to do so.

Celestia managed to stammer out one last thing. “My… my little shimmering sunlight…?”

Sunset had long lost track of what her emotions were doing to her, or what expression she even carried on her face prior to her mother uttering her childhood nickname. A name she once demanded her mother stop calling her because, of course, she wasn’t Celestia’s silly little filly anymore.

But she was.

And she would always be.

Sunset looked up at her mother not with the look of a hate-filled adult, nor a spurned teenager, nor even an angry child throwing a tantrum. She looked back up with the look of a lonely little filly, desperate for somepony, anypony, to show that she was loved… that she mattered. She opened her mouth and spoke in a tone to match her expression. “Mommy?”

Celestia dove forward and wrapped her forelegs and wings around Sunset Shimmer.

And then the two mares wept.

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