• 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 5: Sleep is for the Weak and Also Ponies Without Babies

Chapter 5: Sleep is for the Weak and Also Ponies Without Babies


Sunset Shimmer entered the ponies’ passenger car using the same train door she had come in through with Pinkie earlier, sporting a grin a little too wide for a simple bathroom trip and a mane quite a bit messier than when she had last exited the car. Starlight and Spike followed behind Sunset, likewise sporting less than genuine smiles with Starlight’s mane also being a tousled mess.

Out of the other mares on the train already facing the door, Applejack was the closest and she immediately reacted to what she was seeing with a look of suspicion. “Call me crazy—”

“You’re crazy!” Pinkie exclaimed happily as she laid down on the seat across from Twilight.

Applejack rolled her eyes and continued, “—but didn’t y’all go in through that door?” Applejack asked, pointing at the door that lead to the empty snack car.

Sunset shook her head. “No! That’s silly!” she said as she took her seat behind Twilight, who still pored her eyes over the book with the baby bottle on the front. “Why would you even suggest that?” Sunset continued as Spike elected to sit next to her and Starlight reclaimed the spot next to Twilight. “Obviously, we wouldn’t go in there because the bathroom wouldn’t be that direction!”

Applejack tilted her head and raised an eyebrow to enhance her scrutinizing look. “Ah’m certain you and Starlight went through that door,” Applejack said, pointing again at the door on the opposite end of the car the three had just emerged from, “and then Spike went to check on you two ‘cause both of ya were in there for so long!”

Sunset shook her head. “Well that doesn’t seem likely with what everypony just saw and shouldn’t question because clearly the laws of physics mean nothing on this train.”

Applejack scowled at Sunset.

“Makes sense to me!” Rainbow Dash said happily.

Pinkie smiled wide. “I never question things when it comes to physics!” Pinkie thrust a forehoof into the seat cushion she laid on and pulled out a black eyepatch that she put over her left eye. “Arrrrrr! Physics be a fickle mistress!”

Sunset grit her teeth as her left eye twitched slightly, seemingly holding her smile at gunpoint to stay on her face. “It’s actually quite the opposite of what you said!” She said, maintaining her chipper tone. “But this conversation is already starting to make me very angry, so I’m no longer going to comment.”

Applejack sighed and shook her head.

Her fake smile still on her face, Starlight leaned over the seat divider to whisper into Sunset’s ear. “Do you think they suspect we went out the back and made our way to the other side of the train?”

>-ooo-<

Starlight Glimmer grit her teeth and kept her head and body low as wind blasted her in the face, whipping her mane about in all directions. Around her the chilly countryside of the Crystal Empire sped by, below her was the sloped light blue roof of a train car. “I’M REALLY WONDERING IF THIS WAS A BETTER IDEA THAN COMING UP WITH A REASON WE WERE ALL IN THERE SO LONG!” she shouted over the sound of the roaring wind.

Just a bit in front of her, Sunset likewise kept her body low to the train car and slowly worked her way up. Looking behind her she shouted, “WE WERE IN THERE FOR TOO LONG! I MEAN… WHAT WERE WE GOING TO COME UP WITH THAT WASN’T EMBARRASSING THAT WE COULD EXPLAIN TOOK SO MUCH TIME TO HASH OUT?!”

From behind the mares, Spike also hugged the top of the train car, digging his claws into the top. “DIDN’T WE ALL SPEND A LONG TIME CRYING BECAUSE OF OUR FAMILY ISSUES?! I MEAN… I THINK THEY’D HAVE BOUGHT US JUST TALKING ABOUT THAT! IT’S NOT REALLY EMBARRASSING AND NOT REALLY ANYTHING ANYPONY IS GOING TO PRY INTO, SO…”

Sunset and Starlight paused momentarily before simultaneously smashing forehooves into their faces.

“ALSO,” Spike continued, “CAN’T BOTH OF YOU JUST TELEP

“SPIKE!” Starlight shouted as she held her forehoof against her forehead. “I’M SORRY, BUT I’M GOING TO HAVE TO ASK YOU TO BE QUIET NOW. SUNSET AND I ONLY HAVE SO MANY HOOVES TO HOLD ONTO THE TRAIN WITH AND WE ALREADY USED ONE TO HIT OURSELVES IN THE HEAD!”

Sunset nodded, likewise holding a hoof against her forehead.

<-ooo->

Matching Starlight’s smile, Sunset placed a forehoof up to her lips. “Shhhh!”

“Oh my word!” Rarity exclaimed as she bolted from her seat and examined Starlight and Sunset’s manes. “Whatever happened to your coiffures?!”

Starlight’s eyes opened wide. “We weren’t making out if that’s what you’re thinking!”

Sunset smacked a forehoof against her head.

“Oh my…” Fluttershy uttered from under her and Rarity’s seat.

Erm… I wasn’t, darling,” Rarity answered as she tilted her head and cast a look of suspicion over Sunset and Starlight.

“Well, I am now! Rainbow Dash said excitedly.

Twilight’s ear merely flicked as she stared into her book.

Spike let out a slightly sad sigh. “They really weren’t…”

Aww…” Rainbow Dash uttered in disappointment.

Rarity wrinkled her nose and forehead as she stared at Spike.

Spike’s eyes widened as he noticed Rarity staring at him. “Uh… I mean… geee, Rarity! Your coat looks extra shiny today!”

A massive smile lit up Rarity’s face. “Oh my, thank you for noticing, Spikey-wikey!” Rarity tittered. “I’m trying a new brand of coat wash and I must say it’s doing wonders,” she said as she motioned to herself.. Rarity shot a slightly miffed glance at the other ponies in the train car. “I’m glad at least someone took notice!”

Applejack and Rainbow Dash rolled their eyes as Rarity’s gaze passed them. Spike turned towards Sunset and gave her a thumbs-up and a smile. Sunset also rolled her eyes but her smile changed to something a bit more genuine.

“Well,” Rarity continued looking back at Starlight and Sunset. “I simply must do something about your manes. We can’t have you two trotting into the Crystal Empire for the first time looking like that!

“It’s no big deal!” Sunset said. “Our current styles are just a bit, er, avant-garde!”

Rarity raised an eyebrow. “Messy is hardly avant-garde, dearie. If you really want to to try something avant-garde, I could try turning Starlight’s mane into a sphere while braiding yours into a fiery beard that covers your whole face.” Rarity gave Sunset an askew smile. “Would you like me to make your mane avant-garde?” she asked, the question coming out as not so much an offer as a threat.

Uh… No thank you!” Sunset answered in a worried tone.

“Yeah, I think we’re good,” Starlight chimed in.

“Right, then I shall simply deliver two fixed manes,” Rarity said as she leveled her smile. She tittered once again as she glanced towards the back of the train at a large purple suitcase under one of the back seats. “Good thing I always pack a small travel bag for just such an emergency.”

Sunset leaned past Spike to look at the suitcase. “I wouldn’t call that small-Ack!”

Both Sunset’s and Starlight’s manes were soon besieged by a small armada of combs and brushes held in an azure glows that dug into the tangles and unknotted knots. Some brushes and combs straightening while others styled. Within a few seconds, Sunset and Starlight’s manes had been restored to pre-‘let’s-go-out-the-back-then-travel-to-the-other-side-of-the train-while-we’re-whipped-with-train-speed-winds’.

Rarity looked over her handiwork, rubbing at her chin thoughtfully as her ocean blue eyes wandered every strand and curl. “Hmmm…” Her face lit up. “Have you two ever considered experimenting with different mane styles? I mean… spheres and beards are out, but there’s always cubes and and the porcupine look.”

Sunset cringed.

Starlight glanced at the one long curl of hair that sat just above her right eye. “But I just got this style!”

‘TOOOOOOT-TOOOOOT!’

With a loud whistle, the station suddenly came into view as the train chuffed up steam and came to a halt.

“We’re here!” Twilight said excitedly as she closed her book.

Sunset let out a sigh of relief as Rarity floated her brushes and combs back to her suitcase with a slight look of disappointment. The ponies and Spike hopped up off their seats, with the exception of Fluttershy who got up from under hers, and gathered by the massive door in the side of the train c—

“I know this is going to sound slightly hypocritical,” Sunset said, “BUT WHERE THE HELL DID THAT GIANT DOOR COME FROM?!

“Yarrr!” Pinkie exclaimed as the door opened up and the ponies walked out the train. “Physics once again has gifted us with a convenient object to move the story along without the animators having to think too much!

Sunset glared at Pinkie as her horn glowed turquoise, her magic grabbing hold of the eye patch. “Give. Me. THAT!” Sunset hissed as she quickly took the eyepatch off of Pinkie’s head and magically tossed it in a random direction.

Pinkie whimpered slightly and looked at the ground. She stopped mid-trot. Looked up. Looked left. Looked right. Dove back into the train car and came back out with her forelegs full of eyepatches she quickly stuffed into her mane.

Sunset’s brow suddenly wrinkled as she turned to stare at the train. “HOW IS THE CAR NOW AT THE FRONT OF TRAIN?!” She screamed wrathfully. “THERE WAS ONE CAR WITH A BLUE ROOF! ONE! WE WERE IN IT, IT WAS AT THE BACK OF THE TRAIN, NOW IT’S AT THE FRONT!” She began to point at the other cars on the train. “AND NOW THERE’S ANOTHER PASSENGER CAR WITH A BLUE ROOF ON THE TRAIN AND THE RED CAR IS AT THE BACK! AM I THE ONLY ONE SEEING THIS?!

Yaarrr!” Pinkie exclaimed, another eye patch already on her face. “Ye be best not—”

In a turquoise glow, the eye patch flew off Pinkie’s face and burst into flames in front of her.

“Eek!” Pinkie cried as she shot a wide, worried grin at Sunset. “Er, It’s probably best if you don’t spend too much time thinking about how trains work in Equestria… Considering the length of a trip seems to vary every time we set our hooves on a train, I think powering them with a herb is the best we could do to make the trains run on thyme.”

Sunset’s head twitched in irritation. “I should blast you for that, but in addition to mad, I’m also a little impressed at that joke.”

Pinkie grinned and began bouncing past disembarking passengers and the ponies waiting for them. “I’m quite the source of sagely thinking, alright!”

Sunset’s head began to quake as she glared at Pinkie. “STILL considering the flammability of your mane over here!”

Swallowing as she approached the furious mare, Fluttershy spoke, “Er… You sure have noticed a lot about that train…”

Sunset clenched her eyes hard and let out a long sigh. “I had a long time to look at it.”

As Twilight continued to pour over her list, Starlight gave her a concerned look. “Maybe I should take Sunset to a hospital or something to get looked at… Just to be safe.”

Twilight looked up just as Sunset trotted next to Starlight and chimed in with a smile that she clearly had poured all her anger into. “Twilight, does Starlight know another friend from her past that also lives in the Crystal Empire that she can reconnect with in addition to Sunburst?”

Starlight’s entire body tensed up as she clenched her teeth hard.

“Uh, not that I’m aware of,” Twilight replied wearily as she eyed Sunset’s expression.

“Darn,” Sunset said with a smug smirk as she looked at Starlight. “Guess she’ll just have to meetup with just Sunburst which is absolutely a thing that’s going to happen today!

Starlight let out a defeated sigh as she opted to stare at the concrete ground of the train stop.

“I’m glad you mentioned that!” Twilight said happily. “Meeting with Sunburst is the first thing on the list.”

Sunset and Starlight synchronized wincing.

Twilight began reading from her list as she continued to trot. “Step one, head back to Sunburst’s house and get him and Starlight started on the right hoof. Step two, get to the castle with enough time to visit the ba—”

‘Thump!’

Twilight dropped her list and looked up into the pony she had just bumped into. A white stallion with a frazzled, two-tone blue mane, and eyes with large, tired bags under them.

Twilight gasped. “Shining Armor!”

Shining Armor’s eyes opened and he smiled as if he had just noticed Twilight. “Twiiiliiight…” he said in a tone to match the exhausted expression on his face. The brother and sister shared a quick hug.

“I didn’t know you were meeting us!” Twilight said.

Shining Armor’s eyes became wide and unfocused. “Of course I am!” His head moved around erratically before his eyes seemingly found Twilight again and he held himself in place to face her. “It’s me, right here. Here I am. Why wouldn’t I come meet my sister? Though we have met before, heh-heh…

Shining was met with a number of looks from the mares present, ranging from concerned to amused.

Twilight continued to give her brother a concerned look. “Are you alright?”

“Never better!” Shining answered, raising both forehooves as his head bobbed one direction and the next and his shadowy sky blue eyes drifting off one way then the other all while his pupils shrank and grew seemingly at random. “Being a father is amazing! And wonderful, and amazing, and confusing, and amazing, but surprising too, you know?” Shining motioned with one hoof and sometimes two hooves erratically. “I mean, not that you’d know. You wouldn’t know, I know… You know?” Shining finished with a big grin he directed at Twilight.

Sunset stared at Shining for a moment. “Wow. Crazy or not, your brother has a good sense of balance to do that.”

Rainbow Dash snickered.

Most of the amused looks had changed to concerned ones as Twilight turned to grin nervously at Sunset and Starlight. Spike stopped in the middle of rolling up Twilight’s long scroll to stare blankly at Shining.

“Sorry,” Shining said. “I haven’t really slept since Cadance had the baby. Come to think of it, she hasn’t either…”

Uh… hate to interrupt,” Sunset began, “but—”

Twilight turned and raised an eyebrow. “You’ve been interrupting all day today.”

“I love to interrupt,” Sunset said with a smile. “In fact it’s one of the things that’s kept me from just screaming non-stop today!”

Twilight sighed. “You were about to say something?”

Sunset nodded. “I was going to ask your brother why he just didn’t get a nanny or nurse to watch the baby for a bit.” Sunset turned to Shining. “I mean… You guys kind of have an empire to run… It makes sense that—”

Shining shook his head emphatically. “Sorry, magical talking camp-fire.”

“… Camp-fire?” Sunset replied as the ponies around her giggled and chuckled.

Shining continued, “Cadance doesn’t want just some random hired help to wait on the baby hoof and other, uh, back hoof because she thinks if that happens the baby will feel abandoned and become resentful, turning into some sort of stuck-up, selfish, possessive mare with mommy issues who screams insults at her and makes her cry herself to sleep at night before the baby leaves suddenly only to come back a few years later to hatch a plot that almost causes a war.”

Sunset froze in place, a fearful look taking over her. “Cadance… couldn’t have said that exactly… could she?”

Shining thought for a moment. “Well, actually…”

>-ooooooo-<

“Cadance, sweetie?” Shining said as he lovingly put a forehoof on his wife as she laid up in a hospital bed and held something swaddled close to her. “I know we’re both super happy to have this bundle of joy in our lives, but maybe you should let somepony else who’s good with babies, or maybe some of the guards, or a powerful battle unicorn, watch the…”

“NO!” Cadance exclaimed as she clutched the foal to herself. “If we let some random hired help take care of the baby, it might think its parents abandoned it, and then it’ll become needy and resentful and grow up to be a stuck-up, selfish, possessive mare with mommy issues who screams insults at me and makes me cry myself to sleep at night before she leaves only to come back a few years later to hatch a plot that almost causes a war!”

Oh… okay?”

-ooooo-

Shining let out a yawn as he looked down at a small piece of paper with a slightly tired smile. “Cadance, dear?” he said as he turned his head. “I’m about to send the Crystalling invitation to Twilight, do you want to add a little note?”

“Sure, Shining!” Cadance said as she, rubbed her tired-looking eyes, and smiled down into a crib. “But you’ll have to take my place here! If we just get hired help to take care of the baby, it might think it’s parents abandoned it, and then it’ll become needy and resentful, and grow up to be a stuck-up, selfish, possessive mare with mommy issues who screams insults at me and makes me cry myself to sleep at night before she leaves suddenly only to come back a few years later to hatch a plan that almost causes a war!”

“Uh… Right…”

-ooooo-

With dark bags under his eyes, Shining Armor let out a small, tired sigh as he smiled down into a crib, a gentle cooing sound greeting him from inside. He turned. “Oh, honey? Could you—”

Watch the baby?!” Cadance offered in a distressed tone as she suddenly dashed by Shining’s side and stared down into the crib with a wild smile and tired eyes. “Of course! If we let some random, hired help, take care of the baby, it might think it’s parents abandoned it, and then it’ll become needy and resentful, and grow up to be a stuck-up, SELFISH, POSSESSIVE mare with mommy issues who SCREAMS insults at me and makes me CRY MYSELF to sleep at night before she LEAVES suddenly only to come back a few years later to hatch a plan that almost causes a WAR!” Still smiling wildly at the baby, Cadance’s chest puffed in and out as she caught her breath.

“That sounds terrifying, my love,” Shining answered with a tired smile. “I’m just going to go wash the sick out of my mane now.”

<-ooooooo->

“… Oh…” Sunset said simply as she stared down at the ground and dragged her hoof over it.

Starlight blinked a couple times. “Battle unicorn?”

Spike cleared his throat. “Again… Yikes. Just yikes.”

Starlight trotted up to Sunset as Twilight looked between Shining, Spike and the other mares with a perplexed look as if she missing a key piece to a puzzle she suddenly realized she had to solve.

Starlight leaned her head close to Sunset’s. “Maybe it’s not such a great idea to see Cadance… I mean… she just had the baby, she’s probably sleep-deprived, she, uh… She clearly still has some things she’s coping with.”

Sunset sighed. “That is exactly why I should talk to her. If I’m the cause of some long-standing psychological damage with the poor, sweet Princess of love, I need to talk to her and set things straight.” Sunset looked and gave Starlight a serious look. “Just like you do with Sunburst!”

Starlight’s ears fell around her head as she broke eye contact with Sunset.

“… Am I missing something here?” Twilight asked.

“Twily!” Shining Armor suddenly exclaimed wrapping his fore hooves around his sister. “It’s so good to see you again!”

Uh… Shining?” Twilight replied as she broke the hug. “We just did this…”

“Oh, like… A few weeks ago?”

“More like a minute ago.”

Shining gave his sister a wide, tired smile. “Time has lost all meaning for me!” he said as eyes unfocused and his pupils dilated. “I can no longer remember a time before the baby came into my life…time! It’s as if when it arrived, the very flow of causality stopped and was absorbed into its adorably newborn foalness!” Shining said with a mad grin.

The ponies present all exchanged concerned glances.

Uh, Shining?” Twilight said. “Are you sure you’re—”

Twilylight!” Shining greeted cheerfully as he hugged his sister.

Twilight smiled sadly and let out a sigh as she returned the hug. “Hello, Shining. I hate to break this to you, but we just did this twice in the last couple minutes.”

Shining broke the hug and stared at Twilight. “We… we did?! Oh… Sorry… With the baby…” Shining’s eyes closed as his head bobbed. “… time…

Uh, Shining?” Twilight said.

Shining’s head bolted upright. “TIME BABY!” he cried. “Oh Celestia, I’m so tired! I really need a break!” He blinked one eye and then the other before they focused on his sister. “Twiiiiiliiiiight!” he said as if seeing Twilight for the first time.

Uh… Hi, big brother!” Twilight replied with a worried smile.

“Thank Celestia you’re here! You’re not random or hired at all! You can help with the baby!”

“Oh, of course!” Twilight replied. “I don’t know what I was thinking! You and Cadance probably need all kinds of help!”

Sunset’s eyes stopped mid roll as she thought, That a nanny or a nurse could easily provide for a newborn foal. The sharp sting in her chest preventing her from uttering such a phrase out loud.

Twilight shot Sunset a quick glare then turned to Starlight. “I’m sorry, Starlight, but I guess combining your first lesson with this visit wasn’t such a good idea.”

Sunset narrowed her eyes and clenched her teeth together hard.

Starlight’s eyes widened as a relieved smile appeared on her face. “Oh, uh, don’t be ridiculous. You’re an aunt now! That’s way more important than—”

“Oh, Twilight,” Sunset said with a smile. “You really should learn how to delegate.”

A shudder began down at Starlight’s hooves and made its way all the way up through her body until it exited through the tip of her horn. She turned to glare angrily at Sunset.

“What do you mean?” Twilight asked.

Sunset shot a smug smile at Starlight before smiling widely at Twilight. “Spike and I can take Starlight to see Sunburst while you and everypony else takes care of the baby!”

Twilight’s face lit up. “That’s a great idea, Sunset!”

“I know!” Sunset said. “It’s like you came here with a big group of friends that you should know by now that you can ask for help when you need it!”

Twilight groaned. “It wasn’t that obvious!”

Spike held up Twilight’s list. “I already grabbed the list in case you needed me and Sunset to help!”

Sunset went ridged. “Oh, yay…” she said in a strained tone.

Starlight cleared her throat. “But Sunset!” Starlight said in her best, on the spur, concerned-sounding voice, “What about Cada—”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Don’t use the fake distress tone with me. I invented the fake distress tone.”

Starlight clamped down on her teeth and glared daggers at Sunset once more.

Sunset continued, “We can all go to see the baby, and the baby's mother!” Sunset interrupted. “I’m sure I can quickly pop in and talk to Cadance and get you to Sunburst before this arbitrary deadline we’re apparently under that Twilight hasn’t mentioned for some reason despite being explicit about everything else going on today.”

Pinkie gasped, placing her forehooves over her mouth.

“Ughhh…” Twilight uttered in frustration. “Are you sure you don’t want to go see Sunburst first?”

Starlight let out a distressed squeak.

Pinkie smiled and nodded her head up and down rapidly.

“No, no,” Sunset said with a smile. “I really ought to say ‘hi’ to Cadance. You know… clear the air with her.”

Pinkie let out a panicked “Eek!”

Applejack, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity turned to stare at Pinkie.

Er… I don’t know, actually…” Twilight said.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” Sunset said with a chagrined look.

“No, really!” Twilight said in a slightly frustrated tone. “What’s going on? It’s like there’s all this other stuff happening that I haven’t a clue about!”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Didn’t you already learn some sort of lesson on this very topic?”

Uh… no?”

Sunset narrowed her eyes. “You told me about that stupid lesson on not letting inside jokes or whatever get to you with Discord! You should know better!” Sunset glanced down at the list in Spike’s claws. “Or is this day some sort of—” Sunset put on a goofy grin and stared out into space as she continued talking in a lackadaisical tone–“ ‘I’m just going to forget a bunch of the stuff on friendship I should already know, today! La-De-Da!’”

Twilight narrowed her eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Sparkle. Maybe you can tell me!” Sunset said in a furious tone.

Starlight and Spike took a few steps back as Sunset and Twilight started an angry shouting match. All the while, Shining stood in place and snored loudly.

“They can’t do this!” Pinkie cried.

The other four ponies turned back from the quarrelling alicorns and towards Pinkie.

Uh… argue?” Rainbow Dash said. “Because they’ve been kinda doing that off and on all day.” She frowned. “Kinda boring, they’re not firing magic at each other or anything!”

Fluttershy shuddered and tentatively spoke up, “Er... I hope they don’t start a fight. That sounds scary… And I do wish they’d stop yelling at each other.”

Applejack shook her head. “If ya ask me, it’s about time those two worked out… whatever is going on between them.”

“SERIOUSLY!” Sunset’s shouting cut through the air. “HOW LONG IS THAT STUPID LIST AND HOW MUCH DETAIL DO YOU THINK IS ACTUALLY GOING TO PAN OUT?! I BET YOU ALREADY HAVE OUR BATHROOM SCHEDULES PLANNED!”

Twilight began to match Sunset’s volume. “I WOULD IF YOU, STARLIGHT, AND SPIKE DIDN’T TAKE FOREVER ON THE TRAIN!”

Rarity sighed. “Well it seems to me they’re just arguing in circles instead of discussing the thing that’s really the issue here.”

Rainbow Dash turned to Rarity. “And that is?”

Rarity shook her head. “I have no idea, dear.”

“Oh my gosh, girls!” Pinkie exclaimed. “That’s not even what I’m talking about!”

“Er… Then what are you talking about?” Fluttershy asked.

“Sunset’s actions are changing the order of things!” Pinkie exclaimed as she got on her hind legs and pointed a random direction with a forehoof. “If they go off and see the baby before they go off to see Spike’s statue—” Pinkie crossed her other foreleg in front of her pointing in another direction “—that means that things will be messed up and all kinds of strange stuff will happen!” Pinkie raised another leg up to her chest. “Like… like… The train we rode in on might retroactively go all magikoopa magic-plastic-tragic on us and like…” Pinkie raised another leg up to her chest. “...cars will change places and just appear!” Pinkie cried as she raised yet another leg up to her chest. “Plus doors might appear out of nowhere or even change shape!” Pinkie rose one more leg up to the tangled mass of limbs in front of her chest. “And there’ll be no telling if that’s Sunset Shimmer’s doing or lazy writing slash animating!” she cried as her legs entangled in a whirling mass and she landed on all fours. Pinkie’s eyes opened wide as she shook all over. “Ooooooo! I just sent chills down my spine!”

Applejack nodded knowingly. “Pinkie, we’ve all learned to just look like we know what yer talking about when you get like this, so that’s what we’re doing now.”

Rainbow Dash smacked Applejack’s cowboy hat so that it fell over the apple mare’s eyes. “You’re not supposed to tell her that!”

Applejack adjusted her hat. “Shoot. Stupid honest streak.”

Rarity shook her head. “It’s Pinkie, dears. I don’t think it matters,” she said as she pointed off towards Pinkie who was already busy talking to a pigeon which was eating some discarded hay-fries from the ground.

“Stop eating ponies’ old hay-fries, pigeon,” Pinkie said with a serious expression on her face. “Have some self-respect! Don’t you know you can fly?”

“SUNSET!” Twilight shouted irately. “WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS TODAY WHEN WE’RE HERE IN THE CRYSTAL EMPIRE TO SEE SHINING ARMOR, CADANCE, AND THEIR BABY WHILE STARLIGHT HAS A REUNION WITH SUNBURST?!”

“OH MY GOD, TWILIGHT! WHEN DID YOU DEVELOP A CONDITION THAT MAKES YOU CONTINUOUSLY SPOUT EXPOSITION?! IT BETTER NOT BE CONTAGIOUS…! OH MY GOSH! IT IS, ISN’T IT?! YOU’RE SHOWING EARLY SIGNS OF WHATEVER PINKIE HAS, AREN’T YOU?!”

Standing in front of the two mares while Starlight hid behind him, Spike cleared his throat.

“WHAT?!” Both mares shouted in unison at Spike as Starlight did her best to shrink behind the small dragon.

Spike wordlessly pointed towards Shining Armor who was leaning against a filthy garbage can and snoring loudly.

Sunset sighed and turned, trotting away from Twilight.

Twilight let out an exasperated sigh and let a small smile back onto her face. She trotted up to Shining Armor and nudged him slightly with a forehoof. “Alright, big brother, let’s go see this amazing baby pony!”

Shining snorted awake, his eyes wide and terrified. “Ah! The baby! Burning everypony!” he cried as his eyes darted over the train platform. “No pony was spared!” he said in a whisper. “No pony.”

Sunset’s stared at this scene with anxious eyes and swallowed.

Uh… Shining?” Twilight said. “Maybe I should help you…”

“HI, TWILIGHT!” Shining exclaimed loudly as he wrapped garbage-smudged arms around his little sister.

-ooo-

“Oh, woulda-woulda!” Celestia uttered, deepening her voice as she pursed her lips and shook her head back and forth. Her flowing mane cascaded and sparkled at the movement and Celestia’s antics were met with a series of delighted coos from directly below her. Grinning happily to herself, Celestia lowered her head, once again pursing her lips as she shook her glittering mane about. “Oh, woulda-woulda-woulda-wo!” More happy coos now joined by ecstatic squeals rose up to the delight of the ruler’s ears.

“My, my, sister,” Luna said with a smile as she stood next to Celestia. “You seem to be a natural when it comes to newborn foals.” Luna grinned. “Perhaps she senses a kinship with you.”

From across the crystal nursery with its baby-blue walls with soft purple clouds and trees, Cadance giggled. Her tired features bouncing up and down softly as the gentle laughter rolled out from her.

Celestia looked up at Luna with a grin. “Oh, joke all you want. I’m just excited to have a grand-niece to spoil rotten.”

Cadance cringed. “Yeah…about that…”

Still smiling widely, Celestia turned towards Cadance. “Certainly you’re not going to deny me the opportunity to rain presents on an adorable little filly such as your daughter.”

Her own smile turning anxious, Cadance held her gaze with her adopted aunt. “Oh, auntie… Of course I want the baby to feel she’s loved by her entire family, it’s just… Well…

Celestia’s smile faltered slightly. “What is it, my gentle little song?”

“It’s just that… erm… I’d hate for the baby to grow up to be a stuck-up, selfish, possessive mare with mommy issues—”

Celestia froze as if Cadance had suddenly transformed into a pink train that was about to barrel down on her, blaring it’s whistle despite the fact that… Doesn’t that pink train see that Celestia’s leg was caught in the tracks?! And her wings tied to her body?!

“—who screams insults at me—”

And that her horn had a class-S magic dampening cone on it?! Don’t worry… She’d get free… She had to get free before the train—

Luna peered quizzically at her sister at this sudden change in body language.

“–and makes me cry myself to sleep—”

“Sleep!” Luna quickly interjected. “Princess Cadance, why don’t you get some sleep? You’ve been up for days and I think it’s time you get some rest!” Luna smiled warmly. “Trust me on this.”

Saved by her lovely sister right before the train barreled through the tracks she had been stuck in just moments ago. Celestia nodded her head up and down emphatically which also cleared the sound of the approaching train and its whistle. “Yes, Cadance! You should rest! Luna and I can watch the little filly, and Twilight should be here soon! I think now would be a good time for you to—”

Cadance shook her head. “I’m sorry… I’m just worried about the baby growing up to be like… you know…

Celestia swallowed as the train did a u-turn on the tracks and… maybe she needed a better metaphor... “Well, every parent worries their child will grow up to be a hooffull…”

Cadence raised an eyebrow. “‘Hooffull’? I’m sorry, auntie, but I wouldn’t call stealing an Element of Harmony and almost starting a war a ‘hooffull’!”

Celestia winced. The train whistle bellowed.

Luna crossed her eyes and looked upwards into her own folded brow. “This is starting to sound specific… In fact it sounds like your old student… What was her name…?”

Her sister suddenly morphed into a train, black as midnight and belching black smoke deep as the deepest void and… Yes… Maybe mysteriously changing trains wasn’t the best idea here… “Oh, Cadance!” Celestia said as she threw the biggest grin she could muster on her face. “You’re being paranoid with all this hypothetical talk that in no way resembles some other pony!”

Cadance sighed. “Auntie… I know you don’t want to talk about her, but maybe it’s time you and I—”

“Oh, whoever could you be speaking about, my little pony?!” Celestia said in a happy, nervous tone. “The baby?! There’s no need to be coy!”

Cadance narrowed her eyes. “You know exactly who I’m…”

“We can talk about the baby right now!” Celestia exclaimed. “We are talking about the baby right now!”

“Sister…?” Luna uttered. “You’re acting rather stra—”

“Oh, have you thought about a name for the baby yet?!” Celestia said. “How about… Sunshine Glitter!”

Baggy eyes narrowed, Cadance’s features tightened into an unamused expression. “Gee, auntie. That sounds an awful lot like—”

“No! You’re right!” Celestia exclaimed. Oh gosh… Oh gosh! That train was getting ever so close and she was still stuck! “That name came right out of nowhere! I don’t know what I was thinking when I—”

Shining Armor’s muffled voice eked in through the closed purple double doors of the nursery. “Before we go in, I should probably tell you” –

Celestia breathed a sigh of relief as she freed herself just in time to avoid being smashed between two mental trains representing the mares she was talking to. “Oh, Twilight must be here! Now let’s just drop this conversation… forever!”

Cadance rolled her eyes as Luna attempted to drench Celestia in an inquisitive expression.

– “Seeing the baby might be a bit of a shock,” Shining Armor continued.

The nursery door’s sparkled before opening with a purple glow. “Come on, big brother,” Twilight said as she looked behind her. “I’ve seen babies before. I expected meet—”

“Hey, Twilight?” a feminine voice called out.

Celestia went straight as a board. A new whistle blared louder than she had ever heard before and the rhythmic CLICKITY-CLACKfrom what had to be the largest mental train Celestia had ever had the misfortune to be standing in front of became deafening. She let out a whisper-quiet, terrified scream.

“Sister?!” Luna asked in concern. “You look pale…er…”

Cadance’s head jerked towards the door. “That voice, it can’t be…”

“I was not prepared for today…” Celestia uttered as her eyes darted nervously around the nursery she had to get away from the orange train before it ground her under its hooves… er… WHEELS into an alabaster paste.

Twilight gave an exasperated sigh and stopped in the middle of the room. “What is it Sunset?”

“Cadance has to be in there right?” Sunset asked from outside the room.

Twilight looked at Cadance who stared back at Twilight with wide, terrified eyes. “Uh… Yes? She looks… erm… tired…?”

“Oh, my gosh, Twilight!” Sunset uttered as the sound of approaching hoofsteps sounded from the crystal floor outside. “Tell me you didn’t just

“Luna, quick!” Celestia cried. With a yellow glow of her Celestia’s horn, Luna was soon airborne as Celestia dove for a crystal door.

“—walk by your sister-in-law and ex-foalsitter without—”

“Sister?!” Luna exclaimed. “That is a—”

In a fraction of a second, the door was opened as Celestia dove inside, taking Luna with her and closing the door behind the royal mares.

Luna let out a sigh as everything went dark and her world became one of ruffled feathers, her sister’s mane draped over her face, and various wooden handles poking her in the body. “— utility closet.”

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