Her mind had wandered away once more.
Sunset had lost count on how many times this had happened on her walk to school. When it seemed like she had gotten control of her thoughts, they drifted to another topic, followed by another. First to Camp Everfree, then to the incident with Flash and Fluttershy just yesterday. But no matter what topic she was on, one thought rang again and again.
They were right. I shouldn’t be able to invade the past of my friends.
She stared down at the gloves that covered her hands. They were made of a flexible leather, which although it did not restrict her movements by much, still proved uncomfortable and warm. It did not match her pink, long-sleeved dress or her white jeans. However, this was the only pair she owned, and it was one that made sure she was not going to see any other visions by accident again. Her mind jumped back once more to the scene with Flash Sentry yesterday. The way he stared at her, like she was a monster or an alien, was burned into her mind. It was the same stare everyone gave her in the gym just moments later. She felt like she belonged in a zoo, to be studied, not a student of Canterlot High.
I can’t control it. I don’t know how to.
A loud horn scared Sunset out of her dream. She glanced around, realizing that she had stopped in the middle of the crossing towards her school. Raising a hand of apology, she sprinted forward, stopping once she had reached the main doors.
Upon entering, Sunset made her way to her locker. However, unlike yesterday, barely any of her classmates greeted her at all. She waved to the few that did, forcing a false smile, but found herself exhausted before long. Soon enough, she reached her locker and popped it open, grabbing a few books from inside. She heard the students that were crossing behind her, even though they were speaking in hushed whispers.
“That’s her, that’s the girl Tangerine said can look into your past.”
“Better stay away, unless you want your secrets exposed.”
Sunset felt the sadness and anger rise in her heart. She was contemplating running home, running away from it all. Were her friends worth all this humiliation? Before she could make her decision, a low, depressed voice called from behind her.
Sunset turned around, spotting Rainbow with her head hung low. “Rainbow, feeling any better?”
Rainbow’s only answer was a short sigh, though it told Sunset enough about her situation. “You?”
Sunset flicked her locker door shut and buckled the lock. Her eyes darted to Rainbow’s neck, seeing that the blue pendant still hung from it. There was a small sigh of relief in her heart, though it gave her little respite from the emotions threatening to crush it completely. “Same as you.”
“Guess we both need to think some things through.”
“Hoo wee!” A loud cheerful voice echoed through the halls. Applejack slung an arm around Sunset, smiling wide. “I just checked out the gym and it’s looking mighty pretty! Great job there, Sunset!” Sunset kept her mouth shut. Applejack’s cheerful, spirited voice only worsened the anger in her. She didn’t know why, though at this point her mind was in no shape to figure it out.
Seeing her friend’s unresponsiveness, Applejack stared at Rarity, Pinkie and Twilight, who merely shrugged back. “Right, well, Rainbow. How did track go?” Rainbow mimicked Sunset almost exactly. She didn’t utter a single word, instead closing her eyes and turning away.
“Okay what the hay is going on with you two?” Applejack pulled her arm away. “Usually Rainbow here would be bragging about how she got first place again, while you’d be asking us to help out for the Fall Formal!”
“Rainbow and I just ran into some... problems. Personal stuff.” Sunset spoke on behalf of Rainbow, who looked like she had been stabbed by Applejack’s unknowing reminder.
“Is it related to school?” Twilight hugged Sunset, who did not so much as budge.
“Sorta.” Sunset kicked her right foot forward, pretending there was a stone for her to focus on. “Look, we just want to work things out ourselves alright?”
“Alright, Sunset. Whatever you say.” Applejack nodded. “But you know that we’re here for ya, right?”
“Yeah, I kno—” Suddenly, something caught her eye that made her heart sink. Or more accurately: the lack of something. Fluttershy’s necklace was missing. She stared at the shy girl with her mouth open, but no words came out. Her eyes were wide in horror, and she thought of something to say, but only found one. “Fluttershy? Can I talk with you? Please?”
“I… I’d rather not,” Fluttershy shrunk herself down, hoping that Sunset would just forget about her existence.
“It’s important,” Sunset said, walking into the nearby storeroom. Fluttershy hesitated at first, but soon followed reluctantly. Sunset closed the door behind her, a concerned frown on her face.
“Where’s your necklace? Didn’t the others notice?” Sunset asked.
Fluttershy pressed both of her hands towards her chest in a tight fist. Glancing away from Sunset, she spoke in a apprehensive whisper, “they did, and I told them I left it at home. That’s all.”
Sunset knew it was a lie. She was the only one that knew what had happened, and Fluttershy’s recent silence, even more than usual, told her that she simply did not forget it at home. “Fluttershy, you didn’t just leave it at home. You shared your memories with me. I know what happened-”
“Then you know why I can’t wear it anymore!” Fluttershy’s sudden raise in volume took Sunset aback. “I can’t take it, Sunset! I can’t! I had to put down Rover!” Tears had started to pool in Fluttershy’s eyes. “I put down other animals before, but I never understood them while they were going through it!” Sunset stepped forward, opening her arms into a hug. However, Fluttershy swiftly took a step back, her words almost unintelligible through her sobs. “You know why I didn’t tell anyone? Because no one understands! Everyone loves their powers and they’ll keep asking me to put it back on! They’ll get angry! Just like you!”
Sunset stood stunned for a few seconds. Her mind replayed what Fluttershy had just said, and soon, something clicked. She found herself speechless when she realized who the voice in Fluttershy’s vision belonged to. It was the dog’s. It was… It was Rover’s. A few seconds of silenced passed between them, the only sound being Fluttershy’s weeps. “I’m not angry, Fluttershy. And I’m sorry I kept pestering you,” Sunset said, watching Fluttershy cover her tear-filled eyes with her hands. “I didn’t want you to take it off because... I just thought the necklaces were meant for us.”
“Maybe they were for you.” Fluttershy sobbed. “But not for me.”
Sunset did not mutter another word. She had heard the tone Fluttershy had used, one filled with malice, and knew that she had just deepened the wound. Both of them stood, muted, until Fluttershy’s sobbing started to slow. Sunset lifted her foot to take a step forward, but quickly placed it back down. Her instincts told her to bring Fluttershy into a hug, but a quick shout from the voice inside her mind quickly destroyed that idea. You’ll just make it worse. You heard what she wanted. Just leave her alone. She placed a hand on the door, staring at Fluttershy’s emerald eyes before darting away..
“Come on, our friends must be worried.” Sunset muttered softly as she pulled the door open, and immediately, the others surrounded her.
“We heard some shouting, are you two okay?” Twilight pulled a water bottle out of her bag, passing it to Fluttershy as Rarity held the sobbing girl softly. Using a napkin, she wiped away Fluttershy’s stray tears.
“Please tell me you two didn’t fight!” Pinkie’s hands were at her mouth, covering a worried frown. Rainbow and Applejack waited for an answer with crossed arms, but Sunset didn’t give one. She glanced upwards to Twilight with a troubled look.
Rainbow was the first to move off, anger radiating from each step she took. Sunset had noticed, and she wanted to raise her arm and shout to stop her. But what would you even say, Sunset? The thoughts kept her arms firmly to her side. Sunset stared at the gloves that covered her palm before dragging her feet towards class. “Come on, class should be starting soon.”
The notepad that sat in front of Sunset was mostly blank. The only word that was scribbled at the top read ‘Equations’ and nothing else. Not for me… Sunset sighed. It was then she realized that she was fiddling with the necklace, making a soft metal jiggling that, thankfully, only she could hear.
Just then, the bell rang, signalling lunch. Sunset followed her friends to the cafeteria and sat at her usual spot. All around her, she could hear many students whisper “there, that’s the one” followed no doubt by a point of their fingers. She attempted to ignore the comments, but found the emotions quickly pooling once more.
“Well, I have something that will most definitely cheer all of you up!” Rarity sung.
“Oh?” Applejack thought for a moment, but her eyes soon shot open in realization. “...Wait, Rarity, don’t tell me-”
“Yes! I am making dresses for all of us to wear to the Fall Formal!”
“Ooo, does mine have sprinkles?” Pinkie chimed in.
“Sprinkles? Well, if you promise not to blow up the dress…”
“Oh, well nevermind then!” she laughed, biting down on an apple. “I’ll put my own sprinkles if there’s leftovers from the baking I’m doing today!”
“What’re you baking this time?” Applejack asked.
“Cupcakes, snacks, biscuits. All for the Fall Formal!” Pinkie looked as if she was going to explode from the excitement.
“I’d really you rather not put sprinkles on your new dress, darling. Or the cupcakes. Especially ones that might burst.”
“Seriously Rarity? A whole new dress? It’s just the Fall Formal! We could just use the one you made for us at the Camp Everfree Crystal Ball two weeks ago!” Rainbow rolled her eyes and folding her arms.
“Rainbow Dash! That simply won’t do! Those dresses are far out of season and style, you need one with more...pizzazz! Plus, the Fall Formal Queen deserves a bright, stunning dress right?” Rarity nudged Sunset, who only stared in confusion.
“Fall Formal… Queen?”
“Yes, I have it written down here somewhere. Rarity was telling me all about it yesterday!” Twilight whipped her notepad out, flipping through the entries. “Let’s see… ah here it is! The students will elect a girl and guy to be the Fall Formal Queen and King respectively! The Queen will wear a tiara and dance with the King after they’ve been chosen!” she read out loud.
“What happened to Princess of the Fall Formal?”
“Apparently Principal Celestia and Vice-Principal Luna wanted to move away from what happened last year.” Applejack coughed, attempting to avoid the sensitive topic as much as she could. “So they’re giving both girls and guys a chance to be voted in starting from this year.”
Move away huh? Sunset sunk into her chair, crossing her arms with a frown.
“Regardless, I think we know who the Queen is!” Rarity’s eyes stared up to the ceiling, and her friends knew she must have been in one of her daydreams. “Sunset will be Queen and she will dance with the Fall Formal King, showing my beautiful dress for everyone to see!”
“Uh huh,” Applejack acted as if she was listening, but her focus was entirely on the slice of cake she was forking into her mouth.
“It’s not gonna be me.” Sunset knocked the tomato that sat in her bowl back and forth.
“Oh please, Sunset. It’s going to be you. And you can dance and hold hands with the King. Maybe even become a—”
“Wait, hold hands!?” Sunset felt her heart race once more. She dropped her fork and stared at her gloved palms, her breathing quickly becoming shallow.
“Well, yes. It would be quite hard to dance with your king if you’re not holding hands…”
“Rarity, I need… gloves for my dress. Evening gloves!” Sunset practically yelled at her friend, causing Twilight to stare at her with a raised eyebrow.
“Psh, evening gloves are so out of fashion and season!” Rarity flicked her wrist, knocking the suggestion aside. “If you must have armwear, I would suggest a simple flower circlet on your wrist. Or maybe-”
“No, Rarity. Gloves that cover my hands. Please, I need them.”
“Well,” Rarity dragged the word, hoping that someone would stop her. “Since you’re requesting it with such force, I suppose I could stitch together a pair,” she relented with a frown.“Though I still think it’s a bad idea.”
Sunset sighed in her heart, feeling a tiny bit of calm wash over her. “Thank you, Rarity.”
“Speaking of which, are you not going to take yours off? We’re having lunch, Sunset. It’s not cold in the slightest.”
Sunset clenched her fists tightly. “I just… think it’s better for everyone like this.”
“Better for everyone?” Twilight stared at Sunset in utter confusion, as if she was speaking in another language.
Sunset found no excuses she could give for Twilight’s question. She quickly gathered her plates on the tray and stood up. “Nevermind, forget I said anything. Let’s head back.”
“Wait, Sunset!” Applejack called to her, but Sunset did not stop. Fluttershy and Rainbow soon followed, leaving the four girls at the table, all of them with perplexed expressions on their faces. “Is it me, or does something feel off about them today?”
“Yeah. They didn’t even smile once!” Pinkie ran a hand through her hair.
“And gloves? What an odd request.” Rarity placed the empty cup on her tray.
Twilight did not say a word. Instead, her heart thumped with worry and she knew that something was dividing her friends apart. She sighed, whispering to herself, “Sunset, what’s gotten into you? Why won’t you talk to me?”
A loud ‘ring!’ signalled the day’s end. Sunset stuffed the blank notepad into her bag before slinging it on her back. She attempted to slip out of the class unnoticed with the crowd, away from her friends.
“Sunset!” Twilight called. Sunset sighed, turning around. “You’re headed to the gym right? I’ll follow you. I actually can’t wait to get started on decora—”
“Actually, Twilight. I’m feeling a little tired, and I think I’m going to head home and rest.”
“Huh, Rainbow and Fluttershy said the same thing when I asked them…” Twilight lowered her head. “I’m not sure Applejack, Pinkie and I can get the Fall Formal ready in three days, even with everyone’s help.”
Sunset heard the genuine sadness and worry in Twilight’s voice. And she could not deny that setting up the entire event would be tough, even if every CHS student decided to pitch in. They had sound systems to test, furniture to set up, and tables to carry. Then she remembered the drinks Applejack was supposed to provide and the food Pinkie was supposed to make.
Even in the state she was in, Sunset could not bring herself to leave her friends to handle such a monumental task alone. Especially with the Fall Formal at risk. “Alright, I’ll… help a little.” Twilight’s head shot up upon hearing those words, a bright glimmer in her eyes. “But I might not be able to do much.”
“Even if it’s a little, it’s still help!” Twilight chirped and they begun their stroll towards the gym.
Once Sunset entered, she noticed that quite a bit of work had been done. The tables and chairs had finally been gathered and stacked to the side, while several banners of all types and colors hung from the walls. The stage had begun to take shape, with several amplifiers already laid in place. Several students were attempting to untangle the maze of wires that all led back to Vinyl’s soundboard.
As soon as she took a step in, she felt every student in the gym turn to stare at her. She tightened the gloves on her hands, pulling them as firm as she could. Stick to Twilight. She tried to remind herself. Ensuring that her friend was not more than a step away, she followed Twilight up to the stage, whereupon she spotted Applejack carrying a speaker on her shoulder. “Oh, Sunset! Good to see ya!” She slammed the speaker down with the others, wiping a few beads of sweat from her forehead. “Think you can help Twilight cut some of the letters we need for the banners?”
Sunset nodded. “Sure, Applejack.” She gave a few quick looks around, spotting the colored paper and scissors sitting on a table nearby. She picked them up, hearing a stray sentence spoken from a small distance away.
“Wonder whose memories she’s going to see today.”
You’re doing this for Twilight. For your friends. Sunset repeated the words like a mantra, trying her best to not run out of the door Twilight took one pair of scissors and several pieces of paper, smiling wide.
“Did you know that colored paper is also known as sugar paper?” Twilight waved an orange piece. “Because it was used to make bags that contained sugar!”
Sunset giggled slightly at Twilight’s random fact drops. It was an aspect of her that separated their world’s Twilight from the pony Princess version in Equestria, and one that Sunset adored. Twilight appeared so invested in the facts she was telling, regardless of how silly they sounded. The two girls took a seat on the smooth wooden floor near the window and began cutting out letter shapes.
Sunset grabbed a pair of scissors, slipping her fingers through the holes in the handle. However, as she tried to open the scissors, she found that her gloves restricted how far her finger could rise, rendering it impossible for her to swiftly trim the paper. “Ugh, can’t get the scissors to—”
“Take it off, Sunset.” Twilight snipped the side of a letter L.
“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.” Memories of what had happened with Flash and Fluttershy zipped by her mind, rendering her breathing shallow.
“Come on, Sunset. Do it for the Fall Formal? For me?”
I’m wearing them for you. Sunset had wanted to argue, but figured that the quicker she could get the job done, the quicker she could leave and minimize the risk of hurting her friends. She placed the scissors down and stared at the gloves. Taking a deep breath, she undid the straps at her wrist and slowly slid them off. Her hands were damp with sweat, though it was no surprise. The school was well heated for fall, and combined with the snugness of the leather, it made her hands uncomfortably warm. Once they were off, Sunset sat them close by her side, ready to grab them should she suddenly need them.
“There, now you should be able to match my speed. Though I wouldn’t bet on it,” Twilight said playfully.
“Well, this isn’t a competition. Let’s just cut what we need so… so I can get home.”
Sunset’s reply was not one Twilight expected. Even though she wasn’t as competitive as Rainbow and Applejack, every time she posed a small challenge to Sunset, Sunset would pounce on the opportunity to beat her. Twilight refocused on the next piece of paper, wondering what she could do to get Sunset to speak.
The next ten minutes passed by mostly in silence. Twilight would pose a question or a topic, but Sunset would just as quickly shut it down. Even if Sunset did reply, it would only continue on for one more sentence before the silence overtook them again. Twilight racked her brain, attempting to find more topics for conversation.
“So, who do you think the Prom King is going to be?” Twilight placed an orange letter ‘F’ in between the two of them.
“Doesn’t really matter, because I’m not going to be Queen anyway.” Sunset pulled her legs closer to her chest.
“What’re you talking about? You’re the most popular girl in CHS!”
“Not anymore,” Sunset replied grimly. She reached over to place her finished letter on the pile, but felt the scissors slip from her sweaty grip and land on the floor with a loud ‘thud’. Without thinking, both girls reached over for the dropped pair and Sunset felt Twilight’s hand land on hers, freezing her in place.
Twilight’s memories flooded her mind, and she saw Twilight walking towards CHS. Judging from the orange leaves that pooled on the pavement, Sunset deduced it must have been from either yesterday or today. Twilight was strolling, her eyes locked onto the books that she was hugging tightly against her chest.
“Oh well, look who it is. The girl from Crystal Prep Academy.” The fear that Twilight felt, Sunset could feel as well. In fact, the emotion was so strong, Sunset shivered at the voice, though she did not know why that was. Twilight turned her head up, spotting a girl with yellow hair staring back at her. Sunset had seen that girl before, but the only thing she knew was that she was a senior and not part of the same class the rest of her friends were in. “Word around school is that you and your friends got some interesting new powers.”
Twilight tightened the grip on her books. She looked away, adjusting her glasses. “N-nice to see you again, Tangerine. And w-w-well, d-don’t believe everything you hear around school,” she said nervously. Twilight attempted to walk forward, but the girl quickly cut her off.
“Do you think you can just walk away from Tangerine Citrus like that? You and your friends must think you’re all so special!” The girl’s nasty tone made Twilight shrink herself down. The fear had escalated even further, and Sunset could feel sweat running down her forehead.
“W-well, I-I didn’t mean t-to…” Twilight stuttered, trying to avoid eye contact with Tangerine. Suddenly, a forceful shove sent her hurtling backwards. A sharp pain rushed through her body as she landed on the floor. When she darted her head up, she noticed her books flying at her and instinctively, she brought a hand up and stopped them in midair with her magic.
“Aha! I knew it!” Tangerine yelled. Twilight pushed herself off the pavement, returning the books to her hand with a wave of her fingers. In addition to the fear, a sharp sadness started to pierce her heart as well. “I knew you and your friends were freaks! You’re back to your Midnight Sparkle ways! I’m off to warn everyone about this.” With that, Tangerine sped off into the school, giggling. Twilight simply stood in place, her eyes flowing with tears as she repeated one thought in her head. I’m not a freak. My powers...don’t make me a freak.
Sunset tore her hand away. She gasped for air, feeling as if she had not breathed for the entire duration of the vision. Her heart ached and the emotions she had felt still burned harshly in her heart. She turned to Twilight, who was staring at her with a shocked expression. “S-Sunset, I...I’m so—”
“T-this was a mistake.” She shoved the papers aside as she reached for her gloves. “This was always a mistake.” Sunset darted her eyes to the necklace, barely able to see from the tears that were filling her eyes. As she pushed herself onto her feet, all around her, she could hear the crowd gossip pick up once again.
“She read her own friend?”
“She doesn’t have limits does she?”
“Maybe she hasn’t changed.”
Sunset covered her eyes and her sobs begun to echo through the room. She sped out of the gym, tears falling to the floor as she raced down the hallways and pass several students.
“Sunset! Sunset, please wait!” Twilight called to her, attempting to keep pace.“Sunset!”
Sunset sat in the music room alone, her sobs echoing off the walls and back to her own ears. Why!? Why do I have this!? She tugged against the pendant with her gloves, hoping that the chain would shatter and she would be able to fling it across the room. However, it held firm. It’s done nothing but make my life miserable outside of Camp Everfree! She tried once more, but again, it did not budge. She had lost so much. She had seen her friends lose so much. The terrible memories she had seen consumed her own thoughts and they replayed endlessly in her mind.
A sudden knock on the door knocked her out of the nightmares. “Sunset? Please, let me in.” Twilight’s concerned, muffled voice came from the other side.
She’s here to scold me, like Fluttershy. Like Flash. Sunset grasped her head in her hands, watching her tears drip onto the floor. A ‘click!’ made her look up and she could see the lock covered in a purple glow. “Twilight! Please, I just want to be alone!”
Twilight ignored her plea and entered, locking the door behind her with a wave of her hand. She was no longer smiling. Instead, a concerned and stern frown had taken it’s place. “Sunset, we really need to talk.”
“I know alright? If you want to tell me you hate me, then just get it over with!” Sunset shouted.
“What?” Twilight levitated a chair beside Sunset before taking a seat. “Why would I ever do that?”
“Why wouldn’t you? Flash did. And Fluttershy did too!” Sunset said through staggered breaths.
“Well, I’m not them. So I’m not mad at you, Sunset. Not after what you’ve helped me through. But I’d like to help you now too, and I can’t do that if you don’t tell me what’s been happening.” Twilight pulled her close.
Sunset nodded and started to explain everything that had happened since yesterday. The incident with Fluttershy, the mistake she had made with Flash and even the reason for Rainbow’s constant frowns and silence.
“I... I didn’t know things were this bad,” Twilight admitted, still attempting to comfort Sunset.
“And it’s all because of these!” Sunset screamed, pressing the jewel around her neck. “These pendants were supposed to make us special, we were supposed to be able to help people with our powers!”
“And we did!”
“Yes, at Camp Everfree. But ever since we started school, all it’s done is make our lives worse! Rainbow can’t play any of her favorite sports, Fluttershy can’t bring herself to go to the animal shelter anymore. Even you, Twilight! I saw what happened!” Sunset held her arms to her chest. “All these pendants did was bring my friends sadness and pain. Maybe... maybe Rainbow was right. Maybe we are better off without them.” Sunset attempted to reach to the clasp at the back of the necklace, but Twilight’s hands quickly shot up to stop her.
“Sunset, hold on.” Twilight held her wrists still. “Take a deep breath. When you said you saw what happened, you mean seeing me with Tangerine?” Sunset nodded in reply. “Sunset, that was yesterday. Yes, her words affected me back then, but not anymore.” Twilight released her grip on Sunset, letting her hands fall down.
“What? What do you mean you aren’t affected?”
“Remember what happened in the cafeteria on the first day? I saw how you reacted when everyone stared at you at the mere mention of the Fall Formal. I thought you were going to break, like I did when Tangerine brought up Midnight Sparkle. Even though I knew she wasn’t me, I sometimes forget that some people still see me as an evil...demon witch. Not as who I really am.” Twilight placed both hands over Sunset’s, smiling wide.
“But instead of sitting down quietly, you made everyone laugh instead. I couldn’t believe how brave you were to just play along with them, even though it was such a dark time in your life. And when I asked you why, you told me it was because it was a part of you. That you weren’t scared of magic, because that was who you were.”
Twilight ran a finger past her necklace, staring as it glimmered under the light. “If I hadn’t gotten the magic from Camp Everfree, I never would have faced Midnight Sparkle, and believe that I could control it.” She waved a hand at a box of tissues lying across the room. It levitated up in a purple glow and floated over, landing on Sunset’s lap.
“But I can’t control mine, Twilight.” Sunset hugged herself. “All I do is invade my friend’s privacy and see them suffer. I don’t deserve to wear it.”
“Sunset, I know what you’re going through. For the past two days, all you’ve done is seen memories that hurt. The only emotions you felt were sadness, anger and fear. I know because… that’s what I felt at Camp Everfree. Every single night I would have nightmares of Midnight Sparkle. She convinced me that I would never control her. That all I was going to be was a terrible friend. I was so scared that I allowed her to control my thoughts and who I was.” Twilight placed a hand upon Sunset’s gloved palm.
“I know you’re scared of your powers too, about what you might see, and how it might affect your friendships. But I promise I’ll always be your friend, Sunset. And after saving me and teaching me so much, maybe it’s time for me to help you.” Twilight unstrapped Sunset’s glove and started to pull it off. However, Sunset swiftly yanked her hand away, shutting her eyes tight. “You can read my mind as many times as you want, until you get it under control.” Twilight attempted to take Sunset’s hand once more.
Sunset’s instinct told her to move away. She did not want to see anymore painful visions, neither did she want to prod into Twilight’s privacy. The last times she had done so, she had lost more than her composure. However, when Twilight slowly pulled her glove off, Sunset didn’t resist. She opened her eyes to see Twilight setting the glove within her reach.
“Trust me. You won’t see any hurtful memories. I won’t let that happen.” Twilight offered an open palm and a smile to Sunset, but Sunset withdrew her hands, cowering as she leaned away.
“I’ll just hurt both of us. What if I see something you don’t want me to see? What if you—” Sunset bit her lip, silencing the rest of her words.
“You’ve already seen me at my worse, I don’t have anything left to hide.” Twilight gave Sunset a reassuring smile. However, Sunset darted her gaze away, stray tears flowing down her cheeks. “What was it you sang to the others at Camp Everfree?” In a soft, calming voice, Twilight started to sing.
“So you had magic
And it’s not that great
But when it found you
You know it was fate”
Sunset looked up in shock as she the words reached her ears. She could only stare in surprise as Twilight continued to sing
"And it might seem scary now
But it can be wonderful too
So how about we embrace the magic?
And make the magic part of you.”
Sunset shot her arm forward and grasped Twilight’s, letting the vision overtake her. Immediately, she was transported to a familiar pink colored house. One that always smelled of freshly baked treats, cotton candy and chocolate. Twilight was seated across Sunset on Pinkie’s bed, and judging from the noise Rarity was making about packing her fifth bag, Sunset already knew when the memory was taking place: the sleepover before Camp Everfree. She could hear Twilight chewing on something as she turned to watch Rainbow Dash and Applejack duke it out on the game console.
“That’s cheating!” Rainbow yelled, kneeling in front of the television.
“It’s a move I can do! How the hay is that cheating!?”
“Well, it does too much damage! I say it’s cheating!”
“That don’t mean nothing! Especially coming from someone who's about to lose!”
Twilight turned her attention back to the girl across her, and Sunset spotted herself, a notepad in one hand and a huge bag of marshmallows in the other. “So, that makes three marshmallows for you.” Sunset scribbled a tiny number ‘3’ on the page.
“Wha- hey! Aren’t you gonna write that bigger? How are you gonna read that when we’re calculating score?” Twilight chewed the sweets in her mouth a few more times before swallowing.
“I don’t need to. Because you’re not going to win.” Sunset smirked and started to shove handfuls of marshmallows into her mouth. Twilight watched in both awe and humor as more and more of the colorful sweet treats found their way past Sunset’s lips and into her cheek, causing them to bulge significantly. Twilight attempted to press her lips together to prevent herself from bursting out into a huge laugh, but soft giggles had already begun to escape. Once Sunset was done, she looked nothing short of a hamster that had found its way into a food bag.
Twilight could not stifle her laughter any longer. She fell backwards, howling as loud as she could. “Y-you win!” Tears of joy had started to fill her eyes and run down the side of her face. Glancing back up, she watched as Sunset took a bow towards her other friends. All of them soon followed Twilight’s reaction and collapsed with laughter. Even Fluttershy was hitting the ground with her fist, attempting to pound out the pain she was feeling in her chest. Sunset tried to speak, but all that came out were unintelligible garbles and strings of half-eaten marshmallows. This only caused the laughter in the room to double in intensity as Sunset attempted to swallow the gooey mess. “A-air! I need air!” Twilight gasped, rolling on the bed.
Sunset released her grip from Twilight’s hand, and she soon realized her mouth was drawn into a huge smile. The fear, doubt and sadness in her heart had vanished, replaced instead with a feeling Sunset had forgotten about: joy. Twilight couldn’t help but grin as well, watching Sunset finally crack the smile she had missed so much. “What did you see?”
“The sleepover before Camp Everfree!”
“The marshmallow eating contest!?”
“Yeah!” Sunset wiped her tears away with the back of her hand. She wasn’t sure if they were from her current laughing fit or remnants from a few minutes ago, but it soon became the last thing on her mind. “I didn’t know I looked that bad!”
“You can’t be serious!” Twilight felt the laughter start to infect her too. “Why did you think we were laughing?”
“I thought I was funny! Not because I looked like a squirrel! And none of you even said anything!”
“Did you see how hard we were laughing? We couldn’t speak words ever if we wanted to!”
The roaring picked back up once more as both girls continued giggling at the scene in their minds. Once they had both regained some composure, Twilight spoke, “Sunset, you can’t let your fear of your powers overtake you. If you do, they’ll only show you terrible memories.” She grabbed the glove she had pulled off and passed it back to Sunset.
That’s not the only fear. Sunset had almost said the words out loud, but quickly caught them in her throat before they could escape.
“You’re strong Sunset. And you understand magic the most out of all of us. I know your power might be the hardest to control, but if there’s anyone that can do it, it’s you. And with a little bit of practice, I’m sure you’ll be able to control what you want to see, instead of letting the person control you. And maybe even when you want to see them too!” Twilight used her fingers to comb Sunset’s disheveled hair back into place. “And I’ll be here to help you until you get it right.”
Sunset smiled, feeling Twilight’s kindness and warmth overwhelm her heart. She pulled Twilight into a large hug, catching her friend by surprise. “Thank you, Twilight. Thank you for everything. But.” She held Twilight at arm’s length. “I’m still not sure I can control it as easy as you think I can.”
“I never expected you to just be happy all of a sudden, Sunset. I know these things take time, both feeling better and controlling your magic. I’ll try my best to help you, but you mustn't hide these things from me.” Twilight thought back to the Friendship Games and Camp Everfree, but quickly dismissed the terrible thoughts that tried to worm their way in. “Like I said, I’ll be here for you. I promise.”
“I don’t think I can ever thank you enough.” Sunset chuckled.
“You don’t have to, I’m just returning the favor. I’m not going to abandon my friends after all of you helped me overcome my biggest demon. And don’t go turning this into another one of our competitions alright?” Twilight playfully nudged Sunset.
“Alright alright.” Sunset rolled her eyes with a smirk. “But our friends...” She recalled the words Fluttershy, Flash and Rainbow had said to her and her smile quickly vanished. “I wish I could help them.”
“Actually, I think I might have a way to help Fluttershy.”
Sunset furrowed her brow, slipping the glove back on. “She doesn’t want our help. The last time I tried—”
“I think Fluttershy’s forgotten something very important about her powers. Just meet me at the animal shelter in a couple of hours?” Twilight stood from her seat and pulled Sunset onto her feet.
“But the Fall Formal decorations—”
“I think Applejack can handle it for a day. And if we get Fluttershy on our side, she might even be willing to help us!” Twilight said brightly. “Plus, I think you’ve had enough of those students for now.”
Sunset walked with Twilight to the door and nodded softly. “Alright. Are you sure this will work?”
“Pretty sure. I think you’ll know what to do once you see what I’m planning. Now go back and get some rest. You’ve earned it.”
Sunset stared into the hamster enclosure, smiling. “Aww, I forgot how cute they were!” She wiggled her finger in front of one with a brown coat. The hamster poked it’s nose towards the glass before scurrying away. She looked around the animal shelter. Despite frequenting this place quite a bit, Sunset was still surprised at how simple it looked. The walls were painted a light beige, while the floor was built with red ceramic tiles. Visitors entered into the store front from the main door, where several large glass panels provided a view into the back room’s playpen, granting them a look at the animals they might want to adopt. Though what truly set the shop apart was the large hamster habitat: a maze of tunnels and tracks that Sunset could only assume was a hamster’s idea of heaven.
The back room wasn’t as beautiful as the store front. There, the floors were made of smooth stone, and several cages lined the walls. If customers were interested in a pet, they were brought behind the counter, pass the only door to the back room, where they could meet any animal they wanted. Another door stood in the store front with a red sign that read ‘Staff Only’. Sunset had been back there before, and knew that it was a grooming centre for the pets. She had tried to style a dog at Fluttershy’s insistence, but the animal’s lack of obedience quickly ensured it was her first and last time.
Suddenly, the bell at the main door rang, and as Sunset turned, she spotted Twilight stepping in with Fluttershy.
“I still don’t know why you need me here. Especially so early in the morning!” Fluttershy shook her head.
“Ah, Fluttershy! So nice to see you again!” The pink-haired shelter owner greeted, standing behind the counter.
“Sorry Miss Constel, I’m not here to stay. Twilight just told me she needed my help.” The owner gave a sad sigh and nodded, retreating into the back room. Fluttershy turned, spotting Sunset. “Sunset Shimmer?”
“Hey Fluttershy!” Sunset waved with a smile as she walked towards her..
“What are you doing here?” Fluttershy asked cautiously.
“Just looking at the hamsters.” Sunset gestured to the enclosure with a smile. “They are really cute.”
“Mmhm!” Fluttershy nodded quickly, her eyes drawn to the hamster habitat. “I particularly like Clover. I wonder if she’s okay.” She made her way to the colorful tunnels and already Sunset could feel that the atmosphere in the room lift considerably. Twilight gave her a wink and gestured Sunset over.
“You’re right, it’s the first time I’ve seen Fluttershy smile since the start of the week.” Sunset whispered.
“Well, I think you can take it from here.” Twilight opened Sunset’s palm and forced something inside. Looking down, Sunset saw that it was Fluttershy’s necklace. However, it did not shine like the others. Instead, the pink and yellow colors appeared faded and dull, like it had been covered in a layer of soot. She glanced back up, giving an understanding nod to Twilight before making her way to Fluttershy, who was calling into a pack of hamsters.
“Clover?” Fluttershy called. All the hamsters turned, but they soon lost interest and resumed their scurrying. “Clover!” She tried once more, but this time, the animals didn’t even pay heed to her voice.
“Is Clover a name you gave it?” Sunset asked, peering into the group of scampering rodents.
“She.” Fluttershy stated. “And yes, I read from a list of names and Clover chose that particular one. She said it was perfect!”
Before Sunset could continue the conversation, there was a rapid running sound behind them. Both girls turned to see a fluffy white dog rushing up to Fluttershy, its paws pitter-pattering on the floor. Fluttershy squealed, opening her arms as the dog leapt towards her. She carried the puppy up, giggling loudly as it licked her face.
“Tiberius! I missed you too!” She wiggled her nose inches away from the puppy, who mimicked the action. “I thought about you every single day!”
Sunset lifted a hand to her mouth to hide a giggle. So this is Tiberius. Wow, we were way off.
Tiberius reacted to Fluttershy’s words by turning its head to the side. “What’s wrong, boy?” Again, he tilted his head, though this time it went in the opposite direction. Fluttershy stared oddly at him, only realizing the problem once he started to bark. “Oh right. I can’t understand you and you... can’t understand me... e-either,” Fluttershy lowered Tiberius to the floor, watching him run around in circles. Sunset could see the pain and dejection on Fluttershy’s face. And when she sighed, Sunset could practically feel the air around them fall from the weight.
“Hey, Fluttershy?” Sunset tapped her shoulder. As Fluttershy turned, she held the necklace out with a grin. Fluttershy gasped in shock at the sight, looking up at Sunset.
“H-How’d you get that?”
With a finger, she pointed to Twilight, who waved to Fluttershy with a sheepish grin and a bright red blush on her cheeks. Fluttershy reached for the necklace, but stopped just a few inches away. “I... I really shouldn’t. Not after what happened.”
“Fluttershy, for the past two days, I’ve been struggling to understand my powers. And truth be told, I’m still not sure I do. I was… am scared of what I can do, especially after looking at the painful memories all my friends had. They had affected me so much, I allowed my fears to take control of what I thought. So, I almost gave up my powers too.”
Sunset turned to Twilight and smiled. “But Twilight reminded me that I can’t let a few bad incidents ruin the other happy ones I made. And you shouldn’t either, Fluttershy. Plus, judging from little Tiberius here.” Sunset stared at the puppy, who gazed up at them with bright shining eyes. He barked several times, before taking a seat with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. “You made quite a few here in the Animal Shelter.”
“I know what you had to go through with Rover was tough, probably more than I can imagine. So I promise I won’t get angry if you choose never to wear it again, but I still believe that these crystals are as much a part of us as everything else. It makes us special, because it allows us to help others, even though it’s not always easy.”
Fluttershy stood with glazed eyes, unmoving. Her hair had fallen across her face, making it hard for Sunset to discern what Fluttershy was feeling. “It was so much to take so fast… I couldn’t handle it.”
Sunset sighed in her heart, and her shoulders dropped in defeat. Can’t say you didn’t try, Twilight.
“But you’re right.” Sunset felt her heart skip a beat at Fluttershy’s words. “I shouldn’t let that one incident take over the other moments I had with Tiberius, Clover or any of the other animals here. And if I want to be with them, I need to get used to when animals...” She bit her lip, gathering her composure. “Sulking at home just because I’m scared isn’t going to change anything. Being with animals is what I love. It’s who I am!” Fluttershy reached forward and grabbed the necklace. Immediately, a pink light glowed from the pendant, before settling down into a calm radiance. “I need to face my fears.”
Fluttershy clasped it around her neck and at the next bark from Tiberius, she laughed cheerfully. “Tiberius! Of course I understand you!” She leaned down, scooping him into a cradling motion. “And how has Cheesecake been?” Two barks followed her question. “Oh well, I didn’t expect her to move that quickly!” She felt a surge of energy rush through her, enveloping her in a yellow aura. In a flash of light, she felt her body pony up, giving her the signature ears and tail. She glanced up to Sunset and Twilight with a smile so bright, it spread to the two girls as well. “Thank you, Sunset. Thank you, Twilight. I forgot how much I loved working with the cute little critters here!” She poked Tiberius’ round, black nose, causing the puppy to wiggle it in confusion.
Fluttershy turned back to the hamster enclosure. “Clover!” she beckoned. This time, a white hamster rushed forth, pressing its paws against the glass and staring at Fluttershy. It squeaked several times, and Fluttershy nodded. “Yes, well, I needed some time after... what happened to Rover. But I’m back now!”
“Hm?” Sunset was so absorbed in watching Fluttershy work, that she hadn’t noticed Twilight had walked up to her.
“I think it’s time we go.” Twilight gestured to the door. Sunset nodded and waved a goodbye to Fluttershy, who waved back with Tiberius’ tiny paw. “You know, Clover looked sorta like you with the marshmallows,” Twilight teased, but swiftly felt an elbow being lightly rammed into her hip. Twilight leapt up, screaming, “Eee! Hey hey! You know how much I hate that!”
“Well, maybe don’t relate me to a hamster next time.” Sunset slid a hand into her pocket and pulled the door open, holding it for Twilight. Just before she left, Twilight turned to the shelter owner and whispered, “thanks for letting Tiberius out into the store, Miss Constel. I know you don’t usually allow that.”.
“No problem! Anything to get Fluttershy smiling again,” Miss Constel said happily. Twilight exited first, leaving Sunset one last chance to look at Fluttershy, who was beaming from ear to ear and breaking out into laughter every other second. Maybe I can do something to help them. She waved a goodbye to Miss Constel and left soon after, letting the door close shut behind her.